As the wellness industry in Australia flourishes, what role will be assigned to the much maligned field of homeopathy?
While homeopathy remains on the fringes of acceptance in Australia, the rest of the world takes a different view with the World Health Organization claiming it is the fastest growing, and second most utilised system of alternative medicine in the world1. Attention should be turned to the potential role homeopathy can play in the pursuit of wellness.
What is wellness?
Wellness can be viewed as a conscious choice; a lifestyle; a harmonious flow of energy between an individual and the world they live in that comes from the integration of mind, body, emotion and spirit; which in turn leads to optimal impact on the individual, the community and the planet.
On a personal level, wellness strategies endeavour to teach individuals ways in which they can optimise and positively impact their health and wellbeing on all levels. This optimisation may be through strategies such as nutrition, lifestyle adjustments, yoga, meditation, positive psychology, or complementary and alternative medicines (CAM).
Where homeopathy fits in
Homeopathy is one such CAM which has the potential to be one of the most effective therapies utilised in the pursuit of wellness. Both wellness and homeopathy are holistic in principle, work within a wellness paradigm (cultivating and promoting wellness) as opposed to a disease paradigm (managing disease), and view health dynamically. Wellness is multifaceted and dependent upon energy and integration; homeopathic medicine likewise seeks to stimulate an integration of mind, body, emotions and spirit, and create a harmonious balance of energy internally and in external interactions with their environment.
Homeopathic remedies are derived from mineral, plant, animal, and synthetic substances. They are prescribed based on an in-depth evaluation of the whole person (totality of symptoms), and the law of ‘like cures like’ i.e. whatever can cause signs and symptoms in a healthy person can also cure those symptoms in a sick person. The remedies are prepared through a process of serial dilution and succussion, based on the tenet that the more a crude ingredient is diluted, and shaken with impact for activation, the safer and more effective it becomes. The correctly chosen remedy will stimulate the body’s innate healing ability, and effect deep and lasting healing on multiple levels, leading to enhanced and optimal wellness.
Barriers and resistance to homeopathy
One of the greatest barriers to acceptance of homeopathy within Australia is the lack of scientifically acceptable evidence, so it remains a highly contentious issue. A recent systematic review by the National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia2 concluded that there was no compelling evidence to support the efficacy of homeopathy in any clinical condition. Conversely, homeopathy has proven beneficial in the long-term care of people with chronic disease3, and a report by the Swiss Federal Office for Public Health4 stated that there is clinical evidence to support the efficacy of homeopathy in a number of clinical conditions.
One explanation for the disparate conclusions regarding homoeopathy’s efficacy is the existence of plausibility bias5, particularly with regards to the mechanism by which homeopathy works. As homeopathic medicines are diluted and work on a dynamic level their action is incredibly difficult to measure, and even more difficult for people to accept. Despite positive findings in the first systematic review of homeopathy, authors rejected its efficacy due to the scientific implausibility of its mechanism5.
A further problem cited with judging the efficacy of homeopathy with experimental research (such as randomised controlled trials), is that it fails to take into consideration the therapeutic value of treatment by a homeopath6. Homeopathy is a complex system and reducing it to the medicines of its trade demonstrates a poor understanding of that.
The problem with measuring
It should be remembered that the aim of homeopathy is ultimately to treat people, not conditions, and the treatment is highly individualised and long acting, making measuring its efficacy particularly difficult, and near impossible within the rigours of science.
Yet it is the very dynamic nature of homeopathy that makes it such a powerful tool in the pursuit of wellness: by restoring balance and alignment to the individual in a safe, lasting, and inexpensive manner, the individual is poised to think and act positively from a place of alignment, creating a self-perpetuating cycle of wellness.
Homeopathy is not entirely without its risks though, and consumers need to ensure they consult a qualified and accredited homeopath. To locate an accredited homoeopath you can visit the Australian Homeopathic Association website.
The future of homeopathy in Australia
As the wellness industry in Australia flourishes, and science continues to relegate homeopathy to the quackery corner, perhaps it is time Australia caught up with the rest of the world and recognised the value of homeopathy in the pursuit of wellness.
The NHMRC review procedures are now the subject of a Commonwealth Ombudsman investigation following reports of inaccuracies, mishandling of evidence and conflicts of interest.
Australian Homeopathic Association website: www.homeopathyoz.org
- Bodeker G, Ong, C.K., Grundy, C., Burford, G. & Shein, K. WHO Global Atlas of Traditional, Complementary and Alternative Medicine. Japan: Kobe: World Health Organization Centre for Health Development; 2005. 347 p.
- Council. NHaMR. Effectiveness of homeopathy for clinical conditions: evaluation of the evidence overview report. Canberra, ACT: OptumInsight., 2013
- Witt CM, Ludtke R, Baur R, Willich SN. Homeopathic medical practice: long-term results of a cohort study with 3981 patients. BMC public health. 2005;5:115.
- Bornhöft G, Wolf U, Ammon K, Righetti M, Maxion-Bergemann S, Baumgartner S, et al. Effectiveness, safety and cost-effectiveness of homeopathy in general practice–summarized health technology assessment. Forschende Komplementärmedizin/Research in Complementary Medicine [Internet]. 2006; 13(2):[19-29 pp.]. Available from: http://www.sphq.org/doc_etudes/Bornhoeft2006%20-review%20of%20Swiss%20federal%20report.pdf.
- Rutten L, Mathie RT, Fisher P, Goossens M, van Wassenhoven M. Plausibility and evidence: the case of homeopathy. Medicine, Health Care, and Philosophy. 2013;16(3):525-32.
- Relton C, O’Cathain A, Thomas KJ. ‘Homeopathy’: Untangling the debate. Homeopathy : the journal of the Faculty of Homeopathy. 2008;97(3):152-5.
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