Homeopathy is based on the idea that what causes your illness will cure it. And if that sounds strange, well, keep in mind that doctors use Ritalin — a stimulant — to keep hyperactive children calm.
How does it work? Let’s say you have the flu. A homeopathic doctor would give you minute amounts of a potent homeopathic remedy, such as arsenic, that causes flulike symptoms such as diarrhea, cramping and chills to kick your immune system into high gear. Only the arsenic remedy itself won’t make you sick, because homeopathic remedies, which include a wide array of poisons, are diluted so many times that not one molecule of the original substance should remain.
Homeopaths will be the first to admit that they don’t know how their remedies work, but studies show they do. However, these studies, the majority of which are foreign, have been criticized for poor design.
Right now, the most convincing evidence for homeopathy is for problems like diarrhea, flu, hay fever, recovery from surgery, headache and menstrual and menopausal discomfort-and perhaps arthritis and pain. Homeopathic remedies are regulated by the FDA and manufactured by drug companies under strict guidelines. Sales are growing by more than 20% each year.
One big downside to homeopathy is that everyone responds differently to each remedy, so it may take several months of experimenting to find the right treatment for chronic problems. If you visit a homeopathic doctor, expect to get up close and personal with your homeopath. The average initial visit lasts up to an hour and a half and is as much a psychological profile about your fears and reactions to the environment as it is a medical history.
Qualifications: Look for a physician who is a Diplomate in Homeotherapeutics (DHt); a naturopath (ND) who is a Diplomate of the Homeopathic Academy of Naturopathic Physicians (DHANP), or other practitioners who are Certified in Classic Homeopathy (CCH).
Licensure: Three states require licensure (AZ, CT, and NV). Other states allow providers to practice homeopathy as a specialty under another medical license, as is the case with MDs or DOs who practice homeopathy.
Number in U.S.: About 3,000.
Cost: About $140 for initial visit and $55 for follow-ups.
Insurance coverage: Most insurance companies reimburse for homeopathy that is prescribed by a medical doctor or osteopathic physician. Call yours to find out.
For more information: The National Center for Homeopathy, 801 N. Fairfax St., #306, Alexandria, VA 22314; 703-548-7790. For $7, they’ll send you an information packet that includes a list of practitioners.