Homeopathy, or homeopathic medicine, is an alternative medical practice founded in the late 1700s in Germany. It's 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 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 uses pills or liquid mixtures (solutions) containing only a little of an active ingredient (usually a plant or mineral). These are known as highly diluted or "potentiated" substances.
There is no clear evidence from science to show that homeopathic medicines are effective for any specific condition.
Some people have tried homeopathy to maintain health and for a wide range of long-term illnesses, such as allergies, atopic dermatitis, rheumatoid arthritis, and irritable bowel syndrome. They have also tried it for minor injuries, such as cuts and scrapes and muscle strains or sprains.
It is not good to use homeopathic treatment for serious illnesses, such as cancer, heart disease, or major infections. It's also not safe for major emergencies.
Homeopathic remedies are thought to be safe in most cases. But some can interact with medicines that you are taking. And there isn't any evidence to show that you can safely use homeopathic products instead of getting recommended shots or vaccines.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not regulate homeopathic products in the same way it regulates medicines. A homeopathic product can be sold with limited or no research on how well it works.
Homeopathic remedies should not replace conventional treatments for serious health concerns. Talk with your doctor about any complementary or alternative health practice that you would like to try or are already using. Your doctor can help you manage your health better if they know about all of your health practices.
Current as of: March 17, 2021
Author: Healthwise Staff
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
Kathleen M. Fairfield MD, MPH, DrPH - Internal Medicine