Homeopathy: Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Questions and answers

Read basic questions and answers on the basic terms and differentiations in homeopathy as well as on the manufacture and reimbursement of homeopathic medicines.

What is homeopathy?

The doctor dr. Samuel Hahnemann developed this therapy method more than 200 years ago. The basic principle consists in the treatment of diseases according to the principle of similars. Hahnemann derived the name of his new healing method from the Greek: homoios = similar and pathos = suffering. Homeopathy literally means “similar suffering”.

What is meant by the principle of similars?

“Similia similibus curentur” – like is cured by like – is the most important basic principle of homeopathy. This means that diseases are cured with the remedy that causes the ailments in the healthy from which the sick suffer. Samuel Hahnemann discovered this principle by chance using the effect of cinchona bark, which was an important antipyretic at the time and triggered fever-like conditions when trying it on yourself.An easy-to-understand example of the rule of similars is the onion “Allium cepa”, which is used as a homeopathic remedy for colds and hay fever, for example. When cutting an onion, everyone experiences symptoms such as tearing, burning eyes and a runny nose. In the case of a cold with such symptoms, Allium cepa can have a healing effect if it is used in a suitable dosage or potentiation.

What is potentiation?

Potentiation means dilution with simultaneous “dynamization” (succussion or trituration). Potentiation distinguishes homeopathy from all other healing methods. When potentizing, the medicines are gradually shaken or rubbed in a predetermined manner. The type and number of potentiation steps, and thus the potency of the drug, are indicated by the letter and number after the drug name.Potentiation is carried out with excipient substances such as a water-alcohol mixture, glycerin or lactose.

What do the letters and numbers after the active ingredient name mean?

The letters and numbers indicate the level of potency. “D” stands for a D-power (decimal power = exponentiation 1:10), “C” for a C-power (centesimal power = exponentiation 1:100). The numbers indicate how many times the exponentiation was performed in a row (once, six times, 30 times, etc.). The specification “D6” means that the original substance was diluted and succussed (potentised) six times in a row in a ratio of 1:10. A “C30” is potentized 30 times in a row at a ratio of 1:100.For example, to produce Arnica in the potency D4, one part of the Arnica starting preparation (mother tincture) is first mixed with nine parts of the alcohol/water mixture, i.e. in a ratio of 1:10. Thereafter, the resulting mixture is shaken ten times. This is how the potency D1 is created. If you dilute and shake one part of the D1 with nine parts of the alcohol/water mixture, you get the D2, etc. After potentising it four times in this way, Arnica D4 is reached.In addition to D and C potencies, there are also LM and Q potencies (dilution 1:50,000).

How do you explain the effect of homeopathic remedies?

Homeopathic medicines are so-called regulatory agents and activate the body’s own self-healing powers. According to the principle of similarity, substances are used that would cause similar symptoms in the unpotentized form of the disease. In this way, the body receives targeted impulses that are intended to initiate a counter-reaction.

What are homeopathic medicines made from?

Homeopathic medicines can be of plant, animal or mineral origin. 

Are homeopathic medicines reimbursed by health insurance companies?

Homeopathic medicines (like all other non-prescription medicines) can be prescribed by a doctor on the so-called “green prescription” or a private prescription. The patient initially has to pay for the drug himself. However, a reimbursement of costs by a statutory health insurance company is possible within the scope of the statutory benefits of some health insurance companies. For children up to the age of twelve, homeopathic medicines are usually reimbursed if treatment of the disease in question is not generally classified as “uneconomical” by the Medicines Directive (e.g. cough, diarrhoea).

What is an initial aggravation?

Homeopathy is a stimulation and regulation therapy in which the body’s regulation mechanisms can lead to a slight increase in the existing symptoms at the beginning of treatment. This initial reaction rarely occurs with low potencies and complex remedies. It is interpreted as a positive sign of the correct choice of medication, as the body begins to react. An initial worsening usually subsides quickly and then begins to improve.In acute illnesses, initial aggravations usually last no longer than a few hours, in chronic illnesses they can last up to a few days. If there is uncertainty as to whether it is an initial aggravation or a general deterioration of the disease, a doctor or pharmacist should be consulted.

Why do some medicines contain alcohol?

Alcohol is required in the manufacture of herbal and homeopathic medicines, as many active ingredients are not water-soluble. In addition to its use as a solvent, alcohol also serves as a preservative and is prescribed for production in the Homeopathic Pharmacopoeia (HAB). Due to the alcohol content, there is no need to add other preservatives. Usually, alcohol in the small doses of a drug does not pose a health risk. The warning contained in the instructions for use is intended to inform the risk groups mentioned there that they should not consume any alcohol. The alcohol content is put into perspective when you consider the amounts supplied: If the alcohol content of a drug is 37% by volume, for example, this corresponds to around 0.04 grams of alcohol when 5 drops are given. For comparison: A glass (0.2 liter) of apple juice contains around 0.6 to 1 gram, a mug (0.5 liter) of kefir around 5 grams and a glass (0.33 liter) of beer around 10 grams of alcohol.

Can you take homeopathic medicines during pregnancy and breastfeeding?

You should always ask your doctor or pharmacist for advice before taking any medicines during pregnancy and breast-feeding. This also applies to homeopathic medicines. Even if there is often no evidence of a particular risk for use during pregnancy and breastfeeding, there is no study data available for most products. You should therefore always consult your doctor or pharmacist.

Why is an area of ​​application mentioned for some homeopathic medicines and not for others?

There are two official registration procedures for homeopathic medicines, which lead to different legal statuses: registration and authorisation. The registration is adapted to the specifics of homeopathic medicinal products. With a registration, homeopathic medicines have proven their quality and harmlessness according to § 38 Medicines Act, the proof of the therapeutic effectiveness is not necessary. Individual remedies are usually selected on the basis of the patient’s overall symptom picture and usually do not contain any information on the area of ​​application (= registered homeopathic medicinal products).For the approval of a homeopathic drug, the manufacturer must prove not only the quality but also the safety and effectiveness with literature data or his own studies. Concrete areas of application are therefore also mentioned for approved preparations.

What are the advantages of homeopathic complex remedies?

A complex remedy consists of a compilation of several homeopathic individual remedies that complement and reinforce each other in their effect. The selection of these drug compositions is usually based on long practical experience. Complex remedies can shorten the often time-consuming homeopathic anamnesis of the patient and simplify the complicated choice of remedy in individual cases. Similar to conventional medicine, they are based more on the diagnosis and the general clinical picture. Therefore, complex remedies are well suited for self-medication.

What are the advantages of homeopathic remedies?

Homeopathic individual remedies are usually not prescribed on the basis of an indication, but according to the greatest similarity to the overall symptom picture of the individual patient. The disease in question is just one of the many symptoms that are asked about in the anamnesis.In the context of homeopathic treatment, the doctor selects and recommends the homeopathic medicinal product individually for the respective patient on the basis of his medical professional experience.

Is it necessary to avoid coffee, tea, toothpaste, etc. during homeopathic treatment?

With a homeopathic therapy, coffee, tea, spices and essential oils do not have to be avoided. However, since homeopathic medicines work through the oral mucosa, it is important to keep a certain time interval – around 30 minutes – between eating, drinking and brushing your teeth. Homeopathically compatible toothpastes are now also available. For treatment, follow the instructions of your doctor or pharmacist. In the case of high potencies, however, the use of essential oils should generally be avoided.

How quickly do homeopathic medicines work?

The more acute the symptoms, the faster the onset of action. A well-chosen remedy can immediately exert a stimulus on the organism in acute illnesses. In the case of chronic complaints, the healing process can be activated immediately, but a noticeable improvement often only occurs after some time.

Are there limits to self-medication with homeopathic preparations?

Homeopathy cannot help if stimulation and regulation therapy is not indicated. There are diseases in which the self-healing powers alone are not sufficient, such as a severe bacterial infection. However, homeopathic medicines can then be used in addition to conventional medical treatment to support the healing process. In any case, talk to your doctor or pharmacist before starting therapy.

Can homeopathic treatment be combined with other medicines or forms of therapy?

Yes, homeopathic preparations can be easily combined with other forms of therapy and medicines, but only after consultation with the treating doctor or pharmacist. With some homeopathic drugs, interactions that are noted in the instructions for use must be taken into account. Other medications prescribed by the doctor should never be reduced or discontinued on your own authority.


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