Mahatma Gandhi once said, “[Homeopathy] cures a larger percentage of cases than any other method of treatment and is beyond doubt safer and more economical and [is the] most complete medical science.”, and the statement couldn’t have been said better. Homeopathic medicine, or homeopathy, is used by over 5 million American adults and approximately 1 million American children in a given year (NCCIH), and the World Health Organization, or WHO, recognizes this form of treatment as “the second largest therapeutic system in use in the world.”
Now, you may be wondering: what the heck is homeopathy? It’s, quite simply, surrounded by the idea that our body has its own healing mechanisms and nature is able to outshine lab-created medication. Before we go on, however, it’s crucial to disclaim that homeopathy only works for healing minor health concerns, such as headaches and mild allergies, NOT critical health issues, such as cancer or heart disease. If you have a life-threatening/terminal illness, PLEASE stick to conventional medication. It’s also worth noting that bringing this topic up with a medical professional before you just go for it is recommended. While most homeopathic medicines are safe, the FDA, in the past, has warned against certain teething tablets and gels because they were threatening to children and toddlers. Hence, it’s better to be safe than sorry, so make sure to always consult with a licensed professional before making any health-related decisions. With those disclaimers aside, let’s get into how this form of treatment actually works.
Homeopathic medicines work by communicating a pattern/current of energy to the whole body in order to “jump-start” the body’s own healing mechanisms. According to NCCIH, most homeopathic products come from plants (such as red onion), minerals (such as white arsenic), or even animals (such as crushed whole bees). To put everything into perspective, let’s look at an imaginary scenario. Say, for example, that you are getting troubled by the pollen in the air. Instead of taking allergy medication and facing potential side effects, you can get a homeopathic form of butterbur (Petasites Hybridus), which is a plant found near bogs, streams, or marshy rivers in Asia, Europe, and certain parts of North America. In many studies, butterbur has been deemed comparable to antihistamines that disperse allergic reactions. If you had decided to go down the conventional route instead, you would need to take Zyrtec, the most common allergy-relief medication, and potential side effects would be sore throat, dizziness, nausea, fatigue - you get the gist.
The concept behind homeopathy may be simple, but it took many years and trials to reach a point where one could call it a safe alternative to conventional medication. Homeopathy is literally translated to “similar (homois) suffering (pathos)” in Latin. Although it was developed in the 1700s by German Doctor Samuel Hahnemann, it wasn’t until the 19th century, or 1800s, that it gained vast popularity and exposure. Hahnemann had discovered the concept after consuming cinchona bark extract, which was commonly used to treat malaria by producing the same symptoms as the said disease. At first, this holistic method of healing was loved by many. However, as greater developments started happening in medicine, homeopathy started facing skepticism. This resulted in a split among “homeopaths”: the Purist and the Liberal. The former was defined as someone who viewed homeopathy as the only true form of medicine. While Purists still exist today, they are thankfully in the minority because, as mentioned before, this form of treatment isn’t a very good idea when it comes to life-threatening illnesses. The latter -- the Liberal -- was characterized by finding a middle ground between the extreme of only using holistic means and the extreme of only using conventional means. Although Hahnemann viewed such homeopaths as “half-homeopaths” who had ‘betrayed’ his gospel, this is the most common ideology in the current age. Most people today prefer a natural healing method, but understand that formal medication is sometimes essential as well and cannot be completely disdained.
It’s also worth noting that most people who practice homeopathy today are consumers who have little to no training in the subject, yet buy homeopathic remedies over the counter and self-administer them without consulting a trained homeopath or licensed medical professional to get recommended the remedy for a certain health diagnosis. This puts the consumer at risk. Therefore, it's crucial to seek counsel from a professional in the matter before just getting a remedy. This may seem absurd and you may be like, “Why does it matter if everything is natural anyway?”
As mentioned earlier, the FDA, or Food and Drug Administration, has, in the past, released a statement concerning the safety of homeopathy treatment. It’s essential to know beforehand that, just because it may be natural, there can be side effects. Most homeopathic remedies contain large amounts of active ingredients, such as heavy metals, which can, needless to say, be dangerous. If you prescribe treatment that doesn’t match your symptoms/diagnosis, you are putting yourself at greater risk. Make sure that you get an MD, or a Doctor of Medicine, to diagnose you. This may seem obvious, but it’s so important to stress. Also, ALWAYS get a second opinion, especially if it’s a life-altering diagnosis. There are three main positions that are able to provide homeopathy: naturopathic doctors, homeopaths, and family doctors/primary care physicians.
All in all, homeopathic medicine is great for treating acute, non-life-threatening medical conditions. Besides being an overall preferred alternative to traditional medication, homeopathy promises less severe side effects, is cost-effective, isn’t tested on animals, and is non-addictive. However, this type of treatment is not to be used for life-threatening conditions, such as cancer and severe allergies.