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What is homeopathy?

Homeopathy, or homeopathic medicine, is based on the use of natural substances to treat or prevent illnesses. Although homeopathic medicines are regulated by the FDA, they are not evaluated for safety or effectiveness. 

Homeopathic drugs are made of plant, animal, or mineral substances. This therapy treats ailments with very, very small amounts of the same substance that causes the symptoms.

The idea behind homeopathy is that if a large dose of a substance causes certain symptoms, a small dose of the same substance may cause the opposite effect. For example, if a person has throbbing headaches, he or she might be treated with a very diluted dosage of belladonna, a poisonous herb that causes throbbing headaches.

The available research on homeopathy has been conflicting. Most research has concluded that there is little evidence to support homeopathy as an effective treatment. Although some studies have reported positive findings. The dilutions used in homeopathy leave very little active ingredient in the medicines that a person receives. This makes it very difficult to study.   

Explanations for how homeopathy may work range from the idea that homeopathic medicine stimulates the body's own natural defenses to the idea that homeopathic medicine retains a memory of the original substance. However, there is no factual explanation for why homeopathy may work. 

Homeopathic medicine is most often used to treat:

  • Arthritis

  • Asthma

  • Colds

  • Flu

  • Allergies

Tell your health care providers about any complementary and alternative practices you use. Give them a full picture of all you do to manage your health. This will help ensure coordinated and safe care. 

Online Medical Reviewer: Garilli, Bianca, ND
Online Medical Reviewer: Moloney Johns, Amanda, PA-C, MPAS, BBA
Date Last Reviewed: 5/15/2015
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