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Homeopathy is a system of medicine which involves treating the individual with highly diluted substances, given mainly in tablet form, with the aim of triggering the body’s natural system of healing. Based on their specific symptoms, a homeopath will match the most appropriate medicine to each patient. Homeopathy is based on the principle that you can treat ‘like with like’, that is, a substance which causes symptoms when taken in large doses, can be used in small amounts to treat those same symptoms.


Homeopathy takes into account the unique mental, emotional and physical traits of the individual concerned, giving a holistic approach to health and treating the whole person, rather than looking at the illness in isolation. Homeopathic remedies are prescribed by matching the presenting symptoms at the consultation to a particular remedy. Homeopathy can generally be used at any time before, during or after cancer treatment due to the dilute nature of the preparations, which do not interact with drugs. However it is best to consult a qualified homeopath to know when particular remedies are safe and appropriate to take.

In the first session, the homeopath will spend around an hour finding out about your current and past health, the health of immediate family, any likes or dislikes you have, your diet, emotions and mood. Homeopaths use reference texts and careful consideration to decide which remedy is most appropriate for you. The remedies are usually either in the form of pills or tablets, a powder, or as a water-based or alcohol-based liquid, and are from a variety of animal, vegetable, mineral and synthetic sources.

The homeopath will advise on how to take the remedies. The number of follow-up sessions will depend on the severity of the symptoms or condition being treated. Over the course of treatments, different homeopathic remedies at differing doses may be prescribed to meet any changes in presenting symptoms that may occur.


Homeopathy is a form of energetic medicine, developed by the German physician Dr Samuel Hahnemann in the late 18th century, based on his doctrine of ‘like cures like’. Hahnemann came to believe that all effective drugs produce symptoms in healthy individuals similar to those of the diseases that they treat, in accordance with the law of similars that had been proposed by ancient physicians. Hahnemann based his work on the scientific understanding of the time that health and disease were mediated through the body’s vital force. Homeopathic remedies can be made from any substance, including plants such as foxglove and poison ivy, minerals such as silica or sea salt and animal extracts such as snake venom and squid ink. Hahnemann prepared highly diluted doses of these substances using a process called potentisation, which involved rhythmic shaking and striking thought to distil the vital healing essence of the preparation. He theorised that his potentised remedies could stimulate the vital force to act against the disease, much as immunisation stimulates the immune system. Hahnemann gave his theory the name homeopathy (from the Greek words homoios, meaning the same, and pathos, meaning disease, suffering). Homeopathy was originally developed in the late 1700s to manage conditions in which the conventional medicine of the day failed. Remarkably successful in dealing with contagious disease, and quite without some of the horrific side effects of the most widely used medical cures of the time, such as bloodletting and vigourous purging, homeopathy was at the time used by many of the monarchs of Europe, who readily appreciated its effectiveness. At that time, medical practice relied on ineffective and often dangerous treatments, so patients of homeopaths often had better outcomes than those of the doctors of the time.

Homeopathic remedies, even if ineffective, would almost surely cause no harm, making the users of homeopathic remedies less likely to be killed by the treatment that was supposed to be helping them. The relative success of homeopathy in the 19th century may have led to the abandonment of the ineffective and harmful treatments of bloodletting and purging and to have begun the move towards more effective, science-based medicine. One reason for the growing popularity of homeopathy was its apparent success in treating people suffering from infectious disease epidemics. During 19th century epidemics of diseases such as cholera, death rates in homeopathic hospitals were often lower than in conventional hospitals, where the treatments used at the time were often harmful and did little or nothing to combat the diseases. Homeopathy was brought to the UK in the 1830s by Dr F H F Quin, who met and travelled with the originator of homeopathy, Hahneman.


Homeopathy is considered a safe therapy when given by a qualified therapist who is experienced at working with people with cancer. There are very few reports of serious adverse effects of homeopathy. It has been noticed that, for some people, homeopathic remedies can make less important symptoms worse as more serious symptoms get better. This is known as a healing reaction or homeopathic aggravation and is a recognised phase of the treatment. No one is sure exactly how homeopathy works, and there is a great deal of controversy surrounding homeopathy and its effects. The extreme dilutions used in homeopathic preparations often leave none of the original substance in the final product. Some homeopaths explain the actions of homeopathy with a relatively new scientific theory that water may have a memory. The theory is that during mixing and succussion, the substance leaves an enduring effect on the water, perhaps a vibration or the energetic footprint of the original substance, and this produces an effect on the patient. However, this theory has no scientific support and the debate is ongoing.

Research into homeopathy for people with cancer is still in its early stages. However, a high quality review of randomised controlled trials in 2009 found that there is promising evidence for the homeopathic mouthwash, Traumeel S, to treat inflammation of the mouth (stomatitis) induced by chemotherapy, and for the use of calendula ointment for preventing dermatitis during radiotherapy. These studies need to be repeated in order to confirm these findings. There is some evidence that homeopathy can be used for other side effects of cancer and its treatments and to improve the quality of life in patients touched by cancer, although there is mixed or too little evidence to draw any firm conclusions.

There is a clear need for further clinical trials to investigate the use of homeopathy in cancer care.

Last Updated:07/02/2024
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