How does it work

How does homeopathy work?

Homeopathy works on the principle of ‘Like Cures Like’ or the Law of Similars. This is well understood and is used in many systems of medicine including conventional medicine (E.g. immunology, allergy treatments and vaccinations). If a substance is capable of causing, it is also capable of curing. This principle was written about by Hippocrates (often called the father of medicine) “By similar things a disease is produced and through the application of the like is cured.”

However, as yet we do not have a scientific explanation to describe how homeopathic medicines work. The manufacture of homeopathic medicines involves multiple steps of dilution and succussion (vigorous shaking). This means that most (although not all) homeopathic medicines are unlikely to contain any molecules of the original substance. So, from a biochemical viewpoint, they shouldn’t work. The interesting challenge for science is that they do work.

Current research suggests that science is edging closer to that explanation. Ideas include holism and developments in the biology of complex systems, the phenomena of hormesis and epitaxy, nanoparticles and water structures, and the physico-chemical properties of high dilutions. Nobel Laureate Professor Luc Montagnier wrote, “High dilutions of something are not nothing. They are water structures which mimic the original molecules.”19 Structural information is being carried by some means that we are not yet able to clarify.

‘like cures like’

Some people say, ‘Homeopathy cannot work’ ‘Homeopathy does not work’

This is an understandable position to take on homeopathy, given that most homeopathic medicines are non-molecular. Even so, it is a prejudiced position; the phenomenon has been judged before it has been fully examined.

Saying, “Homeopathy does not work”, ignores the simple observation that it clearly does work. Millions of people who were not helped by conventional medicine continue to benefit from homeopathic treatment. Something therapeutically useful is clearly going on. Thousands of homeopaths using homeopathy in busy practices would not continue to do so if it did not work.

Independent researcher Professor R. G. Hahn, an internationally recognised expert in assessing medical research and meta-analyses, closely scrutinized the clinical trials on homeopathy and reached this verdict: “To conclude that homeopathy lacks clinical effect, more than 90% of the available clinical trials had to be disregarded.20

“To conclude that
homeopathy lacks clinical
effect, more than
90% of the available clinical trials had to be disregarded”

Do all scientists agree about homeopathy?

No, they do not all agree. Scientists argue over homeopathy as much as they do over many major questions in the world today, like climate change, the workings of the mind, or the immune system.

Many well respected scientists have found in favour of homeopathy, such as Professors Jacques Benveniste, Madeleine Ennis, Rustum Roy and Luc Montagnier. Many have then suffered ridicule and ostracism from the orthodox scientific community, not unlike that suffered by Galileo and Semmelweis.

There are many things scientists cannot explain. Science only recently explained how anaesthesia works. We relied on the clinical experience and our observations of it working, rather than a scientific understanding of the mechanism of action. Knowing how a medicine works has never been a pre-requisite for its use.

Scientists argue over homeopathy as
much as they do
over any other major questions

Isn’t homeopathy just placebo?

No, it is not. If homeopathy really is just a placebo, then how do we explain the following?

  1. The existence of positive, high quality, placebo-controlled trials? The most recent of these studies, published in 2014, found that homeopathic medicines, when prescribed during individualised treatment, are 1.5-2.0 times more likely to have a beneficial effect than placebo.15
  2. In laboratory experiments, homeopathic medicines have been shown to exert effects in white blood cells, cancer cells, tadpoles and plants (Belon’s work with histamine inhibited the allergic response in human white blood cells. Endler’s work with thyroxine slowed down the metamorphosis of tadpoles).23
  3. The observed effects of treatment on animals24 and babies.
  4. The dramatic reduction (84%) in Leptospirosis infection rate observed in 2007 when the Cuban government, which did not have time to produce vaccines for the entire population during an epidemic outbreak, gave a homeopathic medicine to 2.3 million people.25

There are many other trials which demonstrate outcomes well beyond any conceivable placebo effect.

1.5-2.0 times
likely to have a beneficial effect than placebo

Is it right to treat people with medicines if we don’t know how they work?

Care needs to be taken in the use of any medicine and research into its mode of action and clinical effectiveness needs to be implemented. Equally, it would seem unreasonable not to try and relieve suffering by the judicious use of such agents. Remember that 50% of treatments currently provided by the NHS have “unknown effectiveness.”16

“Doctors and patients need good scientific evidence to make informed decisions. But instead, companies run bad trials on their own drugs, which distort and exaggerate the benefits by design. When these trials produce unflattering results, the data is simply buried. All of this is perfectly legal. In fact, even government regulators withhold vitally important data from the people who need it most. Doctors and patient groups have stood by too, and failed to protect us. Instead, they take money and favours, in a world so fractured that medics and nurses are now educated by the drugs industry. The result: patients are harmed in huge numbers.”26

Find out about Homeopathy Awareness Week

50% of treatments currently provided by the NHS have “unknown effectiveness”