How Does Homeopathy Work?

Medically Reviewed on 1/17/2023
Most homeopathic remedies are considered safe and harmless.

Homeopathy is a complementary or alternative medicine based on the use of highly diluted substances (plants and minerals) that can help the body repair and heal itself.

Homeopathy is used to treat many conditions, including physical conditions such as asthma and psychological conditions such as depression.

What is homeopathy?

Homeopathy is a worldwide popular system of therapeutics developed in the 1790s by German physician Samuel Hahnemann.

Homeopathic medicines are available (over the counter or prescription) in different forms, such as:

  • Tablets
  • Gels
  • Liquid drops
  • Creams
  • Sugar pellets

3 principles of homeopathy

  1. Similia similibus curentur
    • A substance that causes certain symptoms in a healthy person can also help remove those symptoms if a minimal dose is used.
  2. Law of infinitesimal dose
    • According to this law, the greater the dilution, the greater its potency.
    • A process of dilution (by adding water or alcohol) and shaking a substance can exaggerate its power to treat symptoms.
    • This process of sequential dilution and succussion is known as potentization.
  3. Concept of individualization (an illness is specific to the individual)
    • Homeopathy regards disease as a disturbance of the vital force (unique to every individual). This disturbance at the energy level causes disturbances at the mind and the body level.
    • Homeopathy is based on the science of individualization, which means that no two humans are alike.

How does homeopathy work?

Homeopaths believe that tiny amounts of natural substances, such as plants and minerals, trigger the body’s natural defenses and stimulate the healing process.

After reading that quinine-containing Peruvian bark (cinchona) cures malaria, German physician Samuel Hahnemann swallowed a dose of Peruvian bark and began to feel feverish, tired, extremely thirsty, and agitated (symptoms of malaria). He started to experiment more and eventually formed a theory that like cures like, which means when a substance in large doses causes specific symptoms, in small amounts it can cure the same symptoms.

Homeopathic remedies comprise substances such as herbs, minerals, or animal products. These substances are crushed and dissolved in a liquid (alcohol or lactose), mechanically shaken, and then stored. This is the mother tincture. 

These tinctures are then diluted further either 1 part to 10 (x) yielding a 1x or 1 part to 100 (c) yielding a 1c dilution. These can be further diluted two times (2x or 2c), three times (3x or 3c), and so forth.

Is homeopathy safe?

Most homeopathic remedies are considered safe and harmless and the risk of a serious adverse side effect arising from taking these remedies is thought to be very rare.

However, there is no rigorous evidence that homeopathy is effective for any health condition. Instead, critics of homeopathy suggest that any results or outcomes are due to the placebo effect, wherein the symptoms may improve even if no real medicine was taken.


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What conditions can be treated with homeopathy?

Although there is no evidence to support or a scientifically plausible way to prove that homeopathy can prevent diseases, many practitioners believe that homeopathy can be used for an extremely wide range of health conditions, including:

Are there any risks associated with homeopathy?

Research on homeopathy is mixed. Some studies have reported that homeopathic remedies are safe and effective as they are so watered down that they do not cause any side effects. However, certain homeopathic medicines, such as heavy metals, may contain a large amount of an active ingredient, which could be dangerous.

A law was passed by the U.S. Congress in 1938 declaring that homeopathic remedies are to be regulated by the FDA in the same manner as nonprescription, over-the-counter drugs. All homeopathic medicines have to meet legal standards for strength, quality, purity, and packaging and require the label to list ingredients, dilutions, and instructions for safe use.

Medically Reviewed on 1/17/2023
Image Source: iStock image

What Is Homeopathy and Does It Work? Cleveland Clinic

What Is Homeopathy? WebMD

Homeopathy Mount Sinai

Homeopathy: What You Need To Know NIH