Homeopathic remedies work for animals and therefore they cannot be placebos!!!

This argument is the standard reply of believers in homeopathy (not least of Prince Charles). It shows, I think, two things:

  1. Believers in homeopathy fail to understand the placebo effect.
  2. They are ill-informed or lying about the evidence regarding homeopathy in animals.

As we have explained on this blog over and over again: the evidence for homeopathy in animals is very much like that in humans: it fails to show that highly diluted homeopathic remedies are more than placebos (see, for instance here, here and here). Now a further study confirms this fact.

The objective of this triple-blind, randomized controlled trial was to assess the efficacy of homeopathic treatment in bovine clinical mastitis. The study was conducted on a conventionally managed dairy farm between June 2013 and May 2014. Dairy cows with acute mastitis were randomly allocated to homeopathy (n = 70) or placebo (n = 92), for a total of 162 animals. The homeopathic treatment was selected based on clinical symptoms but most commonly consisted of a combination of nosodes with Streptococcinum, Staphylococcinum, Pyrogenium, and Escherichia coli at a potency of 200c. Treatment was administered to cows in the homeopathy group at least once per day for an average of 5 d. The cows in the placebo group were treated similarly, using a placebo preparation instead (lactose globules without active ingredients). If necessary, the researchers also used allopathic drugs (e.g., antibiotics, udder creams, and anti-inflammatory drugs) in both groups. They recorded data relating to the clinical signs of mastitis, treatment, time to recovery, milk yield, somatic cell count at first milk recording after mastitis, and culling. Cows were observed for up to 200 d after clinical recovery. Base-level data did not differ between the homeopathy and placebo groups. Mastitis lasted for an average of 6 d in both groups. No significant differences were noted in time to recovery, somatic cell count, risk of clinical cure within 14 d after disease occurrence, mastitis recurrence risk, or culling risk.

The authors concluded that the results indicated no additional effect of homeopathic treatment compared with placebo.



  • While that is certainly laudable, they seem to leave the door open for continuing exploitation by homœopaths:

    The advantages or disadvantages of homeopathy should be carefully assessed for individual farms.

  • It seems a bit dangerous when pseudoscience infiltrates the food chain. Thank you for posting this recent study.

  • I call this the “homeopathy paradox” As long as people fall for this there will be money in the system and the homeopaths are clever enough to know where to invest this money to ensure their survival. But not only that they also expand their product range to make more money.
    I just visited our local pharmacy and found this remarkable ‘Blue Box’ homeopathic kit containing everything you can think of including deadly nightshade products for teething problems – at the end of the day it is all about money.

  • How much more evidence? For homeopaths, no evidence is convincing. For legislators there is already more than enough evidence to take action against the homeopathy trade.

    • For homeopaths, no evidence is convincing.

      I think the mentality of homœopaths would be even better expressed by slightly altering the spelling:
      For homeopaths, no-evidence is convincing.

      It seems to me that they see the absence of evidence as evidence that homœopathy works, which is – I think – consistent with general alternologist thinking: they tend to follow the route of least evidence.

  • You already know the answer. Homeopaths discount any fact that contradicts their belief, so as far as they are concerned this claim is still true, because no acceptable-to-homeopaths source has refuted it.

  • Edzard, I received some information saying the study was a bit flawed in that the assignment of groups was done on a odd or even ear tag number. That has introduced some bias that could have easily been avoided to make the study more random.

    I would think you would very much enjoy veterinary science in that it take some of the human factor out of the equation.

    Thank you for your blog and for respecting the veterinarians as scientists.

    • ” I received some information”. how do you want us to comment, if you don’t share it in full, including the source?

      • ” I received some information”.

        That is a great point Dr. E.

        The “information” I received was from a faculty member of the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine who has access to the entire paper. How the cattle were chosen into groups is included in the material and methods section of the paper and not in the abstract/summary. The point of my comment was that the paper was titled as a randomized study and could have easily have been but instead of using a random generator to select the groups, and by using only odd and even ear tags , a bias , which could have been easily avoided was introduced into the study….. Imagine if there were a confounding bias (the cows being purposely given odd or even tag numbers for some reason unknown to the researchers) when the cattle were originally tagged that the researchers overlooked when choosing how to select the groups. Seems like anything that trends away from randomness in a study should be avoided and can contribute to bias in a study. The researchers did try to control for this by changing assignment allocation each month…ie one month the “evens” get the placebo and the next month they get the homeopathic remedy… but this aspect of the study could have been easily avoided with increased awareness and group selection technique. So while the group selection probably did not influence the result of the study, the selection of the groups was not truly random. As the faculty member said to me , this paper emphasizes the importance of reading an entire paper rather than just an abstract.

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