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Do Homeopathy and Homeopathic Treatments Work?

By: Sarah Clark (ILEX) - Updated: 20 Mar 2013 | comments*Discuss
 
Homeopathy Clinical Trial Research

The main principle of homeopathy is that ‘like cures like’ and that by using minute amounts of a substance that would recreate the symptoms of an ailment someone is suffering from, it can actually be relieved or even cured. Some homeopathic remedy ingredients are actually poisonous in large amounts, so homeopaths are trained to dilute them in water or alcohol.

Some scientists are sceptical that this could work - because homeopathic solutions are so diluted that the original ingredient is no longer in evidence! Homeopaths claim that the remedies leave a ‘footprint’ in the diluted solution and that it’s this footprint which has the desired effect.Homeopathy is popular, with many people swearing by the gentle remedies. What’s more, A House of Lords' Select Committee has named homeopathy as one of the top five complementary therapies, so there’s obviously something in it.

How Does Homeopathy Work?

If you go to a GP, you’ll probably be prescribed a drug to relieve a symptom, but in homeopathy the practitioner prescribes a remedy that would produce similar symptoms if you took it in a large enough quantity. According to homeopaths, this has the effect of boosting our body’s own healing powers. One example of the way this works is that homeopaths use minute dilutions of arsenic to treat food poisoning – but if you were to take arsenic in a larger amount it would cause poisoning, one the symptoms of which is severe vomiting. Homeopathic remedies are considered to be harmless as they can be diluted thousands of times.

What is the Evidence For Homeopathy?

Several studies support homeopathy, including some which have been published in The Lancet or the British Medical Journal which have shown homeopathy to be effective in treating asthma, hay fever and rhinitis. In 1997, The Lancet published data from 89 clinical trials, 44 of which reported that homeopathy was much more effective than a placebo. Interestingly, not one of the trials found that the placebo worked better than homeopathy. The report’s authors concluded that the medical benefits that were seen in patients who had been treated with homeopathy couldn’t just be put down to the placebo effect.

Recent research from South Korean chemists might shed some light on the reasons for homeopathy’s success. It appears that some molecules ‘clump together’ when a solution is diluted – and with further research may help scientists get to grips with why and how homeopathy has the effect it does, when on the face of it, it shouldn’t really do anything at all.

Homeopathy Dos and Don’ts

  • Before you have any homeopathic consultation, check with your GP
  • Don’t stop taking any medicines you’ve been prescribed unless advised by your doctor.
  • If you’re also using aromatherapy oils, let your therapist know as they can interact with homeopathic medicine.
  • Ask for lactose-free tablets if you have a lactose intolerance.

Find a Reputable Practitioner

If you’re looking for someone with medical training – be careful as some homeopaths aren’t classed as ‘medical’ and legally there’s nothing to stop someone calling themselves a homeopath with very little training.

The British Homeopathic Association publishes a free list of homeopathic doctors, dentists, pharmacists, podiatrists and veterinary surgeons, all recognised as medical homeopaths.

It may sound odd that a substance that was once in a solution, but is now diluted into almost nothing, can cure a condition by mimicking the symptoms. However, homeopathy is certainly one of the better respected of the complementary therapies, and with moves to add it to more NHS practices, it’s likely to gain in popularity in years to come.

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