Homeopathic remedies are advocated for the treatment of postoperative ileus, yet data from clinical trials are inconclusive. We therefore performed meta-analyses of existing clinical trials to determine whether homeopathic treatment has any greater effect than placebo administration on the restoration of intestinal peristalsis in patients after abdominal or gynecologic surgery. We conducted systematic literature searches to identify relevant clinical trials. Meta-analyses were conducted using RevMan software. Separate meta-analyses were conducted for any homeopathic treatment versus placebo; homeopathic remedies of < 12C potency versus placebo; homeopathic remedies of > or = 12C potency versus placebo. A "sensitivity analysis" was performed to test the effect of excluding studies of low methodologic quality. Our endpoint was time to first flatus. Meta-analyses indicated a statistically significant (p < 0.05) weighted mean difference (WMD) in favor of homeopathy (compared with placebo) on the time to first flatus. Meta-analyses of the three studies that compared homeopathic remedies > or = 12C versus placebo showed no significant difference (p > 0.05). Meta-analyses of studies comparing homeopathic remedies < 12C with placebo indicated a statistically significant (p < 0.05) WMD in favor of homeopathy on the time to first flatus. Excluding methodologically weak trials did not substantially change any of the results. There is evidence that homeopathic treatment can reduce the duration of ileus after abdominal or gynecologic surgery. However, several caveats preclude a definitive judgment. These results should form the basis of a randomized controlled trial to resolve the issue.