Homeopathy got its start around the turn of the 19th century. That’s when the German physician, Samuel Hahnemann, published his law of similars. His idea was that like healed like. In other words, if someone was experiencing nausea and vomiting, they would benefit from taking a highly diluted dose of an herbal extract that causes nausea and vomiting.

In homeopathy, dilution is a central tenet. The idea is that the most dilute medicines are the strongest. As a consequence, some preparations are so dilute that they contain little, if any, of the original active ingredient. Compared to the toxic drugs of late 18th and early 19th centuries, homeopathic remedies were far less likely to cause complications. That contributed to their popularity at that time.

Homeopathy Has Become a Big Business:

During the 20th century, homeopathy was gradually relegated to the sidelines of medicine. Pharmaceutical products were increasingly supported by scientific studies. For the most part, homeopathy was not. People who wanted to use homeopathic preparations had to search hard to find a practitioner who could prescribe and supply them. By 1988, the FDA had decided it didn’t need to worry about homeopathic products and wouldn’t bother regulating them like other medicines.

With the advent of the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994, however, the FDA was discouraged (though not prevented) from regulating a wide range of alternative therapies. Since then, homeopathic medicines have become a big business, with annual sales around $3 billion. Health food stores and pharmacies around the country carry them as OTC products.

FDA Will Regulate Homeopathy:

Now the FDA is poised to crack down on homeopathic products.

The commissioner, Scott Gottlieb, says:

“Our approach to regulating homeopathic drugs must evolve to reflect the current complexity of market, by taking a more risk-based approach to Enforcement.”

The agency says it will focus special attention on dangerous products and on those aimed at babies and children. Last year 10 children diet and hundreds had adverse effects from OTC homeopathic teething remedies that contained toxic amounts of belladonna, a nightshade derivative. Several years ago, homeopathic nasal sprays containing zinc were sold as cold remedies. A number of consumers reported losing their sense of smell after using the sprays. The company settled a class action lawsuit. Within a few years, the FDA warned the manufacturer to change its products or face the consequences.

Homeopathic products are not the same as botanical medicines that contain active ingredients in pharmacological doses. Nonetheless, many consumers find it difficult to distinguish between these different forms of alternative medicine.

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  1. Carol

    First do no harm.

  2. Virginia

    I know that a product called Rescue Remedy Cream, by Bach Flower Essences works better than I could ever have imagined. Every bruise, painful bump, or minor burn we use it on is immediately eased-no pain. Continued use helps bruises go away sooner. Even if it is just placebo I’ll take it! First do no harm.

  3. Phil

    I wish the American public would wake up to how unethical and conflicted it is to sell prescription drugs via TV advertising.

  4. Emily

    Because I have a Master’s degree in biology with an emphasis on epigenetics and molecular biology, I pooh-poohed homeopathic medicine for years. I couldn’t imagine how it could possibly work. However, after several years of using pharmaceutical remedies that either didn’t work or caused such insupportable side-effects that I couldn’t tolerate them, I started experimenting with various alternative medicines, including homeopathy (using combination remedies), out of desperation. The fact that many of them worked for me can absolutely not be attributed to the placebo effect.

    I’m not sure that homeopathy works the way practitioners think they work, but I’m an empiricist. If it works, I don’t need to know how it works. Mainstream medicine didn’t know how aspirin worked for a long time, but prescribed it anyway. A lot of physicians don’t know what causes hypertension and don’t really understand how blood pressure medications work to reduce it, but they prescribe them anyway. I see absolutely no harm in using them – unlike many pharmaceutical drugs – and they do provide relief for untold numbers of people. Homeopathy has been in use for over 200 years – if it didn’t work, does anyone really believe it would still be so popular? Last spring I was in Vienna, developed a horrible sore throat, and went to an apothecary for a remedy. The pharmacist suggested a homeopathic tablet, remarked that in Austria, herbal and homeopathic medicine were used as regularly as conventional medicine. I’ve never really thought of Austria as being a bastion of backward thinking, particularly in medicine. After two tablets, my sore throat was gone completely. I’ve used homeopathic remedies successfully for a number of health issues over the past twenty years.

    The vociferous hostility to this method of healing on the part of those who know absolutely nothing about it says more about those people than it does homeopathy, IMO. And those scientific research studies that we are so attached to are, these days, often tainted by the fact that they are conducted by those who stand to gain from the results. Vested interests fund the studies, bury the unfavorable trials claiming proprietary interests, and often mischaracterize results. Read “Overdosed America” by John Abramson, MD (who was for many years a faculty member of Harvard Medical School and a Robert Woods Johnson Fellow) for more information about that.

    • John

      Ortho surgeon here. So as a biologist, you understand we can now study these things and figure out for the most part how they work. We now know aspirin works on the Arachidonic acid pathway etc. Isn’t the FDA just saying we should make these multimillion dollar companies subject to the same rigorous testing that pharmaceuticals are?

      They have the capacity to be even more “scary” than big pharma and it’s hard to believe people don’t see that. We don’t need to understand exactly how some drugs work but we have the ability to look at them and know they are safe. As a scientist, you seem to embrace pseudoscience a little too readily. No one is saying you can’t take alternative remedies.

      I embrace them if they are safe as it’s one more thing I can recommend for symptoms when nothing else works and I’d be a lot more comfortable doing that if they were regulated.

  5. Joanne
    Secaucus, NJ

    It’s all about the money.

    • Mary

      I have been a nurse for 40 years and have seen the devastating effects of harmful prescription drugs that are pushed on the public. Many of them are useless and downright harmful. I don’t take any of them and use all natural and homeopathic products for myself and my family. I agree, prescription drugs are all about the money.

    • Daisy

      It is all about the big Pharmaceutical companies wanting control because of $$$$–they’ve got their hands in government pockets! We have a right to make our own health decisions. How about all of the drug commercials? In the past, they weren’t able to advertise on TV; now they can, hoping patients will ask their doctors about them and prescribe them, because they make it look like an easy cure, thus putting pressure on doctors. Another reason why prescriptions are so expensive is that the ads cost millions of $$. It is sickening—greed! There are many wonderful alternatives without the terrible side effects, compared to many of the chemical prescriptions with permanent side effects.

  6. Ellen

    There is absolutely NO DATA that these products work. There are, to my knowledge, no colleges of homeopathy still open in the United States. There is, however, lots of money for the snake oil salesmen of the world to shove this stuff unto people that may be looking for what is thought to be a less toxic alternative to treat their ills. It is about time the FDA stepped in.

    Ellen B., Doctor of Pharmacy

    • Phil

      This is a very good answer from “David”, another poster on here that I DO agree with! : “Pharmaceutical companies, due to their greed and outrageous pricing, want to be the only show in town, and their products aren’t always safe. The third leading cause of death is adverse reactions to prescription drugs. My doctor almost killed me with blood pressure medication. Never again!”

      my personal story:
      A Clinic Director in Tucson (Muscular Dystrophy clinic) prescribed me VIOXX back in 2002-2003 for some mild symptoms [tingling in my lower legs, neuropathy, minor stuff really that I decided was better to ignore]; luckily for me I read the paper inside the box listing in VERY FINE PRINT the possible side effects of VIOXX. Then I threw the FDA approved quote-unguote ‘medicine’ straight into the garbage. Later the world found out that Vioxx had killed some 60,000 patients–as many people as died in the Vietnam War. Fundamental problems at the FDA led to those deaths. Little by little the FDA has become a drug runner for big Pharma; I now refer to the agency as the Frauds and Dupes Administration. They are the frauds; the public unfortunately are the dupes.

    • ME

      Oh IT WORKS ALRIGHT!!! I can not take any of the prescription meds. They outright poison me. Conventional medicine took my immune system away. Funny how I can tolerate natural things but not anything chemical. It works definitely. You have to know what your doing and go to the right doctor. All of the data has been hid. They don’t want anyone knowing or using anything that will cure!!!!

  7. Ann

    I swear by Borion ColdCalm to prevent colds, and will be very unhappy if I can’t obtain it. I used to get at least 4 or 5 colds a year (even when I used the Zicam nose product that was taken off the market), and since using ColdCalm, I’ve only had about one a year. I start taking it at the very first sign of a scratchy throat and ease off when I feel better (usually by the end of that day). Even if I havn’t caught it right at the start, I keep taking it because I recover much faster than I used to.

  8. DocBJ
    SW Missouri

    I’m tired of government interference! FDA is not held accountable for its decisions that kill people, and yet it rules as though it is all knowing. Many homeopathic medications work well. Just as in patent medicine, aka pharmaceuticals, since humans have a wide variety of unique personal guts, livers, lungs, kidneys, and sweat glands which are the organs that process the chemicals there are different results. The results are on a range. That is no medical help is without RISKS. I want this dicatating government organization LIMITED to indicating risks and QUIT RULING. 1994 law by Congress insists any information I give be followed by this does not make a doctor/patient relationship. I will also add the general statement a non-licensed person also is forced to state medically: none of this information is intended to treat, cure, correct any illnesses or condition. Yes both are heavy handed government regulations and are unconstitutional. We are no longer the boss of the US government bc they break their oaths daily.

  9. David McE

    Pharmaceutical companies, due to their greed and outrageous pricing, want to be the only show in town, and their products aren’t always safe. The third leading cause of death is adverse reactions to prescription drugs. My doctor almost killed me with blood pressure medication. Never again!

  10. Lizzie
    Mid America

    FDA is controlled by Big Pharma who wants to control all supplements. Pharmaceutical drugs kill more people and have side effects far worse than homeopathic products. Clean up your own house! This is just the beginning. Who and what is next on their agenda?

  11. Louise
    CT USA

    Our family has used it for years, especially Arnica and Callendula. Queen Elizabeth’s physicians treat her with this. It honors the way our bodies heal to keep us strong.

    • ray

      completely agree. the FDA is a joke at times. how did viagra go 10 yrs past the time frame to become generic? not that i have any use for it,but why is pot still a class one? if its a gateway to stronger drug how come willie nelson still alive at 84.opiates dont kill when took as prescribed. why would FDA approve anything that would cause bigpharma to make less money. maybe the FDA should close down shady generic companies,some who had many violations but are told months in advance when the FDA will visit. the FDA works for the government,not the people

  12. CC
    Syracuse, NY

    Let me get this straight. We’re less than 5% of the world’s population in the U.S. and we’re consuming nearly 50% of all prescription drugs and nearly 80% of opioid painkillers. The AMA – in their own journal – admits to 100,000+ prescription drug deaths per year, taken the way they’re prescribed. Today’s miracle drug often tomorrow’s class action lawsuit? And the FDA plans to crack down on Homeopathy. Hmm! Ask your doctor if medical advise from a television commercial is right for you.

  13. Helen

    The Queen of Great Britain has used homeopathic medicine and look how old and healthy she is!

    • ray

      i am 63. at least 7-8 drugs i have took have been took off the market after they were “fast tracked”,but latter found to be harmful

  14. Aila

    For most of my life I was sceptical of the effectiveness of homeopathy. However, after having great success with homeopathic tablets for chronic and acute hay fever and sinusitis, I now agree homeopathy is not just a placebo effect nor magical thinking. As a result I no longer rely on pharmaceuticals for this condition. I did a lot of research to find the right homeopathic product.

    I am on other prescription pharmaceuticals for a long term chronic illness, and I cannot mix many additional pharmaceuticals and herbs. However, there are no adverse interactions with homeopathic preparations I take.

    Homeopathy is a direct threat the pharmaceutical industry because homeopathy does work. It has none or limited side effects nor adverse interactions with other medications.

  15. Laurie RN

    This is a good thing. Homeopathy is fraud, plain and simple.

  16. Bev

    It is completely unproven & is certainly a “snake oil” that has fooled many people for too long a time. I am very skeptical about anything unless it is proven so that I can accept it as being true. Furthermore, persons relying on it can often suffer & even die for not using proven methods for their sickness.I am glad to see this action; it is long overdue.

    • JB

      Some more advice from your MD . When is the last time someone died from a OD in Virginia from a pharmaceutical? If you don’t believe in homeopathy then don’t use it.

  17. Becky

    I really hated to hear this as 3 homeopathic products are a mainstay for me. Topercin for foot pain and Neurogen are creams for foot pain and helped me tremendously as I have neuropathy. When the nerves are really flared up I switch from the cream to the Neurogen spray. I also add Hylands Nerve Tonic right before bed which helps me relax for sleep. And the other is for dry eye….Simalason (sp??).
    All of this with the Feds reminds me of the ‘let us manage your supplements for you’ back in what the 90’s. Very sad

    • Dagny
      Philadelphia, PA

      I feel I have to comment regarding Similasan homeopathic products. I’ve tried their allergy products and found them quite effective, but the products for sleeplessness, anxiety, and others of that genre contain an artificial sweetener called xylitol which can cause nasty stomach upsets for some people. The active, homeopathic ingredients were effective, but the side effects from xylitol far outweighed the benefits. Be sure to read the labels on any OTC medication, including the supposedly inactive ingredients list.

  18. Ramona


  19. Mary Anne

    I have gradually explored their use. I have found Borion Sinussilla to work for cold . and sinus. I never take a regular over the counter remedy exceot Airorne because of side effects. Also Rhus Tox has worked msgic for my arthritus joint painand inflammation. No side effects and affordable. Also Arnica works for injuries. Keep it available and affordable.

  20. Cindy B
    Seattle, WA

    I feel bad for Margaret in Sedona, AZ. I myself have used homeopathics extensively most of my life. I find that they ABSOLUTELY DO WORK! If I’m feeling anxious, have any pain, or really have any kind of worrisome symptom, there’s a homeopathic med for it, and I always get relief! That said, I usually don’t have any need for anything. I take no Rx meds, and if I had any problem I’d always opt for homeopathic vs. Rx meds. As far as I know, there’s no side effects or worrisome interactions with food or other drugs.

  21. Carey

    I take some that I know really help me with my issue. I ran out of them accidentally, and what a difference! The symptoms I had been experiencing came rushing back. I couldn’t wait to get the refill and have it start taking effect again, which of course was not immediate (although sometimes they can be).

  22. bob
    new mexico

    Sir James Frazer wrote, in his magnum opus “The Golden Bough”

    IF we analyse the principles of thought on which magic is based, they will probably be found to resolve themselves into two: first, that like produces like, or that an effect resembles its cause; and, second, that things which have once been in contact with each other continue to act on each other at a distance after the physical contact has been severed. The former principle may be called the Law of Similarity, the latter the Law of Contact or Contagion. From the first of these principles, namely the Law of Similarity, the magician infers that he can produce any effect he desires merely by imitating it: from the second he infers that whatever he does to a material object will affect equally the person with whom the object was once in contact, whether it formed part of his body or not. Charms based on the Law of Similarity may be called Homoeopathic or Imitative Magic.

    It is hard for me to have any faith in a type of medicine which is based on the exact same principle on which a form of magic is based

  23. LaRae

    Figures . . . . the government cracks down on homeopathic medicine and says nothing about the harm caused by prescription drugs. Yeah, we know who the government is “protecting”.

    • Caryn

      Considering that death from iatrogenic causes is the third leading cause of death in the US, it is also very hard to have much faith in mainstream medicine. Further, from the editor of the Lancet, Dr. Horton:

      “Dr. Horton recently published a statement declaring that a lot of published research is in fact unreliable at best, if not completely false.

      “The case against science is straightforward: much of the scientific literature, perhaps half, may simply be untrue. Afflicted by studies with small sample sizes, tiny effects, invalid exploratory analyses, and flagrant conflicts of interest, together with an obsession for pursuing fashionable trends of dubious importance, science has taken a turn towards darkness.”

      So why is no one investigating modern medicine???

  24. Iris
    Santa Fe, NM

    The theory of homeopathy doesn’t make sense to me, but I have used two homeopathic products that absolutely do work: Arnica in various forms including Traumeel cream, and Ssssting Stop. Ssssting Stop has literally stopped the sting of a wasp bite within minutes. I see that Sssting Stop contains eucalyptus oil and citronella oil; perhaps these are the active ingredients, although they are listed as inactive ingredients on the label. I don’t see anything on the label to explain Arnica’s soothing effect for bruises and joint pains. In this case, I don’t need to wait for an explanation before using something that helps.

  25. RD

    I have been using homeopathic products for many, many years and would find it catastrophic to not be able to use the products I have come to rely on. They have kept me out of doctors offices on many occasions. I find them them effective and and efficient. I guess I’d better try to stock up.

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