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Homeopathy - A Primer

By Christopher Johnson ND, Thrive Naturopathic

What is it?
  • Homeopathy is a system of medicine in which minute doses of specially-prepared natural substances are used to stimulate the innate healing capacity of the body. Its central premise is the idea that “like cures like” – meaning that a substance that produces symptoms in a healthy person will cure those same symptoms in a sick person.
  • Homeopathy is the second most commonly used form of medicine in the world, behind indigenous herbal medicine (conventional Western or “allopathic” medicine is fourth). Hundreds of millions of people in more than 80 countries use homeopathy, and it is part of the national health system in the UK, Germany, France, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Brazil, and Mexico.
When did it start?
  • Homeopathy was created in the early 19th century by German physician Samuel Hahnemann, MD and quickly spread around the world. It has been developed and refined by medical professionals (primarily medical doctors) ever since. Currently homeopathy is the second most widely-used form of medicine world-wide.
  • The United States was the center of homeopathic medical development for the 19th century. By the turn of the 20th century in the US there were 22 homeopathic medical schools, 100 homeopathic hospitals, more than 1,000 homeopathic pharmacies, and 15,000 homeopathic practitioners (1 in 5 medical doctors). However, due to a coordinated political campaign by orthodox medical doctors, homeopathy was expunged from mainstream medical education and relegated to the fringe of the medical community by the 1930s.
What conditions respond to homeopathy?
  • Homeopathy is a complete system of medicine, and as such is helpful with the entire spectrum of human illness. This includes both physical and emotional disease. Examples include: anxiety, depression, back pain, fatigue, insomnia, allergies, arthritis, skin conditions, menopausal/hormonal conditions, auto-immune disease, ADHD, neurologic conditions, and many more.
How Effective is Homeopathy?
Homeopathy’s effectiveness is supported by a large body of research in the medical literature. There are hundreds of well-designed trials published in peer-reviewed journals that demonstrate its effectiveness. A few include:
  • A 2009 randomized, double-blind study conducted at a state medical school in Brazil found homeopathy to be comparable to Prozac (Fluoxetine) in treating moderate to severe depression.
  • A 2001 prospective trial in a Swiss pediatric practice found homeopathic treatment of ADHD to be comparable (actually, slightly more effective) than Ritalin (Methylphenidate).
  • A double-blind, placebo-controlled study conducted at Harvard University School of Medicine, published in 1999 found homeopathy to be effective in treating MTBI (Mild Traumatic Brain Injury) (the signature injury of the current Iraq war).
  • A 2007 German prospective study published in the journal Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine found a specific homeopathic product to be comparable (again, actually slightly more effective) when compared to Ativan (Lorazepam) for treatment of various nervous conditions (insomnia, distress, anxieties, restless, burnout, etc).
What is involved in homeopathic treatment?
  • A homeopathic practitioner “takes the case” of a patient. This involves an extensive interview and sometimes physical examination of the patient. The various aspects of the patient and the pathology itself are taken into account in choosing a remedy that is individualized to each patient.
  • The patient takes the remedy in the form of small pellets, which are dissolved under the tongue.
  • The patient sees the practitioner for follow up appointments at appropriate intervals for management of the case. With chronic conditions this is usually once every month. In acute cases it may be daily or even more frequently.
Are there risks in using homeopathy?
  • Homeopathy is likely the safest medicine there is. In it’s more than 200 year history, used by hundreds of millions of people worldwide, there have been almost no reports of serious adverse effects and absolutely no deaths attributed to homeopathy.
  • Unlike herbs and nutrients, homeopathy has no interactions with conventional drugs or surgical procedures and can be safely administered in almost any situation. If the incorrect remedy is given, nothing will happen. The body only responds when the correct remedy is given.
What sort of training do homeopaths have?
  • In many countries (e.g. France, Brazil, Argentina, etc) homeopathy is a regulated medical specialty (like cardiology or oncology), practiced only by MDs. In the United States homeopathy can be practiced by most medical professionals, though training varies greatly. Only in naturopathic medical schools do students formally learn homeopathy both in the academic and clinical settings (seeing patients under doctor supervision). All other medical professionals learn homeopathy outside of their official academic and clinical training.
To find a naturopathic doctor in your area who is trained in homeopathy, visit our Find a Doctor page.