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Homeopathy is 'rubbish', says chief medical officer

Homeopathy is 'rubbish', says chief medical officer

Professor Dame Sally Davies said she was “perpetually surprised” homeopathy was provided on the NHS, and branded homeopaths “peddlers.”

Giving evidence to the Commons Science and Technology committee, she also expressed fears about the prescription of homeopathic remedies to treat malaria and other illnesses.

‘I’m very concerned when homeopathic practitioners try to peddle this way of life to prevent malaria or other infectious disease,” she said.

“I am perpetually surprised that homeopathy is available on the NHS.”

Dame Sally, who is England’s most senior doctor, concluded by remarking that homeopathy “is rubbish”.

10 Replies

A US medics perspective posted today. " a good read on choosing alternative medicine"

Sunrise Rounds: Choosing Alternative Medicine


Yes, a good follow-up to Dr Sharman's recent blog. (I was just about to post the link to this too!)


I always liked how Dr. Hamblin phrased it...

'The real problem with alternative medicine is that once any treatment is shown beyond doubt to be effective, it ceases to be 'alternative' and becomes just like any other part of medical knowledge. That means that 'alternative medicine' must consist entirely of unproven treatments.'



What is the attitude about, or practice of integrative medicine (MDs with this as a speciality) in other countries? It is becoming very popular and accepted at major medical centers in the US. UCLA also has a Center of East West Medicine. Both are different in most ways from homeopathy and involve MDs (fully lisenced doctors - I'm still trying to figure out comparative terms between here and other countries).


I don’t know why the attitude, will have to find a transcript of the whole discussion. From listening to many who benefit using complimentary medicine alongside conventional to help them cope with symptoms and live with their disease, it is clear that it does help some. I struggle with how treatments are defined as alternative and or complimentary . ( I have pasted some info below that may be of help). Should we be concerned that complimentary medicine may become less available under the NHS?

From reading UK Macmillan literature on integrated/complementary and alternative medicine and cancer. I found a small section about homeopathy that does explain how and why it is made available under the NHS.


“Homeopathy is used for a number of illnesses and may be taken in addition to conventional treatment to try to improve the quality of life of people with cancer. There’s no reliable scientific evidence for the effectiveness of homeopathy, however many people who use it say they are satisfied or very satisfied with it.

Homeopathy is based on the theory that a substance that causes similar symptoms to those of the illness being treated can be used in tiny amounts to treat those symptoms. Homeopathic remedies, which come as tablets, liquids or creams, contain these substances in an extremely diluted form.

Homeopaths may use homeopathic preparations to try to relieve symptoms caused by cancer or side effects caused by cancer treatments.

Some GPs and hospital doctors are trained in homeopathy, and homeopathy is sometimes available through the NHS. If you’re interested in this type of treatment, you can discuss it with your GP or your cancer specialist.

Homeopathic preparations are extremely diluted, so homeopathy is safe to use alongside conventional cancer treatments and there’s no evidence that it causes side effects.

Some homeopathic remedies are diluted in alcohol, so people who don’t drink alcohol may choose not to use these.

You can get information about homeopathy and finding a registered practitioner from theBritish Homeopathic Association or The Royal London Hospital for Integrated Medicine.”


Conventional therapies are the medical treatments doctors use to treat people with cancer. Surgery, radiotherapy, chemotherapy, hormonal and biological therapies are all conventional treatments.


Complementary and alternative therapies or CAM (complementary and alternative medicines) are other treatments sometimes used by people with cancer. These treatments are often grouped together, but there can be important differences between them based on how and why they are used. Often a treatment can be complementary if used in one way and alternative if used in another.

Complementary therapies are usually used alongside conventional therapies. They aren’t used to cure cancer. Instead, they are used to boost physical or emotional health. They may also be used to help relieve the symptoms of cancer or the side effects of conventional treatments. Complementary medicine is also sometimes called integrated or integrative medicine.

While complementary therapies are generally used in addition to conventional treatments, the term alternative therapy is often used to refer to treatments that are used in place of conventional treatments.

Some alternative therapies claim to actively treat or even cure cancer, but no alternative therapies have been proven to cure cancer or slow its growth.

Conventional treatments for cancer are scientifically tested and researched so that their safety, effectiveness and possible side effects are known. However, alternative therapies don’t go through the same rigorous testing. This means that their benefits in treating cancer are unclear and some alternative therapies may even be harmful. Using an alternative therapy instead of conventional cancer treatment could reduce the chance of your cancer being cured or controlled.


How complementary therapies can help



There is homeopathy and the homeopath. Rather like conventional medicine, it is not just the science/art, but also the practitioner that count.

I would caution against demonising homeopathy globally - it seems to me there are many areas that modern medicine has no answers (or practical ideas) for and homeopathy does seem to work in certain types of illness. Or, the least one could say is that some patients derive benefit from homeopathic approaches.

I am a MD and I know I would rather see some homeopaths than some MDs if I was unwell!

Homeopathy practised by the right person does have a role in cancer care.


A lot of conventional treatments are rubbish too but a placebo can go a long way to making you feel better.

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Having worked in and around the medical industry for over 20 years I know that many of the new drugs cause more problems than they are worth. In many cases this is due to the poor quality of primary care, GP's merrily prescribe the latest wonder drug without considering for example the interaction with existing prescribed drugs.

A good homeopathic doctor will not just home in the on the current symptoms but will look at the patient as a whole in order to determine the remedy required.

I have had several conditions in the past i.e psoriasis which the NHS failed to cure over a three year period, I went in desperation to a homeopath who prescribed a remedy with was made from squid ink, he told me it would start to disappear from my fingers and toes and would end up with a spot which would takes months to clear. The psoriasis went excactly as he said.

Quite unrelated the homeopath asked if I ever had sore throats, I hadn't mentioned this but I had since childhood, he gave me a powder on to my tongue and said you will never have another sore throat and after 40 years I never have.

The medical profession are all too keen to dismiss homeopathy but it is interesting to note that many new drugs are designed to stimulate the body's defence mechanism to fight disease in the sdame way as homeopathic remedies i.e treating like to like.

Homeopathy like conventional medicine cannot cure all conditions but unlike many drugs homeopathic remedies do not make patients conditions worse


As CLLSA noted, it's the practitioner that counts. Perhaps homeopaths take a more holistic approach to the patient's well being? RogerM also rightly points out that placebos can have a healing effect. Even my GP readily acknowledges that patients may well recover in time, particularly with some ailments, with or without treatment.

One of the concerns with homeopathy, is the danger that patients may put themselves in by accepting homeopathic treatment when they have a serious condition that could well prove fatal if not treated by prompt intervention by surgery or drugs that have proven high success rates in such cases.



I agree, for serious diseases Iregard it as a "complimentary" therapy to be used in conjunction with conventional medicine. My father who died of lung cancer was not cured by homeopathy and we didn't expect him to be BUT his quality of life right up to the end was made much better because of his homeopathic treatment


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