What Is Homeopathy?


Our grateful thanks to photographer Louis Hansel on Unsplash!

by Krystal Shelmire, ND

Homeopathy, also known as homeopathic medicine, is a medical system that was developed in Germany more than 200 years ago. It is based on two non-conventional theories:

  1. “Like cures like”— the notion that a disease can be cured by a substance that produces similar symptoms in healthy people.
  2. “Law of minimum dose” – the notion that the lowerthe dose of the medication, the greater its effectiveness. Many homeopathic products are so diluted that no molecules of the original substance remain.
Dr. Krystal Shelmire, ND

Homeopathic products come from plants such as red onion, arnica (mountain herb), poison ivy, belladonna (deadly nightshade), and stinging nettle; minerals such as white arsenic; or animals such as crushed whole bees.

Homeopathic products are often made as sugar pellets to be placed under the tongue. They may also be delivered in other forms, such as ointments, gels, drops, creams, and tablets.

Treatments are “individualized” or tailored to each person – it’s common for different people with the same condition to receive different treatments. Homeopathy uses different diagnostic systems for assigning treatments to individuals and recognizes clinical patterns of signs and symptoms that are different from those of conventional medicine.

How Does It Work?

A basic belief behind homeopathy is that “like cures like.” In other words, something that brings on symptoms in a healthy person can also – in a very small dose – treat an illness with similar symptoms. This is meant to trigger the body’s natural defenses. For example, red onion makes your eyes water, and it’s used in homeopathic remedies to treat allergies.

Homeopathic doctors (also called “homeopaths”) dilute full-strength ingredients by adding water or alcohol. They then shake the mixture as part of a process called “potentiation.” It’s believed that this step transfers the healing essence.

During your appointment, the homeopath will ask a number of questions about your mental, emotional, and physical health. They will prescribe the remedy that best matches all of your symptoms; then they will tailor the treatment for you.


Homeopaths generally begin with a consultation where the patient describes their medical history, which can be a brief 10-15 minute appointment or last for as long as two hours. The patient describes the “modalities” – or if their symptoms change depending on the weather and other external factors.

The practitioner also solicits information on mood, likes and dislikes, physical, mental, and emotional states, life circumstances, and any physical or emotional illnesses. This information (also called the “symptom picture”) is matched to the “drug picture” in the materia medica or repertory and is used to determine the appropriate homeopathic remedies.

In classical homeopathy, the practitioner attempts to match a single preparation to the totality of symptoms (the simlilum), while “clinical homeopathy” involves combinations of preparations based on the symptoms of the illness.

To schedule with Dr. Shelmire: 650-961-1660

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