This article is from the Alternative Medicine Therapies guide.
A homeopathic remedy is made by crushing a plant, animal, or mineral substance then putting it into a solvent such as grain alcohol. The extract is then further diluted in a mixture of alcohol and water and shaken with each dilution; this emphasizes the signature healing effects of the substance being diluted. The process is repeated many times to achieve a therapeutic dilution with few chemical side effects.
Homeopathic remedies are labeled with numbers and letters that indicate their dilution, or "potency." A solution labeled "30C," for example, has been diluted 30 times at a ratio of one part substance to 99 parts alcohol and water ("C" is for "centesimal," as the ratio is 1:100). A solution labeled "6X" has been diluted 6 times at a ratio of one part substance to 9 parts alcohol and water ("X" stands for "decimal potency," or a ratio of 1:10). After it has been properly diluted, the medicine can be administered in one of many forms, including tablets, ointments, liquid, or spray.
Advocates say that the dilution process produces a potent healing "essence." Critics argue that most homeopathic remedies are so diluted that chemical laboratory tests cannot detect the original active substance. They suggest that homeopathic cures are the result of a placebo effect caused by the patient's belief in the practitioner or the method. Some well-run recent research, however, suggests that there is more than a placebo effect inherent in homeopathy.