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Homeopathy: from Greek hómoios- ὅμοιος- "like-" + páthos πάθος "suffering"

Homeopathy (also spelled Homoeopathy or Homœopathy) is a form of alternative medicine, first proposed by German physician Samuel Hahnemann in 1796, that attempts to treat patients with heavily diluted preparations which are thought to cause effects similar to the symptoms presented. Homeopathic remedies are prepared by serial dilution with shaking by forceful striking, which homeopaths term "succussion," after each dilution under the assumption that this increases the effect of the treatment. Homeopaths call this process "potentization". Dilution often continues until none of the original substance remains.[1]

Apart from the symptoms of the disease, homeopaths use aspects of the patient's physical and psychological state in recommending remedies.[2] Homeopathic reference books known as repertories are then consulted, and a remedy is selected based on the totality of symptoms. Homeopathic remedies are considered safe, with rare exceptions.[3] Some homeopaths have, however, been criticized for putting patients at risk with advice to avoid conventional medicine such as vaccinations,[4] anti-malarial drugs,[5] and antibiotics.[6]

The Regulation and prevalence of homeopathy is highly variable from country to country. There are no specific legal regulations concerning its use in some countries, while in others, licenses or degrees in conventional medicine from accredited universities are required. Some homeopathic treatment is covered by the national insurance coverage of several countries; in others it is fully integrated into the national health care system. In many countries, the laws that govern the regulation and testing of conventional drugs do not apply to homeopathic remedies.[7]

Claims of homeopathy's efficacy beyond the placebo effect have until recently been more or less unsupported by the collective weight of scientific and clinical evidence.[8][9][10][11][12] While some studies have positive results, systematic reviews of all the published trials fail to conclusively demonstrate efficacy.[13] [14][15][16][17] Furthermore, higher quality trials tend to report less positive results,[15] [18] and most positive studies have not been replicated or show methodological problems that prevent them from being considered unambiguous evidence of homeopathy's efficacy.[8][11][19][20]

As Homeopathic remedies generally contain few or no pharmacologically active molecules,[21] and for such remedies to have pharmacological effect would appear to violate current thought in what is perceived to be the fundamental principles of science. Still some studies have recently shown that these remedies CAN have significant effects on certain conditions, leading some to look to quantum science for explanations.[12][22] Modern homeopaths have proposed that water has some kind of memory for the energy from the original molecules, that allows homeopathic preparations to work without any of the original substance; however, the physics of water are generally thought to be well understood, and no currently understood mechanism permits such a memory.[22][23][24] The lack of convincing scientific evidence supporting homeopathy's efficacy [25] and its use of remedies lacking active ingredients have caused homeopathy to be described as pseudoscience, or quackery, like certain people label anything they do not understand, in a similar way that those same people criticize those of the biblical times for their blaming everything on magic and Gods. [26][27][28][29] [30] [31]. HOWEVER, it appears that there are two rather distinct schools of thought in this field. The classicists, who adhere to the Hannemanian school and claim there is no really good means of running a double blind study, because each remedy must be made up specifically for each patient. And the modernists, who feel that since even the classicists would have several backup remedies when the first and second do not work, should merely combine them to allow for a study to be conducted. In the period since 2005, several studies HAVE been done which appear to show an effect greater than placebo in treatment of certain conditions, like allergic rhinitis, coryza, and others.

General philosophy

A homeopathic remedy prepared from marsh Labrador tea. The "15C" dilution shown here contains no molecules of the original herb.

Homeopathy has been also labeled a vitalist philosophy, in that it interprets diseases and sickness as caused by disturbances in a hypothetical vital force or life force. It sees these disturbances as manifesting themselves as unique symptoms. Homeopathy maintains that the vital force has the ability to react and adapt to internal and external causes, which homeopaths refer to as the "law of susceptibility". The law of susceptibility implies that a negative state of mind can attract hypothetical disease entities called "miasms" to invade the body and produce symptoms of diseases.[32] However, Hahnemann rejected the notion of a disease as a separate thing or invading entity and insisted that it was always part of the "living whole".[33]

Risks / Side effects

Although the side effects and risks of homeopathic treatments are not well researched outside of observational studies, some general points can be made about the safety of these treatments:

  • A systematic review found that homeopathic remedies in high dilution, taken under the supervision of trained professionals, are generally considered safe and unlikely to cause severe adverse reactions.
  • Liquid homeopathic remedies may contain alcohol. The FDA allows higher levels of alcohol in these remedies than it allows in conventional drugs. However, no adverse effects from alcohol levels have been reported to the FDA.
  • Homeopaths expect some of their patients to experience homeopathic aggravation (a temporary worsening of existing symptoms after taking a homeopathic prescription). Researchers have not found much evidence of this reaction in clinical studies; however, research on homeopathic aggravations is scarce.
  • Homeopathic remedies are not known to interfere with conventional drugs; however, if you are considering using homeopathic remedies, you should discuss this with your health care provider first.


Positive Scientific Studies Reference List

[List - http://nationalcenterforhomeopathy.org/content/homeopathy-research-evidence-base-references]


  1. "Dynamization and Dilution", Complementary and Alternative Medicine, Creighton University Department of Pharmacology, http://altmed.creighton.edu/Homeopathy/philosophy/dilution.htm, retrieved 2009-03-24 .
  2. Hahnemann S (1833), The Organon of the Healing Art (5th ed.), aphorisms 5 and 217 .
  3. Chakraborti D, Mukherjee SC, Saha KC, Chowdhury UK, Rahman MM, Sengupta MK (2003), "Arsenic toxicity from homeopathic treatment", Clin Toxicol 47 (1): 963–967, PMID 14705842 
  4. Edzard Ernst, White AR (1995), "Homoeopathy and immunization", Br J Gen Pract 45 (400): 629–630, PMID 8554846 .
  5. Jones M (2006-07-14), "Malaria advice 'risks lives'", Newsnight (BBC Television), http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/programmes/newsnight/5178122.stm, retrieved 2009-03-24 
  6. Campbell A (1978), "Critical review of The Science of Homeopathy", Br Homeopath J 67 (4), http://www.minimum.com/reviews/science-homeopathy.htm .
  7. Legal Status of Traditional Medicine and Complementary/Alternative Medicine: A Worldwide Review, World Health Organization, 2001, ISBN 978-9241545488, http://www.who.int/medicinedocs/en/d/Jh2943e/ .
  8. 8.0 8.1 Ernst E (2002), "A systematic review of systematic reviews of homeopathy", Br J Clin Pharmacol 54 (6): 577–582, doi:10.1046/j.1365-2125.2002.01699.x, PMID 12492603 
  9. "Homeopathy - Issues", National Health Service, http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Homeopathy/Pages/Issues.aspx, retrieved 2009-07-30 
  10. AMA Council on Scientific Affairs (1997), "Alternative Medicine: Report 12 of the Council on Scientific Affairs (A–97)", American Medical Association, http://www.ama-assn.org/ama/no-index/about-ama/13638.shtml, retrieved 2009-03-25 .
  11. 11.0 11.1 Altunç U, Pittler MH, Ernst E (2007), "Homeopathy for childhood and adolescence ailments: systematic review of randomized clinical trials", Mayo Clin Proc 82 (1): 69–75, doi:10.4065/82.1.69, PMID 17285788, http://www.mayoclinicproceedings.com/content/82/1/69.full, "However, homeopathy is not totally devoid of risks ... it may delay effective treatment or diagnosis." 
  12. 12.0 12.1 Shang A, Huwiler-Müntener K, Nartey L, Jüni P, Dörig S, Sterne JA, Pewsner D, Egger M (2005), "Are the clinical effects of homoeopathy placebo effects? Comparative study of placebo-controlled trials of homoeopathy and allopathy", The Lancet 366 (9487): 726–732, doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(05)67177-2, PMID 16125589 
  13. Kleijnen J, Knipschild P, ter Riet G (1991), "Clinical trials of homoeopathy", BMJ 302 (6772): 316–323, doi:10.1136/bmj.302.6772.316, PMID 1825800, http://www.pubmedcentral.nih.gov/picrender.fcgi?artid=1668980&blobtype=pdf 
  14. Linde K, Clausius N, Ramirez G et al. (1997), "Are the clinical effects of homeopathy placebo effects? A meta-analysis of placebo-controlled trials", Lancet 350 (9081): 834–43, doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(97)02293-9, PMID 9310601 
  15. 15.0 15.1 Linde K, Scholz M, Ramirez G, Clausius N, Melchart D, Jonas WB (1999), "Impact of study quality on outcome in placebo-controlled trials of homeopathy", J Clin Epidemiol 52 (7): 631–636, doi:10.1016/S0895-4356(99)00048-7, PMID 10391656 .
  16. Boissel J, Cucherat M, Haugh MC, Gooch M (2000), "Evidence of clinical efficacy of homeopathy. A meta-analysis of clinical trials. HMRAG. Homeopathic Medicines Research Advisory Group", Eur J Clin Pharmacol 56 (1): 27–33, PMID 10853874 
  17. Mathie RT (2003), "The research evidence base for homeopathy: a fresh assessment of the literature", Homeopathy 92 (2): 84–91, PMID 12725250 
  18. Caulfield T, Debow S (2005), "A systematic review of how homeopathy is represented in conventional and CAM peer reviewed journals", BMC Complement Altern Med 5: 12, doi:10.1186/1472-6882-5-12, PMID 15955254 .
  19. Toufexis A, Cole W, Hallanan DB (25 September 1995), "Is homeopathy good medicine?", Time, http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,983466,00.html 
  20. Linde K, Jonas WB, Melchart D, Willich S (2001), "The methodological quality of randomized controlled trials of homeopathy, herbal medicines and acupuncture", Int J Epidemiol 30 (3): 526–531, doi:10.1093/ije/30.3.526, PMID 11416076, http://ije.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/full/30/3/526 .
  21. Ernst E (2005), "Is homeopathy a clinically valuable approach?", Trends Pharmacol Sci 26 (11): 547–8, doi:10.1016/j.tips.2005.09.003, PMID 16165225 .
  22. 22.0 22.1 "When to believe the unbelievable", Nature (journal) 333 (6176): 787, 1988, doi:10.1038/333787a0 
  23. doi:10.1038/334287a0
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  24. Sullivan W (1988-07-27), "Water That Has a Memory? Skeptics Win Second Round", New York Times, http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=940DE7DC1139F934A15754C0A96E948260, retrieved 2007-10-03 
  25. Adler J (4 February 2008), "No way to treat the dying", Newsweek, http://www.newsweek.com/id/105581 .
  26. National Science Board (2002), "Science Fiction and Pseudoscience", Science and engineering indicators 2002, Arlington, Virginia: National Science Foundation Directorate for Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences, http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/seind02/c7/c7s5.htm 
  27. Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. (1842), Homoeópathy and its kindred delusions: Two lectures delivered before the Boston Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge, Boston  as reprinted in Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. (1861). Currents and Counter-currents in Medical Science. Ticknor and Fields. pp. 72–188. OCLC 1544161. http://books.google.ca/books?id=c8MNAAAAYAAJ. 
  28. Wahlberg A (2007), "A quackery with a difference—New medical pluralism and the problem of 'dangerous practitioners' in the United Kingdom", Soc Sci Med 65 (11): 2307–2316, doi:10.1016/j.socscimed.2007.07.024, PMID 17719708 
  29. Atwood KC (2003), "'Neurocranial Restructuring' and Homeopathy, Neither Complementary nor Alternative (Letters to the Editor)", Arch Otolaryngol Head Neck 129 (12): 1356–1357, doi:10.1001/archotol.129.12.1356, PMID 14676179 .
  30. Ernst E, Pittler MH (1998), "Efficacy of homeopathic arnica: a systematic review of placebo-controlled clinical trials", Arch Surg 133 (11): 1187–90, doi:10.1001/archsurg.133.11.1187, PMID 9820349 .
  31. Hilly Janes, Editor of Body&Soul. The Lifestyle 50: The top fifty people who influence the way we eat, exercise and think about ourselves. The Times, September 6, 2008
  32. "Cause of disease", Creighton University School of Medicine, http://altmed.creighton.edu/Homeopathy/philosophy/cause.htm, retrieved 2009-07-31 .
  33. Hahnemann S (1833/1921), The Organon of the Healing Art (5th/6th ed.) .
  34. NCCAM Website