The word homeopathy comes from the Greek, meaning, “similar suffering.” Homeopathy is based on the law of familiars (like cures like), involving the use of minute doses of a natural substance that can cause a healthy person the same symptoms it cures in a sick one. The principle of like cures like dates back as far as 3,000 BCE to Sanskrit medical texts, as well as Hippocrates (400 BCE), and Paracelsus, the renown 16th century German physician and alchemist. But it was Samuel Hahnemann, a German physician born in 1775, who first integrated homeopathy into the systematic form commonly used today.
A common example of homeopathy is the use of Apis mellifica (honeybee). If you were stung by a bee, you would develop certain predictable symptoms such as redness, heat, swelling, and stinging or burning pain. These are precisely the symptoms that are relieved if you take honeybee in the form of a homeopathic medicine, Apis mellifica.
A bee sting is not, however, the only condition in which you might experience these symptoms. Think of rheumatoid arthritis where the joints are swollen, hot, and burning. Or an allergic reaction with hives and swollen eyelids. Or a bladder infection with burning pain in the urethra before and after urination. All of these conditions might be treatable with Apis.
In studying Apis, homeopaths discovered that it has an affinity for problems on the right side of the body, such as right-handed ovarian cysts, and they discovered that just as the honeybee is fiercely protective of its hive, people needing Apis have a tendency to be overprotective of their home and family. A similar wealth of information was gathered from other members of the animal kingdom, but the vast majority has come from the vegetable and mineral kingdoms.
In applying homeopathy, homeopaths observe the same pattern of predictable events after the remedy is given: In 50-70% of cases, the individual will first experience an aggravation of symptoms lasting a few hours to a few days. The individual will then begin to feel better until finally reaching a point of complete relief. While it may take some individuals days or even weeks to achieve relief (depending on the severity of the ailment), it takes others only hours. Some chronic ailments that have been suffered for many years have been known to be eliminated completely after a few weeks.
There are some 2,500 homeopathic remedies in common use in the US today. While Homeopathy as a profession is a primary part of health care in Europe and Asia, it is only currently licensed in five states of the US. Many who advocate its use site that it is safe (even for pregnant women and infants), effective (homeopaths have a 300% success rate over conventional medical doctors in curing deadly diseases), affordable (is a small fraction of typical doctor visits), and has no side-effects whatsoever.