The Controversy of Homeopathy

Mired in controversy.


Last year, homeopathy in Australia was dealt a blow when the NHMRC, Australia’s peak medical research body tabled a report that found there was insubstantial research evidence showing the clinical benefits of homeopathy.

Confession Time

Given this week is homeopathy awareness week, I thought it was as good a time as any to out myself as a fan of homeopathy, which I realise gives me all the social standing of a climate change denier.

I’m not a homeopath, I don’t claim to really understand how it works but I have experienced some remarkably good results with it in my own personal use of homeopathy. So either I am a) delusional and simply ascribing a benefit to something where a causal relationship does not exist, or b) there is something to it. Luckily I am not alone in my experience. Although marginalised in Australia, worldwide an estimated 200 million people use homeopathy on a regular basis.

What is Homeopathy Anyway?

There are two basic tenets of homeopathy both of which are somewhat counter-intuitive.

The first one is ‘like cures like’ which is the opposite of most traditional systems of medicine. In Western herbal medicine, for example, if you have an inflammatory condition like reflux or colitis you would reach for a soothing, slippery and sweet herb like marshmallow (the real thing, not the ones you toast on a camp fire!). This fits neatly with our idea of natural remedies working to bring about balance. We intuitively get the idea that to restore balance you would ideally follow an active busy day with a restful nights sleep, or offset hot spicy foods with a cooing drink.

The principle of ‘like cures like’ turns this notion on its head and proposes to give the body more of the same, in this case using a plant that is stimulating and irritating in order to trigger the body to re-balance itself. How curious!

The other core principle, which is even more challenging is the idea that the more you dilute a substance, the more potent it becomes. Most homeopathic remedies are in fact so dilute that there is none of the original substance remaining in the solution or pill that is prescribed. How could that possibly work?

Please Be A Sceptic

Sceptics by definition are inclined to question or doubt accepted opinions and have the confidence to make judgements based on their own lived experience. When it comes to homeopathy, most people I encounter who disparage homeopathy have never tried it and dismiss it based on their intellectual assumptions.

I challenge those sceptical about homeopathy to simply try a remedy like arnica the next time they whack themselves hard enough to expect a bruise. Rub some arnica cream on and see what happens. A double blind placebo controlled trial it is not, however if you, like me find the results interesting then perhaps you’ll also wonder if we really have all the answers. We’ve made so many wonderful advances in science and medicine but yet there is still so much more that we don’t understand.

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