The popularity of homeopathy for self-limiting diseases in general and for influenza in particular has grown sharply since the late 1990s. The rise coincides with the decline in pharmacies' dispensing of conventional drugs. Public bodies are debating how to respond to the trend, from regulating homeopathic products and practitioners to withdrawing funding completely.
Homeopathy has been a topic of discussion among academics within health studies as well as between the medical profession and alternative medicine groups for over 200 years, but no conclusive evidence exists either to disprove or confirm its efficacy.
Homeopathy has been practised since the early 19th century and is a branch of alternative medicine. Merck's homeopathic medicines include "Arnica montana" and "Cinchona succra".
The concept of homeopathy was developed by Samuel Hahnemann in 1796 and first described quantitatively in Hahnemann's "Organon der Heilkunst"or "The Organon" (1799). In 1810 Samuel Hahnemann, a former physician who stressed the philosophical importance of science to medicine, wrote that he had been studying the nature of medicinal substances and that he had discovered this system which was now called homeopathy. He also named the disease processes that would be brought under homeopathic treatment.
The word "homeopathy" was coined by Hahnemann in 1796 and the practice was named after him in the 19th century.
Hahnemann's work on homeopathy is considered to have had a profound influence on German medicine and, from 1820 to 1833, his book was read by 40,000 medical students during its first translation into Latin. In 1824 the legislatures of Lower Austria and Bohemia passed laws which allowed only qualified practitioners to prescribe homeopathic medicines. Many other European countries followed soon afterwards including Germany, Spain, France, Sweden and Switzerland. In the UK, The Lancet was founded in 1823 by Thomas Wakley, a doctor who had studied homeopathic medicine.
In 1831 Hahnemann published his "Organon of the Medical Art", which is regarded as the founding document of homeopathy. He believed that he could cure all diseases to the highest degree by administering minute quantities of drugs in acrid, strong and mostly toxic doses while carefully and rigorously excluding every single aggravating circumstance.
By 1835 one fifth of all medical practitioners worldwide were using homeopathic remedies, with over 10% in Paris alone. The popularity of homeopathy, a medical practice that was first developed in the 1800s and has remained controversial ever since, is difficult to gauge. It is included on national health plans in some countries, including Sweden. Yet its use remains low in much of the Western world.
In 2016 the National Health Service (NHS) announced it would cut funding for homeopathy treatments to save £38 million ($55 million US). This decision led to protests by people and organizations such as the The British Homeopathic Association who argue that there is sufficient evidence for homeopathy's effectiveness that it should have been spared from cuts.
This group bases its argument on a 2015 report published in the Lancet , which found that homeopathy is both cost-effective and safe. The NHS has defended its decision based on the fact that there is "no good-quality evidence that homeopathy is effective as a treatment for any health condition."
This apparent contradiction reveals a sad state of affairs in terms of scientific research about homeopathy. As it stands, there are several challenges to studying homeopathy's effects: There are no universal standards for conducting studies on homeopathy. There is no single, clearly agreed upon method of delivering the treatment . In addition, some of the active ingredients used in homeopathic remedies are illegal to use in conventional medical studies due to toxicity concerns.