Equis ISSN 2398-2977

Homeopathy: overview

Contributor(s): Richard Allport, Tim Couzens


  • Etymology: Greek:Homeo- similar -Pathy- suffering.
  • The underlying principle of homeopathy, that like cures, was described by Hippocrates.
  • The current use of homeopathy stems primarily from the work of the German physician, Samuel Hahnemann (1755-1843), who was disillusioned with the medical treatments of his day.
  • Hahnemann's early work involved translating medical texts, including work by the Scottish physician William Cullen who outlined the use of Peruvian bark ( Cinchona officinalis), in the treatment of malaria (the bark contains quinine).
  • Cullen thought the bark worked via the stomach, through both its bitter and astringent qualities, to effect a cure. Hahnemann disagreed with this action and set about proving otherwise.
  • To do so, Hahnemann boiled a solution of the bark and drank some each day. He noted that after a few days he developed symptoms resembling those of malaria, which promptly ceased when he stopped taking the remedy.
  • Because Cinchonabark could cure a patient with malaria, yet induce symptoms that resemble those of malaria in a healthy person, Hahnemann formulated his first homeopathic rule: Similia similibus curentur- let like be cured by like. This single statement has become the mainstay of modern homeopathy.
  • Hahnemann repeated this experiment with other plants and minerals, each time noting both the mental and physical effects the substance produced in a healthy person.
  • His results were called 'provings' and collected in a reference book, the Materia Medica. This detailed 67 remedies tested on himself, his family, friends and medical student volunteers.
  • Knowing what symptoms a substance could cause, Hahnemann was able to predict which symptoms it might alleviate in a sick patient and thus effect a cure.
  • Homeopathy became widely used in Europe and North America in the 19th century.
  • In recent years people have been increasingly requesting the use of homeopathy for treatment of companion animals. The growth of organic farming has lead to an increase in the use of homeopathy in farm animals. This has occurred despite a lack of evidence of the efficacy of homeopathy from randomized clinical trials of systematic reviews.


This article is available in full to registered subscribers

Sign up now to purchase a 30 day trial, or Login

Dilution of remedies

This article is available in full to registered subscribers

Sign up now to purchase a 30 day trial, or Login

Possible mechanisms of action

This article is available in full to registered subscribers

Sign up now to purchase a 30 day trial, or Login

Further Reading


Refereed papers

  • Recent references from PubMed and VetMedResource.
  • Mathie R T, Baitson E S, Hansen L, Elliott M F & Hoare J (2010) Homeopathic prescribing for chronic conditions in equine veterinary practice in the UK. Vet Rec 166 (8), 234-237.
  • Mathie R T, Hansen L, Elliott M F & Hoare J (2007) Outcomes from homeopathic prescribing in veterinary practice: a prospective, research-targeted, pilot study. Homeopathy 96 (1), 27-34 PubMed.
  • Hektoen L (2005) Review of the current involvement of homeopathy in veterinary practice and research. Vet Rec 157 (8), 224-229 PubMed.
  • Fleming P (2002) Nontraditional approaches to pain management. Vet Clin North Am Equine Pract 18 (1), 83-105 PubMed.
  • Elliott M (2001) Cushing's disease: a new approach to therapy in equine and canine patients. Br Homeopath J 90(1), 33-36 PubMed.
  • Davies C (2000) Pony with skin allergy. Br Homeopath J 89 (1), 41-42 PubMed.
  • Sumano Lopez H, Hoyas Sepulveda M L & Brumbaugh G W (1999) Pharmacologic and alternative therapies for the horse with chronic laminitis. Vet Clin North Am Equine Pract 15 (2), 495-516 PubMed.
  • Vockeroth W G (1999) Veterinary homeopathy: an overview. Can Vet J 40 (8), 592-594 PubMed.
  • Wynn S G (1998) Studies on use of homeopathy in animals. JAVMA 212 (5), 719-724 PubMed.
  • Osborne C A (1996) Management of feline lower urinary tract disease by homeopathy. Vet Clin North Am Small Anim Pract 26 (3), 643-650 PubMed.
  • Thompson F, Ashton C, Flaherty C & Crisp T (1996) Do alternative therapies (acupuncture, herbalism, homeopathy, etc) have a role in your practice? Aust Vet J 74 (6), 426-427 PubMed.

Other sources of information

  • Day C (2004) The Homeopathic Treatment of Small Animals. Daniel C W Co Ltd. ISBN-10: 0852072163; ISBN-13: 978-0852072165.
  • Ernst E & Hahn E G (1998) Eds. Homoeopathy: A Critical Appraisal. Butterworth Heinemann. ISBN: 0750635649.
  • Schoen A M & Wynn S G (1998) Eds. Complementary and Alternative Veterinary Medicine. Mosby, USA. ISBN: 0815179944.
  • MacLeod G (1993) The Treatment of Horses by Homoeopathy. Daniel C W Co Ltd. ISBN: 085207249X.
  • MacLeod G (1992) A Veterinary Materia Medica. Daniel C W Co Ltd. ISBN: 0852071574.
  • Vithoulkas G (1986) The Science of Homoeopathy. Thorsons. ISBN: 0722513100.


  • The American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association (AHVMA), 2218 Old Emmorton Road, Bel Air, MD 21015, USA. Website: www.ahvma.org.
  • The British Association of Homeopathic Veterinary Surgeons (BAHVS), Chinham House, Stanford in the Vale, Faringdon, Oxon  SN7 8QN, UK. Website: www.bahvs.com.
  • The British Holistic Veterinary Medicine Association (BHVMA), The Croft, Tockwith Road, Long Marston, North Yorkshire YO26 7PQ, UK.
  • International Association for Veterinary Homeopathy, Alternative Veterinary Medicine Center, Chinham House, Stanford in the Vale, Oxfordshire SN7 8NQ, UK. Website: www.iavh.org.