Increasingly, cancer patients are turning to alternative therapies like homeopathic remedies for a greater degree of control over their conditions. This can be both a good and a bad thing. When used as complementary medications with the guidance of a primary care physician, homeopathic remedies can help ease conditions associated with cancer, such as nausea. However, when used improperly, they can have unwanted interactions.
Homeopathic medicine was created 200 years ago by traditional medical doctors who were convinced that treatments that included bloodletting were harming patients instead of helping them. These physicians looked to early Greek medical philosophy to develop a concept of “Like cures like.” In layman’s terms, an extremely diluted form of a substance—such as the plant family Colchicum (crocus and Godiva lilly), which is poisonous to humans—that causes nausea can help to cure it. Today, a patient seeking homeopathic care usually consults a homeopathic physician and has their prescription filled either at a homeopathic pharmacy or orders the medication direct from a manufacturer.
Traditional medications used in homeopathic and Eastern medicine, such as wild ginger (also known as “asarum”), have recently proven to reduce nausea in cancer patients, according to a study funded by the National Cancer Institute. Other medications that may help include nux vomica, pulsatilla, tabacum and ipecacuanha, which is the primary ingredient in syrup of ipecac (normally used to induce vomiting, but when diluted, can simply reduce nausea).
The majority of homeopathic remedies are prepared in pellet, tablet, granule or liquid form. The liquid form may be diluted in water and swallowed, while the solid forms are placed under the tongue and allowed to dissolve before swallowing. Patients are instructed not to eat or drink anything up to 45 minutes before and 15 minutes after taking medication, as food and drink can weaken the effects of the medicine.
Homeopathic nausea medicines are low potency (less diluted) than high-potency medicines. And homeopaths often instruct the patient to take one dose, then wait for the result. If nausea vanishes, the patient is to continue to let the medicine work. If nausea returns, the patient is allowed to take another dose.