By Janet Levatin, MD
Homeopathy is a wonderful form of medicine to use in all stages of life. It is particularly well suited to the needs of young families, as it is non-toxic, cost-effective, and easy to administer to infants and children.
Homeopathy is a system of medicine that was developed by a German physician over 200 years ago. Homeopathic medicines are specially prepared from substances from all the kingdoms of nature, including plants (e.g., chamomile or Chamomilla and windflower or Pulsatilla), minerals (e.g., Sulphur and Phosphorus), animals (e.g., honeybee or Apis and snake venom or Lachesis), and also “imponderables” (e.g., sunlight or Sol and x-ray).
Homeopathic medicines are produced in licensed laboratories, and are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). During their production, the medicines are diluted to the point where any toxicity is removed, and serially shaken (a process called succussion), which brings out the ability of the substances to resolve and heal various health conditions by assisting the body to self-correct and self-balance. Most homeopathic medicines are classified as over-the-counter (OTC), as they are they are very safe and virtually free of side effects. They can be used in combination with other forms of therapy, such as herbs, chiropractic, and conventional pharmaceuticals.
Many people use homeopathy at home for minor ailments that can be safely treated without professional help. This is analagous to home use of conventional OTC medications such as Benadryl, Tylenol, and cough syrups. If a condition is more serious or longstanding, however, it is best to seek homeopathic treatment from a trained homeopathic practitioner. The practitioner will take a detailed history about the current illness, relevant past medical history, the personality and temperament of the patient, and some of the patient’s general characteristics (appetite, food likes and dislikes, temperature sensitivities, and sleep habits). Then a homeopathic medicine that is known to treat the person’s condition, and that resonates with the nature of the person, will be given. Healing can happen quickly, especially in milder, acute conditions of short duration; or can unfold over time, which is more likely in chronic, more deep-seated, more longstanding conditions.
Homeopathic medicine has definite advantages for use in pregnancy, childbirth, the neonatal period, infancy, and childhood. The first advantage is safety. Since homeopathic medicines act on the energy plane of the body and not directly on the physical body (similar to the way acupuncture accesses and works via the “chi” or energy channels in the body), the medicines do not have toxicity. Therefore it is safe for pregnant woman, nursing mothers, and children of all ages to use homeopathy. Expectant mothers, with proper oversight of their cases, can treated successfully for nausea of pregnancy; mild infections, such as cystitis, bronchitis, and sinusitis; and hemorrhoids. Homeopathic medicines can be given in labor for such conditions as failure to progress; dysfunctional uterine contractions; and out-of-control emotions, such as fear, anger, tearfulness, or irritability. Use of homeopathy may help a mother avoid conventional medical procedures such as epidurals and inductions. If such interventions are subsequently needed, however, the fact that homeopathic medicines have been given will have no negative effect on the safety or effectiveness of the procedure.
Since homeopathic medicines are so safe, they can also be given with confidence to breastfeeding mothers and infants. Common problems of nursing mothers can often be readily treated. Homeopathy is very effective for mastitis, often allowing a mother to avoid the antibiotics that might otherwise be necessary. Other conditions of mothers that can often be successfully treated include bruising and trauma from the birth process, post partum rashes, and post partum “blues,” among others.
For infants, homeopathic medicines can be used for treating colic, vomiting, diarrhea, rashes, and upper respiratory infections. Teething is very amenable to homeopathic treatment. Many infants have successfully been treated for ear infections without antibiotics. Using homeopathy not only helps treat the problem at hand, but will often result in a happier, healthier, more adaptable baby who progresses through the developmental stages more smoothly.
In addition to homeopathy’s safety and wide scope of applications, it is also quite affordable. Usually the cost of the medicines is quite low, possibly less than the copayment for a conventional medication, or the cost of an OTC medication. Also, with homeopathy, a little goes a long way, so one container of medicine lasts a long time.
Lastly, I would like to mention another advantage of homeopathy, which is the ease of administration to infants and children. Homeopathic medicines are made by incorporating liquids into small, easily-disolvable tablets or granules that are sweet; once children are introduced to them, they often open their mouths readily to receive the treatment. The medicines do not need to be swallowed…. just being in the mouth (either in small tablet or granule form, or after being diluted in water) is good enough. After seeing many children struggle to avoid taking conventional medicines, it is a welcome relief to see them readily accept homeopathics.
In summary, homeopathy has much to recommend it as a safe, effective, affordable, easy-to-administer therapy for people at all ages and stages of life.