Introduction to Homeopathic Pharmacopeia
Homeopathy is one of health system widely practiced in almost all continents. Dr. Hahnemann, the founder of the system, introduced an unconventional approach in the preparation of the medicines and a new therapeutic principle for the treatment of the sick. Hahnemann has not written a pharmacopeia detailing the standards of preparation of homeopathic medicines, but his other works such as Organon of medicine, Chronic Diseases and Materia medica Pura gives detailed process of its preparation. Based on this pharmacopeia’s are evolved in different countries as official standards for preparation of homeopathic medicines. As on now, Germany, UK, France, USA, India, Brazil, Mexico have evolved officials Homeopathic Pharmacopoeias.
The credibility of the medical system is based on the quality of its medicine. Qualitative and quantitative analysis of homeopathic medicines in ultra high dilution is a big challenge. Therefore, authoritative information on drugs and preparations, their description, formulation, analytic composition, physical constants, main chemical properties used in identification, standards for strength, purity and dosage, chemical tests for determining identity and purity of the original herb used in the preparation of homeopathic medicine is highly essential. Nomenclature of the medicines in modern scientific terminology along with the exact botanical name is also essential to identify the medicine in different countries.
Nearly 70 % of homeopathic medicines are derived from herbs. These are prepared from any part of the plant like fruit, seed, stem, bark, flower, leaf, stigma or root as well as a non-woody plant. The word “herb” has derived from an old French word “herbe” and from the Latin word, “herba”. Earlier, the term herb was only applied to non-woody plants, including those that come from trees and shrubs. Now, herb refers to any part of the plant. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 80% of people world –wide rely on herbal medicines for the common health care needs. Homeopathic medicines are mainly categorised into classical, combinations and formulations. The classical medicines consist of single ingredient or source material and therefore, their standardization at the manufacturing level is easy. In higher potencies the original substance is difficult to detect through conventional drug assay. This is a big challenge in quality assurance as well in identification of homeopathic medicines.
For the manufacturing of homoeopathic medicines, only small quantity of the original drug material is sufficient. As such it is eco friendly and also called green medicine. Basic sources of homeopathic medicines are almost the same as of other drug systems. The difference lies mainly in the method of preparation and its use in treatment.
The curative effect of the homeopathic medicines is elicited through a process called drug proving or homeopathic pathogenetic trials (HPTs). In this the effect of a medicine is studied on healthy volunteers. The medicine that produced a set of symptom during the drug proving is given to cure similar symptom in a sick person. The theory behind this concept is that the substance that could induce artificial symptoms in a healthy person could cure those symptoms in natural disease. This principle is called "like cures like," (Law of Similia).
Sources of Homeopathic Medicines
The following are the six sources of homeopathic medicines:
Herbs: The whole plant, root, leaves, bark, seeds, flowers and plant resins are used according to the rules laid down in homeopathic pharmacopoeia.
Animal or animal products: Some homeopathic medicines are derived from animal or products such as spiders, honey bee, snake poison, spider poison.
Minerals: This group includes metals, non-metals, and their compounds.
Diseased products / tissues: Few homeopathic medicines are prepared using tissues or secretions from diseases containing bacteria, viruses, and other microorganisms.
Healthy tissues or products: Healthy human/animal tissues and secretions are also used to prepare homeopathic medicines.
Imponderables: Certain energy sources, such as magnetism, x-ray, radiation, etc., are also used to prepare homeopathic medicines.
The medicines prepared from herbs are free of side effects or reactions. This is the reason why herbal treatment is growing in popularity across the globe. The herbs used in homeopathy are mostly derived from angiosperms (flowering plants), though some conifers and ferns as well as fungi, including lichens, brown and red algae are also used.
The medicines are prepared as per the standard prescribed in the official Pharmacopeia’s. Pharmacopoeia is the book of standard, contains authoritative information on drugs and preparations, their description, formulation, analytic composition, physical constants, main chemical properties used in identification, standards for strength, purity and dosage, chemical tests for determining identity and purity etc. Pharmacopeias are usually published by the governmental or government agencies. They differ from formularies, which contain list of drugs or collections of formulas for the compounding of medicinal preparations. However, sometimes the terms "pharmacopoeia" and "formulary" are used interchangeably.
Origin of Homeopathic Pharmacopeia
Hahnemann never wrote a book on standards on the medicine and its quality standards (Pharmacopoeia). In 1805, he published the results of his observations in "Fragmenta de viribus medicamentorum positivis sive in sano corpore humane observatatis." (Fragmentary Observations relative to the Positive Powers of Medicines on the healthy Human Body, a book in Latin. In this he explained his findings on the Experimental Pharmacology as he was the first to ascertain the positive effects of drugs on healthy human beings. His scattered records in this writings along with other books such as Organon of Medicine, Materia medica Pura and Chronic Diseases formed the basis of the homoeopathic pharmacopoeias of the future. In all of these publications, general and special instruction was given for the preparation of homeopathic medicines.
Present state of Homeopathic Pharmacopeia
As on now the following countries have official homeopathic pharmacopeias:
1. India - Homeopathic Pharmacopeia of India (HPI). (10 Volumes) (1971-2016)
2. United Kingdom- British Homoeopathic Pharmacopoeia (B. Hom.P.) ‘British Homoeopathic Society’ London ( 1st Edn1870)
3. USA - Homœopathic Pharmacopeia of the United States (HPUS) (American Institute of Homoeopath, 1897) ( Revision 2016)
4. France- French Homeopathic Pharmacopoeia (FHP),(1897)
5. German- German Homoeopathic Pharmacopoeia (Homöopathisches Arzneibuch) (GHP) Caspari of Leipzing, Germany (1825)
6. Brazil-Brazilian Homeopathic Pharmacopoeia ( Brz HP) 3ª edition (2011) (Portuguese)
7. Mexican Homeopathic Pharmacopoeia (Farmacopea Homeopatica Mexicana) 1st Edition 1998, (Spanish)
The countries which do not have an official pharmacopeia use the pharmacopeia of other countries for their reference standards.