T Nation

Homeopathy = Placebo


Here's the direct link from Medscape.com (will only work if you're registered):


The text:

Homeopathy's Benefits Are Placebo Effects -- Meta-Analysis

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) Aug 25 - After examining the quality of clinical trials that evaluated the effects of homeopathic and allopathic medicine, the authors of a report in August 27th issue of The Lancet have concluded that the clinical benefits attributed to homeopathic treatment are placebo effects.

Dr. Matthias Egger, from the University of Berne in Switzerland, and associates searched 19 electronic databases covering the period from 1995 to 2003 to identify randomized, placebo-controlled trials of homeopathy. Trials in conventional medicine were randomly selected from the first issue of the Cochrane Controlled Trials Register in 2003 and matched with the homeopathy trials for disorder and outcome measures.

Included were 110 trials each of homeopathy and conventional medicine, with a median of 65 subjects in each.

The odds ratios for most trials indicated a beneficial effect of the intervention, the authors report. Smaller trials with larger standard errors showed more beneficial treatment effects than larger trials, as did trials of lower methodological quality (those with inadequate randomization or masking, or data analysis not based on intention to treat).

The investigators separately analyzed the larger trials (trials with standard error in the lowest quartile) and of high-quality methodological quality (with adequate randomization, masking, and data analysis by intention to treat). They conducted a random-effects meta-analysis to estimate odds ratios, with those below 1.0 indicating a beneficial effect of treatment. Included were eight trials of homeopathy and six trials of conventional medicine.

The restricted analysis revealed odds ratio of 0.88 for homeopathy and 0.58 for conventional medicine. Including the largest trials, the corresponding odds ratios were 0.96 and 0.67.

Dr. Egger and his colleagues write: "When analyses were restricted to large trials of higher quality there was no convincing evidence that homeopathy was superior to placebo, whereas for conventional medicine an important effect remained."

In a related comment, Dr. Jan P. Vandenbroucke, at Leiden University Medical Centre in the Netherlands, queries, "Can a sophisticated application of statistics in meta-analysis in itself solve the problem that randomized trials might have provided a wrong answer?"

He answers by stating that "the ultimate proof is that science makes progress in changing reality: in allopathic medicine by preventing, alleviating, and curing disease ever more effectively."

Lancet editors also weigh in on this topic, suggesting that "surely the time has passed for selective analyses, biased reports, or further investment in research to perpetuate the homeopathy versus allopathy debate."

They add: "Now doctors need to be bold and honest with their patients about homeopathy's lack of benefit, and with themselves about the failings of modern medicine to address patients' needs for personalized care."


The debate about whether homeopathy really works or not will probably go on forever.

As a medic the thing that pisses me off most, is this holier-than-thou attitude that some people (not all) who advocate homeopathy have. They're all too quick to rubbish centuries of tried and trusted scientifically proved science and medicine.

I'm not saying that we shouldn't embrace new concepts, but unitl i have hard scientific proof that something works, then i'm not gonna put my faith in it.

Science doesn't know everthing - but that doesn't mean it knows nothing.

It's interesting to note how all the homeopathy drugs available are for non-life threatening conditions. Basically this says to me that even advocates themselves aren't not will to push their faith far enough to use it in serious situations.

Just my opinions.


What debate? Homeopathy is bunk, case closed. It's never been shown to work in any well done study and the principles upon which it is based ("like cures like" and the "dilution increases effect") have no basis whatsoever.

There's no need to further debate it. It's not like those incorrect principles will suddenly start working tomorrow.


Yes, by all means lets keep taking all the synthetic drugs that have all those wonderful side effects. Modern medicine my ass. How many billions have we spent on cancer research or diabetes or anything else. They only thing medicine has ever cured is polio. Modern medicine treats symptoms and causes more harm. It never treats the root cause. You want the truth, follow the money trail....


Yes, by all means lets keep taking all the synthetic drugs that have all those wonderful side effects. Modern medicine my ass. How many billions have we spent on cancer research or diabetes or anything else. They only thing medicine has ever cured is polio. Modern medicine treats symptoms and causes more harm. It never treats the root cause. You want the truth, follow the money trail....


One more time for good measure?


Tell us how you feel.


With all the evil food we eat combined with the evil doctors and drug companies I am amazed our life span is so long.


Well, homeopathy has no side effect because it also has no effect, period.

Quite a few. And today, many form of cancers are treatable and even curable. If caught early on, a large proportion of cancer victim can be cured and continue leading productive lives.

How many millions are spent on water and sugar pills? If you wish to address wasted funds, I suggest you start there.

Considering that alternative medecines have cured... er, nothing at all, your claim, even if true, would still be a net victory for medecine.

Too bad you can't hop in a time machine and go back to medieval Europe to enjoy the clean living afforded by natural cures and prayers. Experience first hand fun diseases like bubonic plague and leprosy; die at 33 from turbeculosis (AKA consumption); see 9 of your 13 kids die before the age of 2. Spread syphillis to your mistresses. Are you man enough to survive scurvy? Fun to be had by all. Yes, damn modern medecine with it's penicillin and vaccines for making those fun diseases something we can only read about.


Tube Steak Boogie!


Last year, a local guy on a humor TV show went to a homeopathic shop, asked the lady if it was dangerous to ingest the large cereal bowl size of various homeopathic med, what would happen if he did...

The lady at the store said it was insane and life threatening, of course! Since he pretty much knew nothing could happen to him, he ate all the damn bowl of pills!!!

Nothing happenned. He still runs his show.

Homeopatic is total crap.

Pookie, perhaps you know him : Jean-Rene Dufort


this was already debated in supps & nutrition. I know it works for me. If it doesn't work for someone else, well, sorry. NATURAL is going to be MY first resource. But I know where my doctor's office is and we see him often enough that he knows us well. Western medicine has it's place. But you will never see me reaching for the ibuprofen unless I've exhausted all other options first.


Right. Why not try the sometimes cheaper, less invasive protocol first. Sometimes this is homeopathy, sometimes it is nutritional therapy or a host of other things. If there's little to lose and something to gain...even if it is the placebo effect it's an effect.


Isn't it annoying when people justify everything by saying: "It has it's place"? Not just in medicine but in training too.

It either works or it doesn't, and if it does not stand up to rigorous hypothesis testing, then it doesn't.

I am not someone who is close minded about alternative medicine. Some traditional herbal remedies as well as treatments like acupuncture have been backed by reasonable scientific evidence in recent years. However, when the evidence clearly says that something does not work, it is time for the followers of those disciplines to be open minded also!


Don't you know all the great true natural cures were brought by the aliens that crashed at Roswell and the gov't. has been reverse engineering diseases to keep us taking their medications and to stop people from knowing that putting a rock in your pants and rubbing daffodils on your man parts will cure AIDS?

Do some reading, people!


I agree that the cause is debatable, but not the effect. It's been covered in the previous thread on homeopathy. I'd like to make a few points, just for argument's sake

1) The premises of homeopathy are obviously flawed, but oftentimes in the history of science, flawed premises served as models to understand and experiment on a concept not yet understood. Those concept eventually evolved, transformed and yielded the current theories that now makes science so bold in it's vision of the working of our world. If all the examples of this in the very industry of supplements and weight training are not enough, crack open a book of elementary science, and look at the first theories that were made to explain the atom. Sure, Thomson and Rutherford had it all right from the beginning.......

2) I'll make a search on this to bring scientific proof to the table, but what is placebo effect? From the dictionnary: projection of the psyche in the reality of a given effect to an unrelated cause, yielding the expected results by sheer force of will and self-suggestion. I totally agree with this. Now can you blame all of homeopathy's effect on placebo? Well, you can, if you tell me how you convince a newborn a have the necessary belief in the aforementionned effect. Or how you do it with a cow, which does not have a psyche to begin with, as many vets are now trying homeopathy on cattle and pets.

3) What is the definition of the scientific mind? Where in the world is it written that if science says there isn't a related cause to a given effect, there absolutely right? As far as I know, belief of not, homeopathy as worked with me even though a was sceptic. I bought the medecine on the recommendation of a friend, so I had no outward influence affecting my mindset beforehand. And it worked. Not in a miraculous way, but where other scientific means had failed. I think that science, real science, shouldn't scorn 'alternative' ways of doing things, be it in medicine or any other areas, just because of it's failure to explain it's workings.

It's what bugs me most about today's scientist: if they don't know the how and/or why, then it's just so much bs wrapped in fur. My point of view is this: if you can't discover how something works, either the means, in this case science, are not advanced enough yet to explain it, or the premises you use to conduct your experimentation, again science in this case, is flawed, wether in the design of the project or in the basics on which you built your experimentation logic.

Please note here that this is not an attack on science, I'm just pointing out some things that are often left out when people start naming study and 36 letters names and such and such. But bear in mind that although it's yet our best mean to explain this universe of ours, science is not perfect, or rather it is, we just haven't gotten it right all the time.

I'm not claiming either that homeopathy is the new wonder cure doing miracles for everything and everyone. Sure it has it's use, but it fizzles and falls short of expectations sometime. But so does our Oh so Holy Modern Medicine, but the lay person is wont to admit it, because it cost so much, it's gotta work, right? :stuck_out_tongue:

Anyway, when all else is said and done, all there is to do is give it a try. You might be pleasantly suprised. Or not, but at least you'll know for yourself.


LOL, in the previous homeopathy debate i was very pro-homeopathy. now not so much.

now, after research and avid comtemplation, im willing to say that my journey out of depression wasn't a direct result of homeopathy simply because i dont actually know and i do actually know that other things in my life changed that would've affected a change as well. but, im still reluctant to say that when my homeopathist told me that "if this is the right one for you, you'll feel really bad tomorrow and the next day." then, as predicted, i felt like abject shit the next two days. could this be placebo? i guess, but it'd be nice to know why it worked then and not for the infinite other times i believed in stuff.

i think the only avenue of homeopathic debate that will yield results is via discussing placebo and what that can actually do. we all know that science has shown homeopathy to be fraudulent, and that science cant really be argued with (except infinitesimal instances), but people are still getting results and it's those results that should be delved into.

also, Anti-Homeopathists, can you retort the allegations that animals and infants have resulted from homeopathy? if you care to convince anybody then start there cuz everything else is just superfluity.

and despite the fact that, as pookie pointed out, science has shown that homeopathy isn't really a debate, some of us have gotten results and attribute them to homeopathy. and all the science in the world wont take most peoples' beliefs away. perhaps trying to figure out how the result came (placebo? explain.) will correct our ignornance a little better.


Thomson and Rutherford's research programs were false but empirically and theoretically progressive. Although they maintained the core of their theories, they modified the belt of auxiliary theories to make more falsifiable predictions.

Conversely, the theory of homeopathy is theoretically degenerating. The explanation for why homeopathy has fails in double blind studies is: "Homeopathy works, except on some people". It is ad hoc as it is less testable.

I am not aware that such research has been done.

If you have the source, can you post reference for the studies?

It's not so much that we do not know the how or why, it is that it does not stand up to simple statistical testing. I'm not sure if you're familiar with statistical jargon, but the research shows that the p-value is too large to give any evidence against the null hypothesis that the effects of homeopathy is the same as the effect of a placebo treatment.

I agree that studies are not always right, but you gotta agree it is better to be quoting studies than not! Otherwise all we have is dogma.

That is a good point, not because I think homeopathy is effective but because I think there are aspects of modern medicine that fall short of our scientific standards also. If anything, the existance of pseudo-treatments forces the medical science community to conform to it's own standards with respect to testing.


I haven't read about any homeopathic studies (controlled, double blind) properly done on animals, but I have no reason to believe we'd see any difference between the tested group receiving the homeopathic treatment and the control group receiving placebo.

Most minor illnesses tend to go away by themselves as the body's immune system fights them. If you have a cold and take nothing, it usually passes in 4-5 days. If you take homeopathic medecine, it still passes in 4-5 days, but you attribute it to the medecine.

That's where the common saying "take two aspirins and call me in the morning" comes from. Doctors know that if you give most minor illnesses even as little as 24 hours, you'll feel better.

Longer lasting illnesses also tend to affect you in cycles. You'll have good days and bad days. You'll often take medecine (homeopathic or otherwise) on the days you feel the worst. If you feel better then next day, you'll attribute it to whatever you took.

Most people really want to be validated in their choices. So if they do take homeopathic medecine, they'll look for signs of getting better and tend to excuse any lack of effect. (I didn't sleep well; I was dehydrated; etc.)

Alternative medecines can never lose, because they have an excuse for everything.

If you take AMs and get better, it's because they work.

If you take AMs and they don't work, then it's because you took drugs before and are now "poisoned" or you need to try another AM.

If you take AMs and die, it's because you waited too long before taking them.

Talk to any AM practitionner and try to get them to admit possible failure conditions. It's nearly impossible.

As for infants, I think that the effect is through the mother. Because she thinks she gave some good homeopathic medecine to her baby, the mother is more relaxed and her serene state reflects on the child.

Young kids are also extremely receptive to suggestion. For example, my daughter recently had a cold with a bad sore throat. We had given her some syrup for her throat, but about an hour later, she wanted more. The posology indicated to wait at least 4 hours between doses, and, while I think modern medecine is your best bet when you're really sick, I'm not particularly keen with filling my kids with unnecessary drugs.

So I told her I'd give her a "special medecine." I filled one of her non-spill glass with water and added 3 ice cubes, all the while explaining how the ice would cool the water and that the cold water would soothe her sore throat. I also told her she could have as much as she wanted of this "special medecine." The non-spill glass with ice also made a nice rattling sound when you shook it, adding to the fun.

Later, she told me that the special medecine was working great and that her throat was feeling much better. The next day, her throat still sore, she didn't want the syrup, only the iced water. Her sore throat eventually passed, as those things do, but when she talks about it she says that the special medecine made it go away.

Now, maybe the cold water did numb her throat a little and maybe the water, by hydrating her, lessened the soreness. There probably was some kind of minor effect, but I firmly believe that whatever effect there was, was magnified by her belief that daddy's "special medecine" would help her sore throat.


Yes, but sometimes crap is crap.

That dilution increases potency actually contradicts everything we know about chemistry. You don't "underdose" on drugs, you overdose. If you want to poison someone, you don't dilute the poison for more effect, you increase the dose.

If dilution actually increased potency, you'd probably die from drinking a glass of water. Just think of everything that's dumped into the water supply; from human waste to old medecines to industrial garbage. Filtering wouldn't help, as homeopathy states that the water molecules have memory and actually "remember" contact with this or that substance. That's how, they claim, a vial containing only water can have an effect. The pure water "remembers" the properties of whatever it was in contact with. So any random glass of water should "remember" enough substances to kill an elephant. But they don't.

Great scam if you can pull it off, though.