Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Homeopathy around the world

Homeopathy is viewed differently in different places around the world. The basic idea is that an ill person with a set of symptoms should be administered extremely dilute doses of a substance which has been found to produce the same symptoms in healthy individuals. The doses are often so diluted that not a single molecule of the active substance remains in the dose. This approach has its roots in the medicine of the Ancient Greeks, but flowered under the efforts of Samuel Hahnemann, the modern Father of Homeopathy, in the 1800s. Homeopathy is particularly popular in Europe and India,although less so in the USA.

The popularity of homeopathy

Homeopathy is much more popular in Europe and India than in the USA. Surveys taken between 1985 and 1992 found that the percentage of the population that reported having used homeopathy at some time for various countries was:

Country & Percentage of population using homeopathy
Belgium 5.8% (2004)
Denmark 28%
France 32%
Netherlands 31%
Sweden 15%
UK 16%
USA 3%

Legal status

United States

In the United States, homeopathic remedies are, like all health-care products, regulated by the Food and Drug Administration - the CFSAN (Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition) sector of the FDA deals with the dietary supplements, as well as comsetics and food. However, the FDA treats homeopathic remedies very differently than conventional medicines. Homeopathic products do not need FDA approval before sale; they do have to be proven safe since the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994, any products prior to 1994 may or may not have been tested for safety, but they do NOT have to prove efficacy; they do not have to be labeled with an expiration date; and they do not have to undergo finished product testing to verify contents and strength, all of these are voluntary actions done by the manufacturer and consumers should look for the United States Pharmacopia (USP) seal when looking for drugs that are monitored for sanitary manufacturing processes and correct ingredients with strict guidelines. The manufacturer is required to have all ingredients on the label; however, it might not specify which ones are active. In the USA, only homeopathic medicines that claim to treat self-limiting conditions may be sold over the counter; homeopathic medicines that claim to treat a serious disease can be sold only by prescription.

A memorandum written in 1985 by attorneys for the American Association of Homeopathic Manufacturers, describes a meeting between the AAHP attorneys and high-ranking FDA officials to discuss whether homeopathic products must be proven effective to remain legally marketable.

Such negotiations led to the issuance in 1988 (revised in 1995) of an FDA Compliance Policy Guide that permits homeopathic products "intended solely for self-limiting disease conditions amenable to self-diagnosis (of symptoms) and treatment" to be marketed as nonprescription drugs.

In 2001, the FDA published a comprehensive review of mercury compounds in homeopathic drugs. This report indicated that nearly all examined compounds derived from the use of mercury. However, due to the extreme dilution of materials, the presence of mercury in the finished product would be minimal.


In Germany, about 6,000 physicians specialize in homeopathy. In 1978 homeopathy, anthroposophically extended medicine and herbalism, were recognized as "special forms of therapy", meaning that their medications are freed from the usual requirement of proving efficacy. Since January 1, 2004 homeopathic medications, with some exceptions, are no longer covered by the country's public health insurance. Most private health insurers continue to cover homeopathy.

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