J Med Philos. 1993 Apr; 18(2): 129-45.
Mercy Health Services Corp., Farmington Hills, MI 48331.
Homeopathy is a form of complementary medicine which relies heavily on observation and experience. The three distinguishing characteristics of homeopathy are that remedies are prescribed on the totality of a person's symptoms, that the remedy likely to cure a person is a dilution of that substance which would cause the same symptoms in a healthy person, and that remedies are prepared using microdoses of substances which are diluted and then vigorously shaken. Mainstream medicine criticizes homeopathy by saying that its gentleness has outlived its usefulness and treatment successes are probably no more than placebo action. In addition, its critics charge that homeopathy is unscientific, runs counter to the "laws of nature" and will not stand up to scientific scrutiny. Homeopaths reply that mainstream medicine is dangerous, that homeopathy works in children and animals (usually thought resistant to placebo), and that several good controlled clinical trials have shown positive results. There is a difference between showing that homeopathy works and adequately accounting for its mechanism of action. Clinical trials have concentrated on the former and remain unexplained in the latter.