Homeopathic Medicine
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Basic Information

The medicine of Homeopathy, a form of alternative medicine (see also alternative science). The vast majority of homeopathic remedies involve medicines that have been intentionally diluted to such an extent that the chemically active elements might not even be present in the remedy that is given. As a result, there's a lot of controversy, and periodically various studies are released that show that homeopathy is or isn't more effective than a placebo.

Luckily this website is about gaming. It's not our place to argue the effectiveness of a particular treatment, or to offer medical advice. Instead, we'll assume you're on this page because you want to include Homeopathy in your game. It doesn't particularly matter whether you want to offer it as a legitimate form of mundane healing, as a style of magic, or as a con game, in any such case what you need is information on the principles and materials of homeopathy. So here's a quick over-view:

Homeopathy was invented / discovered in the 1796 by Samuel Hahnemann, who rejected the medicine of his era because it too often didn't address the symptoms the patients were experiencing. Homeopathy, in contrast to mainstream medicine, is focused on the symptoms. Homeopathic diagnosis is very nuanced, depending on how the patient's symptoms are presenting. For example, a homeopathic remedy for treating an ear ache will be different depending on whether it's the right or left ear. The homeopathic doctor assembles a profile of the patient as a whole, and diagnosis can be altered by small details in the patients life or symptoms.

The medicine that gets proscribed generally is done so based on the Principle of Similars, which is sort of akin to "the hair of the dog what bit ya". Loosely stated, the principle of similars states that all effective medicines produce symptoms similar to the illnesses they treat. If the patient has an inflamation, then the first step in creating the remedy might be to take a small amount of a known inflammatory agent. This is mixed with water or alchohol, at a ratio of about 1% substance to 99% water. It's then subjected to succussion, which is a vigorous shaking or banging. Then it's dilluted again, and succussed again, and dilluted again, etc. This might be done 15 or 30 times, and is a vital step to preparing the remedy.

The majority of homeopathic medicines, then, will likely be small vials of clear fluid, but there are also other forms it can come in, such as ointments or little lactose pills you dissolve on your tongue. The remedies are often hand-prepared by the medical professional who prescribed them, but in the modern era many can be ordered from companies, or purchased over the counter. Sometimes they'll be derived from traditional home remedies, sometimes made by dilluting synthetic chemicals, and in some cases made from tiny doses of more exotic substances, such as wolfsbane, dung or even snake venom. In a game, this is your chance to really have some fun with exotic ingredients, and making the players scratch their heads. What will their reaction be when their doctor hands them a vial of room-temperature water labeled "lava"?

The frequency of homeopathy varies significantly from country to country. It may be accepted or controversial, regulated and tested much like other medical doctrines are, or completely unregulated. The person prescribing your medication may be a liscensed doctor, or a trained pharmacist, or a folk remedist with not official supervision. During World War I, the UK used homeopathy to treat burns from mustard gas. In 2010, the British government has just reversed position, and the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee has recently taken steps towards ending the practice of providing homeopathic treatment as part of the national health care program.


1. Non-Fiction Book: 13 Things That Don't Make Sense by Michael Brooks

Game and Story Use

  • Considering that it was pioneered in the late 18th Century, Homeopathy is an appropriate skill or specialty for characters in the steampunk genre.
  • Homeopathy suggests some awesome magic potions, and a fun excuse to go on a memorable quest. The existence of homeopathy in your campaign world has increased the variety and utility of treasure in your setting.
    • Example: To cure His Majesty's illness, we'll need a remedy made from the ground-up scales of Medusa, suspended in liquid. Quickly, dispatch the royal adventurers to retrieve it! The PCs job isn't to kill Medusa, just to sneak into her lair and steal some of the skin she's shed. After all, if you kill her, she won't be around the next time someone gets this same illness.
  • Given all the controversy, it'd be a natural to use this with a dodgy or shady character, the doctor that might be a con man, etc.
    • Just make sure you know your players, first, and take care not to accidentally insult anyone at your table. My playgroup includes a medical professional specializing in acupuncture and holistic medicine, as well as a self-described skeptic who was very dismissive of the whole thing. When homeopathy was recently brought up, the players started arguing! It was quite a surprise. Remember, it's a game, and the whole point is to have fun.
  • Homeopathy is in many ways more spiritual than traditional "allopathic" medicine. As such, you might decide to consider it a form of magic / magical healing.
    • Alternately, you could approach it as just another facet of medicine. Let the same medical skills and rules apply either way, and just use homeopathy vs allopathy as a flavoring or trapping to individualize characters.
  • By playing up the more exotic ingredients, you can provide flavor, convey themes, or just make the players scratch their heads. What will their reaction be when their doctor hands them a vial of room-temperature water labeled "lava"?
  • The principle of "counter irritants" occurs elsewhere in traditional medicine and homeopathy is meant to work along the same lines. This can include topicals such as menthol, camphor or salycilic acid used to relieve muscle pains or more advanced things such as the use of methylphenidate stimulants to control hyperactive disorders.
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