FAQs About Homœopathy
Answers to frequently-asked-questions about homœopathy for journalists, researchers, students and interested members of the general public may be obtained from the resources listed below (click the selected item to download the information to your computer).
Q: How Does Homœopathy Work ?
Homœopathy works by using minute doses of substances which, when taken in large quantities, cause symptoms similar to the illness being treated. Examples of the application of this principle are:
- The use of homœopathically prepared red onion (Allium Cepa) which, in a crude dose, would cause watery eyes and sneezing, may be used for symptoms of hay fever and some allergies.
- The use of homœopathically prepared coffee (Coffea) as a treatment for insomnia.
The use of Ritalin, a stimulant drug for children suffering from hyperactivity, is an example of the unacknowledged application of the homœopathic principle by contemporary conventional medicine.
Efforts to explain scientifically how homœopathy works have not been successful to date, but similarly some drug actions in conventional medicine have not always been understood either. For example, the actions of salicylic acid (aspirin) and paracetamol (Panadol) have been used in orthodox medicine for over 70 years, but have only been fully understood since the 1980's.
If a homœopathic medicine is analysed, a pharmacologist would say it consists of water, ethanol and sugar. While such a description is true, it ignores the result that follows from taking the medicine. A chemist, for example, would accurately describe a compact disk as an object made of plastic and various chemical coatings, but would not detect the presence of music as part of the testing process. Both descriptions are accurate but incomplete.
Q: Can the Homœopathic Effect be Attributed to Placebo ?
This is the topic of many discussions about homœopathy. Homœopathy is effective on animals and children, which discounts the placebo theory. Research data is available in The Lancet Linde, K. et al. (1997). "Are the clinical effects of homœopathy placebo effect? A meta-analysis of placebo-controlled trials." Lancet vol. 350 pp. 834-843. The trend of the studies is that homœopathy is effective above placebo and requires further study.
Q: What Risks are Involved With the Use of Homœopathy ?
Homœopathy carries few risks in its practice, when compared to a number of other therapies. The action of homœopathic medicines is gentle due to the method of their preparation and when administered by a registered homœopath. Registered homœopaths are trained to the Australian Government's prescribed educational standards; they adhere to the register's Code of Professional Conduct and prescribed standards of practice.
Q: Is Homœopathy Covered By Health Funds ?
Q: What Successes has Homœopathy Had ?
Homœopathy first gained increasing acceptance in Britain, Europe and the United States in the 19th and early 20th century, owing to its success in treating people during various infectious disease epidemics. The death rates from cholera, scarlet fever, typhoid, and yellow fever, following homœopathic treatment, were significantly lower than from the orthodox medical treatment of the era.
For example, of 61 patients treated homœopathically at the London Homœopathic Hospital during the cholera epidemic of 1854, there were 15 deaths - whereas at the Middlesex hospital, where conventional treatments were given, there were 123 deaths from 231 cases. The comparative death rates were 16.4% for homœopathic treatment and 53.2% for conventional treatment. (British Homœopathic Journal, October 1989, Vol.78)
The yellow fever epidemic in New Orleans and the Mississippi Valley in 1878 is another example of homœopathic success. In New Orleans, 1945 cases were treated homœopathically with 110 deaths (mortality of 5.6%). In the rest of the South, 1969 cases were treated homœopathically with 151 deaths (mortality of 7.7%). This is a favourable comparison with a mortality rate for conventional treatment of at least 16%. (Harris Coulter, [1982, 2nd edition] Divided Legacy: The Conflict between Homœopathy and the American Medical Association, pp.298-302)
The effectiveness of homœopathic treatment for the 1918 'flu epidemic in USA is particularly striking. Julian Winston's  The Faces of Homœopathy: An illustrated history of the first 200 years (pp.236-237) quotes from the findings in W.A. Dewey's article "A Chorus of Fifty in Harmony" in the Journal of the American Institute of Homœopathy in 1921:
- A Philadelphian Homœopath, Dean Pearson collected 26,795 cases treated homœopathically with a mortality rate of 1.05% compared with a rate of 30% for conventional treatment.
- Frank Wieland M.D. of Chicago told how in a plant of 8000 workers there was only one death. Gelsemium was practically the only remedy prescribed and neither aspirin nor vaccines were used.
Q: Is it Homœopathy or Homeopathy ?
The word homœopathy was first used by Dr Samuel Hahnemann (1755-1843), a German physician and chemist, and the founder of this system of medicine. The word is derived from the Greek words homoios meaning 'like' (similar) and pathosmeaning 'suffering' to indicate the underlying basis of homœopathy. The cornerstone of homœopathic philosophy is the 'Law of Similars'. This principle is based on a long-held belief, also held by the ancient Greeks and Romans, that substances that produce symptoms in a healthy individual can be used to treat similar symptoms in a healthy individual can be used to treat similar symptoms in a sick person.
The original spelling of the word always used 'œo'.
In the 1800s, practitioners and supporters of homœopathy were called 'homœopathists'.
In more recent times, especially in America, the origins of the word are gradually being forgotten and the spelling is often simplified to homeopathy. This is pronounced as home-e-opathy (NOT home-opathy).
Therefore you will sometimes see the same word with two different spellings, sometimes even within the one article. But, for those who may be confused, 'homœopathy' is the same as 'homeopathy'.
In April 2001 the Australian Homœopathic Association held a national referendum of its membership regarding the preferred spelling by the Association, and the use of the word in all AHA documentation and publications. The result of the vote was that the 'œo' spelling should be retained.
Q: Is There Any Research Available on Homœopathy ?
While scepticism of the efficacy of small doses of medicine is understandable from a strictly rational perspective, it ignores the large body of evidence from basic science, controlled clinical studies, epidemiological data, clinical outcomes trials, and historical review of the field. Some highly respected basic scientific research has begun to verify the claims that homœopaths have made for over 200 years, and that various extremely low concentrations of biological agents can exhibit powerful biochemical effects. (Scientists have no way at present to assess the effects of less than a molecule of a substance).
The European Council of Homeopaths (ECCH) states in 'Information about homeopathy', September 2009: "Appropriate research methodologies are needed to test the effect of homeopathic treatment. Methodologies used to test conventional drugs are of limited use in testing the effect of homeopathic treatment. The main reason for this is the fact that homeopathic medicines are prescribed on an individual basis for each patient. For example: 10 patients suffering from e.g. migraine headaches may often each be prescribed a different homeopathic medicine. It is not possible to test the effect of one single homeopathic remedy in the treatment of a group of patients with the same medical diagnosis, as is often done in research in conventional medicine. Randomised placebo-controlled trials therefore only have limited value in evaluating the effect of homeopathic treatment.
Furthermore, because of the holistic approach of homeopathy the particular symptoms of a diagnosed condition may not appear to respond quickly to treatment even though the overall health of a patient will begin to improve as a precursor to the diagnosed disease symptoms beginning to disappear. For example, in a trial of homeopathy for the treatment of eczema, a patient's eczema may not improve during the trial period. Several factors need to be taken into account: the trial period may be too short, and there may be other changes, e.g. the patient may report feeling generally better, having more energy, and sleeping better. It is the observation of homeopaths that these changes often precede improvement in the eczema...".
There is a large body of research on homœopathy. For more information go to 'Education - Research' on this website.