Homeopathy is a gentle, natural system of healing. It involves using a highly diluted version of a specific substance (or substances) that, in higher doses, would actually cause the illness or symptom being experienced.
World Health Organization
Based on the theory of treating “like with like,” the remedies then stimulate the body’s natural healing abilities (sort of like a natural vaccine). For example, symptoms of a throbbing headache may be treated with a remedy of belladonna (which at full strength would actually cause the throbbing headache). This is why the term Homeopathy comes from the Greek words homeo, meaning “similar,” and pathos, meaning “suffering.”
Two major approaches of conventional medicine follow the same principle of Homeopathy:
- Vaccines use a weak form of the virus, which boosts the immune system to develop an immunity against that particular virus, and
- Conventional allergy treatments, where the allergic substance is given in a tiny dose to stimulate tolerance in the body.
Whereas conventional medicine focuses on 1) pain relief, and 2) eradicating the disease, Homeopathy holds that the disease is not external but is an internal imbalance that is expressing itself in symptoms. Homeopathy draws out the symptoms and assists the body to begin healing itself by stimulating the body's natural defenses.
With conventional medicine, individuals who are diagnosed with the same condition (e.g. high cholesterol) will all typically be given the same medication, whereas with Homeopathy, each person will be treated individually based on the entire "symptom picture" of the person, including their state of mind, lifestyle, diet, and emotional characteristics.
US retail sales of homeopathic and herbal remedies reached $6.4 billion in 2012 - up almost 3% from 2011, and growing 16% over the past 5 years.(1)
Remedies are routinely prescribed by MD's and DO's worldwide, especially in Europe, including by 30-40% of French and 20% of German doctors. In France, 35% of the costs of homeopathic remedies prescribed by an MD are reimbursed from health insurance.(2)
No Side Effects
Homeopathic remedies are so extremely diluted that they are considered non-toxic and have no known side effects. They can be used by people from all walks of life from babies, to the elderly, pets, and pregnant women. Homeopathy is often used to compliment traditional medicine and there is considered little to no danger with medicinal interactions due to the extreme dilution of the remedies. However, as with any medication or remedy, it is recommended you discuss using them with your doctor.
Let's take a much closer look at Homeopathy, and at the interesting method used to make the remedies. Let's also see how these remedies work to stimulate healing within our body.
Using Homeopathic Remedies
Where Can I Find Homeopathic Remedies?
Homeopathic remedies can be provided by a Homeopathic Doctor, and the most popular ones are widely available in health food and supplement stores and online. Some remedies may be less widely available than others, but almost all can be found online. Some potencies can only be sold through a practitioner, e.g. 200C, 1M, or 10M.
The cost of each remedy is very affordable, ranging from $7-$20 depending on the manufacturer and potency. Some remedies are lactose-based, but there are non lactose-based remedies available.
How Do I Choose A Remedy (Or Remedies)?
Homeopathic treatments for health conditions are very individualized, tailored specifically to each person, which is why it's best to schedule a homeopathic consultation. This consultation is generally a lengthy examination which involves an in-depth assessment of symptoms, lifestyle habits, nutrition, emotional and mental state, character traits, living conditions, and other factors. The Homeopath then translates this information into an appropriate remedy (or multiple remedies) by referring to their Materia Medica. Remedies are selected which most closely match the symptom totality, known as the "symptom picture" of the patient.
This individualized approach to Homeopathy explains why different people with the same symptoms may receive different homeopathic remedies, as the knowledge of the homeopathic practitioner and their interpretation of the symptoms may vary.
It can be tempting to self-prescribe, but this can be challenging without knowledge of how much remedies can vary, even for one condition. For example, there are different types of headaches, and depending on their location and their symptoms, different remedies may be prescribed. A sinus pressure headache may be treated differently from a headache that causes throbbing in the temples.
How Are Remedies Taken?
Remedies are available in tablet, liquid, or power form. They are typically taken twice daily (or a maximum of 3 times during a 24 hour period). When improvement is noticed, this is a sign the remedy is working and no further doses need to be taken.
Popular companies such as Boiron (a French manufacturer whose remedies are highly regarded in France, and available in every pharmacy there) provide tiny pills in a convenient dispenser (see image).
It is important that the remedy:
- Be directly dispensed from the container into the mouth (with no direct handling). These remedies become less medicinally active as a result of over-handling.
- Always be taken alone, at least 15 minutes before or after any food or water.
If you are taking a remedy to reduce symptoms and swelling for an upcoming medical procedure/surgery, begin taking the remedy 1-2 day before the procedure.
During follow-up visits, the Homeopath will make any changes to the remedy based on how well the current remedy is working to relieve symptoms. The length of time a remedy is taken varies, but for acute symptoms, it averages 2-5 days, with a longer period of time for chronic health issues.
The remedies should be protected from prolonged exposure to sunlight, which will decrease their shelf life and their effectiveness.
How Does Homeopathy Feel?
The healing effects of Homeopathy are subtle and non-invasive, with a sense of well-being experienced that steadily increases with healing. After beginning a remedy (or remedies), one of the following responses is usually reported. Depending on the response, the Homeopath will make the appropriate adjustments:
- Steady improvement of symptoms: This is the ideal response, an indication that the remedy has been well chosen. A sense of well-being may be experienced, even though symptoms may still initially persist, which is also a positive sign.
- Initial positive reaction followed by a relapse: This often indicates that the dosage needs to be increased.
- Symptom intensification: A brief intensification of symptoms can indicate the remedy potency is too high.
- Minor improvement: This may indicate a remedy that was partially appropriate, in which case the Homeopath may change the remedy, or combine the remedy with other remedies.
- No Improvement: This indicates that the symptoms need to be reanalyzed and a new remedy prescribed.
No Side Effects
Homeopathic remedies are so extremely diluted, they are considered non-toxic and have no known side effects. Regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Homeopathy is often used to compliment conventional medicine as there is very little danger of medicine interactions due to the extreme dilution of the remedies. However, as with all medicines, discuss any alternative therapies that you are considering with your doctor.
Homeopathy is a very gentle therapy that can be used safely on babies, pregnant women, the elderly, and on animals. It is an inexpensive, non-toxic, and non-invasive method of healing.
Regulation of Remedies
Regulations of Homeopathic remedies vary by country. In some countries such as France, Spain, and Argentina, most professionals that prescribe remedies are MD's. In other countries such as India and Pakistan, training is undergone in homeopathic medical schools. Some naturopathic colleges include Homeopathy as part of their curriculum, such as in Germany. In the US, there is a separate certification process available for only MD's and DO's. Naturopathic physicians also have a homeopathic certifying agency. To join the American Institute of Homeopathy, a medical license (e.g. MD, DO, or DDS) is required as well as homeopathic training.
The FDA regulates homeopathic remedies as listed in the Homœopathic Pharmacopœia of the United States (HPUS) as official drugs, and regulates the manufacturing, labeling, and dispensing of homeopathic remedies under the provisions of the food, drug, and cosmetic act. Remedies are sold over-the-counter, unless a remedy claims to treat a serious disease such as cancer, in which case it can be sold by prescription only. The HPUS is a non-governmental, non-profit organization composed of pharmacists, physicians, and experts in the field of the arts, biology, botany, chemistry, and pharmaceuticals, and Homeopaths who have had the appropriate training and experience and have demonstrated additional knowledge and interest in the principles of Homeopathy.
Currently, there are about 1,350 drugs in the HPUS, 440 or so that are available by prescription only. For a drug to be included in the HPUS, it needs to have sufficient clinical data. The process for review is very formal, as are the criteria for acceptance. The initials "HPUS" on the label of a remedy assures that legal standards of strength, quality, purity, and packaging exist. The standards that must be met in order to use the HPUS label on a substance or a product are established by the HPUS.
Natural Healing therapies
- Oriental Medicine (Acupuncture, Chinese Herbalism, Tui Na, QiGong)
- Bach Flower Remedies