In 1999 the World Health Organisation (WHO) called for the closer incorporation of homoeopathy into “western medical systems”.
In Europe, homoeopathy has been practiced continually for over 200 years, and has had more than 150 years of continuous use in the USA, India, Australia and most other parts of the world. In 2003, the WHO announced that worldwide homoeopathy is the second most popular system of healthcare after Traditional Chinese Medicine. It has grown to this position largely by word of mouth.
Unlike conventional medicine where drugs for a condition may be withdrawn several years after launch owing to dangerous side effects, a person being treated in 2013 would most likely receive the same remedy as a patient in 1813, provided their symptoms are the same. This continuity gives both practitioners and patients great confidence.
Homeopathic remedies are not tested on animals. Instead, volunteers called ‘provers’ take each new remedy and report what happens to them.
Homeopathy works well with animals and there are homeopathic vets throughout the country. In the long running Archers on BBC Radio Four, Tony Archer, the organic farmer, has been known to treat his cows’ mastitis with homeopathic remedies. Homeopathy is used to treat the cows at Yeo Valley Organic Farms.
The Royal Family are enthusiastic supporters of homoeopathy. King George VI prescribed for his family and the late Queen Mother was treated homoeopathically to the end of her very long life. Her Majesty the Queen and the Prince of Wales are both treated homoeopathically. The Queen’s doctor, Dr Peter Fisher, is a homoeopath. Ainsworth’s homoeopathic pharmacy in London has a royal warrant to supply remedies to Prince Charles and used to supply remedies to the Queen Mother.
In November 2005, the Bristol Homoeopathic Hospital published a study of 6500 patients who had received homoeopathic treatment showing an overall improvement in health for 70% of them.
In a survey of 500 patients at the Royal London Homoeopathic Hospital, 72% reported being able to stop or reduce their conventional medication.
In a 2008 study (Marian et al) of 3126 patients found that “Overall patient satisfaction was significantly higher in homoeopathic than in conventional care. Homoeopathic treatments were perceived as a low-risk therapy with two to three times fewer side effects than conventional care.”
A study of 782 patients by Van Wassenhoven, et al found that, “Patients were very satisfied with their homeopathic treatment, both they and their physicians recorded significant improvement. Costs of homoeopathic treatment were significantly lower than conventional treatment, and many previously prescribed drugs were discontinued.”
Unlike orthodox medicine, where the bill for claims for side-effects of some pharmaceutical medicines runs into millions, a leading UK insurance company reported only ‘a couple’ of insurance claims against homeopaths in a ten year period. Hence insurance cover for homeopathy is around £70 per year, reflecting the low risk.
In 2008, a major pilot project, implemented by Get Well UK, was commissioned by the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety in two primary care trusts in Northern Ireland. There was a 79% improvement in the level of health for those who had homoeopathic treatment.
Critics of homoeopathy often claim that homoeopathic remedies ‘are just water’ or ‘just sugar pills’. After carefully studying the structure of homoeopathic medicines, a team of researchers from Pennsylvania State University and the University of Arizona reported that by using spectroscopy these researchers were able to see distinct structural differences between homoeopathic remedies and plain water, between one remedy and another remedy and between different potencies of the same remedy. Equally important, they replicated the results many times over.
During the Second World War, the UK Government instigated research on antidotes to mustard gas poisoning, conducted jointly by the Glasgow Homoeopathic Hospital and the War Office. The homoeopathic remedy, rhus tox 30c was found to be effective in protecting from and in treating mustard gas burns.
In Cuba, authorities in 2008 reported having prevented an annual epidemic of Leptospirosis which usually follows hurricane damage, by giving people in effected areas of the country the homoeopathic remedy leptospira nosode 200c. The work was conducted by the WHO approved Finlay Institute and cost the Cuban Government $200,000(US) as against the cost of immunising only at risk groups of $3,000,000(US). If untreated, people infected with Leptospirosis often develop kidney damage, meningitis, liver failure, and respiratory distress. Several deaths usually follow an epidemic, but following administration of the homoeopathic remedy, there were only a handful of cases with no deaths whatsoever.
In 1998, the Swiss Government began including complementary and alternative medical treatments including homoeopathy in its national health insurance scheme. As part of its assessment, the Swiss Government commissioned a report on homoeopathy’s effectiveness.
Published in English in 2011 as Homeopathy in Healthcare: Effectiveness, Appropriateness, Safety, Costs, this comprehensive review of evidence from clinical trials, animal studies and ‘test tube’ studies of homoeopathy’s effectiveness on human cells, also evaluated "real world effectiveness" as well as the safety and cost-effectiveness.
It reported that of 22 systematic reviews of clinical research testing homeopathic medicines, 20 detected at least a trend in favour of homeopathy. (Bornhöft, Wolf, von Ammon, et al, 2006) The report found a particularly strong body of evidence to support homeopathic treatment of upper respiratory tract infections and respiratory allergies. Out of 29 studies, 24 were found to favour homoeopathic treatment. The study concluded that high potency homoeopathic remedies seem to induce specific changes in cells and create regulatory effects and stated,
‘that the individual CAM interventions, especially homeopathy, were effective, under Swiss conditions were safe and, as far as could be judged from the trial situation, were cost effective.’
The principles of homoeopathy are laid down in Samuel Hahnemann’s book, ‘The Organon of the Healing Art, first published in German in 1810. The book eventually ran to six editions and has been in print ever since.