Note : For information on homeopathic treatments for specific conditions, see Homeopathic Treatments by Condition. For information on specific homeopathic remedies, see the Homeopathic Remedies.

What Is Homeopathy?

Homeopathy is an alternative philosophy that believes highly diluted substances have the ability to stimulate the body to heal itself. It is largely based on the following core homeopathic beliefs:
  • A substance that produces a certain set of symptoms in a healthy person has the power to cure a sick person manifesting those same symptoms. In homeopathic medicine this is called Law of Similars, or like cures like.
  • Diluting a remedy makes it more powerful. In homeopathic medicine this is called Law of Infinitesimals.
  • A homeopathic treatment is designed to facilitate a release of the illness. Allopathic treatments (traditional medicine), according to homeopathic beliefs, supresses the symptoms and drives the illness back into the body.
The following is an example of the beliefs: the substance ipecac causes vomiting. According to the first and second laws of homeopathy, significantly diluted ipecac would potentially treat vomiting. The more ipecac was diluted, the more effective it would become.In the US, homeopathic products are available without a prescription from health food stores, some pharmacies, and the internet to treat symptoms that would otherwis fade on their own with time. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not evaluated these products for effectiveness or safety, but it does require that companies follow strict regulation when making the products.16 Although it may start with similar substances as those used in other alternative treatments like herbal medicines, homeopathy's dilution and selection of substances is unique. Traditional homeopathy actually considers herbal medicine to be similar to traditional medicine in worsening illnesses rather than treating them. Over the past few decades, a large number of studies investigating the effectiveness of homeopathy have been published. Despite the occasional favorable result, there is no meaningful evidence that homeopathic remedies are effective for any condition.

The Practice of Homeopathy: Constitutional Homeopathy vs. Disease-Oriented Homeopathy

Constitutional (or classical) homeopathy follow traditional homeopathy philosophy. Constitutional homeopaths choose a product based on the symptom picture or pattern of a person, including psychological, emotional, physical, and hereditary factors. A simplified form of homeopathy called disease-oriented (or symptomatic) homeopathy has also been developed. In this form, the remedies are matched with specific diagnosed diseases.Both types of homeopathy have been studied scientifically, although disease-oriented homeopathy has received more attention for the simple reason that it is easier to study. Neither method has been proven effective.

Homeopathic Dilutions

As mentioned above, homeopathy requires that a chosen mineral, plant, or animal substance be significantly diluted in a solution to create a homeopathic product. The products used in the dilution and the creation process are outlined in Homoeopathic Pharmacopoeia of the United States (HPUS). The FDA requires companies to follow these guidelines to sell products. The HPUS was developed by the carefully recorded observation of symptoms caused by the included natural products.A small amount of the mineral, plant, or animal product is added to a dilution material, such as alcohol. This combination is then added to more dilution material. These steps are repeated until the desired dilution (or potency) of 6c, 12c, or 30c is reached. These products are so dilute that little or none of the original substance is left. According to principles of homeopathy, each dilution makes the product stronger. The process is called potentization. Sometimes homeopathic products are made with substances that are insoluble. In this case, they are ground up, mixed with lactose, and then made into a homeopathic product. Homeopathic products may be delivered within small white lactose pills, in liquids, or creams that are used externally. In addition to standard homeopathic solutions that use unrelated substances that happen to produce a similar symptom, there are two forms of homeopathic solutions that use substances specifically related to the condition:
  • Isopathic products are made from the actual substance that causes the condition. For example, a homeopath may use a remedy prepared from cat dander to treat cat allergy.
  • Nosodes are made from infected animal tissues or bodily secretions. Here, a homeopath may dilute ground up, tuberculosis-infected glands from a cow to create a homeopathic product for human tuberculosis.
Nosode homeopathic products are sometimes compared to vaccinations. Superficially, the theory of homeopathy may sound similar to vaccination where the introduction of an altered virus is used to decrease the risk of an infection by the same virus. However, this comparison is inaccurate and misleading. Unlike homeopathic products, vaccinations contain measurable amounts of substances that produce measurable stimulation of the immune system. The benefits of vaccinations are also backed up by an overwhelming amount of research, unlike nosodes.

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