What Is Homeopathy?
Homeopathy (or homeopathic medicine) is a form of alternative medicine based on the theory that "like cures like." According to homeopathic philosophy, an illness can be cured by a substance that generates symptoms typical of that very illness.
Homeopathic remedies are primarily sourced from plants, herbs, minerals, or animal products. These substances are highly diluted during the formulation of homeopathic remedies, so that ultimately there are very few molecules of the original substance remaining. In homeopathy, the more diluted a substance, the more powerfully it's believed to boost the body's innate self-healing response.
Homeopathic Remedies for Cancer
In treating people coping with cancer, homeopathic physicians often aim to stimulate immunity, lessen pain, and improve energy and overall wellbeing. Homeopathic remedies are also used to address the side effects of conventional cancer treatment, such as nausea, hot flashes, infections, and sores.
Those interested in complementing cancer care with homeopathy should first consult their oncologist about any potential health risks.
Although there's a lack of clinical trials on homeopathy and cancer, a pair of studies published in 2006 explored homeopathy's effects on cancer growth. In one report, researchers found that homeopathic remedies appeared to slow the progression of cancer and reduce cancer incidence in rats injected with prostate cancer cells. However, the second study showed that homeopathic remedies failed to inhibit the growth of prostate and breast cancer cells.
Given this lack of evidence on the use of homeopathic remedies in people with cancer, it's critical not to attempt to self-treat cancer with homeopathy.
In a research review published in 2009, scientists sized up eight studies on the use of homeopathic remedies in treatment of cancer-treatment-related side effects. One study showed that an ointment made of calendula (a flower said to possess skin-healing properties) relieved skin irritation resulting from radiation, while another report suggested that Traumeel S (a mouth rinse containing several homeopathic medicines) may alleviate mouth sores caused by chemotherapy. However, the review's authors also found that homeopathic remedies had no benefit over placebo in several of the other studies.
Are Homeopathic Remedies Safe for People With Cancer?
It's crucial to consult your oncologist if you're considering using homeopathy to treat cancer-related complications. While homeopathic remedies are generally considered safe, an excessively potent remedy may worsen your symptoms.
Using Homeopathic Remedies
Homeopathic remedies are considered most effective when chosen to match each patient's unique symptoms. Therefore, working with a homeopathic physician is highly recommended if you're interested in using homeopathy in treatment of cancer-related symptoms.
Many health-food stores also sell homeopathic remedies, usually in tablet, pellet, or liquid form. These remedies are regulated by the FDA in a manner similar to that of over-the-counter drugs.
Kassab S, Cummings M, Berkovitz S, van Haselen R, Fisher P. "Homeopathic medicines for adverse effects of cancer treatments." Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2009 15;(2):CD004845.
Jonas WB, Gaddipati JP, Rajeshkumar NV, Sharma A, Thangapazham RL, Warren J, Singh AK, Ives JA, Olsen C, Mog SR, Maheshwari RK. "Can homeopathic treatment slow prostate cancer growth?" Integrative Cancer Therapies 2006 5(4):343-9.
Thangapazham RL, Gaddipati JP, Rajeshkumar NV, Sharma A, Singh AK, Ives JA, Maheshwari RK, Jonas WB. "Homeopathic medicines do not alter growth and gene expression in prostate and breast cancer cells in vitro." Integrative Cancer Therapies 2006 5(4):356-61.