Samuel Hahnemann, believed that all illness was basically an imbalance in what he referred to as the "vital force". In fact, homeopathy is among the therapies listed in the pontifical document, Jesus Christ, Bearer of the Water of Life, along with polarity massage, crystal and psychic healing and reincarnation therapies. Of course, chiropractic, herbal medicine and 12-Step programs are also mentioned, leading me to believe that the paragraph in question does not condemn every one of these practices outright, but only means to point out, in relating care of the body to New Age practices, that the New Age makes use of many of these.
I have no doubt that anise seed is good for digestion, or that ginger alleviates nausea. These remedies have been around practically forever, and are well established. In Germany, where I grew up, many herbal remedies are available at the Apotheken (pharmacies), and doctors frequently prescribe a natural remedy before moving on to conventional medicine. My grandmother took Baldrian (valerian root) for her nerves, and it was available just about anywhere.
Again, I know many people who have obtained great relief from chiropractic care, including Bret, whose back and neck were badly messed up after being rear-ended in a minor accident. I do not doubt that a chiropractor can be helpful, although I tend to stifle a smirk of disbelief when claims are made that chiropractic can do everything from cure chronic ear infections to clearing up acne. And if your chiropractor starts a session by moving over your prone body with a crystal pendulum, it is time to find a new chiropractor!
On to my experience with homeopathy. Even though I went through a period in my life before my conversion where I was fairly deep into the occult and New Age, I pretty much drew the line after herbalism when it came to health. I never gave much credence to such things as crystals, aromatherapy, Rolfing (I still need to look that one up--sounds really goofy) and what not. I'm not one for esoteric cures.
I first came across homeopathy when my firstborn was a teething baby, and I found a recommendation for Hyland's Teething Tablets in a parenting magazine. They were (are) available at Wal-Mart. Not exactly the neighborhood Occult Paraphernalia shop. Unlike herbal remedies, which I could not use on an infant for fear of overdosing or causing an allergic reaction, these tablets were safe for babies. And they worked! And homeopathic chamomile seemed to soothe an agitated and over-tired infant to sleep. So I bought a little case with remedies for some of the most common ailments--digestive troubles, diarrhea, sleeplessness, bruises and bumps, insect stings and so forth, and over the past 10 years or so, I have been happy with the results.
I have noticed that some things work better than others. We haven't had much success with the tablets when it comes to cold symptoms or allergies, although the homeopathic cough medicine does help for a couple of hours at a time. And I can say right off that I use the tablets very little myself, as little things such as mint in one's toothpaste and caffeine can interfere with the medicine. I have used Hyland's Nerve Tonic, and it does seem to help somewhat.
Which raises the question, is the effect a placebo effect? Are my nerves calmed because I read the words "Nerve Tonic" on the label and my nerves obey the suggestion? Well, I would have to say no, as most of the time we use these remedies on children who are very young. Arsenicum Album seems to do the trick on diarrhea for all my kids. And Nux Vomica seems to quell queasiness. And this winter I administered homeopathic Belladonna for a sudden-onset fever, and behold, Gemma's fever went away!
But now for the caveat: I would never treat any dangerous symptoms with homeopathy. With a fever, I will try the mildest cure first (and one can get no milder than homeopathy), but if that doesn't work in a given time, I am running for the acetaminophen! I would never use homeopathy to treat any serious health condition. I use it for those daily little pains and ailments that come inevitably in a house full of children. For tummy-aches, head-aches, growing pains and ear-aches; for queasiness, gas, bee stings and tempers. And they work most of the time. And the best part about it is that the remedies are so harmless that when Dominic sees me giving a dose to his brother and says, "I have a tummy ache, too," I can safely pop a tablet into his mouth, knowing that if does no good, at least it will do no harm.
I know nothing of this "vital force" business, and I don't know how or why homeopathy seems to work for us. I am too easily bored by scientific explanations of things (as my kids can bear witness to my "Because-that's-the-way-God-made-it-and-if-you-care-to-look-it-up-you-can" answers to their scientific questions). I only know that God is the power behind all healing, whether it be chamomile tea, homeopathy or chemotherapy, and unless the Catholic Church condemns it outright, I will continue to use it.
In looking for some Catholic perspective to support my view, I found this very thorough--almost exhaustive--blog post by someone who had even more to say on the topic than I. You can also find articles to support an opposing view.