Study finds use of homeopathic products helpful to maintaining health

NEW YORK — Earlier this year, the Benson-Henry Institute published in the American Journal of Public Health a new survey examining the use of homeopathic medicines in the United States. The report found that homeopathy users, particularly those who also report visiting homeopathic practitioners, find the use of these products helpful, and that they tend to use a greater variety of complementary and integrative medicine modalities than do users of supplements and other complementary and integrative medicines, or CIMs.

The respondents who reported using homeopathy were more likely to be white, female, married, highly educated, ages 30 years old to 44 years old and live in the western United States than CIM users who did not use homeopathy. They also were more likely to report using other types of CIM, except for chiropractic or osteopathic manipulation, and to have used several different types of CIM.

While two-thirds of the 718 respondents who used homeopathy ranked it among their top three CIM therapies, only 19% reported seeing a homeopathic practitioner during the preceding year. One-third of homeopathy users — both those who did and did not consult practitioners — reported using homeopathy to address specific health conditions, most commonly head and chest colds. Those who did see a practitioner were significantly more likely to report that homeopathy was very important to maintaining their health, and that it had helped their health problem “a great deal.”

“We were a bit surprised to see how few homeopathy users reported seeing a practitioner, but I don’t think that is concerning since most use is for conditions that will resolve on their own and homeopathic medicines are generally very safe,” noted Michelle Dossett of the Benson-Henry Institute at Massachusetts General Hospital and lead and corresponding author of the paper. “Our data suggest that the likelihood of people using these products for serious conditions without input from a healthcare professional is low, and data from other groups suggest that most CIM use is in addition to, not in place of, conventional treatment.”

According to BHI, this is the first detailed report on the use of homeopathy in this country. Homeopathy is a 200-year-old system of medicine based on the principal of similars — that highly diluted substances can be used to treat symptoms similar to those that would be caused by large doses of those substances in healthy people. Interest in homeopathy has increased in recent years, the authors noted.


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