In this country, homeopathy is a source of controversy for medical practitioners and confusion for health care consumers. That's why I am providing this guide to homeopathic medicine, a therapy that aims to stimulate the body's own healing responses by using extremely small amounts of specific substances.

In my professional practice, I use homeopathy for one reason-it works. Before I get into the science, however, I want to share a personal story about the power of this healing therapy.

My first child was born prematurely, more than three months before he was due. His lungs were underdeveloped and he contracted life-threatening viral pneumonia. It was heartbreaking to see my baby boy with tubes down his tiny throat, as four pediatricians worked around the clock to save him. Though antibiotics do not work against viruses, the doctors administered intravenous antibiotics in case there also was a secondary bacterial infection. When my son's condition did not improve, the doctors seemed at a loss for what to do next.

At this point, I took matters into my own hands. I treated my son with homeopathic Antimonium tartaricum, a liquid solution derived from antimony (a metal) and potassium salts, which I rubbed onto his chest. Within one day, he had improved visibly. By the following day, my son was off the respirator and on his way to complete recovery.

The Homeopathy Principle

Homeopathy was founded two centuries ago by the German physician Samuel Hahnemann, MD. It is based on the law of similars—the idea that "like cures like."

Underlying principle: The symptoms the body produces in response to illness, injury or stress are not extensions of the condition, but instead reflect the body's attempt to heal itself.

Homeopathy promotes healing by utilizing substances that mobilize the body's natural self-defense processes. For example, the same plant that causes an itchy rash also can cure that rash when given in very minute quantities. In conventional medicine, this principle underlies vaccination and allergy injections which administer tiny amounts of a disease-causing or an allergy-provoking agent to stimulate the immune system to produce antibodies that protect against this same agent.

For uncomplicated health problems, such as occasional digestive upset or a cold, patients can be helped with simple, common homeopathic remedies sold in health food stores. For more complex problems, practitioners depend on a deep understanding of the individual patient's health status, an array of potent remedies and careful monitoring of the patient's progress.

The Preparations

Homeopathy uses thousands of substances derived from plant, mineral or animal sources. Over many years, homeopaths have catalogued the physical and mental symptoms these substances can cause and, from this information, have created substances that cure these conditions.

Homeopathic remedies generally are safe for everyone, have no side effects when used properly, and are manufactured in accordance with standards set by the FDA.

Scientific Evidence

Researchers have been studying homeopathy for decades. Overall, studies show mixed results. This does not mean that treatments are ineffective, but rather that they are used in a holistic way not easily measured in conventional studies.

Reason: Drugs and nutritional supplements can be matched to specific problems and studied accordingly. For example, the drug celecoxib (Celebrex) and the natural supplement glucosamine (an amino sugar) both are used to treat osteoarthritis, so studies focus on their effectiveness against that particular disease. However, homeopathic treatment is highly individualized according to a patient's overall profile. If a patient has migraines, I select from among several dozen homeopathic remedies, taking into account the type and location of his/her migraines, how the weather affects him, his diet and exercise habits, etc. With so many variables influencing the choice of homeopathic remedy and the patient's response to it, I'm not surprised that study results sometimes are inconclusive.

Even so, more than 100 clinical trials have demonstrated homeopathy's benefits. Equally convincing, in my opinion, are the many reports I have received from patients who have been helped by homeopathic remedies-often after other treatments failed.

Finding A Homeopathic Practitioner

Homeopathy does not work for everyone. Some practitioners work with a limited number of substances that they have found especially effective-so if you do not get relief with a particular practitioner, try someone else.

In the US, homeopathy is practiced by many naturopathic physicians, chiropractors, nurses, dentists and some medical doctors. In most states, homeopaths are not licensed as such, and there are no national standards for training. However, the following organizations have stringent training requirements for members and offer on-line directories for finding practitioners in various areas.

  • The American Board of Homeotherapeutics awards a diplomate of homeopathy (DHD) certification. A practitioner must hold an MD or a DO license, accrue 150 hours of education credits in homeopathy, and pass various exams (703-273-5250,
  • All naturopathic physicians are educated in homeopathy. Those with the most extensive training are eligible to join the Homeopathic Academy of Naturopathic Physicians.

Referrals: American Association of Naturopathic Physicians (866-538-2267,

Over-the-Counter Homeopathic Remedies

Low-potency homeopathic remedies sold in health food stores are generally safe for all. They can be used in combination with other homeopathic remedies. Follow instructions on labels. Consult a doctor trained in homeopathy before using remedies if you have a serious illness...take medication...are pregnant or nursing...or if symptoms do not improve after 48 hours of use.

For this condition... The remedy is…

Allergies, hay fever, Allium cepa

Arthritis pain, Rhus toxicodendron

Back pain, Rhus toxicodendron

Bee stings, insect bites, Apis

Bruising, swelling, sprains, Arnica

Cold sores, Rhus toxicodendron

Coughs, colds, Phosphorous

Earache, Chamomilla

Emotional distress, anxiety, Ignatia

Fever, Belladonna

Flu, Gelsemium

Hangover, heartburn, Nux vomica

Migraine, Belladonna

Muscle cramps, muscle spasms, Magnesia phosphorica

Nerve injury, Hypericum

Poison ivy, Rhus toxicodendron

Sore throat, Phosphorous

Skin rash, eczema, Sulphur

Stomach cramps, nausea, Nux vomica

Toothache, teething pain, Chamomilla

Urinary tract infection, Cantharis

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