Homeopathy

Our rating
 No smiley: On the available evidence, this treatment does not seem to be effective.

What does this rating mean?

The rating system

  • 3 smiliesThese treatments are very useful. They are strongly supported as effective by scientific evidence.
  • 2 smiliesThese treatments are useful. They are supported by scientific evidence as effective, but the evidence is not as strong.
  • 1 smileyThese treatments are promising and may be useful. They have some evidence to support them, but more evidence is needed to be sure they work.
  • No smiley On the available evidence, these treatments do not seem to be effective.
  • Question markThese treatments have not been properly researched. It is not possible to say whether they are useful or not.
  • These treatments are not recommended and could be dangerousSafety or other concerns have been raised for the use of these treatments.

What is it?

Homeopathy is a system of alternative medicine which involves treatment with very diluted substances. People who practice this type of medicine are called 'homeopaths'.

How does it work?

Homeopathy tries to help the body restore itself to health. Rather than seeing a person's symptoms as something to be removed, homeopaths see these symptoms as a sign of how the body is trying to help itself. Homeopaths treat their patients with substances that produce the same symptoms in an attempt to further stimulate the body's healing. These substances are diluted in water or alcohol many times over, until there is little or none of the substance left. The resulting tincture is taken as a medicine. Homeopathic treatments are selected to fit each individual, so that different people with depression may not receive the same treatment.

While some people believe that homeopathy can be effective for many different types of disorders, homeopathy is not supported by medical evidence.

Is it effective?

There is very little scientific evidence on homeopathy for the treatment of depression. One study treated menopausal women who were depressed with either a placebo (dummy pill), a standard antidepressant or homeopathic remedy. Women who received the homeopathic remedy had a reduction in symptoms similar to those who received the antidepressant medication, and both treatments were more effective than the placebo. In general however, the majority of studies which have looked at the effectiveness of homeopathy are of poor quality.

While homeopathy might produce placebo effects, it is unlikely to have any other positive effects on depression.

Are there any disadvantages?

There is a cost associated with homeopathic remedies that is not covered by Medicare. No other disadvantages are known. While homeopathic medicines are unlikely to be harmful by themselves, they could indirectly cause harm if people seek homeopathic treatment instead of treatments which have been proven to be effective.

Where do you get it?

Homeopaths are listed in the Yellow Pages.

Recommendation

Given the lack of evidence on homeopathy, it cannot be recommended as a treatment for depression.

Key references

  • Davidson JR, Crawford C, Ives JA, Jonas WB. Homeopathic treatments in psychiatry: a systematic review of randomized placebo-controlled studies. The Journal of clinical psychiatry. 2011; 72(6): 795-805.
  • Ernst E. Homeopathy: what does the “best” evidence tell us? Medical Journal of Australia. 2010; 192(8): 458-60.
  • Macias-Cortes Edel C, Llanes-Gonzalez L, Aguilar-Faisal L, Asbun-Bojalil J. Individualized homeopathic treatment and fluoxetine for moderate to severe depression in peri- and postmenopausal women (HOMDEP-MENOP study): a randomized, double-dummy, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. PloS one. 2015; 10(3): e0118440.
  • Pilkington K, Kirkwood G, Rampes H, Fisher P, Richardson J. Homeopathy for depression: a systematic review of the research evidence. Homeopathy : the journal of the Faculty of Homeopathy. 2005; 94(3): 153-63.

Last reviewed and updated: 1 November 2019