How Safe Is Homeopathy for Children, Babies and Pregnant Women?
Not 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. How can the FDA suggest homeopathic medicines may be dangerous for babies and yet pharmacists believe they’re safe for women carrying babies? To understand how or why homeopathic medicines have never caused serious harm or disability to anyone in its 200 year history, let’s get back to the basics of how homeopathic medicines are made for answers.
What are homeopathic medicines?
Homeopathic medicines, also called remedies, are made from natural substances that are prepared in a unique process of dilution and potentization. Every homeopathic remedy has a number followed by a letter behind its 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 a supplement of some sort. 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 products could interfere with medications or be unsafe for pregnant women and young children. The lower the potency, the higher the possibility that some of the original herb or mineral is present in the homeopathic remedy, for instance a 6x or lower. The higher potencies, such as 12c or 30c, do not have any of the original substance after dilution and potentization, so the active ingredients are in the form of micro-doses or nano-particles–so minute that toxicity is impossible. For any doubt about whether homeopathic remedies still work after being diluted and potentized, please see my blog on scientific research on homeopathy–in a nutshell, there’s overwhelming evidence that these remedies are effective beyond placebo.
How do homeopathic remedies work?
The Arndt Schulz law of pharmaceuticals states that small doses stimulate, medium doses inhibit and large doses kill. Homeopathic remedies contain very small doses–some call them nano-doses–of natural substances that act by stimulating the body’s natural ability to heal itself. Unlike pharmaceutical or herbal medicine, which inhibit the body’s natural processes–anti-inflammatories for inflammation, anti-histamines 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 some conventional medicines, including vaccines, work similarly in stimulating the body’s healing mechanisms.
Why did the FDA issue a warning about the teething tablets?
This is still a mystery. The problem, according to the FDA, is that there were “varying levels” of the herb belladonna in the teething tablets, which could “pose an unnecessary risk.” The potencies in the teething tablets by Hyland’s were for belladonna 3x, so low potencies in which traces of belladonna were present. Nevertheless, Paola Brown, spokesperson for Americans for Homeopathy Choice explains why the caution doesn’t make sense in her interview with Kelly Callahan in her 1 M Podcast: “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!
Take note that 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.
When are homeopathic remedies not safe?
Homeopathic remedies, like Arnica 30c, 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.
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 noticed. When homeopathic remedies are given for chronic conditions, a homeopathic aggravation, though rare, could be signs 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. In homeopathy, less is always better than more, so for best results, always use the least amount of homeopathic remedy to provoke a healing response.
For best results in using homeopathic remedies, follow these golden rules:
- Choose remedies according to the unique symptoms a person experiences rather than by disease diagnosis.
- To increase the strength of a remedy, repeat more frequently rather than giving more pills.
- Homeopathic remedies are not given by body weight but by intensity of symptoms. The general guidelines are: for a 30ch potency, give 5 pills to dissolve on the tongue every 2-4 hours for intense symptoms (teething or colic), or every 8-12 hours for mild symptoms (first sign of a flu). Repeat for 3-4 doses, then re-evaluate. If symptoms are improved, even after the first dose, stop the remedy and repeat only if the symptoms return. If symptoms do not improve after three or four doses, depending on the problem, it may be the wrong remedy. Find a homeopath for assistance.
Note that different potencies may need different dosages, so it’s best to follow the instructions on the label or given to you by your health practitioner. Hopefully that clarifies how exceptionally safe homeopathic remedies really are!