The body is a homeostatic system, which means that when it monitors changes that may take it outside the normal range of its function, it acts to compensate for these changes. For example, to prevent damage to the brain the action of the heart has to continually vary to deal with the changing position of the body, such as standing up or lying down; similarly sweat glands need to be brought into action if a person is exercising to prevent overheating of the body. Any attempt to modify this behaviour is identified as a further disruption for which corrective action is needed. Dr Samuel Hahnemann (1755-1843) referred to this process in terms of primary action and secondary action, where the effect of an external change was the primary action (the hands becoming chilled by playing in snow, for example), while the body’s reaction was the secondary action (the hands becoming hotter than normal as the body responds after such play is stopped). These were the terms current at the time, but they have subsequently been absorbed into the concept of homeostasis.
It would appear that in the case of treatment with drugs, the same process may be observable. When a drug has an action opposing the existing symptoms, one would expect the new corrective action taken by the body to be in opposition to the drug and to increase those symptoms, and this appears to be the explanation for the rebound effect. In some cases this does not happen, but homeopaths dispute the view of orthodox medicine that this means that the problem has been cured. Their view is that the immediate homeostatic response has been overwhelmed, but that there must be a subsequent homeostatic action of the body of some sort, and they maintain that this takes the form of new, more serious, and apparently unrelated symptoms.
Similarly giving a treatment which is known to have an action almost identical to the existing symptoms also leads to a reaction, but in this case the treatment’s action and the symptoms are so similar that in acting against the treatment the body also acts against the symptoms and so removes them.
In this way homeopathy makes use of homeostasis to restore health. Evidence of this process at work can sometimes be observed in the form of the homeopathic aggravation, when the stimulus of the remedy produces a temporary worsening of symptoms before the body’s reaction takes over.
It should be noted that by using a potentised remedy, homeopathy actually goes further towards reducing additional disturbance, since all the remedy’s toxic chemical effects are removed, and the action is purely on the vital force. This is another reason why homeopathic remedies do not produce any side effects.
Why it worksHealth and illness Potentisation Symptoms and homeopathyVital force
Orthodox medicineWhat is the rebound effect?What are side effects?