Homeopathy is a holistic healing art that is not as well known as it should, especially among Black folk. In this article, I want to do two things: first, describe very briefly the holistic healing principles on which homeopathy is based, and second, show how it is related to healing principles that Africans have known about and practiced for thousands of years.
What is Homeopathy?
Homeopathy is a holistic healing art that seeks to stimulate the body's own healing energies to restore itself to holistic equilibrium, or balance. It has been found that minute doses of specially prepared substances -- which may be organic or inorganic, plant, mineral, or animal, indeed potentially any substance whatsoever -- stimulate in the body a response opposite to what a physiological dose of the substance would cause in the body. For example, it is well known that arsenic is a toxic substance that causes certain symptoms in a helathy body, leading possibly to death. Homeopathically prepared arsenic is capable of stimulating the body to heal itself of precisely the kinds of symptoms which arsenic, taken in physiological doses, would cause, including debility, exhaustion, fear, fright, and worry. Thus, homeopathy is based on the principle that like cures like, hence its name, which comes from the Greek homeo=similar, and pathos=suffering.
The "special preparation" which is required is simple. Basically, the substance being used to prepare the remedy is first dissolved in purified water or alcohol. If the substance is insoluble in water or alcohol, for example metals, it must first be ground in a pestle and mortar with a certain proportion of lactose -- a process called trituration -- which renders the "insoluble" substance soluble, after which the rest of the process may proceed as with soluble substances. The starting solution is known as the "mother tincture". When nine parts of alcohol (standardized usually at 87%) are added to one part of the mother tincture, and the result is vigorously shaken, or "succussed", this yields the first "potency", known as 1X. The "X" here stands for decimal, taken from the Latin numeral for the number 10, and refers to the dilution which has taken place in going from one part of the original mother tincture, to 10 parts of the dilution. To obtain the 2X potency, one would take one part of the 1X, add to it nine parts of alcohol, and succuss the resulting dilution. Thus, 1X is a dilution of 1/10, 2X is a dilution of 1/100. Continuing in this way, the 3X potency would be a dilution of 1/1000, and a 30X would represent a dilution of 1/1030, or one part per million million million million million.
Potencies may also be made up in series of C, based on centesimal rather than decimal dilutions. That is, to obtain the 1C potency, 99 parts of alcohol would be added to one part of the mother tincture and succussed. The 2C potency would be obtained by adding 99 parts of alcohol to one part of 1C. And so on, for 3C, etc. There is also an M series, M being the Latin numeral for 1000. However, 1M means 1000C, and thus represents a dilution of 1/1001000, rather than simply 1/1000 as might at first be supposed. Likewise, 5M means 5000C, 10M means 10000C, etc.
We see therefore why even the most toxic poisons, when prepared homeopathically, and used at the potencies most commonly used, namely 3X, 6X, 12X, 24X, 30X, 3C, 6C, 12C, 30C, 200C, 1M, 10M and even higher, are safe and non-toxic, and have no known side effects. What surprises most people is that such remedies should have any effect at all, because at these dilutions, the original substance may very well be chemically undetectable. Yet work they do, and often with brilliant effect.
How does Homeopathy work?
Western science is unable to give a satisfactory answer as to how homeopathy works. It certainly defies materialistic common sense. How could a substance which is not even chemically detectable have an effect on the body?
I believe the general answer to this question must lie in a view of the world that sees energy and matter as being mutually transmutable, with matter being energy-slowed-down as it were, or energy of lower vibration. Likewise, body (matter) and spirit (energy) are inter-penetrating and inter-acting aspects of one reality. From this conception, it is a short jump to seeing homeopathy as being "energy" medicine. What is captured in the process of dilution and succussion used to prepare a substance homeopathically, is the "energy" blueprint, or "spirit" of the substance. When this energetic configuration is introduced into the spirit field of the body, that spirit field recognizes the energy blueprint of the substance, and stimulates the body to react exactly as though the physiological substance had been introduced. But since the substance is not present in a physiological dose, the body's reaction is established over the putative and non-existent action of the substance. Further, since this reaction is in the direction of healing -- restoring the body to harmonious balance or equilibrium -- the desired result is achieved. To use a sports metaphor, homeopathy works by feint, goosing the body into a reaction to a non-existent attack, a reaction which, however, happens to be in the desired direction of restoring the body's own holistic equilibrium. It is significant that one speaks of homeopathic remedies, a word whose etymology suggests the literal meaning of restoring to the middle, to balance.
The process by which homeopathic remedies work may be contrasted with that of allopathic medicine. Here a substance is introduced in allopathic or physiological dose to the body, for the purpose of establishing the action of the substance over the body's homeostatic reaction to it. This may have a desired effect, but one may be sure that the body, through the principle of homeostasis, would be fighting to restore its former condition before the introduction of the substance. This drains the body of vital reserves, and the effect of the allopathic medicine finally wears off, meaning the body's reaction finally establishes itself over the action of the substance, but with the body now in a weakened condition, if it is still alive. A good example of this process could be seen in what happens when alcohol is ingested. Alcohol is a depressant, but the initial effects of alcohol consumption are those of a stimulant. This is because the body's reaction to the consumption of the depressant is in the opposite direction to the depressant. The body's reaction wins the initial battle, and the body behaves as though a stimulant has been ingested. As more and more alcohol is consumed however, the depressant effect of the alcohol establishes its action over the body's reaction, and the body is "knocked out." The body continues its fight however, and eventually the effect of the alcohol "wears off", and the body recovers from the effect of the alcohol, but generally there has been a toll taken in terms of loss of vital force. All allopathic medicines work in this way because, by definition, they seek to establish the action of the medicine over the body's reaction, which the principle of homeostasis guarantees will always occur.
Parenthetically, I do not mean to imply by this observation that allopathic medicine is always a bad thing; it is not. Broadly speaking, if the allopathic intervention may be limited in time and application, then it may well be the preferred course of treatment. For example, the allopathic treatment of gonorrhea with antibiotic is good medicine, because the antibiotic does its job, the body recovers and holistic equilibrium may be re-established. (It may be advisable to follow up the allopathic treatment with a homeopathic remedy to help the body flush out the dead bacteria left behind by the allopathic treatment). Where allopathic medicine is not a good idea is when the treatment must be repeated again and again, for if that is the case, one may be sure that what is being attempted is the suppression of symptoms rather than the restoration of the body to holistic equilibrium. Many allopathic medicines, both over-the-counter and prescription, are (mis)used in this manner, for example all the pain medicines, the antacids, the high blood pressure medication, etc. that are used for "chronic" ailments. For that matter, a vast range of herbs may also be employed allopathically, giving short term relief while leaving unresolved the deeper underlying problems.
Homeopathy and Black Folk
At first glance, one would think that Black folk have no particular claim to homeopathy. The history books credit the German, Samuel Hahnemann (1755-1843), with the discovery of the chief principle of homeopathy, and with the development of much of homeopathic practice. Equally though, his discovery appears to have been made only after he had perused some ancient medical texts, which, like so much of the knowledge reclaimed during and after the Renaissance, may be traced to the ancient Nile Valley, that is, to Africa. Gala (1995: 9) tells us that Dr. Hannemann's research led him to find that "the principle of using a poison to treat poison" was not a new one. In particular, the homeopathic principle was stated in the Ayurveda, the ancient Indian textbook of medicine, and Hippocrates had also enunciated the homeopathic principle. Hippocrates in turn, as is now well known, was preceded, by more than 2000 years, by Imhotep, the ancient Kamitic healer, pyramid builder, and savant, who was deified after his death, and whose image graces the top of this article. Llaila Afrika (1993: 10) informs us that Imhotep wrote over 10 volumes on holistic medicine, books which are now located at Karl Marx university in Leipzig, Germany. Afrika goes on to say that part of Imhotep's principles appears in The Canon of Medicine -- medical books written by a Muslim named Avicenna who was also Black. Not only is there this connection with Egypt, but also traditional African medical systems rather explicitly work with energy, based on a sophisticated cosmology and cosmogony that goes back to the Nile Valley and beyond. (See on this site the articles The Ancient Wisdom in Africa, and African Cosmology.)
It is not often acknowledged, for example, that the Africans knew the principle of vaccination, which is akin to the principle on which homeopathy is based, namely that like cures like. Ivan Van Sertima (1995: 269) tells us:
.Not only were Africans aware of the core underlying principle on which homeopathy is based, they were aware also of the importance of energetics as a holistic healing principle. For example, traditional African priest healers would often prescribe an herbal spiritual bath to heal their patients. Moreover, to explain how this works, they explicitly invoke the notion that it is the energetic aura surrounding the bodily vehicle which is cleansed by the spiritual bath, and that the cleansing of the aura in itself may have a healing effect on the bodily vehicle. See the discussion of spiritual anatomy -- the Tree of Life, and the Seven Divisions of the Spirit -- in the article already cited, African Cosmology. But also, in the same article, see what the Bonaabakulu Abasekhemu, a Zulu learned society that traces its origins to a priest of Isis during the reign of Pharaoh Khufu of the Egyptian 3rd Dynasty, say about the interaction of Matter and Mind:
We thus have the core notion that underlies much of holistic and alternative medicine, namely that all is vibration, or energy, and hence the potential efficacy of all manner of therapies that rely on energetic exchange, for example aromatherapy, color therapy, sun therapy, magneto-therapy, sound therapy, dance therapy, deep breathing, etc., etc. ad infinitum. We are of course by now all familiar with the Eastern versions of this wisdom, as they have come down to us in the practice of acupuncture, Tai Chi, Chi Gung, as well as yoga, Ayurveda, etc. But the African traditions in these areas have been discounted, despite what is perhaps a longer tradition of holistic healing practice. Thankfully, this situation is being corrected. Llaila Afrika (1993) has helped to correct the record, as has Fu Kiau's (1991) Self-Healing Power and Therapy: Old Teachings from Africa. At any rate, it is to an energetic cause that appeal must be made to explain how homeopathy could work, when, as has been pointed out, the dilutions employed to make homeopathic remedies are of such an order that the medicinal substances used would have to be declared no longer chemically present.
Having said that, I hasten to add, in all fairness, that it is not my intention to detract any from the European homeopathic tradition begun by Samuel Hahnemann. Their major contribution was to add enormously to the homeopathic materia medica. Over a thousand medicinal substances have been the subject of homeopathic "provings" through which the healing properties of these substances have been observed and catalogued. What I wish to assert rather is that homeopathy should properly be classed as energy medicine, which is something with which the African tradition is intimately familiar. I would add also that the practice of homeopathic medicine may be improved by using the African methods of divination. That however is the subject of another article.
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Llaila O. Afrika (1993). African Holistic Health. Brooklyn, NY. A&B Books Publishers.
Kimbandwende Kia Bunseki Fu-Kiau (1991). Self-Healing Power and Therapy: Old Teachings from Africa. New York. Vantage Press.
Dr. Dhiren Gala (1995). Homeopathy for Common Diseases. Ahmadabad: Navneet Publications (India) Ltd.
Ivan Van Sertima (1995). "African Smallpox Inoculation introduced into early Eighteenth-Century America", Research News and Notes 3. In Egypt: Child of Africa. Edited by Ivan Van Sertima. New Brunswick, USA, and London, UK: Transaction Publishers.
References on Homeopathy:
Jay Nasgur (1998). Yasgur's Homeopathic Dictionary and Holistic Health Reference. Greenville, PA: Van Hoy Publishers.
W. Boericke (1927). Pocket Manual of Homeopathic Materia Medica and Repertory, Comprising of the Characteristic and Guiding Symptoms of all Remedies (Clinical and Pathogenic), Including Indian Drugs. New Delhi: B. Jain and Publishers Pvt. Ltd. 1996 Reprint Edition.