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An alternative therapy based on the theory that “like cures like.” Homeopathy was developed in the late eighteenth century by a German doctor named Samuel Hahnemann. Hahnemann believed that if a large amount of a particular drug or substance caused symptoms of a disease, a smaller dose might reduce the symptoms by enhancing the body’s natural response to illness. Homeopathic medicines contain a single active ingredient that supposedly induces the symptoms to be cured, but this ingredient is substantially diluted.

Some critics argue that homeopathic remedies are merely placebos because they have been diluted so many times that no molecules of the active ingredient remain. Proponents of homeopathy counter that the diluting substance “picks up” energy from the active ingredient, leaving an imprint that spurs the body to heal itself.

Homeopathy remains controversial, and the studies performed on it have been inconclusive. Since homeopathic drugs are so diluted, health experts suggest that they are probably safe to take — as long as people don’t use them in place of necessary medical care.

Originally Published May 23, 2006

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