Great Britain’s National Health Service (NHS) has put homeopathy under the microscope, and is examining its use with a critical eye. This concern over the efficacy of homeopathy may lead this alternative therapy, which has been around since the late eighteenth century, to be blacklisted. This will prevent general practitioners in the U.K. from prescribing homeopathy as a treatment option.
Homeopathy was developed in 1796 by Samuel Hahnemann, and is based on the theory that what causes illness in some, may cure illness in others. Over the years, as medicine has advanced, this alternative therapy has become controversial. Presently, the NHS spends roughly £4 million on homeopathy, but it wants results it can quantify.
“There is no good-quality evidence that homeopathy is effective as a treatment for any health condition,” the NHS states on its website.
Much of the debate over homeopathy’s effectiveness is centered on the overly diluted tablets given to patients for more common homeopathic treatments including those designed to help remedy asthma, hay fever, depression, stress, anxiety, allergies, and arthritis. According to the British Homeopathic Association, “The more stages of dilution and succussion the preparation has gone through, the more potent the medicine is — so a 30c medicine is more potent than a 6c medicine.”
Good Thinking Society, a kind of science watchdog company, began campaigning for homeopathy to be blacklisted. “Given the finite resources of the NHS, any spending on homeopathy is utterly unjustifiable,” Simon Singh, the founder of Good Thinking Society told the BBC. “The money spent on these disproven remedies can be far better spent on treatments that offer real benefits to patients.”
Is homeopathy effective? It would appear that the decision is somewhat split, depending on who you talk to. Dr. Helen Beaumont, president of the Faculty of Homeopathy, supports its efficacy, despite the NHS and Good Thinking Society’s views. “Patient choice is important; homeopathy works, it’s widely used by doctors in Europe, and patients who are treated by homeopathy are really convinced of its benefits, as am I,” she told the BBC.
Patient choice is a very important right. There are over 200,000 homeopathy practitioners, according to the British Homeopathic Association, so it must offer some benefits, right? Homeopathy may not be the perfect fit for treating all illnesses, but some researchers have found it to be effective in specific areas.
A study published in Homeopathy (2003) found that homeopathy decreased symptoms in “childhood diarrhoea, fibrositis, hay fever, influenza, pain (miscellaneous), side-effects of radio- or chemotherapy, sprains and upper respiratory tract infection.” With £4 million on the table if homeopathy is blacklisted, it begs the question of where that money will be allocated? Pharmaceuticals?
Certain types of alternative medicine may work for some, and may have zero effect for others, but what is important is that we have the opportunity to choose how and when we want to be treated.
Do you think homeopathy should remain a therapy choice for patients?
Stephen Seifert is a writer, professor, adventurer and a health & fitness guru. His flare for travel and outdoor adventure allows him to enjoy culture and traditions different than his own. A healthy diet, routine fitness and constant mental development is the cornerstone to Stephen’s life.