- Homeopathic medicine
- Homeopathic remedy
For Patients & Caregivers
Bottom Line: There is some evidence that homeopathy may benefit individuals with chronic conditions.
Homeopathy, developed more than 200 years ago, is based on the Law of Similars, or “like cures like.” A patient experiencing a certain symptom is given a medicine containing low doses of plant extracts, animal extracts, or minerals that, when taken in normal amounts, usually cause that symptom. Homeopathy continues to be popular in India and many European countries.
Clinical studies have been conducted to evaluate benefits of homeopathy, but data are limited and results, inconclusive. More research is needed.
- To treat allergies
Clinical trials have produced conflicting data.
- To treat anxiety
There are no studies to support this use.
- To treat rheumatoid arthritis
Studies have produced conflicting results.
- To treat asthma
Scientific evidence and clinical trials do not support this use.
- To treat the common cold
Data from cllinical trials have been inconclusive.
- To treat hemorrhoids
This claim is not backed by research.
- To treat warts
No scientific evidence supports this use.
- To treat radiotherapy side effects
One study showed that homeopathic medicine can reduce the sensation of heat of the skin caused by radiotherapy.
In a clinical study, 253 healthy adult subjects were asked to report clinical symptoms after being randomly assigned to take either a very dilute Belladonna treatment or placebo. Laboratory studies found no difference between the two substances. In addition, roughly the same number of people from each group exhibited signs of a homeopathic Belladonna treatment. Researchers conclude that very dilute homeopathic remedies have no observable clinical effects.
For Healthcare Professionals
Homeopathy is a medical system developed 200 years ago by Dr. Samuel Hahnemann, a German physician. Promoted as a safer and more holistic approach to treating disease, it has remained especially popular in India and some European countries. Homeopathic remedies are highly diluted forms of botanical, animal, or mineral substances which when given in full strength to a healthy volunteer, cause the presenting symptoms of the patient. Many opponents argue that the benefits experienced by patients are merely placebo effects (1) although no larger than those observed in conventional medicine (2). Observational studies suggest that certain homeopathic products can provide long-term relief from symptoms such as headache and allergic rhinitis in adults, and atopic dermatitis and recurrent infections in children (3).
Some homeopathic ingredients in undiluted form demonstrated anticancer effects (4)(5)(6) in vitro. Clinical studies indicate that homeopathic medicine may be beneficial in treating dermatitis during radiotherapy (7) and for relief of post treatment pain in breast cancer patients (8). However, a homeopathic product was ineffective in controlling chemo-induced emesis (9). There are reports that complementing conventional treatment with homeopathy may improve fatigue and quality of life in cancer patients (10) and even as a treatment for advanced cancer (11), but these observations have not been evaluated in clinical trials.
Allergic reactions and intoxications were reported following use of some homeopathic products (12).
Cancer patients should be aware that homeopathy is not a substitute for mainstream care. Delaying conventional care in pursuit of alternative treatments can be detrimental.
The practice of homeopathy is governed by the Law of Similars, similia similibus curantur or “like cures like.” Hahnemann and his followers observed that while certain plants, animals or minerals could cause specific symptoms when ingested by healthy individuals, the highly diluted form of the same substance could relieve similar symptoms in ailing patients.
An in vitro study showed that an antidiabetic product commonly used in homeopathy demonstrated anticancer effects by inducing nuclear DNA fragmentation and increasing the level of mRNA expression of apoptotic signal related genes cytochrome c and caspase 3, and by reducing the expression level of anti-apoptotic gene Bcl2 (5).
Another product, Phytolacca decandra, also exerted anticancer properties in melanoma cells via activation of caspase-mediated signaling and by generating reactive oxygen species (ROS) (6). However, it is not known if these products will have the same effects when diluted according to homeopathic principles.
Over 100 clinical trials of homeopathic preparations are published. Several report statistically significant effects of homeopathic preparations, but subjective endpoints are often used. A handful of meta-analyses and systematic reviews find insufficient evidence for the efficacy of homeopathy, although Linde et al (1997) conclude that its clinical effects cannot be completely attributed to placebo effect.
Brien S, Lewith G, Bryant T. Ultramolecular homeopathy has no observable clinical effects. A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled proving trial of Belladonna 30C. Br J Clin Pharmacol. 2003;56:562-8.
This study involved 253 healthy adult subjects who were randomly assigned to receive either Belladonna 30C preparation or placebo. Subjects were given a proving questionnaire and asked to rate their symptoms. Only 29 subjects successfully proved — had the symptoms traditionally corresponding to Belladonna homeopathic preparation. The group difference in provers was negligible. Researchers conclude that ultramolecular preparations have no observable clinical effects.