Whether you are a regular user of homeopathic remedies or new to the concept of those tiny vials in the supplement section with names such as “Arnica” or “Nux vomica,” you may find that homeopathic medicine to be difficult to describe but effective in its results.
According to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM), homeopathy was started in Germany on the basis of “like cures like.” The concept is that a lower dose of a medicine or remedy -- plant, mineral, animal -- stimulates the body to heal itself.
The remedy is often diluted down such that no actual molecules of the medicine exist, then placed over pellets, in creams, taken as tablets or liquid drops.
Do not be fooled however, this medicine can be powerful.
In 2007 alone, nearly 4 million adults and 1 million children used homeopathic remedies for various ailments such as aches and pains, skin conditions, headaches, fevers, infections, stomach issues, insomnia and teething problems.
There are many name-brand, over-the-counter homeopathic remedies sold.
Some of these remedies are Hyland's Calms Forté for sleep and anxiety as well as their Teething Tablets, Arnica gel and tablets by Boiron, Heel's Traumeel cream for injuries and traumas, and Boiron's Arnica gel and tablets as well as their Oscillococcinum for flu. Remedies such as these are used in an acute situation such as a bruise, flu, a sleepless night.
Traditionally, homeopathy takes into account the entire history of a patient, their personality, their dreams, their preference for time-of-day, whether they are left- or right-sided, their preference for hot or cold, and more.
This information is then matched with a single remedy known as a “constitutional” and dosed appropriately in order to help encourage the body to heal itself. The idea behind the treatment is to help heal the person who has the disease/illness, not address the disease/illness itself.
There are mixed reviews in the literature when it comes to the effectiveness of homeopathy. It is generally considered a safe treatment when a diluted mix is used. However some remedies are not diluted that much and therefore contain active ingredients.
Those who use homeopathy on a regular basis anecdotally report improvement in their symptoms. Many parents appreciate the ones designed for children as they are safe, and work quickly for common ailments such as upset tummies, fevers, teething and poor sleep.
Homeopathy is even used with animals in the veterinary world.
Science has a difficult time assessing homeopathy's effectiveness especially in a remedy that is quite dilute, as in theory there is no molecule left to test against -- so how does it work? And how is it better than placebo?
Articles in Rheumatology, the International Journal of Neuroscience, Pediatrics, and the British Medical Journal have concluded that homeopathy can work well for various conditions.
There are schools, different modes of study and books for those looking to learn a lot more about homeopathy. Or you can have a visit with a naturopathic physician or homeopath for a proper consultation.
Remedies seen at the grocery store are generally considered safe and may be a great start for someone looking to try this form of medicine.
Next time you have an accidental mishap or bruise, try arnica tablets and rub arnica cream onto the area of pain. If you find yourself awake at night worrying, try the remedies for sleep. If you overindulge one night with too much rich food and alcohol, there is even a remedy for that.
Remember that homeopathic medicine is not the same as herbal medicine even though some of the diluted remedies may be taken from herbs. If you have questions and concerns, seek out the care of an expert in the field who can guide you through your quest for better health.
Bell IR, Lewis DA, 2nd, Brooks AJ et al. Improved clinical status in fibromyalgia patients treated with individualized homeopathic remedies versus placebo. Rheumatology 2004b; 43 (5):577-82.
Bell IR, Lewis DA, 2nd, Lewis SE et al. EEG alpha sensitization in individualized homeopathic treatment of fibromyalgia. International Journal of Neuroscience 2004c; 114 (9):1195-220.
Ernst, E. Homeopathy: What does the “best” evidence tell us? Web. 21 July, 2012.
Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20402610
Jacobs J, Jimenez LM, Gloyd SS et al. Treatment of acute childhood diarrhea with homeopathic medicine: a randomized clinical trial in Nicaragua. Pediatrics. 1994; 93 (5):719-25.
Lewith GT, Watkins AD, Hyland ME et al. Use of ultramolecular potencies of allergen to treat asthmatic people allergic to house dust mite: double blind randomised controlled clinical trial. BMJ 2002; 324 (7336):520-3.
National Institute for Health National Center for Complementary and Alternative Health. Homeopathy: An Introduction. Web. Retrieved 21 July, 2013.
Reviewed July 22, 2013
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith