In the past I spent a good portion of my time meeting mainly physicians and we discuss homeopathy, education options, integration of it in their practice and availability of it their patients. Since I started I have noticed that the interest doctors have in homeopathy has grown as much as their expectation. The way they look at it has also changed a lot and I think it also comes from their patients who themselves want to know more and have more options. There was, and there still are, a lot of misconceptions, misunderstandings and myths about this therapeutic method and I would like to make it easier to understand. I will probably go into more details in the future and there some good resources that I will mention if you want to learn more. The history of homeopathy is also quite fascinating and I will dedicate a whole post to it later.
To summarize I would say that homeopathy does not have the same fragmented approach to patients, illness and treatment as what we are usually get used to. For example if you go to your physician because you have acid reflux, once serious conditions have been eliminated, chances are that you will get a prescription for an antacid medication. Homeopathy does not work that way. It considers your complaint in a larger picture, as a sign of an imbalance and its goal is to put you back into your normal and balanced state as much as possible. It is actually very interesting if you start thinking about it. If you have been sick, you know or you have the intuition that there is a connection between everything that happens to your body, and your mind and the world around you. Don’t you agree? And that is why homeopathy treats the patient as a whole and looks for a tailored treatment for that specific patient. Today, we, the patients are savvier about our health and what is available to us. We demand more personalized care. The same way we want to know what we are eating (and trust me it is not always easy to find out), we no longer accept to be only a passive patient and to take the medicine without knowing the consequences. So we want to have our health back as fully as possible and for that we need the best from conventional and alternative medicines. More and more patients are ready to explore the possibilities of more natural approaches to healing. These possibilities include diet, exercise, herbs, vitamins, supplements and homeopathy with its holistic, humane and natural approach. As a matter of facts, the number of people interested in homeopathy and using it is increasing every year:
- It is used by millions of patients in about 70 countries and recommended by more than 400,000 healthcare providers.
- It is used by thousands of healthcare professionals including family physicians, pediatricians, plastic surgeons, dentists, nurses, naturopathic doctors, pharmacists, chiropractor and veterinarians.
- It was developed in Germany more than 200 years ago as a direct reaction against the harmful medical practices of the time, and it is the original “alternative medicine.” Since then homeopathy has been a popular type of medicine in Europe. For example, 60 percent of the population in France uses homeopathy.
The increased popularity of homeopathy is due to its characteristics: It is one of the safest forms of medicine. Not only do homeopathic medicines not interact with other treatments (including vitamins and supplements), nor do they have side effects such as drowsiness or nausea. They do not change the results of your lab tests and do not mask symptoms. Therefore they will not interfere with future diagnosis, which is very important as you do not want to delay a treatment for a more serious condition. For example, when a child has a wet cough, possibly infected, the last thing you want to do is blocking the expectoration by using the wrong medicine like a cough suppressant. That will not happen with homeopathic medicines. They are very well accepted by everybody, particularly by children and even animals.
So, what is it? The word “homeopathy” comes from the Greek words homeo meaning “similar” and pathos meaning “suffering.” It was first used by Dr. Samuel Hahnemann in the early 1800s. It is a therapeutic system that uses natural substances in micro-doses to relieve symptoms. The active ingredients in homeopathic medicines are diluted plants, animals and minerals. When diluted, these substances relieve the same symptoms they cause at full strength. This is what we called the principle of similarity. As an example, if you are experiencing difficulty falling asleep because you have a lot on your mind—either from exciting good news or worrisome concerns—taking Coffea cruda will help you a lot. Coffea cruda is the homeopathic medicine made from a dilution of the coffee bean and it treats the symptoms that drinking coffee generally causes, such as preventing you from falling asleep or getting you to wake up during the night with your mind being very active.
One of the misconceptions I was mentioning earlier is that homeopathy and herbs are the same. Although many homeopathic medicines come from plants, they differ a lot from herbs because they are using highly diluted fresh plants and prepared according to very specific rules. Consequently, homeopathic medicines are regulated as drugs, as opposed to herbs, minerals, vitamins, amino acids, and enzymes, which are all regulated as food supplements.
Another misconception is that a consultation with a homeopath must take hours and that homeopathic medicines take very long to act. The reality is that in acute conditions, these medicines work fast. In chronic conditions, of course it will take longer, but if well prescribed, you should see an improvement pretty early. So again, my advice is to keep some key homeopathic medicines handy so you use them right away, with no delay.
What about regulations?
Like any other medicine, homeopathic medicines are regulated by the FDA (since 1938). It means that the consumer is protected. You can read more about “Conditions under which Homeopathic Drugs May be Marketed (CPG7132.15) on the U.S. FDA’s website (www.fda.gov/ora/compliance_ref/cpg/cpgdrg/cpg400-400.html).
Here I can only speak for what I know best, meaning the Boiron medicines and I can tell that those medicines are high quality. They are for the most part, Boiron’s medicines are made in France. A few are made in the U.S. but all, no matter where they are manufactured are made according to the highest standards of the U.S. drug Good Manufacturing Practices and conform to the Homeopathic Pharmaceopoeia of the United States. They are tested and clearly labeled for specific indications. Everything is traceable. If you would give me one lot number, I could find out which pipette was used and where the plant came from and who controlled it. From the source to the finished product, I could tell you everything. Most homeopathic medicines are over-the-counter; some are prescription only (i.e. low dilution, Rx indications). As with any over-the-counter medicine, it is advisable to check with a doctor or a pharmacist before self-medicating especially if pregnant or nursing. There are other good brands out there but I have to admit I do know enough about them.
Homeopathic medicines can be used to relieve symptoms of a wide range of acute health conditions such as allergies, coughs, colds, flu, stress, arthritis pain, muscle pain, teething, etc. They can also be used by trained physicians to treat more serious conditions and many chronic diseases. In future posts, when I start describing some treatments, you will notice a distinction I make between SINGLE medicines and COMBINATION medicines. Combination medicines were created to make things simpler for the consumer. It means several single medicines are combined to target a set of symptoms for a specific condition (allergy, cold, menstrual cramps, etc.). The other option is to determine the exact single medicine that you need according to your symptoms and how they manifest themselves in your case. This often requires the visit to a specialist but there are some common single medicines that you can use easily as well, such as Arnica montana and Nux vomica, when you choose to self-medicating and I will often mention them.