Samuel Hahnemann

You may come across different terms that describe ways of practicing homeopathy. They are classical and practical (or clinical) homeopathy. If you’re seeking homeopathic care, it’s important to be familiar with these approaches.

Classical homeopathy

Classical homeopathy is based on a set of foundational principles espoused by Samuel Hahnemann, the founder of homeopathy. These principles have successfully guided the practice of homeopathy for over two centuries. The principles, or “laws,” include the following:

  • Law of similars: this “like cures like” law of nature states that a substance that can cause illness in a healthy person can restore the health of a sick person suffering with a similar illness.
  • Law of minimum dose: a remedy is given in the minimum doses needed to stimulate a healing response in the body.
  • Totality of symptoms: a remedy is given for the totality of mental, emotional, and physical symptoms of the person and these symptoms are what is characteristic or unique to that person, not their condition or illness.
  • Single remedy: only one remedy is given at a time.

Differences between classical and practical homeopathy

With practical homeopathy, remedies are recommended based on your presenting symptom or condition, not the totality of symptoms and how you experience them. If you have a particular symptom, you’re given the same remedy as another person who has the same symptom.

This approach is similar to traditional and even some complementary systems of medicine. For example, in traditional or modern medicine, if you have an ear infection, you may be prescribed antibiotics. If you have heartburn, you may be prescribed an antacid. In integrative or herbal medicine, if you have inflammation, you may be recommended turmeric. If you have constipation, you may be recommended magnesium.

With a practical approach to homeopathy, if you have a sting, you may be given homeopathic Apis, which covers redness, swelling, and heat. Apis is better with a cold application, but what if your sting is better with a warm application? The sting being better with a warm application when you might expect cold is important in classical homeopathy.

Similarly, if you have a urinary tract infection, you may be given Cantharis, which covers burning in the urethra, urging to urinate, and discolored urine. What if your urinary tract infection causes less discomfort the fuller your bladder? Again, this is a characteristic of how you experience the infection that is rather important. This characteristic may indicate a different remedy like Equisetum, which is noteworthy for urinary complaints that are improved with a full bladder.

Problems with practical homeopathy

A practical approach to homeopathy can be problematic for a few reasons. Giving a remedy based on a narrow or general set of symptoms is not aligned with the principles of homeopathy. Instead, classical homeopathy is concerned with the totality of your symptoms and all of its particulars, including locations, sensations (what it feels like) and modalities (what makes it better or worse). It’s less about what you may be experiencing, such as a sting or urinary tract infection, and more about how you experience it.

Because practical homeopathy involves giving the same remedy or set of remedies to different people, this approach generally relies on more well known or commonly used remedies. Most of these remedies are known as polycrests, meaning they have many uses. Such remedies include Arsenicum, Mercurius, Lycopodium, Pulsatilla, and more.

Polycrests have broad uses among most people. However, there are also cases that may require lesser known remedies. Practical homeopathy focuses on a select few hundred possibilities for your symptoms when tens of thousands of remedies are available.  

Concerns with protocols

With practical homeopathy, you might find the use of protocols. A protocol often involves a series of the same remedies or multiple remedies given at one time. Protocols are the same for every person. One reason why classical homeopathy has persisted is because it’s individualized. With classical homeopathy, a homeopath selects a remedy based on your specific experience of your symptoms.

What’s important to a classical homeopath is how your symptoms or condition are actually different from a standard clinical diagnosis or general terms like anxiety, fatigue, or stomachache that describe a symptom.

How do you experience the anxiety?

Where in your body do you feel the anxiety?

What brings on the anxiety?

What thoughts do you have when you feel anxious?

How does the anxiety affect your life?

Answers to these questions help describe your characteristic symptoms in a way that distinguishes it from how it may be broadly defined or how other people experience it. A person that feels anxious when speaking in public and a person that feels anxious when alone are two different expressions of anxiety. Each expression may call for a different, more individualized remedy. When you use protocols, it’s often a protocol for whatever it is you’re suffering from, and it’s the same for everyone.

Concerns with multiple or combination remedies

Finally, taking multiple remedies at one time is not aligned with the principle of a single remedy. When you take more than one remedy at a time, it is nearly impossible to discern which remedy caused the response. Imagine standing in the middle of a group of people who are all talking at the same time. It is nearly impossible for you to hear what everyone around you is saying, let alone process and understand it. The multiple signals occurring from the multiple remedies at the same time can be confusing for the body.

But what about alternating remedies within the same day or within a specific number of hours, days or weeks? Yes, you’re technically not taking them at the same time. However, alternating remedies can still result in confusing or mixed signals within the body. Each remedy has a specific message for the body. Sometimes those messages may conflict with one another depending on the remedy or your symptoms.

Imagine being given instructions to cook pasta as follows: stir the pot, add noodles to the pot, boil, add water to the pot, boil again, stir again, stir again, add more water, add noodles to the pot, and so forth. These instructions are clearly confusing and at the end, you’ll likely not have edible pasta. When you alternate remedies within a day, a week or longer, the body ultimately receives poor instructions for healing. The principles of homeopathy are the foundation of what make the classical approach successful and beneficial.

For a deeper dive into his life, read Samuel Hahnemann’s biography on Whole Health Now.

And of course, we can’t forget the women of homeopathy, including Melanie Hahnemann, an accomplished homeopath and the wife of Samuel Hahnemann.