homeopathy vs holistic medicine

Holistic Medicine vs. Homeopathy: What's the Difference?

Holistic medicine and homeopathic medicine are two distinct types of alternative medicines. Alternative medicines are those that do not follow the same principles of healing as mainstream, or conventional, medicine. The terms “holistics” and “homeopathy” tend to be used interchangeably, often becoming synonymous with the idea of home remedies. In fact, however, not only are the two quite different from each other, they are also quite different from what you might expect. 

Understanding Holistic Medicine

The ultimate goal of holistic medicine is to reach optimal health. According to the American Holistic Health Association (AHHA), this is not just preventing or treating illness, but “the conscious pursuit of the highest qualities of the physical, environmental, mental, emotional, spiritual, and social aspects of the human experience.” Illness cannot be looked at systemically; rather it is viewed as a dysfunction of the different aspects of the individual. The holistic physician is encouraged to practice unconditional love and to be an example for the patient. Holistic medicine:

  • Attempts to achieve prevention rather than treatment.
  • Searches for the problem, rather than only treating the solution.
  • Seeks the healing of positive emotions and attempts to let go of the toxicity of negative emotions.

Furthermore, holistics does not rely solely on its own kinds of medication or treatment. Holistic medicine encompasses any treatment that is safe and effective, whether that means education, complementary medicine, or conventional pharmacological and surgical interventions. 

Understanding Homeopathic Medicine

Homeopathic medicine, on the other hand, is very specific in its prescribed remedies. Homeopathy began around 200 years ago by the German Dr. Samuel Christian Hahnemann. Using himself as the initial guinea pig, he devised a system of remedies based on the Greek medical philosophy that “like cures like,” which is the central principle of homeopaths (homeopathic physicians) today. Utilizing plants, animals, and minerals, Dr. Hahnemann created a system of treatments in which the symptoms are treated through chemicals that cause the same reactions. So, for example, insomnia (difficulty sleeping) might be cured through caffeine (a stimulant), or a skin rash might be treated with poison ivy. Other principles of homeopathy include:

  • Law of Infinitesimals: The more diluted the chemical is, the more effective it becomes.
  • Law of Succussion: Vigorous shaking during the creation of the remedy allowed its base (generally water) molecules to retain a memory of the properties of the chemical, thus ensuring that the dilution process is even more effective.
  • Law of Single Remedy: Sources vary as to the exact meaning of this particular law, suggesting that A. one remedy should be sufficient for all symptoms, or B. each remedy must be given singly, so additional remedies do not interfere with any other cure’s efficacy. 
  • Law of Minimal Dosing: The remedy must be given in the absolute smallest amount initially, and then adjusted depending upon how the patient and symptoms respond. 

What’s the Difference?

Ultimately, the only real similarity between these two branches of medicine is that they are alternative medicines. The guiding principles of each are very different, with the exception that homeopathy is holistic -- interviews regarding symptoms or illness are quite extensive, ranging from inquiry into psychological health and every aspect of physical health. The physician’s role in holistics is one of teacher and support, while homeopaths are chemist and healer. Additionally, while holistics is willing to include a variety of treatment from different branches of medicine, homeopathy has a very strict view regarding the characteristics of its remedies. 

Last Updated: December 07, 2016