This morning I posted news releases from the FDA and Hyland’s Homeopathic Remedies regarding the voluntary recall of their teething tablets. As soon as I did it, I second-guessed whether it was a good decision to spread the word. After all, neither of the releases actually specifies something is wrong with the remedy, or that any harm can come from them. However, I believe in informed choice, so I think it’s important to share information when it’s available. To be fair to Standard Homeopathic Company, though, a company I respect and use for myself and my family, I think it’s important to give information about what homeopathics are, how they work, and how the FDA regulates them. We should all be familiar with this information for any product we give to our children.
Homeopathics, in a nutshell, use energy to heal and relieve symptoms by activating the vital force, also called Chi or Prana, that exists in each one of us. While this sounds like a lot of hocus pocus and one of the reasons homeopathy is debunked or dismissed as quackery, consider how our bodies function every day. If we get a cut, our body heals it. No medicine or procedures needed. Sometimes though, we get sick and our body can use some nudging to help with some symptoms, and this is where homeopathics can help. Their formulations, in either a pill, tablet, or liquid, contains substances that start our body to do its own healing. A full explanation can be found here. Some of these formulations are more intuitive than others. For instance, many hay fever and cold remedies use dilutions from a type of onion, using the laws of similars. Onions cause running nose and itching eyes, so those properties can be used to prevent the same symptoms for other reasons. Sometimes there’s no explanation for how they work. Even trained homeopaths don’t fully understand how each remedy heals, as explained here.
At this point you may wonder if homeopathics actually work. Like many other non-pharmaceutical remedies, the jury is out. Some studies show they are more effective than a placebo, and some don’t. In general, if they work for you, then they work. If they don’t, well then, they don’t. For some people they work very well. In my family, we’ve had success with the Hyland’s teething tablets, but not so much with the Hyland’s hayfever remedy. With other brands of homeopathics, I’ve had similar success. Some remedies works for me (for allergies, for instance), and some didn’t.
When evaluating this particular recall, it’s important to understand how homeopathics are prepared. Here’s the Wikipedia explanation, which explains that homepathic preparations only contain minute dilutions of the original substances, sometimes even just a few molecules. This article explains how taking more than recommended of a homeopathic remedy actually cases it to be less potent. This is interesting, because the complaints to the FDA that prompted the investigation into Hyland’s were thought to be related to taking too many tablets and potentially overdosing on belladonna, a member of the toxic nightshade family. However, according to Wikipedia, “Homeopathic belladonna preparations have been sold as treatments for various conditions, although there is no scientific evidence to support their efficacy. Clinically and in research trials, the most common preparation is diluted to the 30C level in homeopathic notation. This level of dilution does not contain any of the original plant, although preparations with lesser dilutions which statistically contain trace amounts of the plant are advertised for sale”. The recalled Hyland’s Teething Tablets were diluted to 30c level.
I’m waiting on more information about this recall before I pass judgement on Hyland’s and Standard Homeopathic Company regarding this recall. At this point it sounds the FDA was simply acting on complaints and perhaps found non-standard manufacturing processes, which could be anything, even missing paperwork or a misunderstanding. I think it’s good to know what’s going on with a company that manufactures something I give to my child to ingest, but this particular recall isn’t going to cause me any alarm even though I just gave some tablets to my son yesterday. It’s certainly a situation I will watch and follow, though, and I hope more information will be released about what the problem is. For those who want to use non-pharmaceutical therapies for teething, other homeopathic teething remedies are available, as well as amber teething necklaces that have analgesic properties.
If anyone else has alternative remedies to use until the matter is cleared up, please share!
A version of this article also appears on Natural Parents Network.