Could homeopathy work?

April 18, 2011, 10:13 PM GMT+0

A significant minority among the British public does not rule out the values of ‘alternative’ medicine, including homeopathy, acupuncture and osteopathy, for the treatment of illness, our survey shows, although just 7% are confident that homeopathy is ‘definitely’ an effective treatment.

The results come in the wake of World Homeopathy Awareness Week (10th – 17th April) which aims to increase knowledge and understanding of homeopathic remedies around the globe, as well as allowing homeopaths and patients alike to share treatment success stories.

Homeopathy can be defined as the treatment of disease by minute doses of natural substances that in a healthy person would produce symptoms similar to those suffered by the patient being treated.

  • 43% regard homeopathy as a potentially effective remedy, with 7% saying it is ‘definitely effective’ and the remaining 36% open to the possibility of homeopathy as an effective treatment
  • However, many gave the medicine short shrift, with 23% saying it is ‘probably not effective’ and 14% branding it ‘definitely ineffective’

The treatment has been subject to public scrutiny for some time, amid recurrent debates over whether homeopathic remedies should be available on the NHS. The Science and Technology Select Committee have branded the ‘remedies’ no more effective than a placebo, but homeopathic medicine is sold in many pharmacies and some NHS departments specialising in homeopathy already exist. And with many becoming increasingly sceptical of chemicals cocktails often prescribed in allopathic medicine, it seems for some that alternative medicines could become increasingly appealing.

Alternative remedies

  • Of the other ‘alternative remedies’ we listed in our poll, a substantial 28% of the British regard osteopathy, defined as the treatment of medical disorders through the manipulation and massage of the bones, joints, and muscles, as ‘definitely effective
  • A further 42% were not willing to rule it out as a potentially useful treatment for illness
  • This compares to just 3% who are sure osteopathy would not be effective

A similar regard is held for chiropracty, with exactly the same statistics holding true. Chiropractic treatment is a system of complementary medicine based on the diagnosis and manipulative treatment of misalignments of the joints.

Additionally, acupuncture, involving insertion of needles into the body to alleviate pain, was another popular alternative remedy.

  • 18% of the population agree that it is ‘definitely an effective treatment’
  • While 48% say that acupuncture could ‘possibly’ be effective

The British public appears less than amenable to more holistic treatments, though: while 39% think that reflexology may ‘possibly’ be effective, just 8% are confident of its healing properties, while Reiki, a Japanese ‘natural healing treatment’ involving the practitioner placing their hands on or above set places on the body, receives just 4% ‘definite’ support compared to 14% who are convinced it’s useless. So while homeopathy may inspire confidence in some, it seems allopathic doctors need not throw in the towel just yet.

See the survey details and full results