Why This Article Now?
You may be wondering why we are dedicating an article to politics rather than a case from our practice. Such are the times! We cannot ignore the increasingly blatant and unfounded media concerning the safety of homeopathy. Although those experienced in homeopathy, either as patients or those having treated themselves and their families, often for generations, will not be deterred, we are concerned about those who are uninformed or on the fence about homeopathy.
A couple of years ago the FDA conducted an in-depth study on the safety of OTC remedies over a period of months. Extensive feedback was solicited from homeopathic practitioners, pharmacists, organizations, patients, and the public. The homeopathic community banded together in a coherent, intelligent, reasonable fashion and it appeared that the FDA was satisfied. Yet there are a number of disturbing, baseless articles warning that homeopathy is toxic or dangerous, which could not be further from the truth. Those who are somehow convinced that teething tablets, for example, may harm their kids might be deterred from ever using this wonderfully safe form of medicine in the future. They would likely end up using conventional pharmaceutical medications which could be much more likely to harm their children, or, at least to suppress their symptoms. The chance of side effects from such drugs are of an incomparably greater magnitude than any problem they might experience with homeopathy.
Those of you homeopathy patients, practitioners, or aficionados may find the rest of this article to be something you already know, but it is our effort to present accurate information about any real risks of homeopathy. We call this real news.
Homeopathic Remedies are Dilute
Compare, for a moment, the contents of homeopathic remedies as opposed to pharmaceuticals, or even herbs. First a substance is taken from nature. Then it is diluted to the point of total nontoxicity. Let’s take Apis (honeybee). First one honeybee is/was immersed in alcohol for x number of months, then a mother tincture was prepared as a source for future dilutions. The dilutions are made on either a decimal (X potencies) or a centesimal (C) basis. The remedies in most kits, such as ours, are 30C. This is well beyond Avogradro’s number, which is considered to be the limit of material substance. The likelihood of toxicity from such a nonmaterial substance, which acts on an energetic basis, is small if not non-existent. Remember the Hippocratic oath that all physicians take, “First do no harm?” That is the motto of homeopathy.
Homeopathic Remedies Are Meant to Be Taken One at a Time
Here we will disagree with our colleagues who use numerous remedies at the same time, whether they are administered as pills, liquids, injections, or via machines. Hahnemann, the founder of homeopathy, taught that one single medicine fits the whole person. So, whether or not the individual takes the right or wrong remedy, the risk of harm is minimal compared to taking, say, five or ten pharmaceutical drugs, in combination. And most homeopaths will tell their patients to not change anything else at the same time as beginning a constitutional remedy so the effect is clear and not confused. With self-care for acute problems other natural therapies are encouraged and can work very well in tandem with homeopathic remedies.
The Minimum Dose
Homeopathy is not a sledgehammer. Did you ever hear that story about the refrigeration specialist in Manhattan? It was a sweltering summer day and a lavish hotel wedding (make it Jewish, Italian, Greek, whatever) was about to take place when the AC blew. Panic! And it was a Sunday (upping the drama) afternoon! Against all odds there happened to be one refrigeration wizard available to save the day. (S)he zipped over to the hotel, made a split second diagnosis, tapped on just the right spot, and bingo, the AC purred like a kitten. The bill: $1000. How could that be? The expert charged $1 for tapping and $999 for knowing where to tap. That’s the same as homeopathy. Knowing where to tap is the knowledge of the homeopath, or the self-prescriber, to know where to tap. The right remedy gives a gentle push to the vital force to stimulate the healing process. Contrast this to conventional medicine, where the tendency, more and more, is to give stronger drugs, in combination, even for minor, acute problems. Some neighbors here in Chile recently took their three-year-old son to the ER for a cough, and left with steroids, inhalers, and antibiotics, and a diagnosis of “pre-asthma.” This is the polar opposite of the gentle, individualized approach of homeopathy rather than one size fits all.
Homeopathy is Not the Same as Herbs
One of the recent articles, designed to ring an alarm bell to unsuspecting parents, claimed that the teething remedy contained toxic Belladonna (Deadly nightshade).
Homeopathic remedies are made from nearly any substance in nature (you know that from our articles—could be diamond, or salt, dolphin’s milk or helium, mercury or arsenic). But, remember, these substances are diluted to the extent that there is nothing toxic in them. Those who are trying to scare the public are either genuinely uninformed or are well aware that there is no real potential danger, neither to babies, pregnant mothers, the elderly, are those who are immune-compromised, from homeopathic remedies. It may be a scare tactic to direct those folks back to conventional medicine, which may be far more risky. And most herbs are very safe, though not to the same degree as homeopathic remedies.
Homeopathic Self Care
We have always made a point of clearly differentiating between self treatment and the care of a homeopath. For first aid and acute conditions, with clear guidance, you can definitely learn to help yourself and others. From colds and flu to sore throats, diarrhea, bladder infections, minor injuries, you would be amazed at how effective homeopathic remedies can be. We wrote our book, Homeopathic Self Care: The Quick and Easy Guide for the Whole Family twenty years ago in hopes of it being an effective resource for thousands of parents, families, and individuals. It has been very popular: over 30,000 copies sold and thousands of the companion self-care kit. One mom told us she had to take the book to a bindery because it was so well worn! A couple of years ago we wrote the slim, compact Savvy Traveler’s Guide to Natural Medicine: Tips to Stay Healthy Wherever You Go! And the Natural Travel Doctor app. Over the years users have contacted us letting us know how much the information has helped. We have not received a single report of any harm or problems with safety during that time, only communications from those who have been helped. The same is true with the kit. If there were any danger, you would think we would have heard something after twenty years! We included specific information in the self-care book about how to use the remedies, which we, and obviously others, have found to be extremely safe. For ongoing, chronic problems, you are unlikely to find the best remedy out of over 3000 possibilities, nor to know how to manage your own case. That’s when you need an experienced homeopath!
Safety of Homeopathic Treatment As a Patient
We can say clearly that, after 32 and 34 years in practice as homeopathic doctors, we have not experienced what we would call significant side effects nor harm to our patients. We have seen aggravations, which are a temporary and short-lasting worsening of already existing symptoms after the correct homeopathic remedy. When they do occur, they typically last 2-5 days (generally 10 maximum) and are followed by an overall improvement in the aggravated symptoms and the overall health of the patient. As we have learned more flexibility in prescribing, these occur much less frequently. Rather than prescribing a single dose of a 200C or 1M potency of a remedy, in cases of sensitive patients, we may instead use 6C, 12C, or 30C potencies or LM remedies. Multi-glass methods of administration can even further diminish any reaction to the remedy. We have learned over time to be careful, for example, with infants suffering from eczema, particular if it is being suppressed by topical hydrocortisone. One of the important reasons to work with an experienced homeopath rather than to treat oneself is to decrease any risk of aggravation or reaction, even though the medicines are quite safe and gentle. In extreme cases, it is possible to antidote the effects of a remedy with a substance containing menthol or camphor. But we have only found the need to do this a handful of times, between us, in 30-plus years of practice, so it is hardly worth mentioning.
If you are looking for professional homeopathic care, do your homework and find someone who is very experienced, can communicate well with you and your family, really follows the principles of homeopathy, is easily accessible, and whom you deeply trust. And do give that person at least a year to help you, especially if you have longstanding or serious health concerns. Not that it will take a year to find your remedy—that is extremely rare—but to allow the effectiveness of homeopathy to unfold over time. We believe that you will find homeopathy not only to be remarkably safe, but highly effective for all of your health concerns.
Judyth Reichenberg-Ullman and Robert Ullman are licensed naturopathic Physicians, board certified in homeopathy.