Homeopathy: The Real Deal or a Cheap Trick?
During the last decade, alternative medicine has been becoming more and more influential and accepted, even by conventional medical professionals. It is estimated that in the U.S alone 3.8 million adults and almost 1 million children are treated with homeopathic remedies yearly. Though it has been here for a long time (around 200 years), there are still a lot of questions about homeopathy, the most important one being – does this miracle medicine work wonders for our body, or is it just a cheap trick?
But first of all:
What is homeopathy?
It is a system of natural medicine in which one dosage of a natural remedy is given at a specific time, to treat the person, not the disease. No matter how many symptoms are manifested, the patient is treated only by a single remedy. The basic doctrines of homeopathy were defined by the German physician Samuel Hahnemann (1755-1843), who believed that conventional medicine does more harm than good and that homeopathy treats diseases naturally and effectively, without any harmful side effects.
The basic principals are that if a substance can cause the symptoms in a healthy person then it can cure a patient exhibiting the same symptoms – a homeopath considers the symptoms as a natural attempt by the body’s immune system to fight the disease. So, instead of suppressing them, a homeopath will prescribe remedies that support the symptoms in order to help the body defeat the disease.
Homeopaths claim that the remedies they prescribe are cheap and don’t have an expiration date, and even if the wrong one is administrated it cannot have harmful effects.
But is homeopathy the real deal?
Clinical trials have put to the test the research on homeopathy and researchers came to the conclusion that there is little or no evidence to support the claim that homeopathy is an effective approach to treating diseases. In a recent study published by the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council, it was concluded that there is no scientific basis to consider homeopathy successful in dealing with diseases. Namely, they analyzed 1,800 scientific papers in which it was claimed that homeopathy is indeed effective – only to conclude that the research in them is inconclusive, the number of participants in the studies limited and the data analysis done incorrectly. The councils CEO, professor Warwick Anderson claims that there just isn’t enough evidence to support the claim that homeopathy is effective and that the people who choose this approach are putting themselves in danger as they are not receiving the proper treatment. Even though it showed to be more effective than a placebo for diseases such as AIDS, chronic stress, ulcers and depression, there is no conclusive evidence to support that claim.
There have been many scientific and non-scientific studies dealing with this medical system. So far, none of them has offered evidence that “like cures like” (the philosophy behind the approach). What studies have shown is that homeopathic remedies, in combination with an empathic approach of the practitioner, can create a placebo effect which helps some feel better.
There are certain difficulties in providing a straightforward answer
A scientific difficulty in proving the positive effects of homeopathy is the incompatibility of alternative medicine with modern scientific methods. Namely, it is difficult to prove how a remedy consisting of little or no active ingredients can have any effect – which means it is a great challenge to clinically trial homeopathic remedies. Another problem is that it is difficult to confirm the ingredients of an extremely dilute remedy or to objectively measure its effects on the human body.
Another challenge is that the treatments are meant to be individual – there is no unique standard of prescribing homeopathic remedies, and as there are hundreds or even thousands of different remedies it is very difficult to study the effects of every single one of them in dealing with specific diseases.
Scientific studies funded by countries all over the world are providing the same answer – there is no evidence to support the claim that homeopathy is indeed successful in treating diseases. As the British Science and Technology Committee concluded, the principals of homeopathy are “scientifically impossible”.
But, when faced with a disease that doesn’t have a conventional cure, one must believe in the “scientifically impossible”.