Homeopathy: The Basics

By Jen Wittes and Tana Harahan


Homeopathy, a very specific form of natural medicine, is often used to treat the common afflictions of pregnancy, childbirth, postpartum, and infancy…and even the not so common. We’re talking breech positioning, edema, jaundice, and postpartum depression.

Enthusiasts have reported complete turn around with gentle, efficient, non-invasive treatment. We thought we’d better take a closer look and explore the questions that new and expectant parents might have about this somewhat alternative science. Doula Jen spoke with Tana Harahan, a Minneapolis based homeopath, who will join us at Growing Green Babies next weekend with one of her partners from Hipp Health Center for Holistic Healing

We’ll feature the conversation into two parts, starting today with the basics—the what, how, and who of homeopathy. 

What exactly IS homeopathy? Is it just another word for holistic or naturopathic medicine?

Homeopathy is certainly in the spectrum of what would be considered holistic or naturopathic medicine, although the word is not interchangeable with those terms. Homeopathy is a very specific practice that uses immeasurably small doses of medicine to stimulate the body’s own healing ability.  It was developed over 200 years ago by the German physician, Samuel Hahnemann.

Homeopathy is based on “the law of similars.” It states that a substance can cure a disease if it produces in a healthy person symptoms similar to those of the disease. Like is cured by like. This concept was recognized by both Hippocrates and Paracelus long before Hahnemann’s work.

If like cures like, is there literally a specific remedy for every situation? 

A homeopath recognizes that all parts of the body, especially the mind and emotions, are interdependent. All symptoms of the person—mental, emotional, and physical, are taken into consideration when choosing a remedy. When we experience symptoms, it is our body’s way of expressing a disease. It is not necessarily the disease itself. Observing these symptoms and also assessing the mental and emotional state of an individual guides the provider in prescribing the exact homeopathic medicine to stimulate the body’s healthiest response. In a sense, the treatment is tailor made.

Does homeopathy offer a complete replacement for traditional medical care? Or is it complimentary?

It compliments it, however regular check-ups with a homeopath can be seen as preventative. As with anything, when an individual is on top of their general health, they go to the doctor less often.

Homeopaths are not anti-doctor, however, we prefer the gentler approach of homeopathy for most conditions and in support of general well-being. In traditional medicine, patients tend to get prescription medication for any ailment and in reality, it usually causes side effects which often create the need for more medicine. Sometimes traditional medical treatment is necessary of course, but it’s a balancing act.

I myself see medical doctors. There are things that i can not treat. In my opinion, homeopathy should usually be tried first.  Our remedies do not cause side effects when taken properly, you cannot become addicted to them, and they do not interfere with conventional medical treatment. Most of the time, homeopathy is a safer, gentler route.

That said, conventional medicine cannot be replaced in emergency situations. For example, serious bleeding, prolapsed cord, and fetal distress in utero demand immediate medical attention.

Do you encounter a fair amount of skepticism in your work? What’s the general attitude toward homeopathy?

Well, supporters of homeopathy know first hand that it works, however, there are a lot of skeptics out there. Seeing is believing. I wouldn’t dedicate my time to a career and life as a homeopath if I hadn’t personally experienced the amazing benefits it has to offer!

So you were a patient before becoming a practitioner?

I came to it as a last resort for an immune deficiency. The deficiency can no longer be detected. My son was a preemie with a multitude of health problems and like me, with homeopathy, most of them have become non existent. The most recent miracle with his care was his recovery from food allergies! His allergy list was extremely long and with a few skin tests recently performed, he no longer has food allergies. Again, seeing is believing. I have seen homeopathy work wonders in my own life and in the lives of my clients. My hope is to help as many people as I can with the benefits that homeopathy has to offer.

You mentioned regular check-ups. Do most people seek homeopathy when they encounter a particular health problem? Or do they seek preventative care? How would someone new to homeopathy get started?

We have two types of care in homeopathy: constitutional and acute.

Constitutional care is provided to the whole being—mental, emotional, and physical. Acute is for an illness or injury.

It is best that people be seen on a constitutional basis but the reality is, not everybody needs it. If being treated constitutionally, clients are typically seen every 6 weeks until significant improvement to the general health is experienced, and then they move to need based care. Some people do so well with one dose of a remedy that they are not seen back for a year. Some need continuous treatment for years before getting to that point. It depends on the person and the complexity of their state.

Constitutional care is what we consider preventative. By treating this way, we are able to strengthen the body’s own defenses so it will suffer from afflictions and ailments less often.

For the newbie, I would recommend finding a homeopath that you have a good connection with. Just feel it out. Do you feel like you can trust them? Do you feel that you are communicating openly?

If you aren’t 100% sure that you would like homeopathic care, you can always use it acutely. A lot of people start that way and then once they see the great things homeopathy can do, they stick around! My partner and i have an urgent care line for families that—for now—favor acute treatment. It is a way for you to call and get advice and treatment without having to leave the house. If your baby gets an ear infection at 3 am on a Saturday night, you can call. With time, most of the families I work with accumulate many remedies at home. This is super efficient for both the homeopath and the parent. There are even kits available, including one that is pediatric specific and one that is pregnancy specific. Makes minor middle of the night situations not so scary and frustrating!

Check back tomorrow for a closer look at homeopathy as it is specifically used for pregnancy, postpartum, and newborn care.