Why is homeopathy important in US healthcare?

Iris Bell MD, Ph.D

Data from the federal National Health Interview Survey analyzed by a team at Harvard University show that around 7 million Americans use homeopathy, with steady growth. Users tend to be highly educated females who pursue healthy lifestyles. They use homeopathy for many ailments, but primarily for upper respiratory infections and ear problems, considering it more effective than herbs or nutritional supplements.2 The demographics of users in France and Germany follows a similar pattern, although use of homeopathy is more widespread in most European countries.3 A 2022 (October) Marist Poll found that 61% of U.S. households use supplements and other natural and homeopathic medicines daily, while 75% use them at least monthly. The poll also showed overwhelming support for political candidates who support access to these products.

A multinational comparative effectiveness study led by the American physician David Riley, MD involved 30 doctors, at six clinical sites in four countries, treating patients with acute respiratory illnesses. Response at 14 days was 82.6% favourable for homeopathy compared to 68% for conventional treatment. The rate of adverse reactions to conventional treatment was 22.3%, versus 7.8% for homeopathy. A replication of this study included 1,577 patients, of whom 857 received homeopathic and 720 conventional treatments: improvement was significantly faster when homeopathy was used.9,10

Trichard et al compared a ‘homeopathic strategy’ against an ‘antibiotic strategy’ in routine medical practice in the management of recurrent acute rhino-pharyngitis in 499 children aged 18 months to 4 years old.11, 12 Family physicians using homeopathy had significantly better outcomes in terms of clinical effectiveness, lower complications, increased parental quality of life, less time lost from work, and reduced cost.

Use of homeopathy is geographically widespread and increasing in popularity on both national and international levels. Most independent clinical research and metanalyses demonstrate that homeopathy is superior (looking at both safety and efficacy) when compared with conventional medicine over a wide range of medical conditions. Integrating homeopathy into public health care is associated with many benefits including improved outcome, less use of risky pharmaceutical drugs, including antibiotics and NSAIDs, and significant cost savings,71 but overcoming deeply entrenched political and scientific bias is an ongoing challenge, but not because of a lack of proven efficacy, safety or benefit.

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