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Last Updated: Tuesday, 30 August 2005, 11:31 GMT 12:31 UK
Do homeopathic remedies work?
Homeopathic kit
Do you think homeopathic remedies are no better than dummy drugs?

A Swiss-UK team compared a series of trials which looked at the effects of homeopathy, placebo treatments and conventional medicines and found no convincing evidence homeopathic remedies worked any better than a dummy drug.

Medical journal The Lancet says doctors should more honest about the lack of benefits, however advocates of homeopathy maintain the therapy does work.

Have you ever, or are you currently using homeopathic remedies? Do you think homeopathy works? Send us your comments and experiences.

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

The following comments reflect the balance of opinion we have received so far:

Practitioners of "modern medicine" have an interest in promoting their way of medication as this is a multi-billion dollar industry
Ahmad Farooq, Islamabad, Pakistan
I don't know how you define "it works" and "cure". Nevertheless, my problem got a lot better by using homeopathic medicines. I think that the so-called practitioners of "modern medicine" have an interest in promoting their way of medication as this is a multi-billion dollar industry and they make a lot of money. Therefore, any contender who threatens to share their profits is thoroughly discouraged.
Ahmad Farooq, Islamabad, Pakistan

This kind of approach is to be found everywhere, it is not just homeopathic medicine, but the various "alternative" practices such as therapeutic touch and reikki which attempt to make a living by misleading the public.
Eddie B, Northern Ireland

Anybody with even the most basic knowledge of chemistry or pharmacology will know that homoeopathy cannot possibly work any better than placebo, so these results are no surprise. However, it would be a mistake to underestimate placebos. Many minor illnesses respond excellently to placebos, so I would love to see more use of homoeopathy on the NHS.
Adam, London, UK

I worked for a well known homeopathy company for many years and was able to sample products on regular basis. In doing so, I found the lavender, citrus and rosemary oils very good for their particular uses such as tiredness, rejuvenating etc. But my point is, because every human body is individually different even NHS prescribed products will affect the body in a non-consistent way.
Baz, London

The Lancet trial should have included the effect that homeopathy has on babies and animals, both respond very well to homeopathic remedies, whoever conducted the recent trials published in the Lancet is not doing his/her homework properly because one can hardly cite placebo effect when treating either infants or animals can one?
Maureen Borg, St Julians, Malta

Homeopathic remedies do really work. There are some problems in which homeopathy is the best alternative, leaving no side effects as those of the so-called modern medicines. Well, the modern medicines of today are the refinements of homeopathic ones, aren't they?
Chetan, Kathmandu, Nepal

Are placebos of medical benefit to those whose suffering continues despite the intervention of the medical profession?
John, Montreal, Canada
I think the key point here is that the study declared that homeopathic drugs are "no better than placebos". At this point the next question to answer would be: Are placebos of medical benefit to those whose suffering continues despite the intervention of the medical profession? I believe there was a study recently which answered, in effect, "it certainly can't hurt, and in some cases it actually helps".
John, Montreal, Canada

One test of 110 cases does not disprove homeopathy. I have used homeopathic remedies very effectively in the past; my mother was treated very effectively during the menopause with homeopathy where conventional medicine simply gave her more and more pills - pills to counteract the effects of other pills and so on. So I will continue to use remedies that I know work. Nature contains many remedies for many illnesses and conditions - some of which are already used by conventional medicine eg digitalis, aspirin from willow bark, feverfew and so on. One test of 110 cases does not prove anything either way.
Jan, Croydon, UK

I suffer from extreme anxiety, as a child I would get it so bad I would hallucinate, the doctors couldn't do much apart from refer me to a mental half specialist, my parents took me to see a homeopathic doctor, he gave me half a pill and the hallucinations stopped, I still suffer from anxiety but no where near as bad as i used to. If my GP could of given me a placebo to stop the hallucinations why didn't he?
Dale, Swansea, Wales

Do not confuse herbal and homeopathic medicines, there are completely different. There may be a great deal of value to be obtained from herbal medicine, however, homeopathic medicines, when analysed, have virtually no active ingredient.
JR, Brighton, Sussex

For years people have been prey to all sorts of ideas when in a vulnerable state. However, the placebo effect is nonetheless an effect. But someone is making a lot of money on the backs of these vulnerable people.
Chris, South UK.

The purpose of a medicine is to treat a medical condition. If the condition is not serious, a placebo effect that makes the patient feel better is not a bad thing. If the condition is serious, however, a treatment that makes the patient feel better, but does not treat the condition and allows it to progress, could be life threatening. I have no objection to people using homeopathic medicines if they want to, but if these medicines cannot be shown to work under the same rigorous conditions used to test standard medicines, they should not be prescribed on the NHS. It provides them with a mark of credibility they do not deserve.
Colin, UK

Homeopathy does work, and can improve the lives of those with allergic reactions. Having also used homeopathy for very young children (with support from Glasgow Homeopathic Hospital) and animals - use can reduce dependence on antibiotics whose use is reserved for serious incidents.
Jean Fraser, Newcastle

Without proof of benefit taxpayers money should not be wasted
Cris Bates, UK
The vast majority of illnesses 'cured' by homeopathy are episodic or self-limiting in the first place - eg 'glue ear', psoriasis, viruses (eg flu or warts), allergies - they all come and go and chances are if you tell anyone they will feel better within a week they will: particularly if the condition (eg psoriasis) is anxiety related. Without proof of benefit taxpayers money should not be wasted.
Cris Bates, UK

I have immensely benefited from homeopathy treatment for a chronic illness. Conventional medication did not cure me for many years. As a person of science I can say that is good evidence. National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland had invited Dr P Bannerjee from India to work with them as he was the one to have cured a cancer patient that the conventional doctors had given up on. I would recommend observing a few thousand cases of different diseases. 110 is too small a number to be sampled for such a big claim.
Ratna Sengupta, Maryland, USA

My father suffered from lung cancer and chose to go the homeopathic route, against my objections. The cancer 'left' and he thought he was cured, until it showed up in a more painful area, as a more aggressive cancer. He died within 4 months of the second diagnosis. His doctor said that the first diagnosis was curable with proper modern medicine.
Sue, Arizona, USA

Yes, actually. I sometimes have liquorice when I have an upset stomach. I chew on peppermint when I have a headache. I take cayenne pepper in broth when I have a headache as well. They all usually work and I try them first before subjecting my body to drugs and chemicals.
Beth, Bristow, Virginia USA

Many people forget that medical illnesses can improve spontaneously without any treatment or vary in severity over time. When homeopathy seems to cure an illness it is probably mere coincidence. Furthermore, the reason that homeopathy seems successful is due to the pseudo religious 'believe and thee shall be healed' ethos. Those who get better after homeopathy shout so loudly that they obscure all the many millions of people whose lives are saved by conventional medicine.
Dr Richard Campbell, London

My ex-wife was a strong exponent of homeopathy and to be honest, had it not been for her, I would not have tried it, particularly for things like hay fever, minor bruises, etc. The view I have is that it should be seen as complimentary, rather than instead of conventional medicine and it has its place. One of the things that homeopathy managed to bring under control where conventional medicine (and it has to be said, the attitude of the NHS practitioners) failed was my ex-wife menorraghia, very heavy menstrual bleeding, after having been passed from pillar to post by conventional medicine, both private and NHS. Don't slag it off as a mere placebo until you've tried it.
Steve, Chesham

The real danger with homeopathy, as with all alternative treatments, is if it is chosen in preference to conventional medicine. Valuable time can be wasted taking potions while a disease progresses beyond the point where any medicine can help. I think that we should all remember that it takes 4 or 5 years to be a doctor, I could be a homoeopathist in 5 minutes
Chris, London

Of course they work! What on earth do people think the vast majority of "modern and "conventional" drugs are based on? Yep, that's right, age old herbal and homeopathic remedies that have been refined, concentrated and processed for the mass market!
Michelle, England

We have always looked to nature to provide our medicines, but why now do we poo poo natural therapies?
Sulu, Letchworth
I have used homeopathy on various occasions and have felt that they have worked. Even if it is a placebo, at least in this culture that we have of popping pills to help our ills, we have a choice. We have always looked to nature to provide our medicines, but why now do we poo poo natural therapies? We once had knowledge of what plants and natural things could do for us, but now we have lost it, in favour of lab created medicines, where the natural version can be on our doorstep! I believe that we need more education as to what we can do for ourselves before running to our local GP or chemist.
Sulu, Letchworth

So the Society of Homeopaths thinks that "the placebo-controlled, randomised controlled trial is not a fitting research tool with which to test homeopathy"? Would that be because it always shows that homeopathy doesn't work?!
Norman MacLeod, Edinburgh, Scotland.

The issue with homeopathy is not just that rigorous scientific studies have found no evidence that it works. On top of that there is the problem is that there is to the best of our scientific knowledge, simply no way in which it could work. Homeopathy belongs in the dustbin of history together with other obsolete medical theories. Spending health service money on it in a time when some highly necessary treatments cannot be provided, is screechingly immoral.
Manu, Mechelen, Belgium

About time - as an NHS professional I find it scandalous that we waste millions of pounds of taxpayers' money on such useless interventions. If someone wants to waste their own money on homoeopathy fine, but let's not ask the NHS to pick up the bill.
Jonathan Mason, London, UK

These treatments are often only tried once conventional medicines limits have been reached
Max, Ramsgate, UK
I have two points to make on this subject. Firstly, if the apparent benefits of homeopathy stem exclusively from the therapeutic effect of having someone listen and be concerned about your health, surely some allopathic doctors (who can generally only spend a few minutes with each patient) could learn a thing or two from this. Secondly, these treatments are often only tried once conventional medicines limits have been reached. This is not to say that the therapies necessarily work, but if they offer hope to someone suffering from, say, bone cancer or arthritis, then they do offer a real psychological benefit.
Max, Ramsgate, UK

There have been many tests over the years and it has been proved beyond a doubt that Homoeopathy works. The allopathic practitioners do not understand it and are afraid of it. Of course, drug companies would be out of business if the truth were known, therefore the allopaths have to say it doesn't work. Doctors should work with traditional medics instead of fighting them all the time. This would be to the greater good of all.
Ann Lewis AoR, Blyth, Northumberland

Homeopathy has worked in my case - chronic wheezing as a kid - and in my dad's case, where a severe skin allergy was cured after years of trying conventional medication. The way it works may be difficult to pinpoint, but scientists must look outside the "box" - maybe there is a case for ALL doctors to spend more time with their patients, rather than prescribing more medication.
Prashant Sardesai, Bombay, India

Some people are happy to believe in alternative health, astrology, ghosts, quackery and others fanciful things. But most of their information regarding these issues they receive thought the media. It is about time the media started taking a more sceptical approach to all of these claims. If they can not prove it works the media should make sure it is well known and stop propagating these nonsense myths.
Ronald, London

Perhaps the act of clinical observation in itself inhibits the effect?
Duncan Hothersall, Edinburgh
Can any of the people who claim that it works for them (and I do not doubt the honesty of these claims) offer any explanation as to why it doesn't work when put under scientific observation? Perhaps the act of clinical observation in itself inhibits the effect? It seems possible that the positive effects rely on the attention and care that patients receive from homeopaths. Perhaps in the clinical trials this extra care and attention is missing?
Duncan Hothersall, Edinburgh

Years ago I had really bad psoriasis and went to a homeopath, after trying different remedies to no effect I was prescribed thuja and it literally cleared over night. I have since tried homeopathy for colds with no effect. I think with homeopathy the remedy has to be specific to the individual and their unique make up. I also think that homeopathy will not work for everything, but when it does it can be almost miraculous! I have since seen similar successes with members of my family and pets!
Emmie, London

Some clear thinking at last from the Swiss. My friends in the medical profession describe homeopathic treatments as "Hoaxacillin" and view it with about as much trust as crystal-waving, astrology and other such new-age nonsense. That such a scam as 'homeopathy' is available on the NHS at the taxpayers expense is nothing short of criminal.
Roger Price, Reading, UK

Why do we continue to have this debate? Those of us who have seen wonderful things happen as a result of homeopathy are happy to continue using it and will continue to do so. I feel no need to defend it. If somebody refuses to believe it works that is fine.
Ruari, Edinburgh, Scotland

The problem I have with homeopathy is that homeopathic dilutions are so extreme that, in a typical bottle of 'arnica', it is extremely unlikely that you will find even one molecule of arnica amongst all those inert pills. Thus all remedies are, effectively, exactly the same substance. That said, perhaps the fact that they DO have a placebo effect is a valid reason for using them; the point is surely not 'Are they better than a placebo' but 'Are they better than nothing?' If the latter is true, then by all means use them.
Nick, UK

For all those people for whom proof is not required before you use and buy things - I own several famous UK landmarks (including bridges) which I want to sell and I also have many multi million pound accounts for which I need help "transferring" to other countries. Please contact me ASAP.
Mark, Ely, United Kingdom

Let's keep an open mind about our alternative treatment strategies
Dr Phil, Westcliff-on-Sea, Essex
Whilst I wouldn't countenance the prescription of a homeopathic remedy for true organic illness, there are a number of stress related or psychosomatic conditions for which it might well be appropriate. This is not simply a reliance upon a statistical placebo effect; it's looking at the patient and saying "hang on, his blood pressure's raised, he has an eczema-like rash and he's obviously under a great deal of work-related stress, but is an anti-hypertensive, a steroid cream and an anti-depressant really what he needs?" Let's keep an open mind about our alternative treatment strategies.
Dr Phil, Westcliff-on-Sea, Essex

I have found herbal remedies work. Standard medicines not only often do not work but have serious side effects. I believe the drugs companies in league with the GMC are trying to close down the only effective alternative to main line medicine instead of working together with alternative treatment. Gartnavel Hospital recently tried to shut down the local Homeopathic Hospital.
Jim Gilmer, Clydebank

Homeopathic practitioners spend considerable time with their patients, listening to their problems and asking a lot of questions before settling on a particular treatment - which we now know to be largely irrelevant. Perhaps those prescribing regular medication would find their proven treatments even more effective if they also spent more time listening to their patients. There is more than one lesson to be learned from these conclusions.
Lorraine, St Albans, UK

I can say that homeopathy in the treatment of cancer should be outlawed. I work at a cancer centre and I have seen women coming in that have gotten treatment in the US and EU and by the time they get to us the cancer is too far gone to offer much hope. It is sad to see the lengths people will go to to make money off the ill and not face the reality of the treatment needed to help themselves
Suz, Atlanta GA, USA

A Homoeopathist cured my chronic asthma. Doctors would have had me sucking steroidal drugs for the rest of my life, costing money and causing side effects. My homoeopathist gave me counselling, medication and breathing exercises and I now am off all medication and wheeze free. I carry an inhaler in case I inhale allergens and have a severe attack; I'm not daft but I do believe in alternative therapy.
Sue, UK

If 'alternative' medicines actually worked, they wouldn't be alternative. They would be conventional and conventionally accepted. We don't have to understand why a remedy works, but it must be categorically proven to work in order for us to spend money promoting it.
Richard, London

The scientific community needs to lighten their grip on reality a bit
Cheryl, Denton, Texas, US
I propose that the scientists study why it is that we have so many deaths from prescription drugs every year, and compare that with deaths from homeopathic remedies. Frankly, I've come to trust very few "scientific" studies more than I trust what works for me. I personally use herbal medicine and energy healing, and I believe that the scientific community needs to lighten their grip on reality a bit and explore what healing is all about.
Cheryl, Denton, Texas, US

By their very definition, homeopathic preparations are a placebo. Anyone suggesting otherwise is simply incorrect. There may be 'perceived' benefits, but they are no different than positive thinking (which is free).
Phil, Massachusetts, USA

I have used homeopathic remedies before and have had some of them work, and some of them haven't. I have also taken aspirin for a headache before, sometimes it has helped, sometimes it hasn't. I believe that homeopathy has more to do with an actual lifestyle change rather than just being able to take a pill and feel better quickly. I also believe that since pharmaceutical companies cannot yet patent things like calendula, Echinacea or bee pollen, they are going to downplay the positive effects these substances can have on individual.
Jessica, Tennessee, USA

Anecdotal evidence of homeopathic success i.e. "it worked for my dog", is not sufficient for me. If a friend of mine plays the lottery and wins, it doesn't mean I will too if I play. The scientific approach tells me that the chance of me winning the lottery is 1 in 14 million so the risk of me losing my money is quite high!
Kevin, Leeds, UK

I think a lot of people are confused about what homeopathy is. Nobody here is challenging the use of herbal remedies which can (and do) work very well in many cases. Homeopathy is the dilution of extracts down to effectively nothing and as such is basically the application of water. I personally am not at all surprised that it demonstrates about the same reliability as the placebo effect - it's a placebo!
David, London, UK

Modern medicine has evolved over the years on a basis of a strong scientific method. This progress can clearly be seen as the life expectancy of the western world has increased, together with advances in modern medicine. The statistical meta-analysis of many trials conducted over a period of time is a recognised way to reduce bias in any single study. The report shows a significant advantage of modern pharmacy as opposed to homeopathy. This report has begun to pave the way for medicine to move forward and leave its medieval baggage behind.
John Robinson, UK

I was somewhat dubious about homeopathy until a homeopath cured my daughter's deafness from glue-ear overnight. As she was only three at the time, it seems unlikely to have merely been a placebo effect.
Martin, Sheffield, UK

People must be careful not to confuse homeopathy with other 'alternative' remedies
Kristy, Watford, UK
I think people must be careful not to confuse homeopathy with other 'alternative' remedies. I personally don't believe homeopathy works, yet I regularly use herbal remedies for minor ailments. For example, tea tree oil is great for disinfecting the skin and clearing up spots, while peppermint tea works well for nausea and tiredness. Of course I still use conventional medicine if the problem is anything but minor.
Kristy, Watford, UK

If you look at the science behind homeopathy it comes as no surprise that clinical trials have established it does not work. Homeopathic remedies are so dilute it is highly likely that what you take contains none of the active ingredient at all. Instead the liquid is supposed to retain a 'memory' of the active ingredient. I'm sure they have a physiologically beneficial effect, the well known placebo effect, but to suggest they are clinically effective is just, in my opinion, ludicrous.
Louise, Manchester, UK

Just ask my 18-year-old dog if it works! For me I had a mature mans problem, prostate, the side effects from prescribed drugs were numerous to the extent that it was better to live with the problem rather than the medication. Five weeks later with homeopathic remedies with no side effects I am back in control. I am a firm believer that nature has all the remedies - the NHS should take a note from the beehive - one of not the cleanest places to be! Long may we continue to have the choice!
David Rumsey, Gosport, Hants

I am a believer in both regular and alternative medicines. I fail to see what the harm is in people trying homeopathic remedies. Even supposing they do not actually benefit people in any way, if someone believes that they can, then that will certainly help in many ways. How much illness is psychosomatic? What does the medical field have to gain by shooting alternative remedies down - I am sure the large pharmaceutical companies won't lose out on too much money.
Chris, London

There are occasions when the medical treatment does not work but alternatives do
Sarah, Chester, UK
It's about time that medical professionals accepted that maybe their type of treatment is not the be all and end all. There are occasions when the medical treatment does not work but alternatives do whether they be homeopathic, aromatherapy, acupuncture or any other form of alternative treatment.
Sarah, Chester, UK

Never used it, never will. I am pleased to see that someone with authority in the medical world is at last prepared to speak the truth rather than pandering to the misguided.
Martin Dell, High Wycombe, UK

My ex-wife suffered very badly from eczema for many years with no conventional treatment working. After treatment from a homeopath although not completely cured it cleared up greatly, perhaps she is just supposed to suffer in the name of conventional medicine rather than receive great relief from these "charlatans"? It may be psychological but if conventional medicine is incapable of reproducing the effects maybe these surveys will do more harm than good.
JD, Crawley

I have been using arnica regularly as I am currently undergoing several invasive operations. I start using the treatment two weeks before and continue for two weeks after my op and it has made a tremendous reduction in bruising. I believe that homeopathic treatment can and does work for me. I think the Lancet is making an unnecessary judgement on something that millions of people use to improve their quality of life however small the results.
Sarah, Maidstone, Kent

No doubt I shall be grouped with the too credulous, but having studied at the Royal London Homoeopathic Hospital and having seen how this treatment works in the case of animals that are not influenced by emotions or wishful thinking, I strongly believe in homoeopathy and always use the remedies when possible.
Barbara Clayton, S Sebastian, Gomera, Canary Islands, Spain

My sister always has used homeopathy for hay fever, colic and aching bones. She has just had to have a hip replacement at the age of 50. These treatments delude people like her into thinking they work.
Jayne, Essex, UK

A somewhat typical report from so-called science. Scientists simply refuse to believe in anything unless there is proof. How sad. I have used homeopathy, and have found it wonderful. It has cured my migraines, and my sleep problems - something which normal medicine failed to do on a number of occasions. Consequently I will continue to use homeopathy when and wherever the opportunity or need arises.
Paul, Wales

I think that any treatment that makes somebody feel as though they are being treated can do no harm, as long as this does not interfere with conventional medicine. Surely if people believe that they are going to get better it's a good thing, morale during convalescence is as important as anything else, that's why good nursing is as paramount as good medicine.
Rich, Leicestershire, UK


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