What Is Homeopathy?
A form of alternative medicine based on the theory that "like cures like," homeopathy aims to treat illness by delivering very small doses of a substance that produces symptoms characteristic of the illness being treated. According to homeopathic philosophy, these highly diluted doses can activate the body's innate self-healing mechanisms.
What Is Oscillococcinum?
Also known as Anas barbariae hepatitis and Cordis extractum 200 c, Oscillococcinum is a homeopathic remedy used in the treatment of influenza.
Oscillococcinum is made from extracts of duck heart and liver, which homeopaths believe to be reservoirs of the influenza virus. The remedy is prepared using 200 dilutions: The first mixture contains 1% of the duck extract, the second mixture contains 1% of the first mixture, the third mixture contains 1% of the second mixture, and so on until it has been diluted 200 times.
Benefits of Oscillococcinum
While a small number of studies suggest that Oscillococcinum may have some beneficial effects for people with the flu, there's no evidence that the remedy can prevent flu or serve as a first-line treatment for the virus. Here's a look at several study findings:
Is Oscillococcinum Safe?
Since they're so diluted, homeopathic remedies such as Oscillococcinum tend not to cause adverse effects. In some cases, however, patients may briefly feel worse after first beginning their homeopathic treatment.
Despite the low risk of side effects, it's important to take caution when using Oscillococcinum in treatment of the flu. Because the flu virus can lead to complications like pneumonia (a potentially life-threatening condition), you should seek medical attention if you experience flu symptoms such as coughing, sore throat, muscle aches, fatigue, headache, and high fever.
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van der Wouden JC, Bueving HJ, Poole P. "Preventing influenza: an overview of systematic reviews." Respir Med. 2005 99(11):1341-9.
Vickers A, Smith C. "Homoeopathic Oscillococcinum for preventing and treating influenza and influenza-like syndromes." Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2009 8;(3):CD001957.