Homeopathy vs. Allopathy

At a time when the symptoms of a wide and varied array of medicines promise to cure the symptoms of a slew of diseases, many people have begun to turn their back on conventional medicine in search of more natural methods for treating or alleviating the symptoms of the various illnesses that often plague them. Although they have been in existence for over two centuries, two such systems of alternative medicinal therapy -- homeopathy and allopathy -- have become increasing popular in recent years and are quickly gaining ground as the up and coming forms of treatment for a variety of ailments in the future.

What is homeopathy?

A combination of the Greek word "homeos" which means "similar" and "pathos" meaning "disease," homeopathy means treating an ailment with a remedy that creates a similar effect in a healthy person to the disease and suffering itself.

Based on the Law of Similars, a term coined by German doctor and chemist Samuel Hahnemann, homeopathy is a type of medical therapy that dates back to the 1800s and consists of very small and diluted "micro" doses of medicines -- or remedies -- derived from substances found in nature, such as plants, animals and minerals.

According to the National Center for Homeopathy, a key element of the Law of Similars is the theory that "like cures like," meaning that an illness that results in certain symptoms -- such as sneezing, itchy eyes or a runny nose -- should be treated with a substance that creates a similar effect in an otherwise healthy person, such as a red onion.

What is allopathy?

While homeopathy is based on the idea that diseases can be treated with remedies that produce the same effects as the ailment, allopathy is essentially the opposite, with proponents of this medicinal system arguing that illnesses should be treated with substances that produce vastly different symptoms.

For example, if a person suffers from stiff joints, a believer of homeopathic therapy would recommend a treatment involving components of the poison ivy plant, which is also known to cause stiffness of the joints and inflammation, whereas an allopathic practitioner would treat joint discomfort with a remedy that has the opposite effect, such as herbs like ginger, alfalfa and ginseng, which can help reduce swelling and inflammation.

Also coined by Hahnemann in the 1800s, allopathy is a term derived from the Greek words 'allos,' which means 'opposite,' and 'pathos,' or 'suffering.'

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