By Dr Ananya Mandal, MD
As a branch of alternative medicine, homeopathy has been the subject of much controversy and scepticism in the world of conventional medicine.
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 these therapies and concerns exist that the therapy deters people form seeking evidence-based advice and receiving the diagnosis and medication they require to treat their illness. 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 may serial 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 homeopaths also advise against conventional vaccinations and argue that homeopathic substances called “nosodes” such as pus or bacteria from feces or sputum should be used instead. Many modern homeopaths still use these nosodes, despite a lack of evidence to support any health benefits.
Homeopathy is commonly practiced in some countries, while it is rarely used in others. Similarly, in some countries no particular educational requirements are required to practice the profession, while in others licences or degrees form accredited universities are needed.
For example, in India, homeopathy is one of the nation’s medical systems and practitioners must have a recognised diploma in homeopathy as well as being listed on the Central Register of Homeopathy. In Germany, homeopaths must also attend a three-year course but in France, and Denmark licences can be ordered to diagnose or dispense of any product that is intended to treat disease.
France, the United Kingdom, Denmark and Luxembourg all fund homeopathy as part of the public health service while in Belgium, no such financial cover is available. In Austria, scientific proof that a substance is effective is required if medical treatments are to be reimbursed and homeopathy is not listed as reimbursable.
Reviewed by Sally Robertson, BSc
Last Updated: Sep 10, 2014