Homeopathy (also spelt homoeopathy) is used as an alternative to, or as an addition to, conventional medicine. This article briefly describes homeopathy, including the lack of current evidence for its effectiveness and safety.
What is homeopathy?
Homeopathy is based on the idea that if a substance causes symptoms in a healthy person, minute doses of the substance can treat the symptoms in someone who is unwell. This idea does not fit with modern science.
Homeopathic medicines are prepared by taking a substance (generally a plant, animal material or a chemical) and diluting that substance in water or alcohol repeatedly, often so that none of the original substance remains in the solution. These highly diluted preparations can be found in several forms, including tablets, liquids and creams.
Is homeopathy effective?
There is currently no evidence to support the effectiveness of homeopathy in the prevention or treatment of any disease.
Is homeopathy an alternative to childhood immunisation?
Conventional vaccines undergo rigorous testing to prove both safety and effectiveness, whereas homeopathic preparations do not. There is no evidence that homeopathic preparations provide protection against childhood infectious diseases.
Is homeopathic treatment safe?
In general, it is hard to know whether or not homeopathic preparations are safe. They don’t go through the rigorous testing for safety and effectiveness that other medications are required to undergo through the Australian Government’s Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA).
They might be safe if used as well as conventional medicine. They are not safe if used instead of conventional medicines.
Is homeopathy an alternative to medical treatment?
The National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC), which is Australia’s main medical advisory body, has concluded that homeopathy should not be used to treat health conditions that are chronic or serious, or could become serious.
The NHMRC recommends that those considering homeopathy should inform their doctor and continue taking any prescribed medication or treatment. If you stop taking medication or treatment prescribed by a doctor to use homeopathy instead, you are risking serious harm.
Questions to ask your doctor about homeopathy
Your doctor is in the best position to determine if homeopathy is appropriate for you. Here are some questions you might ask your doctor:
- Can I use homeopathy to complement my medical treatment?
- Is it safe for me to use homeopathy?
- Is there any evidence for the effectiveness of homeopathy for my condition?
Last reviewed: December 2016