Compare and contrast the homeopathic and the conventional models of health
To begin to compare and contrast the homeopathic and conventional medicine models of health they adopt, it is necessary to define the two approaches within the context of working definitions. Firstly the definition of homeopathic and conventional medicine and secondly the definition of health utilised within both schools of thought.
By completing such an exercise, this essay will build upon the definitions and enable a critical comparison and contrast between the two health models.
Definition of Homeopathy
Homeopathy can be defined as an energetic system of medicine that is a ‘therapeutic medical science which holistically treats illness and inherent constitutional problems by applying the ‘like cures like’ principle, using minute quantities of remedies at varying potencies from animal, plant and mineral kingdoms.
Yasgur. Homeopathic Dictionary.
Definition of Conventional Medicine.
Conventional Medicine or Allopathy as it can be described is defined as, ‘The treatment of disease using medicines, whose effects are different from those of the disease being treated.’
Yasgur. Homeopathic Dictionary
As one can see there are fundamental differences between the two highlighted definitions, however the definition of health is somewhat less conflicting. The World Health Organisation for example defines health as, ‘Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.’
The term ‘complete physical, mental and social well-being’, is, according to the World Health Organisation an integral part of defining health, however, as this essay will argue the execution of health models and medical practices as described can either compliment or indeed conflict with one or all of the components on the health of the person undergoing ‘treatment’ within the models in question.
Taking the definitions into consideration, the main difference that becomes apparent is the like cures like principle in Homeopathy and the use of medicines that have the opposite effect on the symptoms being presented within conventional medical practices. This is a cause of conflict between the two models and ultimately, it could be argued, is a possible reason for the lack of understanding between the two. It appears within conventional medical thought that symptoms of disease require suppression through, pharmaceutical treatment, taking the form of opposite characteristics, once disappeared brings about a ‘cure’ of the complaint presented. However, by applying the health definition it could be argued that the physical, mental or social well-being of the individual is not complete but suppressed due to the opposite forces that have been administered. Homeopathic medical thought on the other hand expresses the belief as it mains ethos that by utilising the like cures like principle and remedies that match the symptoms of the disease, the symptoms are brought out in order to facilitate a cure and not suppress them. As a result the definition of health can be more accurately associated to the Homeopathic model due to the completion of physical, mental of social well-being as a result of the symptoms being cured in this way.
Interestingly, the ‘bringing out’ of symptoms that Homeopathic medicine can facilitate is considered, within conventional medicine as a ‘crisis’ of the symptoms and suppressed further, usually by further opposite, pharmaceutical treatments that can cause a number of side effects affecting other parts of the individual’s body. In essence, the treatment of one disease to restore someone to ‘health’ causes other elements that prevent that restoration occurring. Homeopathy, although may bring out further symptoms within the individual, this is usually a temporary effect and on most occasions a complete restoration of physical, mental and social well-being follows after a period of time. The Faculty of Homeopathy in 2005 conducted a research study to assess General Practitioners and classical Homeopaths treatment models for asthma and allergy. The study followed a number of GPs and Homeopaths in the treatment of people with asthma and allergy in order to compare the treatment pathways used by each profession. Some GPs interviewed during structured research groups stated ‘if a medicine has an effect, it also produces an adverse reaction’, another stated, ‘If people come in with no matter what symptom, then I always ask, are you taking any medicine? Because there are in fact no limits for the adverse reactions something can have.’ When asking Homeopaths the same questions regarding medicines, they all confirmed that there are no adverse reactions to homeopathic medicines but reactions can occur or an aggravation of symptoms, which according to the healing principles utilised within homeopathy is the healing process working, as long as the individual, experiencing the aggravation feels able to continue along that path of treatment or change to a more gentle level of treatment within the system.
The conventional medicine route also considers that all disease is caused by external organisms and although this can be proven with aspects such as viruses, bacteria and pathogens, the continued train of thought that everyone is susceptible and treated in the same way could be debated as being flawed. Medicines are mainly prescribed on symptomatic assessment of individuals presenting with similar diseases and the medication they receive is considered a blanket treatment pathway for them without full consideration to individual susceptibility. Homeopathy, differs somewhat from this train of thought as susceptibility is considered on a truly individualistic basis and although there are key characteristics of remedies that can be prescribed acutely for similar symptoms in many people, the true heart of homeopathic healing is the ‘matching’ of the remedy to the individual to support their personal journey back to health which could have a totally different remedy than someone else who originally had a similar presenting complaint. As a result a difference between the two methods could be described as mechanistic medicine in conventional methods and individualistic within the homeopathic field.
For many years, conventional medicine has relied on the compliance of the patient with treatment and ‘experts’ opinions. This has brought about a sense of disempowerment of the individual being treated to take ownership of their healing process and leave it in the hands of the medical profession. Homeopathically, the patient is pivotal to the healing process and is actively encouraged to take control of their treatment. In essence Homeopathy relies on an adult-adult relationship utilising transactional models, whereas conventional medicine utilises the adult-child relationship within its ethos.
The study cited on the previous page regarding GPs and Homeopaths treatment of allergy and asthma, also recognised that although medical treatment can prolong and enhance life, here a similarity between the two models can be seen, as an ethical base, however the similarity here ends as the study also recognised that conventional medicine can often make a person dependent on the medicine to remain well. Homeopathic medicine regimes support the individual to become free from the remedy in the long term in order to achieve the ‘completion’ as described in the health definition. As a result it is possible to conclude in this case that conventional medicine could be described as restricting with dependency on treatment whereas homeopathy could be described as freeing a person from treatment as its goal.
The type of treatment has an extreme difference between the two systems. Homeopathic medicine for example is mainly derived from natural materials whereas conventional medicines, although originally derived from natural substances has been further manufactured within the pharmaceutical sense that it could be described as pseudo-natural or even artificial in its presentation. This echoes the debate that the treatment is opposite to the cause within the conventional model by administering artificial substances into the natural environment the body can be described as.
Taking the human body further in this discussion, homeopathic medicine considers the body as an integrated system working on three distinct levels, the mental, the emotional and the physical and according to Vithoulkas these levels are continuously adjusting to maintain a dynamic equilibrium within the body as it is also this dynamic system that affects the organism at all times and in many ways, resulting in disease. Conventional medicine, it can be argued, although taking into consideration the physical, emotional and the mental state of the patient, each level is considered separate and treated accordingly, sometimes with different medication or treatment routes. This is further embedded in conventional medicine by the specialising of medical personnel in specific body systems and working solely with that body system to treat the symptoms experienced in that area of the body. Homeopaths, on the other hand, usually have experience of working with the whole body and treatment of individuals regardless of where their symptoms are experienced or what system of the body it originates from.
Another difference that causes a level of conflict is the ethos of energy versus organism. Homeopathically, the key to health lies within the vital force‘s (body’s natural internal energy) ability to maintain harmony when the body becomes susceptible to an organism that causes a level of imbalance. Conventional medicine, sees the key to health as supporting the body to fight an organism on the physical level by suppressing the symptoms that appear. This is a continued area of debate and one that is likely to continue for a very long time as the difference between energetic and physical medicine will require a substantial shift in the core foundations of each models belief systems.
In my opinion the similarities between the two systems are fewer, however, it is important to note that the main similarity that will constantly remain between the two is the patient presenting to each practitioner. The patient’s ultimate goal is usually the wish to be well and symptom free from their presenting complaint.
The other important or main similarity is the impact, either energetically or physically the course of treatment recommended can have on the body and its systems, organs or relationships across the whole body. The need for each practitioner, be them a conventional medical professional or a homeopathic needs to understand the anatomical and physiological aspects of the human body in order to assess the patient’s symptomatic experience and have an understanding of how the body works when in harmony and balance. This is known as homeostasis and is a key similarity between both medical models and what the practitioners in both fields are supporting the patient to achieve. However, as the previous pages illustrate, how this is achieved differs and what homeostasis may look like to each practitioner may also be at opposite ends of the debate.
The concept of the health definition can also be described as a similarity between the two models as again, as with the previous paragraph, the ultimate goal of any practitioner working within the health field is to support the person to restore health to its potential. However, how this is achieved or recognised as being achieved will differ considerably from model to model.
The comparison between conventional medicine and homeopathy could continue many more pages, however, in my opinion this essay has highlighted the key areas that I consider to be integral in the debates between the two fields.
Revisiting the study carried out by the Faculty of Homeopathy referred to earlier both models have further work to do in order to bridge the gap between the two core belief systems. The researchers confirmed that during the research process the more experienced GPs implemented their treatment pathways of patients with asthma and allergy utilising a more ‘underlying cause’ with their patients, similarly to the homeopathic way of underlying imbalances. However, this showed only within the more experienced GPs who after many years of practice had the confidence to practice more independently from the core teaching they had received.
Until the concepts of both medical schools of thought begin the process of bridging the gaps described within this essay, the differences will continue to out way the similarities, and people will continue to receive varying forms of healing, differing results and ultimately different outcomes.
The World Health Organisation considers health as complete physical and mental social well-being and unfortunately, until the differences of opinion on what this means and how this looks within the models are resolved, the comparisons and contrasts between Homeopathy and conventional medicine will ultimately continue, thus potentially impacting on the attainment of ‘health’ as a society in its entirety.
Launso et al (2005) – General Practitioners and classical Homeopaths treatment models for asthma and allergy. Faculty of Homeopathy.
Vithoulkas, George (1993). The Science of Homeopathy
Yasgur, J (2007) Homeopathic Dictionary and Holistic Health Reference
A gentle miracle post by David.