What is homeopathy?
Homeopathy is a complementary or alternative medicine (CAM). This means that homeopathy is different in important ways from treatments that are part of conventional Western medicine.
It is based on a series of ideas developed in the 1790s by a German doctor called Samuel Hahnemann.
A central principle of the "treatment" is that "like cures like" – that a substance that causes certain symptoms can also help to remove those symptoms. A second central principle is based around a process of dilution and shaking, called succussion.
Practitioners believe that the more a substance is diluted in this way, the greater its power to treat symptoms. Many homeopathic remedies consist of substances that have been diluted many times in water until there is none or almost none of the original substance left.
Homeopathy is used to "treat" an extremely wide range of conditions, including physical conditions such as asthma and psychological conditions such as depression.
What are the regulation issues?
There is no legal regulation of homeopathic practitioners in the UK. This means that anyone can practise as a homeopath, even if they have no qualifications or experience.
A number of professional associations can help you to find a homeopath who will practise the treatment in a way that is acceptable to you.
Homeopathic organisations in England include:
Alliance of Registered Homeopaths
The Society of Homeopaths
British Homeopathic Association
Institute for Complementary and Natural Medicine
Voluntary regulation aims to protect patient safety, but it does not mean that there is scientific evidence that a treatment is effective.
Is it safe?
Homeopathic remedies are generally safe and the risk of a serious adverse side effect arising from taking these remedies is thought to be small.
Some homeopathic remedies may contain substances that are not safe, or that interfere with the action of other medicines. You should talk to your GP before stopping any treatment prescribed by a doctor or avoiding procedures such as vaccination in favour of homeopathy.
When is it used?
Homeopathy is used for an extremely wide range of health conditions. Many practitioners believe that homeopathy can help with any condition.
Among the most common conditions that people seek homeopathic treatment for are:
mental health conditions, such as depression, stress and anxiety
allergies, such as food allergies
dermatitis (an allergic skin condition)
high blood pressure
There is no good quality evidence that homeopathy is an effective treatment for these or any other health conditions.
Some practitioners also claim that homeopathy can prevent malaria or other diseases. There is no evidence to support this and no scientifically plausible way that homeopathy can prevent diseases.
The National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE) advises the NHS on proper use of treatments. NICE currently does not recommend that homeopathy should be used in the treatment of any health condition.
Clinical trials for Homeopathy
Information provided by WHO International Clinical Trials Registry
The clinical trials below are relevant to Homeopathy. For some clinical trials, go to: