Long story short, homeopathic medicine is much like giving sugar pills (placebos) to treat medical conditions for which effective medications might already exist. Homeopathy is based on the concept of like cures like. Homeopathic remedies, also called dilutions, are often made from some the most toxic substances on the planet but they are so diluted that arguably, there may be no trace of the original substance left. It is common for health care professionals to frown upon homeopathic medicine.
So why are these remedies so popular? Consider Ibuprofen. Somebody suffering from chronic pain, such as that caused by arthritis, might be taking a more-than-recommended amount of ibuprofen to help ease pain. Unfortunately this abundant and affordable over-the-counter medication, when taken excessively, may cause severe stomach bleeding.
Arnica, on the other hand, is a homeopathic remedy that is used for pain relief. Most homeopathic remedies are deemed safe, which means somebody suffering from chronic pain can take Arnica without having to worry about any side effects. They could pop those pills like candy and not have to worry about a thing, technically speaking. However, the only benefit that the person would experience is that of the placebo effect. To summarize all of that, the smart thing about homeopathic medicine is that it is completely safe.
Whether or not a placebo effect can actually be considered beneficial is debatable. If one does consider it a benefit, then depending on the condition, homeopathic medicine may or may not be a better alternative to some western medications. For example, Allium Cepa, from onion, is used for the common cold. Typical store brands contain very strong ingredients, such as Non Steroidal Anti Inflammatory Drugs which must be used with caution. One must consider both safety and efficacy in his or her decision.
Polypharmacy is a term that describes the condition of taking a severely over excessive variety of prescription medications, an issue which is prevalent among hospital patients and residents of nursing homes. When a doctor prescribes one medication, the side effects might lead to the prescription of more medications to counteract those side effects. By prescribing homeopathic remedies to patients, can doctors avoid the need to prescribe countless medications? Would that be ethical?
Let’s consider why this could be important for dietitians. As a Dietetic Technician, I currently work in nutrition-related retail. I am surprised by the number of people who can not tell the difference between an herb and a vitamin. I also find that many people consider homeopathic medicine to be in the same general category as nutrition. Furthermore, most dietitians are required to engage in an interdisciplinary scope of practice which could potentially require them to have knowledge outside of their training.
Depending on the given work environment, the Dietetic Technician or Registered Dietitian may or may not feel comfortable discussing homeopathic medicine with their patients, clients and/or customers. In order to do so, the DTR or RD must first fully understand the advantages and disadvantages of homeopathic medicines and their interactions with foods and drugs before they reach a conclusion on the matter. Many dietetic programs offer only limited education on homeopathic remedies, leaving the DTR and RD ill-prepared for such discussions.