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Homeopathy – Five Things to Know before You 'Go There'
by: Marjorie Geiser, RD, NSCA-CPT
With natural health care so popular, an area that has shown incredible growth is that of homeopathic medicine. But, although you can find homeopathic remedies on health food store shelves, are you really clear on what a homeopathic specialist is and what these medicines can do? This article will address five things to know before you choose a homeopathic specialist or buy those homeopathic medicines off the shelf.
What are they?
Homeopathic remedies are medicines made by homeopathic pharmacies in accordance with the processes described in the Homeopathic Pharmacopoeia of the United States and are regulated by the FDA. These are not considered supplements. The remedies could be made from plants, minerals, animals or even from chemical drugs, such as penicillin or streptomycin. These substances are then carefully diluted, called potentization, until very little of the original substance remains. Because these are very dilute, small doses of medications, and they are available over the counter, many people feel they are safe. However, for serious health problems, a person should seek the advice of a knowledgeable healthcare professional. If they choose, it could be from one familiar with homeopathic medicine.
Are they effective?
The fact that very little of the original substance remains, the question comes up how can they even be effective. According to homeopaths, this is based on similarities. When a similarity exists, a person is thought to have a hypersensitivity to that substance. Thus, while the remedy contains very little, in the practical sense, of the original material, it still contains the essence of the substance, or its energy. It's thought to work by creating a resonance within the body that catalyzes it to begin a healing process.
How this works and if it's effective is very controversial among traditional medical practitioners. To determine if a particular homeopathic drug is effective, experiments, called drug provings, are conducted. In these experiments, researchers administer continual doses of the substance to a healthy individual until a reaction to the substance is achieved. Once it is known what symptoms a substance causes, then it's known what symptoms and illnesses it will cure. There have been several systematic reviews of placebo-controlled trails on homeopathy that have reported that its effects seem to be more than just placebo. One observational study found that patients were very satisfied with homeopathic treatments and that both they and their physicians noticed significant improvement. There is also evidence from randomized, controlled trials that homeopathy may be effective for treatment of otitis media in children, muscle soreness after running, and attention deficit hyperactivit!
y disorder. Again, though, I would like to emphasize that it would be wise to consult with a specialist before self-medicating, especially when it comes to children.
Who practices homeopathy?
The practice of homeopathy is incorporated into medical care by a broad range of healthcare practitioners. Medical doctors (MD's) and doctors of osteopathy (DO's) may elect to study homeopathy as a post-graduate specialty. Naturopathic doctors (ND's) study homeopathy as part of their naturopathic school training. Naturopathic medicine is a distinct profession of primary healthcare that emphasizes prevention and the promotion of optimal health. The scope of practice includes all aspects of family and primary care, from pediatrics to geriatrics, and all natural medicine modalities, including homeopathic medicine.
Where did it come from?
Samuel Hahnemann, a German physician who earned his doctorate of medicine degree in 1779 is recognized as the founder of homeopathy. Through experiments on himself, and later with his patients, he developed a system of rules and laws of medicine that he codified into a treatise called the "Organon of rational therapeutics", first published in 1810. The sixth edition, published in 1921, is still used today as a basic homeopathy text. It was brought to the US in 1825 by several doctors who had studied in Europe. Although at one time there were 22 homeopathic medical colleges in the US, and one out of five doctors used homeopathy, by the 1940's there were no homeopathic schools in the US.
Do your homework!
Naturopathic physicians are licensed as healthcare providers in 13 states with legal provisions allowing the practice of naturopathic medicine in several other states. To qualify for a license, the applicant must pass the licensing exam and satisfy all licensing requirements, such as have attended a resident course of 4 years and 4,100 hours of study from a college or university recognized by the state examining board. There are special certifications for various healthcare professionals. For MD's and DO's, there is the Diplomat in Homeotherapeutics (DHt). For ND's, the certification is the DHANP (Diplomat of the Homeopathic Academy of Naturopathic Physicians), and for homeopaths of all professions, there is the CCH (Certified in Classical Homeopathy). What is important to know is that in states without licensure requirements for homeopathy, anyone can claim to be practicing 'homeopathic medicine'.
Homeopathic medicine could be a great alternative to traditional medicine. It's important to look into the background and training of anyone practicing homeopathic medicine, however, as many people promote themselves as an expert without the proper education. The National Center for Homoeopathy (http:///www.homeopathy.org) serves as a resource and training center for the practice of homeopathy. The American Association of Naturopathic Physicians (http://www.naturopathic.org) provides information on licensing and education requirements for those promoting themselves as a doctor of naturopathy. For a good overview of the art and science of homeopathy and its basic tenets, suggested reading is The Emerging Science of Homeopathy: Complexity, Biodynamics and Nanopharmacology, 2nd edition, by Bellavite P. Signorini.
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