Our Expanded Homeopathic Primer
©1999-2019 Larry A. Bernstein, VMD, PCHom.
Blue Link – General Information on a topic or Glossary
This paper is © copyrighted and may only be used for information purposes. It is the sole property of the author and any commercial use or reproduction without written permission is prohibited.
A description of Homeopathy and its basics is not an easy thing to do in a few words and do it well so please keep an open mind and realize that an entire discipline cannot be distilled down to a few pages.
It is important to get a brief historical and philosophical perspective from which to begin. There is a historical basis for homeopathy that dates back to the ancient Greeks and an excellent discussion of this can be found in Thorson’s Encyclopaedic Dictionary of Homeopathy by Harald Gaier and a much more detailed discussion can also be found in The Emergence of Homeopathy – Alchemy into Medicine by Elizabeth Danciger..
History of Modern Homeopathy
For our purposes, we will jump to the late 1700s and the teachings of Dr. Samuel Hahnemann (1755-1843)
Dr. Samuel Hahnemann
"The physician's high and only mission is to restore the sick to health, to cure, as it is termed."
Born in Meissen, Saxony, April 10, 1755. Hahnemann grew up during an era of tremendous upheaval and rebirth in Europe which was centered in Germany with the "Enlightenment" movement, which encouraged freedom of thought and opinion. He was born into a poor family and was taught early by his father never to learn passively but to question everything. Hahnemann later developed his thirst for knowledge into a profoundly deep-reaching gift. He virtually read all medical books previously published, in nine languages.
Hahnemann became a Medical Doctor in 1791 and practiced conventional medicine for nine years until he discovered, quite by accident, that by his ingesting repeated doses of Chinchona bark (to test Cullens theory on the effectiveness of China in treating Malaria) he would develop the symptoms of malaria, which the bark was used to treat. Thus the first homeopathic proving, and the discovery of the first law of homeopathy: Similia similibus curentur, or "like cures like". Hahnemann named this newfound therapy "Homeo" (similar) "pathy" (suffering). He began conducting provings with many of the medicines used in allopathy but his methods were met with disbelief and ridicule by his contemporaries.
Although his patients were experiencing profound cures which solidly verified his theories, Hahnemann was marked as an outcast because his method of single and minimum dosage was threatening the financial foundation of the powerful apothecaries. Hahnemann focused on reducing the dose to the point where there were no side effects but he was unsatisfied because this step further rendered the dose insufficient in strength to act. He experimented with a new method whereby after each dilution he would shake the substance vigorously. This he called "succussion" thus developing the energetic aspect of homeopathy. It is unknown how Hahnemann reasoned this (still scientifically unexplainable) method of "potentization".
In 1810, Hahnemann published the first of six editions of The Organon which clearly defined his homeopathic philosophy. In the same year, 80,000 men were killed when Napoleon attacked Liepzig. Hahnemann's homeopathic treatment of the survivors, and also of the victims of the great typhus epidemic that followed the siege, was highly successful and further spread his, and homeopathy's, reputation. Hahnemann taught at the Liepzig University where his lectures would often shift into sharp tongued diatribes against the dangerous practices of conventional medicine, thus nicknamed "Raging Hurricane" by his students. By 1821 Hahnemann had proven sixty-six remedies and published his Materia Medica Pura in six volumes. In 1831, Cholera swept through Central Europe. Hahnemann published papers on the homeopathic treatment of the disease and instigated the first widespread usage of homeopathy which had a 96% cure rate as compared to allopathy's 41% rate.
In 1834 Hahnemann met the avant-garde Parisian, Mademoiselle Marie Melanie d'Hervilly. They were married (his second marriage, her first) within six months, and settled in Paris. In spite of the fact he was more than twice her age, they remained very intimate, she working by his side in his active practice until July 2, 1843 when Hahnemann died, in Paris, at the age of eighty-eight. The painting at the beginningicture was painted by Melanie when Hahnemann was 83.
Dr. Hahnemann is considered the father of homeopathy and was a physician who studied in Austria. He became more and more distressed and disillusioned over the barbaric medical practices of the time. Please remember that this was a time when it was common to use things as bloodletting, oral heavy metals like mercury, poisons like arsenic and violent purgatives. The venereal diseases of Syphilis and Gonorrhea were also rampant in Europe.
Hahnemann began to look for a gentler, more natural method of curing the patient and came to realize that symptoms are merely an expression of the underlying disease and not the disease itself. He wanted a way of stimulating the body to heal itself. We will go into this in more detail later. He wrote what is still the definitive work on homeopathy, the Organon of Medicine in 1810. He then added five more editions, volumes of cases, lesser writings, practiced and taught until his death. His students expanded his work and carried on his teaching. That is why names like Dr. Hering , Boenninghausen and Kent are synonymous with homeopathy.
Similia Similibus Curentur” (“Let likes cure likes”)
The basic principle of homeopathy is called the Law of Similars , that “like cures like”. It means that a substance that can cause symptoms of disease at normal doses can stimulate the body to FIGHT those same symptoms at homeopathic doses. The other important thing to remember is that all the symptoms a patient exhibits are a reflection of an imbalance in that patient’s inner force. It is all one picture! Classical homeopathy calls this inner force the VITAL FORCE and we will use that term. Understanding these concepts is a major step in understanding homeopathy and holistic healing in general.
The Vital Force
This vital force is responsible for maintaining the body’s state of health and balance. It is constantly assaulted. Some examples of things that can wreak havoc on the body are poor nutrition, toxins, vaccines, allopathic medications, pollution, radiation and of course, emotional upheaval or constant stress. The vital force tries to protect the body and the signs of this battleground are SYMPTOMS. These symptoms can be expressed at many different levels. It may be only a skin rash or it might go deeper and present as asthma, arthritis or chronic intestinal problems. As the disease moves to a deeper level and the vital force must concede more territory in its battle for optimal health, these symptoms move into the mental and emotional plane and can exhibit as emotional imbalances like inappropriate fears, aggression, compulsion or even dementia. As time goes on and the process goes unchecked, the vital force is weakened by both the chronic disease and the suppression of more superficial symptoms. As it weakens, it must express itself on a more core level and may even progress to cancer.
Symptoms are only a way for the underlying disease to express itself.
It is crucial to remember that every one of the symptoms is an expression of the imbalance of the vital force as it tries to compensate for the underlying chronic disease state. Dr. Hering taught us that the body heals from the inside out and the top down. This means that a tumor or abscess on an internal organ is more severe than a rash on the skin since one is exterior and one is interior. If the vital force does not have the energy to express itself on the exterior it resorts to an interior symptom (and this is usually more serious) to handle the imbalance. The usual progression of chronic disease is from outside to inside. This is an important concept to understand the effects of suppressing a symptom. The vital force uses these as safety valves and tries to put the problem where it will do the least damage. That is why the skin is considered so superficial. Usually skin problems are uncomfortable but one does not usually die from them. As we tell the vital force that these skin symptoms are not allowed by suppressing them with steroids and antibiotics, the vital force still must try to isolate the imbalance and it finds a new, more interior way of doing this. Perhaps the patient now starts with incontinence or prostate problems or asthma or arthritis. Now we suppress this reaction and the vital force may move deeper to find relief. The patient may start with strange behavior or become unpredictable or violent.
The depth, number, and strength of the symptoms is directly related to the strength of the vital force. A strong vital force may show very strong symptoms on a surface level. The vibrant puppy that receives a vaccination and immediately breaks with a skin rash and fever is an example of a strong vital force. On the other hand, we see so many cases of animals presenting with advanced cancer and the guardian often states “He has always been perfectly healthy (no symptoms) and now he has cancer”. The fact that he has had no symptoms would usually indicate a weak vital force that could not produce visible symptoms and everything happened under the surface.
Once you accept the premise that there is an all-pervasive underlying vital force then the next important term we need to understand is suppressing . We touched on this earlier.
The Concept of Suppression
In allopathic medicine, a symptom is usually thought of as the patient’s real disease and the goal is to hold back, decrease or eliminate this symptom. This is often done without addressing the underlying cause. If your tooth hurts and we inject a local anesthetic, the pain goes away but that does not mean the problem is gone! If we use medications to suppress these symptoms then the vital force tries to create new symptoms to compensate for the imbalance that is still there. If the vital force is strong then the original symptom may return. Otherwise, it may be unable to express on the same level and create a symptom that is more interior and could be much worse per Hering's Law of the Direction of Cure .
This is such a critical topic that we will look at another example. Allopathic (conventional) medicine is symptom-driven. Modern medicine feels, in most cases, that the elimination of the symptom is the same as elimination of the disease. If you get a skin rash, are given cortisone and the rash disappears, they have cured your “skin” disease. Later when you start having a kidney “infection”, they treat you with antibiotics and cure your kidney disease. A year later you start getting chronic depression or fatigue they treat that with antidepressants and cure it. Finally, when you develop a serious heart ailment, they treat that as “heart disease”.
Many things are suppressive. Vaccines and medications are a major source of suppression but herbs, acupuncture, and incorrect homeopathic remedies can also be suppressive.
What is a Homeopathic remedy?
We next need to discuss what constitutes a homeopathic remedy. Homeopathic remedies are ultra-dilute preparations of common (or even toxic) substances. They are so dilute that they have very little or none of the original item in them. The important thing is that they retain the imprint or frequency of the original substance in a more energetic form and work on a deep, energy-related level.
Each step of the dilution process is accompanied by suppressing . This means that each dilution is stimulated (potentiated, succussed, shaken) so it gains energetic strength at each dilution. This is why a more dilute level or a HIGHER POTENCY has much less substance but much stronger action. It is energy. If you can accept this principle, it is easy to see how they can act with such power.
Homeopaths have found that these ultra-dilute remedies if activated or POTENTIATED between successive dilutions, can actually stimulate the body to initiate its own healing process. It is like giving a Bloodhound the scent and sending it on its mission.
The actual mechanism for this stimulation is still undiscovered but is thought to work on an energy level. Hence the term energy medicine. This gets into the idea that there is a level of energy or reaction that scientists can’t yet quantify and is too involved for this paper. We need to stipulate the effect, as we are not here to prove that homeopathy works, only to explain its practice. Let us take the idea that it does affect the body in a predictable fashion as a given and not get into the controversy over whether it can or cannot work from a convention quantum physics perspective. There are much deeper writings that explore these aspects and to argue this defeats the purpose of this paper. One good general reference is Dana Ulman’s Discovering Homeopathy. Suffice it to say that many of us who have seen it work have been impressed with the dramatic effects it can and does have and we will accept this effect on face value for the purposes of explanation.
Dr. Hahnneman found that a substance or remedy in minute doses the body to heal itself of the same symptoms CAUSED at normal doses. As previously stated, "Like cures like" is the basic tenet of homeopathy.
An example would be the following:
If you were to give pure arsenic to an animal or person, you would see depression, anxiety, thirst, vomiting, jaundice, and diarrhea. Now suppose that a homeopath sees a case that has many of these symptoms but you know it cannot be arsenic poisoning since that is so rare and the cat lives in a penthouse and could never be exposed to arsenic. However, this case of a cat with another “illness” has many of these same symptoms. The homeopath may dispense Arsenicum-album, the homeopathic dilution of arsenic. This POTENTIATED remedy stimulates the vital force to react to the symptoms. This is like giving the vital force a guide to the disease state so it knows how to react and start the healing.
This next paragraph contains a deeper explanation of what appears to happen when you give the correct homeopathic remedy. It is not critical you understand this but if you can, it will bring a much deeper understanding of homeopathy.
The disease occupies a place in the body on an energy level. Think of it as an inkblot on the vital force. When you introduce a homeopathic remedy that matches the pattern of the inkblot (the disease picture) at a potency sufficient to overcome the natural disease, it displaces the real disease and sets up an imitation for a few days. During this time, since it was stronger than the original disease, the remedy stimulates a reaction from the body. Since the remedy and the actual real disease are similar on a symptom level, the body is actually fighting the real disease also. The remedy disappears in a few days but the stimulation (remedy reaction) may last for weeks or even months.
Many of these remedies were "proved" in the 1800s by giving small doses of the diluted remedy to groups of healthy people and noting the symptoms created by repeated high doses. These were then listed in Materia Medicas. . To be a good homeopath, you had to learn many of these remedies (some Materia Medicas have hundreds of pages of symptoms for each remedy) so you could recognize the “remedy picture”.
About the turn of the twentieth century, Dr. Boenninghausen and then Dr. Kent decided to analyze these Materia Medicas and try to list the remedies by the symptom they brought out during their provings. This was a monumental task considering there were no computers. Dr. Kent ended up with a thousand-page book (if you get the one with the tiny type) of “rubrics”.
Rubrics are symptoms followed by a list of all the remedies found to produce that symptom during a proving and the degree to which the symptom appeared. Almost ever Materia Medica follows Kent’s Repertory and contains multiple sections divided by body section or problem That is why there are sections like “Mind” or “Rectum” or “Chest” or “Head pain” and each section has thousands of rubrics (or symptoms) listed.
To demonstrate an example of a rubric, we will take the case of the very thirsty dog who drinks a great deal of water at one time but does not go to the water bowl frequently.
We could look in Kent’s Repertory under the section Stomach and find the sub-heading “thirst”. We then look at the next sub-level and find “large quantities” and finally under this we would find “at long intervals.” This rubric would be described as Stomach; Thirst; large quantities; at long intervals. This is an actual rubric with five potential remedies listed in the original Kent Materia Medica.
As you moved back up the chain, to the level or heading above (Stomach; Thirst; large quantities), there would be a greater range of remedies for consideration. If you move up even another level to Stomach; Thirst; large quantities you would find a list of 42 remedies. This might provide a much better chance of it including the appropriate remedy in your analysis. If you go up another level to Stomach: Thirst. Here there are 253 remedies and using this more general rubric might make it very difficult to pick the most appropriate remedy since most major remedies will show up under this rubric. You would have to depend on other more specific symptoms to narrow your remedy search.
To analyze a case, a trained homeopath takes a detailed history and then attempts to find rubrics for characteristic symptoms that are appropriate to the case on both a physical and mental level and list all the applicable remedies. We then look for a common thread or theme to the case. We always try to use our knowledge of the remedies, our experience to this purpose. Because of the incredible number of remedies and the large amount of information on many of them, we often have to refer back to the original writings (provings) in the source Materia Medicas. This may help us understand the true essence of the remedies and make our choice based on the ENTIRE picture.
To date, there are over 2500 “proven” remedies. These include herbs, plants, poisons, inert (when not potentiated!) substances like Silicea and homeopathic extracts of actual living material like bacteria, Parvovirus, etc. called “nosodes”.
We choose the remedy and potency (always remember, the more dilute – the more activated during each stage of dilution, the more powerful) based one the case, the symptoms, the age, your perception of the level of the “Vital Force” of the animal. To get an idea of the difference in the vital force, think of the previous discussion about the puppy and the older dog with cancer. Also, imagine the vitality of a six-month puppy versus an 18-year-old frail cat and you can see the two extremes.
Homeopathy is NOT Harmless
It is a complete discipline of medicine and contrary to the writings by some, it is not "harmless". . In nature, anything with this much power to heal can have side effects and is best supervised by a trained homeopath. This is especially true in chronic, weak and long-standing cases. It is especially true in cases with a great deal of pathological changes such as tissue destruction or deep lesions.
It is my hope that this will serve as an understandable introduction to the science, the art, the challenge and the wonder of homeopathy and that your experiences may be as wonderful as mine have been. It is much more than a treatment. It is a sensible way of thinking and has the power to enhance your health and life on many levels besides the physical.
This paper is © copyrighted and may only be used for information purposes. It is the sole property of the author and any commercial use or reproduction without written permission is prohibited.
( 1800 - 1880 )
"With every breath I take I cherish the memory of my fatherland. Never have I forgotten it, for a moment. No one knows what he loses when he leaves the land of his birth, a stranger in a strange land: I bore it all for sake of homeopathy. This ,now, is the country of my children."
Born Constantin Hering, January 1, 1800, in Oschatz Germany, Hering grew up in a religious household. He later became interested in, and studied, medicine at Leipzig University where his professor, Dr. Robbi, asked him to write a book disproving Hahnemann's recently published the "Organon of Rational Medicine". Hering read Hahnemann's work, and immediately tested the claimed tenets on himself, as research for his anti-homeopathic critique. But instead of writing the negative review, he immediately quit the job and left the University to become one of the most influential proponents of homeopathy of all time. Hering graduated from the University of Liepzig (in 1826), writing his Doctoral Thesis on "De Medicina Futura" (The Medicine of the Future). Much to the chagrin of his professors, he confessed himself, unreservedly, to be a homeopath.
Hering was sent to Paramaribo, Surinam by his King (of Saxony) where he conducted Zoological and Botanical research for his government. Soon after, the King attempted to prevent Hering from publishing his prolific homeopathic findings, but instead, Hering resigned the post and became the Physician-in-Attendance for governor of Surinam's capitol, Paramaribo. Hering began focusing his attention on the discovery of new homeopathic remedies, the attenuation's and freshly quilled-data of which he would send, by sea, to Hahnemann in Paris, and to Stapf, his friend and publisher in Germany.
Hering accidentally proved the remedy Lachesis while he was triturating the Bushmasters venom in his home-laboratory in Paramaribo. He was attempting to find an improved substitute for the cowpox inoculation that Jenner was developing in Britain, which Hering felt was extremely dangerous and very heavy-handed for homeopathy. His interest and experience with snake venom led him to surmise that the saliva of a rabid dog, or powdered smallpox scabs, or any other disease products, viruses, or venom's, might be prepared in the new Hahnemannian way to give a fail-safe method of curing disease. In this manner Hering unwittingly became the first in the Isopathic movement (eventually, he also unwittingly paralyzed his right side from further self-testing or "prufung" of higher and higher attenuations of Lachesis). Hering stayed in Paramaribo for six years then sailed for Philadelphia in 1833. His ship was destroyed in a storm when approaching the mainland of America, but Hering and the crew manned the longboats and made shore at Martha's Vineyard where Hering settled before finally moving to Philadelphia. In 1848 Hering chartered the Hahnemann Medical College of Pennslyvania which is still considered to be one of greatest homeopathic teaching institutions of all time (next to Kents Post Graduate School). There Hering and his students treated over 50,000 patients a year and trained a total of 3500 homeopaths.
Hering began organizing his voluminous notes into his still popular classic The Guiding Symptoms of Our Materia Medica the year before he died, in 1879, and it was completed by his students and published posthumously in 1891. Constantine Hering is widely known as "The Father of American Homeopathy" and was profoundly revered by his contemporaries. For the last forty years of his life, he could be seen striding the avenues of Philadelphia, scribbling down voluminous data into an immense collection of notebooks he kept. If he passed another homeopath on the street Hering would greet him with friendly salutations and then press him for as many new discoveries found in his practice as he would give, the finer points of which Hering would enter into one of the well-worn notebooks. Constantine Hering lived and died by his motto: Die milde Macht ist gross, "The force of gentleness is magnificent"
The Baron von Boenninghausen
The Baron, Clemens Franz Maria von Boenninghausen, was one of the pre-eminent homeopaths from the early 19th century. He was born March 12th, 1785. He had an illustrious career as a physician and writer, even spending time at the court of King Louis Bonaparte of the Netherlands with his father who was the Court Physician.
Boenninghausen became severely ill in the Autumn of 1827 and spent many months without any progress. By the following spring his physicians had given up all hope of his recovery. Feeling that the end was imminent he wrote a farewell letter to a friend to tell of his infirmity. His friend (Dr. A. Weihe) had recently become a homeopath although Boenninghausen was not aware of this at the time. Dr. Weihe wrote back asking extensive questions about the illness and then sent a remedy he felt was homeopathic to the case (Pulsatilla).
Boenninghausen quickly improved (after six months of no progress under conventional care) and was fully cured by the end of the summer he was cured. He then went back and finished his medical studies, study Hahnemann's works and became one of the cornerstones of homeopathic history by writing the first true repertory.
By 1830 Boenninghausen had written a personal repertory for his own use, and at the request of Hahnemann, he published his first repertory in 1832. He had been one of the first to realize that it was extremely difficult for homeopaths to learn and remember all the aspects of so many remedies. He felt that a reference (based on symptoms) would help them organize their cases and be more productive.
( 1849 - 1916 )
"You cannot divorce Medicine and Theology. Man exist all the way down, from his innermost Spiritual to his outermost Natural."
Kent may have equaled or even surpassed the genius of Hahnemann by delivering a highly accessible and profoundly refined form of homeopathy to the 20th century. Little is known about Kent's personal life as he was a very private man. Kent practiced conventional medicine in St. Louis where he first discovered, then converted to, homeopathy through the successful homeopathic treatment of his seriously ailing wife by Dr. Richard Phelan (a graduate of Hahnemann College). In 1888 Kent was invited to become a consulting Physician at a new "all homeopathic" hospital in Philadelphia, there he founded his legendary Post-Graduate School. Kent was an avid Swedenborgian and proponent of high potencies (200-c and up), often prescribing the CM and MM potencies and inspiring the "Kentians" with his belief that the homeopath must treat not only the patients physical body, but also the mental/emotional and spiritual elements simultaneously which required using the higher potencies. Kent's famous Repertory was more systematic and readable than its precursors and is still the popular choice today. Kent developed "pictures" of constitutional types of patients, i.e.: Sulphur as "the ragged philosopher" etc. Later, his pupil, Margaret Tyler, developed this idea further in her book, Homeopathic Drug Pictures, and more recently Mr. Geroge Vithoulkas has developed his own profoundly insightful "essence pictures" along similar lines. The influence and popularity of Kent's interpretation of homeopathic philosophy has steadily increased around the world since his death.
Law of Similars: The basic principle of homeopathy is called the Law of Similars, that "like cures like". It means that a substance that can cause symptoms of disease at normal doses can stimulate the body to fight those same symptoms at homeopathic doses.
Vital Force: A key principle of homeopathy is the vital force. This vital force is responsible for maintaining the body's state of health and balance.
Succussion: Each step of the dilution process of remedies is accompanied by succussion. This means that each dilution is stimulated (potentiated, succussed, shaken) so it gains energetic strength at each dilution. This is why a more dilute level or a higher potency has much less substance but much stronger action.
Suppression: Suppression attempts to eliminate a symptom of an illness rather than eliminating the underlying cause of an illness that would bring about a true cure. Modern medicine feels, in most cases, that the elimination of the symptom is the same as the elimination of the disease. Homeopaths maintain that suppression of a symptom can lead to the symptom reappearing in another more serious form.
Hering's Law of the Direction of Cure
To quote Dr. Hering: "In a patient who has received the Similimum [the true remedy that matches the case], Cure takes place from within to without, from above downwards and from the more important organs to the less important organs. In a chronic case, during the process of Cure, the old symptoms that have been suppressed as the result of wrong treatments reappear, though in a mitigated [milder] form, and show a tendency to disappear of their own accord. No true Cure ever takes place which does not follow the Law of Cure."
What are the C and X or Centesimal Potencies?
When most homeopathic remedies are prescribed you get a potency that is usually designated as an 'X' or a 'C'. Theses are Roman numerals and indicate the type of dilution that occurs when the remedy is created. An 'X' dilution is created by taking the mother tincture (the initial form of the remedy as prepared for dilution) and adding 1 part to 9 parts of dilution. This 1:10 mixture is shaken (hit against a book or a palm for instance) 10 times and you then have a 2X potency. If you take 1 part of this and add it to 9 parts diluent and success (hit it) ten times you have a 3X and so on. If you do the same thing but add 1 part to 99 parts and success 10 times you get a 2C (C=100, X=10). Thus a 30C potency is diluted 1:99 thirty times so it's dilution is 1 part in 1 followed by 60 zeros or 1 / 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 ,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 A 1M potency is equal to 1000C so you can see that the actual amount of the material in the solution is negligible.
Potentiated: When a remedy is diluted and succussed there appears to be an increase in the strength of the remedy's effect. The more dilute (and the more energy introduced by the repetitive succussion) the stronger the effect. This inverse relationship (more dilute=stronger) is one of the things that baffles physicists and makes people question how homeopathy can work. If, however, you believe that the "image" or frequency of the substance is imprinted into the solution and gets stronger with each successive dilution/succussion phase then it is not so unbelievable.
Law of Similars
The basic principle of homeopathy is called the Law of Similars. This means that "like cures like". The belief that a tiny dose of a substance can bring about a cure when the symptoms in the patient match the effect of that same substance at full strength is the basis of all homeopathy. A substance that may cause a symtom at full strength doses can stimulate the body to fight those same symptoms at homeopathic doses.
… therefore, we have only to rely on the morbid phenomena which the medicines produce in the healthy body as the sole possible revelation of their in-dwelling curative power, in order to learn what disease-producing power, and at the same time what disease-curing power, each individual medicine possesses.
Organon - Hahnemann Paragraph 23
The way that Dr. Hahnemann, and those who have followed, learned about the "in-dwelling curative power" of the different remedies was through something called a proving.
What do we mean by a proving?
A controlled group of healthy people take the remedy until they begin to show effects (symptoms). These are recorded by supervisors and collated into a report of a proving of that remedy. There is a very strict protocol to this experiment. Once a remedy has been proved i.e. the effects of that remedy on the body are known and repeatable then it is acceptable to use that remedy in homeopathic therapy. Some remedies have been proved extensively and repeatedly while there are some (the small remedies) that have less information available.
Some substances are very poisonous and most of the material we have in the literature are from the effects of poisonings with the substance rather than only the homeopathic proving.
There are over 2500 proven remedies and more are being proved every year
Materia Medica: A collection of findings from the provings, compiled into sections and giving the manifestations of the remedy. Remedies in some Materia Medicas can be 200 pages long! There are some books that are like the Cliff Notes of remedies and some that tell the whole tale. The most accurate way to study a remedy is to go back to the original notes from the provings and read the reports first hand. Symptoms from the Materia Medicas have been grouped together into Repertories (the first were by Boenninghausen and later by Kent).
Rubrics: are symptoms found in the repertory. Each is usually followed by a list of all the remedies found to produce that symptom during a proving and the degree to which the symptom appeared.
Repertory: A book where symptoms are grouped so that they may be found quickly and logically. Each symptom (rubric) has the remedies listed that elicited that symptom in the provings. This is the first way to get an idea of the remedies that might fit the case and then the Materia Medica is used to further study the remedy(s) to decide if they truly do fit and which of the top 5 or 10 is the most accurate for this case. There are now extensive (and expensive) computer based repertories that make this process faster and more accurate.
Chronic Disease: This is the overall morbid (disease producing) process that is the result of all the negative things that happen(ed) to the body and the vital force. Poor diet, vaccinations, suppressed symptoms, stress and external influences like toxins all contribute to the progression of chronic disease in the patient. The struggle between the chronic disease and the vital force creates symptoms. This pattern of symptoms is the key to the appropriate homeopathic remedy to aid the body in healing itself.
Chronic Symptom: This applies to a symptom that is the manifestation of the deeper underlying chronic disease and encompasses most things we see in homeopathic practice
Combination Remedies: Frequently sold over the counter, these combine multiple remedies (often in multiple potencies) and are usually palliative or suppressive in their action. True homeopaths do not use these as it is impossible to ascertain the effect on the body and decide on the next step. Also, since homeopathy should only use proven remedies, the combination of remedies is, essentially, creating a new UNPROVEN remedy. Remedies often will cancel each other out (antidote) so these combinations can have confusing effects and their use is discouraged.
Acute: This usually applies to a situation where the problem has just happened and is not from an obvious deeper underlying problem (although it sometimes is). A bee sting, a laceration, a sudden shock, an accident might all be examples of acute situations. An asthma attack or bladder inflammation are examples of deeper chronic disease. They are sometimes classed as "Acute manifestations of chronic disease" and may need emergency therapy but one must always keep the deeper "root" cause in mind.
Homeopathy is NOT Harmless
This is a DANGEROUS misconception.
Homeopathy is a POWERFUL form of medicine and has tremendous power to heal
If used improperly it also has the potential to harm.
This is especially true in older weak animals and that is why careful prescribing and monitoring is ESSENTIAL. Since old symptoms may reappear for a short time as the body starts to heal or existing symptoms can get worse for a time, it is so very important that we not over-stimulate things.
This is why we try to follow the basic principle of homeopathy as set down by Dr. Samuel Hahnemann in the Organon of Medicine "which is to restore health rapidly, gently and permanently".