Homeopathy is a natural form of medicine used by over 200 million people worldwide to treat both acute and chronic conditions. It is based on the principle of ‘like cures like’. In other words, a substance taken in small amounts will cure the same symptoms it causes if taken in large amounts.
The holistic nature of homeopathy means each person is treated as a unique individual and their body, mind, spirit and emotions are all considered in the management and prevention of disease. Taking all these factors into account a homeopath will select the most appropriate medicine based on the individual’s specific symptoms and personal level of health to stimulate their own healing ability.
Homeopathic medicines are safe to use as they rarely cause side-effects. This means when used appropriately under the guidance of a qualified homeopath they can be taken by people of all ages, including babies, children and pregnant or breastfeeding women.
What does homeopathic treatment involve?
Homeopathic doctors work in the same way as any other conventional doctors. History taking, examination and investigation are all important in establishing the diagnosis. However, as well as asking about your symptoms, a homeopathic doctor will be interested in you as an individual and the unique way in which your symptoms affect you.
The homeopathic consultation
Questions about your lifestyle, eating habits and preferences, temperament, personality, sleep patterns and medical history help the doctor to form a complete picture of you. This picture will be matched to the symptoms of your illness in order to prescribe a particular type and strength of homeopathic medicine.
As a guide your first appointment could take anything up to an hour, with follow-up appointments typically lasting 30 minutes. This does vary depending on the practitioner and the setting in which they work (NHS appointments may be shorter for example).
Preparing for your appointment
To get the most out of a consultation, it is helpful to make some notes beforehand and to think through all the issues that are affecting your health. Some homeopathic practitioners ask new patients to complete a questionnaire before their first appointment. This is a helpful way of saving time and to your advantage to do so if requested.
At the end of the consultation your homeopathic doctor will give you a prescription and advise you how often to take the medicine. Homeopathy is usually taken in tablet or pillule, but is also available in liquid and powder form. You may be prescribed a homeopathic gel or cream for topical use as well.
The evidence base
Randomised controlled trials
Up to the end of 2014, a total of 104 papers reporting good-quality placebo-controlled randomised controlled trials (RCTs) in homeopathy (on 61 different medical conditions) have been published in peer-reviewed journals. 41% of these RCTs have reported a balance of positive evidence, 5% a balance of negative evidence, and 54% have not been conclusively positive or negative.
The medical conditions for which positive RCTs of homeopathy have been reported include the following: allergies and upper respiratory tract infections; childhood diarrhoea; hay fever; influenza; insomnia; rheumatic disease; sinusitis; vertigo.
Patient outcome studies
Bristol Homeopathic Hospital, 2005
In 2005, the largest service evaluation of homeopathic treatment reported that 70% of 6,500 follow-up patients experienced improvement in their health. Eczema, asthma, migraine, irritable bowel syndrome, arthritis, depression and chronic fatigue syndrome – difficult chronic problems suffered by many people – all improved. Download full paper
Five-hospital study, 2008
The most recent hospitals outcome study confirms the findings of earlier studies. A total of 1,602 patients were seen at follow-up appointments in all five UK NHS homeopathic hospitals during one month in 2007. The study found that eczema is currently the most common referral to homeopathy by NHS doctors. Other commonly treated complaints were chronic fatigue, menopausal disorder and osteoarthritis. Download full paper