- Kimball C Atwood, MD
Kimball C Atwood, MD
- Assistant Clinical Professor
- Tufts University School of Medicine
Homeopathy is a pre-scientific practice based on two tenets: "like cures like," which holds that the correct remedy for a patient is a substance that, when given to a healthy person, produces symptoms similar to those of the patient; and "potentization," which holds that serial dilutions and "succussions" (shakings) render a "remedy" increasingly potent. Homeopathic preparations ("remedies") generally begin with minerals, plants, or animal substances that are pulverized, mixed with a water-alcohol solution, and then potentized, usually well past the point at which any of the original substance remains. The resulting diluent is applied to a sucrose pill and allowed to dry.
Current evidence finds that homeopathic remedies are no more effective than placebo [1-4].
This topic will focus on the practice of homeopathy in adults. Other complementary and alternative medicine treatments are discussed separately. (See "Overview of herbal medicine and dietary supplements" and "Complementary and alternative medicine in pediatrics" and "Complementary and alternative remedies for rheumatic disorders" and "Complementary and alternative therapies for cancer".)
Homeopathy is based primarily on two tenets: "like cures like" and "potentization."
"Like cures like" — Homeopathy was invented at the end of the 18th century by the German physician Samuel Christian Hahnemann. While translating William Cullen's Materia Medica into German, Hahnemann was bothered by Cullen's explanation for how cinchona bark (one of the few effective medicines at the time) cured malaria. According to Cullen, cinchona worked by the "strengthening power it exerts on the stomach" . Doubting this explanation, Hahnemann decided to try some himself. He experienced palpitations, anxiety, trembling, and diffuse joint stiffness (but not fever) lasting two to three hours each time he ingested cinchona . He reported feeling well afterwards. It was this experience that led Hahnemann to conclude "similia similibus curentur" or "like cures like." Hahnemann's explanation was that if two diseases with similar symptoms strike a patient, the "stronger" disease will invariably cure the weaker . Thus, by simulating the symptoms of a disease, homeopathic medicines "substitute themselves for the natural morbid affection, and thereby deprive the latter of all influence upon the vital force." Moreover, "all medicines cure, without exception, those diseases whose symptoms most nearly resemble their own."To continue reading this article, you must log in with your personal, hospital, or group practice subscription. For more information on subscription options, click below on the option that best describes you:
- Shang A, Huwiler-Müntener K, Nartey L, et al. Are the clinical effects of homoeopathy placebo effects? Comparative study of placebo-controlled trials of homoeopathy and allopathy. Lancet 2005; 366:726.
- Linde K, Scholz M, Ramirez G, et al. Impact of study quality on outcome in placebo-controlled trials of homeopathy. J Clin Epidemiol 1999; 52:631.
- Ernst E. A systematic review of systematic reviews of homeopathy. Br J Clin Pharmacol 2002; 54:577.
- Ernst E. Homeopathy: what does the "best" evidence tell us? Med J Aust 2010; 192:458.
- Cullen W. Materia Medica. In: History of Homœopathy: its Origin; its Conflict, Ameke, WE (Eds), Gould & Son, London 1885. p.103.
- Hahnemann, SC. Organon of Medicine, 5th ed, Dudegeon 1833. www.homeopathyhome.com/reference/organon/18.html#53 (Accessed on December 11, 2017).
- Fishbein M. The Rise and Fall of Homeopathy. In: Fads and Quackery in Healing, Fishbein M (Ed), Blue Ribbon Books, Inc., New York 1932. p.19.
- Davenas E, Beauvais F, Amara J, et al. Human basophil degranulation triggered by very dilute antiserum against IgE. Nature 1988; 333:816.
- Maddox J, Randi J, Stewart WW. "High-dilution" experiments a delusion. Nature 1988; 334:287.
- Ovelgönne JH, Bol AW, Hop WC, van Wijk R. Mechanical agitation of very dilute antiserum against IgE has no effect on basophil staining properties. Experientia 1992; 48:504.
- Hirst SJ, Hayes NA, Burridge J, et al. Human basophil degranulation is not triggered by very dilute antiserum against human IgE. Nature 1993; 366:525.
- Elia V, Baiano S, Duro I, et al. Permanent physico-chemical properties of extremely diluted aqueous solutions of homeopathic medicines. Homeopathy 2004; 93:144.
- Jonas WB, Jacobs J. Healing with Homeopathy: the Doctors’ Guide, Warner Books, New York, NY 1996. p.21.
- Roy R, Tiller WA, Bell I, Hoover MR. The structure of liquid water; Novel insights from materials research; Potential relevance to homeopathy. Mater Res Innovations 2005; 9:93.
- Barnes, PM, Bloom, B, Nahin, R. CDC National Health Statistics Report #12. Complementary and Alternative Medicine Use Among Adults and Children: United States, 2007. December 2008. https://nccih.nih.gov/news/camstats/2007 (Accessed on December 11, 2017).
- Clarke TC, Black LI, Stussman BJ, et al. Trends in the use of complementary health approaches among adults: United States, 2002-2012. Natl Health Stat Report 2015; :1.
- Tuffs A. Three out of four Germans have used complementary or natural remedies. BMJ 2002; 325:990.
- Prasad R. Homoeopathy booming in India. Lancet 2007; 370:1679.
- Kayne, SB. Homeopathic Pharmacy. Elsevier Ltd, Philadelphia 2006. p.93. http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=w2IFcHJYTSYC&pg=PA52&dq=homeopathic+proving+method#v=onepage&q=succussion&f=false (Accessed on December 11, 2017).
- Shelton JW. Homeopathy: How it Really Works, Prometheus Books, Amherst, NY 2004. p.110.
- Pettypiece, S. Smell-Loss Drug Escaped FDA Review Under Homeopathic Label. https://web.archive.org/web/20151102220208/http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=newsarchive&sid=aUjZT68DlqiI (Accessed on December 11, 2017).
- Chakraborti D, Mukherjee SC, Saha KC, et al. Arsenic toxicity from homeopathic treatment. J Toxicol Clin Toxicol 2003; 41:963.
- Tumir H, Bosnir J, Vedrina-Dragojević I, et al. Preliminary investigation of metal and metalloid contamination of homeopathic products marketed in Croatia. Homeopathy 2010; 99:183.
- Kent, JT. Lectures on Homepathic Philosophy, 6th, B. Jain Publishers Ltd, New Delhi 2005. p.121.
- Brien S, Lewith G, Bryant T. Ultramolecular homeopathy has no observable clinical effects. A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled proving trial of Belladonna 30C. Br J Clin Pharmacol 2003; 56:562.
- Walach H, Köster H, Hennig T, Haag G. The effects of homeopathic belladonna 30CH in healthy volunteers -- a randomized, double-blind experiment. J Psychosom Res 2001; 50:155.
- Vickers AJ, van Haselen R, Heger M. Can homeopathically prepared mercury cause symptoms in healthy volunteers? A randomized, double-blind placebo-controlled trial. J Altern Complement Med 2001; 7:141.
- Vickers A, McCarney R, Fisher P, van Haselen R. Can homeopaths detect homeopathic medicines? A pilot study for a randomised, double-blind, placebo controlled investigation of the proving hypothesis. Br Homeopath J 2001; 90:126.
- Dantas F, Fisher P, Walach H, et al. A systematic review of the quality of homeopathic pathogenetic trials published from 1945 to 1995. Homeopathy 2007; 96:4.
- Jonas WB, Jacobs J. Healing with Homeopathy: the Doctors’ Guide, Warner Books, New York 1996. p.170.
- Junod SW. An alternative perspective: homeopathic drugs, Royal Copeland, and federal drug regulation. Food Drug Law J 2000; 55:161.
- Vickers AJ, van Haselen RA, Pang L, Berkovitz S. Inter-rater reliability of symptom repertorisation: a pragmatic empirical study. Br Homeopath J 2000; 89:188.
- Brien S, Prescott P, Owen D, Lewith G. How do homeopaths make decisions? An exploratory study of inter-rater reliability and intuition in the decision making process. Homeopathy 2004; 93:125.
- Barrett, S. Homeopathic Glossary. HomeoWatch website. Revised March 26, 2009. http://www.homeowatch.org/basic/glossary.html (Accessed on December 11, 2017).
- Jonas, WB, Jacobs, J. Healing with Homeopathy: the Doctors' Guide, Warner Brooks, New York 1996. p.21.
- Grabia S, Ernst E. Homeopathic aggravations: a systematic review of randomised, placebo-controlled clinical trials. Homeopathy 2003; 92:92.
- Little, D. Nosodes in Homeopathy. Simillimum.com; Homeopathic Online Education website. 2007. http://www.simillimum.com/education/little-library/constitution-temperaments-and-miasms/nih/article.php (Accessed on December 11, 2017).
- Hering, C. The Homoeopathic Domestic Physician, 7th ed, Boericke, FE (Ed). Hahnemann Publishing House, Philadelphia 1883. p.387. http://books.google.com/books?id=eSu0AAAAIAAJ&pg=PA390&lpg=PA390&dq=constantine+Hering+vaccination&source=bl&ots=m2x5PBjS0F&sig=7PmIFrLyOxy4UKhfJmz3THR_LbQ&hl=en&ei=DOnyS-uNO8SBlAfr_bzzDA&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=7&ved=0CDIQ6AEwBg#v=onepage&q=small%20pox&f=false (Accessed on December 11, 2017).
- Ernst E, White AR. Homoeopathy and immunization. Br J Gen Pract 1995; 45:629.
- Schmidt K, Ernst E. MMR vaccination advice over the Internet. Vaccine 2003; 21:1044.
- Lee AC, Kemper KJ. Homeopathy and naturopathy: practice characteristics and pediatric care. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med 2000; 154:75.
- Minutes of a meeting of the Connecticut Homeopathic Medical Examining Board, March 12, 2003. http://www.ct.gov/dph/lib/dph/phho/homeopaths/minutes/homeopathic_medical_examining_board_minutes_2000-2006.pdf (Accessed on December 11, 2017).
- Owen D. Principles and Practice of Homeopathy: The Therapeutic and Healing Process. Singing Dragon, London 2015. https://books.google.com/books?id=xNhjCAAAQBAJ&pg=PA59&lpg=PA59&dq=james+tyler+kent+constitution&source=bl&ots=I1BYwy53jv&sig=YqqaqboCnM9yQo-hp-cydJswouw&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiPm_nW2YLYAhWDWBQKHSfzCKEQ6AEITDAG#v=onepage&q=james%20tyler%20kent%20constitution&f=false (Accessed on December 11, 2017).
- NCCAM website. What are the major types of complementary and alternative medicine? Updated Feb 2007. http://web.archive.org/web/20130102043814/http://nccam.nih.gov/health/whatiscam/ (Accessed on December 11, 2017).
- Ullman, D. Prophylaxis. In: A Homeopathic Perspective on Infectious Disease: Effective Alternatives to Antibiotics. Homeopathic Educational Services website. https://homeopathic.com/a-homeopathic-perspective-on-infectious-disease-effective-alternatives-to-antibiotics/ (Accessed on December 11, 2017).
- Barrett, S. Stay Away from Homeopathic Flu Vaccine "Substitutes." HomeoWatch website. 2004. http://www.homeowatch.org/articles/fluvax.html (Accessed on December 11, 2017).
- Barrett, S. Bogus Homeowpathic "Smallpox Shield" Stopped. HomeoWatch website. 2003. http://www.homeowatch.org/reg/gray.html (Accessed on December 11, 2017).
- Garsombke, K. Alternative Remedies for Anthrax: Homeopathy provides options. Utne Reader Online. November 2, 2001. http://web.archive.org/web/20011103004652/http://www.utne.com/bSociety.tmpl?command=search&db=dArticle.db&eqheadlinedata=Homeopathic+Remedies+for+Anthrax (Accessed on December 11, 2017).
- Ghosh, P. Homeopathic practices 'risk lives'. BBC News. 13 July 2006. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/5178488.stm (Accessed on December 11, 2017).
- Association of Accredited Naturopathic Medical Colleges website. Academic Curriculum. http://www.aanmc.org/education/academic-curriculum.php.
- Homeopathic Academy of Naturopathic Physicians website. http://www.hanp.net/ (Accessed on December 11, 2017).
- Linde K, Clausius N, Ramirez G, et al. Are the clinical effects of homeopathy placebo effects? A meta-analysis of placebo-controlled trials. Lancet 1997; 350:834.
- Linde K, Melchart D. Randomized controlled trials of individualized homeopathy: a state-of-the-art review. J Altern Complement Med 1998; 4:371.
- Lüdtke R, Rutten AL. The conclusions on the effectiveness of homeopathy highly depend on the set of analyzed trials. J Clin Epidemiol 2008; 61:1197.
- Ioannidis JP. Why most published research findings are false: author's reply to Goodman and Greenland. PLoS Med 2007; 4:e215.
- Beyerstein, BL. Social and Judgmental Biases that Make Inert Treatments Seem to Work. Scientific Review of Alternative Medicine 1999; 3:20. Available at: http://www.sram.org/0302/bias.html (Accessed on January 31, 2011).
- Altunç U, Pittler MH, Ernst E. Homeopathy for childhood and adolescence ailments: systematic review of randomized clinical trials. Mayo Clin Proc 2007; 82:69.
- Coulter MK, Dean ME. Homeopathy for attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder or hyperkinetic disorder. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2007; :CD005648.
- Passalacqua G, Bousquet PJ, Carlsen KH, et al. ARIA update: I--Systematic review of complementary and alternative medicine for rhinitis and asthma. J Allergy Clin Immunol 2006; 117:1054.
- McCarney RW, Linde K, Lasserson TJ. Homeopathy for chronic asthma. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2004; :CD000353.
- Perry R, Terry R, Ernst E. A systematic review of homoeopathy for the treatment of fibromyalgia. Clin Rheumatol 2010; 29:457.
- Smith CA. Homoeopathy for induction of labour. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2003; :CD003399.
- Ernst E. Homeopathic prophylaxis of headaches and migraine? A systematic review. J Pain Symptom Manage 1999; 18:353.
- van der Wouden JC, Bueving HJ, Poole P. Preventing influenza: an overview of systematic reviews. Respir Med 2005; 99:1341.
- Vickers AJ, Smith C. Homoeopathic Oscillococcinum for preventing and treating influenza and influenza-like syndromes. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2006; :CD001957.
- Milazzo S, Russell N, Ernst E. Efficacy of homeopathic therapy in cancer treatment. Eur J Cancer 2006; 42:282.
- Pilkington K, Kirkwood G, Rampes H, et al. Homeopathy for anxiety and anxiety disorders: a systematic review of the research. Homeopathy 2006; 95:151.
- Pilkington K, Kirkwood G, Rampes H, et al. Homeopathy for depression: a systematic review of the research evidence. Homeopathy 2005; 94:153.
- Smolle J. Homeopathy in dermatology. Dermatol Ther 2003; 16:93.
- Wikipedia contributors. Regulation and prevalance of homeopathy. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. May 28, 2010. Available at: http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Regulation_and_prevalence_of_homeopathy&oldid=364611477 (Accessed on January 31, 2011).
- World Health Organization website. "Legal Status of Traditional Medicine and Complementary/Alternative Medicine: A Worldwide Review" World Health Organization. 2001. http://apps.who.int/medicinedocs/en/d/Jh2943e/ (Accessed on December 11, 2017).
- Food and Drug Administration. CPG Sec. 400.400 Conditions Under Which Homeopathic Drugs May be Marketed. Revised March 1995. https://www.fda.gov/ICECI/ComplianceManuals/CompliancePolicyGuidanceManual/ucm074360.htm (Accessed on December 11, 2017).
- Homeopathic Pharmacopoeia of the United States website. Criteria for eligibility. http://www.hpus.com/eligibility.php (Accessed on December 11, 2017).
- Homeopathy: regulation of homeopathic treatments. https://nccih.nih.gov/health/homeopathy#hed6 (Accessed on December 11, 2017).
- Council for Homeopathic Certification website. http://www.homeopathicdirectory.com/ (Accessed on June 01, 2010).
- NASH website. http://www.homeopathy.org/index.html (Accessed on June 01, 2010).
- HANP website. http://www.hanp.net/ (Accessed on July 01, 2010).
- American Association of Naturopathic Physicians website. Naturopathic Medicine FAQs. http://www.naturopathic.org/natfaqs (Accessed on December 11, 2017).
- BBC News online. Homeopathy prescriptions falling. July 2008. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/7523302.stm.
- MHRA website. What we regulate: Medicines. Page last modified 01 October 2005. Available at: http://www.mhra.gov.uk/Aboutus/Whatweregulate/Medicines/index.htm (Accessed on January 31, 2011).
- House of Commons. Science and Technology Committee. Evidence Check 2: Homeopathy. Fourth Report of Session 2009-10. Printed 8 February, 2010. http://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-archive/science-technology/s-t-homeopathy-inquiry/ (Accessed on December 11, 2017).