Q: What is Homeopathy?
A: Homeopathy is a safe, gentle, and natural system of healing that works with your body to relieve symptoms, restore itself, and improve your overall health. It is extremely safe to use, even with very small children and pets, has none of the side effects of many traditional medications, and is very affordable.
The word Homeopathy comes from two Greek words "homoios” meaning similar and "pathos” meaning disease or suffering. It is based on the law of "Likes Cure Likes” and was first formulated by the renowned German physician Samuel Hahnemann in 1789. A minimal, homeopathic dose of a substance that would normally cause symptoms (such as the rash and itching from exposure to the poison ivy plant) in a healthy person, when given to a sick person exhibiting those symptoms, will effect a cure. This is why people can often take homeopathic Rhus toxicodendron (poison ivy plant) to cure their allergic reaction to poison ivy.
Homeopathic medicines are manufactured in strict accordance with the Homeopathic Pharmacopoeia of the United States (HPUS) and pharmaceutical Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP). With a history of experience spanning over 200 years, homeopathic medicines are used by millions of patients and recommended by health care professionals around the world to relieve many acute health conditions such as allergies, coughs, colds, flu, stress, muscle pain and teething. Under the care of a trained health care practitioner, homeopathic medicines are successfully used for both acute illnesses, as well as chronic conditions, like asthma, depression, hypertension, and arthritis.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), homeopathy is the second largest medical system for primary health care in the world. It is prevalent and widely accepted in many parts of the world including Europe, where over 100 million people use it on a regular basis. In America, during the early 1900s, the most prestigious medical schools in this country were homeopathic.
Q: How do I take homeopathic medicines?
A: Homeopathic medicated pellets contain only a little of an active ingredient for treatment of disease. These are known as highly diluted or "potentiated" substances. Homeopathic medicines should be placed under the tongue of adults and children or in the cheek of an infant, where they will dissolve. It is preferable to take homeopathic medicines apart from meals. The appropriate dosage is always shown on the labeling and should be followed unless differently directed by your Health Care Professional.
Q: Do homeopathic medicines have any side effects?
A: Homeopathic medicines above 8x or 4C have a very low risk of side effects and no contraindications.
The labeling of any lower attenuation products that might have concerns will provide appropriate warnings. Some homeopathic products are restricted to sale on a prescription basis to ensure they are used properly to obviate any problems.
They can be safely taken with other conventional medications and are sometimes recommended to complement other treatments.
Q: Are homeopathic medicines regulated?
A: Homeopathic medicines are regulated as drugs under the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FDCA). The Food & Drug Administration (FDA) has established a comprehensive national regulatory policy governing homeopathic product compliance concerning manufacturing, and labeling; the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has regulatory authority for all OTC drug advertising. The Homeopathic Pharmacopoeia of the United States (HPUS) is recognized by the FDCA as the authority for the manufacture of homeopathic medicine. All homeopathic medicines must be manufactured in accordance with the guidelines of the HPUS, and manufacturers are regularly inspected by the FDA and must comply with all current Good Manufacturing Practices.
Q: How should I handle homeopathic pellets and tablets?
A: It is recommended that you avoid touching the homeopathic pellets and tablets with your fingers or hands. The easiest way is to gently shake the required pellets or tablets into the cap of the container and use that as a ‘cup’ to gently place the medicine in your mouth.
Since the homeopathic medicine is thinly adsorbed onto the surface of most pellets and tablets, any moisture on your fingers or hands may release the medicine at the point of contact rather than in your mouth. In addition, any oils on your skin may stick on the surface of the pellets or tablets and impede the proper absorption once the medicine is in your mouth.
Q: My child just ate an entire bottle of medicine! What should I do?
A: Do not panic. Homeopathic medicines are very safe, non-toxic, and have a very wide margin of safety. It is unlikely that your child could become seriously ill just from taking an entire bottle at one time. See if the product label has a 24-hour emergency information number. You can also call your Regional Poison Control Center. Most are informed of the wide margin of safety of homeopathic medicines. However, if your child does develop symptoms that concern you, please consult your own physician or health care provider right away.
Q: How quickly can I expect homeopathic medicines to work?
A: This will depend on the specific condition and the severity of symptoms. Emotional and acute conditions often respond within minutes to the correctly chosen medicine, as do certain acute well-defined physical problems. Chronic conditions like arthritis may take longer or more frequent doses to return to the desired state of well being. During periods of acute stress, more frequent dosing may be necessary to support and rebalance your body on both a physical and emotional level. Diet, lifestyle and medical history may also play a role in how quickly a patient will respond.
Q: Can I take my homeopathic medicine along with my prescription drugs or other natural supplements?
A: Unless the product label provides any warnings to the contrary, it is safe to use your homeopathic medicine while taking other drugs, herbs or supplements, as there are generally are no known drug-to-drug interactions or contraindications. However, because homeopathy works to support the body’s natural healing process, and many conventional drugs work to suppress the body’s healing mechanisms (like fever or skin rashes), a homeopathic physician should be consulted for an individualized treatment plan.
In general it is recommended that you should refrain from taking your homeopathic medicine at the same moment as your other medicines and supplements so the two do not interfere with each other. An easy to follow rule is to simply wait 15 minutes before or after taking the other products. Of course, if you are under the care of a health care practitioner, please follow the guidelines provided by them for your use of the homeopathic medicine.
Q: Tell me more about the way homeopathic medicines are prepared.
A: Homeopathic medicines are made according to a precise and controlled process of successive homeopathic attenuation. This process is sometimes referred to as dynamization, dilution or potentization. They are commonly made by finely crushing a plant, animal, or mineral substance and extracting with grain alcohol and / or water. The extract is then diluted in a mixture of alcohol and water. (Solid products can be diluted using lactose.) The process is repeated many times to reach the desired therapeutic attenuation level. After each dilution phase, the mixture is vigorously agitated (shaken) enough to create a brief moment of chaos in the ‘structure’ of the medicine. This agitation phase is called succussion.
Q: My child just took several tablets, pellets or lozenges. What should I do?
A: The amount of active ingredients in homeopathic products is very small and should not cause harm when ingested even in large amounts. For further reassurance, you can contact poison control (1-800-222-1222). Tablets, pellets and lozenges do contain sugar. If your child were diabetic or sensitive to sugar, the concern would be the consumption of the sugar, but not the active ingredient.
Q: If I use a homeopathic medicine every day, does it become less effective?
A: A properly chosen homeopathic remedy will not lose its effectiveness with frequent usage. You also need not worry because they are safe and non-habit forming. For chronic conditions that require daily administration, the same remedy can be taken for as long as the condition warrants; these are situations that are best dealt with under the care of a competent health care practitioner.
Q: Will drinking coffee or alcohol, or eating food interfere with the effectiveness of my homeopathic medicine?
A: In general it is recommended that you should refrain from consuming foods or drinks that contain strong aromatics or stimulants such as coffee and peppermint at the same moment as you are taking your homeopathic medicine so the two do not interfere with each other. An easy to follow rule is to simply wait 15 minutes before or after eating, drinking or brushing your teeth. Homeopathic medicines may also be mixed with a small amount of clean (preferably filtered) water. Of course, if you are under the care of a health care practitioner, please follow the guidelines provided by them for your use of the homeopathic medicine.
Q: Can I take an overdose or too much of a homeopathic medicine?
A: Because of the extremely small amount of highly diluted active ingredients, you need not worry about suffering an overdose by taking more homeopathic medicine than the recommended dosage. In dilutions above 8X or 4C, any toxic properties of the original substance have disappeared; the medicine is safe and sold over-the-counter (OTC).
Q: Is homeopathic medicine safe for my children? If so, how do I calculate the dosage?
A: Homeopathic medicines are ideal for use with children, especially due to their inherent safety. The correct dosing for children will be on the labeling; if it isn’t you can safely use the normal recommended amount because the dose is not dependent on the body weight. If a child has trouble holding a tablet or lozenge in their mouth, your may crush the medicine in some warm water, especially if there is concern that the child might choke on a whole dose.
Q: Is homeopathy safe to use with my pet?
A: Homeopathy is very safe to use with animals. In working with a veterinarian who is familiar with homeopathic medicines, animals (both large and small) can be greatly helped, especially if the owner has made a careful assessment of the symptoms to assist the vet in choosing the right medicine.
Q: In what dosage forms can I find homeopathic medicines?
A: Homeopathic remedies come in many different dosage forms: soft tablet triturates, compressed tablets, medicated pellets, liquids and topicals products (ointments, oils and sprays). There are even homeopathic medicines prepared as cough syrups, lozenges, eye drops, medicated powders, capsules containing powder or pellets, and suppositories. The most common are medicated pellets and tablets, as well as liquids.
Homeopathic medicines work when taken by mouth or when used topically on the skin. For example, soft tablet triturates dissolve almost instantly when you put them in your mouth because they contain only the active ingredients in a base of lactose with a small amount of inactive ingredient to hold them together; compressed tablets are harder and do not dissolve when put on your tongue. These are often meant to be swallowed with water because they take too long to dissolve under the tongue.
Medicated pellets are little round pills containing mostly sucrose (sugar) and a smaller proportion of lactose (milk sugar). They have been “medicated” by spraying the liquid active ingredient onto the surface. Liquids are usually given with a dropper directly under the tongue or in a little water; they usually contain about 20% alcohol.
Topical products are applied directly to the skin to stimulate a localized healing process. These include ointments, creams, sprays and oils, and can be prepared in a variety of bases.
Q: How should I store my homeopathic medicines?
A: Extremes of temperature are never advised for homeopathic medicines. Refrigerating or freezing homeopathic remedies is not recommended, nor should they be kept anywhere they will be exposed to high temperatures, such as a closed vehicle on a hot sunny summer day. It’s best to keep containers tightly sealed and away from extreme heat or direct sunlight. Due to the high humidity often found in a bathroom, the common “medicine cabinet” is a bad place to keep any kind of medicine.
Q: How come all homeopathic medicines have names in Latin instead of English?
A: Homeopathic ingredients are named in Latin because it allows for precision and accuracy in identifying and describing the source of particular medicine. For instance, with homeopathic medicines of botanical origin, there can be many common English names for the same plant, especially in different parts of the country. Even worse, a common English plant name may be used for many different plants. Therefore the Latin name is used to assure you that you are getting the right medicine.
Q: Why is there alcohol in the liquid remedies? Is that really safe for my children?
A: Alcohol is an excellent preservative and vehicle for homeopathic medicines; in fact this single substance serves multiple functions at one time. And the amount of alcohol in a usual dose is exceedingly small. For example, a usual dose of a homeopathic liquid medicine contains just 1/80 of an ounce of alcohol. An 8 oz glass of wine provides 80 times that much (about 1 ounce of alcohol).
Q: Should I use Liquid or pellets? What is the difference?
A: This is purely a matter of personal preference and availability, as there is no difference in effectiveness. Some people prefer pellets because of slight sweetness (especially children and pets) and others, for personal reasons, want an alcohol-free remedy. Still others prefer liquids due to the ease of use. Certainly if the right homeopathic medicine is only available to you in one of these forms, there is no reason to shy away from using it.
Q: Can I use homeopathic medicines while pregnant or nursing?
A: As with all Over the Counter (OTC) medicines, if you are pregnant or nursing, you should check with your health care practitioner before using any medicines. Homeopathic medicines have a remarkable safety record, but this is a special time in your life when you will want a professional’s judgment regarding what you expose you and your little one to.
Q: Will homeopathic medicines cause dependence or a “rebound effect” if I use them for my allergies?
A: Some conventional OTC medicines (for example, eye drops and nasal decongestants) clear up, suppress or "mask," symptoms temporarily, but those symptoms return with shorter periods of relief in between doses. That’s why many people develop a dependency on OTC eye drops and nasal decongestants. Homeopathic medicines stimulate the body's natural ability to provide relief for symptoms of common ailments, rather than suppressing the symptoms.
Q: I thought these were herbal products. Isn’t that true?
A: No, homeopathic medicines are not herbal products, which use a larger quantity of plant material per dose. Homeopathic medicines use a much smaller dose of plant or mineral substance to address symptoms. And, unlike herbal products, which are regulated as dietary supplements or foods, the law requires homeopathic products to be produced, tested and labeled as drugs. In other words, homeopathic products must be manufactured in compliance with the FDA’s pharmaceutical Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs) regulations for cleanliness, quality and testing.
Q: I am lactose intolerant. Can I use these products?
A: People who are lactose intolerant do not have enough of the enzymes in their digestive tract to digest lactose. Most small homeopathic tablets contain about 64 milligrams of lactose (the sugar from cow's milk - no protein is used) each, and larger homeopathic tablets contain about 250 mg of lactose each. While everyone is different, most lactose intolerant individuals would need to ingest 5000 mg of lactose before they experience symptoms of intolerance from the lack of enzymes. With this large margin of safety, there is rarely a problem with homeopathic products when used as directed on the label. If your physician has determined that you are specifically "Allergic to Lactose", you should avoid homeopathic tablets. If you are very concerned, seek the advice of a licensed health care professional before using.
Q: How should I read a homeopathic medicine label, such as “Arnica Montana 30C?”
A: The official drug name often appears in Latin, because these names are systematic and unique with standards of identity and purity set by the Homoeopathic Pharmacopoeia of the United States (HPUS). If the letters “HPUS” appear after a drug name, this means that an official monograph (a document studied and approved by homeopathic experts, which states the standards and specifications for a drug) exists for the drug, and the ingredient meets those HPUS standards and specifications.
The homeopathic drug strength appears after the name with a numeral followed by an X or C. Since X is the Roman numeral for 10, a 6X attenuation means the drug has been diluted, in a ratio of 1 to 10, and succussed—a total of six times. For those products with a C designation, the dilution ratio is 1 to 100 (C is the Roman numeral for 100). The higher the number preceding the X or C, the more steps of the homeopathic dilution/succussion process have been performed; and the lower the concentration of active ingredient in the finished product.
Q: What conditions are treated using homeopathic medicines?
A: Homeopathic medicines can be used to relieve symptoms of a wide range of acute health conditions such as allergies, coughs, colds, flu, stress, arthritis pain, muscle pain, teething, etc. They can also be used by trained physicians to relieve symptoms of more serious conditions and many chronic diseases.
Q: Are homeopathic medicines safe?
A: Homeopathic medicines have been used for more than 200 years and have established a remarkable safety record over that time. Homeopathic medicines offer some of the safest choices for self-treatment.
Q: What is the evidence of efficacy for homeopathic medicines?
A: The efficacy of homeopathic medicines is supported by 200 years of clinical observation. An increasing number of scientific studies on homeopathy are being conducted and, in recent years, more than 150 of these studies have been published in medical journals. Clinical research is providing evidence of the efficacy of homeopathic medicines, and basic laboratory research is confirming the biological activity of highly diluted substances and helping the scientific community better understand their mechanism of action.
Q: How popular is homeopathy in the United States?
A: Sales of homeopathic medications in the United States were estimated to exceed $890 million per year (at retail), costs that are un-reimbursed (Mintel, 2007). More recent data suggest the total is close to $1 billion.
Q: Is homeopathy practiced outside of the United States?
A: Today, homeopathy is used by millions of patients in more than 80 countries and is recommended by more than 400,000 healthcare providers worldwide.
Q: How are homeopathic medicines provided to consumers?
A: Like other medicines, homeopathic medicines are available in a variety of common and well-established dosage forms: tablets, pellets, liquids, gels, ointments, creams, syrups, eye drops, suppositories and injectables.
Q: I see homeopathic products with ingredient names that have letters and numbers. What do those letters and numbers mean?
A: Homeopathic medicines are made using a two step process (“attenuation”) unique to homeopathic medicines. In the attenuation process, the starting material is repeatedly diluted in a specified ratio with a vigorous agitation (“succussion”) at each dilution step. The number in the active ingredient name indicates how many attenuation steps have been performed (see example below).
Q: What does the “X” listed after the active ingredient stand for?
A: The designation “X” is used to indicate that the specified ratio for each dilution step is 1 part in 10. The “X” is the Roman numeral for “10” and these are called “Decimal” attenuations, and is one of the two common ratios used to make homeopathic medicines.
Q: What does the “C” listed after the active ingredient stand for?
A: The designation “C” is used to indicate that the specified ratio for each dilution step is 1 part in 100. The “C” is the Roman numeral for “100” and these are called “Centesimal” attenuations and is the other common ratio used for making homeopathic medicines.
Example: One part of Active Ingredient is dissolved in enough a water/ethanol mixture to create a total of 10 parts of solution. This is vigorously agitated (succussed), and is then labeled Active Ingredient 1X. One part of Active Ingredient 1X is dissolved in enough a water/ethanol mixture to create a total of 10 parts of solution. This is vigorously agitated (succussed), and is then labeled Active Ingredient 2X. One part of Active Ingredient 2X is dissolved in enough a water/ethanol mixture to create a total of 10 parts of solution. This is vigorously agitated (succussed), and is then labeled Active Ingredient 3X. This dilution + succussion process is repeated until the desired attenuation level is produced.
- Or -
One part of Active Ingredient is dissolved in enough a water/ethanol mixture to create a total of 100 parts of solution. This is vigorously agitated (succussed), and is then labeled Active Ingredient 1C. One part of Active Ingredient 1C is dissolved in enough a water/ethanol mixture to create a total of 100 parts of solution. This is vigorously agitated (succussed), and is then labeled Active Ingredient 2C. One part of Active Ingredient 2C is dissolved in enough a water/ethanol mixture to create a total of 100 parts of solution. This is vigorously agitated (succussed), and is then labeled Active Ingredient 3C. This dilution + succussion process is repeated until the desired attenuation level is produced.
Q: Sometimes I see 2 letters after the active ingredient, like “CK” or “CH”. What do they mean?
A: Many Centesimal (“C”) attenuations are manufactured using the Korsakovian “K” method in which one container is used for all the steps. After the vigorous agitation (succussion), 99 parts of the solution are removed and replaced by 99 parts of a water/ethanol mixture. In this way, the repeated 1 in 100 dilution ratio can be carried out quickly; this method is often used when many attenuation steps need be done in a shorter period of time, and it can more easily be adapted to specially designed mechanical devices. These Korsokovian attenuations are named after the man who developed the method. The most common Korsakovian dilutions are 200CK, 1,000CK (also called 1M from the roman numeral for 1000), 10,000CK (10M), 50,000 CK (50M) and 100,000CK (100M or CM).
Other Centesimal (“C”) attenuations are manufactured using the Hahnemannian “H” method in which a separate container is used for each step. After the vigorous agitation (succussion), 1 part of the solution is transferred into a new container and 99 parts of a water/ethanol mixture are added to that new container. The repeated 1 in 100 dilution ratio is carried out, with each step in a separate container; this method is often used when the intermediate attenuations are to be kept for future use. These Hahnemannian attenuations are named after the man who developed homeopathy, Samuel Hahnemann.
Q: What does the “K” listed after the active ingredient stand for?
A: This is exactly the same as “CK” (see above). Since the Korsokovian method is only performed with Centesimal attenuations, the “K” is just a shorthand for “CK”.
Q: What does “200CK” mean?
A: 200CK means that the active ingredient has been taken through the homeopathic attenuation process 200 times in the ratio of 1 to 100 using the Korsokovian (single container) method.