Homeopathic Medicines for Children

In addition to the traditional medical treatments that your provider might recommend, you may have seen homeopathy products for children at your local pharmacy, online, or at a health store. You might wonder if homeopathic remedies are safe to give to your kids.

This article will go over what you should know about homeopathy and whether you should use these products to treat childhood ailments.

Person pouring medicine into their palm
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What Is Homeopathy?

Homeopathy, or homeopathic medicine, is a medical system based on the idea that the body has the ability to make itself better. Pills or liquid treatments are used to help this process along.

Developed in Germany in the 1700s, homeopathy became very popular in the United States by the late 1800s. According to the national health data from 2012, around 5 million American adults and 1 million children had used homeopathy in the last year.

There are some key facts about homeopathy that you should know:

  • Homeopathic medicines do not get evaluated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for safety or efficacy. None have been approved by the agency.
  • The products may have potentially harmful ingredients in them. Certain ingredients could be especially dangerous for children. For example, some homeopathic medicines are diluted in alcohol.
  • Some homeopaths have anti-vaccine beliefs. They may promote homeopathic "vaccines" called nosodes. These products do not work against vaccine-preventable diseases.

Main Principles

The main principles of homeopathic medicine are "like cures like" and "the law of minimum dose."

Like Cures Like

The first principle is also called the law of similars. The idea is that if you have a symptom, you can cure it by using a substance that would cause that symptom (or a similar one) in a healthy person.

For example, homeopaths have claimed that rattlesnake venom could cure Ebola because both the venom and the Ebola virus affect the blood.

Law of Minimum Dose

Also called the law of infinitesimals, the law of minimum dose states that medications are most effective when they are given at the lowest dose possible.

To get this, most homeopathic medicines are extremely diluted. For example, the Belladonna in Hyland's Teething Tablets has been diluted 1,000,000,000,000 times.

Very little—if any—of the original ingredients are left after being diluted. However, homeopaths claim that the medicines still work because there is a "spirit" or "memory" of the ingredient that stays in the product.

Studies on Use in Children

Research on homeopathy repeatedly finds that it does not work. Often, these studies also bring up safety concerns related to the use of homeopathic medicine.

There have been some studies that specifically look at using homeopathy in children.

  • In 2007, researchers reviewed almost 100 research articles on using homeopathy in kids and teens. It did not turn up any evidence that homeopathic medicines are safe and effective for treating any condition.
  • A 2012 review of research on using homeopathy to treat eczema in children found that most studies were low quality. None of them provided evidence that the medicines were safe or effective for treatment.
  • A 2018 study found that homeopathic products were no better at preventing or treating acute upper respiratory infections in children than a placebo, or sham treatment.

Experts' Skepticism

The ideas behind homeopathy don't line up with what is known about how the body and the natural world works. Most scientists and healthcare professionals are very clear about their skepticism of homeopathic medicine.

Some providers are open to patients using homeopathy if there would be little risk. However, they may caution patients that any benefit they experience is most likely the placebo effect.

Why Some Turn to Homeopathy

U.S. data on using complementary and alternative medicine has found that most children who are given homeopathic medicine are not seeing a homeopathic provider. Instead, caregivers are making the decision to give children the remedies on their own.

Why do people use homeopathic products if there is no evidence that they work or are safe?

Common reasons that people might turn to homeopathy include:

  • Familiarity: Homeopathy is more popular in some parts of the world than in others. People who grew up in a family that used homeopathy or who are part of a community that practices it might be more comfortable using it.
  • Lack of knowledge: People may not understand what homeopathic medicines are or how they work. It can be hard to tell, since pharmacies stock the products on shelves alongside traditional over-the-counter (OTC) medicines for fever, allergies, coughs, and colds.
  • Confusion with other alternative treatments: People may confuse homeopathic medicines with herbal medicines and other OTC natural remedies.
  • No other options: People may turn to homeopathy to treat symptoms and conditions for which there are no or few pharmacological options for kids.

If You Want to Avoid Homeopathic Medicines

It can be tricky to tell if a product is homeopathic or not. If you want to avoid them, there are some there are some steps you can take.

Read Labels

It can help to avoid certain brands that exclusively make such products, but note that even some drugstores are selling their own versions of homeopathic medicines.

Such products should state that they are 'homeopathic medicine' on the label. Checking for this information can help you avoid the products.

Examples of homeopathic medicines for kids that you might have heard of include:

  • Hyland's Baby Teething Tablets
  • Hyland's Baby Colic Tablets
  • Hyland's Baby Infant Earache Drops
  • Hyland's Cold'n Cough 4 Kids Multi-Symptom Liquid
  • Similasan Kids Cough & Fever Relief
  • Similasan Kids Allergy Eye Relief
  • Boiron Oscillococcinum for Flu-like Symptoms
  • Boiron Cold Calm
  • Walgreens Homeopathic EarAche Drops
  • Colic Calm Homeopathic Gripe Water

Check the Ingredients

Look for a series of numbers and letters—for example, "6X HPUS" or "200C HPUS."

Dilutions are listed in the Homeopathic Pharmacopoeia of the United States (HPUS), the official reference for homeopathic medicine.

Summary

There is no research evidence that homeopathic medicine is a safe and effective way to treat any condition in adults or children.

Homeopathic products are widely available. Sometimes, they are placed next to OTC treatments on a pharmacy shelf and can easily be confused for OTC treatments.

You should always check the label of a product you're considering—especially if it's for your child.

A Word From Verywell

Even if homeopathic products are not useful or safe to give to children, caregivers may turn to homeopathy if they don't understand what these products really are or if they feel they don't have other options.

Not using homeopathic remedies doesn't mean you have to run to the pharmacy every time your child feels a little unwell—whether it's from teething, gas, or a cold.

Ask your pediatrician about how to safely relieve your child's symptoms.

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9 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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