Med Clin North Am. 2002 Jan;86(1):47-62. doi: 10.1016/s0025-7125(03)00071-3.


Especially in the United States, homeopathy has not become integrated into mainstream medical practice; this is partly because of the historical paucity of quality published research studies or quality educational programs. More recently, there have been better-designed studies in reputable journals, although historically most studies have been inconclusive or of poor methodology. The confusion around homeopathy in the United States exists for several reasons: 1. One of the main reasons for the relative disinterest or opposition to homeopathy is that even well-designed clinical studies on homeopathy leave the reader without any protocol-driven tools to take into daily practice. Individualization of treatment, or, as it is called today, differential therapeutics, is the main requirement of successful homeopathic prescribing. Only well-trained homeopathic practitioners are able to carry out such a task. In many articles that reported positive outcomes for homeopathy, numerous homeopathic remedies had been prescribed for the same diagnostic category. Critics suggest that the pooling of data from trials using different therapeutic agents to assess the overall success of homeopathic prescribing is incorrect. Research protocols that employ combination remedies, in which a medication contains several homeopathic remedies, fall into the same category. 2. Many of the positive and negative studies published are flawed with numerous methodologic problems. One of the most common problems is a lack of objective validated outcome measures. Another common problem is a small sample size. In most positive and negative meta-analyses published to date, research data are pulled together artificially based on either a diagnostic category or a particular remedy. Frequently the concentration of the remedy used and the conditions to which it has been applied are different. Ernst and Pittler published a letter with a critique of the methodology used in one of the meta-analyses of clinical trials of homeopathy. Most importantly, professional homeopaths and conventional scientists criticize the choice of remedy or the condition to which it was applied or both. The design and follow-up in migraine studies has been criticized extensively by one of the world's leading homeopaths, Vithoulkas (personal communication, 1997). Most of the Arnica studies have been designed with either an inappropriate dosing regimen or an inappropriately chosen procedure. In most positive studies on homeopathy, the outcome measures were subjective and poorly quantifiable. 3. Few well-designed studies have been reproduced by independent research teams. This situation exists for two major reasons: lack of sufficient funding and lack of a sufficient number of well-trained homeopaths qualified and interested to participate in research. 4. More rigorous educational programs on homeopathy for professionals need to be encouraged. Most of the existing programs are designed for consumers; academic continuing medical education-quality courses are needed. Meanwhile, while the debate around homeopathy still continues in conventional medical circles, the general public has been using the services of homeopathic practitioners and homeopathic remedies increasingly. In many countries, homeopathy and other complementary modalities have been integrated successfully into a larger armamentarium for the modern physician. According to a study published in 1995 in the Journal of the American Board of Family Practice, 69% of family practice physicians expressed interest in learning more about homeopathy. Increasing public and professional interest calls for attempts to study homeopathy in a more systematic way and to provide quality academic overview for medical practitioners. The growing number of complementary and alternative medicine centers affiliated with major teaching hospitals should provide a solid interface between evidence-based biologic medicine and many emerging complementary and alternative medicine modalities, including homeopathy.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Homeopathy / education
  • Homeopathy / methods*
  • Humans
  • Meta-Analysis as Topic
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Research
  • Treatment Outcome
  • United States