Homeopathic diagnosis and therapy treats the whole body as a unified organism. Its basis lies in the 19th century, when Samuel Hahnemann defined disease as "an aberration from the state of health", which cannot be mechanically removed from the body. In 1881 Hahnemann called for healing to be quick, reliable, and permanent and he believed that holistic medicine embraced all of these attributes. Disease was considered to be of two types: acute, which temporarily disabled the person but which could be overcome with time and treatment, and chronic conditions, a series of acute episodes that could with time seriously disable the patient. In treating acute illness, the homeopath is charged with four responsibilities: a thorough knowledge of the disease, its aetiology, pathology, prognosis, and diagnosis; a thorough knowledge of the medicinal power of drugs; the ability to relate the power of drugs to the patient's condition; an ability to foresee barriers between the patient and good health and a knowledge of how to reduce such barriers.
The treatment prescribed by the homeopathic doctor is largely based on the idea that the body contains a vital natural force which has the power to affect recovery. The basis of homeopathy adheres to four basic laws. The law of similars, "like cures like"; a drug that produces symptoms of a disease in a healthy person will cure a person who has the disease. Significantly, this does not have a sound basis in conventional pharmacology. The law of potentiation maintains that high doses of medicine intensify disease symptomatology, whereas small doses tend to strengthen the body's defence mechanisms. Therefore a cure does not lie in the quantity of medicine but in its quality, and invariably in subtle aspects of the curative treatment. This is why most homeopathic remedies used today require elaborate prescription and formulation regimes. The law of cure occurs from above downwards, from within outwards, from an important organ to a less important one, and in the reverse order of the symptoms. Single remedy medication consists of one pure drug at a time, never in mixtures that could potentially contain harmful compounds.