Thoughts on World Homeopathy Awareness Week

Echinacea flower

I was first introduced to homeopathy many years ago by a yoga friend who suggested I take Arnica to soothe my tired and over-stretched muscles. It worked, and I became intrigued about homeopathy and how it works.

Homeopathic remedies are freely available to buy on every high street – from well-known pharmacies to health food stores. This ubiquity suggests that the consumption of homeopathic remedies is commonplace, and for many people they are a popular replacement or addition to medical health care. However, we do need to be more circumspect.

As a friend pointed out to me, you could go to any roadside, ramshackle petrol station in any area of the country and buy a packet of aspirin, knowing that that what you have bought has been subjected to the most stringent tests for efficacy and manufacture. This is not the case with homeopathic remedies, which are unregulated.

When using homeopathy to treat any symptom, it is important to understand what the ingredients are, what they do, any side effects, and what dose is correct for you. For example, St John’s Wort is a popular herbal remedy to treat mild to moderate depression – it’s been used for thousands of years and many people find it effective, however side effects may include headaches and nausea, and it may also interfere with other medications you may be taking.

A good homeopath has been trained to ask the right questions about your body and your symptoms to allow them to suggest an appropriate treatment, dosage, and brand. Therefore, if you’re considering a homeopathic remedy, it’s always best to consult with an expert in the same way that you would go to doctor.

It’s also important to remember that, when it comes to homeopathy, cost and efficacy are not always directly linked.

Considering a homeopathic remedy?

If you do want to use homeopathic remedies, it’s important to consider the following:

  1. Homeopathy is holistic, thinking of all the symptoms as one. It is the possible cause, not the symptoms, which is being addressed.
  2. There is a temptation to self-administer homeopathic remedies, but you need to keep in mind that prescribing the right homeopathic remedy is different to conventional medicine – it takes more time and patience
  3. Exactly the right remedy needs to be taken for your symptoms. There is no such thing as a standard homeopathic headache remedy, despite the health food shop shelves suggesting otherwise.
  4. Homeopathy relies on prescribing one remedy for a precise combination of symptoms. All the symptoms you present should be included in the process, even those that you don’t really notice such as cold feet, or an itch behind the ear – that’s where specialists trained in homeopathy can help.
  5. Remember that when attempting to diagnose and treat illnesses at home, you need to know when to stop. If symptoms persist you must go and see your doctor, even if they feel relatively minor they are not unworthy of professional help. Minor symptoms can often be a sign of something more serious.

Isn’t it all just ‘the placebo effect’?

The term ‘placebo effect’ is often dismissed in derogatory terms, suggesting inauthenticity, but in fact it reflects the powerful effect the mind has on the body.

The placebo effect plays an important part in the effect of both Western medicine and complementary therapies, reflecting the influence of our consciousness and our mental beliefs on our physical bodies.

Research suggests that our thoughts don’t simply make us feel better – they can change our brain and physiology. Controlled trials showed that when patients were given either antidepressants or placebos, approximately 75% of the effectiveness of antidepressants was due to the placebo effect.

As meditators, we know from personal experience that our beliefs can have a significant impact on our health and well-being. Many complementary therapies take advantage of this – it’s not necessarily a negative, and it doesn’t in any way diminish the effectiveness of the treatment, whether it’s homeopathy or medicine.

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Anthony Thompson