By definition homeopathy is “the treatment of disease by minute doses of natural substances that in a healthy person would produce symptoms of disease.” In other words, it’s an alternative medicinal practice that uses the smallest possible amount of an active ingredient in order to help treat or cure a disease, even if this same ingredient can contribute to an illness in the first place. Another way to put this concept: “like cures like”!
As of 2012, surveys showed that an estimated 5 million American adults and 1 million children used homeopathy in the previous year alone. Homeopathy dates back to the late 1700s, and today the World Health Organization recognizes it as “the second largest therapeutic system in use in the world.”
Hundreds of different homeopathic remedies are now in existence. Homeopathic medicine comes from a range of natural substances, which can either be plant, mineral or animal-based. Examples of substances that a homeopathic doctor might use to treat a patient include: fresh or dried herbs, activated charcoal, vinegar, garlic, caffeine, mountain herbs, crushed bees, white arsenic, poison ivy and stinging nettle plants. These substances are extracted or processed in another way to create tablets, skin ointments, gels, drops or creams.
What are some commonly-known homeopathic remedies you might recognize? St. John’s Wort, chamomile, calcium carbonate, potassium and silica, for example.
Homeopathic medicine is considered to be a safe practice and remedies have been regulated by the FDA since the late 1980s. While there’s been much debate in the medical community over the years regarding whether or not homeopathic medicines work, many patients are able to find relief from illnesses like food or seasonal allergies, insomnia, fatigue and so on using very small doses of natural, safe homeopathic solutions.
How Homeopathy Works
Wondering why it would be beneficial to use homeopathic substances to help treat an illness or health problem if the same substance seems to also contribute to illness? The idea is that this practice helps stimulate the immune system and the body’s natural ability to heal. As the School Of Homeopathy states, “that which a substance is capable of causing, it is also capable of curing.”
One of the most important principles of homeopathic medicine is that treatments must be “individualized” and tailored to each person’s specific symptoms, history, body and needs. Even if two people are battling the same illness, they can receive completely different commendations from their homeopathic doctors based on their unique situation and how their body would be expected to respond.
What makes homeopathy very different from conventional medicine is that a patient’s emotions and personality are highly important. It’s common for a homeopathic doctor to talk in depth with a patient about their stress levels, relationships, personal characteristics, family and so on.
Patients respond differently to a range of doses of homeopathic medicines, some needing much higher doses than others based on their current situation. Homeopathic remedies — whether adaptogen herbs, minerals, medicinal mushrooms or animal products, for example — are diluted to a certain potency depending on the patient’s needs, and the goal is to always use the minimum dose possible that will still offer benefits.
In addition to interviewing the patient, lab tests are also commonly carried out to help the homeopathic doctor learn about the patient’s condition. However, lab tests are not the end-all-be-all: they are always viewed in light of the patient’s symptoms and self-reported. Compared to simply taking blood, urine, hormone or other tests and then prescribing standard medications, the homeopathic doctor’s goal is to learn about the patient’s entire experience and expectations in order to help “holistically” in the most effective way possible.
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