According to a recent report sponsored by the Homeopathy Medicine Research Group, alternative medicine has been attracting considerable attention from consumers and medical professionals in recent years. In the past two decades, sales of homeopathic medicine have jumped by 20% to 30% in the U.S. and Europe.
Homeopathy is a school of medicine that uses small doses of specially prepared plants, minerals and animal products to stimulate the defense mechanisms of the human body and promote healing. It’s based on “the law of similars,” in which a remedy is used that produces symptoms similar to the disease it seeks to cure.
Currently, homeopaths are not required by law to be licensed physicians. Therefore, doctors who incorporate homeopathy into their practices are often met with skepticism. Consumers seeking homeopathic treatments do so at their own risk, so education is key.
“There are absolutely no adverse side effects to homeopathic treatment,” insists Glenn Ellis, a homeopathic practitioner and herbalist for the last 10 years in Philadelphia. “It will either work well, work somewhat or not at all. It’s the safest type of medicine there is.”
Currently, the only states that have laws governing homeopathy or any other alternative practice are: Alaska, Colorado, Georgia, Massachusetts, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas and Washington. These states protect doctors’ rights to provide homeopathic treatment as a supplement to licensed-physician care. Three states-Arizona, Connecticut and Nevada-offer an additional license in homeopathy to previously licensed physicians.
Although a homeopathic practitioner may be a seasoned expert in his or her field, the absence of widespread homeopathic legislation helps discredit its practice and creates more room for quacks.
Dr. Stephen Barrett, a medical communications expert in Allentown, Pennsylvania, cautions consumers about fraudulent medical practices. Barrett says any and everything other than traditional medicine is not “real” medicine.
Traditional medicine is subject to extensive research by scientists and review by expert panels, government agencies and scientific journals, but homeopathic, alternative and holistic therapy are not. For Barrett, this alone renders homeopathic medicine untrustworthy and questionable, points he discusses on his Website, www.quackwatch.com.
If you’re still willing to give homeopathy a try, Ellis, who received his credentials as a homeopathic practitioner from the Atlantic Academy of Classical Homeopathy in New York, suggests you “do a greater amount of research. [Homeopathy] is not practiced widely enough for there to be the type and number of guidebooks and organizations that traditional medicine has.” As a first step, familiarize yourself with the organizations that certify homeopathic practitioners and the states that have homeopathic legislation. Research the background and reputation of a homeopathic physician the same way you would a traditional physician.
Here are some other ways to help you distinguish a qualified physician from a quack:
- Research the practitioner’s credentials. “A homeopathic practitioner should have graduated from an international school that recognizes homeopathic medicine,” advises Sir Abdul Smithford, an expert in complementary-integrated medicine at the Perfect Body Health System in New York. “Usually they have board certification or international certification regarding their homeopathic practice. Also, consumers should understand that homeopathic medicine doesn’t