The difference between homeopathic and natural remedies. Are they nonsense?
All natural remedies are extremely hyped about nowadays, especially when we see this anti mass market drugs hatred.
And, although some therapies from nature do work, diluted forms of illnesses most likely don’t. Let’s dig into this topic of natural remedies vs homeopathic treatments.
Do natural remedies actually work?
Plenty of our medicines originally came from plants and even during our times we still look to them for potential new drugs. And that confirms that some natural treatments actually do work. Just like in the case of willow bark or aspirin, for example, both of which have been used for centuries until they took the pill form based on their active ingredient.
Foxglove plants really can treat heart failure because they contain digitalis. Cinchona bark and artemisia actually treat and prevent malaria because both contain quinine. Oranges could prevent scurvy because they’re full of vitamin C.
Many of these naturopathic cures originated in times when we couldn’t run clinical trials or investigate active ingredients. Once mankind started doing so, we started living under a new umbrella: the one of medicine.
This is why nearly all naturopathy is benign at best today – often those plants that really do cure diseases go into drug development and come out the other side as pills and tablets and gels.
This doesn’t mean that there aren’t any sort of plant remedies that haven’t got any effect in their natural form, but they are usually limited to minor ailments like joint or muscle pain, since pharmaceutical companies aren’t necessarily interested in putting down millions of dollars just to develop another aspirin-esque drug.
But let’s be clear about one thing: natural remedies and homeopathy aren’t the same thing. Naturopathy, while not scientifically proven, is mostly based around using plants to treat diseases. Some of those remedies work, and none of us should develop a principle that says that whatever comes simply from nature can’t be useful at all.
Why homeopathy doesn’t work
Unlike the ancient doctors who brought us aspirin and quinine (the active ingredient in the aforementioned willow bark), homeopathy was only invented about 200 years ago. It’s based on the principle that “like cures like.” Homeopathic remedies are therefore diluted down so much that the active ingredient essentially doesn’t exist.
Homeopathy kind of works (or doesn’t) this way: If you have a headache, small amounts of a substance that would normally cause a headache in a healthy person might cure you.
Unfortunately, water doesn’t have memory. Even if some of the remedies used as active ingredients in homeopathic drugs did cure headaches and joint pain, diluting them down thousands of times would only handicap their ability to help you.
The NIH notes that “there is little evidence to support homeopathy as an effective treatment for any specific condition” and that “several key concepts of homeopathy are inconsistent with fundamental concepts of chemistry and physics.”
Also the European Academies’ Scientific Advisory Council, concludes that “there are no known diseases for which there is robust, reproducible evidence that homeopathy is effective beyond the placebo effect” and that “the claims for homeopathy are implausible and inconsistent with established scientific concepts.”
Does homeopathy have side effects?
Not being regulated, it can be likely that some homeopathic remedies could even hurt you. Unlike a drug like aspirin, a homeopathic pill doesn’t go through testing to make sure that it actually contains the thing it claims to in the amounts listed on the label. That means sometimes homeopathic remedies reach the market containing poisons, and often no one realizes until they cause enough problems for the FDA to get complaints.
Are natural remedies efficient?
Yes, fortunately there are some natural remedies that can actually have beneficial effects.
For example, arnica gel seems to work just as well for osteoarthritis as ibuprofen (though capsicum gel doesn’t). Honey really does help a cough, even if only for a short period of time.
Probiotics, which used to be an exclusively alternative medicine, now have enough research proving their worth that they’re becoming plain ol’ medicine (though many of the products you can purchase are arguably useless, because we’re still figuring out what microbes help the human body and how best to deliver them).
Embrace the placebo effect
But if you think that feverfew or peppermint cures your migraines, then it probably does. After all, pain is a subjective matter and if something really does make you feel better then you could say that it actually does work. Many natural remedies don’t pass the test for being true “medicine” because they don’t work any better than a placebo when given to a large group. That doesn’t mean they can never have any positive effect on anyone. And plenty of people feel relief from a placebo, especially for minor ailments like headaches and mild joint pain. Your mind is surprisingly powerful. Stick with what works, just so long as you’re not experiencing side effects—or refusing to take a proven medication that could help ever more.
You shouldn’t fix something if it ain’t broke. Maybe turmeric doesn’t truly help with knee aches, but if you feel that it soothes you and there are no side effects, why not just use it and call it a day?
Just don’t let your love of plant-based wellness interventions make you bristle when you hear arguments against homeopathy, because they are not one in the same. And the one that feeds diluted belladonna and dog saliva to kids is never a good idea.