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Homeopathy Finally Gets Some Respect

Homeopathy Finally Gets Some Respect

Jesica DeHart’s introduction to homeopathy came in an unexpected place–an emergency medical training class. “The instructor told us to put homeopathic remedies in our first aid kit,” she says. DeHart wanted to check it out first on herself, so she took the teacher’s advice and stocked up on arnica, a remedy for reducing bruising and swelling.

When she had cause to use it, she was pleasantly surprised at how well it soothed her bruises. Eventually she added other homeopathic remedies to her repertoire, including one for cramps and another for stomach upset. “Sometimes they were completely effective, other times not,” she says. “But I always felt like it was worth a try.”

Eight months ago, DeHart had a baby and her interest in homeopathy soared. “Having a child makes you hyper-aware of how you treat health problems, and I want a gentle option for my son,” says the 30-year-old stay-at-home mom. Since Emmit was born, she’s used homeopathic remedies to ease his colic and teething pain.

“Homeopathy is non-invasive,” she says. “I like the idea that it’s getting the body to heal itself.”

Whatever homeopathy is, it’s hardly new. In fact, it’s 200 years old. What is new is that people like DeHart are fed up with the side effects, expense, and sometimes poor results of conventional drug therapy and are turning to homeopathy in record numbers. According to one report, published last year in Annals of Internal Medicine, the number of Americans using homeopathy skyrocketed 500 percent in the last decade. One of the most comprehensive government surveys to date on Americans’ use of complementary and alternative medicine found that more than 7.3 million people have tried it.

Government stats aside, everyone knows the real truth is in retail. Last year, Americans spent an estimated $425 million on homeopathic remedies, according to J.P. Borneman, the CEO of Boiron and a spokesperson for the American Association of Homeopathic Pharmacists. As the fourth generation in the business of homeopathic pharmacy, Borneman has seen business ebb and flow with Americans’ love-hate relationship with Western medicine. But the real turning point for homeopathy, he says, came in the 1990s when remedies made the leap from health food stores to chain behemoths like Target, Kmart, and Walgreens.

Still, add up all the statistics, sales numbers, and anecdotal stories, and the fact remains that no one has yet proved how homeopathy works-a fact that emboldens skeptics and causes consternation among practitioners.

“I use it in my clinic, but every time I do, I roll my eyes,” says David Katz, associate clinical professor of public health at the Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center. “I wish I knew if and how it works. Maybe the whole thing is a placebo effect.”

Katz’s use of the “p-word” touches on the biggest criticism of homeopathy–that the practice is nothing but a placebo. In the United States, the National Council Against Health Fraud, a non-profit watchdog agency, calls homeopathy a cult and practitioners quacks. In France last September, the Academie de Medecine, the country’s most respected medical authority, denounced homeopathy as mumbo jumbo. That blow was especially low considering the French are the world’s largest consumers; roughly 70 percent of France’s population uses homeopathy, and French physicians routinely prescribe it.

But the cries that it’s only a placebo are weakening. Perhaps the best thing to happen to homeopathy in recent years is the research showing it to be much more than that.

The good press started back in 1997 when the well-respected medical journal The Lancet published a meta-analysis of placebo-controlled studies on homeopathy. In 89 studies rigorously designed to evaluate its ability to treat and prevent various illnesses, the odds consistently showed homeopathy to be more effective than a placebo.

More recently, Wayne B. Jonas, a physician and director of the Samueli Institute for Information Biology, in Alexandria, Va., assembled an even more comprehensive overview of homeopathy studies, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine. The paper took into account four different meta-analyses and found homeopathy to be effective in treating allergies, childhood diarrhea, postoperative trauma, and influenza. “The weight of the current evidence right now falls slightly in favor of homeopathy,” says Jonas.

Bottom line: It works
Homeopathic physician Corey Weinstein hasn’t let the discussions about how homeopathy works get in his way. Each year, hundreds of patients flow through his office in San Francisco. Weinstein has practiced homeopathy for 30 years and prescribes homeopathic remedies for everything from colds to cancer. “I’ve never seen an illness or condition that homeopathy hasn’t helped,” he says.

While he doesn’t hold any romanticized notions that homeopathy is a cure-all, he does think it’s too valuable to dismiss. “The idea that for homeopathy to be good science we have to understand how it works is absurd,” he says. “If that were the case for everything allopathic medicine offers, we never would have OK’d the use of aspirin.”

Like cures like
Developed in the late 18th century by the German physician Samuel Christian Hahnemann, homeopathy is based on the “law of similars.” After noticing that a common remedy for malaria, cinchona, produced malaria-like symptoms in people, Hahnemann came up with the idea that “like cures like.”

The premise is that illness can be treated with small doses of a substance-animal, vegetable, and/or mineral-that mimics the malady’s symptoms. The last thing you’d think to give a stressed-out person, for example, is caffeine, yet that’s the primary ingredient in a common homeopathic remedy for promoting relaxation. According to Hahnemann’s theory, homeopathy jump-starts the body’s own healing process by introducing tiny amounts of the right substances.

Jonas, author of Healing with Homeopathy: The Complete Guide, is also trying to decipher the riddle of homeopathy. Scientists in his lab recently discovered that in a vial of water, there are interactions between the water and the glass; when you shake the vial, the silica comes off the glass and produces various chemical subspecies, some of which may be biologically active. “That kind of chemistry could be producing some of the effect we’re seeing in homeopathy,” he says.

Another theory centers on the importance of the practitioner/patient relationship. Corey Weinstein’s initial appointment with a patient, for instance, can easily last an hour and a half. The goal is to ascertain what remedy, out of the thousands available, might best address the person’s complaint.

Could it be that patients simply feel better once a health care provider listens raptly to their woes? Jonas thinks it’s a real possibility, but that doesn’t detract from homeopathy’s power, he says. “If that turns out to be a major reason for the effects of homeopathy, it’s still a huge contribution to medicine.”

Needless to say, this idea is unpopular among homeopaths, who don’t appreciate being seen as glorified therapists doling out sugar pills.

What about people whose symptoms improve with over-the-counter homeopathic remedies? When Sheri McGregor injured her tailbone a few years ago, the pain was debilitating. The San Diego resident swallowed over-the-counter pain relievers, to no avail.

Finally, she tried hypericum, a homeopathic remedy for treating nerve injuries. Following the label’s instructions, she dissolved several tablets under her tongue every 15 minutes. Within two hours, the pain was gone. By the end of the day, she’d stopped using the remedy, and never experienced another twinge from her troublesome tailbone. “It was spectacular,” she says. “It turned me on to homeopathy for life.”

DIY?
When does it make sense to treat yourself and when you should seek professional help?

Most health food stores stock rows of homeopathic liquids, pellets, and tablets. Each is labeled to treat a very specific condition, from overwork-induced stress to a wet cough with clear nasal discharge. So is it safe to treat yourself?

Yes, says Wayne Jonas, a physician and author of Healing with homeopathy. “Homeopathy isn’t going to be directly harmful or toxic,” he says. “Just make sure you go see someone if your symptoms don’t improve, and you’re using a good product.” Unlike dietary supplements, homeopathic remedies are regulated by the FDA, which has strict guidelines for strength, quality, purity, and labeling.

Even with these guidelines in place, though, not all companies are created equal. For a list of homeopathic manufacturers that meet the FDA’s guidelines, visit the American Association of Homeopathic Pharmacists at homeopathyresource.org.

But self-care has its limits. If you try a store-bought remedy and an acute condition (like an earache) doesn’t improve within two days, or a chronic problem (like a rash) doesn’t respond within a week, make an appointment with a homeopath, practitioners advise. A good one can not only help you narrow down treatment options but also prescribe more targeted remedies than what’s available over the counter.

How to find a practitioner
Locating a good homeopath can be daunting because any health care professional-chiropractors, dentists, and acupuncturists-can complete a weekend course and hang out a shingle. Although degrees don’t always denote the most qualified practitioner, they do offer a starting point. To begin, look for a homeopath who is also a medical doctor or an osteopath, because he or she is most likely to have studied homeopathy as a postgraduate specialty. Another good bet is a naturopath, since the training includes homeopathy. For a list of local practitioners, visit either the American Institute of homeopathy or the National Center for homeopathy.

Natural Solutions: Vibrant Health, Balanced Living offers its readers the latest news on health conditions, herbs and supplements, natural beauty products, healing foods and conscious living. Click here for a free sample issue.

Read more: Health, Allergies, Alternative Therapies, Natural Remedies, , ,

By Catherine Guthrie, Natural Solutions magazine

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3:51AM PDT on Jun 15, 2009

thanks...
Kabin
Konteyner

8:25PM PST on Mar 3, 2009

All for it, with no doubts. Its not a one remedy cure all for everyone but to me its no different then going to a regular Doctors and paying for many treatments that may or may not work. I trust it and if it is in my head, then so be it because it works for me.

4:40PM PDT on Sep 26, 2008

The study published in The Lancet (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9310601) which was mentioned in the above article was not conclusive. I quote from the study findings:

"INTERPRETATION: The results of our meta-analysis are not compatible with the hypothesis that the clinical effects of homeopathy are completely due to placebo. However, we found insufficient evidence from these studies that homeopathy is clearly efficacious for any single clinical condition. Further research on homeopathy is warranted provided it is rigorous and systematic."

The findings in favor of the homeopathic treatment vs. placebo were not large. So obviously further study will be warranted to determine if homeopathy does, in fact, have any significant medical uses.

2:43PM PDT on Sep 19, 2008

It has helped me get cured from a so called "incurable disease...Im on my way to a complete cure. I was in a very negative state of mind when I started so its definitely not placebo....Homeopathy put me in a positive state of mind so I could get cured.

10:53AM PDT on Sep 14, 2008

I became a homeopath in order to cure my son or autism. Read the article that was originally published in the Zeus e-zine in the January, 2007 issue posted at http://www.redpeacecross.com/Homeo-VACCINE.html.

Mark S. mentioned that he wished homeopathy was despensed in a way that eliminated all of the milk sugar and alcohol. Please go to a web site that has published information that I have written on the Guides to Taking HOMEOPATHIC Remedies at http://www.redpeacecross.com/homeopathy.html .

All homeopathic pellets can be dispensed by placing just ONE Pellet into a bottle of DISTILLED water. Shake the bottle of distilled water vigorously a few times before taking small sips or even just a few drops as the dose making sure that you continue to "succuss" (shake the bottle vigorously) between each dose. You will find that it will work faster then if you continuously took a few pellets every few minutes. Many times the healing time is cut in half. What would take several hours to give you relief will take only a few minutes by using this method. Samuel Hahnemann stated this in the 5th and 6th Editions of his written work the "ORGANON of the HEALING ART"..

The wonder of homeopathy is the "SUCCUSSION" of the dilution in distilled water. Also another never place another pellet of that same original potency into that particular bottle,refill with distilled water.

Happiness, Vibrancy and FREEDOM of the pursuit of it to all.

Blessings and PEACE to you,

Phylli

9:08PM PDT on Sep 11, 2008

Regarding the "Placebo Effect" as the basis for homeopathy's effectiveness; if that was all there was to it then we would not see homeopathy being so effective with infants and animals.

Also, homeopathy is most effective when the remedy selection is individualized to patients, using their own unique symptoms (five people with the "same" flu might each need a different remedy -- it is not 'one size fits all'). I find it ironic that some "scientists" dismiss homeopathy for not having "good science" behind it when they insist that homeopathy must pass double blind trials in order to authenticate it. This viewpoint is actually "bad science" because it employs methodology that is paradigm specific to evaluate an entirely different paradigm. Double blind is oriented to the common symptom and universal application, the domain of allopathy but of very little use in homeopathy.

9:21PM PDT on Sep 10, 2008

I am convinced that homeopathy works. I wish that more homeopathic remedies were free of either lactose (milk suger) and alcohol because I feel that these potential allergens can actually compromise or even negate the effectiveness of homeopathic formulas for many patients.

8:52PM PDT on Sep 10, 2008

By the way- ask about training when seeking a classical homeopathic practitioner...the truth is there are only rare medical doctors or osteopaths that have devoted years of their lives to the
in- depth study of the very complex science and art of homeopathy!

8:43PM PDT on Sep 10, 2008

I have been practicing homeopathy for 25 yrs. I have seen people come out of comas with homeopathy, my own husband had an aortic dissection, I did not know exactly what was happening, but he had a genetic disease so I had an idea...I picked 3 remedies- the first two did nothing (I only waited seconds with each), the third I put it in his mouth and in seconds he relaxed and said "you got the right remedy". It saved his life until he could have emergency open heart surgery. The surgeon told me most do not live thru the severity of the split in his aortic inner lining from heart to kidney. The remedy kept him calm and stable until the surgery. And the post surgical remedies also stopped any internal bleeding leaving NO drainage to pass thru the drainage tubes. This is NOT something that happens "because we had a good talk". This worked, as did the remedies that saved people in the flu pandemic and cholera and typhoid epidemics in history. The record is there in the Department of Health at that time- why is it unacknowledged in the allopathic community? Because they never did their homework and refuse to hear!

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