By Dr Ananya Mandal, MD
Homeopathic remedies are formulations that have been developed based on the principles of homeopathy, a form of alternative medicine.
Before deciding on which remedy is most suitable to treat a patient, a homeopath assesses factors such as the patient’s general wellbeing, lifestyle, diet and emotional state as well as asking about any specific health issues. Homeopaths also refer to books called “repertories” in order to select a remedy. The homeopath then decides on a treatment course, which is usually given in the form of pills or a tincture. The patient is then asked to attend follow-up appointments to assess their progress.
Homeopathy practitioners believe that a substance that triggers a certain illness can also be used to treat that illness. A second principle is based on the idea that shaking and diluting the treatment increases its potency. This effect is referred to as “potentization.”
The treatments are prepared through repeated dilution with alcohol or water, followed by striking against an elastic body to shake the formulation. Substances are often diluted many times until almost none of the original substance remains. Each dilution is called a “succession.”
Some homeopathic remedies contain substances such as arsenic or poison ivy and serious adverse effects such as seizure or even death have been associated with the use of some treatments.
Concerns also exist over homeopaths criticizing and underestimating the value of mainstream medicine by claiming it drives disease deeper into the body – a process they refer to as “suppression.” Some homeopaths also advise against conventional vaccinations and argue that homeopathic substances called “nosodes” such as pus or bacteria from feces or sputum should be used instead. Many modern homeopaths still use these nosodes, despite a lack of evidence to support any health benefits.
Cases of homeopaths advising against the use of antimalarial medication have also been reported, advice which would be extremely dangerous for any visitor to the tropics to follow.
Reviewed by Sally Robertson, BSc
Last Updated: Sep 10, 2014