“What is homeopathy, really?”… We integrative physicians get this question a LOT!
Homeopathy is commonly confused with naturopathic or herbal medicine. It is not a synonym, but rather a specific modality used within the broad scope of natural medicine. It emerged through observation of the phenomena that “like cures like” in the 18th century.
Homeopathic remedies are dilute preparations of natural substances sourced from plants, minerals, and even metals or animals. The medicines are typically so dilute that there is not a detectible whole particle of the original substance left (it is mainly water). Homeopathic medicines work through using a specific noxious but minute stimulus to encourage the body’s natural ability to heal. This means it is fairly gentle and low-risk.
Sounds great, but how do I know that homeopathy really works?
Since the way homeopathy works seems a little, well, “woo”, it rightfully attracts a healthy amount of skepticism. I myself had to be convinced that homeopathy was effective through using it as a patient, as a doctor, and by staying informed about well-designed research studies.
My personal experience
This is what really got me hooked on homeopathy. As an ND student at Bastyr University, I seemed to have a knack for homeopathic prescribing. I figured I should also try it as a patient because I was a little skeptical about its effectiveness. I had some chronic health conditions and had already tried just about everything to minimize my need for pharmaceutical medications with negative effects. My diet was healthy and clean, I exercised, and I took many herbs and supplements. However, there was something deeper that none of those medicines truly touched. I was left with some very pesky health challenges. Some of the remedies my homeopath had prescribed resolved aspects of my illnesses permanently, quickly and obviously. Other times, healing was more gradual, but sticking with it as part of my regular health care has been priceless.
As a doctor, I find great joy seeing people who have also tried so many things finally get relief with the right homeopathic remedy. It also works well for those new to naturopathic medicine or with limited resources.
Research in homeopathy
For folks who also enjoy research, here are brief highlights from a few of my favorite published studies:
A case study that one of my teachers spearheaded showed the successful treatment of chronic Hepatitis C using homeopathy. As Hepatitis C progresses, it causes liver fibrosis that is considered irreversible. Remarkably, in one of the cases, a liver biopsy confirmed that after homeopathic treatment, the patient’s liver fibrosis had reversed (1).
A very well-designed randomized, double-blind clinical trial showed individualized homeopathy to be a safe and effective treatment for depression and menopausal symptoms when compared with both placebo and a standard, well-researched antidepressant, Fluoxetine (Prozac). Side effects were minimal. Both homeopathy and fluoxetine were found to be effective antidepressants for improving depression in climacteric women after a 6-week treatment; additionally, homeopathy, but not fluoxetine, was found to improve menopausal symptoms (2).
“I’ve tried homeopathy that I picked up over-the-counter, but I am not sure it helped.”
I have heard this many times. I almost wish that it was not available over the counter, because that is not how it was intended to be used.
Classical, or constitutional, homeopathic medicine is highly individualized with over 3,000 remedies your practitioner can choose from to match to your specific symptoms. There are remedies that are commonly used and fairly simple to prescribe, ie Arnica for muscle injuries. However, I recommend seeing an experienced homeopath in most cases, since they have the skill set to prescribe remedies that are more likely to work well.
A 2012 NHIS survey found that “homeopathy users who saw a practitioner were significantly more likely to feel that homeopathy was ‘very important in maintaining health and well-being’ and that it helped their health condition ‘a great deal’ than were homeopathy users who did not see a practitioner” (3).
When to consider homeopathy as part of your medical care
Most of my experience and training is in using classical homeopathy to treat mental health and neuropsychiatric disorders. For example, I have seen improve conditions in OCD, ADHD, autism, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, as well as PANS and PANDAS, which are pediatric neuropsychiatric conditions associated with infections. However, it can be used in many other types of conditions, and I have used it for other complaints such as heart palpitations, chronic vaginal pain and/or bacterial infections, chronic sinusitis or digestive complaints.
If you are curious about homeopathic medicine, we offer 15 minute complimentary meet-and-greet visits, at which time we can determine if homeopathy may be a good fit for you and your health needs.
- Sarter, B., Banerji, P., & Banerji, P. (2012). successful treatment of Chronic Viral Hepatitis With High-dilution Medicine. Global advances in health and medicine, 1(1), 26-29.
- Del Carmen Macías-Cortés, E., Llanes-González, L., Aguilar-Faisal, L., & Asbun-Bojalil, J. (2015). Individualized homeopathic treatment and fluoxetine for moderate to severe depression in peri-and postmenopausal women (HOMDEP-MENOP study): a randomized, double-dummy, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. PLoS One, 10(3), e0118440.
- Dossett, M. L., Davis, R. B., Kaptchuk, T. J., & Yeh, G. Y. (2016). Homeopathy use by US adults: results of a national survey. American journal of public health, 106(4), 743-745.
I like how you mentioned that diluted substances that occur naturally in plants are the main staple of homeopathic remedies. My sister is thinking of looking for an establishment that specializes in herbal medicine because she’ considering trying natural substances to help her with chronic back pain she’s been having. I think it’s best for my sister to consider all of her options when choosing a reputable professional that can help prescribe the best herbal remedies to relieve my sister’s physical pain.