Homeopathy is a practice with involves the creation of remedies using extracts of natural ingredients in a water or alcohol solution. This solution is then diluted and shaken multiple times; the finished product may not even contain any trace of the original active ingredient. It is a form of alternative therapy which its advocates believe can treat a number of medical conditions such as anxiety, insomnia, infections, asthma and allergies.
Despite a lack of any concrete scientific evidence that can point to the effectiveness of homeopathy, its popularity continues to grow.
Most homeopaths are self employed and manufacture their own remedies, so a complete picture of its prevalence is difficult to come by, but a report from the homeopathic industry body ECHAMP in 2015 declared that the market was growing more than six per cent year on year in the European Union, and that it was worth over 1.2 billion Euros per year by 2013. It also stated that homeopathic treatments represent around seven per cent of the total market for non prescription medication.
Results of market research in the United States found that retail sales of homeopathic products topped six billion dollars in 2012. It is still most popular in South Asia. In India more than 100 million people depend solely upon homeopathy, over half of whom of have never used conventional medicine according to a survey carried out in 2007 by AC Nielsen.
While Google Trends (the facility which allows users to track the popularity of search terms over time) shows a gentle decline in searches for homeopathy over the last decade, it seems to be bottoming out, which may suggest that people are now just more aware of homeopathy as it becomes more common and is perhaps perceived as a less unusual option. This has been helped by reports of a number of high profile figures who are said to have used homeopathic treatments, such as Usain Bolt, David Beckham and Prince Charles.
The NHS maintains that there is no scientific basis for the claims made by practitioners of homeopathy and adopts the policy of the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE) which is that it is not recommended to treat any form of illness.
A limited number of NHS GP practices have homeopathic services, along with two NHS hospitals. The percentage of NHS resources dedicated to homeopathy is relatively insignificant. According to a House of Commons Science and Technology Committee report in 2010, the percentage of total drugs budget spent on homeopathic medicine was estimated at 0.001 per cent. The report concluded that the central principle of homeopathy, that of ‘like cures like’ was ‘theoretically weak’ and that the concept of an imprint of the active ingredient remaining in a heavily diluted homeopathic solution was ‘scientifically implausible’.