MD, PhD, FMedSci, FSB, FRCP, FRCPEd

Homeopathy is very popular in India – at least this is what we are being told over and over again. The notion goes as far as some sources assuming that homeopathy is quintessential Indian (see below). One Website, informs us that homeopathy is the third most popular method of treatment in India, after Allopathy and Ayurveda. It is estimated that there are about quarter million homeopaths in India. Nearly 10,000 new ones add to this number every year. The legal status of homeopathy in India is very much at par with the conventional medicine.

Another website currently advises the Indian population as well as heath tourists from abroad about homeopathy in the following terms:

Homeopathic medicines have various benefits. Some of them are as follows:

  • Such medicines can be given to infants, children, pregnant or nursing woman
  • If by chance, wrong medication is prescribed, it is not going to have any ill-effect
  • These medicines can be taken along with other medications
  • Homeopathic treatment can be used by anyone
  • The medicines work on the eradication of the symptoms so that illness never comes back
  • These medicines can be stored for a longer span of time and are inexpensive as well
  • Homeopathy has a holistic approach and deals with mind, body and emotions
  • These medicines are non-invasive and extremely effective
  • These medicines can be administered easily
  • Homeopathy useful in a number of health problems

Homeopathic Remedies, for Diseases and Conditions

  • Asthma
  • Arthritis
  • Cancer
  • Acute fevers
  • Sore throats
  • Toothache
  • Eczema
  • Mild depression
  • Fatigue
  • Anxiety
  • Cataract
  • Fractures
  • Injuries with blunt objects
  • Loss of appetite

But is it really true that so many Indian consumers swear by homeopathy, or is that just one of the many myths from the realm of quackery that stubbornly refuse to disappear ?

survey recently conducted by Indian National Sample Survey Office might provide some answers. It revealed that 90 per cent of the Indian population rely on conventional medicine. Merely 6% trusted what the investigators chose to call ‘Indian systems of medicine’, e. g. ayurveda, unani and siddha, homeopathy and yoga and naturopathy.

Odd? Not really! There are several plausible explanations for this apparent contradiction:

  1. The popularity of homeopathy in India could be a myth promoted by apologists.
  2. The figures could be correct, and many Indian patients could use homeopathy not because they believe in it but because they cannot afford effective treatments.
  3. The claim of homeopathy’s popularity could refer to the past, while the recent survey clearly relates to the present.

Whatever the true answer might be, I think this little news story is an instructive example for the fact that the ‘argumentum ad populum’ is a fallacy that easily can mislead us.

19 Responses to Another myth about homeopathy?

  • “The medicines work on the eradication of the symptoms so that illness never comes back”

    They always make that claim, yet it seems to suddenly disappear off the register as soon as a study is being organised! I’ve also never heard a homeopathy user claim that their hay fever or migraines never came back after they treated it with homeopathy. But homeopathy organisations repeat it all the time.

  • I thought that news article from India was very interesting. Seems like claims of homeopathy’s popularity there might not be as true as the homeoquacks say. Here’s a link to it.
    http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/90-of-Indians-prefer-allopathy-over-AYUSH/articleshow/47981441.cms
    No doubt the responses will include denial, obfuscation and lies as the cognitive dissonance will be extreme.

  • Opened website of Asthma and Allergy society. A mother asks question whether asthma can be treated by homeopathy. Physician answers there is no evidence for that, however there is plenty of evidence, that not using asthma drugs may have very bad consequences. But then enters another mom claiming that her homeopath allows use “chemical meds” together with homeopathy, but it was homeopathy that cured (according to mom) child!

  • “If by chance, wrong medication is prescribed, it is not going to have any ill-effect” – love that one!

  • Re One Website, informs us that homeopathy is the third most popular method of treatment in India, after Allopathy and Ayurveda.:

    I do find that to be entirely believeable: the survey showed that 90% rely on allopathy (aka “medicine”) and that 6% rely on various species of pseudomedicine (I’m curious about the missing 4%); I have no problem believing that homeopathy is only the second most popular pseudomedicine in India. But, given the population, that’s still a heck of a lot of people being gulled by quacks.

  • Edzard,

    Why don’t you spend some time exposing the Dr Ancel Keys cholesterol-lipid coronary heart disease hypothesis and the $40B statin hoax?

    Brooks Butler M.D. FACS

    • and why would I do that?
      I am an expert on alt med, have researched it for 2 decades, and published > 1000 papers on it. that’s why I write about this subject – I am one of these strange people who like to write about things they fully understand.

    • @Brooks Butler,
      “Dr Ancel Keys cholesterol-lipid coronary heart disease hypothesis and the $40B statin hoax”

      As you seem to know so much about it, why don’t you?

      • It is the statins that are homeopathic and dangerous drugs. How many people (men) are helped by statins if 1000 take statins for 5 years? Answer–18. What % of men taking statins have adverse side effects? Answer—-22%

        I have studied the topic this last year. Here is a link to the bes medical lecture I’ve ever heard.

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wv_ZA88ytg4

        • Sorry for playing the part of the patronising pundit, but you’re barking up the wrong tree here Butler.
          Although most of us sympathise, in part at least, with what seems to be your avid agenda, this blog is dedicated to a very different field of study as Professor Ernst has already pointed out.
          Speaking for the regulars at this table, I dare say we respect your enthusiasm. But the interesting subject of statin statistics or the possibly interesting contents of a video portraying an ultra-marathonist and diet guru peddling his LCD-book are subjects that simply are not on the agenda here. They will only be ignored by most.
          Try sitting for a while on the side bench and follow the chit-chat. You will get to know what is on here and what is not. And maybe you will even mature into making meaningful contributions yourself.
          If you absolutely must exchange opinions on statins, LCD’s and such with an interested crowd, try Dr. Sigurdsson’s excellent blog on the subject. He is a man I would literally[sic] trust with my heart.

    • “A red herring is something that misleads or distracts from a relevant or important issue.” — Oxford English Dictionary.

  • Dear Edzard, your all comments are imaginary i.e. ..could be a myth …cannot afford effective treatments. ….could refer to the past. It is not expected from an erudite like you. Pl don’t underestimate the wisdom of the Indians in choosing the medicinal modalities.

    Please come to India and make your own survey objectively in a city like Calcutta, Mumbai, Hyderabad and then write the comments. I will provide you free accommodation and food in my city. I promise you that I won’t use any influence on you. Let us see the truth. I am sure you will remove your color glasses.

    FYI, In India, Homoeopathy is most popular with rich classes and middle classes. It is more popular with educated masses. It is more popular in metros, cities and towns than in villages. You won’t find generally any homoeopath in rural areas. Poor people prefer allopathy the most. It is used more by female than male……..

    • So, VALIVETI NAGABHUSHANAM, you’ve no good evidence for us then?

      • When we talk of evidence based, we should accept the unprejudiced facts. But, there is an intentional denial of what is said in both the homeo websites as well as the survey conducted by INSS. Pl don’t criticise for criticism purpose. This attitude is not called for and no better than the Quacks whom you criticise.

        Some more facts for your denial –
        http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/Homeopath-doctors-double-in-two-decades/articleshow/16098627.cms

        (facts from Union health minister Ghulam of India, ASSOCHAM, WHO and study conducted by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (ASSOCHAM))

        • A lot of what is said on homeopathy websites is hilarious, biased, scientifically inaccurate and illiterate and downright wrong. That makes it (rightly) extremely open to criticism.

          But you seem to want us to think that because something is popular or is big business, it therefore works: that’s fallacious and no substitute for good evidence.

          We still await some good evidence.

        • Then let’s talk about the unprejudiced, evidence-based facts of homeopathy:
          1. Worldwide, it is a successful multi-billion dollar business empire.
          2. It neither prevents nor cures any known illness.
          3. The tenets on which it is based are entirely without substance — as are all of its ‘remedies’ beyond 12C potency.

          I respectfully suggest that you learn to fully comprehend both the meaning and the implications of issuing your argumentum ad populum and your appeal to authority:
          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Argumentum_ad_populum
          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Argument_from_authority

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