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Homeopathic medicine

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Homeopathic medicine (or homeopathy) is a natural pharmaceutical science that uses various plants, minerals or animals in very small dose to stimulate the sick person's natural defenses. The medicines are individually chosen for their ability to cause in overdose the similar symptoms the person is experiencing. "Homoios" in Greek means similar and "pathos" means disease or suffering. It is argued that since one's symptoms are actually efforts of the organism to reestablish homeostasis or balance, it is logical to seek a substance that would, in overdose, cause the similar symptoms the person is experiencing.

The practice runs off of three basic rules:
- Like cures like.
- One remedy at a time is to be used.
- Remedy is to be diluted at least 100x.

Beyond those basic conventions, everything from dosage to what is prescribed is based solely off of the expertise of the doctor. Many controversies still arise concerning homeopathic medicine because it is such a strong contender for the populace prescribing themselves to prescription drugs. Homeopathy boasts that it is the “natural alternative” for drug users, but its effects in such tangible results as tested medicines remains to be seen. As of now, no concrete evidence has been presented to completely debunk homeopathic medicine, though even homeopaths suggest that no remedy should be taken if a person is seriously ill.

Origins

Samuel Hahnemann, Homeopathy's founder

According to its dictionary definition Homeopathy is the practice of curing illnesses by exposing them to a watered-down version of the sickness and allowing the person's own body to fight it off. The naming of homeopathic medicine comes from the Latin root meaning: homeostasis. [1] Homeopathy is a branch of the practice called Complimentary and Alternative Medicines, abbreviated CAM. [2]

A German chemist and doctor by the name of Samuel Hahnemann is considered to be the initiator of homeopathy. He summed up his philosophy with a commonly used explanation for homeopathic medicine, “Like cures like.” By this he meant that natural remedies whose characteristics trigger certain responses in the body similar to the illness they are experiencing have the ability to cure it.[3] Hahnemann developed his theories in the late 18th century. This was a time when most medicinal practices consisted of blood-letting and purging. As the story goes, Hahnemann was translating some texts when he stumbled across some information about the Cinchona bark’s healing properties against malaria. He tested it and found that the bark’s symptoms were the same as malaria’s. This caused him to believe that certain cures could simply be another substance that causes a particular diseases symptoms. Samuel Hahnemann wished to find a calmer way to stop sickness, and so he tested this theory on himself. He created extensive records on the subject, and eventually developed some basic principles and processes that homeopaths use today. [4]

Processes and Principles

A Vintage Homeopathic Home Remedy Kit

Usage of the terms “potentiation” and “succussion” are common in homeopathy when referring to the preparation of antidotes. Remedies are created by the dilution of a substance that is believed to trigger the same allergic response in the body as the sickness a patient is experiencing. The mixture is diluted and shaken, sometimes to the point where there is no evidence of the initial response agent present. Dilutions of mixtures vary with each doctor, since homeopathy does not have a concrete canon to go by.[5] Samuel Hahnemann outlined potentiation, which is the process of a substance being diluted and shaken between dilutions. Even if a substance is diluted to the point where the substance is not even present in the mixture anymore, Hahnemann hypothesized that the water would hold the memory of the substance. He also stated that patients’ medicines should not only hinge on their sickness alone, but evaluations on the entire spectrum of their health, and sometimes even personality and mood. [6]

Can They Replace Modern Medicine?

The battle raging between those who believe in natural remedies and those who support the drug industry is one that is very distorted, and everyone has a different opinion. There is no official verdict that homeopathic medicine is ineffective or harmful, however the British Homoeopathic (a variation of Homeopathy, both words mean the same thing) Association recommends that young children, who are targets of homeopathic doctor’s early development remedies, not substitute such medicine for tested vaccinations. [7] In 1983, the FDA passed a law regulating homeopathic medicine. They are now to be fashioned the same way prescriptions would be labeled, including ingredients, side effects, and instructions for applications. New homeopathic medicines are now being tested by regulation for effectiveness and safety. [8]. On FDA.org, Isadora Stehlin deduces that many of the positive affects of homeopathy are due to the placebo effect, simply that because people believe that they can get better by taking the medicine that they will get better, regardless of the actual effectiveness of the medicine taken. According to Stehlin, homeopathic medicine is enriched with non-homeopathic ingredients such as vitamins, which inhibits natural effectiveness. However, she does include in her report quotes from doctors who have switched from conventional medicine to that of homeopathy. They claim that drugs only inhibit symptoms and that they don’t actually treat the problem. Homeopathy is designed to be a progressive medicine, meaning the user becomes stronger and healthier every time it is taken. In closing, Stehlin wisely says that, “Nothing in medicine--either conventional or alternative--is absolute.” [9]

Homeopathy in the News

On May 5, 2009, reports surfaced on the Internet about the death of an infant after the failure of homeopathic medicine. At four months the child's parents were told that she had eczema, but they refused to use "conventional" medicine to treat her. The child's father, a homeopathic specialist, treated her with homeopathy instead. The child died five months later at nine and a half months old. The parents have now faced court charges of manslaughter citing gross negligence. [10]

Pregnant mothers recently started practicing homeopathic medicine during pregnancy to lessen the affects of fatigue, irritability, and hormone imbalance. Homeopathic supplements combine gentle minerals and herbs that work with the body to combat these symptoms. Iron is also appearing in such supplements; easily absorbing iron helps reduce symptoms such as nausea, sickness such as the flu or colds, aching, and migraines. Iron also aids in increase of energy and better mood.

Along with helping keep the body's hormones in check, homeopathic supplements also help keep babies in the embryo healthy and help them develop properly. Mothers are encouraged to start taking such homeopathic supplements three months into pregnancy and continue after delivery. Such supplements help the body to heal and return to a level of normalcy (hormonally) experienced before pregnancy, according to the scientists pioneering this medicine. Expecting mothers should always consult a doctor before taking any kind of supplemental regimen. Many of these supplements have been found to contain low doses of steroids, which help the mother have a stronger immune system but could seriously affect the natural development of the baby she is carrying. [11]

References

External links

  • FAQ American Institute of Homeopathy