Homeopathy, once common in the U.S. in the early part of the 20th century, is a system of alternative medicine. As in naturopathy, the focus is on treating the patient as a whole, rather than treating only the symptoms of a disease. Homeopathic remedies come from natural sources, like plants and minerals, and are recognized in the U.S. Food and Drug Administration Homeopathic Pharmacopoeia of the United States. A basic tenet of homeopathy is to treat a disease with a remedy that causes similar symptoms.
Homeopathic remedies are the “prescriptions” of this form of medicine. A homeopathic remedy does not contain artificial chemicals or other substances and is derived from plant, mineral or animal sources. The idea is to use the remedy to stimulate healing, not to “cure” a disease. Homeopathic remedies are always given as a minimum dose, which lessens the chance of side effects. In classical homeopathy, one remedy is used at a time. A remedy might be in the form of a sugar pill to be placed under the tongue, a gel, cream, ointment or tablet. Treatment is always tailored to the individual.
No one is really sure how homeopathy works. According to some theories, a transfer of energy takes place from the medication to the patient. Others think the water in which the remedy is dissolved undergoes changes that bring about healing. Scientific studies on homeopathy are limited, and most of the information is based on what patients and practitioners observe and report.
The purpose of homeopathy is to stimulate the patient's healing response. It may be used alone or as an adjunctive therapy for a problem like an infection that requires antibiotics. Homeopathy often works well in long-term chronic conditions like allergies, dermatitis and irritable bowel syndrome. Minor injuries like cuts, muscle sprains and strains often respond to homeopathy. Some pulmonary conditions and immune system disorders like rheumatoid arthritis may be treated with homeopathy.
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