What is Homeopathy?
Homeopathy is a system of natural healthcare that has been in worldwide use for over 200 years. It is based on the principle of ‘like cures like’ – a substance taken in small amounts can cure the same symptoms it causes when taken in large amounts. It treats each person as a unique individual with the aim of stimulating their own healing ability. A homeopath selects the most appropriate medicine based on the individual’s specific symptoms and personal level of health.
Homeopathy can be used to treat both acute and chronic conditions in old and young, including babies and pregnant women. It is most often taken in tablet form and can be safely used along side conventional medicine.
How Popular is it?
Homeopathy forms a large and important part of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), a market which is forecast to grow at a rate of 23% every year.
It is used by 15% of UK citizens (around 9 million people) and trusted by 27% of German, 40% of French and 62% of Indian citizens.
In 2004, the World Health Organization stated that homeopathy was the second most used medical system worldwide.
It has been estimated that around 450 million people use and trust homeopathy worldwide, every year. That’s a lot of people making homeopathy their healthcare choice.
Isn’t it just placebo?
No, it is not. If homeopathy really were just a placebo, then we could not explain the following existence of positive, high quality, placebo-controlled trials. The most recent of these studies, published in 2014, found that homeopathic medicines, when prescribed during individualized treatment, are 1.5-2 times more likely to have a beneficial effect than placebo.
In laboratory experiments, homeopathic medicines have been shown to exert effects in white blood cells, cancer cells, tadpoles and plants.
Consider also the dramatic reduction (84%) in leptospirosis infection rate observed in 2007 when the Cuban government, which did not have time to produce vaccines for the entire population during an epidemic outbreak, gave a homeopathic medicine to 2.3 million people.
There are many other trials which demonstrate outcomes well beyond any conceivable placebo effect.
Why Try it?
Most people in the UK are brought up with conventional medicine. When they have tried everything that this has to offer and are no better, or are worse, or cannot tolerate the drugs and treatments, they look around for some other way to get better.
Qualitative research suggests that patients greatly value the therapeutic relationship with their homeopath, the length of consultations and the ‘whole person’ approach; being listened to and treated as an individual. Homeopathy is entirely patient-centred in its approach and patients greatly appreciate this.
There are currently 3,000 registered homeopaths in the UK, 7,400 homeopaths who are also qualified doctors, 60 homeopathic vets, 4 NHS funded homeopathic hospitals, several registers and 20 homeopathic schools. People who train in homeopathy tend to be in their 30s and 40s, are highly educated and moving into their second career. Registered homeopaths have undertaken rigorous academic and clinical training, are insured and adhere to a code of ethics.
Does it Boost Health?
Yes, it does, particularly with regard to chronic, long term conditions.
For example: an observational study at the NHS funded Bristol Homeopathic Hospital included over 6,500 consecutive patients with over 23,000 attendances in a six year period. 70% of follow up patients reported improved health, 50% reported major improvement. The largest improvements were reported in childhood eczema or asthma, and in inflammatory bowel disease, irritable bowel syndrome, menopausal problems and migraines.
Another example: in 2008 a study in Germany followed over 3,500 chronically ill adults and children receiving routine homeopathic care from GPs over an eight year period.9 At the start, 97% of participants were diagnosed with a chronic complaint with 95% declaring previous conventional treatment for their condition. The study found that, “patients who seek homeopathic treatment are likely to improve considerably” and that health benefits were steady and long term.
There are more studies of this nature, especially from France, Germany and Switzerland, all countries where homeopathy is widely used.
Who can Benefit?
Since its development over 200 years ago homeopathy has benefited millions of people, young and old, from all walks of life, in countries all over the world.
Research shows that 79% of the UK population are open to the idea of homeopathy and 15% of the population regularly use it.
Most people prefer to follow up on a recommendation from someone they know and trust. Research suggests that more people would use homeopathy if they knew more about it.
The thing that unites most of these people is that they have already tried everything that conventional medicine has to offer, yet continue to suffer.
How does it Work?
Homeopathy works on the principle of ‘like Cures like’ or the law of similars. This is well understood and is used in many systems of medicine including conventional medicine (such as immunology, allergy treatments and vaccinations). If a substance is capable of causing, it is also capable of curing. This principle was written about by Hippocrates (often called the father of medicine) “By similar things a disease is produced and through the application of the like is cured.”
However, as yet we do not have a scientific explanation to describe how homeopathic medicines work. The manufacture of homeopathic medicines involves multiple steps of dilution and succussion (vigorous shaking). This means that most (although not all) homeopathic medicines are unlikely to contain any molecules of the original substance. So, from a biochemical viewpoint, they shouldn’t work. The interesting challenge for science is that they do work.
Current research suggests that science is edging closer to that explanation. Ideas include holism and developments in the biology of complex systems, the phenomena of hormesis and epitaxy, nanoparticles and water structures, and the physico-chemical properties of high dilutions. Nobel Laureate Professor Luc Montagnier wrote, “High dilutions of something are not nothing. They are water structures which mimic the original molecules.” Structural information is being carried by some means that we are not yet able to clarify.
Taken from 7 Truths About Homeopathy, published in Natural Health Magazine, April 11, 2016.