Magazine article Drug Topics

What Is Homeopathy?

Magazine article Drug Topics

What Is Homeopathy?

Article excerpt

So you have a patient who is feeling a little under the weather? How about recommending a dose of iris florentina to him? Or a tablet of chamomilla? Or a tablespoon of eugenia jambosa?

While these ingredients may be a far cry from what's found in Tylenol or Robitussin, they are representative of a growing trend in medicine--homeopathy.

Homeopathy operates on the principle that microdoses of natural substances derived from plants, animals, and minerals will promote the body's own self-healing powers, strengthening its own natural defenses against a medical condition and thus reducing the likelihood of a recurrence.

"Homeopathic medicines work on a different principle from traditional OTC drugs," explained Martha Oelman, media coordinator with the National Center for Homeopathy, Alexandria, Va. "Traditional over-the-counter drugs conventionally treat and suppress the symptoms of an underlying disease. What homeopathic medicines do is stimulate the body's own defense mechanisms to heal the underlying root of the symptoms. In homeopathy, symptoms are considered to be the body's signal that it is trying to heal itself," Oelman explained.

More specifically, homeopathic remedies work on the principle of similars. That is, an ingredient that can provoke symptoms in a healthy person will cure a sick person with the same symptoms. Take ipecacuanha, for example, commonly known as ipecac. In traditional medicine, it is used frequent in syrup form to induce vomiting in a person who has swallowed poison. In homeopathy, on the other hand, a small dose of ipecac is administered to suppress symptoms of vomiting.

Another popular homeopathic drug product is allium cepa, derived from the red onion. "Think about what happens when a person peels an onion," said Jay Borneman, product manager with P&S Laboratories, a subsidiary of Standard Homeopathic Co., Los Angeles, and a manufacturer of homeopathic medicines. "He or she may start to cry; hence, symptoms are produced in a healthy person." But allium cepa, in its homeopathic form, can heal a runny nose and some other allergy symptoms.

While the principles of homeopathic medicines were employed centuries before the birth of Christ by the Greek physician Hippocrates, they were rediscovered in the 18th century by Samuel Hahnemann, M. …

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