Homeopathic medicine or homeopathy is a form of complementary and alternative medicine that uses very small amounts of natural substances that, in large amounts, can cause a disease or symptom. This branch of medicine originated in the 19th century and was used frequently at that time. Interestingly, the first studies of homeopathic remedies were carried out in healthy volunteers, similar to many clinical trials that are carried out today. Although the use of homeopathy has decreased with the advent of new traditional therapies, there are more than 2,000 substances that have been used as homeopathic remedies.
What is homeopathic medicine and how does it work? Here's what the research suggests about its effectiveness, how it compares to conventional medical options, and the potential side effects and risks of these treatments.
Theory of homeopathic medicine
The theory behind homeopathic medicine is that " similar cures similar " and that a substance that causes disease in a healthy person can cure those symptoms in someone who is sick. Homeopathic practitioners believe that a small amount of a substance that causes illness will stimulate the body to heal itself. While this may seem far-fetched, the theory is somewhat similar to the basics of vaccination in modern medicine: When immunized, exposure to a small amount of a killed or inactivated microbe can result in protection against disease progression. .
Homeopathic medicine is based on the theory of "the similar cures the similar". An example of homeopathy is the use of a very dilute coffee solution to treat insomnia.
Another theory underlying homeopathy is the potentiation theory. Homeopathic practitioners believe that the more diluted an ingredient is, the stronger it becomes. The idea is that diluting and mixing an ingredient will activate the medicinal properties of the ingredient, thus enhancing its effect. The effectiveness of homeopathic solutions is indicated by an X or C.
- X: For each dilution, one part of the ingredient is mixed with two parts of water. For example, a 1X potency would be a solution consisting of 1 part of an ingredient and 9 parts of water.
- C: Efficacy can also be described by C. Solution 1C refers to a solution consisting of one part of an ingredient and 99 parts of water.
Looking at potentiation scientifically, many homeopathic remedies may contain very few or no ingredient molecules (for example, in a 30 ° C solution). Skeptics have described this as the equivalent of dissolving an Advil tablet in the ocean and then drinking a few drops. In response, some supporters of homeopathy claim that it is not the amount of the ingredient that matters, but its energy, which is activated through the dilution process to cause a therapeutic effect in the body. In fact, the more diluted a homeopathic remedy is, the more powerful it is.
Principles of homeopathy
The practice of homeopathic medicine is based on three fundamental principles.
- Law of Similarity: The Law of Similarity refers to the "similar cure as" theory mentioned above.
- Single cure principle: this principle states that a single cure must cover all the physical, emotional and mental symptoms of a disease.
- The minimum dose principle: first, a small amount of a substance is used in several doses, and then an infinitesimal amount is used over time.
Homeopathy was developed by the German physician Samuel Hahnemann in 1807. He treated himself with a small amount of tree bark (cinchona bark) containing quinine, which is used to treat malaria. When he developed the symptoms of malaria, he came up with the law "as cures as"; believe that medicines that cause certain symptoms can be used to treat diseases that cause those symptoms.
Who Prescribes Homeopathic Remedies and Where Are They Available?
Some homeopathic medicines are available in health food stores, while others are only available through qualified homeopaths or practitioners of whole medicine, such as naturopathic health professionals .
Scientific research on homeopathic remedies
Results on the effectiveness of homeopathic remedies have been conflicting, mainly due to the lack of widely accepted practice guidelines. This makes the "dose" or amount of a homeopathic medicine present in any remedy variable.
A 2016 research literature review evaluated the study design and research results using homeopathic remedies to date. It was concluded that individualized homeopathy may have small specific therapeutic effects. Additional "evidence-based" research is likely to provide more details on the safety and efficacy of homeopathic remedies in the future. In contrast, a meta-analysis from 2017 showed that there is not a single clinical condition for which there is strong evidence for the efficacy of homeopathy .
A large review of articles published in the 2018 Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews looked at one of the most common claims about homeopathic medicines: they can play a role in preventing or treating acute respiratory infections in children. Based on this review, there was no evidence of the effectiveness of these treatments. Due to the quality of the reports of possible side effects of homeopathic treatments in the reviewed studies, the researchers were unable to draw any conclusions about the safety of these treatments .
Homeopathic medicine and cancer
As with other diseases, the role of homeopathic remedies for people with cancer is largely unknown. Animal studies have shown that homeopathic remedies, when used in conjunction with traditional therapies, can have a cancer suppressing effect, as well as reduce symptoms and improve quality of life. However , we do not know at this time if these animal studies can be applied to humans and more research is needed to address this problem.
Frequency of use of homeopathic remedies among cancer patients
Whether effective or not, homeopathy is widely used among people with cancer. A 2019 study looked at the use of complementary and alternative medicine among cancer patients at the same institution. Of the various forms used (including osteopathy, homeopathy, acupuncture, healing touch, magnetism, Chinese medicine, etc.), homeopathy was the second most used technique by 39% of respondents.
For most people, these treatments were used primarily to prevent or treat the side effects of conventional cancer treatments. However, a small number of people have used homeopathic remedies to boost their immune systems or directly treat cancer .
Possible benefits of homeopathy
A 2018 study examined the potential for homeopathy to help manage symptoms in a comprehensive cancer treatment program. Of the 124 patients, 75 percent found the benefits of homeopathic remedies. Women with breast cancer and people dealing with chemotherapy-related peripheral neuropathy or hot flashes reported benefits more often .
Side Effects and Safety of Homeopathic Medicines
Homeopathic remedies generally have a reasonable safety profile as only a small amount of the active ingredient is used in a large dilution. People who are pregnant or undergoing treatment for a serious medical condition should speak with their healthcare provider before using these products or any other form of alternative healthcare.
The dangers of homeopathic medicine
It is extremely important to note that homeopathic remedies do not replace the need for traditional medicine for most diseases. For example, when it comes to cancer treatments, there is no evidence that these substances have any effect.
When homeopathic remedies are used in place of traditional therapies that have been shown to be effective in well-designed clinical trials, these remedies can increase, rather than reduce, pain and suffering.
While many of these treatments are unlikely to be harmful when combined with traditional therapies, it is important to discuss any homeopathic or nutritional supplements you wish to use with your doctor. We know that certain vitamin and mineral supplements can interfere with cancer treatments , such as chemotherapy or radiation therapy.
Contrast with traditional medicine
Homeopathic medicine is different from allopathic medicine (also known as traditional medicine), which uses agents (drugs, chemotherapy, surgery, etc.) that produce a different effect than the disease.
A relatively new approach to medicine is to use a combination of conventional therapies to treat disease and alternative therapies to help control symptoms. This is now called integrative medicine.
What traditional medicine can learn from homeopathy
Although homeopathic remedies are not definitely recognized as beneficial for any disease, doctors offer a service that is currently lacking in traditional medical care: time and attention.
A visit to a homeopathic doctor can last an hour or more, compared to the short visits that many allopathic doctors offer. The possibility of someone listening sympathetically to concerns should not be underestimated.
While any improvement in symptoms is often overlooked as simply a placebo effect, we learn that the placebo effect can sometimes have a physiological basis with chemical changes such as the release of endorphins (the body's natural pain relievers) and even brain scans. showing objective changes. Homeopathy providers can also spend more time talking about healthy lifestyle practices.