This treatment modality is thought to manage symptoms of cancer, side effects from conventional therapies and/or control pain. Homeopathy should be used with, not in place of, standard cancer therapy.
What does homeopathy involve?
Homeopathy was developed by Samuel Hahnemann, an 18th century German doctor. Volumes of information from Hahnemann's "research" have been compiled and called the Homeopathic Pharmacopoeia. This is still in use today. Homeopathic remedies are made from assorted herbs, animal products and chemicals diluted thousands of times in water or alcohol. In fact, the majority of homeopathic remedies are so diluted that it is impossible to detect the original active ingredient in the laboratory. Homeopathy should not be confused with herbal medicine. Homeopathic medicines contain little, if any, of the desired herb. Homeopathic practitioners claim that the medicinal solutions contain a "trace memory" of the original substance.
How is homeopathy thought to manage specific symptoms of cancer, side effects of conventional therapies and/or control pain?
Homeopathy is based on Hahnemann's idea of "like cures like;" a substance that causes certain symptoms should also relieve them. Hahnemann tested a huge number of plant, animal and mineral substances on himself in a process called "proving," observing the symptoms they produced and categorizing them as cures for disorders that cause similar problems.
What has been proven about the benefit of homeopathy?
The University of Texas Center for Alternative Medicine conducted an extensive literature review of homeopathy and could not find any clinical trials concerning the use of homeopathy for cancer treatment. However, five cases were reported. Only one of the five cases reported positive results when homeopathic and mistletoe treatments were combined. The mainstream medical community attributes any relief from symptoms of cancer or side effects of treatment to coincidence or the placebo effect (see Appendix E).
What is the potential risk or harm of homeopathy?
Homeopathic remedies are sold over-the-counter, like vitamins and herbal medicines. However, homeopathic remedies can be sold without proof of safety because of a special exemption under the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, passed in 1938. This therapy is virtually safe for everyone, including children. Patients who need to avoid alcohol should forego homeopathic medicines with an alcohol base.
How much does homeopathy cost?
Individual remedy costs vary depending on the pharmacy. These products are rarely reimbursed by insurance. However, homeopathy is covered by the national health care plans in England and Germany. By law, health care plans in Oregon must also cover visits to homeopaths.
For additional information:
Homeopathic Educational Services
2124 Kittredge Street
Berkeley, CA 94704
Telephone: (800) 359-9051
Web site: www.homeopathic.com
National Center for Homeopathy
801 North Fairfax Street, Suite 306
Alexandria, VA 22314
Telephone: (877) 624-0613
Web site: www.homeopathic.org
The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center
Complementary/Integrative Medicine Education Resources
1515 Holcombe Boulevard
Houston, TX 77030
Telephone: (800) 392-1611
Web site: www.mdanderson.org/departments/CIMER/
Note: Information about therapies is intended to help you make informed choices, not to endorse any particular therapy. The information is courtesy of "Integrating Complementary and Alternative Therapies for Cancer Patients," a handbook written as an independent study project by Heather Morein. For more information, see the full text of the handbook (PDF), including all references and appendices.