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 that a disease can be cured after it is treated with natural substances.

The natural substances that are used in homeopathic treatment trigger minor symptoms similar to the disease, and 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 about strengthening your immunity to a particular sickness.

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.

Homeopathy typically involves taking small doses of diluted substances, many of which come from plants, minerals or animals. The principle of dilutions is 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.

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Treatment for Chemotherapy and Radiation Side Effects

The natural aspect of homeopathy is a central reason someone like a mesothelioma patient might have interest in it. Homeopaths avoid antibiotics, over-the-counter drugs, prescriptions drugs and many standard kinds of treatments. 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 chemo and radiation provide the best path to a longer life expectancy, there are remedies that can alleviate traditional side effects (nausea, weight loss, hair loss, weariness and depression, to name a few).

These remedies have helped reduce these side effects in some cancer sufferers. 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.

For skin irritations associated with radiation, homeopathic remedies such as belladonna, apis mellifica, fluoricum acidum, rhus-toxicodendron, causticum, ignatia, psorinum, gamma-ray and kali-bichromicum have all been effective in providing 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. A qualified homeopath should determine an appropriate remedy and prescribe a dosing regimen based on a patient's particular needs.

Medical Community

Perhaps not surprisingly, these treatments are not widely accepted by the general medical community, and many doctors are dubious about the healing that natural remedies and herbs 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, titled "Efficacy of Homeopathic Therapy in Cancer Treatment," revealed there was insufficient evidence to support the efficacy 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 Traumeel S was found to significantly reduce the severity and duration of stomatitis from chemotherapy in children undergoing bone marrow transplantation.


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 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 all considerations should be discussed with a qualified physician.

Additional Resources

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. If you have a story idea for Michelle, please email her at michelle@asbestos.com.

  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 sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0959(800) 615-227062
  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

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