Homeopathy is a holistic, health philosophy and practice. People who specialize in homeopathy are called homeopaths, though other complementary health care professionals also use homeopathic philosophy and products in the treatment of patients. At this time, Ontario is the only province that regulates homeopaths.
Homeopathy is based on the principle of "The Law of Similars" (also known as "like cures like") meaning that a disease and its symptoms can be cured by a product known to produce similar symptoms. Products are intended to be used in low dosages based on the idea that as a homeopathic product is diluted, its healing effect increases.
Homeopathic products come in many forms such as pellets, oral droplets, syrups, creams and ointments. These products are made up of substances that come from plants, minerals, or animals and are meant to be used for relief of minor, non-serious conditions. These products are generally low-risk.
Health Canada regulates homeopathic products as a type of natural health product. Health Canada reviews homeopathic products to make sure that they are safe and that the health claims (what the product claims to do) are supported by textbooks and other references used in the practice of homeopathy (e.g., pharmacopoeia, Materia medica). These products are not supported by scientific evidence.
Health Canada regulates consumer health products which are sold directly to consumers and do not require a prescription or the oversight of a health care professional. Based on the supporting information and instructions available on the label, Canadians can safely select and use these products to maintain and improve their health. Consumer health products cover a broad range of products including cosmetics, disinfectants, non-prescription drugs and natural health products.
In addition to homeopathic products, other types of natural health products (e.g., vitamins, minerals, probiotics, herbal remedies, etc.)á are reviewed by the Department to make sure that they are safe and that the health claims made (e.g., "promotes bone and dental health") are supported by either scientific evidence or other references depending on the type of product.
Non-prescription drugs such as pain relievers, allergy medications, and cold and flu medications are widely available for consumers to purchase without a prescription from a doctor.á Health Canada reviews these products to make sure that they are safe and that the health claims they make (e.g., "relief of headache") are supported by scientific evidence.
In the past, homeopathic products were not widely available in stores. A person would visit a homeopath or other complementary health care professional who would make a homeopathic remedy for the patient based on his or her specific health condition as well as a holistic assessment of the individual. Now many homeopathic products are available in stores and are placed next to non-prescription drugs. This has led to confusion for some consumers, who may be looking for a non-prescription drug but pick up a homeopathic product instead.
The easiest way to identify the type of product is to look for the Health Canada authorization number. A product will have an eight-digit number preceded by one of these:
On homeopathic products, you can also look for this statement: "homeopathic medicine/remedy/preparation."
Finally, on the labels for all consumer health products you will also find other information such as:
Did you know?
Health Canada has approved more than 8,500 homeopathic products. There is a database on the Health Canada website that lists these approved products. You can also enter a product's DIN-HM into this database to learn more details of Health Canada's approval of the product.
Nosodes are a type of homeopathic product regulated by Health Canada. Nosodes are not and never have been approved by Health Canada to be vaccine alternatives, but have been promoted and used for such purposes by some complementary health care professionals and anti-vaccination advocates. No homeopathic product should be promoted as an alternative to vaccines because there are no substitutes for vaccines.
Children given nosodes instead of vaccinations are at risk of developing serious and potentially fatal childhood illnesses such as measles, mumps, rubella, polio, whooping cough, etc. Vaccination is the best way to prevent such serious diseases by protecting yourself, your family and your community.
Did you know?
The Public Health Agency of Canada is the best source for credible, science-based advice about vaccines to help inform your decision making. Learn more about immunization and vaccines.
In order to improve their safe use, Health Canada is introducing changes for certain homeopathic products. These measures will give parents the clarity they need in choosing safe and effective products for their children.