As an alternative or complementary type of medicine, homeopathy is something that parents of children with cerebral palsy may turn to for relief from difficult symptoms. A child may benefit from working with a trained homeopathy to relieve pain, improve mobility, and provide relief for many of the associated symptoms and conditions of cerebral palsy.
Homeopathy is a whole medical system, a complete theory of medical practice that is complementary or an alternative to western medicine. While many whole medical systems, like Ayurveda or traditional Chinese medicine, evolved over thousands of years, homeopathy is an example of a modern alternative type of medicine. While there are critics of homeopathy, many people claim it has helped them get relief from symptoms, and there are few if any risks of working with a trained homeopath.
The History and Philosophy of Homeopathy
Although homeopathy is a modern system of medicine, it isn’t exactly new. It was developed in the 1700s by a German named Samuel Hahnemann. He developed homeopathy based on the idea that with a little prompting, the body has a remarkable capacity to heal itself. He named his new system homeopathy from the Greek for similar suffering, a reference to one of two main principles of homeopathy.
One principle is the idea that like cures like. If a person suffers from a particular symptom, giving that person a substance that triggers that symptom will cure it rather than making it worse. Practitioners believe that the substance will enhance the body’s natural ability to fight the illness or symptom. The other principle of homeopathy is that the treating substance should be given only in very small, dilute amounts. This minimal amount is thought to be adequate to trigger the body to heal while also avoiding side effects caused by traditional medicines.
Today, in the U.S., homeopathy is a popular alternative type of medicine. It is estimated that five million adults and more than one million children in the U.S. use this type of medicine every year. Most children who have used the remedies did so without working with a trained practitioner. Spending on homeopathic remedies totals nearly $3 billion per year.
A practitioner of homeopathy uses remedies administered to patients to treat symptoms and illnesses. These remedies are made from natural substances like plants and minerals. Some of these are toxic and poisonous, like arsenic and belladonna. Others are more benign, but all remedies are made with extremely small amounts of the active ingredient. They are either made in pill or solution form, and in some cases the concentration of the active ingredient is so low as to be considered chemically insignificant. The remedies are usually available over the counter and are regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Homeopathy for Cerebral Palsy
There is no cure or curative treatment for cerebral palsy, but there is some evidence that alternative and complementary treatments can help bring relief from symptoms. One paper published in the journal The American Homeopath detailed treatment for children with cerebral palsy who suffered from seizures. The parents of these two children turned to homeopathy after conventional treatments and anticonvulsant medicines failed to help.
The case studies describe a young boy with severe cerebral palsy who was crippled by seizures. Several different homeopathic remedies used over the course of three months first reduced the severity of the seizures and then the frequency. Similar results were seen with a girl with severe cerebral palsy and seizures. She received homeopathic treatments for just over a year. Eight years later she was still seizure free.
Another case study describes a seven-year-old boy with cerebral palsy that left him mostly immobile, blind, and incontinent. The study reported that after two months of homeopathic treatment he had improvement in his bowel movements, with greater control, as well as relief of other minor symptoms such as hair loss. He also became more mobile with the use of homeopathy and physical therapy.
Other studies have found more limited or no results from using homeopathy to treat children with cerebral palsy. It can be hard to study homeopathy because treatments are by nature highly individualized. Giving a large group of children the same remedies to treat the same symptoms is contrary to the philosophy of homeopathic medicine.
But, because some individuals do get relief with the remedies, there are many symptoms that parents of children with cerebral palsy may target with homeopathy: mobility, muscle weakness, spasticity, joint pain, digestive issues, and associated conditions and symptoms like asthma, anxiety, or skin conditions.
Risks and Safety
Homeopathy is a recognized alternative medical practice and the remedies used by practitioners are regulated. For this reason homeopathic medicines are generally considered safe. In fact, critics of homeopathy cite the extremely low doses of substances used in the remedies as a reason why it cannot or should not work to cure any illnesses or relieve symptoms. Some believe there is a placebo effect at work that makes people feel better when they use homeopathy.
While the risks are limited, you should look for a trained and certified homeopathic practitioner to get treatment for your child with cerebral palsy. And, before you do try it, make sure you speak with your pediatrician or other doctors who treat your child to find out if there are any reasons you should not try homeopathy. Although rare, it is possible that the small amount of active ingredient in a homeopathic medicine could cause side effects or interact with another medication.
Homeopathy has its critics but it also has its proponents. Large-scale studies that prove it is an effective type of treatment are limited, but case studies are not. There is plenty of anecdotal evidence and studies of individuals that show this type of medicine can have benefits for patients. If you have a child with cerebral palsy and conventional treatments are of limited help, consider working with a trained homeopathic practitioner, but only after consulting with your child’s primary doctors.