Homeopathic medicines contain very small amounts of natural substances derived from plants, minerals, and animal substances that are known for their pharmacological or biological actions. The active ingredients of homeopathic medicines are generally identified by the Latin name of their source. For example, apis mellifica (commonly known as honeybee).
Homeopathic treatments are based on the “principle of similars,” which loosely means “let likes be cured with likes.” For example, drinking too much coffee can make you feel jittery, but a homeopathic medicine containing a microdose of a coffee bean (Coffea Cruda) can help relieve nervousness. Materia Medicas provide details on how homeopathic medicines have been used therapeutically.
The Process of Preparing A Homeopathic Medicine
Products labeled as homeopathic and currently marketed in the U.S. have not been reviewed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for safety and effectiveness to diagnose, treat, cure, prevent or mitigate any diseases or conditions. Their uses are based on traditional homeopathic practice, the standards for which are set through the Homeopathic Pharmacopoeia Convention of the United States (HPCUS). The products must contain active ingredients listed in the Homeopathic Pharmacopoeia of the United States (HPUS), which is published by the HPCUS. We identify the first safe dilution levels established by the HPUS on our specific homeopathic ingredient webpages.
The first step in homeopathic medicine preparation is to crush and dissolve the raw material in water or alcohol. Then, the substance is diluted (or weakened) through a precise and controlled process. Between each round of dilution, the resulting product is vigorously shaken in a process known as succussion. The dilution/succussion process is repeated until the desired level of dilution is reached. The resulting product is the homeopathic active ingredient, which is then incorporated into dosage forms such as melt-away pellets or tablets, syrups, suppositories, topical gels, and creams.
Active ingredients are listed on OTC homeopathic medicine labels with the Latin name of the material along with numbers followed by either X’s or C’s — which refer to the two common scales of dilution used for most homeopathic products sold in the United States:
The C scale (or centesimal scale) means that each dilution is 100 times more diluted than the previous one.
The X scale (or decimal scale) means that each dilution is 10 times more diluted than the previous one.
For example, 5C is 100 times more diluted than 4C.
Safety of Homeopathic OTCs
After undergoing the homeopathic dilution process, only very small amounts of the initial raw material are present. Once diluted, homeopathic medicines should not be confused with their raw materials. Sources known for their pharmacological or biological actions — such as plants, venoms, organic chemical substances, metals, and salts — are considered safe at dilution levels established by the HPUS.
Homeopathic dilutions above 4C or above 8X have a low risk of side effects.