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By: Joanne Jansen PharmD and Anjanette Dymerski PharmD
What is homeopathy?
• Homeopathy, sometimes called homeopathic medicine, is a healing system based on the belief that “like cures like”. It claims that a substance that causes a certain symptom (like nausea) in high amounts can cure that symptom in low amounts.
• It claims that the more dilute the product is, the more powerful its healing will be.
What do the numbers on a homeopathic product box mean?
• Homeopathy is based on dilution. The numbers tell you how many times the active ingredient has been diluted. For example, 1C means there is one part of the active ingredient in 99 parts of the inactive liquid, resulting in a 1 in 100 dilution. 2C means this dilution has been done twice, and the result is 1 part active ingredient in 999 parts liquid.
• A common standard dilution is 6C. There is 1 part active ingredient in 999,999 parts liquid. At this strength (1 in 1 trillion), it is highly unlikely that any of the active ingredient is still in the bottle.
How does a homeopathic product work if there is not any active ingredient left in the bottle?
• Basically, it doesn’t. The claim is that the liquid retains the memory of the active ingredient, and that memory is what works. Clearly, water or alcohol is not capable of “retaining memory.”
• Even if the dilution is not as high as 6C, there is so little of the active ingredient in the bottle that it is highly unlikely there is enough to produce any effect.
I’ve read that homeopathic products are safe. Is this true?
• Maybe. Because there is so little active ingredient in the product, all you are really getting is water and alcohol.
• There is a higher amount of alcohol allowed in these products than in other over-the-counter (OTC) products and prescription products. These products can be up to 80% alcohol.
I’ve heard people say that homeopathic products worked for them. How can this be?
• Several of these products treat conditions that would improve on their own without treatment.
• Often it makes people feel better to know they are taking something that might make them feel better. This is known as the placebo effect.
More information available at the Natural Products Database of The Pharmacist’s Letter.