Whole Story

The Official Whole Foods Market® Blog

Homeopathy for Cold and Flu Season

By Chris Jensen, October 18, 2011  |  Meet the Blogger  |  More Posts by Chris Jensen
Homeopathic remedies have a long history of use worldwide, but can they really help at this time of year? And are they okay to use with immune-supportive formulas? Tune in to this encore interview for the answers and some expert recommendations. Dr. Christophe Merville is the Director of Education and Pharmacy Development for Boiron USA.

Homeopathy has a long history of use all over the world:
  • Homeopathy comes from the Greek words homeo meaning “similar” and pathos meaning “suffering.”  It was first used by Dr. Samuel Hahnemann in 1796.
  • Homeopathic medicines are therapeutically active micro-doses of mineral, botanical, and biological substances.  Similar to other over-the-counter medicines, homeopathic medicines can treat acute health conditions such as allergies, coughs, colds and flu symptoms.
  • Homeopathic medicines are regulated as drugs by the FDA and are made according to the specifications of the Homeopathic Pharmacopoeia of the United States (HPUS), which lists approximately 1,280 medicines.
The homeopathic healing concept can be seen in every day examples and homeopathic medicines are available in a variety of forms:
  • If one chops several onions in a small kitchen, one will experience symptoms such as spasmodic sneezing, runny nose and itchy eyes.  All these symptoms will be improved by breathing fresh air.  A patient experiencing these same symptoms, including feeling better when breathing fresh air, whether caused by allergy or a cold, will be relieved by a homeopathic preparation of the onion also known as Allium cepa.  It is as if a very small amount of the onion helped the body to react better against symptoms of cold or allergy similar to those caused by the onion.
  • Sometimes more than one medicine is needed for treatment.  These combinations are available in a variety of dosage forms such as tablets, gels, creams, syrups, eye drops and suppositories.
Homeopathic remedies are best taken at the first sign of symptoms and can be used in conjunction with immune-building formulas:
  • The sooner cold and flu symptoms are treated with homeopathic remedies, the better chance there is for a quick recovery and minimum disruption of lifestyle.
  • Homeopathic medicines are among the safest choices for self-treatment and are generally free of side effects. They do not interact with conventional medicines or immune-building herbs or formulas.
  • Many supplements or vitamins take some time to show their effect, whereas homeopathic medicines work very quickly.
There are a few basic guidelines in addition to using homeopathy for staying healthy during cold and flu season:
  • Eat a healthy diet rich in vitamins C and E.  Foods containing these vitamins like nuts, seeds, citrus and broccoli are believed to help support the immune system.
  • Stay hydrated.  When you are feeling under the weather, drinking extra fluids prevents dehydration caused by cold and flu symptoms.
  • Exercise regularly.  Not only can regular exercise lower stress, but research indicates that exercise can stimulate the immune system and promotes healthy sleep.




Nick McLogic says ...
This article is inaccurate in its portrayal of homeopathy's claimed reason for its efficacy. This article smartly avoids mentioning the magic ritual of "sucussing" that supposedly imbues the water that the "memory" of the "active" ingredient. Homeopathy is just the placebo effect in action. If homeopathy were correct, then ALL of physics would be wrong. Your microprocessor running the web browser you are viewing this blog in WOULD NOT WORK if homeopathy were accurate in its claims.
10/18/2011 3:36:53 PM CDT
ChristyRedd says ...
I've used homeopathic Influenzinum for 12 years to prevent the flu. Before finding it, I got the flu so badly that I'd be in bed for a week every time I got it. Since using Influenzinum I haven't gotten the flu at all including swine flu. I haven't even had a hint of a symptom in all those years. I also used to get sore throats very easily during cold weather. They invariably led to bronchitis and more time spent in bed. Anti-biotics didn't even touch the problem. The traditional doctor I saw at the time would simply say, "Well, it's self-limiting, but let's take a chest x-ray in case it goes into pneumonia." My homeopath prescribed the correct remedy and now if I do get a sore throat a couple of doses knocks it out right away. Bronchitis never has the chance to develop. In fact, I believe that my years of using homeopathics have improved my immune system. I rarely get those sore throats now.
10/18/2011 11:19:37 PM CDT
Naomi Most says ...
Truly important information. What if people knew they could make their own placebos at home? Then they wouldn't buy vials of water at Whole Foods. News flash: homeopathic treatments are side-effect free because they have NO ACTIVE INGREDIENTS. Sigh.
10/18/2011 11:33:32 PM CDT
Kevin Burton says ...
Are you serious...... it's WATER. You're selling water and claiming it had medicinal value which is out right fraud. Honestly. I hold Whole Foods to a higher standard. I spend at LEAST $100 a week and the whole homeopathy section at whole foods I felt was an oversight that was pending correction. If Whole Foods continues to sell homeopathic remedies which do not have scientific backing I will take my business elsewhere. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health/healthnews/7857349/Doctors-call-for-homeopathy-ban.html http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2010/jan/29/sceptics-homeopathy-mass-overdose-boots ... you know what they call homeopathic and alternative medicine when it's proven to work scientifically ? They call it medicine.
10/19/2011 12:06:25 AM CDT
herbalife products says ...
Since the beginning of fall this year I have facing cold and flu all along. Firstly I got hit by a viral fever, then a persistent headache, got better for a week or so. And now cold and bad throat have hit me again. I wish homeopathy can help me!
10/19/2011 4:51:17 AM CDT
Emily says ...
Well, one point I would like to touch upon: "They do not interact with conventional medicines," Yes, they can. It can be dangerous if someone using conventional medicine does not inform their general practitioner that they are also using homeopathic remedies. Adverse drug interactions CAN occur. Take a look at this study for more information: http://het.sagepub.com/content/24/5/219.abstract
10/19/2011 3:36:44 PM CDT
Jamie says ...
:faceplam: Lets see... First I dont find the "Director of Education and Pharmacy Development for Boiron USA." to be a reliable or objective source of health information. "Homeopathy has a long history of use" This is nothing more than an appeal to tradition, a logical fallacy, it says nothing about its actual efficacy. "Homeopathic medicines are therapeutically active micro-doses of mineral, botanical, and biological substances" No, they are NOT "micro-doses". Homeopathic "medicines" have been serially diluted to the point that it is statistically likely that NOT EVEN A SINGLE MOLECULE OF THE ORIGINAL SUBSTANCE REMAINS. It not based on the idea of "micro-doses", its based on the magical idea that water holds a memory. "homeopathic medicines can treat acute health conditions such as allergies, coughs, colds and flu symptoms." No, no, no, & NO!!! Complete misinformation. "Homeopathic medicines are regulated as drugs by the FDA and are made according to the specifications of the Homeopathic Pharmacopoeia of the United States..." This is a gross over simplification, Homeopathic "meds" are NOT subject to the same regulations as other new medications in regards to safety and efficacy and are allowed to pass through various loopholes thanks to Senator Royal Copeland, a homeopath himself, who sponsored the FD&C Act of 1938. "Many supplements or vitamins take some time to show their effect, whereas homeopathic medicines work very quickly." I think you meant to write "work not at all"
10/19/2011 4:24:52 PM CDT
Andria says ...
You are making it sound like they are monitored like other prescription medicines, which is NOT the case. "Homeopathic remedies are prepared according to the guidelines of the Homeopathic Pharmacopeia of the United States (HPUS), which was written into law in the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act in 1938. Homeopathic remedies are regulated in the same manner as nonprescription, over-the-counter (OTC) drugs. However, because homeopathic products contain little or no active ingredients, they do not have to undergo the same safety and efficacy testing as prescription and new OTC drugs." http://nccam.nih.gov/health/homeopathy/ That hardly sounds like they are monitored like other drugs!
10/19/2011 6:23:42 PM CDT
ChristyRedd says ...
Emily, Despite the comments in the study you posted the link to, it would be impossible for any homeopathic remedy to interact or interfere with conventional drugs. The reason for this is that there is no actual substance in most potencies and especially not in those above 11c. There may be a very small number molecules of substance in the lower potencies like 6x but not enough to cause any type of reaction. Homeopaths assert that homeopathic remedies work by presenting an energy imprint of the original substance to the immune system thereby triggering the body to heal itself naturally. The paper notes at the top that the author is connected with Schering-Plough, a maker of conventional drugs, not an expert on homeopathy or herbal medicine. Homeopathics are safe and non-toxic, do not create side effects or iatrogenic diseases and have been proven safe in studies for children, pregnant women, nursing mothers and infants. Also, despite the comments in this study, there is absolutely no danger in using them without tell your physician. Homeopathics are often confused with herbal remedies since they are made from natural substances, but they are quite different from herbal medicines. In the case of herbal medicines, there may be interactions and side effects caused by them since they contain appreciable amounts of the actual substance, but this is something that would have to be addressed by an herbalist.
10/19/2011 6:44:29 PM CDT
Whitney Ford says ...
I am disappointed that Whole Foods is supporting fake medicine. I hope no babies or elderly die from taking your advice.
10/19/2011 6:50:14 PM CDT
Colby says ...
I noticed that this was filed under the category "Whole Body" by mistake; it should be under the "Whole 'lotta BS" category.
10/19/2011 11:37:36 PM CDT
cavall de quer says ...
Christy actually says it in so many words: there is no active ingredient in homeopathic remedies. This does not prevent homeopathic nostrums deriving from animal sources: pig embryos, duck heart, bird feathers and anything else which they imagine could help suffering humans - see the "provings" pages of homeopathic sites for lists. There may remain no molecule of these sad body parts in what humans ingest for their ills, - but it's too late for the sources to worry about that.
10/20/2011 2:47:06 AM CDT
Dr. Nancy Malik says ...
Homeopathy is non-toxic system of western medical science originated in Germany by Dr. Friedrich Samuel Hahnemann (10 April 1755 Germany- 2 July 1843 France). He received his M.D. with honours in conventional medicine from University of Erlangen, Germany on 10 Aug 1779.
10/20/2011 3:16:21 AM CDT
Scott Hurst says ...
I can see some of your customers are duped by homeopathy. But it is the stocking of these kinds of worthless, and even dangerous, products that keep me out of your store. People DIE all the time because took non-sense like this rather than seek real medical care.
10/20/2011 6:38:21 AM CDT
John says ...
Dear Whole Foods, As one of your customers, this post makes me very uncomfortable. At worst, this perpetuates pseudoscience, and encourages people to waste their money on water wrapped up in a package, pretending to be a remedy. The sort of reasoning that encourages people to subscribe to homeopathic remedies could end up doing real harm to them, even killing them, in certain situations, if they do not seek real medical attention. There is *no* evidence to support the claims that homeopathy makes. The basic premise of the practice is that by taking some ingredient that would normally cause certain symptoms, and put that ingredient or ingredients into a solution and dilute it down to nothing in water. When you see a number like 12c, that means that the process of dilution has occurred such that there is a concentration of the ingredient of 10^-24. At 12c, there is only a 60% chance that there is even a single molecule of the original ingredient remaining in the solution. At 30c, you would need to consume 10^41 pills (a billion times the mass of the Earth) to consume a molecule of the original substance. If you think this is drastic, Oscillococcinum (sold at Whole Foods!) is at a concentration of 200c. What's more, the homeopaths claim that the dilution process increases the effectiveness of a substance. That is, a concentration of 1 is less potent than a concentration of 10^-24. Why do they claim this works? Well, the claim is that the original substance somehow imprints its energy in the water, and that that energy is carried through the dilution process, and remains present long after there are no more molecules of the substance in the solution (of water). This is physically impossible. There is no evidence that this is true, because if it were true, we would have a very different understanding of the physical world that we live in than we do. Not only that, but imagine how much human waste, or animal waste, has been in contact with water. According to homeopaths, even though the waste is completely removed from the water, the essence is still there. And, again, according to the homeopathic view the essence of waste would grow stronger the more that it was diluted. Should we stop treating our waste water, for fear of an overdose? On the topic of overdoses, a number of skeptics have tried to overdose on homeopathic remedies, taking entire bottles of remedies at once. No one was injured, and no one was cured of anything either. The evidence available suggests that homeopathic remedies are about as effective as a placebo. One more important note, not all homeopathic remedies are created equal. Some of them do actually contain real, active ingredients. There was a cold and sinus nasal spray on the market called Zicam, marketed as an unapproved homeopathic product, contained zinc acetate at 10^-2 and zinc gluconate at 10^-1. Both of the ingredients are biologically active, and actually caused some users of the product to lose their sense of smell, a condition termed anosmia. Maybe it would be good to end on a joke: Do you know what they call alternative medicine that's been proven to work? MEDICINE! References and good reading: What's the harm? http://whatstheharm.net/homeopathy.html http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homeopathy http://www.quackwatch.org/01QuackeryRelatedTopics/altbelief.html How homeopathic remedies are manufactured: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zj2_MIPpZus Chemists on the idea that chemicals are bad: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w6ZsYCnlvPs An excellent short film promoting critical thinking: http://herebedragonsmovie.com/ A funny sketch about a homeopathic hospital: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HMGIbOGu8q0
10/20/2011 9:01:11 AM CDT
Avery Timm says ...
A true homeopathic product should not have any active ingredient. Some products are using the word homeopathy on the label but also adding real active ingredients. 200 years ago when homeopathy was invented people didn't know how to test it's claims and modern medicine of the time was not very advanced and a doctor who did not have an understanding of germ theory and our current understanding of anatomy and physiology could very well have done more harm then good. In those days homeopathy, which does nothing, was safer. That's not the case today. Modern medicine has advanced, but homeopathy still does nothing. It's pure placebo. Suggesting people take a placebo for the flu is dangerous. People DIE of influenza. http://aboutkitty.blogspot.com/2011/08/boiron-and-oscillococcinum-fairy-dust.html
10/20/2011 10:39:54 AM CDT
Deb Rice says ...
Thank you so much, ChristyRedd! Homeopathy has saved me from pain and sickness and migraines and bruises. There's a place for Western medicine, too, but, for my money...homeopathy is the place to start! I wish everyone would give them a chance - you'd be very surprised!
10/20/2011 11:36:50 AM CDT
Jeremy Baltz says ...
I really enjoy using sambucol, which is an elderberry homeopathic medicine, and i use it often, before getting sick. Natural homeopathic medicines, and herbs are best.
10/20/2011 11:54:00 AM CDT
Jonathan Kimball says ...
I will be boycotting all Whole Foods market stores for this article. There is a very, very large body of evidence which shows that homeopathy does not work, but since you seem to deal in anecdotal terms, you can just look to James Randy. He routinely swallows entire boxes of homeopathic preparations with no affects, ill or otherwise. Homeopathic preparations are nothing more than water. You address none of these facts in your article. In fact, it seems that you are intentionally telling half truths. Homeopathy isn't like taking a bit of an onion to stop you from being stuffed up because onions make you tear up and cry. Its more like you take an onion, drop it in Lake Michigan, stir it up and take a sip of the water. The concept of homeopathy is that everything gives off certain vibrations. Those vibrations are retained in water and become more powerful the more it is diluted. Why did you leave these critical concepts of homeopathy out of your article? The only reason I can fathom is that you are intentionally trying to mislead customers into buying high profit water capsules. That indicates to me that Whole Foods cares more about profit than the well being of its customers. They would rather them buy a supposed drug which does nothing, while lying to them that it does then actually tell the truth and show some standards. I will never set foot in a Whole Foods store again
10/20/2011 12:03:20 PM CDT
Mary says ...
Thanks for doing these podcasts!
10/21/2011 2:50:41 AM CDT
Diana Russell says ...
Such good information! I sent it to my Mom - I wish she would give these types of treatments a go!
10/22/2011 6:42:02 PM CDT
Jessie C. says ...
Love these podcasts, very useful information. I've never tried homeopathy, it is always interesting to learn other methods.
10/23/2011 11:20:45 AM CDT
steff says ...
this is great for me to read - i sick with a cold for the first time in a year!
10/23/2011 6:26:26 PM CDT
Geri S says ...
I didn't know that Homeopathic medicines are regulated as drugs by the FDA, see you can learn something everyday.
10/23/2011 7:17:06 PM CDT
Elizabeth Weiss says ...
This is the first time I have ever listened to a pod cast. So informitive. Thanks!
10/23/2011 9:51:39 PM CDT