Homeopathy is an alternative approach to healing using the body's own vital force to restore balance after health problems have developed from the disruption of that energy. The name comes from the Greek words
Treatments are individualized to the patient and take into consideration the whole patient, including the symptoms, the emotional and mental status, and the lifestyle of the patient. Therefore, two people with the same symptoms could be given very different remedies.
Homeopathic remedies are derived from plants, minerals, and animals and are regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the same manner as are nonprescription, over-the-counter medications. This means they can be purchased without a prescription. New OTC drugs are required to go through rigorous testing for safety before they can be marketed. This however, is not true for homeopathic remedies. Remedies are expected to meet legal requirements, including labeling that details ingredients, dilution, safety information, and the ailments they can be used for. They also have to meet standards for packaging, purity, quality, and strength.
Homeopathic treatment is based on the premise that like cures like. It involves giving the patient extremely small doses of substances (called remedies) that if given to healthy people in large doses would cause the same illness as the one being treated. The remedies are expected to stimulate the body to use its own defense mechanisms and self-healing properties to treat and/or prevent illness.
Homeopaths compile data regarding the patient's medical history and lifestyle, and then recommend remedies based on their findings and from looking at the whole person. They evaluate feedback from the patient about responses to the treatments and continue or modify the approach until wellness is re-established.
Some patients report feeling worse initially, and homeopaths interpret this as the body temporarily exacerbating symptoms in the process of stimulating the self-healing process to restore health.
Education and More Information
Most homeopaths are also medical practitioners, so they are able to diagnose and/or prescribe. These include M.D.s, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, naturopaths, dentists, veterinarians, and chiropractors. It also provides them a license under which to practice medicine in only three states. Those already holding a degree in allied health care take continuing-education courses specific to the practice of homeopathy.
Otherwise, homeopaths can practice as long as they don't represent themselves as doctors. They may counsel patients and give advice, but they may not diagnose or prescribe. Education for these homeopaths can vary from two days to four years. As with other alternative medicine options, a master's degree in holistic medicine or alternative medicine gives great credence to the homeopath, who can become certified by the National Center for Homeopathy (NCH).
The American Institute of Homeopathy (AIH) provides more information about careers in homeopathy. Their Web site is