Homeopathy (also homoeopathy) is a form of alternative medicine first defined by Samuel Hahnemann in the 18th century. Homeopathic practitioners maintain that an ill person can be treated using a substance that can produce, in a healthy person, symptoms similar to those of the illness. According to homeopaths, serial dilution, with shaking between each dilution, removes the toxic effects of the "remedy" while the qualities of the substance are retained by the diluent (water, sugar, or alcohol). The end product is often so diluted that it is indistinguishable from pure water, sugar or alcohol. Practitioners select treatments according to a patient consultation that explores the physical and psychological state of the patient, both of which are considered important to selecting the remedy.
Around the World
In many countries, the laws that govern the regulation and testing of conventional drugs do not apply to homeopathic remedies. Current usage around the world varies from two percent of people in the United Kingdom and the United States using homeopathy in any one year] to 15 percent in India, where it is considered part of Indian traditional medicine. In the UK, the National Health Service runs five homeopathic hospitals, and in the 1990s, between 5.9 and 7.5 percent of English family doctors are reported to have prescribed homeopathic remedies, a figure rising to at least 12 percent in Scotland. However, the number of homeopathic remedies prescribed by GPs in England dropped by over 40% between 2005 and 2007, with homeopathy accounting for only 0.006% of the total prescribing budget. In 2005, around 100,000 physicians used homeopathy worldwide, making it one of the most popular and widely used complementary therapies.
Homeopathy has been a controversial subject for a variety of reasons. There are concerns around proving the efficacity as well as questions about whether results are due to a placebo effect. However, in recent years, many studies have confirmed the value and efficacity of homeopathic treatment. Here are a selection of a few interesting studies - many more can be found on the websites of some of the governing bodies or by online searches.
Homeopathy in Healthcare - This report was commissioned by the Swiss health authorities to inform decision-making on the further inclusion of homoeopathy in the list of services covered by statutory health. It offers a differentiated evaluation of the practice of homoeopathy in health care. It confirms homoeopathy as a valuable addition to the conventional medical landscape – a status it has been holding for a long time in practical health care. The 300 page report, looks at all the scientific literature in homeopathy and summarises 22 reviews, 20 of which show positive results for homeopathy.
Extreme homeopathic dilutions retain starting materials: A nanoparticulate perspective - Indian researchers examined the possibility that homeopathic remedies work because of the principles of nanotechnology. Homoeopathy faces controversies because of its high dilutions beyond Avogadro’s number such as 30c and 200c (1060 and 10400 respectively). This study has demonstrated the presence of nanoparticles of the starting materials and their aggregates even at extremely high dilutions, using market samples of metal-derived medicines from two reputable manufacturers in India.
Cytotoxic effects of ultra-diluted remedies on breast cancer cells - a research paper published in the Internation Journal of Oncology in February 2010 - they conducted an in vitro study to determine if products proscribed by a clinic in India had any effect on breast cancer cell lines. The findings demonstrated biological activity of these natural products when presented at ultra-diluted doses and the researchers said that further in-depth studies with additional cell lines and animal models are warranted to explore the clinical applicability of these agents.