Updated: Oct 27
If there's one type of medicine that has been maligned, misrepresented, and misunderstood more than any other, it's homeopathy. Even the Royal Family didn't escape criticism when King Charles, at the time Prince Charles, became a patron for a group that regulates and promotes the use of homeopathic medicines.
"Science" (with the big S and quotation marks) has deemed homeopathy a fraud, a snake oil salesman's gold mine, and nothing more than a placebo. But is the real science really that straightforward?
Is homeopathy really ineffective or, even worse, dangerous? Are there NO scientific studies that show that homeopathy has benefit?
Let's explore this complex medicine and try to see what the real science says on the subject of homeopathy.
What is Homeopathy?
Homeopathy is a form of medicine founded in the late 1700s by Samuel Hahnemann, a renowned German physician. The basis of homeopathy is "like cures like". This means that a substance that causes a disease or illness in a large quantity will treat it in a much smaller amount.
Take coffee, or caffeine for example. Everyone knows that a cup, or 5, of a strong brew will wake you up and get you ready to startle day in no time. In the framework of homeopathy, a small dose of coffee (homeopathically prepared) will treat insomnia.
Another principle of homeopathy is the law of minimal dosing. This means that the lower a dose of medicine is, the more effective it will be. For example, when you take a medication, your healthcare provider will prescribe a specific amount. Let's say, 6 mL twice a day for 10 days.
With homeopathy, you wouldn't take such a high dose (gasp). Such high doses would be deemed more ineffective and maybe even toxic for the body. Homeopathic preparations would contain much less, much much less, than 6 mL of a substance. In fact, that's one of the controversies surrounding the efficacy of homeopathy.
Why is Homeopathy so Controversial?
Homeopathy has been the center of controversy for decades. If you do a Google search for homeopathy, one of the first pages to come up will be the respectable National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. This organization will lecture you on the dangers and ineffectiveness of homeopathy.
One of the biggest controversies of homeopathy is that most conventional pharmaceutically trained health care practitioners believe that it is ineffective. The is due the fact that most homeopathic medicines, have a low or no amount of active ingredient in them.
There's a constant called Avogadro's number. This number represents the number of atoms of molecules in one mole of substance, a scientific standard unit of measure. In homeopathy, medicines are dissolved or diluted in water, alcohol or another liquid, and shaken. This method is often repeated over and over again with multiple dilutions and shakings (succussions).
By the time you get to a dilution above 12c, there is no original substance in the diluted and succussed homeopathic preparation. This means that, in terms of chemistry alone. these dilutions don't have any active medicinal ingredient.
This causes opponents of homeopathy to claim that the medicine itself is ineffective because there is no medical ingredients in highly diluted preparations.
Another concern that conventional practitioners have with homeopathy is that it may be dangerous. Some homeopathic medicines are made from dangerous and even deadly substances like the poisonous nightshade belladonna or deadly aconite.
The concerns are obvious especially if your child consumes a lot of a homeopathic medicine that contains these deadly ingredients.
If you go back to the NCCIH, you'll even see a few paragraphs of the results of a 2015 Australian government assessment of homeopathy stating that it is ineffective for any disease whatsoever. Case closed right? Well, not so much. In fact, there are plenty of studies, and anecdotal evidence, that homeopathy is not only effective but it is powerful.