"Homeopathy" comes from the Greek words for "similar" and "affliction." Its principle is "like cures like" (also known as the "law of similars") – substances that cause symptoms of an illness will, in much smaller doses, help the body to heal the illness. Homeopathy maintains that symptoms of illness are the body’s normal and natural way of healing itself, and microscopic doses remind the body of these symptoms and stimulate the healing process.
How small are the doses? A fairly common strength is 6X, which is made by diluting one part of the substance in nine parts of water, and then diluting the result in the same 9:1 ratio five more times, for a total of six 9:1 dilutions. This results in a one-in-1,000,000 dilution. Greater dilutions are believed to have deeper and longer-lasting effects; doses can get up to 200X, or 200 repetitions of a one-in-10 dilution, which is equivalent to one molecule in 10200 molecules of water (about 3×10174 litres of water).
Homeopathy was founded in the late 1700s, and its fundamental principles remain unchanged, but it has gained greater regulation and standardization in more recent years.
A word of caution
Many homeopathic dilutions are not regulated as closely as prescription medications and may contain other substances that could be harmful to certain people. Look for the DIN-HM, or Homeopathic Medicine number, on products sold in Canada. A product with a DIN-HM indicates that Health Canada has assessed the product for safety, quality, and effectiveness under its health claim. Some critics caution that the concentration of active substance in a particular homeopathic dose is too dilute to have any health benefits. Homeopathic remedies should not replace traditional treatments for serious illnesses.
For more information
Most provinces have a centre for homeopathic medicine or a listing of registered homeopaths.
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