Being an observant Jew for a few years now, I have been asked several times by both Jews and Gentiles alike a very common question: “Are homeopathic medicines kosher?”
Given the overall resurgence of Torah observance among Jews for the past few decades as well as the growing interest of kosher dieting among non-Jews, I figured this is an important issue to address.
In short: according to the Rabbis I follow for questions on Jewish law [Halacha], they hold that it is entirely permissible for medicinal purposes, and even for use on Passover [Pesach].
Despite the answers I received, please ask your local Orthodox Rabbi for confirmation. Although most, if not all, Rabbis I have asked agree that all remedies are permissible for medicinal use, one should consult with his/her rabbi or Rabbinical authority for a final decision.
Disclaimer: Though I have studied in yeshivas for years, I am NOT a rabbi. Again, for all final decisions, please ask your local Orthodox Rabbi.
Additionally, the material presented here is only to give you an understanding of the potential kosher issues regarding the use of homeopathy. It should not be used to decide halachic questions around this issue.
For more details and reasonings on this issue, continue reading below…
A Short Background on the Laws of Kosher
For those not familiar with the Jewish dietary laws [kashrut in Hebrew], there are certain animals and animal products which are kosher and not kosher as delineated in the verses of the Torah, the Jewish Oral Tradition stemming back to Sinai, as well as in the communal decrees [takanot] enacted by the Talmud and later Rabbinical authorities.
Even those aforementioned Rabbinic decrees were enforced in order to prevent potential or previous violations of the Torah’s dietary laws.
Contrary to public misconceptions, the Jewish dietary laws were not given by G-d primarily in order to avoid unhealthy foods, such as pork and shellfish, [which are known via research to contain loads of unhealthy bacteria], and to promote a healthy diet.
Rather, they are given primarily because it is a statute [chok in Hebrew], meaning that these are laws are without human logic; they are followed primarily because G-d said so. The Torah itself doesn’t actually give a reason-it just says that non-kosher food is an “abomination.”
According to authentic Kabbalah, a mystical reason for the laws of kosher is in order for us to avoid food which can be spiritually damaging to our G-dly souls, such as certain insects.
The practical and final bottom-line laws, as derived from the Torah and its accompanying Oral and Rabbinic Traditions, are codified in the Shulchan Aruch [Code of Jewish Law] as well as the later and modern day Rabbinic authorities of Israel and the Diaspora.
As part of these laws, there are also different, valid customs followed by, Ashkenazim [Jews originally from Europe except for Spain, Portugal, and parts of S. Europe], Sephardim [Non-Ashkenazi Jews], and Yemenite Jews.
The Kosher Concerns of Homeopathy
Homeopathic remedies are made much differently than other medicines.
In a nut shell, a mother tincture, which can consist of anything such as various animals, herbs, minerals, and even man-made products, is mixed, shaken, and diluted into several water solution multiple times in a process known as succussion.
This creates the active energetic activity that is manifest in each and every remedy that helps bring about healing. Physically speaking, there is actively nothing left over from the original tincture substance.
The desired potency determines the amount of times the tincture is succussed. The higher the potency, the more succussions are necessary.
Additionally, in many remedies, there may be inactive ingredients used to make the sugar pellet that contains the energy created from the succussion process, which is usually alcohol and lactose.
Without going into intricate details, this raises potential issues:
- Some of the mother tinctures may be non-kosher, such as certain types of snakes and poisonous herbs.
- Sometimes, the alcohol used in creating remedies comes from non-kosher brandy
- Usually, the lactose used is dairy and may not be reliably kosher.
So, how might these issues be resolved?
Homeopathics May Be More Kosher Than You Think
There are several Halachic principles found in Jewish Law which can serve as a strong basis to permit the medicinal use of Homeopathy [even lechatchila], even without a kosher certification:
- The Talmudic principle of the 60:1 ratio [batel b’shishim in Hebrew] states that any substance diluted in a solution 60x more than that substance is nullified and not considered present.
- The Shulchan Aruch [Yoreh Deah 155:3] states that if needed, non-kosher medications may be taken only in an unusual manner, even if there is no life threatening situation involved.
When it comes to homeopathic remedies, the remedies are usually diluted much more than the 60:1 ratio, so much so that absolutely nothing physical remains left, except for the energetic activity of the nanodoses in the potentized remedy itself.
In other words, the remedy itself is more or less pure medicinal energy.
Furthermore, remedies aren’t swallowed like how drugs and medications are taken. A remedy is usually placed under the tongue where it dissolves into the glands underneath the tongue, or it is mixed into water and sipped.
Of course, all those requiring a remedy, whether for chronic or acute issues, need it for physical, mental, and/or emotional treatments, often times when western conventional methods have failed.
Here is an excerpt from the Star-K Kashrut Organization, which outlined similar points:
In homeopathic remedies, the source ingredient, known as the mother tincture, may be non-kosher. For example, Lachesis is derived from snakes and Formica Rufa from ants. Non-kosher mother tinctures are usually batel b’shishim in the dilutant (an ingredient used to dilute the mother tincture). The non-kosher ingredient is batel if the potency is 2X and higher or 1C and higher (as indicated on the label).
Of course, one must also determine that the dilutants are approved. The most common dilutants are lactose (milk sugar) and alcohol.18 These ingredients pose kashrus concerns and ideally require kosher certification. If the homeopathic remedy is not certified and is in a base of lactose and/or alcohol, taken shelo k’derech achila (e.g. a tablet that is swallowed or placed under the tongue and absorbed directly into the blood stream and not swallowed), and the mother tincture is either kosher or non-kosher/batel b’shishim, a Rav should be consulted.
Are Homeopathic Medicines Kosher for Passover?
When it comes to Passover, the issues are more strict, since the Torah does not allow even a smudge of chametz, or leavened bread products, to be consumed or benefitted from (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 447:4).
Of course, all homeopathic remedies are made with chametz ingredients.
However, when I asked my personal Rabbi this question, he answered that due to the fact that practically nothing physical is left in the remedy except for its energetic properties, it does not pose any chametz issues on Passover, rendering it permitted for medicinal use during the holiday.
Please note: This is the opinion of my Rabbi. Again, please do not rely on this information for a final decision; ask your local Orthodox Rabbi for a final Halachic ruling.
UPDATE: I sought a second opinion on this issue from a Halachic authority who lives in my area (Tri-State Area).
Being very knowledgeable on homeopathy, he ruled that although homeopathic remedies are kosher for use throughout the year, they are problematic on Pesach due to the inactive chametz ingredients used to create the sugar pills, which are usually alcohol and lactose.
I brought this up to show that there is certainly a disagreement in Jewish law on this issue, which proves the point even more that one must ask his local Orthodox Rabbi for a final halachic decision.
Homeopathy and Jews: A Growing Relationship
Among the Jewish People today, homeopathy is most popular and used usually by Israeli Jews as well as by many Hasidic Jews, such as those associated with Chabad and Satmar.
Though there are exceptions, the use of Homeopathy is actually growing steadily in use and popularity also among other Jews worldwide.
One of the most internationally renowned homeopaths, Vega Rosenberg and Jeremy Sherr, are Jewish. They teach and practice in the United States, Israel, and elsewhere.
Additionally, many prominent Jewish leaders, such as Rabbi Menachem Schneerson z”l (The Lubavitcher Rebbe) and Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach z”l have supported homeopathy and used it for themselves.
Interestingly, many concepts in homeopathy, such as the Law of Similars, are also echoed throughout Biblical and Rabbinic Literature, hundreds of years even before modern homeopathy appeared on the scene in the late 1700s.
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