Homeopathic medicine, or homeopathy, has been around for centuries.
What is Homeopathy?
Homeopathy is an alternative medical system that was created by Samuel Hahnemann in 1796. Its basic premise is that “like cures like”. In other words, substances that are known to cause disease symptoms in someone who is healthy can be used to “cure similar symptoms in sick people”.1 According to the National Center for Homeopathy, homeopathy is “safe, gentle, and natural” and “works with (the) body to…restore itself”. It can be used on pets and children, and the NCH states that it has “none of the side effects of many traditional medicines” and that it is FDA regulated and affordable.2 In homeopathic medicine, it is thought that symptoms are “normal responses of the body” in its attempts to “regain health”. Doses of homeopathic medicine are meant to help the body regulate and heal itself. Practitioners of homeopathy are called homeopaths. They use pills and solutions with only a small amount of active ingredients, usually derived from a mineral or plant. Homeopathic medicine has been used to treat allergies, dermatitis, irritable bowel syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, and even minor injuries, cuts, and sprains. It is not considered to be an appropriate intervention for major illness, infections, or emergencies. Critics contend that homeopathic medicine may only work due to the “placebo effect”, but “there is some evidence to show that homeopathic medicines may have helpful effects”.3 Treatments are tailored to the individual. There are challenges in researching homeopathy due to the individualized treatments and lack of uniformity in prescribing the medications. Some of the remedies may not be highly diluted; therefore it is important to consult with healthcare professionals about potential drug interactions or side effects.4
Homeopathy vs. Naturopathy
Licensing rules for homeopaths vary by state. Typically, those licensed for medical practice can also engage in homeopathy. Some states allow homeopaths without licenses.5 Homeopathy and naturopathy are not the same thing, although they are often confused. Naturopathy utilizes many therapies, including dietary changes and supplements, as well as massage, herbal medicine, iridology, and even homeopathy. Naturopathy, therefore, is more of an “umbrella term”.6 Homeopathy and naturopathy do share some commonality in being “holistic” and “searching for the root cause of illness”. Naturopaths and homeopaths both work under the assumption that the body can heal itself. As with homeopathy, naturopathic physicians may require licensing. In licensing states, a practitioner may only be called a naturopathic doctor if they have completed a degree from “an accredited four-year naturopathic medical school”. In non-licensing states, “anybody…can refer to themselves as a ‘naturopathic doctor’”. Naturopathic doctors may use homeopathy in part of their practice.7