A Homeopathy Primer

A Homeopathy Primer

by: karina klug

Our Wellness Department has expanded its Boiron Homeopathy display. If you’re new to those little blue vials with Latin names, here’s an explanation of how that gentle but effective medicine works by Christophe Merville, D. Pharm. Dr. Merville is the director of Education and Pharmacy Development at Boiron, the leading manufacturer of homeopathic medicines.

What is homeopathic medicine?

Homeopathic medicines are therapeutically active micro-doses of mineral, botanical, and biological substances. Similar to other over-the-counter medicines, they are used to treat acute health conditions such as allergies, coughs, colds, flu, stress, arthritis pain, muscle pain, teething, etc.  Like other over-the-counter drugs, homeopathic medicines take the form of a single active ingredient, for example, pellets taken sublingually or as multiple active ingredients. They are available in a variety of dosage forms such as gels, ointments and creams, syrups, eye drops, and suppositories.

The use of homeopathy in medicine dates as far back as Hippocrates and in modern form since the late 18th century when German physician Samuel Hahnemann first discovered the homeopathic principal of “like cures like.” Hahnemann considered this principle an effective treatment over the medicines of the day that seemed to hurt as much as help patients.

‘Like cures like’

Here’s an example of how homeopathic medicines work:  If you are stung by a bee, you will immediately feel an acute stinging then burning pain.  The skin around the area will first swell, turn red and then become itchy later on. This pain can be relieved by cold compresses.  Patients who experience the same type of symptoms such as swollen skin or mucous membrane (eyelids, throat, etc.), stinging, burning and itching pain that is relieved by cold, will see their symptom improve when they take Apis mellifica, a single homeopathic medicine made from the honey bee.  The medicine uses a very high dilution of the bee, so it is not toxic anymore. It will help the body to react more quickly to the disease.

Homeopathic medicines are regulated by the FDA in this country, whereas all other natural supplements are not.  What does this mean to consumers?

Often mistaken for herbals or food supplements, homeopathic medicines are regulated as drugs, not dietary supplements, by the FDA, and have been since 1938. Therefore, just like conventional OTC drugs, homeopathic medicines are labeled clearly for specific indications, making choices easier for consumers. Additionally, most U.S. manufacturers of homeopathic medicines belong to the American Association of Homeopathic Pharmacists, an association that promotes adhering to the specifications of the Homeopathic Pharmacopoeia of the United States. Consumers should look for the acronym “HPUS” on the label to assure that products have been manufactured in accordance to this federally recognized standard.

A caveat

Homeopathic medicines have their limits. A skilled physician should always consider the best possible treatment for his patient, and it may not be homeopathic. Homeopathic medicines are not indicated in situations that are irreversible like degenerative diseases. Also, they require the patient to be able to react to the treatment. If the disease is overwhelming the patient’s ability to react, then another treatment must be considered.