Ailments are a reality, as irrespective of one's age, gender and/ or nationality, a person is liable to fall ill. When one is sick, no matter whether the ailment is minor or major, each one of us actually desires for the same thing - a quick and gentle cure that will heal all our problems and ease our miseries. We get the quickest respite from treatments that control the apparent symptoms related to any ailment, for instance, a tumour when one is struggling with cancer, or a swollen nose in the case of any allergy. Although such types of cures are speedy, they have an adverse effect on our healthy body parts. Moreover, it is possible such treatments may not be effective in dealing with the basic things that are responsible for an ailment.

A remedial approach that stimulates the normal healing systems of our body and channelizing them to get rid of the ailments is more acceptable. This is a gentle treatment and would proceed at a pace at which our body is able to repair itself naturally, but it may consume a longer time compared to the treatment mode that we are familiar with. Nevertheless, when our body is able to get rid of an ailment all by itself, is considered to be healthier, as it not only cures the health disorder, but also thwarts its return. In due course, any treatment that helps to promote self healing of the body is the best means to treat any ailment as well as to reinstate our health.

Illness: the disease / healing complex

During the last 100 years, the focus of the contemporary, conventional medicine has been on controlling diseases as well as the physical symptoms of various ailments. Technological advancements coupled with the discovery of basic elements of our physical world have definitely augmented our skills for manoeuvring the human body. Some of the excellent examples of such advancements in technology and our enhanced capabilities are manifested in anesthesia and surgery. Medicine in the 20th century has made it possible for surgeons to remove organs without causing any pain and also refurbish tendons by means of petite fiber-optic scopes as well as figure out the anatomy as well as the functioning of the human body using X-rays and imaging that are driven by computers. Today, we have developed medicines that have the ability to affect precise functions of the body's cells, for instance, regulate the quantity of calcium or protons that run throughout a cell membrane. Gradually, we are also moving ahead and mapping the human body's genetic structure.

There is no doubt that the abilities of the modern Western medicine in the above mentioned areas will keep improving, enabling us to address the diseases in a much better way in the coming days. However, possessing such comprehensive power to control the physical body can also lead to a number of unnecessary consequences. We need to always bear in mind that we are completely different from machines. Several thousand sophisticated, interrelated systems keep operating to ensure that we remain healthy and also function properly at all times. Working together, these mechanisms sustain a balance in the body - a process scientifically known as homeostasis, which enables us to function flexibly, resist diseases and remain healthy.

Our body has numerous homeostatic responses and several of them are experienced as ailments and symptoms. For instance, when you have a cold, the blood circulation to your nose is augmented owing to an infection caused by microorganisms like bacteria or viruses. This, in turn, produces a flood of white blood cells as well as some chemicals like histamines that are adept in combating infections. They work to increase mucus production and increase nasal drainage. In fact, this type of response of the body to infections is responsible for headaches, stuffy nose and various other symptoms, which are commonly known as a cold. Hence, what we consider to be an ailment is also one of the healing responses of our body.

However, when the body has a symptom, you can make out that something is not right and your body's self-healing mechanisms are responding to combat the problem. As mentioned earlier, such type of response of the body is also known as its efforts to self-heal itself. In fact, when you visit your physician you not only want the illness to be cured, but also want him to look into your body's self-healing response to the problem. However, you ought to know that these two - the symptoms as well as the healing response of the body, are always together and cannot be separated. When we are using conventional medicines, we actually try to deal with the cold symptoms by taking specific medications like any decongestant or an antihistamine that clears the stuffy nose. While using such medications provides the patient with the much-needed relief, it also has its downsides, as the medications interfere with the body's self-healing mechanisms or efforts.

However, we are fortunate enough that our body is able to heal itself in various different ways. In case any particular immune or cellular pathway gets blocked or is inhibited, the body is still able to heal itself by making use of any of the several other means available to it. This is the main reason why even when any of the several self-healing processes of the body is blocked, it generally does not cause any problem in getting respite from the symptoms. Whether or not we undergo any treatment, eventually we are able to get rid of a cold and many other ailments too. In fact, the body's propensity to heal itself is not only immense, but it also helps us to remain healthy. However, at times, the body is not successful in healing itself naturally and on such occasions we experience chronic symptoms. During such times, our body keeps on trying to set the problem right.

For instance, when an individual is affected by allergies, dust or pollen cause a chemical reaction in his/ her sinuses, which is comparable to the symptoms experienced by us when we get a cold. However, when we develop a chronic allergy, the body's endeavours to self-heal itself are never able to establish homeostasis. In such cases the continuous efforts of the body to self-heal itself leads to problems or symptoms like a stuffy nose or nasal drainage.

A number of chemicals are particularly responsible for the symptoms experienced by us and when we use medications like antihistamines to block them specifically, it may result in a temporary improvement in the symptoms. Nevertheless, using such medications also lessen the efforts of the body to permanently heal it as well as restore its balance enduringly. In such circumstances, our body requires guidance regarding the manner in which it can reinstate the original equilibrium so that it just does not interfere with its natural healing response. For instance, administering allergy shots, which are basically small doses of injections of the agent that causes the offence, is considered to be a generally accepted means to drive the immune system in the direction of a response that is more balanced towards the environment.

The many paths of illness and healing

Not a single part of our body, not even the different organs and cells, performs all by itself. Our thoughts, emotions, and social as well as physical environments affect us continuously or are affected by us. Going by the earlier example, the manner in which we counter  stress has a direct effect on nasal allergies and colds. In fact, our psychological, behavioural and social environments are greatly affected by nasal as well as throat infections. The presence of contagious organisms also affects our social, behavioural and psychological environs in a great way. The efficiency of our immune system as well as the manner in which we combat infections also has a great influence on our emotions regarding ourselves, our friends and family members and also the manner in which we interact with them. Even the presence of bacteria or virus or exposure to these microorganisms also influence our feelings, relations and behaviour vis-à-vis ourselves, family members and friends. What is important is that this is true for humans as well as animals.

It is worth mentioning here that all diseases as well as healing processes entail an interaction between the agent that is responsible for the ailment or its cause and the self-healing reaction of the individual to that specific cause. In a number of instances, the agent responsible for the disease is very dominant, for instance following a serious injury or when there is a devastating infection, like in epidemics as well as other different severe ailments. In such conditions, the most essential treatment is interfering with the cause of the disease, possibly by effectively employing mechanical repair or using antibiotics. However, in other circumstances, like in the case of chronic ailments, such as arthritis and allergies, the healing response of an individual is the main aspect of the disease. In such cases, it is vital to assist or support the homeostatic, self-healing systems of the body. In fact, complementary and alternative medicines deal with most part of this side of the disease/ healing complex.

No medical treatment or healing can be dogmatic or rigid, as there are numerous influences on the ailments as well as the several healing pathways. In other words, healing or treatment of illnesses can be undertaken in many different ways. It is important to note though two different individuals may be diagnosed of suffering from the same disease, their specific conditions will not be same. Even if we are familiar with the precise reason for the disease, for instance, in the case of strep throat, measles, or having a herniated disc, the condition can be fatal in some people, while other people may not even become aware of the problem. Similarly, some individuals suffering from allergies or colds may experience a dry, blocked nose, while other people may have a wet, dripping nose. Likewise, some people may suffer from sore throat, others from cough, while there may be more people who would be experiencing a headache or struggling with swollen glands. More interestingly, some other may be suffering from allergies or a cold, but they may not experience or have any of these symptoms. In fact, different individuals actually use dissimilar attributes of their body's healing mechanisms. Some people may also use different parts of their body to handle the same health problem.

Time and again, there is a wide clinical disagreement regarding the diagnosis of an ailment or the consequences of any treatment, particularly when the response of an individual is the most important determining factor of any disease. In most cases diagnoses are reached by means of social agreement or convenience, like in the instance of colds and flu, barring when an ailment is specifically identified through a laboratory test or the findings of a pathological test. In fact, it has been often found that diseases that have been identified or diagnosed following pathological tests may also have noticeably diverse significance as well as denotation for different patients. Many people consider cancer to be an overwhelming disease that causes premature death. There are many other people who consider cancer just to be an exasperation that eventually does not have any affect either on their quality of life or their life span. Several complementary as well as alternative medicine approaches try to deal with such inconsistency in healing diseases by explicitly personalizing every treatment.

We have already discussed that no diagnosis can be inflexible or dogmatic. Similarly, it is not possible for therapies to be a routine, like any recipe in a cookbook. A patient who is suffering from a stuffy nose owing to an allergic reaction is unlikely to respond well to particular varieties of antihistamines. Or the use of other types of antihistamines may cause the patient to experience disturbing side effects like lethargy or stupor, but they may respond excellently to other different types of medicines. On several occasions, we actually experiment with different medicines to find out the one that works most excellently for a particular patient. Often, similar trial-and-error methods are also followed in the case of other drugs, counting antibiotics and antidepressants.

Even when a patient is treated with medications that have scientifically proven efficacy, there is always some speculative element in his/ her treatment, as no ailment is uniform and also because the indications of conservative therapies are founded on the common response of different groups of patients. In fact, the greater the variation in the individual responses of patients in a precise diagnosis, the medicine selection for any particular individual turns out to be more of an art, while the involvement of science becomes lesser. In the instance of chronic ailments, wherein the self-healing systems of different people are likely to be generally different, it is important to select the appropriate medication for any successful treatment. A lot of complementary as well as alternative medical systems, such as homeopathy, deal with this problem by employing processes that help individualized selection of medications, which, in turn, augment the chances of positive responses of the patient to the treatment.

Approaches to healing

While our body possesses several means to cure itself, an effective treatment entails three fundamental methods. The first basic approach involves supporting the body's homeostatic (the condition of physical stability obtained after reducing or eliminating stress) mechanisms by means of appropriate nourishment as well as nurturing. The second approach involves inducing as well as guiding definite healing systems already existing in our body. The third and final basic approach is discovering the origin of the disease and eliminating it after it has been detected. Precisely speaking, the three approaches mentioned above form the foundation of all types of treatments that have existed ever, counting the numerous contemporary medicines.

Lifestyle and the wellness approach

One most common treatment methodology involves eliminating an ailment by augmenting the general health of the patient and providing him/ her with various lifestyle supports. In ancient Greece, this approach was initially known as the hygiene school and it comprises what we presently know as health and wellness promotion. The approach includes providing necessary encouraging health measures like fresh and clean air, good diet, ample sleep, exercises as well as encouraging social relationships. While such health behaviours may appear to be nothing more than common sense in present times, all through the major part of the medical history in the West, either people deplored these or the medical practitioners just did not pay any attention to them.

During the era of the ancient Greek physician Hippocrates, these attitudes just consisted of cleansing the body by taking baths or going into saunas, meditations, prayers, taking 'pure' diets and fasting alongside participating in group healing sacraments. It has been proved that taking a diet that is low in sugar and fat content, but including lots of fresh vegetables and fruits, abstaining from smoking, drinking alcohol, following a regular exercise regimen, relaxation and stress management techniques as well as cultivating love for other people as well as self-esteem helps in healing the body and promoting good health significantly.

Healing enhancement: the similar approach

The two other basic healing approaches deal with the converse sides of treating an ailment or healing a health problem. While of these two approaches attempt to oppose or do away with the aspects responsible for the disease, the second approach tries to augment as well as invigorate the healing response of the body during ailments. In fact, people in the West have traditionally practiced the remedial methodology that cures diseases by means of promoting the self-healing endeavours of the body for a long time. During primeval Greece, medical practitioners would look for a herbal remedy or medication that would help to rouse the body in a manner that is similar to the functioning self-healing efforts of an individual's body. On many occasions, the physicians would use a substance to cure a disease that itself might be responsible for the disease. This is much like the basic principle of homeopathy - "like treats like'. As a result, an individual suffering from skin rash may possibly be given a remedy prepared from an herb that may itself be responsible for causing the rashes. Similarly, an individual suffering from diarrhea may possibly be asked to eat foods that have laxative actions. This therapeutic approach is known as the 'similar approach'.

Over the centuries, scientists and medical practitioners actually developed various different theories as well as approaches with an endeavour to systemically find the precise medications that would be effective in promoting healing. These theories involved observing the form, flavour as well as the color of the herbs; consulting with an oracle; entering a trance; or opting a therapy that is founded on a sophisticated hypothesis on humours or 'energies', which were believed to be the composition of a human being. Irrespective of the therapeutic approach employed, medical practitioners always tried to go for the cure that would cause maximum invigoration to normal healing mechanisms of any patient's body. In fact, physicians always try to opt for medications that would explicitly work to cure a particular patient's health condition.

Eliminating the cause: the opposition approach

Besides the method adopted in choosing medicines that imitate as well as are similar to those of the body's healing mechanisms or efforts, many medical practitioners also treated their patients by trying to put an end to the disease element of a disease/ healing complex. In fact, this is considered to be the idea of opposites or contraries, which was meant to bring to an end or combat the disease process straightforwardly by hindering the implicit cause of the ailment.

As a consequence, a patient suffering from rashes may possibly be recommended to take a herb that lessens skin inflammation (instead of causing it), while an individual suffering from diarrhea may be asked to take a diet or plant that would cause constipation. However, this method of treatment did have one problem and that was finding out the precise reasons for the disease. This was essential, as the physicians could interfere with the cause of the disease only after they detected it. On the other hand, deciding on the medication was not such a big problem, because when the physicians were able to find the cause of the disease, they could direct the treatment towards the particular cause and all patients suffering from the same cause could be provided with the same therapy.

Science and healing

In fact, the three basic approaches to deal with ailments - hygiene, similarity as well as opposition - started during the period of Hippocrates and continue to be followed by many physicians till today. While the methodologies and treatments followed by present day medical practitioners may be different, the fundamental approach as well as the philosophy remain unchanged. In contemporary Western medicine, a patient suffering from any type of infection is administered an antibiotic - a medicine meant for eliminating the agent responsible for the infection. Similarly, if a patient is suffering from joint pain and inflammation, he/ she are given an analgesic (a painkiller, which literally means 'against sensation') or an anti-inflammatory medicament respectively. These are just some instances of the approach called 'opposition', which has turned out be to extremely complicate in contemporary medicine. In fact, this approach works excellently in cases where the cause is identified easily, simply, and controls what is known as the disease/ healing complex.

It is interesting to note that during the past 15 odd years, contemporary medicine has attached more value to the principles that guide the hygiene approach. This is evident from the increasing number of wellness, preventive medicine and health promotion movements during this period. Now, we have begun to realize that behavioural as well as lifestyle changes have an impact on several health problems, which make people visit their physicians. However, mostly people who are healthy engage in lifestyle activities and these are seldom used in the form of primary treatments, even in cases where behaviour is found to be the main reason for an ailment. Similarly, modern medicine also does not use the similarity approach in the form of primary therapy.

Notwithstanding the popularity of these basic treatment approaches, not much scientific evidence corroborating their efficiency was available for several centuries. Neither of these basic treatment approaches offered any systematic method to determine an effectual therapy beforehand. In fact, one could devise any reason (provided they had enough power and influence) and also adopt as being reasonable for a therapy that may actually prove to be most useless and even poisonous.

It may be noted that the 'opposition' approach is not very effective for treating ailments having several causes or causes that are not very clearly identified, for instance, most chronic ailments. In fact, this healing approach is not effective for ailments that take a long time to cure. Hence, it has been found that adopting either the 'hygiene' or 'similarity' healing approaches are more practical as well as useful for encouraging the body's natural healing mechanisms. However, it is unfortunate that thus far no proper scientific and detailed evidence regarding the usefulness of the similarity approach has been established. However, with the advance of homeopathy in the 20th century, the foundation of a methodical base for this basic treatment approach was established.

Holism, healing, and homeopathy

All types of therapies, whether or not they are conventional or alternative, are considered to be holistic, as the whole person responds to them always. Any medical intervention, whether it is medication, psychotherapy, surgery or behavioural change, affects the complete body as well as the mind of the person undergoing the treatment. The only difference between different therapies is the particular part of the body where this overall effect is being used and assessed. If a particular cause of an ailment is the prevailing factor, it is prudent to direct a treatment toward that particular factor and subsequently try to reduce the adverse effects caused by the treatment.

For instance, when an individual suffering from a nasal infection is further afflicted by bacterial meningitis (an acute brain infection), he/ she can only hope to recuperate from the serious condition by getting rid of the bacteria using strong antibiotic doses. Using antibiotics has its downside too, as it causes adverse side effects, for instance, hearing impairment in a number of instances. While such consequences are definitely unfortunate, they are no doubt a better alternative compared to death. However, in case the nasal infection turns out to be a chronic sinus disorder, wherein the body's ability to self-heal is the prevailing factor in what is known as disease/ healing complex, the best way to treat the problem would be to augment the self-healing mechanisms of the body. In this case, when you treat the bacteria, it will usually only has a temporary effect and subsequently may also result in various other medical problems.

A balancing medical system, homeopathy is more effective when used during the later part of a medical condition, especially when the body's self-healing endeavours become the most vital factor in treating an ailment. Using homeopathic remedies is actually a mild way of treating ailments. In fact, homeopathy is a medical system that helps to induce the body as well as the mind of an individual to cure him/ her. It involves using small doses of various substances obtained from plants, minerals, animals and chemicals prepared synthetically as well as conventional medications that are prepared following precise processes. Clear guidelines help one to select as well as use homeopathic remedies so that they help to ensure that using them for treating any condition will further encourage the self-healing attributes of our body.

In other words, homeopathy is an unusual form of therapy, mostly using natural substances. It is very different from herbal medicine, naturopathy, psychotherapy, psychic or spiritual healing or any other similar medical method or system. As homeopathy promotes self-healing of the body, it is considered to be among the most 'natural' or 'gentle' means of treatment. Moreover, homeopathy works inside the natural process of the body causing very trivial or no adverse side effects. Homeopathy is also considered to be an extremely advanced treatment approach, especially for treating medical conditions and, from time to time, it has very quick as well as accurate effects.

Homeopathy makes use of the consequences of a medication to augment the healing efforts of the body. In homeopathy, it is assumed that a remedy can be effective when it is appropriately matched with complete person, instead of just addressing the diagnosed disease. In other words, homeopathy works to cure the whole patient and not just the disease. A patient is more likely to respond to the treatment with homeopathic remedies more effectively as well as lastingly when the medication matches the individual being treated in the most detailed and individualized manner. Precisely speaking, homeopathic remedies deal with all the symptoms experienced by the patients, instead of merely treating health problems like a migraine headache, cold or maybe a backache.

In the world of homeopathy, it is believed that all the physiological, psychological as well as cellular processes of our body are connected with one another and they are all occupied in an ailment. In the case of homeopathy, the healing methods as well as the pathways are numerous and multifaceted. Owing to such complexity of the healing mechanisms and pathways, it may not be very effective to undertake diagnosis and treatment approaches that are easy plus one-to-one. In fact, every person may possibly use a dissimilar combination of self-healing systems, even while treating the same health condition. This process often requires assisting by means of fine-tuning the therapy with a view to back up such personal disparities. However, the means to guide this kind of a complete as well as individualized treatment are somewhat unsophisticated till this day, but, with the passage of time, they are definitely improving. Homeopathy deals with this complexity by means of a medicine selection system that offers precise treatment for every individual patient.


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