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The truth about homeopathy and cancer: should you try it?

The truth about homeopathy and cancer: should you try it?

So, you’ve found yourself pondering the role of homeopathy in your cancer treatment? It’s a fascinating question, but one that warrants careful consideration. Here at the Anticancer Fund, we’re dedicated to shedding light on all aspects of your treatment journey, through our personalised service, My Cancer Navigator.  

Periodically, we get questions from patients about the potential benefits of homeopathic medicine. In our pursuit of evidence-based information, we always undertake a thorough examination, leading us time and again to the conclusion that there is no scientific proof for advocating the use of homeopathy over conventional therapy. Despite its long history and loyal following, homeopathy falls short when it comes to scientific backing. Clinical trials have consistently failed to show significant benefits when pitted against the complexities of cancer.


Homeopathy isn’t an herbal remedy

Homeopathy appears as a "medical" system rooted in the teachings of German physician Samuel Hahnemann, during the late 18th and early 19th centuries. It’s important to distinguish it from herbal medicine, which, relies on the presence of potentially pharmacologically active components in plants or herbs, although in many cases it is not clear which molecule exactly that is. Herbal medicine might have garnered some evidence supporting its use in for instance anxiety and depression, but such evidence is largely lacking in the context of cancer treatment. Moreover, herbal medicines might have side effects and interact with other medicines.

Homeopathy, on the contrary, believes that a ‘spiritual healing power’ from the original, pharmacologically effective substance transfers to the liquid it's mixed with through a process called ‘potentiation’. This involves diluting the substance several times until the final mixture doesn't hold much of the original, pharmacologically effective substance. By the standards of modern, evidence-based medicine, it proves inefficient and is not recommended for practice.


Clinical trials failed to prove evidence

It is no wonder then those clinical trials investigating homeopathy's effectiveness in treating various illnesses, including cancer, consistently failed to provide evidence for its use. Undoubtedly, these trials are plagued by small sample sizes and methodological limitations, leaving their findings inconclusive. However, it is crucial to acknowledge that homeopathy aligns more with an ideological, faith-based approach than scientific rationality.

While some research has delved into the potential role of homeopathy in alleviating cancer treatment side effects, the limited scope and insufficient evidence derived from these studies make it challenging to endorse such interventions as well. Although again, some researchers have emphasised the need for larger, more robust studies to prove any potential benefits definitively, it is very unlikely that such evidence will ever be generated.


We understand the allure of exploring alternative therapies

Despite the numerous websites promoting homeopathy as a cancer treatment, it is important to note that reputable scientific cancer organisations and cancer centres do not endorse these claims. While some individuals may find psychological comfort or a sense of control using homeopathy, this may be attributed to the placebo effect, wherein perceived benefits arise from the belief in the efficacy of a treatment.

However, it’s understandable that individuals facing a cancer diagnosis may explore complementary and alternative therapies in hopes of improving their outcomes. The decision to use these or not ultimately rests with you, the patient. Although the safety of using homeopathic medicines is generally acknowledged, some caution is crucial, as not all homeopathic products are created equally, with some containing unregulated substances, including industrial solvents and heavy metals, posing potential health risks. Moreover, a critical issue arises when patients contemplate substituting proven cancer treatments with unverified alternatives. Discontinuing or declining established cancer therapies for unproven treatments could jeopardize one's health and well-being.


We urge you to consult with your healthcare team

For those considering homeopathic medicine alongside conventional cancer treatments, it is imperative to consult with your own healthcare providers before starting such interventions. They know your health and treatment plan best and can provide you with relevant information and personalizsd advice to help you navigate the complexities of your cancer care.

And, remember, you’re not alone, we are here to support you with reliable information. Please contact My Cancer Navigator if you have any questions.


For those eager to delve deeper into the topic, we recommend the following resources:

Homeopathy—where is the science? A current inventory on a pre-scientific artifact. Natalie Grams, EMBO Rep. 2019 Mar; 20(3): e47761. Published online 2019 Feb 14. doi: 10.15252/embr.201947761; PMCID: PMC6399603; PMID: 30765373

A systematic review of systematic reviews of homeopathy. E Ernst, Br J Clin Pharmacol. 2002 Dec; 54(6): 577–582. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2125.2002.01699.x; PMCID: PMC1874503; PMID: 12492603

Herbal medicine for depression and anxiety: A systematic review with assessment of potential psycho-oncologic relevance. Yeung et al, Phytother Res. 2018 May;32(5):865-891. doi: 10.1002/ptr.6033. Epub 2018 Feb 21.

A series of homeopathic remedies-related severe drug-induced liver injury from South India. Theruvath AH, et al. Hepatol Commun. 2023. PMID: 36757412

Guy Buyens, Medical Director at the Anticancer Fund
Guy Buyens, MD

Guy Buyens (MD) is Medical Director at the Anticancer Fund. His experience comes from the pharmaceutical industry (international clinical research in oncology) and biotechnology, but also from hospital management (CEO of a hospital).