Homeopathic medicines are prepared by homeopathic pharmacists from materials of botanical, chemical, mineral, or zoological origin. They are prepared in accordance with a homeopathic manufacturing procedure described in the official pharmacopoeias currently used in the Member States, – the French, German, and increasingly, the European Pharmacopoeia. The British Homeopathic Pharmacopoeia is also used in the UK.
All EU Member States are obliged to register homeopathic medicines pursuant to Directive 2001/82/EC (veterinary use) and 2001/83/EC (human use) – amended by Directive 2004/28/EC and Directive 2004/27/EC respectively – on the Community Code relating to medicinal products. Single homeopathic medicines that have been diluted above 1:10,000 may be registered according to a simplified registration procedure while more concentrated homeopathic medicines and those with specific therapeutic indications must follow the market authorisation regulation in a similar way to conventional drugs.
Since some medicines in their crude state may be potentially toxic and may provoke a severe aggravation of the clinical state of the patient, source materials are substantially diluted using a procedure known as potentisation or dynamisation. This process involves successive dilutions and vigorous shaking (succussion) for liquid preparations and successive grinding (trituration) for solid preparations. The potentisation process can be performed in various ways. Homeopathic potencies are usually designated by the combination of a number and a letter.
- The number refers to the number of successive dilutions to which the starting material has been subjected within a series to prepare that remedy.
- The letter refers to the scale on which the dilution has been carried out. There are several different scales, of which the decimal (1:10) and centesimal (1:100) scales are the most widely used. The letter D or X denotes the decimal method (i.e. 1 part of liquid is added to 9 parts of purified water, ethanol, glycerol or lactose). The letter C indicates the centesimal method (1 part added to 99 parts of diluent). Ø denotes mother tincture, the initial homeopathic preparation made from a source material; this may be potentized but may itself be used as a homeopathic medicine. Clean glassware (test tube and pipettes) is used for each dilutional stage. Other dilutional scales are also used. In the Korsakovian method (denoted K), a single piece of glassware is used; this is emptied and refilled, the liquid adhering to the walls of the vessel in which it is diluted – it is otherwise similar to the method above. In the 50 millesimal or quinquagintamillesimal dilution method (denoted LM or Q), dilution is in steps of approximately 1:50,000; this is achieved by absorbing the dilution on to small lactose granules, which are then redissolved.
- Sometimes with centesimal medicines only figures (e.g. 6 or 30) are used.
There are a range of oral dose forms:
- Tablets are made of impregnated milk sugar (lactose).
- Globuli (pillules or granules) may be of milk sugar or sucrose.
- Liquid preparations are solutions of the medication in water with some amount of alcohol added as a preservative.
The process of potentisation nullifies the toxic properties. Although it is advisable to restrict the protracted use of low potencies (below D2 or C4) of some homeopathic medicines, homeopathic medicines are very safe to take and free of side effects (side effects should not be confused with homeopathic aggravation being a transient harmless exacerbation of symptoms in response of treatment). Most homeopathic medicines by their non-toxicity, are available over the counter, i.e. without a prescription.
Information about the starting materials of botanical, chemical, mineral, or zoological origin can be found here.