Homeopathy

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Homeopathy, or homeopathic medicine, is a medical philosophy and practice based on the idea that the body has the ability to heal itself. Homeopathic medicine views symptoms of illness as normal responses of the body as it attempts to regain health.

Homeopathy was founded in the late 1700s in Germany and has been widely practiced throughout Europe.

Homeopathy is based on the idea that "like cures like." That is, if a substance causes a symptom in a healthy person, giving the person a very small amount of the same substance may cure the illness. In theory, a homeopathic dose enhances the body's normal healing and self-regulatory processes.

A homeopathic health practitioner (homeopath) uses pills or liquid mixtures (solutions) containing only a little of an active ingredient (usually a plant or mineral) for treatment of disease. These are known as highly diluted or "potentiated" substances. There is some evidence to show that homeopathic medicines may have helpful effects.

Historically, people have used homeopathy to maintain health and treat a wide range of long-term illnesses, such as:

  • Allergies
  • Atopic dermatitis
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Cuts and scrapes
  • Muscle strains or sprains

Homeopathic treatment is not considered appropriate for illnesses, such as cancer, heart disease, major infections, or emergencies.

Some critics of homeopathy believe that there is so little active substance in a solution that any benefits from treatment are likely not because of the substance but because you are thinking it is effective (placebo effect).

Supporters of homeopathy believe that although homeopathic solutions are highly diluted, they contain a "memory" of the substance in water. The body recognizes the substance and reacts to it.

Studies have tried to determine whether effects from homeopathic treatments are placebo or whether some other action occurs. Although these studies could not identify how homeopathic solutions work, there was evidence that homeopathic dilutions differ from placebos.

You can buy some homeopathic medicines at health food stores without a doctor's prescription. But preparations from different suppliers and practitioners may vary.

Always tell your doctor if you are using an alternative therapy or if you are thinking about combining an alternative therapy with your conventional medical treatment. He or she should have full knowledge of your health to help you make wise decisions about where to purchase homeopathic dilutions and what homeopathic practitioner to see. It may not be safe to forgo your conventional medical treatment and rely only on an alternative therapy. Homeopathic remedies should not replace conventional treatments for serious health concerns.