Homeopathy

Homeopathy is a nontraditional treatment based on stimulating the body’s ability to heal itself with the help of natural remedies. The principle idea of homeopathy is treating like with like, using small doses of a substance that in large doses would cause the condition being treated.

The goal of homeopathic treatment is to use natural substances to trigger minor symptoms similar to the disease. The body then goes to work fighting them off. For example, someone with a cough could be treated with natural medicine that also causes a cough.

Homeopathy is theoretically about strengthening your immunity to a particular sickness. This concept is similar to vaccination, which exposes people to inactive doses of a virus or substances that cause a disease or illness in order to build natural immunity. However, homeopathy is not a form of vaccination. No active or inactive viruses or bacteria are used in homeopathy.

Homeopathy typically involves taking small doses of extremely diluted substances that come from plants, minerals or animals. The principle of dilutions that is central to homeopathy means the lower the dose, the greater its effectiveness. Diluted substances are often shaken, called a “potentization” step.

During potentization, it is believed that information or some form of energy is transferred from the original substance to the final diluted remedy. It is this information or energy that helps stimulate the body’s natural healing power.

Hans Burch Gram, a Danish-American, is generally credited with bringing homeopathy to the U.S. in the early 1800s. In a 2007 National Health Interview Survey that included complementary and alternative medicine, approximately 3.9 million U.S. adults and about 900,000 children used homeopathy during the previous year.

Clinical trials of homeopathy show that the therapy cannot prevent or treat cancer, but it may help some people cope with pain, reduce swelling, promote bruise healing and ease osteoarthritis.

A 2017 review of homeopathy in cancer care found no evidence it can treat cancer and proposed the placebo effect is the most likely explanation for people who report positive effects after homeopathic treatment.

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May Ease Treatment Side Effects

The natural aspect of homeopathy is a central reason a mesothelioma patient might have interest in it. Homeopaths avoid antibiotics, over-the-counter drugs, prescription drugs and many standard forms of treatment.

Some of those treatments — chemotherapy and radiation therapy, for example — create side effects that can make a patient feel worse before they get better.

If someone prefers homeopathy and yet believes chemotherapy and radiation therapy provide the best path to a longer life expectancy, there are remedies that homeopaths say alleviate traditional side effects such as nausea, weight loss, hair loss, weariness and depression.

Chemotherapy Side Effects

One remedy is cadmium sulphuricum, which helps fight exhaustion, coldness, nausea, vomiting, hair loss and weight loss. Other remedies for nausea and vomiting associated with chemotherapy include arsenic album, ipecacuanha, nux vomica, phosphorus and tabacum.

Radiation Therapy Side Effects

For skin irritations associated with radiation therapy, homeopathic remedies such as belladonna, apis mellifica, fluoricum acidum, rhus-toxicodendron, causticum, ignatia, psorinum and kali-bichromicum may provide relief. Creams or rubs such as arnica (bruising) and calendula (rashes or burns) have also shown effectiveness.

Although homeopathy can be safely used for simple needs such as a cold, self-treatment for chemotherapy or radiation side effects is not recommended. Your oncologist is the right health professional to speak with if you’re experiencing moderate to severe side effects from cancer treatment.

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Medical Community Questions Homeopathy

Perhaps not surprisingly, these treatments are not widely accepted by the general medical community, and many doctors are doubtful about the healing that homeopathy can provide for a cancer patient.

A 2005 study from The University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center analyzed the efficacy of homeopathic remedies on cancer patients through several previous clinical trials. The study revealed there was insufficient evidence to support the effectiveness of homeopathy for cancer patients.

However, some studies have reported positive findings about the use of homeopathy following chemotherapy. In one study published in the journal Cancer, the homeopathic medication known as “traumeel s” was found to significantly reduce the severity and duration of stomatitis (an inflamed and sore mouth) from chemotherapy in children undergoing bone marrow transplantation.

Regulation of Homeopathic Products

Homeopathic remedies are made in adherence to the guidelines of the Homeopathic Pharmacopeia of the United States (HPUS), which became law in 1938 by the U.S. Congress. Such remedies do not require a prescription and they don’t require a note or a recommendation from a doctor. If a remedy claims to treat cancer, it must be sold by prescription.

In 1988, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) implemented a requirement that all homeopathic remedies provide a label that lists ingredients, dilutions, which medical problems can be treated and instructions for safe use.

All three classifications of homeopathy, including allopathic drugs, homeopathic drugs and dietary supplements, are regulated to some degree by the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act or the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act. However, HPUS still excludes homeopathic remedies from many FDA rules that regulate other drugs.

Homeopathy is not known to interfere with standard treatments, but any homeopathic treatment should be discussed first with your oncologist.

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Michelle Whitmer

Joining the team in February 2008 as a writer and editor, Michelle Whitmer has translated medical jargon into patient-friendly information at Asbestos.com for more than eight years. Michelle is a registered yoga teacher, a member of the Academy of Integrative Health & Medicine, and was quoted by The New York Times on the risks of asbestos exposure.

Sources
  1. National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. (2010). Homeopathy: An Introduction. Retrieved from http://nccam.nih.gov/health/homeopathy/
  2. Homeopathy Plus. (2011). Homeopathy for Radiotherapy and Chemotherapy Side-Effects. Retrieved from http://homeopathyplus.com.au/homeopathy-for-radiotherapy-and-chemotherapy-side-effects/
  3. Milazzo, S., Russell, N., & Ernst, E. (2005). Efficacy of Homeopathic Therapy in Cancer Treatment. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16376071
  4. Homeopathic Medication Traumeel S Reduces Chemotherapy-Induced Stomatitis in Children. (2001). Retrieved from http://news.cancerconnect.com/homeopathic-medication-traumeel-s-reduces-chemotherapy-induced-stomatitis-in-children/
  5. Coulter H. Divided legacy: the conflict between homeopathy and the American Medical Association. Berkeley, CA: North Atlantic Books; 1973.
  6. Borneman, J. & Field, R. (2004). Regulation of Homeopathic Drug Products. Retrieved from http://www.hylands.com/news/regulation.php
  7. Cancer Research UK. (2015). Homeopathy. Retrieved from http://www.cancerresearchuk.org/about-cancer/cancer-in-general/treatment/complementary-alternative-therapies/individual-therapies/homeopathy
  8. Ernst, E. (2007). Homeopathy for cancer? Curr Oncol, (14(4):128-130. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1948867/
  9. Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. (2015). Arnica. Retrieved from https://www.mskcc.org/cancer-care/integrative-medicine/herbs/arnica
  10. Unlu, A., et al. (2017). Homeopathy and cancer. Journal of Oncological Sciences, 3(2):77-80. doi: 10.1016/j.jons.2017.05.006

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