The most probable reason that homeopathy has had and will always have defenders is a misunderstanding of what causes disease and how the body copes with it. The father of homeopathy, German physician Samuel Christian Friedrich Hahnemann, first developed it in the 19th century as an alternative to the more traditional yet gruesome medical practices of the day, such as bloodletting and phlebotomy. In comparison, homeopathy not only seemed innocuous but actually effective. All it had to do was what it does now; that is, nothing. As long as Hahneman’s patients didn’t become infected or die, he would reign supreme over his colleagues; his success was not based on the good his treatment did, but on the harm it didn’t do.
That was quite understandable, given the times. What’s surprising though, is the fact that homeopathy is still practiced and that people pay money for it today, despite the fact that homeopaths have failed to produce evidence of the effectiveness of any homeopathic remedy for a couple of centuries now. According to professor of neurology at Pace University and adjunct professor at the New York Medical College Terence Hines, not one of more than 100 reviewed studies have yielded any definitive positive conclusions about homeopathic potions –and those that have were never replicated or were methodologically flawed.
That’s not to say that some people have not improved after taking homeopathic remedies, otherwise the business wouldn’t be as profitable as it is. However, this beneficial effect is entirely due to the placebo effect, the body’s own natural healing mechanisms, and the calming effect that the homeopath himself may have on the patient. The problem though is not that homeopathic potions are inherently harmful. The fact is that they aren’t, and how could they possibly be? They are completely inert and consist of little more than alcohol or water. The true danger comes from delaying or entirely foregoing proper care by a licensed, certified physician.
Homeopathy doesn’t affect the course of the disease; if it goes away, it does so on its own, and if it lingers, only appropriate medical treatment will help. In and of itself, homeopathy is harmless, but it may end up indirectly hurting you by luring you away from scientifically-proven treatment and therapies. To quote American astronomer Phil Plait, ‘if homeopathy works, then obviously the less you use it, the stronger it gets. So the best way to apply homeopathy is to not use it at all.’