Tecnu is a treatment for poison oak. They claim it acts by removing urushiol, the oil that causes the irritation. I saw it recommended in numerous places, e.g., guidebooks, by people who seemed to know what they were talking about.

The Wikipedia article lists list a whole bunch of ingredients that basically make it sound like a type of soap, and gives a reference to a nonrandomized study, which may or may not be junk science.

But when I went to buy some, it said on the label that it was homeopathic. My inclination is to assume that anything labeled homeopathic is basically a placebo.

Are the ingredients suggested by Wikipedia actually present? Is it common for products that actually contain active ingredients to be labeled as homeopathic? If so, what does "homeopathic" mean?

How does one judge whether it makes sense to spend money on something like this?

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    Technically speaking, if it contains active ingredients, it is not homeopathic. But anyone can put that word on pretty much anything. – user5341 Jul 31 '11 at 0:51
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    @DVK, that depends on the jurisdiction. I note that Ben is based in California. – Oddthinking Jul 31 '11 at 5:46

The correct answer to this may vary based on country, as regulations differ. In the US it is common to see "homeopathic" applied very broadly to products that, yes, technically are not homeopathic. In my experience most contain at least one ingredient that is at homeopathic dilution, with other ingredients mixed in at non-homeopathic dilutions.


Regardless of the regulatory environment, the answer to your question as worded ("Can products labelled “homeopathic” actually contain active ingredients?") actually is YES. Homeopathic dilutions vary.

Check the dilution chart at Wikipedia article on homeopathic dilutions It is only when you get to 26X (aka 13C) dilution, that you are guaranteed that there will be NO active ingredient left in the homeopathic product. Below that, there is still a tiny amount of active ingredient there.

In my forays into pharmacies looking at what homeopathic stuff is being sold, I see quite a number of products that have 2X or 10X remedies in them. Science tells us those actually do have active ingredients in them.

  • Hi, you will need to reference your statements... – Sklivvz Jul 31 '11 at 14:33
  • You mean in the first paragraph? The rest of it is referenced by the hyperlink. – Tim Farley Aug 2 '11 at 12:17
  • "Guaranteed" assuming that the dilution process was followed correctly by the manufacturer. – greggo Aug 4 '14 at 12:22

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