In the United States, conventional Western medicine is often costly, impersonal and treats only symptoms rather than the patient as a whole person. Although modern hospitals, treatments, medical technology and doctors are responsible for saving hundreds of thousands of lives each year, naturopathic remedies such as homeopathic medicine are becoming increasingly popular among people with chronic or long term health problems.
Homeopathic medicine can be extremely effective in the treatment of various chronic issues such as:
- Swollen glands
- Ear infections
- Upper respiratory infections
- High blood pressure
- ADHD (attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder)
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Premenstrual syndrome
- Post-traumatic stress and more.
According to an article titled "Homeopathy: The Controversial Cure", published in the January/February 2006 issue of Ode Magazine, writer Kim Ridley states, "Today it is the most widely used form of alternative medicine in the world, according to the World Health Organization. Approximately 500 million people worldwide receive homeopathic treatment." She continues to explain that homeopathic remedies are popular in India, Europe, South Africa and Brazil. "In France, approximately 40 percent of the public has used homeopathic remedies. In the Netherlands, almost half of Dutch physicians consider homeopathic remedies effective, and in Britain, visits to homeopaths are growing by nearly 40 percent a year. In the United States, the number of people using homeopathy increased by an estimated 500 percent during the 1990s," Ridley continues.
Homeopathy's Role in Conventional and Holistic Health Care
Homeopathic medicine was introduced to the mainstream by German physician Samuel Hahnemann in the 1700's. He identified that homeopathic remedies encourage the body to heal itself through the "law of similars". For example, if large quantities of a plant cause particular symptoms, a small amount of that same plant can be used to provoke the body's natural defenses and treat the symptoms. Hahnemann tested over 200 homeopathic medicines and developed a controversial theory that the healing power of substances increases as they become more diluted. In 1844, conventional medicine began to understand homeopathic medicine was its top competitor. The American Institute of Homeopathy was established and two years later the American Medical Association (AMA) formed in response. In 1855 the AMA then created a policy to expel any physicians consulting homeopaths or using homeopathic remedies. This move to discredit homeopathic medicine was eventually successful and by 1922, out of 22 homeopathic colleges in the United States, only 2 remained.
The Controversy of Homeopathic Medicine
Many holistic healers and naturopathic physicians recommend homeopathic remedies to patients because of the gentle nature of the treatments. Side effects are almost never found with homeopathic medicine. Homeopathy strives to make the individual person the focus of treatment, not the illness. So, if homeopathic medicine has shown proven results in the treatment of various illnesses and disease and is essentially harmless, why are so many conventional Western physicians against the use of homeopathy? There is a heated debate in the medical profession about the validity of homeopathy. Homeopathic medicines include such small amounts of substances like plants, animals and minerals that active ingredients are not present. This allows medical scientists to declare homeopathic treatment less tangible and therefore invalid.
The British Medical Journal, The Lancet, published a lead editorial in issue 366 based on an analysis completed by Aijing Shang, Matthias Egger and other professionals at the University of Berne in Switzerland. After conducting 8 placebo-controlled trials with homeopathy and 6 with traditional medicine it was concluded that homeopathic medicines perform no better than placebos and have no value as a healing treatment. It is suggested that patients who experience healing from homeopathy convince themselves psychologically and mentally that the medicine will work. However, in 1997 The Lancet also published studies completed by Dr. Wayne Jonas, director of the Samueli Institute of Information Biology in Alexandria, Virginia and former director of both the National Institutes of Health's Office of Alternative Medicine and the World Health Organization's Collaborating Center for Traditional Medicine. Jonas analyzed 89 studies and reported that homeopathic medicines were 2.5 times more effective than placebos.
Today, the debate rages on and medical researchers, conventional doctors, naturopathic physicians and holistic heath care professionals all take individual stands based on medical knowledge and experience. Ode Magazine writer Kim Ridley states, "Homeopathy defies explanation by conventional science, a valid point that skeptics make over and over again. How can a remedy that might not contain a single molecule of the original substance have any effect at all?" However, she also recognizes Dr. Wayne Jonas' s idea that, "There are many things we deliver in conventional medicine that we have no idea why they work, or even if they work, but we still allow them and we still continue to research them."
The debate about homeopathic medicine and holistic health care may never be resolved, but when patients experience healing it is essential that every potential treatment is explored. Homeopathy is safe and has been used successfully by people from all around the world. It has a place in both conventional and natural medicine. For the sake of patients everywhere, hopefully holistic and medical physicians will learn to embrace the benefits of homeopathic medicine.