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Homeopathy

Homeopathy is based on the theory of ‘like cures like’. It uses small doses of a substance that in large doses would cause symptoms of the illness. There is no scientific evidence that it can prevent or treat cancer.

Summary

  • Homeopathy uses small doses of a substance that in large doses would cause symptoms of the illness
  • There is no scientific evidence that it can prevent or treat cancer
  • Homeopathic medicines might have side effects and interact with other medicine

What is homeopathy?

Homeopathy is more than 200 years old. It is one of the most common complementary therapies used by people with cancer.

Homeopathy is based on the theory of ‘like cures like’ and the ‘law of the smallest dose’. To treat an illness, a homeopathic therapist (homeopath) uses tiny doses of a substance. In large doses, the substance would cause the symptoms of the illness.

Followers believe that homeopathic medicines work by starting the body’s self-healing process. This happens through a reaction. Healing occurs because the body tries to keep a stable internal environment.

Manufacturers make homeopathic remedies from plant, mineral and animal substances. They are diluted in water and shaken until there is little, if any, of the original substance left. They use the water to make drops, pills or creams.

Why people with cancer use it

As with most types of complementary therapy, people use it because it may help them feel better or more in control of their situation.

Some people choose homeopathy because it is a different type of treatment compared to conventional medicine

People use it alongside conventional medicine. You should not have it instead of conventional cancer treatment.

Homeopaths believe that it can treat a wide range of symptoms and conditions.

Followers of homeopathy promote it to people with cancer as a natural way to help you:

  • relax
  • cope with stress, anxiety and depression
  • control symptoms and side effects such as pain, sickness and tiredness

People report that they feel better with homeopathy. But there is no evidence to show that it helps with any health condition. It is thought that it may have a placebo effect. This is when people feel better if they believe they have taken something to make them feel better.

Homeopathy in the UK

In 2010, the UK Science and Technology Committee made a recommendation to the NHS. They suggested that the NHS stop funding homeopathy. They said there is no evidence that it works beyond the placebo effect.

And in 2017, NHS England recommended that GPs and other prescribers do not prescribe it. They agreed with the statement in 2010 that there is no evidence that it works for any health condition.

The National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE) advises the NHS on the use of treatments. Currently, NICE does not recommend homeopathy as a treatment for any health condition.

How you have it

On your first visit, your homeopath will ask you general questions. These will be about your health, lifestyle, diet and medical history. They will ask about sleep patterns, your mood and emotions.

This information helps the homeopath decide on the best remedies to pick for you. These are classed as unlicensed medicines.

The consultation usually lasts about 45 minutes. Further appointments may be shorter.

Homeopathic remedies come as:

  • tablets
  • granules
  • powders
  • liquid

You take them by mouth or as creams or drops. Your therapist will let you know how to take your remedies and how often.

They’ll also let you know when to go back for a check up to see if your condition has improved. If you have a long lasting (chronic) condition, they may suggest you go back a few times.

Your homeopath may ask you to keep a record of any changes in your symptoms or condition.

You can buy homeopathic remedies over the counter. They are available at the chemist or in health food shops. Homeopathic medicines are unlicensed medicines. So, the chemist will not tailor these remedies for you.

You can also buy homeopathic remedies over the internet. But keep in mind there is no guarantee that you will receive the correct remedyt. Or that it will be of good quality.

Finding a homeopath

Choose a qualified and reputable homeopath.

No single professional organisation regulates homeopathic practitioners in the UK. They can join several associations. There is no law to say that they must do so. But most trained homeopaths belong to one of the professional organisations.

The organisations listed below can help you find a homeopath in your area.

Side effects

Using homeopathic medicine is generally safe. Some homeopaths warn people that their symptoms could get worse first. After that it will settle down and improve. But this doesn't happen very often.

Researchers did a systematic review in 2016. This means that a group of experts gather all the evidence about a particular subject. They then go through it to work out whether there is any evidence to support it.

The researchers looked at 41 studies. They found that homeopathy had no more side effects than placebos. The researchers said that many studies on homeopathy failed to report side effects.

The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NIH) in America warns against certain homeopathic products. Researchers found that some homeopathic products contained heavy metals. They were not diluted. These products could cause severe side effects. A 2017 study also warned against homeopathy. It said that it might cause people to stop their conventional treatment.

Tell your cancer doctors before using any homeopathic remedy. Also tell your homeopath that you are having cancer treatment.

Research into homeopathy

Many clinical trials have looked at how well homeopathy works in treating various illnesses. None of them give any evidence that homeopathy can cure or prevent any type of disease. There is also no reliable evidence to say that homeopathy can treat cancer. Many studies are too small, and the method of study is not always of good quality.

There have been studies looking into homeopathy to find out if it can help with side effects of some cancer treatments. But the studies were small and there is not enough evidence to recommend them. The researchers said that the studies need repeating. 

Some of the remedies they looked at were:

  • calendula ointment to help with skin inflammation (dermatitis) after radiotherapy treatment
  • a homeopathic medicine called A. montana 1000K to help with blood loss after surgery for breast cancer and to prevent a pocket of fluid (seroma) from forming
  • the homeopathic medicines Arnica montana 15CH and Apis mellifica 15CH together with accupuncture to help with pain after surgery

How much it costs

The cost of a consultation with a homeopath can vary.

Your remedy will usually be included in the consultation price, but do check this first.

A word of caution

It is understandable that you might want to try anything if you think it might help treat or cure your cancer. Only you can decide whether to use a complementary cancer therapy such as homeopathy.

You could harm your health if you stop your cancer treatment for an unproven treatment.

Many websites might promote homeopathy as a cancer treatment. But no reputable scientific cancer organisations support any of these claims.

Check with your doctor before you start using homeopathic medicine. They have the full picture about your care and treatment.

Questions to ask your CAM therapist

Questions to ask your CAM therapist

  • How many years of training have you had?
  • How long have you been practising?
  • Have you had training for treating and supporting people with cancer?
  • Do you have indemnity insurance? (in case of negligence)

Homeopathy organisations

These UK organisations can put you in touch with health professionals who are also registered homeopaths.

The BHA supplies a list of health professionals and hospitals that practice homeopathy, books on homeopathy, and a magazine.

Hahnemann House
29 Park Street West
Luton
LU1 3BE

Phone: 01582 408675
Email: info@britishhomeopathic.org

This is the national organisation for registered homeopaths. It's members are also registered healthcare professionals such as doctors, nurses and dentists. It ensures the highest standards of homeopathic education, training and practice. You can contact the British Homeopathic Association to find a homeopath who is a member of the faculty.

Phone: 01582 408680

Last reviewed: 
15 Jul 2019
  • Use of Complementary and Alternative Medicines among Cancer Patients: A Single-Center Study

    Gras M and others.

    Oncology, May 2019; 27:1-8. 

  • Add-On Complementary Medicine in Cancer Care: Evidence in Literature and Experiences of Integration

    E Rossi and others

    Medicines (Basel). 2017 January 24; 4(1)

  • Adverse effects of homeopathy, what do we know? A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials

    T Stub and others

    Complementary Therapies Medicine. 2016 June; 26:146–63.

  • Evidence check 2: Homeopathy
    Science and Technology Committee, UK government, February 2010

  • Items which should not routinely be prescribed in primary care: Guidance for CCGs

    NHS England, 2017

     

  • Specialist Pharmacy Service:  Homeopathy evidence review

    NHS England

    Accessed:  July 2019

  • The information on this page is based on literature searches and specialist checking. We used many references and there are too many to list here. If you need additional references for this information please contact patientinformation@cancer.org.uk with details of the particular issue you are interested in.

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