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Learn About Homeopathy
It is used to treat acute illnesses, like colds, ear infections, migraines, and sore throats, as well as chronic conditions, like asthma, depression, autism, and arthritis.
Homeopathy medicines – known as “remedies” – are made from natural sources (e.g., plants, minerals), and are environmentally friendly and cruelty free. Most are available over the counter in grocery stores, drug stores, health food stores, homeopathic pharmacies, and online. They are also extremely affordable. Homeopathic remedies when used as directed, are completely safe for everyone – including pregnant and nursing women, infants, children, and adults. They are given in such small doses that they don’t cause side effects.
One thing to note is that the word homeopathy is not a general or “umbrella” term that describes a variety of different natural therapies. Although homeopathic remedies are derived from natural substances, homeopathy should not be confused with herbal medicine, Chinese medicine, or other types of natural medicines. It is its own, unique therapeutic system.
Anyone can learn to treat simple conditions safely at home using homeopathy, but a professional should treat serious or life-threatening conditions.
How Homeopathic Medicines are Made
Homeopathic medicines are drug products made by homeopathic pharmacies in accordance with the standards and processes described in the Homeopathic Pharmacopoeia of the United States (HPUS)—the official homeopathic manufacturing manual for the United States. Homeopathic medicines are regulated by the FDA and homeopathic pharmacies must comply with the FDA’s current Good Manufacturing Practices. The substances used to prepare homeopathic medicines include plants (such as Wolf’s Bane, Deadly Nightshade, dandelion, or plantain), minerals (for example, iron phosphate, arsenic oxide, or sodium chloride), or animal products (e.g., the venom of a number of poisonous snakes, or the ink of the cuttlefish). There are even a few homeopathic medicines prepared from chemical drug substances such as penicillin or streptomycin.
The technique for making a homeopathic medicine involves repeated dilution of a specific substance until little of the original substance remains. When manufacturing a homeopathic medicine from a plant, for example, the first step involves cleaning and preparing the plant with alcohol and water, as prescribed in the HPUS, to make a tincture. This tincture is then diluted and strongly shaken. This step is repeated over and over to create increasing potencies of the medicine. For example, one drop of a plant tincture may be mixed with 9 drops of alcohol (to achieve a ratio of 1:10), and the mixture will then be strongly shaken—a process known as succussion. The resulting homeopathic medicine is labeled with a potency according to the number of times this has been done.
For instance, a substance that has been diluted 1:10 and succussed six times will be labeled 6X, and contains 1 part of the original substance in 1 million parts of the diluent. Homeopathic medicines are available in various dosage forms and potency ratios. Two of the most common dosage forms are pellets and tablets, which are composed of sugar and lactose saturated with the liquid dilution. The most common types of potencies available are X (1:10 ratio), C (1:100 ratio), and LM or Fifty Millesimal (1:50,000 ratio). (Note that a 1M potency is simply an abbreviation for 1000C.) Like traditional medicines, a homeopathic medicine can be designated as a prescription or non-prescription drug. Most homeopathic medicines are non-prescription, unless they a) have limited use for serious conditions; or b) are made from a toxic substance and are low enough in potency (dilution) that they contain a potentially harmful amount of this substance.
More About Homeopathy
Many people just getting started with homeopathy understandably have questions about what it is and how it works. The list below includes answers to some of the most common questions about homeopathy:
- How does homeopathy differ from conventional medicine?
- What is homeopathy’s history?
- What is “classical” homeopathy?
- What are combination remedies?
- Are homeopathic medicines regulated?
- Are homeopathic medicines safe?
- Can a pregnant woman, breastfeeding moms, or a newborn baby use homeopathy?
- Where can homeopathic medicines be purchased?
- Are homeopathic medicines expensive?
- Who practices homeopathy?
How does homeopathy differ from conventional medicine?
Homeopathy is based on a rule of nature called the Law of Similars. This law states that “like cures like,” or that a medicine can cure a sick person if it can cause a similar sickness in a healthy person. For instance, if you peel an onion, your eyes burn, itch and water. You might also have a runny nose and begin to sneeze. If you had similar symptoms during a cold or allergy attack, such as a runny nose, watery eyes and sneezing, a homeopathic micro-dose of the remedy Allium cepa (red onion) would help your body heal itself.
The homeopath regards symptoms as the body’s healthy attempt to restore itself to balance. That is why a homeopath will choose a remedy that supports the symptoms—rather than opposing them or suppressing them as in conventional medicine. In conventional medicine, a cold or hayfever sufferer is given an antihistamine to dry up the runny nose and watery eyes artificially. But this medication often comes with unpleasant side effects like sleepiness and constipation. With the correct homeopathic remedy, however, there are no side effects and a person is restored to health naturally.
Homeopathy also recognizes that each person exhibits his or her disease in a unique and slightly different way. That is why two people with the same disease will not necessarily receive the same homeopathic remedy. A cold sufferer with a stopped up nose and dry eyes would receive a different remedy than one with a runny nose and watering eyes. Unlike the “one size fits all” approach to prescribing often used in conventional medicine, a homeopath chooses a remedy that matches the unique symptom profile of the individual. Conventional medicine seeks to control illness through the regular use of medications; if the medicine is withdrawn, the person’s symptoms return. For example, the daily use of drugs for asthma (or any chronic disease for that matter) alleviates the symptoms but does not cure the underlying problem. In homeopathy the ideal is that a person needs just enough of the homeopathic remedy to stimulate their healing response. In other words, homeopathy seeks to cure a person so that they do not need any medications—homeopathic or otherwise.
What is homeopathy’s history?
The Law of Similars has been documented since at least the time of Hippocrates (ca. 400 B.C.), but it is Samuel Hahnemann (1755-1843), a German doctor and chemist, who is credited with founding homeopathy. He discovered the truth of the Law of Similars by testing small doses of medicine on himself.
By 1900, about twenty percent of doctors in the United States were homeopaths, but due to various political and social changes, homeopathy became relatively unknown in the US until recently. There is wider acceptance of homeopathy in such countries as France, Germany, Mexico, Argentina, India and Great Britain. In fact, the family doctor to England’s Queen Elizabeth is a homeopathic physician. In fact, the World Health Organization estimate that it is currently practiced by over 500 million people worldwide.
What is “classical” homeopathy?
Over the last 200 years many definitions of “classical” homeopathy have been used. At the core of nearly all of these definitions are the following key elements:
- The Law of Similars: matching the symptoms of a medicine tested on healthy humans to the individual seeking treatment.
- The Minimum Dose: determining the least amount of medicine needed to effect the needed change.
- Totality of Symptoms: matching the complete symptom profile of the patient to the symptom profile of the remedy.
- Single Remedy: administration of one remedy at a time.
What are combination remedies?
Some homeopathic products combine several different homeopathic medicines, each of which is known to be helpful for a certain condition, in the hope that the combination will contain the medicine needed by any individual with that condition. For example, a combination product for earaches might contain the five most frequently prescribed homeopathic remedies for earaches. These combination remedies are often safely and effectively used for simple acute conditions; however, they do not constitute classical homeopathy.
Are homeopathic medicines regulated?
Homeopathic medicines are considered to be drugs under U.S. federal law, and the Food and Drug Administration regulates the manufacture, marketing, and sales of all homeopathic medicines. Homeopathic medicines are made according to a book of standards called the Homoeopathic Pharmacopoeia of the United States (HPUS). The HPUS contains all of the information necessary for the proper identification of the raw materials used to make homeopathic medicines, as well as techniques for their manufacture and quality control. Homeopathic medicines are derived from botanical (plant), mineral, and some animal sources.
Are homeopathic medicines safe?
Because of the minute doses used in homeopathy, the medicines labeled for internal use are non-toxic. When properly administered, the medicines are completely safe for everyone including pregnant women, newborns, children, and adults through the senior years. Many veterinarians use homeopathy in the treatment of animals. There are no known or suspected contraindications or drug interactions between homeopathic and conventional medications.
Can a pregnant woman, breastfeeding moms, or a newborn baby use homeopathy?
Since homeopathic remedies are devoid of all chemical toxicity, homeopathy is the ideal system of medicine for people of all ages, even the most sensitive like an expectant mother or a newborn baby. Difficulties during pregnancy and the delivery or its aftermath as well as all the problems experienced by the newborn can be dealt with very efficiently and without side effects with homeopathy.
Where can homeopathic medicines be purchased?
Most homeopathic medicines are available over-the-counter and can be purchased from natural food stores, many corner drug stores, or directly from the manufacturers or homeopathic pharmacies. Check out our Organizational and Business Directory for a list of places to purchase homeopathic remedies and other products.
Are homeopathic medicines expensive?
Homeopathic medicines are less expensive than conventional medicines, costing on average $5–$8 per bottle. Sometimes only a single dose of a medicine is needed to affect a return to health. These medicines have an extended shelf life and each may be used for several different conditions.
Who practices homeopathy?
Homeopathy is practiced by a wide variety of health-care practitioners including medical doctors, osteopaths, naturopathic physicians, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, dentists, veterinarians, chiropractors, acupuncturists, nurse midwives, podiatrists, and professional homeopaths. Individual states regulate the practice of homeopathy, and each state’s laws and requirements for practice are different.
In most cases, homeopathy can be practiced legally by any health professional whose license entitles them to prescribe medicines, such as MDs, DOs, NDs, etc. In addition, three states specifically license the practice of homeopathy for medical and osteopathic physicians: Arizona, Connecticut, and Nevada. Two of these states, Arizona and Nevada, also allow the practice of homeopathy by registered Homeopathic Medical Assistants, under the auspices of a licensed MD or DO. Since 2000, Minnesota, Rhode Island, and California have adopted legislation that allows unlicensed complementary and alternative health practitioners (including unlicensed homeopaths) the freedom to practice as long as they give full disclosure of their training and background. Efforts are underway in other states to adopt similar legislation. Learn more about practicing homeopathy.
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