Homeopathy is a medical theory and practice that developed in reaction to the bloodletting, blistering, purging, and other harsh procedures of conventional medicine as it was practiced more than 200 years ago. Remedies made from many sources--including plants, minerals or animals--are prescribed based on both a person's symptoms and personality. Patients receiving homeopathic care frequently feel worse before they get better because homeopathic medicines often stimulate, rather than suppress, symptoms. This seeming reversal of logic is a relevant part of homeopathy because symptoms are viewed as the body's effort to restore health. The Food and Drug Administration regulates homeopathic remedies under provisions of the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act. Kinder, Gentler Medicine.
Some of the medicines of homeopathy evoke positive images--chamomile, marigold, daisy, onion. But even some of Mother Nature's cruelest creations--poison ivy, mercury, arsenic, pit viper venom, hemlock--are part of homeopathic care.
Another difference involves alcohol. Conventional drugs for adults can contain no more than 10 percent alcohol, and the amount is even less for children's medications.
However, homeopathic products are not exempt from all FDA regulations. If a homeopathic drug claims to treat a serious disease such as cancer it can be sold by prescription only. Only products sold for so-called self-limiting conditions--colds, headaches, and other minor health problems that eventually go away on their own--can be sold without a prescription.