Not too long ago, January 2017 to be exact, the FDA issued a statement with a warning: “homeopathic teething tablets containing belladonna pose an unnecessary risk to infants and children and urges consumers not to use these products.” 

On the other side of the globe, in Europe, a study found that 94.5% of French Pharmacists recommend homeopathic remedies to pregnant women because they are so safe.

Confusing, isn’t it—but let me be perfectly clear: homeopathic remedies are exceptionally safe because of their unique preparation. Over 100 million people trust homeopathic remedies in Europe alone—this means everyone from moms with young children to elite athletes like David Beckham—and homeopathy is popular in many other parts of the world too, including South America and India. Why? Because one of the advantages of homeopathy is that it really is non-toxic and will not interfere with medications you may need to keep taking. This also means that there are no fears of doping scandals for athletes and there is no danger of toxicity for babies and pregnant women.

What are homeopathic medicines?

Homeopathic medicine, also called remedies, are made from natural substances and prepared in a unique process of dilution and potentization. Every homeopathic remedy has a number and letter behind the latin name: Arnica 30c, Calc phos 6x. If the latin name is not followed by a number and letter, then it’s not homeopathic, but rather herbal or mineral—or something else. The reason this is important is because some companies and even some recommendations (especially on the internet) discuss and label their natural remedies homeopathic, when they are not prepared homeopathically at all. If they are not prepared homeopathically, these natural remedies could interfere with medications or be unsafe for pregnant women and young children. For any doubt about whether homeopathic remedies work after being diluted and potentized, please see my blog: Scientific Research on Homeopathy.

How do homeopathic remedies work?

The Arndt Schulz law states that small doses stimulate, medium doses inhibit and large doses kill. Homeopathic remedies contain very small micro-doses of natural substances through their unique preparation, and these work to stimulate the body’s natural ability to heal itself. Unlike in pharmaceutical or herbal medicine, which inhibit the body’s natural processes (give an anti-inflammatory for inflammation, an anti-histamine for allergies), homeopathic medicines heal according to the like heals like principle (give homeopathic coffea—made from coffee—for insomnia). This may seem counterintuitive, but if you think of a remedy working like a natural vaccine, then it makes sense because they stimulate the body and its healing process to optimize health.

Why did the FDA issue a warning about the teething tablets?

This is still a mystery. While a homeopathic remedy has never caused serious harm or death in its more than 200 year history, acetaminophen, the active ingredient in Tylenol, “account(s) for about 56,000 emergency room visits and 26,000 hospitalizations yearly” in the US, according to a study in Pharmacoepidemiology and Drug Safety

The problem, according to the FDA, is that there were “varying levels” of belladonna in the teething tablets, which could “pose an unnecessary risk.”  Paola Brown, spokesperson for Americans for Homeopathy Choice explains why the caution doesn’t make sense in her interview with Kelly Callahan: “when we are looking at varying levels of belladonna less than one to one thousandth of a percent, that’s not a toxicity issue… it’s like taking 1 drop of water and dividing it into 128,000 parts: that’s the most belladonna… found in one bottle of teething tablets.” 

Paola further explains that the FDA has since drafted new guidelines for homeopathic remedies which could “give it the power to ban properly formulated homeopathic products currently legal under the Food Drug and Cosmetic Act.” We are talking about natural remedies that have been legal and used for over 200 years by homeopaths, women, mothers and the general public. To me it just doesn’t make sense.

If you’d like to hear more about the implications of the FDA new draft guidelines on homeopathy, there is an excellent interview with Paola Brown recorded by Kelly Callahan on her 1M podcast. Americans for Homeopathy Choice is a grass roots organization which was founded by a group of women and mothers concerned about their personal freedom to choose alternative and complementary forms of health care in the US—and this could affect us in Canada too. If you are concerned about your freedom of access to alternative and complementary health care, join them, it’s free!

When are homeopathic remedies not safe?

Homeopathic remedies are inherently safe because the active ingredients are so small that it renders them non-toxic and unable to interact with medications. Even so, homeopathic remedies do stimulate the body’s healing response, so they should never be given needlessly or repeated carelessly. Remember that homeopathy is powerful enough to stimulate the body’s healing in elite athletes, so they do have powerful effects. 

The only time I could see homeopathic remedies being given unsafely is if the person’s health is being neglected as a result. If a child, pregnant woman or anyone appears seriously unwell, he or she must be attended to by a medical professional—and when in doubt, it’s better to err on the side of caution.

What about aggravations?

For home remedies, like teething, colic or the flu, aggravations are not usually a problem. When homeopathic remedies are given for chronic conditions, a homeopathic aggravation could be a sign of a healing crisis, a stirring up of symptoms before improvement begins. It’s best to check with your homeopath for your specific case, but as a general rule, once the remedies are stopped, the aggravation should be short and mild. For best results when taking any homeopathic medicine, always take the remedy best suited for your symptoms and stop taking it once you feel better. 

In conclusion

Homeopathy is an exceptionally safe, gentle and natural system of medicine. It works with the body’s innate ability to heal itself, relieving symptoms and restoring order. If you have a young child who is colicky or teething, remedies often work quickly to help resolve symptoms, as suggested by Dr. Weil, among others. Whether used as a home remedy for a simple aches and pains or for postpartum depression, hormonal imbalances, or other chronic health problems, homeopathy offers hope when other treatments are ineffective or just manage symptoms. Actress Cindy Crawford sums it up beautifully: “homeopathy offers a safe, natural alternative that causes no side effects or drug interactions.”