Homeopathy: A system of therapy based on the concept that disease can be treated with drugs (in minute doses) thought capable of producing the same symptoms in healthy people as the disease itself.
Homeopathy was invented by the German physician Samuel Hahnemann (1755-1843) in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. It was both refined and popularized by the American physician James Tyler Kent. Homeopathy is based on the theory that each naturally occurring element, plant, and mineral compound will, when ingested or applied, result in certain symptoms. Hahnemann believed that, by diluting these substances in a standardized manner, one could reach the true essence of that substance. Hahnemann described this process of dilution as "potentizing" (German: "potenziert") the substance. These dilute amounts could then be used to treat the very symptoms they were known to produce.
Hahnemann and his students approached their treatments in a holistic way, meaning that the whole of the body and spirit is dealt with, not just the localised disease. Hahnemann himself spent extended periods of time with his patients, asking them questions that dealt not only with their particular symptoms or illness, but also with the details of their daily lives. It is also suggested that the gentle approach of homeopathy was a reaction to the violent forms of medicine of the day, which included techniques such as bleeding.
According to homeopathy, symptoms are the body's way of fighting disease. Homeopathy teaches that symptoms are to be encouraged, by prescribing a "remedy" in minuscule doses that in large doses would produce the same symptoms seen in the patient. These remedies are meant to stimulate the immune system, helping to cure the illness, according to homeopathy.