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History, treatment options and evidence base for homeopathic remedies

What is it?

Homeopathy is a system of vibrational or energy medicine based on the concept of ‘like curing like’.

This ancient concept was developed and refined in the 18th century by Samuel Hahnemann, who initiated the concept of the minimum dose. The word homeopathy comes from the Latin homoios (same) pathos (illness).

There are a number of schools of homeopathy with different dosage regimens. Each patient undergoes a detailed assessment before a remedy is prescribed. This includes the patient’s medical and psychological history and covers a range of factors which may be affecting the presenting condition.

Homeopathic treatment

The assessment produces a clinical picture with a resulting prescription that is tailored to the individual.

Remedies are selected on the basis of their similarity (the similium) to the presenting clinical picture (known as the totality of symptoms). Subsequent prescriptions depend on the patient’s initial response.

Homeopathic remedies

Remedies are extracted from whole plants, animal products and from minerals and ores. They are also prepared from nosodes, which are products of disease such as discharge or infected tissue, for example faecal matter.

Homeopathic preparations are diluted beyond the point where there is any likelihood that molecules from the original solution are present in the final product.

The therapeutic effect is said to be due to the imprinted memory of the substance on the water/alcohol base. This is called the memory of water and is a fundamental concept in homeopathy (Thomas, 2007; Chaplin, 2007).

The therapeutic strength of a homeopathic remedy is denoted by X (decimal dilution) in which the base solution is diluted one part to nine parts water at each stage. It is further diluted by continuing factors of 10 leading to a more dilute remedy, which is considered to be more potent.

As part of the dilution process the mixture is mixed and shaken in a process called succession. This is intended to release and spread the energy throughout the dilution.
Evidence base

Homeopathy has a wide range of applications for both acute and chronic conditions. Popular remedies include Arnica for bruising and Aconite for shock.

The method by which the efficacy of a homeopathic remedy is assessed is by administering the remedy to a number of healthy subjects and noting their reactions to it. In addition, although evidence to support homeopathy is conflicting, the trend is towards a positive result rather than negative.

Most of the evidence supports the use of homeopathy for treating allergies and chronic conditions (Dos Santos et al, 2007; Mohan 2007). A number of clinical trials have indicated that homeopathy has an effect superior to placebo (Mathie, 2007).

The development adviser at the Faculty of Homeopathy (Mathie, 2007) has reviewed and supported the results from a number of clinical trials that indicate the effectiveness of homeopathy in the treatment of medical conditions. Itamura (2007) showed the value of individualised homeopathic treatment for chronic skin diseases.

It is difficult to assess many of the research reports for homeopathy as researchers often address a range of conditions, for example its use on a range of allergic conditions, rather than selecting one for investigation.


Homeopathy is a safe treatment. There are no contra-indications or interactions with orthodox medication or treatment. Remedies are safe for children, in pregnancy (following expert advice) and for breast feeding women.
However as they are lactose-based, caution should be exercised by patients with lactose intolerance.


The British Homeopathic Association and Faculty of Homeopathy
Runs post-graduate courses in homeopathy around the UK, which are only open to statutorily registered healthcare professionals with qualifications recognised in the UK. These lead to a recognised homeopathic qualification relative to the student’s profession, such as LFHom (Nurse).


Chaplin, M. (2007) The memory of water: an overview. Homeopathy; 96: 3, 143-150.

Dos-Santos, A. et al (2007) In vivo study of the anti-inflammatory effect of Rhus toxicodendron. Homeopathy; 96: 2, 95-101.

Itamura, R. (2007) Effect of homeopathic treatment of 60 Japanese patients with chronic skin disease. Complementary Therapies in Medicine; 15: 2, 115-120.

Mathie, R. (2007) Clinical trials show significant benefits of homeopathy. British Homeopathic Association/Faculty of Homeopathy News.

Mohan, G. (2007) Efficacy of homeopathy in childhood asthmas. Homeopath-Links; 20: 2, 104-107.

Thomas, Y. (2007) The history of the memory of water. Homeopathy; 96: 3, 151-157.

Further reading

Ernst, E., Hahn, D. (eds) (1998) Homeopathy: A Critical Appraisal. Oxford: Butterworth Heinemann.

Swayne, J. (1998) Homeopathic Method: Implications for Clinical Practice and Medical Science. Edinburgh: Churchill Livingstone.

Swayne, J. (2000) International Dictionary of Homeopathy. Edinburgh: Churchill Livingstone.

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