Have you ever shaken a vial of little white sugar pills, each one bigger than a poppy seed but smaller than a caper, onto your tongue in the hopes of a radical but gentle medical intervention? If you identify as a fan of homeopathy, you are not alone. According to the 2012 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS), an estimated 6 million Americans used homeopathy in 2011, one million of them children. If homeopathy is not on your radar, you might want to consider expanding your alternative medicine horizons.
Homeopathy is a surprisingly swift, noninvasive form of treatment that costs little—and comes with zero side effects, says Lauri Grossman, DC, CCH, RSHom, a NYC-based licensed chiropractor and homeopath. She also is on the Board of Directors of the National Center for Homeopathy, in Mount Laurel, NJ. “It’s such an affordable healthcare option. Most of the vials of medicine cost less than $10.”
But what’s really in those sugar pills—besides sugar? Homeopathy, developed in 1827 by Dr. Samuel Hahnemann, a German physician, is based on the principal that like cures like. The idea? A substance which can cause symptoms if taken in large doses can be used in minute doses to treat similar symptoms.
As strange as it may sound, this belief that the dose makes the poison is no stranger to medicine. It shows up in conventional medicine as well, such as the stimulant amphetamine-based drug Ritalin, often recommended as a way to treat Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and desensitizing allergic patients with small doses of allergens, particularly pollen.
While many people consider homeopathic medications controversial because of their extreme dilution, interest in homeopathy has increased in recent years. One of the reasons: A growing body of research demonstrates that homeopathy offers a safe, effective way to relieve pain.
If you are interested in homeopathy, but daunted by all the Latin-sounding remedies, an unintimidating way to explore its benefits is by focusing on homeopathic remedies for pain relief. In fact, the most common way people use homeopathy in the United States is for self-limited conditions such as the common cold or back pain.
Vitacost talked with Grossman to get her take on her favorite homeopathic pain relievers. She noted that with homeopathy, while the cause of the ailment can be varied, the correct remedy always addresses a consistent core of symptoms.
Homeopathic First Aid Kit
This is the most popular homeopathic remedy, Grossman says. People have been using Arnica since the 1500s to soothe aching muscles and heal wounds. It comes in two forms: a topical cream or gel, and pills taken internally (Grossman believes the oral form acts deeper). Arnica shines as a remedy for any kind of bruising. It’s especially effective, says Grossman, for the kind of bruising that comes from over-exercising, as well as trauma, such as a sprain.
Research backs this up. A 2007 randomized study found that an arnica gel preparation worked just as well as daily ibuprofen for people who suffered from arthritic hands. And a 2002 study found that when patients with arthritic knees used arnica gel twice daily for three to six weeks, they experienced significant reductions in pain and stiffness and had improved function.
2. Bryonia alba
Grossman describes bryonia as the right treatment for pain that gets exacerbated by movement. If you feel a tearing sensation when you’re in motion, especially in joints or muscles, this a good choice. It works well on injuries, such as fractures, that are worsened by movement.
Also known as St. John’s Wort, Grossman suggests hypericum for any injury that involves nerve damage. “It’s perfect for any kind of shooting pain—such as stubbed fingers or toes, along with certain kinds of back pain,” she says.
All these worthwhile remedies are available at most health food and grocery stores and are regulated by the FDA. In a recent draft guidance document of December 2017, the FDA has determined they want to pull the current CPG 400.400 which has safely regulated homeopathic remedies for 30 years.
When we pick up Arnica 200 we want the FDA to ensure that it is indeed Arnica 200 through manufacturing standards. But we don’t want the FDA to regulate our ability to determine whether or not homeopathy is right for us, as they say in their draft guidance. The FDA says that they must “protect people from products that may deliver little to no benefit.” We are capable of selecting homeopathic medicines through education and articles like this one and we want to protect our right to do so.
According to the organization Americans for Homeopathy Choice, if the FDA pulls the CPG 400.400 they can damage the homeopathic industry by forcing new regulations on manufacturing. “Our choices are being endangered.” says Gaylene Kuintzle, a nutritionist and adviser to the board of AHC (Americans for Homeopathy Choice). She urges people who want to preserve their current access to homeopathy to stay involved—and informed—by signing a letter to the President at homeopathychoice.org by March 15.