After their discovery in the 1940s, antibiotics considerably reduced illness and death from bacterial infectious disease. Antibiotics are still essential today for treatment of serious bacterial infections where life is threatened.
However, over the decades bacterial infections throughout the world have become more resistant to antibiotics. This is partly due to the increasing and indiscriminate use of powerful, broad-spectrum antibiotics to treat common infections, such as ear infections and viral infections like the common cold.
Antibiotics are often prescribed routinely, sometimes without any evidence of infection, with a “just in case, it can’t hurt” mentality. Antibiotics have no effect on viruses, but are routinely prescribed anyway. When taken repeatedly, antibiotics can weaken, rather than strengthen, the immune system.
Antibiotics have a number of drawbacks and side effects. They kill bacteria indiscriminately throughout the body. Since the beneficial bacteria play an important role in digestion, for example, the individual’s ability to assimilate necessary nutrients in the body is temporarily limited, ultimately making him more prone to re-infection or other illness.
Towards the end of Louis Pasteur’s life, he confessed that germs may not be the cause of disease after all, but simply more of an effect (or symptom) of disease. He had come to realize that germs seem to lead to illness only when a person’s immune and defense system (what biologists call “host resistance”) is not strong enough to combat them. In reality, infection is always the result of two factors: exposure to a pathogen and the person’s susceptibility.
The “cause” of disease is not simply bacteria or virus, but also the factors that compromise host resistance, including the person’s hereditary endowment, nutritional state, the stresses in life, and psychological state.
Claude Bernard affirmed Pasteur’s contention that bacteria are not the cause of disease. In his most famous book, An Introduction to the Study of Experimental Medicine, Bernard said, “If the exciting cause were the principle factor, for instance, in pneumonia, everyone exposed to a cold would come down with this disease, whereas only an occasional case turns into pneumonia. Unless the subject is predisposed (susceptible), the most powerful causes will have no effect on him”.
Homeopathy represents a different approach to understanding disease and health. Interestingly, homeopathic medicine gained its greatest popularity primarily due to its impressive successes in the treatment of infectious diseases in the 19th century.
Homeopaths understand that symptoms are not something “wrong” with the person but that symptoms are defensive adaptations of the human body in its best efforts to fight infection and/or adapt to stress. From this perspective, it does not make sense to use pharmacological therapies to inhibit, control, or suppress symptoms since such methods tend to reduce the body’s inherent self-healing responses.
Samuel Hahnemann, the founder of Homeopathy, noted that to suppress a symptom is a misguided medical strategy, since the real target for treatment of disease has been ignored (i.e., addressing the main problem of susceptibility). The word “symptom” means “sign,” and by using a drug (antibiotic) to eliminate the outward expression of an illness (bacterial infection), the illness is merely managed, not cured. Worse yet, by eliminating the signs of the disease, the drug drives the illness to a deeper state in the body. That’s why one ear infection morphs into a second and third, followed potentially by gastrointestinal pain, vaginal infections, food intolerances and other conditions.
There are no “homeopathic antibiotics” or “homeopathic anti-viral agents” because every correctly prescribed homeopathic medicine has the potential of strengthening a person’s own immune and defense system in a way that helps to fight bacterial or viral infection. As symptoms are evidence of the ways that the body is trying to heal itself, it makes sense to use medicines that are similar to and that augment the body’s wisdom, rather than suppress it.