Homeopathy is a system of ‘complementary medicine’ in which it is claimed that substances that cause the symptoms of a disease in healthy people will cure the same disease in sick people. It was created in 1796 by Samuel Hahnemann, based on his doctrine of ‘like cures like’. Hahnemann suggested that the causes of disease were ‘miasms’. He believed that each disease had its own miasm and originally suggested there were only three; psora (itch), syphilis, psychosis. He believed that ‘psora’ was related to itching diseases of the skin, but was the cause of epilepsy, cancer, jaundice, deafness and cataracts. Subsequently, other miasms have been proposed and include tuberculosis and cancer. Hahnemann rejected the idea of a disease being cause by an invading entity, something we now know to be the case, with such entities as bacteria, viruses etc., causing specific diseases.
The Nazis investigated homeopathy and spent much on research into it, but did not obtain any positive results. Homeopathy has had a revival in recent decades, which is suspected to be mostly due to the New Age movement.
Homeopathy is not plausible and its dogmas are incompatible with all sorts of discoveries in biology, psychology, physics and chemistry. It has been criticised as unethical because it discourages the use of effective treatments, and the World Health Organisation has warned against using it to treat severe diseases such as Malaria and HIV.
The Australian National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) undertook a review of the technique, including the following:
- A systematic review of the evidence from available systematic reviews (i.e. an overview)
- A report on evidence submitted prior to the commencement of the review
- A report on evidence submitted during public consultation
- Consideration of published guidelines and other government reports
The NHMRC, after looking at all the evidence they had accumulated, came to the following conclusion:
Based on the assessment of the evidence of effectiveness of homeopathy, NHMRC concludes that there are no health conditions for which there is reliable evidence that homeopathy is effective.
Homeopathy should not be used to treat health conditions that are chronic, serious, or could become serious. People who choose homeopathy may put their health at risk if they reject or delay treatments for which there is good evidence for safety and effectiveness. People who are considering whether to use homeopathy should first get advice from a registered health practitioner. Those who use homeopathy should tell their health practitioner and should keep taking any prescribed treatments.
The National Health and Medical Research Council expects that the Australian public will be offered treatments and therapies based on the best available evidence.
Similar results have been obtained by the UK’s House of Commons Science and Technology Committee, the Swiss Federal Health Office.
Homeopathy has been shown to be no better than placebo, a well known effect in medicine. Placebo refers to a medical treatment in which there are no active ingredients. Despite this, such placebos can have a positive effect on a person’s health because people will think they are being treated. Placebos are often used in clinical trials of new drugs, to determine that the people receiving the drug treatment are not having a positive reaction simply because they are part of a trial. The patients, of course, are not told if they are having the drug or the placebo. The role of the placebo is to provide a baseline. If the patients receiving the placebo have a similar sort of improvement as those receiving the trial drug, then it is likely that the drug is ineffective. Conversely, if those receiving the drug have a vastly better improvement then it is likely the drug is effective.
So, homeopathy is bullshit, and is a tried and true method of separating the gullible from their cash.
If you want to see a comedian’s perspective on homeopathy and science, see Tim Minchin’s ‘Storm’ at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jIWj3tI-DXg