The law of dual effect in homeopathy

The homeopath selects a remedy that is like the ailment — hence, like cures like.

by Curt Burbach — 

At the heart of the homeopathic practice is the law of dual effect. Simply stated, it means that each time an agent is applied to the human body, two effects result. The first effect occurs right away and is short-lived. The second effect occurs later, has the exact opposite effect as the first, and is much longer lasting.

Homeopaths employ this law when they analyze their patients to determine the best remedy. It also serves as the foundation for the general rule of thumb, “Like cures like.”

Here is how it works. Let us say you have a skin rash, which means that a major component of your elimination system (your skin) is trying to purge a toxin from your body. Instead of applying a topical ointment to suppress the symptom, the homeopath would employ a remedy designed to cause more of the very same thing.

The reasoning for this is sound. First, the remedy will accelerate the prevailing symptom, instead of suppressing it. This decreases the amount of time the patient must experience discomfort by assisting the body in what it is trying to accomplish. Second, when the next (dual) effect starts to work, it will cause the exact opposite reaction. In this case, it will suppress the skin rash after the body has purged the toxin, and prevent it from recurring for a very long time.

Homeo is Latin for “same,” and this natural law is at the heart of why homeopathy works so well. The homeopath selects a remedy that is like the ailment — hence, like cures like.

Prescription drugs are normally designed and prescribed with the first effect in mind. They suppress or promote a bodily function, thereby giving the patient immediate relief. Most often, the secondary effect is ignored. In acute cases and trauma situations, this technique can be a lifesaver. But in cases of sickness and chronic degenerative disease, it can sometimes be detrimental.

Use of antidepressants is now known to actually cause depression. Use of sunblock is now known to cause skin cancer. Use of stomach antacids results in even more hydrochloric acid being produced by the stomach over the long term.

One good example of how this dual effect is more aptly utilized is the over-the-counter cough medicine (expectorant), which is designed to induce coughing and get the irritant to expel.

This natural law is quite interesting because it can be observed throughout life. For example, when you drink a cup of coffee to wake up, you are likely to find three hours later that you are even more tired than before.

Not only is it important to understand the law of dual effect when discussing and contemplating homeopathy, but we also find that staying aware of this law of human physiology makes us more aware of how our bodies react to certain stimuli in other areas of life.


Curt Burbach is completing his doctorate degree in natural health with the Clayton College of Natural Health while working toward becoming a certified traditional naturopath. 480-272-4044.

Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 26, Number 5, October/November 2007.

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