In Homeopathy, Consultations Work But Not Remedies


Results of a new study published in Rheumatology indicate that homeopathy works—and doesn’t work. That is, patients with arthritis who had consultations with a homeopath experienced relief from symptoms regardless of whether they received a remedy or placebo.

Whether homeopathy works is an age-old debate

Ever since Samuel Hahnemann first proposed the alternative medicine approach known as homeopathy in 1796, it has had its share of skeptics. Advocates claim that the highly diluted remedies prepared by homeopaths are effective because they contain the essence or memory of the compound from which they were made. Critics claim that homeopathic remedies have no pharmaceutically active ingredients and therefore cannot possibly work.

In a new study from Southampton University, Dr. Sarah Brien, a senior research fellow, and her team evaluated a group of patients with rheumatoid arthritis who had already been treated with conventional medications for their condition. The double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized study was conducted from January 2008 to July 2008.


Patients were assigned to receive a series of five homeopathic consultations along with either a specially prepared homeopathic remedy for arthritis or a placebo, or to receive a remedy or placebo without consultations. The study period lasted 24 weeks, and 56 patients completed the treatment.

Overall, patients who received the consultations reported “significant clinical benefits,” which included improvements in pain, inflammation, swollen joints, and mood, but it did not matter if they had also received a remedy or placebo. Patients who did not participate in consultation sessions did not report symptom improvements.

The study’s authors note that their findings suggest that “talking and listening” to patients can have a dramatic impact on health. Professor George Lewith, professor of Health Research from Southampton University, indicated that although the homeopathic remedies had no benefit, conventional physicians could learn something from how homeopaths consult with their patients.

So, it appears homeopathy works, in a way. “When you place the patient at the heart of the consultation you get a powerful effect,” said Lewith in a Telegraph article. Brien also pointed out that this study was the first to provide scientific evidence that any benefits from homeopathy for rheumatoid arthritis were “specifically due to its unique consultation process.”

Brien S et al. Rheumatology 2010; doi: 10.1093/rheumatology/keq234