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.

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This page features: 11 cited research articles

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 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 credited with bringing homeopathy to the U.S. in the early 1800s. In a 2012 National Health Interview Survey that included complementary and alternative medicine, approximately 5 million U.S. adults and about 1 million children used homeopathy during the previous year.

Clinical trials of homeopathy show 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 did not find evidence that it can cure or treat cancer. Proponents still recommend homeopathy to cope with swelling and bruising after surgery and cancer-related pain.

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Homeopathy 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 potential remedy is cadmium sulphuricum, which may help fight exhaustion, coldness, nausea, vomiting, hair loss and weight loss. Other remedies homeopaths recommend 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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Research Involving Homeopathy in Cancer Care

Scientific studies of homeopathy have researched its effects on patients with different types of cancer undergoing various anti-cancer treatments.

  • A 2017 Turkish study analyzed the effectiveness of homeopathic remedies on cancer patients in previous clinical trials and did not find evidence that homeopathy can cure or treat cancer.

  • A 2018 French studyalso reviewed clinical trials of homeopathy in cancer care and found one study that showed a positive impact. The study, which assessed 30 patients and was published in the journal Cancer, reported the homeopathic medication known as “traumeel S” significantly reduced the severity and duration of stomatitis (an inflamed and sore mouth) from chemotherapy in children undergoing bone marrow transplantation.

  • A 2004 study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology found a homeopathic preparation of topical calendula was more effective at preventing skin rash caused by radiation therapy than trolamine (commonly sold under the brand name Aspercream) among breast cancer patients.

Regulation of Homeopathic Products

Homeopathic remedies are made in adherence to the guidelines of the Homeopathic Pharmacopeia of the United States, 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 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.

In 2016, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission announced it would hold homeopathic drugs to the same standard as other products making similar claims regarding efficacy and safety. The commission also said companies making such claims should have reliable scientific evidence that a product can treat specific conditions.

In December 2017, the FDA proposed a new risk-based approach to regulating homeopathic products. It calls for increased scrutiny of products with the greatest potential for health risk including products intended to treat life-threatening diseases.

All three classifications of homeopathy, including allopathic drugs, homeopathic drugs and dietary supplements, are regulated to some degree by the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act or the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act.

However, the Homeopathic Pharmacopeia of the United States still excludes homeopathic remedies from many FDA rules that regulate other drugs.

Homeopathic treatment should be discussed first with your oncologist to make sure it won’t interact with your medications or treatment plan.

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Last Modified January 2, 2019

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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.

Walter Pacheco, Managing Editor at Asbestos.com
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12 Cited Article Sources

  1. National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. (2018, July). 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. Oberbaum, M. et al. (2001). A randomized, controlled clinical trial of the homeopathic medication TRAUMEEL S in the treatment of chemotherapy-induced stomatitis in children undergoing stem cell transplantation.
    Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11505416
  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. (2018, April 10). 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. (2018, March 6). 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
  11. Nonneville, A. & Goncalves, A. (2018). Homeopathy in cancer patients: What does the “best” evidence tell us? :
    Retrieved from: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0007455118300183
  12. Pommier, P. et al. (2004). Phase III Randomized Trial of Calendula OfficinalisCompared With Trolamine for the Prevention of Acute Dermatitis During Irradiation for Breast Cancer. : Retrieved from: http://ascopubs.org/doi/10.1200/JCO.2004.07.063
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