A school of alternative natural therapy which is believed by some to heal a number of illnesses, homeopathy as a concept rests upon the principle of ‘like cures like’. Infinitesimal traces of natural ingredients in heavily diluted remedies, which in large quantities would cause symptoms of the condition, are thought to enable the body to heal itself.
Homeopathy is frequently described as a ‘pseudoscience’, in that it is presented as a scientific discipline, even though as yet, there is no scientific evidence for the efficacy of the treatments. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), a British government body which provides the NHS and other health organisations, does not endorse the use of homeopathy in treating any form of medical condition.
An Australian government study conducted in 2015 collated the evidence from 176 medical trials of homeopathy, encompassing 68 different illnesses and found no proof that any of them were effective beyond the ‘placebo effect’, the psychological belief that any positive developments are caused by the treatment, no matter how ineffective it actually is.
The NHS also posits that homeopathic medicines are often diluted so many times over that some treatments contain no trace of the active substances that are meant to form the treatment. Proponents of homeopathy say that the more a substance is diluted the more effective it becomes and that the functioning agent leaves its essence in the solution.
In the United States, the Federal Trade Commission issued an order that unless proof can be provided of its effectiveness, homeopathic treatments should be labelled to say that there is no scientific evidence that they will work.
Regulatory bodies for homeopathy, such as the British Homeopathic Association, point to other studies that they say ‘offer some experimental support’. Other proponents of homeopathy believe that those in charge of medical studies have vested interests in the continued profitability of large pharmaceutical companies. They cannot control homeopathy because the medicines are often tailored to individuals and cannot be patented or mass marketed.
In 2015, the Queen’s physician, called for homeopathic treatments to be more commonly integrated into NHS treatments alongside traditional medical treatments. The Prince of Wales is also said to be an advocate for homeopathy.
Despite widespread skepticism, homeopathy continues to become an increasingly popular alternative to conventional medicine. A YouGov survey in 2015 found that 39% of respondents believed that homeopathic treatment was effective, though this figure was lower than those that believed in other alternative medicines such as acupuncture and reflexology.
Although homeopathy has generally been found to be free of side effects, the NHS recommend that you speak to your doctor before trying it if it means you will stop taking a previously prescribed medicine or will not be having standard treatments such as vaccinations.