Invented in Germany at the turn of the 19th century, homeopathy is very much a product of its time—a time before the discovery of atoms and molecules, and, as you'll see in the above video from the American Chemical Society, a time before rigorous scientific standards.
The modern-day practice of homeopathy (from the Greek words for “like” and “suffering”) is built on three tenets:
1. Like Cures Like: Something that causes illness in large doses must, in small doses, also cure that illness.
2. Dilution: The "active ingredients" in homeopathic remedies are diluted over and over again. Modern scientists have pointed out that this extreme dilution means that to ingest even one molecule of said ingredient, you’d need to take hundreds of thousands of homeopathic pills.
3. Water Has Memory: That whole molecule thing is irrelevant, according to practitioners of homeopathy, because the water in which the ingredient has been diluted can still remember the ingredient and pass its benefits on to the patient.
Meanwhile, modern science has found no solid, reproducible evidence that homeopathic remedies can help, as the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council noted in 2015 after reviewing 176 homeopathy studies that took place during a 15-year period [PDF]. It concluded that "there are no health conditions for which there is reliable evidence that homeopathy is effective."
All the same, proponents of homeopathy swear it’s helpful. But is homeopathy doing any harm?
Yes, it is. These remedies, like herbal supplements, are only sort-of regulated by the FDA, and there’s no way of knowing what’s actually in that bottle or if it's safe. Also, in the two centuries since homeopathy’s inception, medicine has found reliable treatments and cures for hundreds of ailments and illnesses. Foregoing conventional medical care for a chronic or serious illness could cost you your life. If you’d like to use or continue using these remedies to supplement your care, check with a doctor first to make sure they’re safe for you.
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