What is Homeopathy?

Last modified on August 16th, 2017

What is Homeopathy?

The extreme of conservatism is dogmatism. The extreme of progressiveness is unreliability.

The editors of “Homeopathy for Everyone” asked me to give my opinion in the dialogue about new developments in homeopathy. They asked me because the Element theory, the theory as expressed in “Homeopathy and the Elements” is also a subject in this discussion.

I have hesitated in doing so. The reason is that I don’t see the point. The Element theory works. It has done so for over more than 10 years in my own practice and that of many other homeopaths. There are hundreds of patients in my own practice that have benefited from its application and many in that of others, I cannot even get a reasonable estimate of how many. Once a colleague said to me “The Element theory is the only part of homeopathy that I have a grip on, the rest is difficult and foggy”. And I can agree. The Element theory is the most scientific theory in homeopathy. A good scientific theory is elegant and true. The Element theory is elegant, it gives you understanding of what you are doing as a homeopath. And it is true; it works in a reliable way. The theory can also be applied by other homeopaths. This is shown in the many articles published; a great percentage of the articles in “Homeopathic Links” confirm the Element theory. It is even so that some parts have become common knowledge, like the connection between mother and muriaticum and father ands carbonicum. So what is the discussion about?

The discussion is about what is homeopathy, how can homeopathy be defined and what belongs to it and not. First I will give a few examples to show that it is not that easy to draw a sharp line between what is homeopathy and what not. Then I shall discuss three aspects of definitions: the linguistic, social and scientific. At last I will discuss one example of the discussion, the use of unproven remedies.

Suppose a doctor was treating a woman with breast cancer with Conium in the year 1200. And suppose the cancer was cured. Was that homeopathy? There hadn’t been done a proving of Conium by that time. So according to some homeopaths that wouldn’t have been homeopathy. At the other side one could argue that is was homeopathy because the patient was cured, so Conium must have been the simillimum. Suppose that the remedy was prescribed by the doctor according to the simillimum rule, which was known by that time. Hippocrates formulated it already. Would it then have been homeopathy? Or the opposite, suppose that the doctor had prescribed it on a kind of signature rule like “The canal of the milk ducts branch in the same way as the flower of the Conium plant”. Would it then have been homeopathy? Suppose the doctor had prescribed a dilution and not a potency. Would it then have been homeopathy?

Another example: A general physician prescribes salicylic acid as a chemical to a patient with rheumatic complaints which gives physical and emotional relief, but all temporarily. The homeopath prescribes the same substance in a high potency as a homeopathic remedy and the patient is cured. Was the physician doing homeopathy? He prescribed the simillimum as was shown later on by the cure from the high potency. Or was it not homeopathy because he didn’t prescribe a potency? Or was it not homeopathy because he was an adversary of homeopathy?

As we can see, the problem to decide what is homeopathy is not that easy. It depends on your definition of homeopathy. It is a social convention. There have been many different definitions of homeopathy. And we know several forms of “homeopathy”, like classical homeopathy, clinical homeopathy, and complex homeopathy.

When we look at several definitions we can discern several aspects. Homeopathy is a:

– Healing science

– Based on the simillimum principle

– Prescribing on the simillimum principle

– Prescribing substances that had provings

– Prescribing potentized substances

– What Hahnemann has described

– Evaluate the healing process on the laws of Hering

– Prescribing single remedies

– Prescribing constitutional remedies

– Prescribing life time remedies

– Prescribing after a repertorisation

The problem is that many aspects of homeopathic definitions are not clearly formulated. For instance the term “Classical homeopathy” is often used but it remains unclear what it is. Is it homeopathy as Hahnemann did it? Then one could not use “new” remedies. Or does it mean homeopathy with repertorisations? Or unitary homeopathy? Or prescribing high potencies?

Without a clear definition discussion becomes blurred and difficult, leading to controversies. But there is one other problem with definitions. It is difficult to get one definition. There are many ones, so it doesn’t resolve the problem.

Behind the discussion is often a social problem. People and also homeopaths want to belong to a group, with similar conventions and behavior. But there are always different kinds of people in a group, which makes the group dissimilar in its own. An important polarity is that of conservatism and progressiveness, which is a strong polarity in the homeopathic community. The conservatives want to protect and ascertain the old traditions and knowledge, give it an even better foundation and confirmation. And that is a good thing. But when it goes to extremes they feel uneasy with new developments and even want to forbid them. In the most extreme case it becomes dogmatism. It is like people staying home and not looking outside. This tendency has been strong in homeopathy. This is due to Hahnemann himself who had a tendency to refute all people who did something different. Another cause is the fact that homeopathy has been in a kind of repression in a big part of the world. And repression always leads to conservatism; the fear can be handled better by holding on to things that are “sure”.

Conservative homeopaths tend to give a definition of homeopathy that refers to the past, like Hahnemannian homeopathy. The problem with those definitions is that homeopathy as a science becomes fixed. It makes development impossible. An example can make their problem clear. Conservative homeopaths strongly promote the idea of solely relying on provings. So one would expect them to do a lot of provings. But in my experience it is the opposite. It is the progressive homeopaths that do most provings.

The other side is progressiveness, the desire to discover new territories, to discover the unknown. The risk of this, is that it can go too fast, that hypotheses become a “law” too easily. In that case it can lead to incorrect theories and knowledge. In the most extreme case it leads to a cloudy, airy ever-changing way of thinking. Every thought or idea is seen as the universal theory, every intuition as God given. And every day a new remedy is prescribed.

A third way to look at the problem of what homeopathy is, is from a scientific point of view. We can base the definition on the Laws of Homeopathy.

Such a definition can look like:

Homeopathy is healing science

– where the simillimum is prescribed (Law of Similars)

– in a potentised form (law of potentising)

– And the effect is evaluated by the expulsion of the disease out of the organism (Laws of Hering)

The advantage of such a definition is that it is less dependent on social conventions.

One issue was quite strong in the discussions the last years, the issue of developing remedy pictures from classifications. Quite a few homeopaths are strongly opposed to this idea. Classifications are essential in science; science is even impossible without them. It would be strange and unscientific that they couldn’t be used in homeopathy. And to go even further I can base classifications on the old homeopaths, a thing I do reluctantly because I see it as scientifically irrelevant. But the first classification in homeopathy was by Hahnemann himself, dividing the remedies in three classes: psora, sycosis and syphilis. Hering has written a very nice article on this topic, where he argues that classification thinking is the future of homeopathy, a necessary step.

I have no definitive answers in this respect. This is due to the fact that homeopathy is in development. But I hope that I have given some thoughts to ponder about.


Hering Constantine, On the Study of Homeopathic Materia Medica (from “Wirkungen des Schlagengiftes” Allentown und Leipzig, bei C. Kummer), 1837, British Journal Of Homeopathy

Scholten Jan, Homeopathy and the Elements, 1996, Utrecht.

Scholten Jan, Dogmatism in Homeopathy. Homoeopathic Links Volume 15, Spring 2002.

Scholten Jan, Homeopathy as Information Science, Interhomeopathy, October 2006,


Jan Scholten practices in the Netherlands and has lectured all over the world. His books Homeopathy and Minerals and Homeopathy and the Elements, introduced a new way to understand mineral remedies according to the periodic table. His work has had a profound influence on the practice of homeopathy. In 1988, he founded the “Homeopathic Doctors Center Utrecht” together with Maria Davits and Rienk Stuut.

His other publications include:

Minerals in Plants, Minerals in Plants 2, Wad Stories, Wad stories 2

Scholten Jan, Homeopathy and the Elements, 1996, Utrecht.

Scholten Jan, Dogmatism in Homeopathy. Homoeopathic Links Volume 15, Spring 2002.

Scholten Jan, Homeopathy as Information Science, Interhomeopathy, October 2006, www.interhomeopathy.org

Visit Jan Sholten at his website at :

— —

About the author

Jan Scholten

Jan Scholten

Jan Scholten is a pioneer who has worked extensively on the periodic table and has authored many books like Homeopathy and Minerals, Homeopathy and the Elements, Repertory of Elements, Secret Lanthanides etc. He has also founded Stichting Alonnissos, a foundation that promotes homeopathy by the publication of books, organizing seminars, promoting research and supporting clinics.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *