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The word ‘homeopathy’ derives from the Greek words homoios meaning ‘like’ and patheia meaning ‘suffering’. Homoeopathy was founded by Dr. Samuel Hahnemann in 1796 in Germany. It is based on the natural law of healing ‘Similia Similibus Curantur’, which translates to ‘likes are cured by likes’. This means that substances that produce symptoms in large doses in healthy persons can cure similar symptoms in a sick person when given in small doses. Homeopathy employs nano doses of natural substances like plants and minerals (referred to as remedies) to treat a wide spectrum of diseases. These remedies can treat acute as well as chronic conditions, ranging from fever and cough to arthritis and lifestyle diseases like diabetes. Being a holistic therapy, homeopathy does not treat individual symptoms but takes into consideration the mental and physical makeup of the person along with their personality for complete treatment. Nearly 200 million people globally take homoeopathic medicines or treatments, and it is the second most popular system of medicine in India. 

  1. Is homeopathy regulated by an authority?
  2. How are homeopathic medicines made?
  3. Ways of administration of homeopathic remedies
  4. How does Homeopathy work?
  5. Importance of lifestyle and dietary changes in homeopathic treatment
  6. Is homeopathy safe?
  7. Side effects and risks of homeopathic medicine and treatments
  8. Self medication in homeopathy

Is homeopathy regulated by an authority?

Yes, just like most medicine systems, homeopathy is regulated by the government in most countries. In India, it is regulated by the AYUSH ministry, the Central Council of Homeopathy and the FDA. In the US, it is regulated by the US FDA.

Homeopathic medicines are manufactured as per the pharmacopoeia of a country, which contains detailed guidelines for the selection of natural substances, as well as their processing and dilution, to make the final remedy for use.

How are homeopathic medicines made?

Homoeopathic medicines are made using natural substances, for example, plants (dandelion, plantain, foxglove), minerals (salt, iron, phosphorus) and animal products (bee venom, snake venom). Certain homoeopathic medicines are also made from drugs like penicillin and aspirin. These medicines are prepared as per Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) laid out by the Central Drugs Standard Control Organization, Government of India and other governmental organisations in the respective countries.

All medicines are made using strict guidelines and quality control procedures which are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in India as well as the US. 

The Homoeopathic Pharmacopoeia of a country lays down precise guidelines for collecting natural substances and processing them to make a homoeopathic remedy.

To begin with, for any homoeopathic remedy, a tincture is made by mixing a natural substance with prescribed proportions of water and alcohol as per the pharmacopoeia. This tincture is then progressively diluted and shaken in a prescribed manner to create increasingly higher potencies, also called as dilutions. Beyond a certain point, no detectable amount of the original substance remains in the dilution.

Ways of administration of homeopathic remedies

Homeopathic medicines are dispensed in many forms, such as pills, tablets and drops. Generally, the way of administration determines the dosage of a particular remedy. Dose and frequency of a homeopathic medicine also depends on individual symptoms, severity and stage of the disease, patient age, etc.

It is best to take homeopathic medicines when the mouth is clean and devoid of any flavours or food. This ensures rapid absorption of the medicine into the bloodstream. 

How does Homeopathy work?

Homeopathic medicine works on the natural law of healing ‘Similia Similibus Curantur’ which means ‘likes are cured by likes’. This principle was formulated and adopted by Dr. Samuel Hahnemann into a full-fledged system of healing called homeopathy. To understand how homeopathy works, let’s take an example.

If someone chops onions, they develop a runny nose and burning sensation in eyes and nose within a few seconds. The homeopathic remedy made from onions, Allium cepa, can relieve both these symptoms.

Similarly, a bite by a cobra affects the heart and nerves, leading to shortness of breath and paralysis of the heart and breathing muscles. The homeopathic remedy made from venom of a cobra, Naja tripudians, can relieve these symptoms in case of a snake bite. The same remedy would also help in alleviating these symptoms when they appear in another disease condition.

This is because homeopathic medicines act on only those tissues that are affected in disease and stimulates the body’s healing system to treat the symptoms itself. 

Homeopathic doctors take into account a detailed history of the patient, including physical complaints, current and past medical history, personality and preferences before prescribing a particular remedy. This system of medicine considers a person as a whole and treats not just the disease, but the person in entirety. 

Importance of lifestyle and dietary changes in homeopathic treatment

Contrary to the general thought, the action of homeopathic medicines is not easily diminished by consuming foods such as coffee, garlic and onions. However, it is best to follow the advice of a qualified homeopathic practitioner to know more about the effects of certain foods when they are consumed along with a certain remedy.

Is homeopathy safe?

Homoeopathy is a safe and gentle therapeutic method that can effectively treat a vast variety of diseases. Homeopathic medicines are not habit forming, i.e. they are non-addictive and are generally safe in case of pregnancy, and breastfeeding, and in children and elderly. Homeopathic medicines can also be taken by diabetic people or those who are lactose intolerant.

Despite being a 200-year-old science of healing, there are no studies proving any health hazards with the continuous use of omoeopathic medicine. Qualified and registered practitioners of homoeopathy act within the boundaries of their profession, just like other healthcare providers, and homeopathic treatment methods are regulated by national guidelines. 

Several research studies have proven the efficacy of homoeopathy as an alternative treatment method; however, more high quality and large scale studies are needed to prove its benefits in different conditions. A critical review of homoeopathic medicines suggests that they are active, not a placebo and can be extremely helpful, especially in conditions like influenza, childhood diarrhoea and allergies.

While homoeopathy may not be able to replace conventional medicine, it can be used safely and effectively for a wide variety of common conditions and minor ailments. It also does not interfere with the action of conventional medicine and can be safely used as a complementary therapy.

Homoeopathic medicines can be used to promote recovery after surgeries, either in conjunction with conventional medicine or alone. A research study indicated that homoeopathy is beneficial in the treatment of anxiety and affective disorders like mild to severe depression. Another study indicates that homoeopathic treatment reduces fatigue in cancer patients along with overall improvement in the quality of life. 

It is important to remember that while homoeopathy is a safe and handy solution for minor everyday ailments, it should be taken only after consultation with a qualified homoeopathic physician. A physician will consider several factors, including your age, condition, severity and stage of illness and your past history to identify the correct medicine that promotes rapid recovery.

Side effects and risks of homeopathic medicine and treatments

As homoeopathic medicines are made from natural substances which are diluted significantly, negligible to no amount of the original substance is present in the medicine. This makes homoeopathy extremely safe. No studies have reported any serious risks or side effects of homoeopathy so far. According to a report published in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, no health risks were found in 8 different studies that analysed the effect of homoeopathic medicines in patients with cancer

Another study conducted in Switzerland by the Swiss Federal Office of Public Health found that among 3126 patients who received homoeopathy and conventional medicines, patients receiving homoeopathy had 2 to 3 times fewer side effects and reported much higher levels of satisfaction as compared to those receiving conventional medicines. 

In addition, there is no proven efficacy of homoeopathic medicines as vaccines. Thus, children must be vaccinated and immunised as per the national immunisation schedule of a country to avoid lethal conditions that are easily preventable. 

While homoeopathy is largely safe, if symptoms do not improve despite regular treatment, it is important to consult your doctor immediately to resolve the condition.

Self medication in homeopathy

For minor ailments, homoeopathy may be taken at home, for chronic diseases and common ailments that don’t seem to be resolving despite routine medication, it is important that a practitioner understand your underlying miasm and treat it for true healing to take place.

The word miasm comes from the word miasma, meaning pollution. Miasms form an important cornerstone of homoeopathic treatment philosophy. Dr.Hahnemann realized that there was some underlying force that prevented complete resolution of disease in some people despite local and acute treatment. This is what made some people iller than others and causes new illnesses in people who had received some treatment for another condition. Dr.Hahnemann called this force as miasm and identified three diffent types of miasms, namely, psora, sycosis and syphilis.

In his book, Chronic Diseases, he explains that certain people and families tended to have a ‘root’ to their disease, which prevented it from being ‘cured’ despite treatment, or led to an increased tendency to a particular disease or type of disease. He noticed patterns or similar characteristics between individual diseases and diseases seen in their family. This made him realise that unless the root to a disease was not treated and removed, the person would keep having one or the other disease all through his/her life.

As per homoeopathy, each one of us is born with one or more miasms that predispose us to certain types of diseases. The names of the miasms only bear a very loose relationship with diseases they are named on. It is important to understand that miasms don’t spell doom and can never completely be eliminated, only balanced when out of proportion and managed with homoeopathic treatment. Treatment of miasms helps reduce their disease-causing capacity and strengthens the life-sustaining force, also called the ‘vital force’. 

Only with years of understanding and experience do homoeopathic practitioners excel in treating miasms and chronic and complex diseases. This is beyond the scope of home prescribing. 

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