Homeopathy 

Introduction 

Homeopathy is a 'treatment' based on the use of highly diluted substances, which practitioners claim can cause the body to heal itself.

2010 House of Commons Science and Technology Committee report on homeopathy said that homeopathic remedies perform no better than placebos, and that the principles on which homeopathy is based are "scientifically implausible". This is also the view of the Chief Medical Officer, Professor Dame Sally Davies.

This page covers:

What is homeopathy? 

Homeopathy is a complementary or alternative medicine (CAM). This means that homeopathy is different in important ways from treatments that are part of conventional Western medicine.

It is based on a series of ideas developed in the 1790s by a German doctor called Samuel Hahnemann.

A central principle of the "treatment" is that "like cures like" – that a substance that causes certain symptoms can also help to remove those symptoms. A second central principle is based around a process of dilution and shaking, called succussion.

Practitioners believe that the more a substance is diluted in this way, the greater its power to treat symptoms. Many homeopathic remedies consist of substances that have been diluted many times in water until there is none or almost none of the original substance left.

Homeopathy is used to "treat" an extremely wide range of conditions, including physical conditions such as asthma and psychological conditions such as depression (see When is it used?).

Does it work? 

There has been extensive investigation of the effectiveness of homeopathy. There is no good-quality evidence that homeopathy is effective as a treatment for any health condition (see What can we conclude from the evidence?).

It is available on the NHS? 

Homeopathy is not available on the NHS in all areas of the country, but there are several NHS homeopathic hospitals and some GP practices also offer homeopathic treatment.

Homeopathy is usually practised privately and homeopathic remedies are available from pharmacies. The price for an initial consultation with a homeopath can vary from around £20 to £80. Homeopathic tablets or other products usually cost around £4 to £10.

What should I expect if I try it?   

When you first see a homeopath they will usually ask you about any specific health conditions, but also about your general wellbeing, emotional state, lifestyle and diet.

Based on this, the homeopath will decide on the course of  treatment, which most often takes the form of homeopathic remedies given as a pill, capsule or tincture.

Your homeopath may recommend that you attend one or more follow-up appointments so the effects of the remedy on your health can be assessed.

When is it used? 

Homeopathy is used for an extremely wide range of health conditions. Many practitioners believe that homeopathy can help with any condition.

Among the most common conditions that people seek homeopathic treatment for are:

  • asthma
  • ear infections
  • hay fever
  • mental health conditions, such as depression, stress and anxiety
  • allergies, such as food allergies
  • dermatitis (an allergic skin condition)
  • arthritis
  • high blood pressure

There is no good quality evidence that homeopathy is an effective treatment for these or any other health conditions.

Some practitioners also claim that homeopathy can prevent malaria or other diseases. There is no evidence to support this and no scientifically plausible way that homeopathy can prevent diseases.

The National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE) advises the NHS on proper use of treatments. NICE currently does not recommend that homeopathy should be used in the treatment of any health condition.

What are the regulation issues? 

There is no legal regulation of homeopathic practitioners in the UK. This means that anyone can practise as a homeopath, even if they have no qualifications or experience.

A number of professional associations can help you to find a homeopath who will practise the treatment in a way that is acceptable to you. 

Homeopathic organisations in England include:

Voluntary regulation aims to protect patient safety, but it does not mean that there is scientific evidence that a treatment is effective.

Is it safe? 

Homeopathic remedies are generally safe and the risk of a serious adverse side effect arising from taking these remedies is thought to be small.

Some homeopathic remedies may contain substances that are not safe, or that interfere with the action of other medicines. You should talk to your GP before stopping any treatment prescribed by a doctor or avoiding procedures such as vaccination in favour of homeopathy.

What can we conclude from the evidence? 

There have been several reviews of the scientific evidence on the effectiveness of homeopathy. The House of Commons Science and Technology Committee said there is no evidence that homeopathy is effective as a treatment for any health condition.

There is no evidence for the idea that substances that can induce certain symptoms can also help to treat them. There is no evidence for the idea that diluting and shaking substances in water can turn those substances into medicines.

The ideas that underpin homeopathy are not accepted by mainstream science, and are not consistent with long-accepted principles on the way that the physical world works. The Committee's 2010 report on homeopathy said the "like cures like" principle is "theoretically weak", and that this is the "settled view of medical science".

It is of note, for example, that many homeopathic remedies are diluted to such an extent that there is unlikely to be a single molecule of the original substance remaining in the final remedy. In cases such as these, homeopathic remedies consist of nothing but water.

Some homeopaths believe that, due to the succussion process, the original substance leaves an "imprint" of itself on the water. But there is no known mechanism by which this can occur. The 2010 report said: "We consider the notion that ultra-dilutions can maintain an imprint of substances previously dissolved in them to be scientifically implausible."

Some people who use homeopathy may see an improvement in their health condition due to a phenomenon known as the placebo effect.

If you choose health treatments that provide only a placebo effect, you may miss out on other treatments that have been proven to be more effective. Read more about the placebo effect.

Page last reviewed: 15/02/2013

Next review due: 15/02/2015

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Comments

The 125 comments posted are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

DoctorK said on 16 August 2014

As a practising doctor for many years, I would highly recommend that people do NOT use homeopathy. It has no proven clinical benefit to anyone. For those people who dispute this saying that "it doesn't have to have clinical evidence for it to work", please go back to your science classes and read up on the scientific method. We practise evidence based medicine so that we can be sure that we are doing the best for our patients. To do anything less would be an affront to the oath we all took as doctors "first do no harm".

Oh wait, silly me. Homeopaths aren't doctors.

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Alan Henness said on 14 May 2014

DPDavey said:

"Alan Henness.
Please, please... Practitioners are homeoPATHS not homeopathists."

Although not as widely used as 'homeopath', according to some dictionaries, 'homeopathist' seems to be a perfectly valid noun, eg http://www.collinsdictionary.com/dictionary/english/homeopathist:

"a person who practises homeopathy"

One dictionary (http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/homeopathist) even defines it as:

"a person who practices or favors homeopathy."

...which extends the meaning to beyond just those who practice homeopathy to those who simply favour it and that broader meaning may be even more appropriate in the context.

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DPDavey said on 14 May 2014

Alan Henness.
Please, please... Practitioners are homeoPATHS not homeopathists.

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Alan Henness said on 21 January 2014

Continued from the previous comment...

unblinkered said:

"Anyway, read for yourself how the public in this country is being misled about the benefits of Homeopathy and those people who are criticising this report aren't even experts in the field, rather have more than a vested interest in promoting conventional drugs instead, which come with side effects, aren't designed to 'cure' and cost a fortune for the NHS.

Please provide evidence for your assertion of this 'vested interest' and how that is related to the ASA, and how the effectiveness or side-effects of conventional medicines affect the lack of any good evidence for the efficacy of homeopathy.

But more importantly, please say whether you believe advertisers of homeopathy should be held to the same laws, rules and regulations as everyone else, or whether you think they deserve special treatment.



1 Gurtner, F. “The Report ‘Homeopathy in Healthcare: Effectiveness, Appropriateness, Safety, Costs’ Is Not a ‘Swiss Report.’” Swiss Medical Weekly (December 17, 2012). doi:10.4414/smw.2012.13723.

2 Henness, Alan, and Sven Rudloff. “That ‘neutral’ Swiss Homeopathy Report | Zeno’s Blog.” http://www.zenosblog.com/2012/05/that-neutral-swiss-homeopathy-report/.

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Alan Henness said on 21 January 2014

unblinkered said:

"In case anyone doesn't believe that Homeopathy is under attack in this country, please read this exchange between the Advertising Standards Authority and the authors of the Swiss Health Technology Assessment [HTA] (who concluded that their report, "provides solid evidence that ‘homeopathy has a history of success in chronic disease"."

I'm afraid that website shows no such thing.

The frequent claim that the Swiss homeopathy report was a Swiss Government Health Technology Assessment (HTA) has been specifically refuted by an official of the Swiss Government, Felix Gurtner of the Federal Office of Public Health FOPH, Health and Accident Insurance Directorate, Bern, Switzerland:[1]

"This review was declared to be an HTA by the authors (the final PEK report does not classify the literature reviews as HTA reports) and published later as a book under their responsibility without any consent of the Swiss government or administration." [original citations removed for clarity]

The report referred to wasn't even the same one submitted to the Swiss Government PEK commission set up to evaluate homeopathy (and other alternative therapies), but one that was added to by its authors before being published in English.

However, although the report was favourable to homeopathy, it was roundly criticised by the PEK for having 're-interpreted' the conclusions of the original trials they looked at to be more favourable to homeopathy than they had been.

As a direct result of this report, the other evidence supplied and the PEK's conclusions, homeopathy was *removed* from the Swiss state health insurance scheme. For a more detailed account of the Swiss homeopathy report, its history, context and the criticism of it, please see my blog post.[2]

Continued in the next comment...

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unblinkered said on 20 January 2014

In case anyone doesn't believe that Homeopathy is under attack in this country, please read this exchange between the Advertising Standards Authority and the authors of the Swiss Health Technology Assessment [HTA] (who concluded that their report, "provides solid evidence that ‘homeopathy has a history of success in chronic disease".

"The Swiss HTA was founded in 1999 for the scientific evaluation of medical technologies on the basis of their effectiveness, appropriateness, and efficiency, as well as social and ethical aspects and implications. All government agencies, all University Institutes, several University Hospitals dealing with Technology Assessment and the Swiss Medical Association are members. It is also important to know that homeopathy is integrated into the Swiss National Health system."

The authors pointed out that their study was based on over 100 random control studies (RCTs)....

Anyway, read for yourself how the public in this country is being misled about the benefits of Homeopathy and those people who are criticising this report aren't even experts in the field, rather have more than a vested interest in promoting conventional drugs instead, which come with side effects, aren't designed to 'cure' and cost a fortune for the NHS. Follow the link below:

http://freedom4health.com/index.php?page=swisshta

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Alan Henness said on 18 January 2014

Calcflour said:

"Having worked at a complementary health clinic for some years, all I can say is that I have seen many happy patients leave the clinic a lot better than when they came in having spent years trying to get answers to their medical problems."

Quite possibly. Clients feeling better is certainly one part of it, but that says nothing about any quantitative improvement in health. And whether or not conventional treatments had not been able to help says nothing about whether or not homeopathy works.

"They can't all be wrong!"

Yes they can.

"I have also had many good results from homeopathic remedies."

I assume you are not aware of the problems of bias, particularly in observation? This is a useful introduction: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Experimenter's_bias

"Just because there is no "scientific evidence" doesn't mean it doesn't work."

Quite possibly. But until there is some good, compelling evidence, why should such treatments be paid for by the NHS and what claims do you think homeopaths should make?

"It is sometimes a case of trial and error but a good experienced practitioner (and I am pleased to have known a few) will invariably get it right."

Do you have any good objective evidence that a 'good experienced practitioner' has better outcomes than any other? What is it they get right, exactly?

"I think the sceptics should try it before dismissing it out of hand."

See above comment about observation bias and you make the mistake of saying it's dismissed out of hand. It's not: it's dismissed after a careful evaluation of the best evidence.

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Calcflour said on 17 January 2014

Having worked at a complementary health clinic for some years, all I can say is that I have seen many happy patients leave the clinic a lot better than when they came in having spent years trying to get answers to their medical problems. They can't all be wrong! I have also had many good results from homeopathic remedies. Just because there is no "scientific evidence" doesn't mean it doesn't work. It is sometimes a case of trial and error but a good experienced practitioner (and I am pleased to have known a few) will invariably get it right. I think the sceptics should try it before dismissing it out of hand.

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Alan Henness said on 07 November 2013

Continued from the previous comment...

"When Alan Henness and others who have somewhat hi jacked this thread of comment"

Since this is a public forum and one in which numerous statements have been made that have not been supported by good evidence, I'm not sure why you believe I or anyone else have hijacked it - particularly when the only option would have been to leave those erroneous statements unchallenged.

"have read this response thoroughly ill be more respectful of their derogatory remarks towards patients"

Please provide examples where I have made derogatory remarks towards patients.

"who have tried to speak up for this gentle effective and costeffective therapy"

Well, that's the nub of the whole problem, isn't it? When you look at the best, most robust, most independent, least biased evidence for homeopathy, it concludes it is no more than placebo. Until such time that good, repeatable evidence is available that homeopathy is indeed effective, it is highly misleading to talk about it being cost effective.

"which has been incorporated withinn the NHS since 1947"

Unfortunately, yes, but it would appear now to be in decline. Yet in all those intervening years - and indeed in the 200-odd years since homeopathy was invented - homeopathists have not been able to come up with any robust evidence to show it's efficacious. If they had, we wouldn't be having this discussion and, presumably, we'd all be in far better health - if we were to believe the claims made by homeopaths for their treatments, that is.

"and has been shown to be very effective for many patients as the studies quoted in the above links show!"

See above.

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Alan Henness said on 07 November 2013

reasonable said:

"(www.facultyofhomeopathy.org)
findahomeopath.org.uk
Both these links will show the medical homeopaths response including the Queens homeopath Dr Peter Fisher to the no evidence statement from the 2010 hastily prepared evidence check"

Yes, there is some information on homeopathy there. You've not provided a link to any specific page, but I can find no cogent rebuttals to anything the Evidence Check says.

But I hope no one is taken in by your false appeal to authority, nor your pejorative remark about the report being 'hastily prepared'. I note that the report is 275 pages long and that it took the committee some five months to gather evidence, call for written evidence and take oral evidence from several panels. In all, 60 written submissions were received and considered and a good number of them were from homeopathists, including Dr Fisher and other leading homeopaths in the UK.

But I'm not aware that anyone is saying there is *no* evidence for homeopathy; it is clear that there are many anecdotes and an occasional - usually poorly designed or implemented - trial that comes to a positive conclusion. But as the Evidence Check report concluded:

"11 In our view, the systematic reviews and meta-analyses conclusively demonstrate that homeopathic products perform no better than placebos."

and

"13 We regret that advocates of homeopathy, including in their submissions to our inquiry, choose to rely on, and promulgate, selective approaches to the treatment of the evidence base as this risks confusing or misleading the public, the media and policy-makers."

and

"14 There has been enough testing of homeopathy and plenty of evidence showing that it is not efficacious."

Continued in the next comment...

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reasonable said on 06 November 2013

(www.facultyofhomeopathy.org)
findahomeopath.org.uk
Both these links will show the medical homeopaths response including the Queens homeopath Dr Peter Fisher to the no evidence statement from the 2010 hastily prepared evidence check
When Alan Henness and others who have somewhat hi jacked this thread of comment have read this response thoroughly ill be more respectful of their derogatory remarks towards patients who have tried to speak up for this gentle effective and costeffective therapy which has been incorporated withinn the NHS since 1947 and has been shown to be very effective for many patients as the studies quoted in the above links show!

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Alan Henness said on 04 August 2013

"No-one likes to be ill and sometimes people have to seek alternative treatment."

That may well be, but that does not imply that homeopathy works.

"Our NHS is good but it does make mistakes"

Yes, people make mistakes - and I assume homeopaths do too? That does not mean homeopathy works.

"and not all its drugs work for everyone."

Correct. But that does not mean that homeopathy works.

"I for one absolutely love homeopathic medicine"

Please don't rely on it for anything serious.

"and I think the people trying to discredit it are either very narrow minded or maybe see it as a threat to their profits."

As I said, it's the homeopathists who have the closed minds - and they generally also subscribe to any number of conspiracy theories.

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Alan Henness said on 04 August 2013

"I personally think that a lot of modern medicine is dangerous and more so because drug companies are allowed to test their own drugs and publish their findings when they obviously have a vested interest."

Any failings of drug companies is irrelevant to to the issue of the lack of any good evidence for homeopathy. However, don't the big homeopathy manufacturers have exactly the same vested interests? Also, if drug companies don't pay for their own testing, who would you suggest does pay for it?

"I especially think that psychotropic drugs can do more harm than good in the long term, yet they are nowadays even prescribed to young children."

Possibly. However, this page is about homeopathy products and the lack of evidence for them, not about views on whether conventional drugs have a negative benefit - harm outcome.

"Homeopathic medicine is very gentle on the body and it helps the body to heal itself,"

Homeopathy is not medicine because it has no good evidence to show that it has medicinal properties.

Homeopathy is generally gentle because it has no pharmacological effects - it's just sugar and water.

Homeopathy does not help the body to heal itself: there is no good evidence to show it does; no reason to think it might; and no plausible mechanism by which it could.

"Also it is derived from plants which have been on the earth for centuries and obviously put there for a reason."

No. Some homeopathy products are 'made' from all sorts of non-natural substances and just because they might have been around for centuries (placed there by what?) does not make them medicinal or safe.

"Why cant people be more open minded."

It's homeopathists who are the closed-minded ones! Close minded to the biases and the lack of good evidence.

Continued in the next comment...

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Alan Henness said on 04 August 2013

User492632 said:

"I just have to say that I have been using homeopathic medicine for years and it definitely works."

Unfortunately, we know of many reasons why it is not advisable to rely on peoples own experiences. You may well feel you can correctly attribute your health to the use of homeopathic products, but there are many more parsimonious, prosaic reasons why a disinterested person should not be convinced.

What we need are tests that take great care to understand and allow for the many biases - intentional and unintentional - into account so we can really understand what is going on and whether the homeopathic products can really take the credit for any improvement observed. However, the best, most independent, most robust, least biased of these tests show that homeopathy has no specific effects over placebo.

"I am disgusted in the way homeopathic medicine is being discredited by people who have probably not even tried it."

Whether or not any one has tried it has no bearing on whether there is any good evidence for it, particularly given the many cognitive biases that come in to play.

"Also I thought this website was called NHS CHOICES."

Yes it is. But would you prefer people to make choices based on all the available evidence or just the partial evidence promulgated by homeopaths?


Continued in the next comment...

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User492629 said on 03 August 2013

I just have to say that I have been using homeopathic medicine for years and it definitely works. For headaches, sore throats, fevers, colds, rashes, earache and many other ailments. Infact, in the winter I am hardly ever ill and its because I take homeopathic medicine rather than wait days to see my GP then sit for an hour in a doctors surgery full of sick people coughing and sneezing!.
I am disgusted in the way homeopathic medicine is being discredited by people who have probably not even tried it.
Also I thought this website was called NHS Choices.
I personally think that a lot of modern medicine is dangerous and more so because drug companies are allowed to test their own drugs and publish their findings when they obviously have a vested interest.
I especially think that psychotropic drugs can do more harm than good in the long term, yet they are nowadays even prescribed to young children.
Homeopathic medicine is very gentle on the body and it helps the body to heal itself, Also it is derived from plants which have been on the earth for centuries and obviously put there for a reason. Why cant people be more open minded. No-one likes to be ill and sometimes people have to seek alternative treatment.
Our NHS is good but it does make mistakes and not all its drugs work for everyone. I for one absolutely love homeopathic medicine and I think the people trying to discredit it are either very narrow minded or maybe see it as a threat to their profits.

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Alan Henness said on 02 August 2013

Continued from the last comment...

"I was all skeptical

...

faith in them."

I'm glad you and your realties are better, but it is impossible to know whether the homeopathy had anything to do with it - especially where there are so many other possible and more plausible explanations. It is only when those more plausible explanations have been completely ruled out can you begin to hypothesise that the homeopathy had any effect. And herein lies homeopathy's problem. When we do have cases and studies that are carefully enough designed and observed and that properly allow for all the sources of bias we are aware of, we find that homeopathy cannot be adjudged the reason for any improvement seen. When you take the best, most robust, most independent, least biased trials of homeopathy, it shows it to be no better than placebo.

It would therefore be wrong and misleading to make any claims that homeopathy is effective for anything.

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Alan Henness said on 02 August 2013

mamtabhatt said:

"Why so much argument ? Delusion and scientific etc. Everything is not scientific and religion is collective delusion."

The only arguments come from homeopathists who believe homeopathy works, despite the robust evidence to the contrary.

"Where is the problem if people get 'cured' by religious faith or because of faith in homeopathy."

That's the problem: they are not 'cured' by homeopathy. But it is a very closed mind that does not want to ask questions to discover whether what was observed was due to the homeopathy product or something else. But there is another problem...

"Homeopathy might not have 'scientific' evidence of curing, but neither does it have any evidence of harming people like modern medicine too."

That is where you are completely wrong. There are countless examples of people being harmed by their belief in homeopathy and sometimes by the homeopathic product itself. One of the serious issues is the distrust of conventional medicine and doctors that homeopathists frequently engender. This can mean that people delay or forego possibly urgently needed medical treatment and that can lead to serious harm or even death.

But your mention of the harm caused by 'modern medicine' as you call it is wrong-headed and irrelevant. Yes, some treatments can cause harm, but many have great benefits. To determine whether any particular treatment is appropriate for any patient, the possible benefits must be weighed against the possible harms - in many cases the side effects may well be minor or something the patient is willing to put up with so he/she can get the benefit of the treatment. That is their decision in consultation with their doctor.

With homeopathy, there is no evidence of any specific benefits and evidence of some harms, so any weighing up of the benefits and harms can only ever some down on the side of rejecting it.

Continues in the next comment...

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mamtabhatt said on 01 August 2013

Why so much argument ? Delusion and scientific etc. Everything is not scientific and religion is collective delusion. Where is the problem if people get 'cured' by religious faith or because of faith in homeopathy. Homeopathy might not have 'scientific' evidence of curing, but neither does it have any evidence of harming people like modern medicine too. I was all skeptical before and put down homeopathy as 'collective delusion' 'fake' everything , until I saw my uncle whose whole body was covered with warts..no effective treatment for him..until he visited a homeopath and Thuja cured the condition completely within a few months. No doubt he had a lot of faith in homeopathy but so did he have in all dermatologists he met. My own son got cured completely of atopic eczema which bothered him so badly since 10 years. In a month flat he has no trace of eczema and it even cured his chronic sinusitis too.Now I don't know what problem does the proponents of 'Science' have if people resort to it after seeing the limits of 'evidence based science'. Let them be healed by collective delusive faith or by pseudoscience,who cares after all ,so long as they are able to feel better and felt cared for as a human being. Homeopath was the only one who went into their mind and life history like no one else. Give science some break sometimes friends!, Science is no God and we are galaxies away from finding all truths..I saw cures and so I will definitely use/suggest homeopathy to those who have such ailments that have either no cure or have to resort ingesting harmful chemicals life long..why not give homeopathy a try..one doesn't have to lose anything except probably their chronic drug dependence and their diagnosis, if not then they will still not be worse than before. Let it be faith healing..I really don't care as faith moves mountains and a really good homeopath has to be very good in his/her craft so that people often coming to them as their last resort have that faith in them.

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Alan Henness said on 23 July 2013

sturton said on 22 July 2013:

"This is clearly very biased and mislead view of what is the world's second most used medicine world wide."

No, it is fairly accurate of the scientific position. Besides, being popular doesn't mean it works. Astrology is very popular.

"It is not placebo as animals and plant respond consistently well to treatment as well as humans."

No. There are many much more prosaic and parsimonious reasons why animals, plants and babies might appear to respond to a homeopathic products. Before attributing any observations to homeopathy (particularly given its implausibility), you first have to to eliminate all these other simpler explanations. This has not been successful done yet.

"Much good information has been suppressed as it is a system of medicine which threatens the current medical paradigm."

If you have any such evidence, please provide it so we can all see it.

"The above account is indeed confused having repeatedly said homeopathic remedies contain nothing it goes on to say under side effects that some remedies may contain harmful material which may interact with drug therapy see your GP. Well you cannot have it both ways it either does or does not contain something."

The vast majority of homeopathic products, if manufactured correctly, will contain no active ingredient. Other products, labelled as 'homeopathic' can contain 10% or more of the MT and it is these that can be dangerous, particularly if a consumer believes the oft-repeated marketing hype that homeopathic products are natural and safe.

"So homeopathy is a very successful treatment option it is a medicine of today and the future long after dangerous drugging has been abandoned. Enough said."

If only you had provided good evidence that homeopathy was a successful medical treatment.

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sturton said on 22 July 2013

This is clearly very biased and mislead view of what is the world's second most used medicine world wide. It is not placebo as animals and plant respond consistently well to treatment as well as humans. Much good information has been suppressed as it is a system of medicine which threatens the current medical paradigm.
The above account is indeed confused having repeatedly said homeopathic remedies contain nothing it goes on to say under side effects that some remedies may contain harmful material which may interact with drug therapy see your GP. Well you cannot have it both ways it either does or does not contain something.
So homeopathy is a very successful treatment option it is a medicine of today and the future long after dangerous drugging has been abandoned. Enough said.

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Gillid said on 20 July 2013

Whatever you believe..........is true!

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Gillid said on 20 July 2013

I'm about to commence a 6 week course of herbal potions recommended by a kinesiologist for constant severe fatigue, headaches and IBS. I have an open mind but probably more on the 'not likely' side rather than the "very plausible'! I am undertaking this as an option based on a year of watching a work colleague get cured of her migraines, and her husband finding a cure for his excema, and their friend finding similar success for her health issues. If this was all mumbo jumbo there wouldn't be a debate at all as no one would be getting better!

Placebo? Maybe? Do I care? The NHS haven't looked at me as a whole person. Strong pain killers do not cure my headaches, they mask them, I want them to stop! The NHS have assured me that my Stomach bloating isn't an allergy, good news so what is it then? And the nutritionalist whom I was referred to said my diet wasn't causing my daily fatigue! Good news, but I'm still not able to function normally without having to find places to sleep everyday (even public toilets on occasions).

What have I got to loose £60???

I'm sticking to the advice I have been given after a very strange consultation and I'll decide what's real based on my own experience. If I had a cancer diagnosis would I go to see my GP? Of course I would but if this works then I would certainly embrace alternatives too.

Does there have to be proof more than your own experience?

Treat the whole of me, not just the sum of my symptoms,

We'll see ah?


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Spleen said on 07 July 2013

In response to "anotherview": For every Jenner there are a thousand idiots convinced (and convincing others) that they have discovered some new miracle that big industry would want to suppress. Time and again, the flaw in the ideas of these so called mavericks is exposed. Just because occasionally a revolutionary idea turns out to be right doesn't mean that the vast majority of such ideas aren't just plain wrong. Witness the everlasting lightbulb, cars running on water, cold fusion, perpetual motion machines.....The list goes on. For this reason, this is not a valid argument. The basic tenets of homeopathy are not based on science, but on opinion. This makes it a belief system and not a scientific discipline. It also means it cannot be argued against any more than belief in unicorns as its theories cannot be falsified. It can, however, be the subject of properly designed placebo controlled prospective double blind trials. In this area, it fails every time as successful evidence of the advantages of homeopathy has always been found to be not valid for some reason. Check this out on Cochrane. I say again, if your life is enriched by faith in something which is, on the basis of evidence, very unlikely to be true, no-one should have the right to stop you having such faith. The first amendment is one of the cornerstones of civilization after all. The difference is that the rest of us should not have to fund your delusion.

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pposadzki said on 04 May 2013

We have recently written the article about safety of homeopathy. A total of 1159 of adverse effects were reported in 38 primary reports and we concluded that homeopathy has the potential to harm consumers in both direct and indirect ways. Following that publication in International Journal of Clinical Practice, we faced a fiery critique (not surprisingly) from angered homeopaths. Please visit my blog for more: http://synergym.blogspot.com/2013/05/we-haverecently-written-article-about.html

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anotherview said on 29 April 2013

The scientific community seems to have taken on a similar role to the early church, in ridiculing / persecuting anyone who does not adhere / believe in their theories.
Lots of scientists would stand to lose out if homeopathy was proved to be effective.
Its all very well to give an article and state "There is no proof" - What documentation and research is this statement based on? Who funded the work? Was the work properly peer-reviewed?
What about conventional medicines which are released to the public and then found to be harmful and withdrawn because the industry / researchers hid certain facts about the product (eg vioxx)

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anotherview said on 29 April 2013

When Edward Jenner first tried out the smallpox vaccine, he was ridiculed. Galileo died under house arrest for suggesting that we live in a heliocentric universe.
Pharmaceutical companies would stand to lose billions if homeopathy was proved to be effective.
I don't know if it's effective or not. I just wanted to add this to the mix of comments on here.

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Spleen said on 24 March 2013

It is interesting that the testimonials of those "cured" by homeopathy do not specify the nature of the illness. I am willing to bet that the majority are totally subjective complaints such as lethargy and non specific pain. I have never seen an ectopic pregnancy or ruptured aortic aneurysm get sorted by a small bottle of water and no other treatment. Homeopathy is psychotherapy masquerading as pharmacology. If people want to indulge in this delusion that the Emperor really isn't naked, that's fine.....As long as their decision is truly informed (unlikley as if it was, they would probably choose otherwise) and as long as I don't have to pay for it. It is also important that anyone wishing to learn anything useful from pages such as this should be able to think critically. It is easy to be bamboozled by anecdotal claims and very difficult to be cold and detatched when viewing hard evidence. An ealier comment mentioned the number of homeopaths in India. Popularity doesn't make something correct or valid. How many Americans believe the Earth is only six thousand years old? 100 million? 150 million? They are still wrong in the face of hard evidence.

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DaveAsh said on 11 March 2013

Sorry Noel, but just to clarify a few things:

It’s the House of Commons 2010 report which is referred to at the start of this article, not the Lords 2000 report. You’re right though – humans are not infallible, but this applies to homeopaths too, which is why evidence reviews are useful.

In fact, many reviews of research have been carried out and its hard to find one that finds evidence that homeopathy works any better than placebo.

With so many negative reviews, I’m curious to know why you cling to the rare positive finding. Surely these are more likely to be caused by random chance than all of the evidence that homeopathy doesn’t work?

Regarding the Faulty of Homeopathy – I agree, they should have been mentioned. However, the evidence quoted on their website needs looking at – last time I looked (in 2012), the top systematic reviews and research articles ‘supporting’ homeopathy actually found that it did not work to a statistically significant level.

Unfortunately, as its impossible to ‘prove’ that something doesn’t exist, in the same way no-one can prove that any given ‘god’ doesn’t exist, belief will persist, supported by anecdotal evidence and the odd badly designed trial – there are at least, plenty of those.

Don’t get me wrong, no therapy should be dismissed out of hand, but after all of these decent trials conducted, perhaps its time to conclude that this is no more than a well organised placebo.

NHS Researcher, 15 years experience.

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Blatchy said on 28 February 2013

Thank you for updating this page. It now provides a true indication of what homeopathy is.

It is likely the website has an extended audience from around the world. It should encourage scientific debate and ensure the medical advice is informed and accurate.

It is a shame you can't reset the Ratings for this page since there are many negative ratings and I am sure this is a historical viewpoint based on the old text.

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Noel Thomas said on 26 February 2013

Those coming to this section without knowledge of homeopathy may be misled by some of your information, which is incomplete and confusing.

You begin by quoting from The House of Lords 2010 report. Their Lordships are not infallible, and their report seemed, to many, idiosyncratic in it’s treatment of the evidence presented to them.
See the response from the Faculty of Homeopathy, on their website (www.facultyofhomeopathy.org)

Your opening paragraph says that there is no evidence that homeopathy works better than placebo.
That is misleading.See the evidence on the Faculty website.
The evidence for homeopathy is as good as the evidence used for millions of NHS conventional medication prescriptions issued annually, for doubtful reasons, eg SSRI drugs for mild to moderate depression, NSAIDs, and antibiotics for self limiting infections.

You quote the CMO’s opinion on the scientific feasibility of homeopathy.
Mention of scientific feasibility recurs in your piece, and is discussed below.

Your paragraph on Regulation fails to mention the Faculty of Homeopathy, founded in 1844, and incorporated by Act of Parliament in 1950.
It provides training and examinations for doctors and other healthcare professionals with qualifications that are statutorily registrable. It has 1100 members worldwide.
There are hundreds of primary care doctors in the UK who have passed the MFHom exam after 5 years study, who may offer homeopathy as an option to their NHS patients.
Interested readers of NHS Choices may find the information on the Faculty website of help.

Should NHS Choices offer a link to www.facultyofhomeopathy.org. ?

You state that “Some homeopathic remedies may contain substances that are not safe, or that interfere with the action of other medicines. “
Which remedies are you referring to?
Please be more specific.
Are you confusing homeopathic remedies with herbal remedies, eg St John’s Wort ?
SEE NEXT COMMENT

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Noel Thomas said on 26 February 2013

CONTINUED
Your use of the concept of scientific feasibility, and your repeated references to the placebo effect are difficult to reconcile.

Medical homeopaths have a scientific background to their medical training.
We accept that the remarkable effects that we observe when using homeopathic remedies do not fit easily into the scientific framework that we studied.

Scientific methods, theories and applications have developed and diversified over centuries. At any time in past decades and centuries there have been many phenomena that could not be explained on the basis of the scientific knowledge of that time.
Critics of homeopathy assume that we have reached a stage of scientific understanding when all phenomena should be explainable by scientists, or they should be dismissed.
Will knowledge extend no further?

Your lack of clarity on scientific plausibility is compounded by repeated references to the placebo effect, as explanation for the effect of homeopathic remedies.
Most observers accept that the placebo effect is transient .
This does not explain the effect of prolonged relief after one or two homeopathic tablets, given for chronic conditions.

Interestingly, if we move to the section on the placebo effect, on your website, we read,
“ The placebo effect is an example of how our expectations and beliefs can cause real change in our physical bodies. It’s a phenomenon that we don’t completely understand. But we can see it working in all kinds of ways, and all kinds of circumstances.”

You inform your readers that homeopathy cannot be adequately explained, so it cannot work. You then inform them that any benefit from homeopathy is due to the placebo effect, which you say is “a phenomenon we don’t completely understand.”

I suggest you owe it to your readers to consider these points, if you wish to offer them clear advice and guidance.

NHS GP for 40 years, MFHom.
No financial interest in homeopathy

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Alan Henness said on 26 February 2013

luxanila said: "It is obvious to me that after taking it my complaint improved at first and in time i was healed."

It may well be clear to you, but not to an impartial observer who thinks critically about it for a moment. You have committed the logical fallacy of post hoc ergo propter hoc by assuming that it was the homeopathy that did it.

There are many reasons why you might have got better: one of them could be that the homeopathy healed you, but there are other, far more likely and plausible reasons as well and you need to eliminate all of them before concluding that homeopathy worked. For example, this is a useful introduction:

Why Bogus Therapies Seem to Work: http://www.csicop.org/SI/show/why_bogus_therapies_seem_to_work/

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luxanila said on 25 February 2013

Evidence is a lovely word. It originates from Late Latin -Evidentia-. It means, as everyone surely knows, clearness and obviousness.
It is clear to me that before taking my homeopathic remedy I was sick.
It is obvious to me that after taking it my complaint improved at first and in time i was healed.
It is clear to me that an inexpensive medication that makes me feel better does have my full attention especially if it doesn't poison my system in the healing process.
It is obvious to me that I shall continue using this system of medicine and I shall recommend it to friends and family.
Placebo? Feel free to believe what you will.
But perhaps you would like to try it...
This is my evidence on homeopathy

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Vince1905 said on 23 February 2013

I applaud the recent update which states in no uncertain terms that there is no evidence for homeopathy having any effect beyond placebo. Nor is there any evidence that anyone can tell the difference between unlabelled placebo and homeopathic remedies. Indeed, after a certain amount of dilation it is not possible to tell homeopathic remedies apart from each other, nor say a 30C from a 200C, for example.
It is merely a matter of fact that homeopathy has not been demonstrated to work. No, not even in children or animals.
It is also merely a matter of fact that there is no plausible mechanism for homeopathy to work.
This update, which more accurately reflects these facts is much better.
The page is apparently now freed from DoH micromanagement and gutting, and released from the tentacles of Prince Charles' quack charity meddling.
NHS Choices are now talking sense about homeopathy and this is now an evidence based page. Good. Keep it that way.

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Sean Ellis said on 20 February 2013

An excellent update to this page, which now provides a much more balanced view of the state of research into homeopathy.

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LazyGun said on 20 February 2013

This latest revision of the page is hugely improved , and now provides an accurate summation of Homeopathy as a "treatment". It now matches the high quality and accurate advice we expect from NHS Choices - Well done and thank you very much for listening to everyone who pointed out the flaws in the previous version of this page.

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arganddiagram said on 20 February 2013

Thank you for the improvements to this document. It's great to see the science reflected with the proper balance.

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Gonzonator1982 said on 20 February 2013

If Homeopathy worked, there would be dozens of Pharmaceutical companies falling over each other to develop the most potent dilutions, so they could patent them and make their billions.

I challenge all readers to find me one such example.

The problem is that Pharmaceutical companies have to prove the effectiveness of their new products to governing authorities to have them accepted and paid for. If Homeopathy worked this would be a sure thing, but you will find it cannot be proven by properly randomised large scale double blind clinical trials of the like employed in reputable pharmaceuticals.

And that’s because Homeopathy is a pseudoscience (I used the term in the strictest pejorative) practiced by well-meaning, mislead and Machiavellian quacks alike, and consumed by the fanciful, ignorant and vulnerable.

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Guy Chapman said on 20 February 2013

Kudos to NHS Choices for finally growing a pair. Special pleading from vested interest groups must never be allowed to influence the information given to patients by the NHS. Accuracy, whether popular or not, is essential in establishing the bond of trust.

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Nazir Kazi said on 20 February 2013

Homeopathy on the NHS is wrong.
The real danger for a patient lies not in harmless sugar pills and water, but in the rejection of proper, scientific and evidence-based approaches to treatment.
There is a discussion to be had on homeopathy, as there are on magical levitation and rabbits popping out of top hats, but the NHS is certainly not the forum.
It is imperative that the medical top dogs dismiss this nonsense categorically.

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GloucesterD said on 20 February 2013

User748847, would you like to provide us with the evidence or proof, using any scientific technique you wish, that there is any link between a bottle of water, or water/alcohol mix, diluted millions of times and the original "active" substance that was added.

Please also explain just what form this link, is it chemical, does it rely on some, as yet undiscovered, natural force. Is it a matter of magnetism, fundamental atomic forces. Or is it merely the idea of one man at the dawn of the modern scientific age?

If one cannot demonstrate that it exists is it something to risk one's health on?

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Alan Henness said on 19 February 2013

Thank you for correcting the misleading and unscientific information about homeopathy that was given here before today.

This information now is far more accurate and in line with the scientific consensus informed by the robust evidence.

It is now far less likely to mislead the public into thinking that homeopathy is some kind of 'medicine' when there is no good evidence for it and no plausible mechanism of action.

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David Colquhoun said on 19 February 2013

When I first sent a comment on the misleading information on this page, I had supposed it was the fault of NHS Choices. Since then I got hold of the correspondence that you had with the Department of Health. You can see it at http://dcscience.net/?p=5778

The correspondence shows that NHS Choices actually produced an excellent page, but were overruled by the Department of Health (DH), who imposed the travesty which is now on your site.

NHS Choices tried their best. DH did very badly.

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Blatchy said on 18 February 2013

I am horrified by the content on this webpage and the concept of including a Comments section.

NHS Choices advice should be based on scientific evidence and any views presented should be based on rigorous scientific trials. Homeopathy might have a placebo effect but there is no statistical evidence to show that there is any benefit over a sugar pill. If doctors feel there is benefit in recommending a glass of water to a patient, then they should prescribe a glass of water !

The Comments section is inviting readers to contribute their experiences which are based on anecdotal evidence and not double-blind clinical trials. This is providing a platform for people to discuss a topic which we know is based on a fallacy. There is no magic cure. People who take homeopathic potions do sometimes get better – but that is the wonder of nature. There are many conditions which improve with time. There is no need for debate. Please be honest on this website and remove this Comments section.

If NHS Choices wants to base its advice on anecdotal evidence then I will campaign to remove it from any Government financial support – it is a disgrace.

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Sailwave said on 17 February 2013

It is an absolute disgrace that taxpayers hard earned cash is wasted on this quackery.

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789danny said on 17 February 2013

This site is titled NHS Choices. There is no plausible reason to offer homeopathy as a choice in medicine. It is, to quote "tooth fairy science" (Dr Hall). At least be honest and not hide this fact behind links. Spend our money and your intellectual capital on effective and proven medicine

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Alan Henness said on 17 February 2013

Part 2 of 2

They got round this by temporarily allowing homeopathy into the scheme (for a second time). This temporary reprieve ends in 2017 unless homeopaths can come up with good scientific evidence for the effectiveness of homeopathy by 2015.

However, User748847 argues for homeopathy to be included in the NHS because it is cheap. It may well be cheap - it is just sugar that has been subjected to a simple ritual after all - but since it has not proven its efficacy, it would be thoroughly unethical to make it available on the NHS or to sell it as if it was a 'medicine'. [5]

The fact that other countries make homeopathy available does not change the state of the evidence for the efficacy of homeopathy.

Alan Henness
Director
The Nightingale Collaboration


References
1 Gurtner, F. 2012. “The Report ‘Homeopathy in Healthcare: Effectiveness, Appropriateness, Safety, Costs’ Is Not a ‘Swiss Report’.” Swiss Medical Weekly (December 17). doi:10.4414/smw.2012.13723. http://www.smw.ch/content/smw-2012-13723/.

2 “A Critique of the Swiss Report Homeopathy in Healthcare - Ernst - 2012 - Focus on Alternative and Complementary Therapies - Wiley Online Library.” 2012. Accessed June 2. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.2042-7166.2012.01160.x/full.

3 “That ‘neutral’ Swiss Homeopathy Report | Zeno’s Blog.” 2013. Accessed January 29. http://www.zenosblog.com/2012/05/that-neutral-swiss-homeopathy-report/.

4 Bornhöft, Gudrun, Peter F Matthiessen, and SpringerLink (Online service). 2011. Homeopathy in healthcare -- Effectiveness, appropriateness, safety, costs an HTA report on homeopathy as part of the Swiss Complementary Medicine Evaluation Programme. Berlin: Springer. http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/978-3-642-20638-2.

5 “Is Homeopathy Value for Money? | Edzard Ernst.” 2013. Accessed February 17. http://edzardernst.com/2013/02/is-homeopathy-value-for-money/.

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Alan Henness said on 17 February 2013

Note: this comment is split in two because of character limits.

User748847 said on 16 February 2013:

"To add to my previous comment in which I noted that the Swiss Health Technology Assessment found that homeopathy is as effective as conventional medicine, far safer and 15.4% less expensive, the HTA report also recommended that homeopathy be included in the Swiss national health insurance program which has been done.

Today the governments of 20 countries recognize homeopathy as a system of medicine or medical specialty. Homeopathy is part of the national health care systems of 7 countries.

It is in the best interests of people who want quality health care and governments coping with health care costs that any system of medicine that is safe, effective and inexpensive be supported by the government."

Most of what you wrote is demonstrably wrong.

The Swiss HTA was not an HTA and it was not published by the Swiss Government. In fact, the Swiss Government have stated that it was published 'without any consent of the Swiss government or administration'. [1]

It was a report about homeopathy written by homeopaths and has been heavily criticised for its bias and lack of methodological robustness. [2] It was also heavily criticised by the Swiss Government commission set up to look into homeopathy (and other therapies). [3]

However, the version published in English [4] was not even the original report: it was added to by the authors.

But what is especially interesting that - as a DIRECT result of this report - the Swiss Government REMOVED homeopathy from their state health insurance reimbursement scheme.

Many homeopaths did not like this and organised a petition to have it reinstated. The petition created a dilemma for Swiss Government because they are mandated to abide by referendum decisions, but they also have a duty to only reimburse treatments that are evidence-based.

Continued...

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User748847 said on 16 February 2013

To add to my previous comment in which I noted that the Swiss Health Technology Assessment found that homeopathy is as effective as conventional medicine, far safer and 15.4% less expensive, the HTA report also recommended that homeopathy be included in the Swiss national health insurance program which has been done.

Today the governments of 20 countries recognize homeopathy as a system of medicine or medical specialty. Homeopathy is part of the national health care systems of 7 countries.

It is in the best interests of people who want quality health care and governments coping with health care costs that any system of medicine that is safe, effective and inexpensive be supported by the government.

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epeeist said on 16 February 2013

Frankly the fact that the NHS supports homoeopathy amazes me. If f it worked then substantial numbers of other well evidenced and well tested theories in physics, chemistry, biology and medicine all would have to be wrong.

In these days of evidence based medicine there is no reason it should be provided by the NHS or even promoted in the way that this page does.

If people want to use homoeopathy then fine, let them do it at their own expense. But let's have no funding for it on the NHS.

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David Colquhoun said on 16 February 2013

Please don't blame NHS Choices for this appallingly bland and misleading post. It is not what they wrote themselves.

All I need to do is quite the opinion of the editor of the original re-written page, David Mattin

“In causing NHS Choices to publish content that is less than completely frank about the evidence on homeopathy, the DH have compromised the editorial standards of a website that they themselves established”. . .

and

“. . . they have failed the general public, by putting special interests, politics, and the path of least resistance (as they saw it) before the truth about health and healthcare.”

The story of how it came about can be read on my blog, at http://www.dcscience.net/?p=5778

The original version of the re-written page, before it was messed about by the Department of Health and the Prince's Foundation, can be downloaded there too,
http://www.dcscience.net/Homeopathy-first-draft-for-upload-a.pdf
It is a great deal better than the version than the version here.

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User748847 said on 15 February 2013

I've used homeopathy for 15 years with great success. In fact, I am so pleased with it that it is now my primary form of medicine. My only regret is that it was not available to me much earlier in my life. Without doubt it could have spared me years of pain and disruption to my life caused by health conditions which were finally beautifully resolved through homeopathy.

It's been wonderful for my animals, too.

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User748847 said on 15 February 2013

In fact, there is a great deal of evidence showing that homeopathy has biological effects and produces significant to substantial health benefits. There are 200 studies published in 102 respected, national and international peer-reviewed journals showing that homeopathy works well beyond placebo. For example, a recent study done by M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, Texas University, under the auspices of the U.S. NIH, shows that four homeopathics kill breast cancer cell lines. It is the second study done there showing that homeopathics kill cancer cells without damaging other cells or impacting the person's immune system. Another study on rheumatoid arthritis shows that 81% of participants who were given homeopathy were helped by it as compared to 21% who were helped by placebo.

The Swiss Health Technology Assessment analyzed all of the literature on homeopathy and concluded that it is as effective as conventional medicine and also far safer. A second study showed that homeopathy is 15.4% less expensive than con med.

Although at this point in time, the mechanism of action is unknown, research has identified several possibilities. In fact, doctors prescribed and patients used aspirin with good effect for years before we understood the mechanism of action.

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keithac said on 15 February 2013

Why is there any discussion of homoeopathy at all here, except to just say "it's a placebo". That's all you need. Despite having a PhD on its side (and I am a PhD who is against it, so that balances out), there have been no significant studies of its effects that report positive effects, except where those studies have clear methodological problems, such as not being blinded, cherry-picking results, etc.

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keithac said on 15 February 2013

Why is there any discussion of homoeopathy at all here, except to just say "it's a placebo". That's all you need. Despite having a PhD on its side (and I am a PhD who is against it, so that balances out), there have been no significant studies of its effects that report positive effects, except where those studies have clear methodological problems, such as not being blinded, cherry-picking results, etc.

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LazyGun said on 15 February 2013

Like many of the commentators here, I am disturbed by the anodyne and bland commentary you offer on homeopathy.

Given your stated purpose of being a trusted and authoritative voice on matters medical, ignoring the wealth of trial data that show homeopathy to be -at best- no better than placebo is an abrogation of your responsibilities.

It is difficult not to conclude that the recent Press commentary stories alleging undue influence by vested interests are correct.

NHS treatments spend taxpayers money. Only those treatments with a strong evidence base should be used. Spending NHS money on homeopathy is wrong.

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User748740 said on 15 February 2013

With all the fuss in the newspapers right now, anyone would think this is a pro-homeopathy page. In fact it is very weak and explains homeopathy very poorly.

The word potency is never used, to describe the various potencies of homeopathic medicines, i.e. 6c, 30c, 200c.

Homeopathic medicines are not made using only water but also alcohol as a preservative.

No attempt is made to explain the fact that the signature of the substance is imprinted on the alcohol/water mixture during the dilution/succussion process of making a remedy and carried through to each subsequent potency.

Discussing homeopathic treatment with your GP. Only a miniscule minority of GPs have any knowledge of it.

'Many homeopathic remedies are so diluted that they contain no substances that are unsafe, or that may interfere with other medicines. But some homeopathic remedies may contain substances that are not safe to take with other medicines that you are already taking.' (This is a contradiction and not true as homeopathic medicines do not interfere with pharmaceutical medicine but pharma medicine blocks the action of homeopathy as it is suppresses symptoms, whereas homeopathic medicine works to eliminate the symptoms.)

Only negative 'Evidence' is cited at the end of this article.

The 'Evidence' is the fact that millions around the world are cured using homeopathy and in India alone there are up to half a million homeopathic doctors, according to one Dr. Brian Kaplan's website, as well as reports from India. If this was placebo, why would they bother to train?

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Garden Bike said on 14 February 2013

This is a disgrace.

Do not fall for the claims of homeopathy.

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Consumer care said on 14 February 2013

Homeopathy is not medicine. It is wholly unacceptable to present Homeopathy as a credible alternative to evidence-based medicine, when there is ample evidence that clearly shows that Homeopathy at its best only acts as a placebo; more commonly, it does not work and delays proper medical treatment. It is outrageous that NHS Choices does not present clinical evidence on this widely dis-credited theory in a clear, honest and balanced way. Hiding the fact that Homeopathy does not work is clearly misleading, dishonest even. Evidence-based Medicine must take priority if we are to genuinely give patients fact-based choice.

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KNF said on 14 February 2013

I find it unbelievable that this page exists on a National Health Service website.

Putting the evidence at the bottom of the article in linked PDFs which next to no one is going to read after the preceding legitmisation is shocking. The first one is 216 pages long - what use is that to anyone?

I feel as though I should be able to trust that my parents, grandparents, friends and family, who may not look at things with such a critical or rational eye, will be presented with an honest representation of the facts. As it is I wouldn't be surprised if they came here and ended up spending £100s on worthless treatment whilst forgoing proven, evidence based medicine.

This really needs editing now with the evidence summarised in paragraph one.

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njd said on 14 February 2013

This page is shameful. People who come here are normally looking for advice to help them deal with their own illness or that of someone in their family. By failing to state straight out that "homoeopathy doesn't work" you are diverting these people away from other treatments that might help them. This is dangerous, even if the sugar pills themselves aren't.

This page shakes my confidence in other advice that your site gives. If you aren't prepared to risk offending homoeopaths, what else are you unwilling to tell me? Will you offend drug companies if a treatment turns out to be ineffective?

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Plasticbadger said on 14 February 2013

I am absolutely disgusted by this page, it's omissions, the pandering to the delusions of Prince Charles, and the fact that the NHS & we as tax-payers support this utter fantasy that it homeopathy. If people want to follow a particular "belief" then fine, but don't expect others to pay for it either financially or with their lives. This page needs to contain the entire recent Common report, including the conclusion : "In our view, the systematic reviews and meta-analyses conclusively demonstrate that
homeopathic products perform no better than placebos."

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User748674 said on 14 February 2013

Why do you not state the below rather than merely having it as a reference!!?? This page is clearly misleading.
"By providing homeopathy on the NHS and allowing MHRA licensing of products
which subsequently appear on pharmacy shelves, the Government runs the risk of
endorsing homeopathy as an efficacious system of medicine. To maintain patient
trust, choice and safety, the Government should not endorse the use of placebo
treatments, including homeopathy. Homeopathy should not be funded on the NHS
and the MHRA should stop licensing homeopathic products."
2010 Science and Technology Committee Report: Evidence Check 2: Homeopathy

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adoctorwrites said on 14 February 2013

In comment on the position expressed in this section, here is the summary from the linked document.

"110. The Government’s position on homeopathy is confused. On the one hand, it accepts that homeopathy is a placebo treatment. This is an evidence-based view. On the other hand, it funds homeopathy on the NHS without taking a view on the ethics of providing placebo treatments. We argue that this undermines the relationship between NHS doctors and their patients, reduces real patient choice and puts patients’ health at risk. The Government should stop allowing the funding of homeopathy on the NHS.

111. We conclude that placebos should not be routinely prescribed on the NHS. The funding of homeopathic hospitals—hospitals that specialise in the administration of placebos—should not continue, and NHS doctors should not refer patients to homeopaths."

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jamievicary said on 14 February 2013

It is shocking that this page does not clearly spell out the lack of good-quality evidence to support homeopathy. The overwhelming scientific consensus is that homeopathy is simply a form of placebo, and hiding this strong conclusion in some links at the end of the document is unethical. The people who write these documents should be ashamed of themselves.

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NanoBot said on 14 February 2013

I am disgusted on the way which the NHS caved under lobbying to have their description of homeopathy modified so that nothing negative about it would remain on the page.

Homeopathy does not work. Period.

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Gabby Xray said on 14 February 2013

This is an appalling page.

At a time when professions in the NHS, like myself, are being told we must base all our work on evidence of efficacy the DoH puts out rubbish like this! They provide a link to long and detailed House of Commons report, but some fail to mention one of its conclusions:

"In our view, the systematic reviews and meta-analyses conclusively demonstrate that
homeopathic products perform no better than placebos."

In the wake of the Mid-Staffordshire scandal, with recommendations for "transparency" throughout the NHS, why is this site, aimed at informing patients, not being upfront and clear about the lack of evidence that homeopathy is no better than a placebo?

Is it for this reason?:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2013/feb/13/prince-charity-lobbied-government-homeopathy

These are Prince Charles' academic qualifications:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/1531553/The-family-qualifications.html

The DoH should no more take advice from this man, than he should take advice from me on how to talk to plants.

The people who authorised this puff piece should be ashamed.

Gabby

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Patient64 said on 14 February 2013

This page is a disgrace and undermines my trust in NHS Choices. Phrases like "Practitioners believe . . ." are used instead of telling us clearly that evidence shows that homeopathy is just a placebo. There is literally nothing in it.

Listing a range of conditions for which homeopathy is used will convince some patients to turn to these magic water pedlars rather than getting proper treatment. More astonishing since advertisers are not allowed to list conditions that can be treated with homeopathic remedies because it would be misleading in the absence of good evidence.

NHS Choices has been censored on this topic for political reasons. For a much more helpful explanation of homeopathy look at the corresponding American website for patients http://qako.me/11CfMEY

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ariadne13 said on 13 February 2013

I'm disgusted to read on the DCScience website that the Department of Health staff suppressed accurate information about homeopathy written for this page by an NHS choices editor and that they spent two years procrastinating and meddling with the article, in order to please the "homeopathic community". The result is this utter disgrace of a page, which attempts to mislead us into thinking this worthless pre-science cult therapy might help treat serious conditions like asthma. Shame on you, DH - you clearly don't have the public's best interests at heart.

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Truth Seeker said on 03 February 2013

Over twenty years ago a close relative, was persuaded to try homeopathy to combat a number of ailments that were not responding to regular medical treatment. She has got steadily worse over the years, but still clings to the false believe that there is something in this ' judo medicine; It is prescribed to her on the NHS and that is wrong and cruel, as it has given her false hopes. It is a disgrace that NHS Doctors are allowed to peddle this nonsense - they well know it is only a placebo, and they should make that clear to the gullible patients.

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GWendover said on 18 December 2012

The purpose of NHS Choices is to provide clear and reliable advice on health issues.

This page fails badly.

The balance of scientific evidence, evaluated properly, clearly shows that homeopathic remedies have no effect. This is not surprising, as they often have no active ingredient that could have an effect.

There are well-understood and much better explanations for some people's strongly-held belief that they have been helped by homeopathy.

This page should give clear and dependable advice to assist decisions that promote health - it dismally fails to do this.

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saraswati99 said on 18 December 2012

I can not believe what is said in comments!
Do you know that horses, race horses are cured with homeopathy and cows and cats and dogs! Some veterinary practices are using currently homeopathy to heal urinary infections and many other ailments. I suppose you will say that's placebo effect !

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Jim Frae Erskine said on 18 December 2012

Please remove this web page. The NHS should have nothing to do with homeopathy as it is patently complete nonsense of the wickedest kind.

Furthermore, confusing, as you do, homeopathy with herbalist medicine, is just daft - they are not the same. I am sure there will be some herbalists who would not wish to be confused with homeopathists.

To be clear: I, as a British tax payer, do not wish to contribute in any way to the funding of 'magic' as an alternative or complementary medical methodology.

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Rendly said on 17 December 2012

Once again a misguided attempt at balance leads to complete rubbish being promulgated by a publicly-accountable agency.

At the very least this article should mention that in clinical trials, homeopathic remedies have proved no more effective than placebo. It might go on to mention that this is most likely because homeopathic remedies and placebos both tend to be small pills made of sugar, the only real difference being the price.

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PMella said on 17 December 2012

This page is a disgrace. Aside from any placebo benefits, belief in homeopathy may as well be belief in magic - it is unscientific, mystical garbage based on a ludicrous, impossible foundation. It disgusts me that the NHS produces a page like this, and that even a single pound of my tax goes towards this harmful rubbish.

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David Colquhoun said on 17 December 2012

This revised page is almost as bad the original. It is a grave discredit to NHS Choices.

It does not even point out the obvious basic fact that most homepaothic pills (anything more dilute than 12x) don't contain any trace of the subsatnce shpwn on the label/ All such pilss are therefore identical sugar pills, regardelss of the label.

This is desparately misleading to patients.

Please try again

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rationallawful said on 13 December 2012

After a gap of over a year the NHS choices webpage for homeopathy was restored to the website in November 2012, and the following should be noted:

1. The webpage correctly identifies the response from the Government which rejected the conclusion of the 2010 Science and Technology
Committee (STC) Report recommending a ban on NHS homeopathy. What is new since then is the July 2012 in-depth (294 page) doctoral dissertation 'Evidence-based medicine, "placebos" and the homeopathy controversy' by Dr Andrew James Turner of the University of Nottingham freely downloadable from

http://etheses.nottingham.ac.uk/2577/

which concludes that the interpretation of "evidence based medicine" adopted by the STC in their attack on homeopathy was indefensible.

As a consequence, the whole basis of the STC's inquisition into homeopathy in the name of science has now been seriously challenged.

2. The poll published in October 2012 in the Magazine 'GP Online' in answer to the question "Should homeopathic remedies be available on the NHS? " shows:

YES 70.44%
NO 29.56%

3. So Homeopathy is used by doctors, demanded by patients and enshrined as a right by the government. It is not a universal panacea (nor is any therapy or drug) but it is part of the solution not part of the problem, and when practised and integrated into medical treatment (as it is) by qualified medical practitioners time and time again it demonstrates that it is a safe, effective and excellent value for money therapy which can work when 'mainstream' therapies alone fail to work. The irrational and disproportionate attack on NHS homeopathy in the name of science does no credit either to science or to the NHS.

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BodhiS said on 08 November 2012

The NHS spends approximately £230 million a year on anti-depressants alone which evidence has shown to be effective for only a minority of patients. 'Binge' drinking costs the NHS £2.7billion a year - with a reported 200,000 alcohol related hospital admissions in 2010-11. In comparison, homeopathy only costs between £3-4 million a year (about 0.0004% of the total NHS's £106 billion budget).

An interesting website regarding the House of Commons Science and Technology's investigation of homeopathy is: http://www.homeopathyevidencecheck.org/index.htm

And this website http://savenhshomeopathy.org/homeopathy/homeopathic-research/ provides links to some of the organisations who talk about the evidence for homeopathy.

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laburnum said on 04 November 2012

I have nothing but praise for homeopathy as my cousins daughter was treated with this efficacious medicine and made a full recovery from her illness.

Please please NHS make Homeopathy more available to all.

The new Liverpool homeopathic clinic is an example of NHS community based health care and if you want to learn more here are a couple of links .

http://www.facultyofhomeopathy.org/media/news/New_Liverpool_clinic.html

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GWendover said on 30 October 2012

Homeopathic remedies have no effect. This is made very clear by the report linked to above. Anyone who reads and understands it can see that for themselves.

The risk of using homeopathy for potentially serious illnesses is shown by the post from Brian Jones below. Many more examples of people who have become seriously ill or died as a result of relying on homeopathy can be found with a simple search.

Clear and unambiguous advice from NHS Choices that will save the public from putting themselves and their children at unnecessary risk is long overdue.

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asteria said on 23 October 2012


From personal experience of homeopathic treatment, I can say only that it worked for me. My practitioner was professional and totally dedicated to helping patients in her care in the Oncology Department of our local hospital. Part of my cure was 'talking therapy' as I found her extremely approachable and importantly, she had time for me.
All I would say is ' don't knock it if you haven't tried it'.' Closed minds and cut budgets have no doubt removed the invaluable service from Cancer patients now. Homeopathic treatments are given in such small doses that they are safe to take with chemo or radio therapy. If, as research suggests, that a person with cancer suffers less if taking homeopathic remedies it costs the NHS kess than more expensive therapies or even prevents, in some cases, expensive hospitalisation. Money in the NHS is wasted on a daily basis by administrators and politicians, not by patients!

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BrianJones said on 21 October 2012

This topic has had a place-holder page for months - when will it give clear and useful advice?

The report from the link makes clear the overwhelming mass of evidence that homeopathy just doesn't work - but it won't be read by most people who visit this page.

A young woman I know, one of the nicest people you could meet, has become ill during the long time that this page has ducked its responsibility to give clear and reliable advice.

She was persuaded to rely on homeopathy - it is no surprise that this was of absolutely no help and that over the months she has become seriously ill.

Earlier she could have been helped relatively simply by effective treatment.

Instead she is suffering badly, and her future health and chances in life are seriously in doubt.

She is my daughter, and she might die as a result of this.

Please please please NHS Choices, get clear and unambiguous evidence-based advice onto this page as soon as possible (that's what it's for), and don't contribute to more families suffering in this harrowing way.

Brian Jones

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sandymere said on 16 October 2012

In the current climate of cuts to the NHS and patients being unable to access valid medications due to cost it is criminal that millions of taxpayers money is being spent on such utter rubbish as homeopathy!
I believers wish to spend their own money then so be it but please do not take from the meagre pot that saves lives with real medicine.
Thank you Sandymere.

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YesIamjames said on 01 October 2012

Homeopathy in the NHS, I think it's a great idea.

I have a few more suggestions which I really hope the government approves:

We should use tax payer money to hire to hire people to do rain dances when we have the hose pipe bans.

Hire priests to heal amputees.

Hire Mystic Meg to help the government predict when the next rescission is going to happen.

Bring back witch burning.

Spend tax payer money sending a rocket to bring back the invisible pink unicorn from the Neptune.

Buy my recipe for a magic sandwich which cures cancer.

Why should we only force the tax payer to pay for treatments which are proven to work?

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Hacawick said on 23 May 2012

If this really is an issue of money them let's just stop treating people who have chosen not to take care of themselves all their lives. If you choose a bad diet and choose to smoke then maybe the NHS should choose not to treat you? But surely that would be taking peoples choice and right to health away from them? Yes it would and it would be wrong, and its wrong to deny people choice of treatment when they pay into a system. The government wastes millions every year! So let's not pretend that this is about the NHS spending money on Homeopathy. Its about Homeopathy being a massive threat to the pharmaceuticala companies. I believe in conventional medicine and complimentary, as they both have their place.

Its sad that they can't just all work together. Homeopathy works, I don't even care how or why, but conventional does too and I also don't know how or why.

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Paul Sayer said on 30 April 2012

I have paid into the NHS for many years. Therefore I had expected to receive medication if I fell ill. This did not happen as my doctor was unsure what was wrong with me. When I saw a homeopath however my condition improved a great deal and I was soon on the way to being cured. Unfortunately treatment was stopped by my GP, who can offer no conventional treatment, and my illness is now returning. People who complain about paying for homeopathy on the NHS forget that the patients using homeopathy have already paid for their treatment through their contributions.

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Well Informed Citizen said on 24 April 2012

It seems fairly obvious that Hahneman, the original inventor of homeopathy, did not recognise the placebo effect of his original preparations and his method. And it seems that all who have followed his method since then, have been using his flawed reasoning, no matter how well-intentioned it may have been.

If I were a homeopath, I would *definitely* want to know if my preparations had any real effectiveness, or efficacy!

I would also want to know if there was any reality to its precepts and its contentions (water having memory, law of similars, etc).

If it turns out that, as is the case, homeopathy is *merely* a placebo, then I would alter my views and behaviour to suit the scientific concensus. Perhaps reluctantly, but nevertheless, it would happen.

I would hate to think that I might have wasted a ton of my time following a useless practice, and adhering to a useless modality, but, that is life. Sometimes, you just get it wrong!

Better to admit that your original source of information which led you to believe that homeopathy was good and effective, was just wrong. And then to move on, and onto better things, and better sources of information.

Cheers all, have a good and productive life.

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steven brookes said on 11 April 2012

This nonsense is based on the infinite dilution of various molecules. Tap water is an infinite dilution of every molecule that has ever existed so instead of wasting NHS money on these alternative practitioners let's just get people to drink a glass of water.

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steven brookes said on 11 April 2012

This nonsense is based on the infinite dilution of various molecules. Tap water is an infinite dilution of every molecule that has ever existed so instead of wasting NHS money on these alternative practitioners let's just get people to drink a glass of water.

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WilliamRHB said on 09 April 2012

It is sickening that I have to go to work this morning where I will work hard and earn money that will be forcibly taken from me to fund this nonsense.

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BrianJones said on 29 March 2012

It may seem surprising to those unfamiliar with the placebo effect, but it is entirely possible that it could remove the symptoms of hay fever.

Good quality reliable research comparing homeopathic remedies with placebo show there is no difference in their effect - so the remedies have no specific action beyond the placebo effect. This is the conclusion of the report linked to above.

Using homeopathy for a relatively minor condition such as hay fever is unlikely to cause direct harm. The real risk is when homeopathic remedies are relied on for serious illness, in place of effective treatments. People can and do suffer or die unnecessarily in this way - including children.

Homeopathic theories are based on pre-Dickensian beliefs of health and illness - and reject or ignore many of the advances in understanding and knowledge of the past 200 years.

Many homeopaths undermine the work of the NHS with claims that modern medicine (in particular vaccinations and drugs) cause more harm than good - and deny the progress that has been made in healthcare.

They also promote theories that undermine the work of the NHS, impeding the hard work of the many dedicated health professionals seeking to improve healthcare, and their misinformation confuses attempts to educate people about health and illness.

I do hope that revised advice on homeopathy on this page will provide real choice, by making clear the lack of evidence for homeopathy and its risks.

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Smallie said on 21 March 2012

I've come across this page only because I googled Homeopathy after being on mixed pollens for the past 3 weeks. After reading all the comments slagging it, I just had to write my perspective.

I never really knew what homeopathy involved, just that it was an alternative to traditional medicine. I've lived in the UK for the past 4 and a half years after moving here from Canada. I've also suffered from seasonal allergies or hayfever for the past 20 or so years. Before I moved over, I had managed to maintain a good handle on my hayfever in Canada, but since my move here, it's been so much worse. Chalk it up to new strains of trees and plants and grasses that my body isn't used to, but my symptoms are far worse here, and definitely more unbearable. They also start off earlier in the year like in March or April once the cherry blossoms appear. I'm not a fan of taking anti-histamines or any kind of allergy drugs, but have done just to eleviate those really bad horrible days when your just want to pull your nose out of your head.

About a 3 weeks ago, I had made an appointment in the afternoon to confirm my pregnancy. It was a warm morning and right off the bat I started sneezing, my eyes were itchy and my throat was scratc.hy. I knew right away that it was my allergies acting up already, and I thought, What am I in for if I'm pregnant and going through morning sickness and hayfever at the same time!

I asked the doc about my pregnancy is whether I could take anti-histamines or if they were a no-no. They are a no-no and she said my only option was to try homeopathy and wrote me a note to take to the chemist. We went there straight away and purchased a little vial. I started taking them on March 2nd and haven't looked back. They work! They're the only thing that has worked since I've been in the UK. And I'm sorry, but it's not a placebo cause if your eyes are itchy, your nose is runny, and your throat is scratchy no amount of sugar pills will cure that!

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GWendover said on 12 March 2012

Indeed, people may feel better or have reduced symptoms after taking a homeopathic remedy. However, there are well-understood reasons for this (such as the placebo effect) which are a much better explanation than suggestions that homeopathic remedies themselves have an effect.

Good quality research which takes account of other effects, so tests the effect of remedy itself, shows that the remedy has no effect.

The report at the link above includes the evidence presented to the recent House of Commons Committee inquiry, including the strongest scientific evidence that could be produced in favour of homeopathy.

Both the evidence and the report's conclusions clearly show that when the body of scientific evidence is considered as a whole, that evidence strongly shows that homeopathic remedies do not have an effect.

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laburnum said on 30 January 2012

There are numerous examples of homeopathy being effective.
A good site to visit is http://www.getwelluk.com/

There is also the site www.wiki4cam.org to read more about homeopathy.

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holistictherapy said on 26 January 2012

It shocks me that homeopathy has been offered and paid for by the NHS (funded by the nation's taxpayers). It does not matter that some people believe it works when the available facts do not demonstrate its efficacy. A holistic approach to healing is important, but homeopathy has no place in modern medicine.

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avishay said on 01 December 2011

Homeopathy proves me and my patients every day its effectiveness treating successfully chronic diseases. There is no doubt that law of similars and dilution of materials in a way that goes beyond Avogado law, seems strange and peculiar; nevertheless, we should not try to disqualify this healing method only because some issues are not fitting with those of science or medicine.
I remind you that greatest discoveries were of people who knew and believed in their knowledge, which was not fitting to the every day norms.

Homeopathy is the art of healing, and from my point of view, it was discovered and established many many years before humanity can understand or embrace it as a healing method. It was discovered before its time- and it seems that humanity is not yet ready to deal with it,hug it, use it and embrace it warmly.
This is my opinion on this subject

Avishay

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Sky Pixie said on 21 November 2011

So many eloquent points have been made about the absurdity of homeopathy. I will try to refrain from repeating those made here and elsewhere nearby.

I spent many years dealing with conventional medicines - some of them turned out to be worse than useless, others were superb, others were discarded when identical products hit the market, all are somewhere on that spectrum. Yes, patients somatized, had self-limiting conditions, and some were disgruntled at not being offered better magic, advanced hand-holding techniques, tea-and-the-lavishing-of-sympathy. I could just never manage to suspend my disbelief to be complicit in the hoodwinking of patients with carefully shaken water. I understand that it was unethical to dispense placebo tablets in any other guise - which perhaps shows one of the many double-standards from which homeopathy continues to profit.

As I approach my impoverished retirement I wonder now if it is too late to introduce my own 'Pixie Medicine' that might deliver to me a tiny sliver of this enormous money-spinner. To give me some fighting chance of success then I will gladly accept all homeopathic arguments if this art-form is referred to hereafter as 'magic'. Patients can then make better informed choices - and my Pixie magic can be shown to match other such magics at every turn.

Anyway, sorry about that tiny diversion. What might be more interesting to consider is, while I'm newly happy for adults to purchase or receive my remedies for themselves, I have always felt very queasy when witnessing homeopathic remedies being given to children. I'm still not entirely sure why. Perhaps it's because children are expected to be gullible and one feels a greater duty to protect them in the absence of even the flimsiest of informed choices.
My new integrated form of pixie magic requires only that I blow air on the back of the patients hand whilst holding it - this removes the need for water and succussion etc. Don't dismiss it- it just works. OK?

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Sky Pixie said on 21 November 2011

So many eloquent points have been made about the absurdity of homeopathy. I will try to refrain from repeating those made here and elsewhere nearby.

I spent many years dealing with conventional medicines - some of them turned out to be worse than useless, others were superb, others were discarded when identical products hit the market, all are somewhere on that spectrum. Yes, patients somatized, had self-limiting conditions, and some were disgruntled at not being offered better magic, advanced hand-holding techniques, tea-and-the-lavishing-of-sympathy. I could just never manage to suspend my disbelief to be complicit in the hoodwinking of patients with carefully shaken water. I understand that it was unethical to dispense placebo tablets in any other guise - which perhaps shows one of the many double-standards from which homeopathy continues to profit.

As I approach my impoverished retirement I wonder now if it is too late to introduce my own 'Pixie Medicine' that might deliver to me a tiny sliver of this enormous money-spinner. To give me some fighting chance of success then I will gladly accept all homeopathic arguments if this art-form is referred to hereafter as 'magic'. Patients can then make better informed choices - and my Pixie magic can be shown to match other such magics at every turn.

Anyway, sorry about that tiny diversion. What might be more interesting to consider is, while I'm newly happy for adults to purchase or receive my remedies for themselves, I have always felt very queasy when witnessing homeopathic remedies being given to children. I'm still not entirely sure why. Perhaps it's because children are expected to be gullible and one feels a greater duty to protect them in the absence of even the flimsiest of informed choices.
My new integrated form of pixie magic requires only that I blow air on the back of the patients hand whilst holding it - this removes the need for water and succussion etc. Don't dismiss it- it just works. OK?

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Sky Pixie said on 21 November 2011

So many eloquent points have been made about the absurdity of homeopathy. I will try to refrain from repeating those made here and elsewhere nearby.

I spent many years dealing with conventional medicines - some of them turned out to be worse than useless, others were superb, others were discarded when identical products hit the market, all are somewhere on that spectrum. Yes, patients somatized, had self-limiting conditions, and some were disgruntled at not being offered better magic, advanced hand-holding techniques, tea-and-the-lavishing-of-sympathy. I could just never manage to suspend my disbelief to be complicit in the hoodwinking of patients with carefully shaken water. I understand that it was unethical to dispense placebo tablets in any other guise - which perhaps shows one of the many double-standards from which homeopathy continues to profit.

As I approach my impoverished retirement I wonder now if it is too late to introduce my own 'Pixie Medicine' that might deliver to me a tiny sliver of this enormous money-spinner. To give me some fighting chance of success then I will gladly accept all homeopathic arguments if this art-form is referred to hereafter as 'magic'. Patients can then make better informed choices - and my Pixie magic can be shown to match other such magics at every turn.

Anyway, sorry about that tiny diversion. What might be more interesting to consider is, while I'm newly happy for adults to purchase or receive my remedies for themselves, I have always felt very queasy when witnessing homeopathic remedies being given to children. I'm still not entirely sure why. Perhaps it's because children are expected to be gullible and one feels a greater duty to protect them in the absence of even the flimsiest of informed choices.
My new integrated form of pixie magic requires only that I blow air on the back of the patients hand whilst holding it - this removes the need for water and succussion etc. Don't dismiss it- it just works. OK?

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rationallawful said on 30 June 2011

A medical therapy is an intervention which helps people's health improve, ie makes them better than before the intervention. The reason Homeopathy is popular and medically effective is because it can and does do that. What is controversial is why: is it due to (a) some physical property in the therapy?; (b) something about the way it is administered?; (c) something in the peception of the patient?; or (d) a combination of some or all of (a) to (c)?

Any therapy can be effective whether due to (a), (b), (c) or (d) and it is scientisim not science to argue that a therapy cannot be classified as a 'valid' treatment in our comprehensive health service unless its effectiveness is proven to be due (eg) to (a). Furthermore so to argue is as irrational as saying a girl with red hair is barred from a job either because she's not a boy or because she's got red hair (examples of irrational inclusion / exclusion criteria). Science is wonderfully helpful in seeking to understand why something 'works' and indeed in the ranking of potential therapies in given circumstances where there is a choice between effective treatments; however certain so-called scientists in their shrill call for removal of homeopathy from the NHS have lost sight of the true aim of medicine which is the relief of suffering. Homeopathy may not be a universal panancea but it is part of the solution not part of the problem, and when practised and integrated into medical treatment (as it is) by qualified medical practitioners time and time again it demonstrates that it is a safe, effective and excellent value for money therapy which can work when 'mainstream' therapies alone fail to work.

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Thunderballs said on 13 June 2011

It is an absolute disgrace and an embarrassment that Homeopathy has been associated with never mind offered under the NHS.

It is immaterial that some people believe it works when it is clearly unscientifically proven and if it were true, would overturn huge proven scientific certainties in other disciplines.

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GestaltGirl said on 16 March 2011

Sometimes the drugs just don't work. I have tried conventional medicine and have placed my trust in 'evidence based medicine.' However, in the short term, the side effects ended up being far worse than the actual symptoms of the illness! Aetiology of illness is unknown so the drug treatment is definitely not a choice for long term use either. My conclusion is drug treatment can be alot less effective than placebo and can even cause harm for an individual. If homeopathy is as effective as placebo then I think that's actually a good start! Let the patients decide, it's our NHS afterall.

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Guy Chapman said on 30 January 2011

I think the most balanced treatment of homeopathy on the web is at Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homeopathy

If people want to spend their own money on it after reading that, it's up to them. Obviously public money should be restricted to evidence-based medicine.

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Nigma said on 08 December 2010

It's interesting how homeopathy doesn't dissolve away despite extensive efforts to discredit it. If people know it works then jeering won't alter that. The last Which? report I recall said the vast majority who tried it were satisfied or very satisfied with the results.

Cuba, using a homoepathic Leptospirosis vaccine last year had very much better results than with standard vaccine: shame that no scientific or medical journal sees fit to publish the data.

Of course it works. Worldwide it is the most used alternative to drugs, and less toxic therefore especially good for children and pregnant women.

It's also cheap, and with NHS costs rising so rapidly it needs to be encouraged. A century ago, public demand and public subscription funded our five great homeopathic hospitals; we need them still.

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unblinkered said on 02 November 2010

I fail to understand how people are so critical of homeopathy when they don't bother to research it for themselves. A recent poster said that no medical trials show any evidence of it being effective - but there are studies out there that do just that (see the 'research' section of the Faculty of Homeopathy, for example, the registration body for medical professionals who use homeopathy in practice). It is also effective enough for farmers to use for their cattle and for vets to 'cure' incurable diseases - some powerful placebo effect there then!!

Who funds most drug research or university research into orthodox medical studies? The drug companies, of course! Therefore, who is going to fund studies into a form of medicine that won't bring in huge profits? I became disillusioned as an NHS hospital professional (radiographer) 30 years ago, when I realised that modern medicine usually fails to 'cure' disease. It just suppresses symptoms, or chops out or replaces parts that fail. I sought an alternative when I had children, tried many things and found homeopathy extremely effective. If modern medicine is so wonderful then why is chronic disease still increasing each year, why is iatrogenic disease still increasing (3rd most 'fatal' disease in the US!), why must the NHS spend billions on drugs (and this is increasing too) - when there may be other ways of dealing with illness? No homeopathic pharmacy is going to make a fortune like Big Pharma does....the remedies cost a matter of pence per patient, who often only needs one or two doses. Homeopaths cannot claim to 'cure' disease but often patients find that their symptoms disappear for good (and by patients, I include babies and animals who are unlikely to respond to the placebo effect.) Would people rather take drugs for life (with the side effects) or find another way of dealing with disease? I agree that more research needs to be done - but who is going to pay for this when the drug companies are in full control?

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Grahamfff said on 27 September 2010

I find it most regreattable that the way NHS has covered this subject is to give uncritical voice to the claims of homoeopathy without giving readers the information they need to evaluate those claims.

To refer readers to the websites of the British Homeopathy Association is like settling the question of the shape of planet by a reference to the website of the Flat Earth Society. The BHA is not a reputable scientific body - in fact it is hardly a scientific body at all - and is most certainly not unbiased.

It is interesting that proponents posting above overwhelmingly refer to person experience (as if the plural of 'anecdote' was 'data'). One poster has even twisted logic on its head by pretending that the lack of evidence for homoepathy's effectiveness is somehow a failre of Western technology - the very technology that has caused Western mortaility rates to plummet.

Other proponents have alluded to their right to choose homoepathy; I would suggest that the taxpayer should exercise their right to choose not to fund this twaddle. And NHS Direct should be helpling people understand the scientific evidence relating to it.

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User484495 said on 04 September 2010

Let's make this clear. It is not a case of science or medicine being unable to explain how homeopathy works. As far as I am aware no professionally conducted medical trial has ever shown homeopathy to work at all. It has never been shown to be better than placebo.

Before the fans start complaining about mysterious vested interests etc etc. Stop, take a look at the manufacturers of homeopathic remedies. How much of a vested interest do you think they have?

Also, please don't confuse herbal remedies with homeopathy. One is the basis for many modern medicines, the other is sugar. The two are totally different.

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retnhsworker said on 10 August 2010

Do the people that support homeopathy accept that the procedures adopted by 'witch doctors' in Africa and their equivalents in other societies also work? It seems to me that the evidence used to support homeopathy differs in NO WAY from that used to support examining the entrails of chicken, casting runes or whatever. Or are these procedures different because they are used only in 'primative societies' while we are 'developed', 'advanced' or whatever?

An answer would be most appreciated.

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sophie100 said on 09 August 2010

Back in the mid-nineteenth century there were surgeons who would wipe their scalpels on the soles of their boots in order to show their disdain for the concept of germs. How, after all, could something exist that could not be seen?

The fact that western technology cannot demonstrate how homoeopathy works is quite different from therefore asserting that it *cannot* work.

As for the placebo effect: as an explanation it is hardly more scientific. Explain, if you will, how believing you will get better means that you get better - in scientific terms, that is. As it happens I have no problem with the concept, but then, I'm not tied down by scientific dogma.

As for the referred placebo effect: explain, if you will, how that differs from faith healing?

It might be worth bearing in mind that Hahnemann, the founder of homoeopathy, was as surprised as anyone else at his findings. Despite what the anti-homoeopathy brigade would have you believe, he was a true scientist, who based his ideas on a very large number of practical experiments.

As for those who dismiss anecdotal experience: bear in mind that it was Einstein who said that knowledge without experience has no value.

Experience really is more important than knowledge.

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unblinkered said on 16 July 2010

Just a correction to my previous post - the remedies are potentised by dilution and succussion (my post had been 'modified' as I originally wrote succussion in capital letters, but the modifier mis-spelled the term when he or she changed it!)

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unblinkered said on 16 July 2010

I am disappointed with this account of what homepathy is meant to be.

There are several inaccuracies in the description, for example suggesting the Samuel Hahnemann had 'ideas' without explaining where he got them from! He was very much involved in the medicine of his time and was trying to find better ways of treating people, and his ideas developed from his practice as a medical doctor as well as observing the action of conventional medicines. He did a lot of research and his ideas developed as a result of his findings.

Secondly, the preparation of homeopathic remedies is a combination of dilution and sucsussion, not 'succession' as stated in the description.

Thirdly, the provings are not carried out as stated, they are done over a period of several weeks by healthy participants who keep a daily journal of all the effects of the remedy (physical, mental and emotional) and when the proving is complete (ie no more symptoms have appeared) the results are compared and the common ones or very intense ones are entered in the Materia Medica of the remedy.

I have used this system of medicine for over 20 years, not only on my family but also on pets, newborn babies and people who did not know they were receiving the remedy, and have found it extremely effective. I therefore consider that there is more than the 'placebo effect' going on. Just because at present science has no proof or acceptable explanation of how it can work, does not mean that it doesn't work. Science cannot explain how gravity or magnetism works, we just have some theories but no actual explanation, but we all know that they work!

There are also plenty of pharmaceutical medicines whose action is not understood, but that doesn't stop doctors from using them or, come to that, the NHS from spending vast sums of money on providing them!!

I could go on, but can't see the point in trying to convert those people whose 'interests' are at stake or those who believe them!

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Asharlan said on 09 July 2010

I love the way many people commenting on here keep saying that if contributors say that homeopathy works for them it somehow 'doesn't count'. What do we go to a health practitioner for? If it works.....it works!! I've been actively avoiding GPs and seeing a homeopath for 15 years. When I used to see a GP with flu symptoms he would barely look up from his desk before signing off another antibiotics prescription. Within one year of seeing my homeopath my 3 times a year chest infections had stopped. I barely get one cold a year now and it reaches my chest about once every 3 years. I don't care if it's 'placebo'....or whether it has an unexplained scientific basis. IT WORKS far better than a GP was ever able to for me. Saying that 'anecdotes don't count'. What else is there? I don't care if supposedly scientific proof says it 'can't work'. It does!! Get over it. This blind faith in science that won't even let you open your eyes to accepting people's own experiences is sooo incredibly arrogant. I used to take antibiotics at least 3 times a year because of my Dr's inability to cure my illness and lack of interest in even trying. I haven't taken any now in almost 10 years. And yes I'm fully fit and healthy. My homeopath sought to support my healing not to simply suppress my symptoms. And it worked. Deal with it.

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Non Sheeple said on 07 July 2010

How ignorant you all are calling homeopathy mumbo jumbo nonsense!

Commenting on a subject none of you have actually experienced personally yourselves! Its like a vegan telling you that meat has no nutrition!

I have been to homeopaths as my mother who suffered from severe sinusitis for years. Now your tax money could have paid for a very expensive nasal scraping, but instead she saw a homeopath. The homeopath treated her with natural remedies and herbs (just like you all eat for nutrition and well being) and after 6 months course she has never ever suffered from sinus again.

I have had my hormones balanced without the use of man made chemical drugs that toxify the body. I find them to always heal the problem not mask the symptoms unlike modern medicine that has only been around for 200 years. Herbal remedies and treatments have been used for 1000's of years!!!!

Perhaps you all need to take your modern medicine and read the back of the bottle and see what the long term affects are of those ingredients. Then you tell me anyone you know who has died of basil or lavender poisoning. In fact it contains so much good stuff herbs that you should be eating more of it and organic!!!

Stop being media stereotypes and go research before you comment about an area you have no personal experience...make up your own mind dont follow the rest of the sheep out there!!!

Check your shampoo labels the main ingredient is Sodium Laureth Sulphate, a foaming agent which is used in larger quantities at your local mechanic to degrease your car!!! I have suffered for years of scalp problems itchy and flaky until I switched to all natural. My hair glows now and I never touch engine degreaser again that actually adds to long term health damage...Go on research that instead of picking on an natural way of life that does not harm only repairs!!

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VickyAdds said on 25 June 2010

I like to use a combination of medical and complementary healthcare but have never been quite sure about the principles of homeopathy. I think it's great that the NHS have laid out all the facts about homeopathy simply and clearly. Not sure I believe it can really work but it's good to have all the evidence to hand to make up my own mind.
VA

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jomc20 said on 20 June 2010

I am dismayed to read comments made by people who still, despite all the evidence against it, say that Homeopathy works, or works for them. No it doesn't and it absolutely cannot work - it is sugar and water. Anecdotes are not proof. Charles Draper's explanation is excellent. I may not be a scientist but surely common sense should tell people that a theory dreamt up 200 years ago which results in potions which are nothing but water cannot possibly have any effect other than the placebo effect. Many ailments get better in time and occasionally this natural healing process may coincide with someone taking a Homeopathic 'remedy'.

I am incensed that the National Health Service and hence myself as a tax payer, is still paying for this mumbo-jumbo! We are living in the 21st century and should leave superstition and quack treatments which have no scientific basis behind. Did Homeopathy cure polio, whooping cough, TB or indeed anything? The more science advances, the more people retreat into primitive pre-scientific beliefs. I for one am glad I don't live in a time when all that was available was Homeopathy and Naturopathy .

The problem is that people are scared of hospitals and suspicious of modern drugs, drug companies and side effects. Maybe more education is the answer to combat the charlatans making billions from so-called 'alternative medicine'. And the Health Service should not be encouraging this nonsense just to get hypochondriacs out of doctors' surgeries.

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Bobbonkers said on 07 June 2010

Would you believe me if I told you children and animals do benefit from the placebo effect.
6 month old teething babies like the sugar content in homeopathic pills, next time save yourself a fortune and buy sugar cubes.
I dont know the medical history of your cat but I would assume that after all the eye-drops and other irritants your vet pescribed, 3 days of bathing with distilled water would do wonders for the moggys eyes.
Homeopathy has a very good track record for treating things that would get better anyway, not so good with cancer or heart disease.



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Londonborn said on 05 March 2010

I appreciate the current scientific research does not recognise any effect greater than placebo but this does not explain why it works on babies and animals.
I was surprised at how efficient the teething pills worked on a 6th month old baby, and our cat who, as the conventional vet said, had 'untreatable congunctivitis' was healed within 3 days of being treated with homeopathic medicine.
Until someone can explain why it does work in these cases when placebo can't possibly be the cause then i see no reason why it wouldn't work.

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whackarat said on 23 February 2010

@Robert Mathie:

Would that be the same meta-analysis which "...was later qualified by the authors, who wrote:

'The evidence of bias [in homeopathic trials] weakens the findings of our original meta-analysis. Since we completed our literature search in 1995, a considerable number of new homeopathy trials have been published. The fact that a number of the new high-quality trials... have negative results, and a recent update of our review for the most “original” subtype of homeopathy (classical or individualized homeopathy), seem to confirm the finding that more rigorous trials have less-promising results. It seems, therefore, likely that our meta-analysis at least overestimated the effects of homeopathic treatments.'"?

http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Homeopathy&oldid=345826566

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thatlad2000 said on 22 February 2010

Just in case you are unclear: homeopathy has NO EFFECT other than as a placebo. It doesn't matter if it "worked for you" or not. There is NOTHING (other than sugar or water) in the "medicines" prescribed by homeopaths. What next - traditional voodoo cures on theh NHS? Will my GP prescribe a course of intensive prayer? Will he cast some runes on his desk to decide how best to me

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romyboots said on 18 February 2010

It is very important to me to be able to choose homeopathy as my preferred healthcare option.
I am not interested in what anybody else thinks about this. I am not interested in whether science has yet been able to ascertain how it works.
I am interested in the fact that it has worked for me where conventional medicine has failed, and as a result has improved the quality of my life immeasurably, without side effects.
The architect of the NHS, Nye Bevan, championed homeopathy and so do I and many others whose views are not currently being heard or creditted in the backlash against homeopathy

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Jon Bowen said on 13 February 2010

Why does the NHS provide this statement about homeopathy without commenting on its efficacy?
Probably because they are frightened that they might offend someone's "beliefs".

Not only is there no evidence that homeopathy works, but also some homeopaths will discourage people from combining it with certain conventional treatments that are supposed to interfere with its efficacy (e.g. corticosteroids). This is dangerous.

Homeopathy is in the same league as the dowsing rods being sold to the Iraqi government for mine detection. It misdirects funds from things that are effective, and leads people to make decisions that may have serious adverse consequences for them.

It is time to bring an end to mumbo jumbo.
We urgently need laws that effectively control the sale and promotion of products that might be used in safety critical applications, such as healthcare and security.

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Chris Thompson said on 25 November 2009

It is an absolute scandal that NHS money is being spent supporting homeopathic medicines at the same time as certain cancer drugs, proven to extend the live of cancer sufferers, are being denied to patients on the grounds of cost. When will this madness end?

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Robert Mathie said on 03 July 2009

Readers are advised to consult the websites of the British Homeopathic Association and the Faculty of Homeopathy (links are top right of this page) for a precise account of homeopathy and its context within the NHS. From these sites it will be clear, for example, that 44% of randomised controlled trials in homeopathy have reported positive effects, and only 7% have been negative. These data are similar to the findings of a comprehensive meta-analysis of placebo-controlled trials of homeopathy (Linde et al., Lancet 1997; vol 350: pp834–43), in which 48% of trials were positive.

It should also be noted that different homeopathic remedies and different dilutions of the same remedy have been distinguished from each other using Raman and infrared spectroscopy, even though all should theoretically contain nothing but water (Rao et al., Homeopathy 2007; vol 96: pp175–182). Such findings may relate to complex processes such as the formation, during succussion, of colloidal nanobubbles that could contain the remedy source material.

The cost of homeopathy to the National Health Service is minuscule. Recent figures show that the NHS spent £12 million on homeopathy over a three-year period from 2005. £4 million a year for homeopathy (equating to 6 pence per annum per head of the British population) compares more than favourably to the amount the NHS spends each year on management consultants for example (approx. £320 million) or on treating in-patients with adverse reactions to conventional drugs (approx. £460 million).

Robert Mathie PhD
Research Development Adviser
British Homeopathic Association

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Charles Draper said on 02 May 2009

2/2

Advocates of homeopathy sometimes respond to this argument by asserting that the curative effect of homeopathic remedies arises from a "memory" of the vanished active ingredient that is somehow retained by the water in which it was dissolved (and then by the starch when the water is evaporated!). But the diffculty, once again, is not simply the lack of any reliable experimental evidence for such a "memory of water". Rather, the problem is that the existence of such a phenomenon would contradict well-tested science, in this case the statistical mechanics of fl
uids. The molecules of any liquid are constantly being bumped by other molecules - what physicists call thermal
fluctuations - so that they lose any 'memory" of their past configuration within a fraction of a second.

In short, all the millions of experiments confirming modern physics and chemistry also constitute powerful evidence against homeopathy. Despite this, the NHS continues to fund homeopathic 'treatment' at the taxpayers' expense. No one, not even the Health Minister, seems to know how much the NHS spends annually on unproven (or disproven) "complementary and alternative" therapies, because the NHS does not bother to keep track.

Estimates of the annual cost range from £50 to £450 million.

For footnotes and source, see: http://www.physics.nyu.edu/faculty/
sokal/sense_about_science_PUBL.pdf

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Charles Draper said on 02 May 2009

(1/2)

I too am worried by the NHS's decision to fund and promulgate information regarding homeopathy and similar alternative health treatments. Rigorous meta-analyses have shown homeopathy to be no more effective than placebo treatments, and have in fact revealed an inverse correlation between the methodological quality of studies and the observed effectiveness of homeopathy. In other words - sloppier studies were more likely to show that homeopathy worked.

The above article is also misleading in that it suggests homeopathy is some sort of herbal remedy. While many plants have been shown to posesses medicinal properties, homeopathy relies on the notion the these properties can be increased by dilution with water, often to a level at which no molecule of the material is likely to remain.



There is thus no plausible mechanism by which homeopathy could work, unless one rejects everything that we have learned over the last 200 years about physics and chemistry: namely, that matter is made of atoms, and that the properties of matter - including its chemical and biological effects, depend on its atomic structure. There is simply no way that an absent ingredient" could have a therapeutic effect. High-quality clinical trials find no difference between homeopathy and placebo because homeopathic remedies *are* placebos. (So homeopathic remedies are not just useless but also harmless, unlike conventional or herbal medicines. There is no danger of an overdose!).

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How complementary medicine is regulated

How are complementary therapies regulated? Who controls alternative practitioners? Where can I check my therapist's credentials?