Homeopathic Products

Health |

Homeopathy is based on the idea that greatly diluted substances can have powerful therapeutic effects on the body. Homeopathy’s originator, Samuel Hahnemann, also believed that all chronic ailments have three sources: syphilis, venereal warts and “psora” (Greek for “itch”). These ideas are utter nonsense, but the U.S. Food and Drug Administration permits homeopathic products to be marketed without proof that they work as claimed. NSP markets more than 50 homeopathic products, most of which are named after a disease or symptom.

The product Parasites, for example, is said to be for “minor intestinal symptoms associated with parasites such as bloating, abdominal pain, flatulence and diarrhea.” The product Gout is for “minor pain, heat, redness and swelling associated with gouty inflammation of the joints.” Incontinence is for “occasional minor bladder incontinence (involuntary urination) in adults.” Depressaquel is designed “to assist in the reduction of minor feelings of melancholy, apathy and listlessness by lifting the mood and mental outlook.” And so on. Each product contains minute amounts of about 10 ingredients.

An NSP manual depicts the label of each homeopathic product on a separate page, followed by long lists of symptoms said to be associated with each ingredient. For example, Gout contains a 1 to 100,000 dilution of poison ivy, which is “associated” with “rheumatic and gouty conditions which worsen in cold, wet weather, improve with movement.” The manual also lists “nutritional support companion products” for many of the homeopathic products. This setup enables NSP to suggest therapeutic uses for herbal products and supplements without making explicit claims for them.

The July 1992 issue of NSP’s Horizons Bulletin states: “Because only minute dilutions of the original substance remain in a homeopathic remedy, side effects are almost unknown. No one knows just how such dilutions work, but thousands of people attest to their effectiveness. … [including] singer Tina Turner and actress Lindsay Wagner.” It further states:

Homeopathy enjoys formal recognition as a branch of medicine under federal law. Homeopathic remedies, considered over-the-counter medications by the FDA, are available without prescription, and are specifically designed to remedy common self-diagnosable conditions.

This statement is only partly true. The FDA has not “recognized” homeopathy “as a branch of medicine.” A provision of the 1938 federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act recognized substances listed in the U.S. Homeopathic Pharmacopeia as drugs. The recognition was an act of Congress spearheaded by a senator who was a homeopathic physician. It was not based on scientific evidence of effectiveness, but was a political decision.

Although the FDA could require that homeopathic remedies be proven effective in order to remain on the market, it has not chosen to do so. FDA enforcement officials do not believe that homeopathic remedies are effective therapeutic agents.

They have merely made a political decision to ignore them unless they are marketed for the treatment of cancer or other serious diseases.

FDA regulatory guidelines state that “nonprescription homeopathics may be sold only for self-limiting conditions recognizable by consumers” and that their labeling “must adequately instruct consumers in the product’s safe use.” Parasites, depression, gout, incontinence and several other conditions for which NSP markets products do not appear to meet these criteria.