Homeopathic products are readily available today in health food stores and even neighborhood drugstores. But are they safe to use — and do they work?
What is homeopathy?
Although many people lump homeopathy and herbs into one category, their qualities and forms of action are quite different. Homeopathy is a form of alternative medicine, but unlike herbs, homeopathic remedies can be made from various substances from plants, minerals, or even animals. They are typically very diluted, and often come in the form of a sugar pill or liquid tincture.
The concept of homeopathy is “like cures like,” meaning you would use a remedy that produces similar symptoms to those you are trying to cure. The homeopathic philosophy says the more the remedy is diluted, the stronger its effect. So, a remedy that is diluted to 100x (this will be listed on the label), is actually stronger than one that is only diluted to 1x, even though it would have much less of the active ingredient.
One of the challenges with homeopathy is the lack of studies and evidence that it works. Although there is anecdotal evidence from some people who may have used it, no real studies have been able to prove its effects. Sometimes, it is so diluted that its active ingredient can’t be adequately measured in the remedy or in a person’s blood. Many medical experts believe that when people do find relief with homeopathy, they may be experiencing a placebo effect.
Homeopathy isn’t recognized by the FDA or the medical community to treat or cure any disease. As a result, most physicians will tell you to look elsewhere for relief from common ailments. Even simple problems like colds are better treated with proven, effective medications like pain relievers and decongestants.
Regardless of the lack of evidence, many people do try homeopathic remedies for various reasons. In general, they are considered to be safe if used as directed. If you do take them, remember these key points:
- Always tell your physician about any homeopathic remedies you’re taking.
- Homeopathic remedies cannot take the place of medications prescribed by your physician. Never stop taking your medications without talking with your physician.
- Life-threatening conditions like asthma, cancer, severe allergies, or diabetes should never be treated with homeopathy. You’ll need a physician’s care for these types of diseases.
- Consult a pediatrician before giving homeopathy to a baby or child.
- Be aware that some homeopathic remedies have been found to contain heavy metals, which can cause serious health problems.
Having open communication with your primary care physician is a good way to ensure you’re doing what’s best for your health. Talk with him or her if you’re thinking about taking an alternative remedy for any health issue.
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Content on our website is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. If you are experiencing a medical emergency, please call 911. Always consult your physician before making any changes to your medical treatment.