What Is Homeopathy?
Homeopathy is a therapeutic method that uses medicines made from micro-doses of natural substances. Homeopathic medicines are used to relieve symptoms associated with a wide range of acute health conditions such as allergies, coughs, colds, flu, stress, arthritis pain, muscle pain, teething and much more. With the help of a trained health professional, you may also use these medicines to relieve symptoms of more serious conditions and many chronic diseases.
The word “homeopathy” is Greek and means “similar suffering.” Its principle is: Any active substance that is capable of causing a set of symptoms in a healthy person when administered in high doses can eliminate similar symptoms in a sick person if it is used in a very low dosage.
Here are some examples:
You are stung by a bee and experience a sudden, sharp, burning pain. The area rapidly becomes swollen, pink and itchy. The pain is relieved by a cold compress. These symptoms are relieved by a homeopathic preparation of the honeybee (Apis mellifica), which contains very low doses of the same active substances that caused the pain and swelling.
You suffer from hay fever with spasmodic sneezing, profuse watery nasal discharge, and intense itching in the eyes and nose. The symptoms are relieved by fresh air. A homeopathic medicine made from the onion (Allium cepa) will relieve these symptoms that are similar to those caused by chopping onions.
How are homeopathic medicines made?
Homeopathic medicines are made from plants, minerals or animals. After undergoing identification and quality control procedures, these substances, or strains, are diluted using processes specific to homeopathy. They are repeatedly and systematically diluted. Several scales are used to indicate the dilution levels; these are the two most common scales:
- The C scale means that each dilution is 100 times more diluted than the previous one: 1C is 100 times more diluted than the strain, 2C is 100 times more diluted than 1C, 3C is 100 times more diluted than 2C, etc. A vigorous agitation (succussion) occurs after each dilution. In the U.S., the most common dilutions are 6C, 9C, 12C and 30C.
- The X scale means that each dilution is 10 times more diluted than the previous one.
After the medicated solution is prepared, it is infused into pellets, tablets, syrups, gels, ointments, eye drops, suppositories or other forms.
How do I read the label?
As a drug, a homeopathic medicine is required to list its active ingredient on its label. You’ll see on the label the name of the plant, animal or mineral source of the medicine. This name is listed in Latin, such as Apis mellifica for the honey bee or Allium cepa for the red onion. The strain name is followed by its dilution level, like Apis mellifica 30C or Allium cepa 6C.
How do homeopathic medicines work?
The exact mechanism of action of homeopathic medicines is still being researched. To date, the theory is that homeopathic medicines stimulate the body to rebalance itself. This is why they work best when taken at the onset of symptoms.
What is the difference between homeopathic medicines and other drugs, herbs or supplements?
First, you should know that homeopathic medicines are regulated as drugs by the FDA under the 1938 Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act. This distinguishes them from vitamins, minerals, herbs, amino acids or enzymes, which are regulated as food. This means that you can easily find information on the packaging. Like with all drugs, homeopathic medicines are required to be labeled with clear directions and indications, active ingredients, recommended dosages, etc.
Additionally, there are two primary distinctions for homeopathic medicines:
1) Micro-dose levels—The active ingredient of a homeopathic medicine is the DILUTION of the plant, animal or mineral from which it is made; therefore, it is considered non-toxic. Supplements, herbs, vitamins, most common drugs and other such items have much higher doses.
2) Principle of how they work—The active ingredients in homeopathic medicines (the diluted plants, animals and minerals) relieve the same symptoms they cause at full strength (i.e., a micro-dose of coffee beans helps nervousness). Supplements, herbs, vitamins, most common drugs and other such items work using a different principle. Additionally, homeopathic medicines are different from vaccines; one cannot vaccinate with a homeopathic medicine.
No interaction has been observed between homeopathic medicines on one side, and conventional medicines, herbs or supplements on the other. This might indicate they their respective modes of action are very different. Because it is difficult to trace the action of micro-dosed homeopathic medicines, more research is needed to fully understand their detailed mode of action.
Are homeopathic medicines safe?
Homeopathic medicines have been used for more than 200 years and have established a remarkable safety record over that time. They offer some of the safest choices for self-treatment. To ensure the highest level of safety, carefully read all instructions and warnings on the labels and keep all drugs, including homeopathic medicines, out of the reach of children.
In high dilutions, above 4C or 8X dilutions, the risk of side effects is very small.
Should I take a homeopathic medicine with meals?
Most homeopathic medicines are melt-away pellets or tablets that are meant to be absorbed into your bloodstream by dissolving quickly under your tongue. To maximize absorption, you should take your homeopathic medicine when you mouth doesn’t contain food or flavors. They can be taken just before or after meals.
How frequently should I take a homeopathic medicine?
How frequently you take a homeopathic medicine depends partly on the degree of dilution and partly on the acuteness of the symptoms.
- Low dilutions (6C) have an action that is limited in time. Use these dilutions for local symptoms, such as those that you could point to with a finger. Typically, you would take them frequently (from every 15 minutes to every 2 hours). Local symptoms are the first to appear during the onset of a disease, and at this stage, homeopathic medicines must be given frequently according to the acuteness of the symptoms.
- Medium dilutions (9C, 12C) are for symptoms affecting the whole body: a fever, a rash, general fatigue, etc. These symptoms appear after the onset, during the established phase of the illness, along with the existing local symptoms. The frequency depends on the acuteness of the symptoms.
- High dilutions (15C, 30C) are for the highest degree of similarity between the symptoms caused by the strain and the symptoms you have. Use them for an ensemble of local, general and mental, or even behavioral, symptoms. The frequency depends on the acuteness of the symptoms.
When you see improvement, take the medicine less often. For example, cut the frequency from 5 pellets every hour to 5 pellets three times a day. Stop taking the medicine when symptoms disappear.
Do I have to give up certain things if I choose to use homeopathic medicines?
Contrary to popular opinion, mint and coffee do not diminish the effectiveness of homeopathic medicines. Although homeopathic medicines and other commonly used medications work in different ways, they are compatible and can often complement each other.