Jamie Hale

Jamie Hale

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Homeopathy: Under Investigation

by Jamie Hale

Claim: Homeopathy is an effective treatment procedure for various health problems

Investigation: Samuel Hahnemann, a German physician, developed homeopathy in the late 18th century. He developed homeopathy in response to his dissatisfaction with the conventional medicine of his time. Hahnemann’s homeopathy suggested two key principles. First, he asserted that "like cures like". In other words, a substance that produces certain symptoms in a healthy person can be used to cure similar symptoms in a sick person. Second, he claimed that smaller and smaller doses of the remedy would be even more effective. Hahnemann diluted the remedies in a process he named "potentization". Hahnemann would take an original natural substance and often dilute it numerous times. Between each dilution, the remedy was shaken. Shaking, supposedly released the healing energy of the remedy (1).
After investigating 107 controlled trials on homeopathy Kleijnen and and colleagues concluded (2)“At the moment the evidence of clinical trials is positive but not sufficient to draw definitive conclusions because most trials are of low methodological quality and because of the unknown role of publication bias. This indicates that there is a legitimate case for further evaluation of homoeopathy, but only by means of well performed trials.” Hill & Doyon investigated 40 randomized trials involving homeopathy (3). The researchers concluded, that in their opinions the evidence did not show homeopathy to be effective. In 1994 the National Council Against Health Fraud advised consumers not to buy homeopathic products or to patronize homeopathic practitioners (4). In addition they suggested, “basic scientists are urged to be proactive in opposing the marketing of homeopathic remedies because of conflicts with known physical laws. Those who study homeopathic remedies are warned to beware of deceptive practices in addition to applying sound research methodologies.” Shang and colleagues analyzed 110 trials of homoeopathy and 110 conventional medicine trials (5). The researchers concluded “ there was weak evidence for a specific effect of homoeopathic remedies, but strong evidence for specific effects of conventional interventions. This finding is compatible with the notion that the clinical effects of homoeopathy are placebo effects.”

Conclusion: A few studies implicating the positive benefits of homeopathy have appeared in major medical journals. But, the majority of positive studies have appeared in nonscientific journals, have been subject to bias, or poor research design. The overwhelmingly majority of data appearing in scientific journals shows that homeopathy is an ineffective treatment for any clinical condition. There is no good reason to use homeopathic products.


1-Wagner M. Is Homeopathy “New Science” or “New Age”? [online] September 18, 2009 http://www.homeowatch.org/articles/wagner.html
2-Kleijnen J, et. al. Clinical Trials of Homeopathy. BMJ 302(6772):316-23 1991
3-Hill C, Doyon F. Review of randomized trials of homeopathy. Rev Epidemiol Sante Publique 38(2):139-47 1990.
4-NCAHF Position Paper on Homeopathy. [online] September 18th, 2009 http://www.ncahf.org/pp/homeop.html
5-Shang A, et. al. Are the clinical effects of homeopathy placebo effects? Comparative study of placebo-controlled trials of homeopathy and allopathy. Lancet 366(9487):726-32 2005.