The word homeopathy is derived from the Greek word 'homoios' (like or similar) and 'pathos' (suffering). The principle of homeopathy is therefore that a disease in a living organism may be cured by the administration of a substance which, when given to a healthy individual, would induce similar symptoms. This is the Law of Similars, or 'Like Cures Like'. A simple example of this process would be: a person with a cold may develop watering eyes and a runny nose. The remedy Allium cepa (red onion) produces these symptoms in a healthy person and so giving this remedy to the ill person may alleviate the symptoms of the cold.


The ancient Egyptians and Greeks treated illness using the homeopathic principle, but it was not until the early 19th Century that a German physician called Dr. Christian Frederick Samuel Hahnemann (1755-1843) developed homeopathy into a structured medical system. He published a full descripton of the system in the first edition of the Organon of the Medical Art in 1810. Modern homeopaths use the 6th edition of this work, which Hahnemann completed in 1842.

Homeopathic remedies can be derived from plant, animal and mineral sources. Hahnemann developed the technique of diluting and succussion (vigorous shaking with impact) of the remedy initially because he wished to use toxic substances such as arsenic and belladonna as homeopathic medicines. He discovered that the more a substance was diluted and succussed the more powerful was its effect as a homeopathic medicine. This technique gives rise to the different potencies of homeopathic medicines. For example, 30C potency is a medicine made from a substance that has been diluted and succussed 30 times at a dilution of 1 in 100 each time.

The same principles that Hahnemann developed for human patients apply to animals. The totality of the signs and symptoms (the 'symptom picture') is the guide for selecting the remedy, rather than the conventional diagnosis of the disease.

Homeopathy is particularly useful for treating chronic or ongoing diseases. It can also be very effective at treating emotional, behavioural and stress related disorders. Acute illnesses can also often be resolved rapidly with a correctly selected remedy.