Placebos and Homeopathic Remedies

When a person believes that she or he will get better, sometimes that alone is enough to have a positive effect on their health. A few people have suggested to me that this is also how homeopathic remedies work. While I have no qualms acknowledging the power of positive thinking, certain experiences have demonstrated to me that the effect of homeopathic remedies goes well beyond that.

An example from my life: Every year when our family vacationed at the ocean, I would stand on the shore and fight my fear. It came up without fail anytime myself or someone I loved was in the water. I could calm myself enough not to be paralyzed by it, but it was always there. Then, last year, I walked onto the beach for the first swim, and…     Nothing happened. I wasn’t afraid! The only thing that had changed was the homeopathic remedy I was being treated with.  Two fascinating facts about this: I had never told my homeopath about this fear. And, I was expecting the fear to come up as usual–exactly the opposite of the placebo effect.

You do not have to believe in homeopathy for it to work. But, being open to the possibility is a good place to start. Give me a call if you have any questions.

What to Expect After Taking Your First Remedy

In the first few weeks after taking a homeopathic remedy, many things are possible! You may start feeling better very soon. (Everyone likes this result.) Or you may notice no difference at all. This is fairly unusual, actually. It’s more often the case that the changes were subtle enough that you may not have noticed them until your homeopath asks you at your follow-up appointment.

The third possibility is that you may feel worse for awhile. And this is the type of reaction that a professional homeopath needs to be watching. Because:  sometimes the perfect remedy will temporarily intensify what you already have, or bring old symptoms back. And THEN you get better.  This is where the word “homeopathy” comes from: it means that “Like cures like.” The remedy that is best for you, is one that would produce the symptoms you already have in a healthy person. Said another way, the remedy pushes your body in the same way it is already going (symptom-wise) in order to jumpstart your own natural healing process. So sometimes this is going to mean feeling worse before you feel better. But always ask your homeopath if you have any concerns about a response you are having.

“Do I have to stop drinking coffee to get homeopathic treatment?”

What you can and can’t do while taking homeopathic remedies:  This is not set in stone, but varies from practitioner to practitioner. Some will require you to quit coffee and all mint products. I do not require this. From personal experience, I have had a remedy stop working by doing acupuncture. So I recommend not doing acupuncture while under my care. But a lot depends on you and our observations on what works and what doesn’t. Because remedies act on the much-more-than-physical plane, most physical things do not interfere with their action. Extreme heat is one exception, so you never want to take your remedy with a hot drink, or leave your remedy in a hot car.

Why isn’t homeopathy more popular in the US? Big Pharma, and…

Homeopathy has two qualities that make its use challenging. The first one involves economics: homeopathic remedies can be very cheap to use since the doses are so small. You would think this would make homeopathic treatment very popular. Unfortunately, the pharmaceutical companies have an economic interest in people using a LOT of medicine, not a little. Hahnemann–the 18th century doctor who discovered homeopathy–was literally run out of town by the pharmacists where he lived. His patients were getting better on such a small amount of medicine that he was ruining their business.

The other quality of homeopathy that makes it more difficult to use is that treatment needs to be individualized to work well. This means even though you may be lucky enough to come across a remedy that helps you, it often takes a trained homeopath to find the right one, especially when we’re talking about chronic issues.

And lastly, although it sometimes comes across as yet another conspiracy theory, it seems to be the case that the American Medical Association of the early 1900s did its best to squelch homeopathy in this country.*

But here we are in 2013! Optimistic about this wonderful form of natural healing continuing to spread again, as people re-discover its gentle power.
*Read Harris Coulter’s “Divided Legacy: the conflict between homoeopathy and the American Medical Association” for more on this.

Will homeopathy interfere with other meds? Very unlikely. Here’s why.


How Conventional Medicines and Homeopathic Remedies Interact

The good news is that–with very few exceptions–they don’t interfere with each other. This means that if you are currently taking prescription medicines but you’re also interested in trying homeopathic treatment, you don’t have to wait.

One exception to this rule is medicines that are steroid-based. The reason for this lies at the core of how homeopathy works:  the genius of the homeopathic remedy is its ability to trigger the body’s own healing mechanism. But! this is diametrically opposed to what steroids are designed to do, which is to suppress the body’s immune system. It wouldn’t actually hurt you to take both at the same time, but the homeopathic remedy wouldn’t have much chance of working since the steroids would be interfering with the body reacting in a natural way.

So if you are taking steroids but would like to pursue homeopathic treatment, we would start with a (free) conversation to determine what would be the best option for you in your unique situation.

Vitamins & Supplements vs. Homeopathic Remedies

Even though homeopathic remedies ARE made from natural substances–plants, minerals, animals, etc.–they are qualitatively different from vitamins and supplements. You could think of homeopathic remedies as super-concentrates, or essences. Because they are much more powerful than their “crude” origins, they are classified as medicines, and thus need to be used much more carefully. For example, if you are self-treating, don’t repeat a remedy for more than 3 days. If it hasn’t helped you by then, it isn’t going to!

 Another difference in using herbs vs using a homeopathic remedy is that, while herbs might be used to address individual symptoms–e.g., a runny nose or constipation–homeopathic remedies are designed to treat the whole person, taking into account not only all physical symptoms, but emotional and mental issues as well. This whole-system aspect also means that the correct homeopathic remedy for any given person is much more difficult to find.

A Natural Reaction That Keeps on Going

One of the coolest aspects of homeopathy that many people aren’t aware of is how little it can take to feel better for a long time. It’s pretty typical for a client of mine to get one dose of a homeopathic remedy and have it keep working for 3-6 weeks! How can this be? It’s not that the substance itself actually lasts that long. What happens is that the remedy sets off a natural reaction within your own system and the healing reverberations just keep going.

This is great on so many levels:

  • It means homeopathic remedies are not going to break your budget.
  • It means that homeopathic remedies are better for the environment since we are taking less out of it and putting less in.
  • And it means that some people will be able to get off conventional medicines that are going to do long-term damage if taken daily for the rest of their lives.

And I think that’s pretty cool.