Friends of mine give their child homeopathic teething and colic tablets. What does homeopathy mean, and is it effective?
When looking for ways to ease their little one's discomfort, parents are confronted with many options. Homeopathy, a 200-year-old practice, is a modality parents may turn to. Homeopathic treatments, now available over the counter, offer parents more choices in healing, but can also lead to confusion. Is homeopathy safe? Is it effective?
What Is Homeopathy Anyway?
The notion of homeopathy encompasses the ideas that symptoms are the way the body heals itself and that by mimicking or ingesting a substance that produces similar symptoms, a patient can be relieved of them. Proponents believe that stimulating the immune system can bring about healing and equilibrium.
A similar principle is behind allergy shots: When a patient receives an allergy shot, a small, dilute form of the allergen is injected into his or her body. The substances are extremely dilute, making them unlikely to cause problems. Ultimately, though, the patient can be less susceptible to the effects of that allergen.
Samuel Hahnemann (1755 to 1843) is believed to be the founder of this type of healing. He hypothesized that by using plants and minerals that could normally induce the same type of symptoms that the patient was having, a balance would be attained, thus alleviating those symptoms. James Tyler Kent (1849 to 1916), an American physician, helped to make homeopathy more popular and refined some of the original ideas around the turn of the century.
Is Homeopathy Effective?
Depending on whom you talk to, homeopathy can be a controversial topic. Many question the efficacy of this type of treatment. Skeptics believe that the placebo effect is what provides relief for symptoms, and there are studies that do cast doubt on homeopathy's efficacy. These studies are questioned by supporters, who point out that homeopathy has been used safely for the last 200 years, that millions of dollars are spent annually on homeopathic treatments, and that it is a method of healing used throughout the world.
Many supporters of homeopathy feel that the holistic approach to the "diagnosis" is key to healing. The homeopath spends a great deal of time discussing symptoms, diet, lifestyle, and emotional issues, thereby gaining a full picture (referred to as a "holistic" view) of the patient's needs. And there are many different types of practitioners who practice homeopathic medicine, including but not limited to chiropractors, medical doctors, osteopaths, naturopathic physicians, and acupuncturists.
The bottom line for you as a parent: If homeopathy is not harmful and produces effective results for patients, do the studies have to show solid numbers to make it effective?
What About My Pediatrician?
Often when our choices veer from the Western approach, there can be questions and uncertainty from healthcare providers or friends and family members. While there are physicians who may not be familiar with homeopathy or its use, many pediatricians are working to expand their knowledge of complementary methods of healing.
The Integrative Pediatrics Council is an organization of pediatric healthcare providers who embrace a variety of approaches to healing. One of the group's stated goals is this:
To encourage pediatric providers to learn about clinical approaches derived from other healing philosophies appropriate to their patients.If you are interested in finding a pediatric practitioner and learn more, visit The National Center for Homeopathy.
"I want to try homeopathic remedies. What else should I be aware of?" Teething and colic tablets, like most homeopathic remedies, are small tablets that rapidly dissolve on your child's tongue.
- Homeopathic medicines are regulated by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
- Homeopathic remedies are extremely diluted, thus reducing the risk of adverse affects.
- Most doctors agree that homeopathic remedies are safe.
- Work with a knowledgeable practitioner to begin taking a homeopathic remedy, and tell your pediatrician what your child is taking.
- As with any medication, be aware of side effects (though they're rare with homeopathic treatments) and discontinue use if you suspect any.
- If symptoms do not improve within five days, contact your child's healthcare provider.