The human body is self-repairing, and homeopaths regard symptoms as the body’s attempt to deal with problems and to restore health. They consider that all the symptoms are important, and that the process revealed by the symptoms should not be opposed but assisted so as to more rapidly return the body to normal function. Common examples of the curative nature of acute symptoms include fever in influenza (which kills the virus), and vomiting and diarrhoea in food poisoning (which expel the toxic material).
Sometimes symptoms will persist (become chronic), and there are several reasons why this happens:
External environmental circumstances are continually stressing the body, so that it keeps having to counteract disruption of its normal function. Homeopaths call these ‘maintaining causes’, and they can include poor living conditions, poor sanitation, poor working conditions, poor diet, pollution, etc. These stresses should be removed as far as possible if the patient is to recover.
The body is unable to restore health because its ability to heal itself is compromised as a result of earlier illnesses being supressed instead of cured. Modern homeopaths call this a miasmatic condition.
Over time changes in function caused by miasmatic conditions may lead to tissue changes, such as tumours, reduction in the size of glands, changes in structure, or the build up of deposits. These can create internal stresses which disrupt normal function further. For example, tumours may press on other parts; atrophying glands in the pancreas lead to reduced levels of insulin production; arthritic changes in the joints restrict movement; and arterial plaques obstruct blood flow.
Homeopathic treatment cannot change the external environment or replace organs that have atrophied or been removed, but otherwise it can stop symptoms persisting and help the body to repair itself more quickly and efficiently.
The homeopathic view of symptoms means that they provide important information about the specific nature of the illness. For example, the location and type of symptoms tell homeopaths a lot about the bodily systems affected, and can lead them to advise further investigations to confirm possible serious internal problems.
At the same time symptoms reveal a great deal about the ability of the body to heal itself. In accidents and acute illnesses, the symptoms are usually very clear and individual, so selecting the right remedy is fairly easy and recovery is rapid. In long-term (chronic) illnesses, the greater the clarity and individuality of the symptoms the easier it is to find the right remedy, and the more likely it is that the body can heal itself quickly. On the other hand changes in tissue structures (pathological changes) and treatments which have suppressed symptoms may make it hard to identify a remedy. In such cases treatment is likely to take longer and be more difficult.
Mental and emotional characteristics are particularly important for homeopaths, as they represent the most profound changes and can help to quickly identify the right remedy.
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