Frequently Asked Questions

Source: The Australian Homeopathic Association

WHAT IS HOMEOPATHY?

Homœopathy is a therapy based on the theory of treating like with like. Homœopaths treat a patient’s symptoms by giving a highly diluted form of a substance, animal, vegetable, or mineral, which, taken in a crude dose, would cause similar symptoms when given to a healthy person. In assessing the patient, homœopaths often take into account a range of physical, emotional and lifestyle factors.

Homœopathy was developed over 200 years ago and is now used worldwide. It is acknowledged by the World Health Organisation as a valid form of health care. Its effectiveness has been clearly established by over 200 years of clinical experience and has a pharmacy of over 2000 medicines, which are non-toxic and non-addictive, owing to their method of preparation. Homœopathy is also cost effective.

WHAT CONDITIONS CAN HOMEOPATHY TREAT?

The system of homœopathy is based on the selection of a medicine that causes symptoms similar to those that the sick person is experiencing. This ‘Law of Similars’, as it is called, is a practical method of finding the substance to which a person is sensitive. Wherever a set of symptoms can be obtained, a condition can be treated. For example, headaches in different patients would each be treated with different medicines, according to the patient’s individual symptoms. Therefore, homœopathy can treat a wide range of chronic and acute illnesses.

WHY ARE PEOPLE SEEKING ALTERNATIVE TREATMENT SUCH AS HOMEOPATHY?

Dissatisfaction with orthodox medical treatment is frequently given by patients as a reason for their visiting a homœopath. The following findings provide evidence for this trend. Personal referral from those who have experienced the healing potential of homœopathy is the major source of new clientele for homœopaths.

  • Every year in Australia 14,000 people die from medical errors in hospitals. (1995 figures) (The Australian, March 15, 1999,17).
  • 25% of Australian hospital admissions are for iatrogenic (medically induced) or drug related diseases. (Current Therapeutics, July 2000, 76-79).
  • A large number of diseases are misdiagnosed by doctors. (Independent Monthly, Oct 1994, 36- 43)
  • There are 140,000 hospital admissions in Australia every year because of misused pharmaceutical drugs (Australian Journal of Pharmacy, 83, September 2002, 774).
  • The total number of adverse reactions to drugs in Australia from the 1999-2000 year (those resulting in hospital admission and those that did not) was 400,000 (Aust Journal of Pharmacy, 83, September 2002, 774).
  • The reports of adverse reactions from natural medicine to the Australian Adverse Drug Reactions Advisory Committee (ADRAC) average 23 per year (Aust Journal of Pharmacy, 83, June 2002, 516-517)

WHAT RISKS ARE INVOLVED WITH THE USE OF HOMEOPATHY?

Homœopathy carries few risks in its practice, when compared to a number of other therapies. The action of homœopathic medicines is gentle due to the method of their preparation and when administered by a registered homœopath. Registered homœopaths are trained to the Australian Government's prescribed educational standards; they adhere to the register's Code of Professional Conduct and prescribed standards of practice.

HOW LONG HAS HOMEOPATHY BEEN USED IN AUSTRALIA?

The first homœopath to come to Australia was Englishman Dr Stephen Simpson, who arrived in Sydney in 1840.

Homœopathy started to become very popular in Australia during the time of the gold rush in the 1850s, which brought more doctors, some of whom used homœopathy, and other settlers who carried their own homœopathic supplies.

More information about the history of homœopathy in Australia may be obtained from the AHA’s website: www.homeopathyoz.org

WHAT SUCCESSES HAS HOMEOPATHY HAD?

Homœopathy first gained increasing acceptance in Britain, Europe and the United States in the 19th and early 20th century, owing to its success in treating people during various infectious disease epidemics. The death rates from cholera, scarlet fever, typhoid, and yellow fever, following homœopathic treatment, were significantly lower than from the orthodox medical treatment of the era.

For example, of 61 patients treated homœopathically at the London Homœopathic Hospital during the cholera epidemic of 1854, there were 15 deaths - whereas at the Middlesex hospital, where conventional treatments were given, there were 123 deaths from 231 cases. The comparative death rates were 16.4% for homœopathic treatment and 53.2% for conventional treatment. (British Homœopathic Journal, October 1989, Vol.78)

The yellow fever epidemic in New Orleans and the Mississippi Valley in 1878 is another example of homœopathic success. In New Orleans, 1945 cases were treated homœopathically with 110 deaths (mortality of 5.6%). In the rest of the South, 1969 cases were treated homœopathically with 151 deaths (mortality of 7.7%). This is a favourable comparison with a mortality rate for conventional treatment of at least 16%. (Harris Coulter, [1982, 2nd edition] Divided Legacy: The Conflict between Homœopathy and the American Medical Association, pp.298-302)

The effectiveness of homœopathic treatment for the 1918 'flu epidemic in USA is particularly striking. Julian Winston's [1999] The Faces of Homœopathy: An illustrated history of the first 200 years (pp.236-237) quotes from the findings in W.A. Dewey's article "A Chorus of Fifty in Harmony" in the Journal of the American Institute of Homœopathy in 1921:

1. A Philadelphian Homœopath, Dean Pearson collected 26,795 cases treated homœopathically with a mortality rate of 1.05% compared with a rate of 30% for conventional treatment.

2. Frank Wieland M.D. of Chicago told how in a plant of 8000 workers there was only one death. Gelsemium was practically the only remedy prescribed and neither aspirin nor vaccines were used.

HOW DOES HOMEOPATHY WORK?

Homœopathy works by using minute doses of substances which, when taken in large quantities, cause symptoms similar to the illness being treated. Examples of the application of this principle are:

1. The use of homœopathically prepared red onion (Allium Cepa) which, in a crude dose, would cause watery eyes and sneezing, may be used for symptoms of hay fever and some allergies.

2. The use of homœopathically prepared coffee (Coffea) as a treatment for insomnia.
The use of Ritalin, a stimulant drug for children suffering from hyperactivity, is an example of the unacknowledged application of the homœopathic principle by contemporary conventional medicine.

Efforts to explain scientifically how homœopathy works have not been successful to date, but similarly some drug actions in conventional medicine have not always been understood either. For example, the actions of salicylic acid (aspirin) and paracetamol (Panadol) have been used in orthodox medicine for over 70 years, but have only been fully understood since the 1980's.

If a homœopathic medicine is analysed, a pharmacologist would say it consists of water, ethanol and sugar. While such a description is true, it ignores the result that follows from taking the medicine. A chemist, for example, would accurately describe a compact disk as an object made of plastic and various chemical coatings, but would not detect the presence of music as part of the testing process. Both descriptions are accurate but incomplete.

WHO USES HOMEOPATHY?

The majority of patients seeking homœopathic treatment have already utilised the conventional medical system for their complaint. Therefore, it is not uncommon for patients to come to a first consultation with a confirmed medical diagnosis along with results of medical investigations.

Those who use homœopathy come from a wide range of socio-economic groups, many of whom are children and adults from educated, affluent families.

Naturopaths, chiropractors and GP’s may also prescribe homœopathic remedies as part of their treatment, depending upon their training.

HOW WIDESPREAD IS THE USE OF HOMEOPATHY?

Homœopathy is used throughout the developed world. According to the WHO, 30 million Europeans use homœopathy. In the UK, homœopathy is available in five National Health Service (NHS) centres. NHS is the equivalent of the Medicare system. In 1993 37% of GP’s practiced homœopathy and 42% referred their patients to a homœopath. A University of Exeter report found that 2696 people were members of homœopathic practitioner organisations. The Royal family has used it since 1830 and it has a wide acceptance throughout Europe. In France, the most popular cold and flu remedy is a homœopathic medicine. Homœopathy is also used extensively in the developing world, due to its easy access, cost effectiveness and low risk profile. Over 10 000 doctors in India use homœopathic medicine to treat their patients. Homœopathy is also used in veterinary medicine, both in Australia and overseas.

A study by MacLennan in 1996 found that 4.4% of his sample had used homœopathic medicines in the past year, and 1.2% had visited a Homœopath i.e. an estimated 240,000 homœopathic consultations in 1996 [MacLennan AH, Wilson DH, Taylor AW. Prevalence and cost of alternative medicine in Australia. Lancet, 1996, 347: 569-573]. Based on the 2004 registration figures of the Australian Register of Homœopaths (AROH), and making the conservative assumption that each AROH-registered practitioners has on average 10 consultations per week, an estimate of over 300,000 homœopathic consultation

CAN THE HOMEOPATHIC EFFECT BE ATTRIBUTED TO PLACEBO ?

This is the topic of many discussions about homœopathy. Homœopathy is effective on animals and children, which discounts the placebo theory. Research data is available in The Lancet Linde, K. et al. (1997). "Are the clinical effects of homœopathy placebo effect? A meta-analysis of placebo-controlled trials." Lancet vol. 350 pp. 834-843. The trend of the studies is that homœopathy is effective above placebo and requires further study.

View website Placebo effect sizes in homeopathic compared to conventional drugs - a systematic review of randomised controlled trials [Jan 2010]

ARE THERE HOMEOPATHIC VACCINATIONS?

The term homœopathic vaccination is a misnomer. Vaccination, a well understood medical term, relies on antibody formation. Homœopathic medicines do not rely on antibody formation. They are intended to affect the patient's initial pre-disposition to an illness, rather than the antibody/antigen reaction. When a homœopathic medicine is given to help protect the patient against infectious diseases, the correct description is "homœoprophylaxis".

Please refer to www.aroh.com.au - Policies and Guidelines - Homœoprophylaxis Statement The AHA has aligned itself with this statement.

There is a long history in homœopathy of disease prevention. Homœoprophylaxis has been in use for 200 years, since the beginnings of homœopathy. The first reference to such treatment can be found in Samuel Hahnemann's 'Cure and Prevention of Scarlet Fever', 1801. Below are two contemporary examples of its use in Brazil:
In 1974 during an epidemic of meningitis in Brazil, 18,640 children were treated homœoprophylactically and 6,340 were not. In the treated group four cases of meningitis were reported, in the untreated group, 32 cases were reported. Dr F X Eizayaga, Treatise on Homœopathic Medicine E Marecel, Buenos Aires pp 282-286.
On the basis of this history, in 1998 in Blumenau, Brazil, a large-scale investigation of the use of homœoprophylaxis was undertaken in persons between 0 and 20 years. In the first six months of administration, the following results were obtained: of the 65,826 protected homœopathically, one case was reported. Of the 23,532 not protected, 7 cases were reported. A 12-month follow-up reported 3 cases in the protected group and 13 cases in the unprotected group. Statistical analysis demonstrated a 95% protection in children under six months and 91% protection in children over 12 months. Ref: Meningococcin, its Protective Effect against Meningococcal Disease, Homœopathic LINKS Winter, 2001 Vol 14 (4) 230-4 Mroninski C, Adriano E, Mattos G.

Australian studies on homœoprophylaxis have also been undertaken by homœopath and statistician Dr Isaac Golden. He completed a PhD on this topic with Swinburne University in Melbourne in 2005. His findings include the results of a ten-year longitudinal study and are documented in the books:
Vaccination ? A Review of Risks and Alternatives 5th Ed 1997 ISBN 0-7316 8099-5 National Library Canberra (02) 62621434
Homœoprophylaxis: A Ten Year Clinical Study ISBN 0-646-32054 National Library Canberra
Homœoprophylaxis: A Practical and Philosophical Review ISBN 0-646-19529-8 National Library Canberra
PhD Thesis, Swinburne University, Melbourne

References on homœoprophylaxis:

Endler PC and Schutle J Eds. Ultra High Dilution. Physiology and Physics. Kluwer Academic Publishers. Dordrecht, 1994

Ferley JP; Zmirou D; D'Adhemar D; Balducci F. A controlled evaluation of a homœopathic preparation in the treatment of influenza-like syndromes. Br-J-Clin-Pharmacol. 1989 Mar; 27(3): 329-35

Jacobs J, Jimenez L M, Gloyd S, Gale J L, Crothers D. Treatment of acute childhood diarrhoea with Homœopathic Medicine: A randomised clinical trial in Nicaragua. Pediatrics 93 (5) 1994

Poitevin B; Davenas E; Benveniste J. In vitro immunological degranulation of human basophils is modulated by lung histamine and Apis mellifica. Br-J-Clin-Pharmacol 1988 Apr; 25(4): 439-44

Reilly D, Taylor M, Beattie NGM, Campbell JH, Mc Sharry C, Aitchison T, Carter R, Stevenson RD. Is evidence for Homœopathy Reproducible? The Lancet 1994 344. Dec 10 1601-6

Kleijnen, J, Knipschild P, Gerben ter Riet. Clinical Trials of Homœopathy. BMJ Vol., 302 9th February 1991

Dr. Sankaran P. Prophylaxis in Homœopathy.
Bellavite P and Signorini A. Homœopathy, A Frontier in Medical Science. North Atlantic Books Berkeley Ca 1995

IS HOMEOPATHY COVERED BY HEALTH FUNDS?

Most major health funds, including Medibank Private, provide cover for homœopathic treatment, depending on the level of insurance of the patient.

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