Homeopathy is ‘quackery’ and the widely disputed principles it revolves around are ‘unethical and outrageous’, researchers claim.
British scientists argue it’s ‘scientifically implausible’ the controversial practice, used by 500 million people across the world, has any effect.
Experts at Royal Veterinary College London made their conclusion after reviewing more than 50 animal trials over three decades.
The new study follows the NHS’ proposed decision to ban dishing out homeopathic remedies as part of a major cost-cutting drive.
Homeopathy is said to work, including using herbal medicine, to help the body heal itself – but critics have long been sceptical.
British scientists argue it’s ‘scientifically implausible’ the controversial practice, used by 500 million people across the world, has any effect
Professor Peter Lees, who led the research published in Veterinary Record, said: ‘It is scientifically implausible that homeopathy has any effect.
‘It cannot have any benefit and by giving homeopathy you may be withholding alternative drug based products which may have some benefit.
‘Ultimately homeopathy is quackery and using it may prolong suffering and shorten lives.’
Homeopathy: The facts
Homeopathic and herbal remedies have long been prescribed to tackle afflictions such as stress and insomnia.
However, scientists argue they are so highly diluted that little of the substance they contain actually remains.
Its central principle is that ‘like cures like’, that is a substance which causes certain symptoms can help cure those symptoms.
THE ORIGINS OF HOMEOPATHY
Homeopathy was first coined in 1807 by German doctor Samuel Hahnemann, and focuses on three principles: like cures like, dilution, and ‘water remembers.’
Dr Hahnemann believed that medicine in his time was doing more harm than good, so he began to conduct experiments on volunteers and himself.
One such experiment included eating the bark of a cinchona tree, which was then used as a treatment for malaria. Scientists have since found that this bark contains quinine, an antimalarial drug.
After eating some of the bark, Hahnemann experienced symptoms which he likened to those of malaria, spawning the first principle ‘like cures like.’
The doctor thought that if a substance in large doses causes certain symptoms, it can be used in small doses to cure them.
According to the British Homeopathy Association, the remedies are used by over 200 million people worldwide to treat both acute and chronic conditions.
Another concept is based around a process of dilution in alcohol or distilled water and shaking, called succussion. Advocates believe that the more a substance is diluted in this way, the greater its power to treat symptoms.
For example, caffeine (homeopathic name, Coffea Cruda) is a stimulant, and is used to treat insomnia. And hayfever sufferers take a very weak solution of pollen.
What the NHS thinks
NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens described homeopathy as ‘at best a placebo and a misuse of scarce NHS funds’ in July.
In the last five years it has cost the NHS at least £578,000, for treatments using heavily diluted forms of plants, herbs and minerals.
NHS England says there is no ‘robust evidence’ homeopathy works at all and has launched a consultation to stop GPs prescribing it.
The plans will see NHS patients have to pay for such remedies, alongside items available cheaply in supermarkets and chemists.
What have the reports found?
A House of Commons Science and Technology Committee report on homeopathy seven years ago said that the remedies perform no better than placebos.
And, a 2015 report from the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council looked at the results of roughly 200 studies on the effectiveness of homeopathy.
Through this, they determined that these are no better than a sugar pill, and are not proven effective for any health condition.
However, Prince Charles asked for the controversial therapies be made widely available on the NHS and in 2007 lobbied the then Health Secretary to fund them.