When it comes to homeopathy, opinions differ. Many people, including medical professionals, swear by the method. On the other hand, scientists question whether a homeopathic effect is even possible. Read here what arguments homeopathy opponents and proponents put forward and what scientific assessments there are.
Do homeopathic remedies work without active ingredients?
What homeopathy advocates say: For homeopathic remedies, the starting material is diluted so much that it contains little or no active ingredient. Homeopaths use the process of so-called potentization to explain that they are supposed to have a defying effect.
This is a special procedure in which a homeopathic original substance is progressively diluted and “shaken” in between using a special technique. As a result, information that comes from the starting material should be transferred to the solution. According to homeopathic teaching, the effect is not of a molecular nature.
What homeopathy critics say: Critics counter that such a model of action is scientifically incomprehensible. Where there is no active substance, there is no effect is a central argument in homeopathic criticism.
In fact, representatives of homeopathy also admit that it has not yet been possible to describe a pharmacological or physical mechanism of action that could explain an effect through potentization.
Is the effect of homeopathic medicines purely a placebo effect?
Placebo effects have long been known in medicine – and they are effective. They contribute significantly to the effect of drugs. Placebo effects are based on the patient’s expectation that the drug will help them. It has been proven that this expectation sets in motion diverse and quite astonishing psycho-physiological processes that can have a soothing and healing effect.
The size of a placebo effect also depends heavily on the person treating you. If it conveys trust and confidence and the patients feel taken seriously, the effect can be stronger. The fact that in homeopathy the therapist typically takes a lot of time for the patient and their individual complaints and circumstances could therefore particularly strengthen the placebo effect of homeopathic remedies.
What homeopathy advocates say: Homeopathy advocates emphasize that homeopathic remedies do work beyond the placebo effect and have a specific effect. They also refer to studies.
What homeopathy critics say: Critics argue that studies on the effectiveness of homeopathic remedies often lack conclusive evidence. They refer to other studies according to which homeopathic remedies have no effect beyond the placebo effect. Among these works are also large overview studies.
Critics therefore also complain that the costs of homeopathic treatment are covered by many health insurance companies. Because in order to bring a new drug onto the market, the manufacturers usually have to prove in extensive studies that the effectiveness of their product is greater than the placebo effect of a dummy drug without active ingredients. For homeopathic remedies, on the other hand, this burden of proof does not apply.
Why can homeopathy help babies and animals?
What homeopathy advocates say: Homeopathy advocates often argue that homeopathic remedies also help infants, unconscious patients or animals. This cannot be explained by a pure placebo effect.
The critics’ answer: A placebo effect can also unfold if the practitioner expects an effect. His attitude and correspondingly confident charisma influence the patient. Such an effect is also believed to be possible in animals.
In fact, it is precisely for this reason that so-called double-blind studies are considered the gold standard of science: Neither the practitioner nor the patient then knows which test person is receiving an active ingredient-free dummy drug and who is receiving the actual active ingredient.
Is the homeopathic effect proven when the patient gets better?
What homeopathy advocates say: Homeopathy users counter the criticism of homeopathy with their personal experience: “The globules helped me.” Such observations are not proof of effectiveness: Whether the state of health has improved faster with the remedy than without its use, remains to be seen can’t say for sure afterwards. After all, many health problems improve on their own after a certain period of time. Or there is (or in addition) a placebo effect behind it.
Can the “like cures like principle” work?
What homeopathy advocates say: Homeopathic medicines are based on the principle of similars, already mentioned in antiquity: substances that trigger certain symptoms in a healthy person are said to cure these symptoms in the sick. Following this principle, homeopathy founder Samuel Hahnemann tested numerous substances on himself more than 200 years ago and described their effects. Today’s homeopathy is still based on them.
What homeopathy critics say: Critics point out that the similarity principle cannot be reconciled with scientific knowledge. Hahnemann’s experiments are not scientific studies. Attempts to reproduce them later have also often failed or been carried out in a methodologically unclean manner.
Is homeopathy safe? And when can she help?
Homeopathy is often described as a gentle healing method and is therefore preferred by many patients.
Although homeopathic treatments are also offered by some doctors, they are often prescribed by naturopaths. These are usually not trained physicians. There is a risk that they will not recognize a serious illness. Then the patient may receive the necessary conventional medical therapy too late – or in the worst case not at all. This can make the disease worse, leave permanent damage or even be fatal.
It is therefore important that homeopathy should not be used as the sole therapy for serious or life-threatening illnesses – the vast majority of advocates of homeopathy also share this opinion. However, there is also a consensus among them: Homeopathic therapy can be a useful addition to conventional medical treatment, even in the case of serious illnesses.