Homeopathy is an alternative system of medicine that was founded in the early 19th century by a German physician, Dr. Samuel Hahnemann.

It had its greatest popularity in the late 19th century here in the United States, when 15% of the doctors in this country were homeopaths.

Homeopathy has a two hundred year track record of curing illness. It first came to widepread public attention through its effectiveness in curing epidemics of cholera in the 19th century.

During the great influenza epidemic after World War I, homeopathic haspitals reported very low death rates, while hospitals employing conventional medicine reported death rates of 20% to 30%.

Since World War II, the double blind clinical trial has become the "gold standard" for determining the effectiveness of medical treatment.

A number of double blind trials have been done on the use of homeopathy on a number of medical conditions. Although not every study has shown a positive outcome, the majority of studies have shown that homeopathy is effective.

However, with the advent of modern medicine, homeopathy began to look old and stodgy and its popularity took a nosedive.

However, since 1980 homeopathy has seen a resurgence of interest in the United States and the U.K.; homeopathic books can be found in many bookstores and homeopathic physicians in most towns and cities.

Classical homeopathy rests on three principles: the law of similars, the single medicine, and the minimum dose.

The law of similars states that a disease is cured by a medicine which creates symptoms similar to those the patient is experiencing in a healthy person.

Hence an important part of the prescription of a homeopathic medicine is a lengthy interview to determine all the symptoms the patient is experiencing.

The homeopathic physician then determines which medicine best matches the symptoms that the patient is experiencing and prescribes it.

The principle of the single remedy states that a single medicine should cover all the symptoms the patient is experiencing: mental, emotional, and physical.

A classical homeopath would not prescribe one medicine for a headache and another for an upset stomach, he or she would find a single medicine that covered both symptoms.

The principle of the minimum dose has two parts: First the homeopathic physician only prescibes a small number of doses of the homeopathic medicine and waits to see what effect the medicine has. Second, the medicine is given in an infintesmal dose.

Homeopaths have discovered that the effect of homeopathic medicines is strengthed upon successive dilutions as long as the medicine is violently shaken between each dilution.

Medicines are typically used in very high dilutions such as 30C (1 part in 10^-60) or 200C (1 part in 10^-400).

It is the use of infinitesimal doses that is the most controversial aspect of homeopathy and the reason why most conventional doctors claim it functions only as a placebo.

However, a number of controlled studies have been performed which show the effectiveness of homeopathic medicine in treating a number of diseases.

If you suffer from a chronic health problem, you should be aware that homeopathic treatment will take time and patience.

You should be prepared to commit to six months or more of treatment before the problem is resolved.

Also, a homeopathic doctor may suggest changes to diet and lifestyle as part of the treatment. If you are unable to commit to this, you should consider another form of medical practice.