What is homeopathy?
Homeopathy is a system of medicine over 200 years old based on the principles of ‘like cures like.” A substance that causes illness can actually be used to treat the same illness when given in minute or nano doses known has homeopathic remedies.
How did homeopathy come about?
A German physician, Dr. Samuel Hahnemann (1755-1843), founded homeopathy based on his discoveries. Through his observations and experiments, he noticed that a small dose of a substance that causes disease could be used to treat the same or similar illness. Therefore, he called his new system of medicine “homeopathy” because “homois” means similar in Greek and “pathos” means suffering.
It was known that Peruvian bark, Cinchona, was helpful in treating malaria. Exactly why was unclear but it was assumed to be due to its bitter and astringent properties. However, Dr. Hahnemann questioned that assumption because there were many other more bitter and astringent herbs that were not helpful for malaria. He began taking doses of Peruvian bark to study its effects. After a certain threshold, he began to have episodes of fevers, aches, and chills similar to the symptoms of malaria itself. It was then he had the idea of “like cures like.”
Despite opposition from the prevailing medicine at the time, homeopathy grew in popularity, because it offered a safer and more effective way of treating illness. In the 1800’s, bloodletting with leaches was commonplace — a practice that often weakened patients. Homeopathy presented a welcome and beneficial change from “modern medicine.”
Homeopathic remedies are very dilute medicines with little to no active physical ingredient. Rather, homeopathy relies on the energetic imprint of a substance. For this reason, homeopathic remedies are quite safe to use in all ages from infants to elderly. Unlike prescription or over-the-counter medications, there are no addictive qualities or side effects to homeopathic remedies. With over 200 years of use, homeopathy has established a sound history of individualized, gentle, and effective treatment.
When used appropriately, homeopathic remedies can have dramatic effects. However, because homeopathy relies on customizing the remedy to the individual, studies have to be set up properly in order to measure the effect. For example, not all cases of diarrhea can be treated with the same remedy.
Study in the medical journal Pediatrics
In this study published in Pediatrics, a group in Nicaragua found individualized homeopathic treatment of childhood diarrhea effectively reduced the episodes and duration of diarrhea. Since the conventional treatment of childhood diarrhea consists mainly of hydration therapy, the addition of homeopathy to help reduce the duration of the illness is immensely helpful.
Clinical Trials and Evidence
Other studies including multiple meta-analyses in reputable medical journals also supporting the efficacy of homeopathy.
- A 1997 Lancet review article found significant effects of homeopathy in placebo-controlled trials.
British Journal of Medicine review
- The British Journal of Medicine analyzed 105 homeopathy trials and found that of the 22 best studies, 15 showed positive results.
Clinical studies looking at specific ailments also support homeopathy.
Homeopathic medicines use for upper respiratory infections (colds)
- Multiple studies have shown significant response of colds to homeopathic remedies, whether to treat colds or prevent them.
Homeopathic medicines use for fibromyalgia
- As reported in the medical journal Rheumatology, Dr. Iris Bell’s group at the University of Arizona found that individualized homeopathic remedies significantly improved symptoms of fibromyalgia patients compared to placebo.
Homeopathic medicines use for endometriosis-associated pelvic pain
- This study found that women with endometriosis-associated pelvic pain who were treated with homeopathy had significant improvements in their pain and depression scores compared to a placebo group.
Homeopathic medicines use for adverse effects of cancer treatments
- A Cochrane Review article found support for homeopathy in the reduction of adverse effections of cancer treatments, namely radiation-induced dermatitis as well as chemotherapy-induced stomatitis.
Homeopathic medicines use for allergic rhinitis
- “Homeopathy may be better than placebo,” reported the British Medical Journal, based on the findings in this study on using homeopathy to treat patients with perennial allergic rhinitis.
Homeopathic medicines use for recurrent tonsillitis
- In this randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial, children with recurrent tonsillitis treated with homeopathy did significantly better than the placebo group (78% had no episodes within a 4-month follow-up vs 33% in the control group.)
Homeopathic medicines use for childhood ear infections
- A study of 81 children with ear infections found that the group treated with individualized homeopathy experienced faster symptom improvement and significantly reduced antibiotic use compared to the group treated with conventional treatment. In fact, no antibiotics were required in the homeopathy group.
Homeopathic use for childhood diarrhea
- This study looked at the combined results from three different studies. They found that individualized homeopathic treatment for childhood diarrhea consistently reduced the duration of diarrhea.
Statistics on usage in the United States and around the world
According to the Homeopathy Research Institute, over 200 million people use homeopathy worldwide. In fact, it is part of the national health systems in Switzerland, Brazil, Chile, Mexico, Pakistan, and India.
In the U.S.
Within the United States, over 6 million people use homeopathy, including an estimated 5 million adults and 1 million children. Actually, homeopathy is in the top three complementary and integrative medicine tools used in the U.S., say Harvard researchers based on their analysis of the 2012 National Health Interview Survey. found that homeopathy use in the U.S. has increased by 15% in the last decade. In fact, although used by a small percentage, homeopathy use in the U.S. has grown by 15% in the last decade.
India is the country with the most people relying on homeopathy with an estimated 100 million people using homeopathy as their main or only system of medicine.
In the United Kingdom
About 10% of the population, or around 6 million people, in the United Kingdom use homeopathy. There are ~400 UK physicians who treat with homeopathy and an additional ~1500 non-medical homeopathic practitioners.
An estimated 100 million, or about 30%, of Europeans use homeopathy regularly.
Throughout the world, there is a growing number of people turning to homeopathy to improve their health, whether through self-care or with the help of a professional. In addition, the number of homeopathic practitioners is also increasing.
Famous people that use homeopathy
Due to their own experiences, many famous people strongly support homeopathy. As discussed in Dana Ullman’s book The Homeopathic Revolution, these people include the following:
Royalty use homeopathy
The British Royal Family is reknowned for their strong support of homeopathy for generations, from Queen Elizabeth to Prince Charles to Prince William and so on.
Physician leaders use homeopathy
Surgeon General Dr. Charles Everett Koop’s experiences with homeopathy early in life inspired him to be a doctor. He wrote in his memoir Koop, “I can’t remember a time when I didn’t want to be a doctor. The doctors I knew as a very young child must have helped to plant the desire in me, when I was as young as five or six. One Homeopathic physician, Dr. Justice Gage Wright, was a great model.”
Charles Frederick Menninger, MD, founder of The Menninger Clinic, a reknowned mental health clinic, also practiced homeopathy. He said, “”Homeopathy is wholly capable of satisfying the therapeutic demands of this age better than any other system or school of medicine.”
Musicians use homeopathy
Musicians from many generations have used homeopathy from Tina Turner, to Axl Rose, Paul McCartney, Bob Weir, Cher, Moby, Dizzie Gillespie, and classics such as Beethoven, Schumann, and Chopin.
Writers use homeopathy
Many writer use homeopathy, including Mark Twain, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Louisa May Alcott, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Lord Alfred Tennyson, and others.
Celebrities use homeopathy
Many celebrities use homeopathy, including Catherine Zeta-Jones, Jane Seymour, Tobey McGuire, Orlando Bloom, and Jennifer Anniston.
Spiritual leaders use homeopathy
To help heal the sick and poor, Mother Theresa opened her first charitable homeopathic pharmacy in Calcutta in 1950. There are now four homeopathic dispensaries running under her charity. Spiritual leaders from many religions have also used homeopathy, including 7 Popes, and Mahatma Gandhi.
“Homeopathic vaccines” or “homeoprophylaxis” is not the same as a regular vaccine. In my opinion, the term “homeopathic vaccine” is misleading. Although both use small amounts of the diseases-causing substance, homeopathic remedies rely on nano amounts, which are far smaller than regular vaccines. In addition, the way in which vaccines work and homeopathy works is very different. Regular vaccines stimulate an immune response within the body. Homeopathic remedies work with the overall vital force of a person. Also, since homeopathic remedies are intended to be individualized, it does not necessarily make sense to give a single remedy to a large population unless there is an immediate concern.
That being said, homeopathic prophylaxis can be of immense value, such as in emergency situations. For example, in 2007, Cuba experienced an epidemic outbreak of leptospirosis, which is a bacterial illness that can spread quickly through water and soil. In this type of emergency, vaccination is limited in its usefulness because it takes time for vaccines to work. Instead, a homeoprophylaxis remedy was created and given orally to 2.3 million people. A decreased incidence was seen in regions given homeoprophylaxis versus regions not treated.
What issues/illnesses/conditions can homeopathy treat?
Homeopathy can be used to treat a variety of illnesses. These range from more acute issues, such as ear infections, colds, sore throats, headaches, indigestion, and minor stress,
Homeopathy is meant to be part of an integrative approach. With the help of both a professional homeopath as well as a conventional or integrative medical practitioner, homeopathy can also help treat chronic issues, including any of the above issues that are recurrent, as well as anxiety, depression, irritable bowel syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease, other autoimmune problems, fibromyalgia, attention or learning issues, menstrual problems, infertility, allergies, rashes, asthma, and insomnia.
What should it not be used for?
Homeopathy does not replace all types of medicine. Again, the emphasis is on an integrative approach. As such, homeopathy should not be used alone in emergencies. This includes respiratory distress, altered consciousness, dehydration, serious injury, and cardiac arrest. For these and other emergent conditions, emergency medical services (EMS) must be notified immediately. If homeopathic remedies are available, then appropriate remedies may be given while waiting for EMS to arrive.
Risks, safety, and side effects of homopeathy
When used appropriately, there is very little risk when taking homeopathic remedies, because there is little to no active physical ingredient in the remedy. Homeopathic remedies are energetic remedies that support the vital force of the body.
Healing symptoms — an initial aggravation followed by improvement
As with many healing modalities, it is possible that there are healing symptoms, such as being more tired or a temporary aggravation of symptoms, as the body assimilates the energetic information provided by the remedy. If healing symptoms occur, they are transient. Afterwards, a person will typically feel remarkably better.
If the incorrect remedy is taken, it is possible that a person goes through “proving” symptoms in which there is a worsening of symptoms. These usually become apparent within the first few doses of taking a remedy and resolve with stopping the remedy and with time. However, upon resolution of the proving symptoms, the original symptoms will still persist.
If for some reason your symptoms worsen, stop taking the homeopathic remedy immediately. If you are unclear whether you are having a healing reaction or a proving, then consult a professional homeopath.
Need for additional care
Homeopathy is not meant to substitute or delay urgent or emergent care. Conventional physicians are often concerned about this. Although valid, a properly trained homeopath would know his or her limitations as well as the signs of more serious illness. Furthermore, homeopathy does not have to be an either/or modality. In an ideal situation, homeopathic practitioners and medical physicians work together for the patient.
Improperly prepared product
Although there have been concerns raised regarding contaminated products, the fact is that the homeopathic remedies made in the United States must be prepared with certain standards set by the Homeopathic Pharmacopeia of the United States. There have been only a handful of U.S.-prepared homeopathic remedies recalled compared to conventional medications.
What is the difference between homeopathy and conventional medicine?
How symptoms are addressed and supporting a person’s innate healing mechanism
One of the main differences between homeopathy and conventional medicine is how the symptoms are addressed. From conventional medicine, symptoms are often looked at as something to suppress, such as using an anti-inflammatory to reduce inflammation or an anti-histamine to reduce an allergic response. Instead, homeopathy considers symptoms to be the body’s attempt to return to a balance state.
From a homeopathic perspective, there is an innate wisdom of the body, which if supported, can help restore balance. For example, a cough is the body’s way to expel an irritant from the lungs. Similarly, vomiting or diarrhea are ways the body is trying to get rid of toxins contributing to illness. By using homeopathy to support the body’s overall vital force — it’s innate healing mechanism — and efforts to move towards balance, symptoms can often resolve more quickly and completely.
The importance of behavior, emotions, and personality in the evaluation
Homeopathy involves a whole-person approach. This means that not just physical symptoms are important but also a person’s emotional and mental state as well as their overall personality. Two people with the same physical symptoms could actually be given different remedies. As Hippocrates said, “It is mores important to know what sort of person has a disease than what sort of disease a person has.”
In conventional medicine, these kinds of details are less important. For example, ibuprofen could be given to reduce inflammation, irrespective of a patient’s mental-emotional state (except of course in extreme cases, such as in an unconscious patient who cannot swallow.)
Energetic or quantum doses do not make sense in conventional medicine
We are energetic beings and despite the fact we might not have the tools to measure minute dosing, does not mean that there is nothing in a homeopathic remedy. Very small doses of a substance and even the energetic patterns of a substance can have physiologic effects. We see this in environmental studies on chemicals in plastic and their hormonal effects.
In addition, Nano medicine is actually huge a growing field and modern medicine. Yet, at one point, we could not measure nano particles. Although we do not yet have all the answers as to how homeopathic remedies work, it does not mean they do not work. In my opinion, it would be better to admit that we don’t know it all rather than to throw out all benefits due to lack of understanding.
What is the difference between homeopathy and naturopathy?
Often, people will use the terms homeopathy and naturopathy interchangeably but they are not the same thing. Naturopathy is a modality of medicine that also assists the person’s natural healing abilities but does not necessarily rely on energetic remedies. Naturopaths may use diagnostic tests, nutrition, herbals, supplements, mind-body techniques, and some may actually use homeopathy. So, naturopathy is a much broader field, and naturopaths may or may not incorporate homeopathy. Of note, there are also many different types of homeopathy. More on that below.
What are combination remedies?
Combination remedies use more than one homeopathic remedy in a dose. Typically, combination remedies use lower potency remedies from “X” remedies up to “6, 12, or 30c” remedies. By combining multiple low-potency remedies that are commonly used for a certain illness, these types of remedies aim to treat the majority of people with that illness. An example of a combination remedy is this one for seasonal allergies.
However, combination remedies are not necessarily customized to the individual, and therefore there are certain people that will do better with a single remedies. Imagine that within a combination remedy there are some remedies that are helpful for you and others do not seem to be a good match. In that case, there is an energetic tug-of-war in the body, so the homeopathic message to the body is less clear. Granted, these are generally very low-potency remedies of low risk but they may not be quite as effective as an individualized remedy. People tend to choose combination remedies for ease of use.
What is classical homeopathy?
Classical homeopathy uses a single homeopathic remedy at a time by matching a person’s symptom profile as much as possible to a single remedy. From the classical perspective, treating with a single remedy creates the clearest signal to the body.
Can you safely use homeopathic remedies at home?
Yes, you can learn to use homeopathic remedies to self-treat minor illnesses at home. Often, it is best to have a homeopathic kit because the need for a homeopathic remedy can arise suddenly. That way, when you bump your head, have indigestion, or feel the onset of a cold, you’ll have the most common remedies on-hand.
See below for the category of conditions appropriate for self-treating with homeopathy.
Two main categories of treatment in homeopathic medicine
Conditions treated by homeopathy can be divided into two main categories — acute versus chronic issues.
Acute conditions are symptoms that are generally short-lived with both a rapid onset and short resolution, such as a cold. If you are not a homeopathic or other healthcare practitioner, then consider only acute issues for homeopathic treatment at home. Of course, if the condition persists or worsens, then consult a qualified healthcare practitioner.
Chronic conditions are illnesses with ongoing symptoms that have been persisting for months. In these cases, consultation with a professonal homeopath so that a constitutional remedy may be prescribed. However, there are situations where seemingly acute issues are actually indicative of a deeper, long-standing issue. If so, a constitutional remedy is also called for and requires consulting a professional homeopath.
What are homeopathic remedies?
Homeopathic remedies are actually energetic or vibrational remedies that can be derived from minerals, animals, or plants.
How are homeopathic remedies made?
The process of making a homeopathic remedy involves serial dilutions and “succussions” (vigorous shaking) of the original substance in water or alcohol. The potency of a remedy describes how many times the original substance was diluted and succussed. For example, a 30c potency is a remedy that has been diluted by 1:100 (“c” stands for centesimal) thirty times and succussed with each dilution. The remedy is then commonly stored on sugar pellets or in a liquid alcohol solution.
What is a homeopathic pharmacy?
A homeopathic pharmacy specializes in the production of homeopathic remedies and comply with regulations set forth by the agencies below. Any company that manufacture homeopathic products must register with the FDA.
Is homeopathy/homeopathic medicine regulated?
The Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FDCA) classifies homeopathic medicines as drugs. Manufacturing of homeopathic medicines must follow comprehensive guidelines set forth by the Homeopathic Pharmacopoeia of the United States (HPUS) as well as the FDA’s Current Good Manufacturing Practices. New single homeopathic remedies are reviewed by the Homeopathic Pharmacopoeia Convention of the United States (HPCUS) with monographs listed in the Homeopathic Pharmacopoeia of the United States (HPUS). Labeling and marketing of homeopathic medicines falls under the FDA. Homeopathic products can only be marketed for self-limited and self-diagnosable conditions.
How does homeopathy work?
How homeopathic remedies could work is one of the most controversial areas in integrative medicine. At the 30c potency and above, there is unlikely to be any physical matter of the original substance left. However, just because we do not yet have the tools to measure, does not mean there is no effect. Although we are not exactly sure how homeopathic remedies work, there are some theories.
The most common theory of how homeopathic remedies work is based on “water memory.” In fact, the United Kingdom’s Royal Society of Medicine held a groundbreaking conference on July 14, 2018 to discuss this theory with Nobel Laureates and distinguished scientists. Water is not as simple as it may seem and has the capabilities to hold large amounts of information. It is also possible for water to hold nano-sized clusters that are biologically active.
The principles of homeopathy
1. The law of similars states that “like cures like.” That is, a substance that causes a pattern of symptoms in large doses can be used to treat other illness with a similar pattern of symptoms when used in very small doses.
2. The law of infinitesimals or law of minimum dose states that the more dilute a substance is, the more potent is its action. This law is difficult to understand in terms of conventional medicine. But much like there is a therapeutic dose range in the upper range of a medicine, there is also a therapeutic dose range in the energetic range. Take this analogy, for example: Even though sound waves (a vibration and form of energy) cannot be seen, they can break glass. Of course, a slower moving dense hammer can also break glass.
3. The law of totality states that a it is the whole picture of a person that determines the remedy, including physical symptoms, mental-emotional state, personality, and behavior. Remedies are prescribed on an individualized basis.
4. The law of singulars is used in classical homeopathy, in which only one remedy is prescribed at a time to have a clearer picture of the effects of the remedy.
Onion (allium cepa) can cause runny nose and watery eyes but can also be used homeopathically to treat hayfever with runny nose and watery eyes.
Poison ivy (rhus tox) can cause an itchy, blistering rash, but used homeopathically it can help treat a poison ivy rash as well as similar itchy, blistering rashes like some fever blisters.
Apis (honey bee venom) can causes a painful swelling, but used homeopathically, it can actually ease other bites and stings with similar responses.
What is a homeopathy kit?
A homeopathy kit is a set of remedies conveniently stored in a container. That way, you can take the kit along with you whether on a trip or to keep at home as part of your first aid kit. The thing is, you never know when you might need a remedy. It’s best to have some common remedies available in case you need them urgently. When you or a loved one is hurt or sick, it’s so much easier to have a homeopathic remedy with you. A homeopathy kit can save having to run off to the store at some odd hour. Plus, the nearest store may not have the remedy you need.
You can get a homeopathy kit like this one from Helios.