Homeopathy 2020; 109(02): 042-050
DOI: 10.1055/s-0039-1694998
Review Article
The Faculty of Homeopathy

The Complexity of the Homeopathic Healing Response Part 1: The Role of the Body as a Complex Adaptive System in Simillimum-Initiated Recovery from Disease

1  Department of Family and Community Medicine, The University of Arizona College of Medicine, Tucson, Arizona, United States
› Author Affiliations
Funding None.
Further Information

Publication History

16 April 2019

21 June 2019

Publication Date:
30 November 2019 (online)


Background The concepts of complex systems science enhance the understanding of how people develop and recover from disease. Living systems (human beings, animals, and plants) are self-organizing complex adaptive systems (CAS): that is, interconnected networks. CAS maintain life by initiating and carrying out non-linear dynamical changes to optimize survival fitness and function in the context of an ever-changing environment.

Aims In Part 1 of this two-part paper, we relate concepts from complex systems science to homeopathic healing. The systemic changes of homeopathic healing involve adaptive patterns of responses to salient signals (similia) for reversing disease patterns and generating emergent multi-symptom healing over time.

Methods and Results This narrative review relates homeopathic clinical practice theory to complex systems and network research. Homeopathic medicines communicate individually salient environmental information to the organism, with effects that are multi-system and indirect. The body's defense mechanisms recognize the self-similar information that the correctly chosen simillimum medicine at low dose conveys as a weak external/internal environmental stressor or danger signal (hormetin) to mobilize neural and cellular defenses. The body networks then use endogenous cell to cell signaling and amplify the small magnitude signal information. The results are disproportionately large: that is, non-linear, adaptive, modifications across the inter-connected self-organized biological networks/sub-systems of the body. CAS amplification mechanisms for small or weak signals include stochastic resonance, time-dependent sensitization, and hormesis.

Conclusions The body as a complex system has the capacity for self-organization, emergence and self-similarity over global (overall health and wellbeing) and local (organ) levels of organization. These features are key for future research on the systemic healing that evolves over time during individualized homeopathic treatment.


• Living systems are self-organized complex adaptive systems (CAS): that is, networks of inter-connected and interactive parts that manifest healthy or diseased states.

• The simillimum medicine conveys a low-intensity, individually salient environmental danger signal (information that captures a low-dose version of the pre-existing disease pattern) to the sensory and cell defense response networks of the body and thereby initiates the adaptive systemic phenomenon of hormesis.

• In turn, endogenous cell-to-cell signaling pathways transduce and amplify the low-intensity homeopathic information throughout the overall CAS, mobilizing adaptive self-organized changes to improve stress resistance, resilience, and fitness for survival.

• Endogenous signal amplification mechanisms include stochastic resonance, time-dependent sensitization and hormesis.

• The latter two mechanisms can generate directional reversal of symptom pattern expression as a function, respectively, of the initial state of the individual recipient and of the quantitatively low dose of the medicine as a hormetin.

• Consequently, the correct medicine (simillimum) initiates a system-wide non-linear homeopathic healing process carried through the internal dynamics of the body sub-systems/networks, rather than by a direct local pharmacological mechanism of the homeopathic medicine.