I am a naturopathic physician that specializes in homeopathic medicine. Every day in my practice I am faced with the challenging task of explaining what exactly that means. This is challenging for a variety of reasons. First of all, some people know an incredible amount about naturopathic medicine. Others have never even heard of it. Some have very specific preconceived notions (whether right or wrong) about what I do and what I don’t do. Others have no notions at all. I have been compared to an osteopath, a chiropractor, and even an astrologist. I’m not upset about these misconceptions. Naturopathic medicine is simply not as well-advertised as traditional (aka allopathic) medicine. Therefore, it is our responsibility as naturopathic physicians to explain our philosophy, what that philosophy looks like in practice, and how it can help our patients.

 Once patients understand naturopathic medicine, I can begin to take it a step farther and explain what homeopathy is. While these concepts can be a bit challenging at first, once my patients understand what exactly we are doing and begin to feel the effects of treatment, they are more often than not completely sold on the healing power of homeopathic medicine. If you are considering whether homeopathic medicine is right for you or a family member, please read on:

What is Naturopathic Medicine?

Naturopathic medicine is a system of medicine that has a distinct and different philosophy from allopathic medicine. Although it is separate from traditional medicine, the amount of medical training is similar. After completing an undergraduate degree, a naturopathic physician attends a four-year, graduate-level naturopathic medical school and is educated in all of the same basic sciences as an allopathic doctor. At the same time, he or she also studies natural and nontoxic treatments for both acute and chronic health conditions. In addition to a standard medical curriculum, the naturopathic physician studies clinical nutrition, homeopathic medicine, botanical medicine, Chinese medicine, minor surgery, physical manipulation, psychology, and counseling. The philosophy behind all of this training is simple but profound. We believe that the body was created with a natural ability to heal itself. The physician’s role is to identify and remove barriers to health, and to use safe and natural treatments that stimulate the self-healing mechanisms of the body.

What is Homeopathy?

Many people confuse homeopathy with herbal medicine or even naturopathic medicine as a whole, but homepathy is actually a separate and distinct system of healing. Homeopathic remedies are made from small doses of potentized plants, minerals, and/or animal products. Potentization occurs when you serially dilute and succus (shake/agitate) a substance. These remedies are then given to patients to stimulate the self-healing mechanisms of the body. While this system of medicine is seen as ‘fringe’ in America, most of Europe has been using homeopathy for decades with remarkable results. Homeopathy is based on two general theories: “like cures like”, and “the law of the minimum dose”.

“Like cures like”: This is the idea that a medicine can help to heal a sick person if an overdose of that substance causes a similar symptoms in a healthy subject. For example, if you peel and chop an onion, it is likely that your eyes will begin to burn, itch, and water. You might also develop a runny nose and begin to sneeze. These symptoms are also common symptoms of allergy attacks and colds. So, if you came into see a homeopathic doctor with these specific symptoms during a cold or allergy attack, he or she may prescribe you homeopathic Allium Cepa (red onion).

“The minimum dose”: This is the theory that the lower the dose of a medicine, the more powerful that medicine is. While this used to be the main area of debate for skeptics of homeopathy, new research is rapidly confirming that extremely dilute and potentized medicines have measurable active constituents that are capable of creating physiologic changes in the body (2). Low doses also make homeopathic remedies incredibly safe. The medicine can be used on children, animals, and even pregnant women without risk of side-effects.

Treating Chronic Disease with Homeopathy:

Although homeopathy is very effective in the treatment of acute diseases, most patients come to my office for the treatment of chronic conditions. One of the most important concepts for patients to understand when starting homeopathic treatment is this: all a homeopathic remedy can do is stimulate your body’s self-healing mechanisms. There is no band-aiding or suppressing of symptoms, there is no way to choose which symptoms heal first and which heal later in the process. That being said, we have found that the body usually follows a certain pattern of healing. Symptoms usually heal from the top down (from the head to the feet), from the most internal to the most external (starting at the most important organs like the heart and lungs and ending at the skin), and in the reverse order of when they appeared (starting with the most recent symptom and ending with the symptoms that you have had the longest). Following the top-down principle, a vast majority of patients find that their mental/emotional symptoms are the first things to improve when starting homeopathic treatment.

The last principle of healing is that the longer you have had a symptom or an illness, the longer it will take for the body to heal it. When a patient comes to me for treatment of a symptom that she has had for 20 years or longer, I make sure she understands that her symptoms will not disappear overnight. Most likely it will take a couple of years and a succession of one to three different homeopathic remedies to bring about maximum healing. At the same time, I let her know that I do expect to see a measurable improvement by the first follow-up appointment (usually 3-4 weeks after starting a remedy). If there is no symptom improvement in that period of time, then it is likely that the wrong remedy was chosen. If that happens, I go over the patient’s symptoms again and prescribe a different remedy. Luckily, the time principle also applies in reverse. Symptoms that are relatively new (generally these are symptoms that are present for one year or less) and symptoms in children usually respond very quickly to homeopathic treatment.

Why do I use homeopathic medicines with the majority of my patients as a part of their larger naturopathic treatment protocol?

Homeopathy is a very complex system of medicine to learn, and it takes time and effort to practice it in a way that produces effective results. To find the right remedy for specific patient, the physician must get a very detailed description of the patient’s symptoms. She must also take a full history of what was going in the patient’s life before the symptoms occurred, what environmental and emotional conditions make the symptoms better or worse, and how the patient has changed as a whole person since becoming ill. When treating a patient with many symptoms, this initial questioning could take anywhere from one to three hours. Once the remedy is selected, the practitioner must then be able to monitor improvement and make changes to the prescription over time in order to ensure that the patient continues to move forward in the healing process. For these reasons, most naturopathic physicians who practice homeopathy pursue additional training in this area in order to become proficient. Those who do not pursue this additional training often do not practice homeopathy at all.

Despite the challenge, for me the choice to practice homeopathy was an easy one. When I was diagnosed with Celiac disease and two other autoimmune diseases in my early 20’s, homeopathy helped me to turn my symptoms and ultimately my life around. I was able to experience the healing effects of homeopathy in my own body, and no book, article, or scientific study is as convincing as a personal experience of healing. Since that time I have had the honor to watch and participate in the homeopathic treatment of countless other patients, first in my clinical rotations, later in observing some of the top homeopaths in the country, and now in my own medical practice. I have also had the benefit of observing and working with many physicians who don’t use homeopathy. The results are drastically different, and they have strongly reinforced my own personal experience with this system as medicine. So as long as I am a naturopath, I will be a homeopathic naturopath. Even if that means explaining what exactly it is that I do every single day of my life.

Dr. Katie Nuckolls is a naturopathic physician and owner of Thrive GI: Natural Digestive Medicine in Vancouver, Washington. She currently sees patients that live in Washington, Oregon, and Arizona using telemedicine. For more information, visit our contact page or schedule a free 15-minute consultation online.  

  1. www.extraordinarymedicine.com
  2. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20970092, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25869977, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24753994, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23795222
  3. https://www.homeopathic.com/Articles/Introduction_to_Homeopathy/A_Great_Introductory_Article_for_Advocates_O.html
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