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What Is Homeopathy?

Detailed information on homeopathy, homeopathic remedies, homeopathic practitioners and the scientific research on whether homeopathy works.

Detailed information on homeopathy, homeopathic remedies and homeopathic practitioners and whether homeopathy works.

On this page:

  1. What is homeopathy?
  2. What is the history of the discovery and use of homeopathy?
  3. What kind of training do homeopathic practitioners receive?
  4. What do homeopathic practitioners do in treating patients?
  5. What are homeopathic remedies?
  6. How does the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulate homeopathic remedies?
  7. Have any side effects or complications been reported from the use of homeopathy?
  8. What has scientific research found out about whether homeopathy works?
  9. Are there scientific controversies associated with homeopathy?
  10. Is NCCAM funding research on homeopathy?
  11. For More Information
  12. References
  13. Appendix I
  14. Appendix II

Homeopathy ("home-ee-AH-pah-thy"), also known as homeopathic medicine, is a form of health care that developed in Germany and has been practiced in the United States since the early 19th century. Homeopathic practitioners are commonly called homeopaths. This fact sheet answers some frequently asked questions on homeopathy and reviews scientific research on its use and effectiveness.

Key Points

  • In homeopathy, a key premise is that every person has energy called a vital force or self-healing response. When this energy is disrupted or imbalanced, health problems develop. Homeopathy aims to stimulate the body's own healing responses.

  • Homeopathic treatment involves giving extremely small doses of substances that produce characteristic symptoms of illness in healthy people when given in larger doses. This approach is called "like cures like."



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    Various explanations have been proposed as to how homeopathy might work. However, none of these explanations has been scientifically verified.

  • Research studies on homeopathy have been contradictory in their findings. Some analyses have concluded that there is no strong evidence supporting homeopathy as effective for any clinical condition. However, others have found positive effects from homeopathy. The positive effects are not readily explained in scientific terms.

  • It is important to inform all of your health care providers about any therapy that you are currently using or considering, including homeopathic treatment. This is to help ensure a safe and coordinated course of care.

1. What is homeopathy?

The term homeopathy comes from the Greek words homeo, meaning similar, and pathos, meaning suffering or disease. Homeopathy is an alternative medical system. Alternative medical systems are built upon complete systems of theory and practice, and often have evolved apart from and earlier than the conventional medical approach used in the United States.a Homeopathy takes a different approach from conventional medicine in diagnosing, classifying, and treating medical problems.

Key concepts of homeopathy include:

  • Homeopathy seeks to stimulate the body's defense mechanisms and processes so as to prevent or treat illness.

  • Treatment involves giving very small doses of substances called remedies that, according to homeopathy, would produce the same or similar symptoms of illness in healthy people if they were given in larger doses.

  • Treatment in homeopathy is individualized (tailored to each person). Homeopathic practitioners select remedies according to a total picture of the patient, including not only symptoms but lifestyle, emotional and mental states, and other factors.

a. Conventional medicine, as defined by NCCAM, is medicine as practiced by holders of M.D. (medical doctor) or D.O. (doctor of osteopathy) degrees and by their allied health professionals, such as physical therapists, psychologists, and registered nurses. Some conventional medical practitioners are also practitioners of complementary and alternative medicine. To find out more about these terms, see the NCCAM fact sheet "What Is Complementary and Alternative Medicine?"

Last Updated: 08 July 2016
Reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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