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Homeopathy is a system of complementary medicine based on the administration of minute doses of drugs which are capable of producing in healthy persons symptoms like those of the disease being treated. The result is believed to trigger and strengthen the body’s natural immune response.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Is there any evidence that homeopathy works?
The amount of clinical research being done on homeopathic medicnes is increasing and as the qualtiy of the studies improves, so does the evidence that homeopathic remedies work.
These are three examples of recent studies:
- In 1991, the British Medical Journal publised a review prepared by three professors of medicine from the Netherlands in which they found that 81 out of 107 controlled trials of homeopathic medicines showed promising results for homeopathic medicines, commenting that the number of positive results were surprising.1
- There have been a number randomized, double blind placebo controlled studies perfomed on the treatment of allergies with homeopathy. A review of these studies published in 2010 concluded that these studies showed that homeopathic medicines showed positive results in the treatment of hay fever, allergic rhinitis and asthma. The review concluded that homeopathy offers possible options for treatment of respiratory allergies and hayfever.2
- In 2007, a study was published comparing homeopathic and conventional medicine for primary care of acute respiratory and ear complaints and concluded that both homeopathy and conventional medicine showed positive results.3
Homeopathy is taught in three natural medical schools in the United States and is a common area of study for chiropracters and some nurses. Homeopathy is one of the primary forms of medicine practiced in many countries including Germany, France and Switzerland, England, Brazil and in many other European countries. Homeopathy is also well established in Russia and is a primary system of medicine in India and Pakistan.
Why do traditional doctors question homeopathy?
Homeopathy appears counter-intuitive to conventionally trained physicians who are taught that most illnesses are treated with a drug which exerts an opposite or opposing force. If there is inflammation then an antiinflammatory medication is given and for allergies an antihistiamine is often used. Conventional medicine seeks to use a drug to overpower or to shut down a process in the body which is causing pain or unpleasant symptoms. In addition, traditional pharmacology questions whether the doses of the active ingredients used in homeopathic drugs are large enough to cause a pharmacological effect.
This system of applying opposites and force to treat illness was comon in Hahnemann’s day and is part of what led him to seek a more gentle method of treatment that would work with the body instead of against it. Hahnemann also diluted his medicines seeking the least amount of medicine possible to bring about the relief of symptoms and the healing process.
Are homeopathic drugs safer than other OTC or prescription drugs?
All mecicines can be potentially harmful if used improperly, but if you read the labels of most conventional drugs they will typically list the side effects and dangers of taking them and misusing them. These side effects can range form unpleasant symptoms to life threatening conditions particularly in the case of over use or overdose.
Advocates of homeopathy believe that it naturally stimulates the immune system and the body’s natural healing processes. Homeopathic drugs are given in smaller doses, usually much smaller doses. Because of the extemely diluted nature of most homeopathic drugs, they are for the most part free of adverse side effects. Homeopathic drugs, however, are still drugs and should be handled with care and only taken according to the label directions or a practitioner’s instructions.
How do conventional and homeopathic drugs differ?
Conventional medicines are the medicines you find on most drug store shelves and are marketed as Over the Counter (OTC) drugs or for which your doctor writes a prescription. These drugs work in your body in a variety of ways. They can interfere with microorganisms (germs or viruses) that invade your body, replace deficient substances such as hormones or vitamins or change the way cells work in your body. Conventional medicines most often work by blocking or shutting down the body’s response to an injury or illness.
In other words, conventional medicines work to change the way the body reacts to an injury, illness or symptoms of an illness. In the case of an injury, when we feel pain, it's the result of an electrical signal being sent from nerves in part of your body to your brain. But the whole process isn't electrical. When tissue is injured (by a sprained ankle, for instance), the cells release certain chemicals. These chemicals cause inflammation and amplify the electrical signal coming from the nerves. As a result, they increase the pain you feel. Analgesics or pain relievers work by blocking the effects of these pain stimulating chemicals.
Homeopathic medicines are intended to work with the body‘s natural processes to promote healing. Homeopathy works on the principle of similars -- that rather than opposing or shutting down a process, the body’s innate processes should be encouraged and stimulated to speed healing and recovery. This principal of “likes to treat likes” is also called ”the law of similars.” The theory is that substances which can cause a symptom (such as the way that coffee can keep you awake) can be used in diluted quantities to treat these symptoms. So for example, homeopathic coffee preparations are used to treat insomnia.
How can I learn more about homeopathy?
The National Center for Homeopathy - NCH is an open-membership organization whose mission is to promote health through homeopathy. NCH publishes a member newsletter and provides general education to the public about homeopathy, specific education to homeopaths, and works with government agencies and the media. NCH helps to make homeopathy understood and available throughout the United States. Visit http://nationalcenterforhomeopathy.org for more information.
Books on Homeopathy:
- Healing with Homeopathy, Provides an easy to read introduction to homeopathy’s history, methods and medical use with a full section on how to learn to use homeopathy for yourself and your family. By Wayne B Jonas, MD, Jennifer Jacobs, MD, MPH, Warner Books Inc., NY, NY 1996
- The Consumer’s Guide to Homeopathy Contains three sections, the first devoted to a thorough introduction to homeopathy, the second addressing homeopathic medical care and working with a practitioner as well as learning to use homeopathy for simple needs at home and a third section that addresses more specific conditions and uses. By Dana Ullman MPH, G. P. Putman’s Sons, NY, NY, 1995
- Homeopathy for Pregnancy, Birth, and Your Baby’s First Year, Provides sections on understanding and using homeopathy, preparing for your baby, pregnancy, birth and the post-natal period. By Miranda Castro F.S. Hom, St Martin’s press NY, NY 1993