The alleged holistic nature of the homeopathic method is one of the most popular “pro-arguments”, you read and hear it everywhere. What is the truth?
Let us get straight to the point: Basically, the opposite of “holism” is the case. Why?
Homeopathy does not have a “holistic” approach. In the case of acute illnesses, it believes that it can achieve this by recording the patient’s overall symptoms, the “symptom picture”. This in itself has nothing to do with a meaningful diagnosis in the case of illness – but is consistent within homeopathy if one considers that Hahnemann himself never named “illnesses”, but only focused on symptoms. He wrote in his “Organon” that one could not know more about a disease than the symptoms that appeared. In the case of chronic diseases, he did develop something like an aetiology, a theory of the origin of disease. Hahnemann believed that the so-called “miasms“, basic diseases that always remain effective, were the cause of every kind of chronic disease. He thus simply postulated a few – in this case three – root causes for everything that seemed to him to require explanation. This was in keeping with the pre-scientific tradition of giving a “system” to things that were not yet understood and explained. The simile principle (“similar things heal similar things”) is also basically such an attempt to force an unprovable body of thought into an apparent logic – to “systematise” it and thus make it “credible” – also and perhaps especially to oneself.
This crutch was also frequently used outside of homeopathy in the pre-scientific era. An example of an untenable line of reasoning with the approach of systematisation is, for example, the doctrine of the “born criminal” by the Italian physician and criminal anthropologist Cesare Lombroso, who believed he could systematically record typical criminal characteristics on the basis of specific skull shapes. Lombroso’s typification of criminals on the basis of external bodily features was widely accepted and had many followers, but is today considered to be completely refuted.
The homeopathic method is based on the recording of a symptom description as far as possible, not on the diagnosis of diseases. The disease itself is – only – the disturbance of the “vital force”, which expresses itself in symptoms and – this is important – is not scrutinized at all with regard to its origins, its deeper causes. There is no question of “holism” in the sense in which it is traded as a buzzword today.
But how does homoeopathy get the reputation of being a “holistic method”? This again has to do with the perceptual-psychological aspect of the treatment. Most adherents of the method rave about the detailed anamnesis discussion, about the time the therapist takes. This includes questions about physical symptoms and the general state of health as well as questions about the personal and social situation. But it doesn’t alter anything – it is not about diagnosing diseases, but about recording a “symptom picture”, which then only serves to derive the prescription on the basis of the repertories, the lists for assigning all possible symptom pictures to the appropriate homeopathic remedy.
All this gives homoeopathy the reputation of being a holistic and individual method, which is often held against “orthodox medicine”. But this is not at all true. Homeopathy does not – how could it, after 200 years lacking knowledge and insights – have an aetiology, a doctrine of the origin and explanation of disease, which makes a “holistic” therapy possible in the first place.
Homeopathy classifies symptoms, not diseases!
And the appeal to individual treatment? It is not an advantage, because the lack of aetiology precisely prevents clearly defined disease patterns from being recognised and treated according to proven standards. Instead, an unmanageable jumble of symptom descriptions and remedy assignments arises, which no single homeopath can actually keep track of. In this way, “individuality” also evaporates in an inconsistent mountain of (inconsistent) data that no therapist can keep track of.
Holism in medicine is much more likely to be found in evidence-based medicine, also called “orthodox medicine” by homeopaths, which is constantly advancing in its findings. In recent decades, this has increasingly developed away from a strongly biomedically oriented methodology. Based on recent studies, it knows quite well the significance of psychosocial procedures in medicine and the importance of complex therapeutic approaches and – as is its task – continues to research these aspects. What is still lacking is a health care structure that helps these approaches to make a real breakthrough in medical practice.
That is what is at stake. And to clarify that homeopathy adorns itself with feathers that do not belong to it. According to the teachings of its founder, homeopathy is purely symptom treatment – in other words, what homeopaths always so reproachfully hold against “conventional medicine”. Under “holism” and “treatment of the causes”, homeopaths only understand their esoterically based doctrine that the cause of all illness and the goal of their “treatment” is only the “detuned spiritual life force”. This is also the origin of the claim that homeopathy treats “causes”, in contrast to “orthodox medicine” which is only concerned with the “suppression of symptoms”. However, it is “orthodox medicine” that is developing genuine causal therapies for more and more diseases and is able to cure them – not homeopathy.
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