Homeopathic treatments may be the drug of choice for certain members of the British Royal Family, but researchers in Australia have dismissed claims to their effectiveness.
The latest report from Australia’s National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) warns people that they ‘may put their health at risk’, should they choose homeopathic remedies.
How does Homeopathy work?
Homeopathy is based on the premise of treating ‘like for like’, and uses minute, highly diluted doses of the substance that causes the illness, as a remedy. Treatments can come prepared in a variety of methods, including solutions, pills, sprays, creams and ointments.
Homeopaths believe that the minute dose retains a ‘memory’ of the original substance, which then goes on to trigger a healing response in the body.
Advocates of homeopathy recommend that it can be used to treat both acute and chronic conditions, and is used globally by over 200 million people.
How was the Australian Homeopathic report conducted?
The report looked at 225 previous studies dating back to 1997, to test the effectiveness of homeopathy on a number of health condition.
The research team rated each study for reliability from one – very strong – to four – very weak. The team only used studies which included controlled trials, in other words, those with a comparison group who were not given homeopathic treatment.
The council assessed the effectiveness of the homeopathic treatments based on three criteria.
- The past studies were reviewed using an independent contractor.
- Independent evaluation of information was provided by homeopathy interest groups and the public.
- Worldwide clinical practice guidelines and government reports on homeopathy, were taken into consideration.
What did the Australian Homeopathic Report reveal?
The report found that there is no decisive evidence to suggest that homeopathy is more effective than placebos in either easing patients or treating their symptoms.
Professor Warwick Anderson, the council’s chief executive, said: “The review shows that there is no good quality evidence to support the claim that homeopathy works better than a placebo.”
Professor Anderson went on to advise that anyone who is considering homeopathic treatment should ‘first get advice from a registered health practitioner and in the meanwhile keep taking any prescribed treatments.’
The report did find evidence that homeopathy was more effective than placebos for conditions such as ADHD, bruising, HIV, chronic fatigue, ulcers and depression. However, the council decided that the original experiments had not been properly conducted and so deemed the final results unreliable.
The council advised that for any treatment to be effective it had to outweigh any benefits from a placebo effect. Not only that, but these benefits should improve a person’s general health.
The benefits from treatments should also not be attributed to chance, and remain consistent throughout several studies.
Professor Anderson concluded: “From this review, the main recommendation for Australians is that they should not rely on homeopathy as a substitute for proven, effective treatments.
“This statement was the result of a rigorous examination of the evidence and used internationally accepted methods for assessing the quality and reliability of evidence for determining whether or not a therapy is effective for treating health conditions.”