Homeopathy is an alternative form of medicine that uses very small doses of harmful substances—which may cause symptoms in a healthy person—to treat those same symptoms in someone who’s ill. Some think that the “memory” of the original substance (usually chemicals or plant and animal material) retained in the highly diluted preparations will help provoke the body into action. Others say homeopathy is not only ineffective, it’s dangerous, especially when used as a substitute for approved treatments with a good record of safety and effectiveness.
Now, an extensive analysis of 225 controlled studies and some 1,800 papers—ranging from evidence provided by homeopathy interest groups to government guidelines —has confirmed what many researchers have long suspected: Homeopathy is not an effective way to treat any health conditions. Not muscle soreness, not sleep disturbances, not rheumatoid arthritis.
The study was conducted by Australia’s National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC), and to avoid bias, the evidence was assessed by an independent contractor. “No good-quality, well-designed studies with enough participants for a meaningful result reported either that homeopathy caused greater health improvements than placebo, or caused health improvements equal to those of another treatment,” the report found.
“There will be a tail of people who won’t respond to this report, and who will say it’s all a conspiracy of the establishment,” NHMRC Homeopathy Working Committee chair Paul Glasziou tells the Guardian. “But we hope there will be a lot of reasonable people out there who will reconsider selling, using or subsiding these substances.”
The Australian Homeopathic Association has responded with a statement, saying how the NHMRC should consider a large-scale economic evaluation of the benefits of a "more integrated system” that supports "patient choice." According to the AHA, an estimated one million Australians choose homeopathy as part of their healthcare.
However, as NHMRC CEO Warwick Anderson warned in a news release: "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.”