What is Homeopathy?
Homeopathy is a way of treating illnesses of the body through ‘natural remedies’ made from plant, animal, and mineral substances. Created during the late 1700’s in Germany, homeopathic remedies were originally tested by having healthy volunteers take small amounts of known substances to report their reactions. Scientists theorized that matching the reaction of the substance with the symptoms the ill were suffering from would tell the doctors which mixture to use to treat the illness (1).
This follows the thinking that the human body can heal itself, and that “like cures like”, one of the two unofficial pillars of homeopathy. In short, using a substance that causes symptoms in a healthy person can potentially treat those same symptoms in an ill person.
The second pillar of homeopathy is the “law of minimum dose”, meaning that homeopaths believe in utilizing the smallest dose possible to achieve the most effective results (2). This is why the active ingredient in homeopathic remedies is often so diluted in the final formulas. The dilution of homeopathics is measured in two main ways, through a decimal scale notated by ‘X’ or ‘D’ or through the ‘centesimal scale’ notated by ‘C’. The decimal scale (‘X’ or ‘D’) uses a factor of 10 to measure dilution while the centesimal scale uses a dilution factor of 100, so a solution of 2X is less diluted than a solution of 2C. The more dilution the substance experiences equals less original molecule actually present in the mixture, allowing the smallest dose possible to be administered.
Homeopathy is widely regarded as ‘alternative’ medicine, however homeopathy can also be thought of as a complimentary type of medicine to conventional treatments provided by physicians. Traditional treatments from doctors do not always treat the root of the problem, only the symptoms. Homeopathy attempts to treat the issue as a whole and can be used to treat a wide variety of afflictions ranging from long-term illnesses like IBS and arthritis, to short-term illnesses like cuts or sprains.
More serious afflictions should always be seen by a doctor. Additionally, a consultation with a physician should always take place before starting a new remedy or supplement. Homeopathic medicines are not evaluated by the FDA, meaning ingredient quality is not monitored and you should only purchase homeopathics from credible and trusted sources.
(1) Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. “Homeopathic Products.” U.S. Food and Drug Administration, FDA, www.fda.gov/drugs/information-drug-class/homeopathic-products.