Homeopathy, or homeopathic
medicine, is a medical philosophy and practice based on the idea that the body
has the ability to heal itself. Homeopathy was founded in the late 1700s in
Germany and has been widely practiced throughout Europe. Homeopathic medicine
views symptoms of illness as normal responses of the body as it attempts to
Homeopathy is based on the idea that "like cures
like." That is, if a substance causes a symptom in a healthy person, giving the
person a very small amount of the same substance may cure the illness. In
theory, a homeopathic dose enhances the body's normal healing and
A homeopathic health practitioner
(homeopath) uses pills or liquid mixtures (solutions) containing only a little
of an active ingredient (usually a plant or mineral) for treatment of disease.
These are known as highly diluted or "potentiated" substances. There is some
evidence to show that homeopathic medicines may have helpful effects.
have used homeopathy to maintain health and treat a wide range of long-term
illnesses, such as allergies,
rheumatoid arthritis, and
irritable bowel syndrome. They have also used it to
treat minor injuries, such as cuts and scrapes and muscle strains or sprains.
Homeopathic treatment is not considered appropriate for illnesses, such as
cancer, heart disease, major infections, or emergencies.
Homeopathy has been widely used in India, England, and other European
Homeopathic remedies have been
regulated in the United States since 1938 and are considered to be safe.
Some critics of homeopathy believe that there is so little active
substance in a solution that any benefits from treatment are likely not because
of the substance but because you are thinking it is effective (placebo effect).
Supporters of homeopathy
believe that although homeopathic solutions are highly diluted, they contain a
"memory" of the substance in water. The body recognizes the substance and
reacts to it. Studies have tried to determine whether effects from homeopathic
treatments are placebo or whether some other action occurs. Although these
studies could not identify how homeopathic solutions work, there was evidence
that homeopathic dilutions differ from placebos.1
It is important to tell your medical doctor if
you decide to use homeopathic remedies. He or she should have full knowledge of
your health to help you make wise decisions about where to purchase homeopathic
dilutions and what homeopathic practitioner to see. Homeopathic remedies should
not replace conventional treatments for serious health concerns.
You can buy some homeopathic medicines at health food stores without a
doctor's prescription. But preparations from different suppliers and
practitioners may vary.
Always tell your doctor if you are using an alternative
therapy or if you are thinking about combining an alternative therapy with your
conventional medical treatment. It may not be safe to forgo your conventional
medical treatment and rely only on an alternative therapy.
CitationsTaylor MA, et al. (2000). Randomised controlled trial
of homeopathy versus placebo in perennial allergic rhinitis with overview of
four trial series. BMJ, 321(7263): 471–476.
June 29, 2011
Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine & Marc S. Micozzi, MD, PhD - Complementary and Alternative Medicine
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