Text and images by Gabrielle.

Pharmacies, and specifically pharmacists, play a different role here in France than they do in the U.S.

From what I can tell, for non-emergency medical issues or questions, like colds, rashes, or congestion, pharmacists are the first stop. They’re incredibly knowledgable and they come out from behind the counter to discuss the options and recommend products. Plus they keep samples of pretty much everything they stock on hand and offer them up generously so you can find the product that’s going to work for you before you spend your money.

Something else you’ll find integrated into every French pharmacy is homeopathic medicine. It seems to be as common as aspirin here! And I should note, not just at pharmacies. It’s also common for any doctor to recommend homeopathie as an option. (Where as in my experience in the U.S., typically only “alternative” practitioners might recommend it.)

Essentially, homeopathie is not considered strange, alternative, quack-y or odd at all. It’s simply an additional option. And it’s readily available at even the smallest corner pharmacy.

As you know, while we’re living here, we like the idea of adopting as much of the French lifestyle as we can manage. So, while I hadn’t had much interest in homeopathic remedies when I lived in the States, since I’m here, I thought: why not give it shot? With guidance from our dear friend Caroline and our helpful pharmacist, so far we’ve tried 4. First is Arnica. It’s for pain and it works like magic with our little kids. If they have a big bump and burst into tears, Arnica will calm them in seconds! Count me a believer on this one.

When I was stressed out during Alt Summit week, I tried Gelsemium. I took it off and on (pretty much whenever I would remember) during the conference, and I think I was calmer than usual — but it’s hard for me to judge. It’s not the sort of week where I can sit calmly and evaluate my mental status. : )

For runny, red noses we’ve used Allium Cepa and all agreed we saw relief. But only when we took it consistently.

Lastly, Caroline recommended Ignatia Amara as an option when you have something you can’t stop thinking about. I’ve had a couple of bummer emails this week and found myself getting obsessed with them; not being able to let them go. So I’ve been trying the Ignatia Amara. Again, this is a hard one for me to tell if it’s working or not. If I’m not thinking of those emails, is it the medicine? Or would I have been able to distract myself on my own?

I’m curious. What are your thoughts on homeopathie? Do you roll your eyes at the thought? Are you curious about it? Have you been using it for years?

P.S. — The homeopathic remedies we’ve tried come in the bright little containers pictured. They’re the size of a lip balm stick and they’re filled with tiny white balls. The balls taste sweet and you hold them under your tongue till they dissolve.

125 thoughts on “Homeopathie”

  1. This makes me incredibly upset that you posted this. Homeopathy is nothing more than a placebo, there have been numerous studies confirming this. Case in point, if homeopathy did what it claims to do, the way it claims to do it, everything we know about modern science would be wrong, but we know it’s not because we’re able to do many things, like make planes fly and build computers. Which, no one here would be able to do by simply “believing”.

    Spreading misinformation like this is incredibly irresponsible and dangerous. There are some people who use homeopathic vaccinations and what then when their child becomes infected with a disease that could potentially kill them like whooping cough? Learn the facts and don’t use something just because it “feels good”.

    Did you ever stop to think about how much money the companies that make homeopathic medicine are making from an ingredient that is basically a tic tac?

    You just lost a reader.

    1. Yikes. That’s an intense response. I don’t think telling readers that homeopathie is common in France is “spreading misinformation”.

      And I have no idea what a “homeopathic vaccination” is. The French use the same standard vaccinations that are used in the U.S., and I vaccinate my children as well.

  2. We use homeopathy at our home. Coughing syrups were very helpful this winter. Also fever reducer. Homeopathy is becoming popular (or at least in my circle of people) and I buy it at the Whole Foods. Not sure whether a pharmacy carries it.

  3. Wow, a post about actual quackery. So, allium cepa, basically a single molecule from an onion tossed into a swimming pool of sugar water. I’ll stick with facts, science, and actual intelligence.

  4. I love homeopathy! I’ve used it for years for various things. My primary care doctor in Brooklyn keeps various vials in the pockets of her medical white coat and hands them to me instead of giving prescriptions. That’s nearly unheard of, so I’m glad I found her.

  5. Ha ha, wow, you really got a lot of responses to this post! I love homeopathy and use it for my kids as well as myself. I would agree that it’s not worth trying to convince skeptics.

    I do find it interesting though that “conventional medicine” wasn’t able to do anything for my infant daughter’s chronic rash, while “sugar placebos” made it go away . . . . But then, perhaps it’s all in her 6 month mind, lol!

  6. I chug a gulp of apple cider vinegar, out of the bottle, just about every morning….Especially when I feel a little tingle in my throat…..It works. I hardly ever get sick when my kids are sick.

    1. I’ve heard so many good things about ACV. We’ve had luck with it for wart removal, but the smell is so intense, I can barely stand it. I don’t think I am brave enough to drink it daily. : )

  7. Sorry to hear you have had a few bad emails this week Gabrielle – especially after the highs of Alt! Go for a big long walk in the fresh air and you’ll sleep soundly all night :) Also, my doctor has told me the back of your knees needs sunshine every day a this is where your sensitive Vitamin D receptors are! Homeopathy like camomile tea is great too. Hope you have a better weekend.

  8. thank you for posting this. I’m amazed that more people aren’t tuned into natural medicine – it is the root of many conventional medicines after all. In South Africa we have a great product called Traumeel which contains arnica. We also use Rescue Remedy a lot – to calm nerves, help with shock and mild anxiety. I combine conventional medicine with homeopathic and natural medicine according to the symptoms. Both have their place. Gabrielle – hope your weekend is fabulous – remember you can’t please all of the people all of the time. :)

    1. “remember you can’t please all of the people all of the time”

      Very true! And I believe it. I’m sure with practice, I’ll get better at letting things go. Thank you for the kind words, Corinne!

  9. Please Gaby, stay 5 more years and I’ll teach you all the others “remèdes homéopatiques” that I know ! Trust me there is one for EVERYTHING ! and as said my grandmother :”If it doesn’t work, it doesn’t hurt !” ;) but it works…

  10. I had a wonderful experience with pharmacy medicine in France. I was terribly constipated (unusual for me) and walked into a little pharmacy – not really expecting much – and just said “Constipation”! The clerk took me to the pharmacist, who asked me questions – in English! – after which he consulted with an older pharmacist and then suggested Olivalax – basically senna in olive oil. It worked exactly as he predicted. In contrast, after my daughter’s second child (Colorado), she was in extreme pain from constipation and first, could not get in touch with her doctor, then waited for the on-call doctor to respond, then used whatever he suggested which didn’t work at all. For some reason, Olivalax is not sold in the US.

  11. Hi,
    Homeopathy is more common here in the UK too although not as common as France. Some doctors are qualified homeopaths as well as medical doctors, others just support alternative therapies. I’ve had great results with Bella Donna for bringing down a horrendous temperature that I had with Viral Bronchitis.
    In my artsy, liberal little town (Whitstable on the Kent Coast) our cup brimmeth over with homeopaths, osteopaths, acupuncturists and alternative therapies of every kind. It is lovely!
    Clare xx

  12. It amazes me to see how many people are against natural medicine and want to “stick” to “science”. To imply that those of us who are believers of homeopathy or natural remedies are ignorant is a backfire on them. I am from Mexico and there are countless herbs and natural remedies that have been “proven” for centuries. As one of your readers commented, many of todays medicines have been developed from natural ingredients. Arnica is great for pain and my family has used it in many forms before with a 100% success rate. It is the pharmaceutical companies who have a lot to loose if we start using more natural medicines and not the other way around. I am not saying to stop using medicine, I am saying to stop judging others who have “found” there are other alternatives that have no chemicals or “side effects”. Sorry, I’ve been reading your blog for only about two months and I never comment but this time I just had to. I think it’s great for you to be more open about trying new things and the results will speak for themselves. Good luck :)

    1. I imagine there is a strong pull for most people to stick with whatever they grew up with. For people in the U.S. that often means treating cold symptoms with things like orange juice and chicken noodle soup — though both are more culturally based than science based. I love learning how different cultures respond to the same symptoms.

  13. I love homeopathic treatments! I believe a lot of it works. My dad has always been into homeopathy since I was a little kid, and so have I. Let’s see, in the U.S., I love the prices of http://www.swansonvitamins.com I love how I find a lot of products through them cheaper than regular stores, and it’s delivered to my doorstep. My personal favorites are:

    5HTP– even taken once a week, helps with mood, and I’ve taken it for post partum depression, I could really tell the difference when I would go off it.
    Arnica–Like you, we use Bumps and Bruises type tablets and Boiron or other arnica cream for the kids or us when we’re sore or hurt.
    Swansons Thyroid essentials–seems to help with my weight, and my family has had thyroid problems.
    Cider vinegar tablets–helps me with digestion, fighting colds and weight management, I have noticed at my thinnest, I drank cider vinegar and water all the time. Tablets are better form, I think.
    Flu–Umcka–if I take it when I feel a flu or cold coming in, I don’t get sick, or flu doesn’t take as long to heal. Hyland’s Flu care for kids helps my kids.
    Colds–I use Swanson Homeopathy Cold and Sore throat relief, on top of Umcka too–does help. For kids, I use Hyland’s Sniffles and Sneezes for kids. All their other playmates are sick but at first sign of colds I give this, seems to help fight or shorten colds.
    Sleep aid–Swansons Sleep Essentials or Melatonin.
    Cold sore–Umcka helps, as does Swanson Cold Sore Relief….
    Coughs–Hyland’s Cold and Cough for kids and also Buckley’s for adults and kids…

    I have taken all this for a while now and they do seem to help. Will have to try the ones you mentioned then and will read all comments for new ones to try :-).

    Thanks for posting about this, so highly informative!

    1. Oh! After reading other posts, I just remembered, I did give my kids Hyland’s teething tablets and they helped, we take Belladonna for fevers and stress type tablets. I also take Swansons motion sickness tablets when traveling mountain passes.

      I mix both doctors (and do get immunizations–I have childhood friends who have suffered polio and diphteria deaths because they were not immunized) and homeopathic treatments. I have deep respect for treatments we don’t know about. Chinese medicine/treatments go farther/longer than modern western medicine. Just saying….

  14. Pamela Balabuszko-Reay

    I’m sorry that you are sad or worried about e-mails you received this week. It is interesting how that one line stuck out to me in your post about homeopathic medicine. I know how it feels to get stuck on one thought and have it swirling around in a way that is bad for me. I too would like some relief. I think that we have barely scratched the surface when it comes to knowing what heals us. There is no one answer or approach. I think there is arrogance in thinking there is. One thing I know for sure is that feeling the care of others is healing. So, sending you my care and best wishes for calm in your storm.

  15. Wow. I don’t really get some of the intensely negative responses this post has evoked….disproportionately so. It’s like someone who eats meat getting really upset because you liked a vegan dish. Weird. I mean, you are just sharing a new experience and asking others what their experiences are. What’s the big deal? New experiences and learning is what life is all about right? Personally, I haven’t tried homeopathie a great deal, but I’m open to it. I prefer more natural remedies. In our house, we run a cold-mist humidifier with tea tree oil in the water for colds and it will unblock a blocked nose within minutes and kiddos are sleeping peacefully. I do plan to run to our local health food store and see what I can find for my 4 year old’s icky cough. And homeopathie might be the go…who knows. (and for the record, we’ve been to the doctor and he just has an average cold/virus).

  16. I’ve been using homeopathy on and off for many years. I’ve had miracle-like cures for a few serious things and other times it hasn’t worked at all. I find it’s more effective when I work with an experienced practitioner. So, I’m a fan.

    My husband, on the other hand, thinks it’s all placebo. He worked for a company that researched alternative therapies and products (the company was pro all that stuff) and he claims that all the scientific research done has shown there there’s no way it can work and there are no studies that support it. While I haven’t examined the whole thing myself, I’m reserving judgement as I think it works and I’m using it anyway. Placebo is a huge part of the effectiveness of pharmaceuticals, too, so that’s okay by me.

    1. I find the whole conversation quite interesting; but especially the fact that very few homeopathy “believers” actually know how it works; I’ve been a believer of homeopathy but reserached after what Andy posted. I feel a little stupid now, because yes how could it work if it so diluted in water that lab test can’t detect the substance? I think it is about being curious, honest and rationnal; homeopathy is not acupunture or naturopathy; each medicine has specificity. Why should questioning and rationnalizing be viewed as an aggressive behaviour? Placebo effect is something important to be considered. I find it fascinating!

  17. I have tried some herbal remedies with success for small things and some others were a dismal and dangerous failure. I’m not sure I agree with everyone chastizing all the commentators here who have negative feelings towards natural remedies. Perhaps you were not aware that you were touching on a hot button issue, but you are and all sides should be allowed to be presented here. I relied heavily on natural remedies during my first pregnancy with much success, and tried to do the same with my second. Without getting into too many details, my reliance on herbal remedies recommended by my chiropractor for a particular ailment during my second pregnancy was foolishly misplaced and I was treating the symptoms of what turned out to be a very serious and life-threatening condition with various oils and supplements instead of going straight to my OB. I don’t blame homepathy or herbal remedies, I blame myself for not recognizing the severity of the situation. Happily, all ended well after a few very scary weeks with our beautiful baby who was able to be safely delivered (albeit very early) and came through it all like a champ. That being said, while this thread is largely about minor cuts and bruises, you may want to keep in mind that there may be people out there who have sufferred their own failure with homeopathy/natural remedies (or that of a loved one) with a more tragic outcome and it might be helpful to the discussion if people could be more sensitive to that when calling out the non-believers. I would also add that, despite my experience, I am still very open to using such remedies for me and my kids, but with a healthy dose of caution.

    1. I hear you Dianna, and I agree that all sides should be represented here. And I think they have been! There is a wide variety of opinions in these comments. And happily, there’s only one commenter that I can see who has been chastised. That would be Adam. But even then, he still had plenty of opportunities to make his opinions known.

      I’m actually delighted with how the comments have proceeded. For the most part, everyone has been very respectful and calm. Like you, they share their stories and let others form their own opinions.

  18. I was interested in giving it a try a few years back so I went to a homeopathy doctor for on going back pain. I was examined and sent off with those round pills for inflamation. He wanted to do a few more things on a regular basis but I couldn’t continue because insurance didn’t participate with him.

  19. The magnesium really seems to help with stress and migraines for me. I ended up going to a higher dose in a supplement form but used the little sugar pills for a while. My mid-wife also used the blue and black cohosh to get things going in labor and it was really effective. Now that I’m finished having children (we stopped at _only_ four), I often remark how I wish that I could find a mid-wife practicing as a GP or pediatrician because their approach was so pragmatic and they don’t reach for antibiotics and steroids all the time like our MDs do.

  20. What I like best about my Naturopath physician is that he tries to find the root of the problem. I had sinus issues and headaches for years. After seeing him he recommended a food sensitivity test. Once I omitted the foods from my diet that I tested sensitive too, sinus issues cleared and headaches stopped. I had a list of prescriptions a mile long from other doctors. Turns out, it was what I was eating personal to only me. He also recommends homeopathic remedies on a regular basis, when sleeping enough, drinking enough water and being active aren’t the answer (always the first thing he asks at an appointment). I was a sceptic and questioned many things in the beginning, so saying that they are always placebos, I don’t believe is accurate.
    One of our best examples, my son had the croup while traveling (the barking seal type) and after giving him the suggested remedy, it stopped. Within a few hours. Call that what you want, a fellow traveler’s son had had it in the weeks prior and she said the only thing that treats it is steroids. Ours was treated with continued homeopath remedy that caused no harm, I’ll take that solution any time.
    My parents are of the take a pill generation and trust all doctors like God. They have more problems caused by side effects of prescriptions than original health issues. Recently they have been open to other ideas, (mainly because they’re doctors were out of options) like chiropractors and natural remedies, and omitting processed foods, etc. Their health has slowly improved. While not a cure all for every aliment, looking for a solution that is not just “take this prescription blindly and call me if there is a problem so I can give you another one,” is a good thing. We keep our “wonder box” close on hand and it is the first place we go along with essential oils for issues that arise. We also see regular md’s when needed, but try to look at the big picture of cause and not a quick fix. It has been a long process, but one we have benefitted from. While we have purchased the homeopathic remedies on our own (at health food stores, etc.) we have found the most success with the guidance of our Naturopath.
    Thank you for posting about other options for health and wellness, learning from “new to us” places and cultures is never a bad thing.

  21. What I found most interesting about your original post was the role of pharmacists in France. The US will surely have to move in this direction eventually. We are thankfully seeing more and more nurse practitioners seeing patients in doctors’ practices. But it is absurd that in the US you should have to make an appointment at a doctors office to be seen for less than 5 minutes and told what you already knew, that your child has pink eye, and then off to the pharmacy for ointment. It seems a waste. I know almost nothing about homeopathy but your European readers should understand that in the US, MD’s rule. Their object is to make a profit and they routinely over-treat their patients. I have dozens of examples of this in my personal experience but the US rates of c-section and their variance from state to state are a very good example of profit motive taking precedence over patients. This is also why there is so little support for natural remedies—no patent, no huge profits. When my then 2nd grader was diagnosed with ADHD we were told the ONLY remedy was narcotics. A little Internet research told us about L glutamine. The difference in her was instant. She’s 13 now and a straight A student. And she still takes Glutamine. As things stand, we have to be our own best advocates and get over our belief that doctors are omniscient.

  22. I think some of it can be useful, but I also worry about the lack of oversight for homeopathy. While manufacturers of medications must prove their efficacy and safety through randomized controlled trials, and list possible contraindications and side effects and drug interactions, this is not true for natural remedies. We take them with caution after careful consideration of information available. If I can, I research the product on PubMed to establish its efficacy and safety. I’m also cautious of any product that claims it can cure just about anything. That being said, I do believe that some natural remedies are very effective, and have proven to be such. However, just because something is natural, does not mean it can not be harmful in large doses or when taken in concert with conventional medication. In the USA it is possible to find a practitioner of integrative medicine (conventional + homeopathic), which is what I would love to find here in Canada. I’ve never taken drugs to stop thinking about something – for me the natural remedy would be a nice heavy stint of cardio or weights to transfer my thoughts to my aching body :)

  23. when we were in france this summer our landlord recommended me some homeopathic sleep aids sold in these same sexy bottles. i ran out and bought it, excited to try something natural (and thus “safe”). i went home and did some research on my purchase before trying it, and found that even the slightest overdose was a potent poison and my little bottle was enough to kill a person. i could think of nothing else but my children somehow getting a hold of the stuff and gobbling up those “yummy little white balls.” those sexy bottles went straight to the garbage. . .

  24. I have had success and failures with Homeopathy. I LOVE Hylands Cold and Cough for kids (I take it too, amazing stuff). I haven’t had too much success with Borion’s Cold calm, it is super expensive too. My husband takes some for his allergies and loves it as it doesn’t give him the side affects of the OTC allergy medicine.

  25. I have been using homeopathic medicine for years and I love it. I even found a family doctor in regular practice with homeopathic certificate. It cures and prevents future sicknesses. I wish I lived in France!!!

  26. My son who is now 8 has had migraines since the age of 6. I decided to try homeopathic meds for a 3 month course. It didn’t seem to be helping so I quit giving it to him but after 3 months on it his migraines reduced from having them every week to having them once every 3 months. I’m inclined to believe the homeopathic meds helped but am sceptical at the same time

  27. What actually bothers me more than either side getting upset about this is the ridiculously high confusion rate between natural medicines (cures derived from nature) and homeopathy. I regularly take peppermint or ginger tea for indigestion/upset stomach. When my GERD acts up, I choke down Bragg’s unpasteurized apple cider vinegar, because it works better for me than Prilosec and Nexium. I took Yogi’s “Women’s Energy Tea” with Dong Quai to regulate my period, and I now take Yogi’s “Mother-to-be” tea to help with my pregnancy and strengthen my uterus.

    Homeopathy is not using whole herbs/plants/etc to treat symptoms/problems. It’s the belief that diluting a material in water until it cannot be detected, then adding sugar and selling it to consumers, will somehow help them. It’s the belief that water has a memory. Seeing as birth control pills and other medicines are found in most American drinking water, I’m very glad that water apparently doesn’t remember all that well. I can just imagine the amount of infertility that would be rampant here!

    I think there are plenty of people like me that are willing to embrace natural medicines but believe homeopathy to be a cure that doesn’t live up to its promise, and doesn’t hold up to any scientific inquiry.

    I truly hope you aren’t upset by these comments, Gabby. You’re just sharing a bit of French culture with your readers, and that’s great. Homeopathy is just one of those things that causes strong feelings, I think. I’d compare it to discussing the anti-vaccine movement, another subject that is bound to bring up strong opinions.

  28. As always, Homeopathy is a rather heated discussion with varying opinions and I only hope to clarify some points, if these have already been covered and I missed reading the post sorry :)

    Firstly there is a vast difference between Herbal/Natural remedies and Homeopathy.
    Herbal remedies – a plant or plant part or an extract or mixture of these used to prevent, alleviate, or cure disease—called also herbal, herbal medicine. Such as Herb teas, tinctures, Arnica gel/cream, Vitamin C tablets ect
    Homeopathy is, in short; A system for the treatment of disease by minute doses of natural substances that in a healthy person would produce symptoms of disease.

    As a student of Homeopathy, I am completing a Bachelor of Health Science majoring in Homeopathy (in Australia) I would suggest that Gabrielle’s readers contact on of the many Homeopathic Colleges for further information and clarification regarding Homeopathy and how it works.
    http://www.amcofh.org/ – American Medical College of Homeopathy
    http://www.endeavour.edu.au/ – Endeavour College of Natural Health (Australia)
    http://www.homeoint.org/hds/ehhds/default.htm -Ecole d’Homéopathie Hahnemannienne DauphinéSavoie.

    The International Council for Homeopathy has a very informative article about Homeopathy, here; http://www.homeopathy-ich.org/public-services.html

    As Gabrielle has said in the article she had a close friend, obviously with Homeopathic experience and knowledge, help her make informed choices about how and when to take the Homeopathic remedies. When taking any kind of medicine/remedy you should always speak with a qualified practitoner or pharamacist.

  29. I have been using it for years. I feel like it works, sometimes it’s so subtle you don’t know. And sometimes it can take time for a remedy to work. I have been doing homeopathic immunization to replace many of the vaccines that are now given to children. And my homeopath offered me a remedy to help with the effects of vaccines in general for the few we did give our daughter.

  30. I’ve used a variety of homeopathic remedies (under the guidance of a homeopathic practitioner) both for my children and for me. I’m a firm believer that they really help. I think both alternative and traditional western medicine have their uses–sometimes you need one, sometimes you need the other, and sometimes both work together.

    I don’t buy the argument that homeopathic remedies are just sugar pills, especially since I’ve seen how regularly they are prescribed by traditional doctors in Germany (we lived there when I was a child and I’ve been there often since). The pills certainly are based in sugar, but the remedy is sprayed onto the sugar pill in the very small doses that are typical of homeopathy (and that make it so safe for children and even babies). This is why you should never touch the pills with your hands before ingesting them, because the remedy will come off on your hands and then you really are just taking a sugar pill.

    As a side note, I think at least some MDs in the states may be becoming more open to homeopathy. My pediatrician is perfectly fine with me using the remedies on my kids–especially because another pediatrician in the practice has taken courses and become certified in homeopathy and now incorporates it into her practice.

  31. So here’s the deal: If you get the right remedy, homeopathics work great! But it’s tricky to figure out which one is right. I’ve had much more success using the ones my doctor has recommended than self-prescribing. We see Dr. Neustaedter in the SF Bay Area and he’s an amazing natural pediatrician. Most of my Mormon friends think it’s a hoax, but it’s their loss. It works using energy. And just because we don’t understand everything about homeopathics yet doesn’t mean it isn’t real. I’ve had enough experiences with homeopathy that I know it works, even if it sounds strange. I’d say most people in the U.S. don’t even know what homeopathics are though.

  32. My dentist recommended Arnica for bruising and soreness after having all my wisdom teeth taken out, but other than Arnica I’ve heard that most homeopathic products have the same ingredients and they’re basically placebos. Would you say that’s true?

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