Definition: Defining the Meaning of Homeopathy
Homeopathy, also known as homeopathic medicine, is an alternative medical system that was developed in Germany more than 200 years ago. Homeopathic medicine practitioners prescribe homeopathic medicines. Contrary to popular belief, 'homeopathy' is not the same as herbal medicine. Homeopathy is based on three central tenets, unchanged since their invention by Samuel Hahnemann in 1796. Homeopathy is considered a pseudoscience. It is not effective for any condition, and no remedy has been proven to be more effective than placebo.
What is Homeopathy
Homeopathy (home-ee-AH-pah-thy) is a form of alternative medicine based upon principles first defined by Samuel Hahnemann in 1796. A central thesis of homeopathy is that an ill person can be treated using a substance that can produce, in a healthy person, symptoms similar to those of the illness.
The term homeopathy comes from the Greek words homeo, meaning similar, and pathos, meaning suffering or disease.
Hahnemann observed from his experiments with cinchona bark, used as a treatment for malaria, that the effects he experienced from ingesting the bark were similar to the symptoms of malaria. He therefore reasoned that cure proceeds through similarity, and that treatments must be able to produce symptoms in healthy individuals similar to those of the disease being treated.
Homeopathy is the second most widely used system of medicine in the world. Its growth in popularity in the United States has been around 25 to 50 percent a year throughout the last decade.
Practitioners select treatments according to a patient consultation that explores the physical and psychological state of the patient, both of which are considered important to selecting the remedy.
In homeopathy, a key premise is that every person has energy called a vital force or self-healing response. When this energy is disrupted or imbalanced, health problems develop. Homeopathy aims to stimulate the body's own healing responses.
Most homeopathic remedies are derived from natural substances that come from plants, minerals, or animals. Homeopathic remedies (also called homeopathics) are a system of medicine based on three principles:
- Like cures like
- Minimal Dose
- The Single Remedy
"Remedy" is a technical term used in homeopathy to refer to a substance prepared with a particular procedure and intended for treating patients.
Persons using homeopathy do so to address a range of health concerns, from wellness and prevention to treatment of injuries, diseases, and conditions. Studies have found that many people who seek homeopathic care seek it for help with a chronic medical condition.18,19,20 Many users of homeopathy treat themselves with homeopathic products.
The results of individual, controlled clinical trials of homeopathy have been contradictory. In some trials, homeopathy appeared to be no more helpful than a placebo; in other studies, some benefits were seen that the researchers believed were greater than one would expect from a placebo.
The extremely high dilutions in homeopathy have been a main point of criticism.
Homeopaths believe that the methodical dilution of a substance, beginning with a 10% or lower solution and working downward, with shaking after each dilution, produces a therapeutically active "remedy", in contrast to therapeutically inert water. However, homeopathic remedies are usually diluted to the point where there are no molecules from the original solution left in a dose of the final remedy.
Regulations vary in Europe depending on the country.
In some countries, there are no specific legal regulations concerning the use of homeopathy, while in others, licenses or degrees in conventional medicine from accredited universities are required.
In 1938 The U.S. Congress passed a law declaring that homeopathic remedies are to be regulated by the FDA in the same manner as nonprescription, over-the-counter (OTC) drugs, which means that they can be purchased without a physician's prescription.
As homeopathic remedies usually contain only water and/or alcohol, they are thought to be generally safe. Only in rare cases are the original ingredients present at detectable levels.
Quick Facts: Homeopathy
- The term "homeopathy" was coined by Hahnemann and first appeared in print in 1807.
- The law of similars states that whatever would cause your symptoms, will also cure those same symptoms.
- Homeopathic products are regulated as a class of drugs under the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act (FDCA).
- Do not use homeopathy to replace proven conventional care or to postpone seeing a health care provider about a medical problem.
- Despite being rooted in superstition, ritual and sympathetic magic, the laws devised by Hahnemann are still in use by homeopaths today.
- Women who are pregnant or nursing, or people who are thinking of using homeopathy for a child, should consult their (or their child's) health care providers.
- Homeopathic products are usually made from plants or minerals. A few are made with substances from animals or human tissue or secretions. They may be pellets, tablets, granules, liquids, gels, or creams.
- Homeopaths claim that Hippocrates may have originated homeopathy around 400 BC, when he prescribed a small dose of mandrake root to treat mania, knowing it produces mania in much larger doses.
- Laws regulating the practice of homeopathy in the United States vary from state to state. To legally practice homeopathy individuals usually must be licensed to practice medicine or another health care profession.