It's an age-old argument: does homeopathy work or is it all down to the placebo effect? Thousands of people say it works for them, but the medical world isn't so convinced, claiming homeopathic remedies are so diluted, they don't contain any active ingredients. But a new report may provide a clue to what's really going on, say experts.
Researchers from Southampton University's Complementary Medicine Research Unit carried out a study involving people with rheumatoid arthritis, all of whom were already being treated with conventional medicine. Published in the journal Rheumatology, the study divided the patients into different groups.
Some had a series of five consultations with a homeopathic doctor and received homeopathic medicines, while others had the same consultations but were given placebo medicines. Another group was given homeopathic medicines but didn't see a doctor.
What happened was very interesting. Those who had consultations with a homeopathic doctor - whether they received the homeopathic pills or the placebos - reported significant benefits including less pain and inflammation, explain the researchers. However, the patients who were given exactly the same remedies but didn't see a doctor did not experience any improvements in their health.
It all suggests that the success of homeopathy has nothing to do with the remedies themselves, but that having a good chat with a doctor about your health problems can do you the power of good.
It doesn't, however, explain why so many people who take shop-bought homeopathic remedies say they work. Could it be that if you really believe a remedy will help, then it will? And if that's even half true, shouldn't it be encouraged?
What do you think?