Traditional Natural Medicine Homeopathy

Homeopathy is an alternative medicine system that dates back to the 1800s. Homeopathic remedies hold a controversial position in American health care, as homeopathy is the only alternative medicine monitored by the Food and Drug Administration.

The History of Homeopathy

Homeopathic medicine was developed by German doctor Samuel Hahnemann (1755-1843) in response to the brutal health practices of his time. Hahnemann developed an alternative medicine system, basing his ideas on a notion of Hippocrates (468-377 BC) that like cures like. In other words, Hahnemann believed that if a substance duplicated a sick person’s symptoms in a healthy person, that substance would cure the illness.

James Tyler Kent, then Professor of Anatomy at the American Medical College in St. Louis, popularized homeopathy in America in the 1870s. Homeopathy remained popular until the 1920s, when advances in conventional medicine led to the closing of American homeopathy schools.

Homeopathic Remedies

Using the core belief that like cures like homeopathic practitioners attempt to find the “simillium,” the substance or toxin that, when given to a healthy person, exactly reproduces the patient’s symptoms.

For example, if a health condition causes symptoms similar to a bee sting, homeopathy may treat the condition with an extremely diluted amount of bee venom. Homeopathy believes that the simillium depends on the individual, so what works on one individual may not work on another.

The Controversy of Homeopathy

The concept of “like cures like” and the simillium differ significantly from conventional medicine and pharmacology’s views of health and healthcare. This has spurred widespread controversy, questioning the methods and efficacy of homeopathy. Add to that Hahnemann’s “Law of Infinitesimals” (the more diluted homeopathic remedies are, the greater their effectiveness) and you have a major conflict of philosophy between practitioners of homeopathy and practitioners of conventional medicine.

The Law of Infinitesimals is so important to homeopathy that some homeopathic remedies are diluted to the point where not one molecule of the original agent remains in the mixture. Homeopathic advocates insist that the diluted solution retains a “memory” of the simillium. This extreme dilution of remedies runs counter to the laws of traditional pharmacology, leading some conventional health practitioners to accuse homeopathy of quackery.

Why Are Homeopathic Remedies Approved by the FDA?

It was the doing of one man. In 1938, when the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act was passed, one of its strongest supporters was a senator who practiced homeopathy. He successfully pushed for the inclusion of homeopathic remedies in the act. Therefore, all homeopathic remedies were recognized as drugs, but the FDA does not apply the same criteria for conventional pharmaceuticals to homeopathic remedies. Homeopathic remedies are the only drugs that are marketed like supplements.

Does Homeopathy Improve Health?

The effectiveness of homeopathic remedies is a matter of intense debate, with both sides refusing to budge. Homeopathy critics believe that health improvements related to homeopathic remedies are actually due to the placebo effect. Clinical trials examining the results of homeopathy have been limited in scope and are often accused of not following proper research procedures.

On the other hand, the popularity of homeopathy as an alternative medicine system is growing and there are many anecdotes about health conditions that have improved when treated with homeopathic remedies. Whether these health improvements are due to homeopathy or the placebo effect is ultimately a matter of personal opinion.