What is homeopathy? What are its pros and cons?

homeopathy

Homeopathy is a system of alternative medicine developed in 1796 by Samuel Hahnemann on the principle that “like cures like”. In homeopathy, a disease is treated with very diluted substances that produce similar symptoms. It has been criticized for lack of scientific evidence. Although homeopathic remedies have been used for more than 200 years, there remains no clear explanation for how they work. However, homeopathic remedies may often be substantially less toxic than standard treatments. The principles of homeopathy are still controversial among medical experts. Because there is little scientific evidence on homeopathy’s safety and efficacy, it cannot be recommended as an alternative to be used for serious or life-threatening diseases.

While homeopathy has been around for more than two centuries, its popularity is increasing. The reasons why homeopathy is becoming increasingly widespread are not well understood because homeopathy has not yet been proven to work. Evidence suggests that homeopaths tend to target people who have chronic conditions rather than those who have acute illnesses because homeopathic remedies cannot address the root cause of any disease that rapidly progresses (e.g., bacterial infections). People who believe in homeopathy may turn away from evidence-based medicine and allow their health to deteriorate before considering other treatment options.

Homeopathic remedies are prepared by serial dilution with shaking between each dilution (i.e., succussion), followed by a period of sitting. This process is known as potentization. The homeopathic remedies are thought to become more powerful as they become more diluted. To date, homeopaths and scientists have created billions of serial dilutions (called “succussion”) and most homeopathic remedies today are diluted under the decimal point (e.g., 12X = 1:1000; 30C = 1:1060). A homeopathic remedy that has been prepared in this way is dispensed in liquid drops or tablets that people place under their tongues.

Homeopathy originated from an incorrect theory that was proposed at the end of 18th century, which held that any substance that caused certain symptoms could also cure them. For homeopaths, it is not necessary to identify the specific cause of an illness (e.g., bacteria or virus) in order to prescribe homeopathic remedies that will work against it. Instead, homeopathic remedies are prescribed based on the theory that they induce symptoms similar to those caused by the illness itself.

Homeopathic remedies for one disease may vary depending on whether a patient has blond or dark hair, or how tall he/she is. Homeopathy takes into account such features as eye color and body type when prescribing homeopathic treatments because homeopaths believe these factors can indicate which homeopathic remedy will work best for each individual. However, heterogeneity among individuals means that there is no homeopathic remedy that can benefit everyone.

The homeopathic remedies themselves only contain water and/or sugar, but homeopaths believe they become more powerful as they are diluted. The homeopathic remedies gain their healing properties not from the active ingredient (e.g., water) but from the information contained within it (i.e., homeopoetic principle). Homeopathy is safe for most people, unless an adverse reaction occurs due to a homeopathic remedy’s toxic ingredients.

Pros

Little or no side effects; Decent evidence exists showing homeopathy can be effective in treating some conditions such as allergic rhinitis, eczema and psoriasis cough and cold symptoms, upper respiratory infections, and irritable bowel syndrome.

Cons

No homeopathic remedy has been proven effective for any medical condition to date; Continued homeopathy use could delay treatment with conventional medicine which could result in worsening of disease or increased risk of developing drug resistance. A homeopath may recommend homeopathic remedies instead of prescription drugs that have established efficacy. The homeopathic remedies themselves only contain water and/or sugar, but homeopaths believe they become more powerful as they are diluted until the original substance is so dilute it cannot be detected. Homeopathy is not likely to benefit patients with serious diseases such as cancer who require evidence-based treatments.

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