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Homeopathy for chronic asthma

Authors


Abstract

Background

Homeopathy involves the use, in dilution, of substances which cause symptoms in their undiluted form. It is one of the most widespread forms of complementary medicines and is also used to treat asthma.

Objectives

The objective of this review was to assess the effects of homeopathy in people with chronic stable asthma.

Search strategy

We searched the Cochrane Airways Group trials register, the Cochrane Complementary Medicine Field trials register, the Glasgow Homeopathic Hospital database, the Muenchener Modell database and reference lists of articles.

Selection criteria

Randomised and possibly randomised trials of homeopathy for the treatment of stable chronic asthma, with observation periods of at least one week.

Data collection and analysis

Data extraction was done by one reviewer and checked by the second reviewer. Trial quality was assessed by the reviewers.

Main results

Three trials with a total of 154 people were included. These trials were all placebo-controlled and double-blind, but of variable quality. They used three different homeopathic treatments which precluded quantitative pooling of results. The standardised treatments in these trials are unlikely to represent common homeopathic practice, where treatment tends to be individualised. In one trial, severity of symptoms was lessened in the homeopathy group compared to the placebo group. In another trial, lung function measures and medication use showed improvement in the homeopathy group compared to the placebo group. The third trial found improvement in both the homeopathy and placebo groups, but no difference between the groups.

Reviewer's conclusions

There is not enough evidence to reliably assess the possible role of homeopathy in asthma. As well as randomised trials, there is a need for observational data to document the different methods of homeopathic prescribing and how patients respond.

[This abstract has been prepared centrally].

Plain language summary

Synopsis

Not enough evidence from trials to determine whether or not homeopathy can help improve asthma.

Homeopathy is a complementary healing system based on "curing like with like". It involves greatly diluting substances (potentising) which ordinarily cause symptoms, in order to strengthen the body's own healing response to that problem. Homeopathic remedies (potencies) aim to minimise the risk of adverse effects. There are different types that may be used for asthma, such as classical homeopathy (tailored to an individual's symptoms) or isopathy (for example using a dilution of an agent that causes an allergy, such as pollen). The review of trials found no strong evidence that the usual forms of homeopathy for asthma are effective.

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