By Dr Ananya Mandal, MD
The use of homeopathic remedies to treat health conditions is regarded as unethical by many conventional medical practitioners.
No scientific evidence yet exists to support the efficacy of homeopathic therapies and concerns exist over whether the discipline deters people from seeking evidence-based advice and receiving the diagnosis and medication they require. Failure to correctly diagnose and manage a condition can potentially prevent lives from being saved.
Homeopathic remedies often contain a substance that has undergone so many repeated dilutions that almost none of the original molecule exists and many believe the principles on which the therapy is based are not scientifically plausible. In a House of Common Science and Technology report from 2010, homeopathic remedies were described as being no more effective than placebo.
Some homeopathic remedies contain substances such as arsenic or poison ivy and serious adverse effects such as seizure or even death have been associated with the use of some treatments. In 2009, the United States Food and Drugs Administration issued a warning to not use a Zicam cold remedy containing zinc gluconate because it can permanently impair people’s sense of smell. Zicam was launched without a New Drug Application (NDA) under a section in the FDA’s guidelines entitled “Conditions Under Which Homeopathic Drugs May be Marketed.” However, the FDA wrote to Zicam to say the policy is not applicable when the substance poses a health risk to consumers.
Concerns also exist over homeopaths criticizing and underestimating the value of mainstream modern medicine. Homeopaths claim that conventional medicine will worsen disease by driving the disease deeper into the body – a process they refer to as “suppression.” Some homeopaths also advise against conventional vaccinations and argue that homeopathic substances called “nosodes” such as pus or bacteria form feces or sputum should be used instead. Many modern homeopaths still use these nosodes, despite a lack of evidence to support any health benefits. Cases of homeopaths advising against the use of antimalarial medication have also been reported, advice which is dangerous for any visitor to the tropics to follow.
Reviewed by Sally Robertson, BSc
Last Updated: Sep 10, 2014