What is homeopathy?
Homeopathy is a safe gentle and effective healthcare system that may be used for a wide variety of complaints with no side effects. The discipline is based on a few simple truths.
You are unique and your health and your ill-health are unique to you. Nobody else experiences disease or ill-health the same as you and the best treatment for you should be individual to you. Homeopathy respects and reflects your uniqueness. So with homeopathy 10 people each with a ‘cold’ might receive 10 different treatments with variation in remedy, potency, prescription schedule or all three!
What are the origins of homeopathy?
A German doctor, Samuel Hahnemann is often credited with ‘inventing’ homeopathy around the year 1800. Like all scientists Hahnemann developed his ideas from those of others before him. In the case of homeopathy this included Hippocrates who thought that illness was caused by an imbalance of the whole person and realised that there are two ways of treating ill-health: by opposites or by similars.
Hahnemann developed a system of treating people based on the idea of treating people using similars. This is the origin of the word ‘homeopathy’ from the Greek words homeo ‘similar’ and pathos ‘suffering.’
How does homeopathy work?
Following the principle of treating with similars, a tiny dose of something, which in large doses causes symptoms in a healthy person, is given to a patient presenting the same symptoms. This stimulates the body’s natural healing mechanism to address the imbalance. This natural healing mechanism is very strong but is blocked or slow to work when you are unwell. Homeopathy stimulates the body to encourage and strengthen natural healing.
There is a growing body of conventional scientific evidence that shows the positive effect of homeopathic remedies and treatments for a growing range of conditions and ailments.
Who is homeopathy suitable for?
Anyone who wants it! A bit flippant perhaps but because disease symptoms are unique to individuals and homeopathy treats the person it is not limited to treatment of particular conditions: Homeopathy can be used by anyone and has potential to help everyone. There are no promises of cure (no health care system promises cure in all cases) but benefit may include relief of symptoms and/or reduction in the use of conventional medication and the potential for side effects. So, if you have a conventional diagnosis or just “don’t feel right” then homeopathy is worth considering.
Children often respond well to homeopathy and because homeopathic remedies are so gentle and without side effects they may be especially valuable for pregnant and nursing women or for mother and baby.
What about the evidence that homeopathy works?
Hahneman started using the method around the year 1800 so there is over 200 years of experiential learning in the discipline. Two hundred years of many thousand homeopaths and tens of millions of patients is a wealth of information and experience; a vast body of knowledge and evidence of success: the discipline would not survive if it did not work.
More recent scientific work also shows that of the 134 randomised controlled trials (RCTs) of homeopathy published in peer-reviewed journals, 59 are positive (that is, demonstrating that homeopathy has an effect beyond placebo), eight trials are negative, and the remaining 67 are inconclusive. This is despite the fact that homeopaths and researchers in the field suggest RCTs are not the best research tool to test homeopathy or any other individualised treatment.
In 2005, the largest service evaluation of homeopathic treatment reported that 70 per cent of 6,500 follow-up patients experienced improvement in their health. Eczema, asthma, migraine, irritable bowel syndrome, arthritis, depression and chronic fatigue all improved.
A study over one month in 2007, looking at a total of 1,602 patients seen at follow-up appointments in all five UK NHS homeopathic hospitals, found that eczema was at that time the most common referral to homeopathy by NHS doctors.
Dr David Reilly and a team at Glasgow University have conducted four double blind placebo controlled trials, carried out over a period of 18 years, specifically designed to examine the evidence for the hypothesis that any benefits of homeopathy are due to the placebo effect. All four trials involving a total of 252 patients have produced similar, positive results demonstrating that homeopathy has an effect greater than placebo and that these results are reproducible.
Further information on the evidence base for homeopathy is available on the Society of Homeopaths website: http://www.homeopathy-soh.org/research/evidence-base-homeopathy/