A recent article  by a South African homeopath promoted the concept of homeopaths taking over the role of primary care practitioners. His argument essentially was that, in South Africa, homeopaths are well trained and thus adequately equipped to do this job responsibly. Responsibly, really? You find that hard to believe? Here are the essentials of his arguments including all his references in full. I think they are worth reading.

Currently, the Durban University of Technology (DUT) and the University of Johannesburg (UJ) offer degree’s in homoeopathy. This involves a 5-year full-time theoretical and practical training course, followed by a Master’s level research project. After fulfilment of these criteria, a Master’s Degree in Technology (Homoeopathy) is awarded. The course comprises of a strong core of medical subjects, such as the basic sciences of Anatomy, Physiology, Medical Microbiology, Biochemistry and Epidemiology, and the clinical sciences of Pathology and Diagnostics. This is complemented with subjects in Classical, Clinical and Modern Homoeopathy and Homoeopharmaceutics4,5

By law, any person practicing homoeopathy in South Africa must be registered with the Allied Health Professions Council of South Africa (AHPCSA). This is essential, as the Council ensures both medical and homoeopathic competency of practitioners, and that the activities of registered practitioners are closely monitored by the Professional Board. The purpose of the AHPCSA is to ensure that only those with legitimate qualifications of a high enough standard are registered and allowed to practice in South Africa, thus protecting the public against any fraudulent behaviour and illegal practitioners. Therefore, in order to ensure effective homoeopathic treatment, it is essential that any person wishing to prescribe homoeopathic medicine or practice homoeopathy in South Africa must be registered as a Homoeopathic Practitioner with the Allied Health Professions Council of South Africa. This includes conventional Medical Practitioners (dual registration is allowed for Medical Practitioners with both the Health Professions Council and AHPCSA)6,  as homoeopathy requires several years of training in order to apply effectively in clinical practice… 

Registration with the Council affords medico-legal rights similar to those of a medical professional, where treatment is limited to the scope of homoeopathic practice. Thus a homoeopath is firstly a trained diagnostician, and with successful registration with the Council, obtains the title Doctor. A homoeopath is trained and legally obliged to conduct a full medical history, a comprehensive clinical examination, and request further medical investigations, such as blood tests and X-rays, in order to fully assess patients. This is coupled with the ability to consult with specialist pathologists and other medical specialists when necessary, and refer a patient to the appropriate practitioner if the condition falls outside the scope of homoeopathic practice. A homoeopath may also legally issue a certificate of dispensation (‘Doctor’s note’) with appropriate evidence and within reason, and is deemed responsible for the diagnosis and treatment of patients under their care6. A homoeopath is not trained or licensed in any form of surgery, specialist diagnostics (e.g. colonoscopy or angiograms), cannot prescribe prescription medication and is not lawfully allowed to conduct intra-venous treatment of any kind. However, a registered homoeopath is licensed to use intra-muscular homoeopathic injectables in the treatment of various local or systemic complaints when necessary.

Conventional (allopathic) medicine generally targets specific biochemical processes with mostly chemically synthesised medication, in an attempt to suppress a symptom. However, in doing so, this usually negatively affects other biochemical reactions which results in an imbalance within the system. Homoeopathy, by contrast, seeks to re-establish a balance within the natural functioning of the body, restore proper function and results in the reduction or cessation of symptoms.  Homoeopathy therefore enables the body to self-regulate and self-heal, a process known as homeostasis that is intrinsic to every living organism.

Conventional medical treatment is by no means risk free. Iatrogenic (medically induced) deaths in the United States are estimated at 786 000 per year, deaths which are considered avoidable by medical doctors7,8. These figures put annual iatrogenic death in the American medical system above that of cardiovascular disease and cancer as the leading cause of death in that country9, a fact that is not widely reported! South African figures are not easily available, but it is likely that we have similar rates. Although conventional medications have a vital role, are sometimes necessary and can of-course be life-saving, all too often too many patients are put on chronic medication when there are numerous effective, natural, safe and scientifically substantiated options available….

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), homeopathy is the second largest system of medicine in the world, and world-wide use continues to grow in developed and developing nations10. Homoeopathy is widely considered to be safe and effective, with both clinical and laboratory research providing evidence for the efficacy of homoeopathy11. As the range of potential conditions that homoeopathy can treat is almost limitless, and that treatment is not associated with adverse reactions, homoeopathy should be considered a first-line therapy for all ages. As homoeopaths in South Africa are considered primary health care practitioners, if a conventional approach is deemed necessary, and further diagnostics are required, your practitioner will not hesitate to refer you to the appropriate health care practitioner. Homeopathy is also used alongside conventional medicine and any other form of therapy, and should be seen as ‘complementary’ medicine and not ‘alternative’ medicine.



Homoeopathy is an approach that is widely considered to be safe, and when utilised correctly, can be effective for a wide range of conditions. As a primary health care practitioner, a homoeopath is able to handle all aspects of general practice and family health care, including diagnostics, case management and referral to other practitioners or medical specialists. A registered homoeopath is legally responsible to ensure the adequate treatment of their patients, and is accountable for all clinical decisions and advice. A registered homoeopath understands the role of conventional medicine, and will refer to the appropriate specialist in cases that fall outside the legal scope of practice.




1. (accessed 31 March 2010)

2.  Bloch R, Lewis B. Homoeopathy for the home. Cape Town, South Africa: Struik Publishers: 2003

3. (accessed 1 April 2010)

4. (accessed 1 April 2010)

5. (accessed 1 April 2010)

6. (accessed 6 April 2010)

7. Starfield, B. Is US Health Really the Best in the World? JAMA 2000; 284(4).

8. Null G, Dean C, et al. Death by Medicine. Nutrition Institute of America 2003. 9. (accessed 7 April 2010)

10. (accessed 7 April 2010)

11. (accessed 7 April 2010)

I found this article extremely revealing and scary. It gives us an important glimpse into the way some or perhaps even most homeopaths think. They clearly believe that:

1) Their training is sufficient for them to become competent primary care professionals, i.e. clinicians who are the first port of call for sick people  to be diagnosed and treated effectively.

2) Homeopathy is scientifically proven to be efficacious for an ‘almost limitless’ range of conditions. Interestingly, not a single reference is provided to support this claim. Nevertheless, homeopath believe it, and that seems to be enough.

3) Homeopaths seem convinced that they perfectly understand real medicine; yet all they really do is to denounce it as one of the biggest killer of mankind.

4) The fact that homeopaths cannot prescribe real medicine is not seen as a hindrance to their role as primary care practitioner; if anything, homeopaths consider this to be an advantage.

5) Homeopaths view registration with some sort of governing body as the ultimate legitimation of their trade. Once such regulatory measures are in place, the need to support any of their claims with evidence is nil and void.

This article did remind me of the wry statement that ‘HOMEOPATHY IS TO MEDICINE WHAT THE CARPET INDUSTRY IS TO AVIATION’. Homeopaths truly live on a different planet, a planet where belief is everything and responsibility is an alien concept. I certainly hope that they will not take over planet earth in a hurry. If I imagine a world where homeopaths dominate primary care in the way it is suggested in this article, I start having nightmares. It seems to me that people who harbour ideas of this type are not just deluded to the point of madness but they are a danger to public health.

37 Responses to Oh yes, let’s have homeopaths as primary care practitioners! But only in a parallel universe,please.

  • And so many people in the Uk believe that alternative practitioners should be registerd as well. Apparently registration will solve all problems. I can see why the practitioners want it – it is a seal of approval from on high and sick people will think they are getting something that is as good as real medicine.

  • The claims given seem to match almost exactly the ones that I have seen for making Naturopaths primary care providers. I live in Montana where they are primary care providers and insurance will pay for visits. At least they have some medical training, but who knows what else besides homeopathy you will get. Will they recommend others when they have nothing effective to offer for those with serious illness?

    If homeopaths, naturopaths and others become primary care providers, can that ever be taken away? Once granted it takes a very serious and extended effort to reverse.

    Every time that I see homeopaths giving injections I….
    I even saw it done on national TV on the Dr. Oz show. Knowing that this is legal is disturbing to say the least.

    By the way for what condition if any has homeopathy been shown effective?

    • homeopathic remedies are effective for precisely zero conditions.

      • I disagree. They are highly effective for two conditions: FWD and TWD. Fat wallet disease, not to be confused with fat wallet syndrome, is alleviated by removing money from the sufferer. If there is anything homoeoquacks are good at, it is at relieving their gullible victims of their money. This kills two birds with one stone, since thin wallet disease in the homoeoquack is ‘healed’ as well. Just ask any homoequack who is showing off her/his indoor olympic swimming pool.

        Also, a wonderfully natural product such as Mercurius solubilis Hahnemanni is also great as candy, though it tastes better if you put a drop of undiluted and nicely succussed lemon juice in the bottle with the pellets. Make that a few drops.

        See, a third condition! Just be careful not to overdo it, obesity is not pleasant. And since homoeopathics have no side-effects, even lactose intolerant people will love it, yes? Maybe not, but then, we have to go beyond the evidence.

        • Your comment is priceless 🙂

          Homeopathy might be able to reduce client excess-income-based obesity. Obviously, homeopathy has no data for reducing fat wallet disease because it is pointless to endlessly research well-established business a prioris — the only justifiable appeal to tradition for all forms of quackery and a profoundly essential core tenet. If one attempted a mathematical integral of sCAM Integrated Medicine the only thing that would emerge from it’s totally incompatible hypotheses would be its extraordinary ability to extract multibillion dollars from that which has no effect beyond placebo and sham treatments.

        • In this hemisphere, homeopaths don’t have Olympic swimming pools indoor or outdoor. Not ever. You’re confusing them with doctors or dentists. By the way, Bart B Van Bockstaele, you aren’t as funny as you imagine.

      • What a surprise! A whole system of “medicine” in use world wide without a single effective treatment. I can see the headlines now. Big-pharma, skeptics, psuedo-exhomeopath Ernst attack effective, gentle, side-effect free system of medicine used by millions. This would be followed by the conspiracy goes all though the medical establishment and drug industry to maximize profit and to reduce competition. As evidence testimonials from both patients and doctors pointing to the most excellent results would be given. If that wasn’t enough look at how evil the evidence based medical system is in practice.

  • It’s very tiring to see homeopaths say that scientific medicine only treats symptoms and that homeopathy treats the cause of disease. Homeopathic remedies are selected based on symptoms. The ‘sympathetic magic’ of matching a symptom to a natural substance which causes that symptom (i.e. red, watering eyes and onion) is used to select a highly diluted remedy which has not been shown to actually be effective in reducing the symptoms.
    The ‘true cause’ of a disease, according to Hahnemann, is ultimately Psora, or “itch.” He came up with his own theory of Miasms, and “Itch” is the “mother of all disease” from what I’ve read. Suppressing an itch with effective medicines is theorized to push it “deeper” into the body where it turns into worse disease…
    Meanwhile, a science-based allergist will do allergy tests and recommend avoiding the cause of the allergic reaction, a doctor will advise an obese patient with high blood pressure to lose weight through diet and exercise (and take medications to prevent heart attack and stroke in the meantime), and an infectious disease doctor will culture the bacteria causing an infection and give the appropriate antibiotic to remove the cause of the symptoms. Homeopaths apparently still do not believe that these are the causes of disease, and that the science-based doctors are just suppressing symptoms, not addressing causes.
    At least Traditional Chinese Medicine developed a theory to try to get at the causes of symptom groups and often administered pharmacologically active substances with some plausible basis. (I don’t mean to suggest that TCM is a functional system as a whole, but a small percentage of TCM therapies were based on accurate observation and actually work, unlike homeopathy).

  • The incessant promotion of homeopathy by a royal person, who insists on persuading the government to fund it on the NHS, makes me wonder if our future will see Corgis and swans appointed as some of our primary healthcare practitioners. And just think of the healing power that could be elicited from the all the plants he’s talked to! Perhaps we could have a royal rose bush as our next Chief Medical Officer.

  • Given that HRH is now allowed to correspond with government departments without any fear of our plebeian eyes seeing his letters, who knows what he is preparing for us. This is described as his preparation for being king, which makes about as much sense as homeopathy – he has better access to the present incumbent of the throne than most deputies do, so if he needs to know the how or why of anything all he needs to do is ask mother. Your comments may be nearer the mark than you think.

    By the way, I note the current edition of ‘Trick or Treatment’ is published by Corgi – backdoor endorsement?

  • Hello to all! I am a Homoeopathic student at the University of Johannesburg in South Africa and stumbled upon your website in the process of researching countries that allow South African Homoeopaths to practise as primary Health Care Professionals. Even though I have gotten use to the endless scrutiny, I cannot stop myself from feeling deeply hurt and frustrated when I read comments like these. I have decided to share with you what I think is left unsaid too often by homoeopaths like myself. I am sure that you would agree that there are definitely some allopathic doctors in the world that do not have a clue as to what they are doing… quacks as people would say. This is without a doubt also true in the world of homoeopathy. What I am trying to say, is that there is a vast body of very knowledgeable homoeopaths in South Africa, who are nothing short of miracle workers. The problem is, these doctors have mostly chosen to keep to themselves and focus on the work that they do as healers. These are never the individuals that will get involved with the debate because they know better. These are also the individuals who respect the work of allopaths and some of which who even work in very close relationships with general practitioners here in South Africa. Just to share a shortened version of my road to homoeopathy: I was chronically ill as a child. No doctor could help me and I seemed to get worse with every visit. One visit to a homoeopath revealed the cause and I was healed from my chronic condition… forever. Since then I have only used homoeopathic medication for little niggles and I NEVER get sick anymore. I honestly cant remember the last time I was off sick. But… I do follow a very holistic lifestyle, eating raw vegan foods only and looking after my spiritual well being. I also have to add that even though I only use homoepathic medicines for myself I have been under the wonderful healing hands of allopathic doctors in two cases of food poisoning over the past 3 years. I would also rather die if I got rolled into an ER and a homoeopath was there to help me!! Similarly, I would rather talk to a wall than tell a conventional doctor about my emotional distress. I guess what I am trying to get across is that not all homoeopaths are quacks and certainly not all of us are hoping to take over the world. On the contrary, I am part of a large movement in South Africa who are hoping that one day we will be able to share our knowledge with the world and work hand in hand with conventional practitioners. It seems as though you are not aware of the vast amount of knowledge and treatment methods that are actually used by homoeopaths. We are able to extend our practise and incorporate ayurveda, chinese medicine, acupuncture and naturopathy because we share the same approach. Most homoeopaths here in South Africa use these auxiliary treatments with great success. My dream is that in the future there will be no distinction between healers. That all health care will be called functional healing and that all the emphasis will be put on the intention and not the method. This message is for all practitioners. Conventional and alternative. IN the end of the day, the sole purpose of the primary practitioner is to heal the sick. To cure as it is termed. I truly hope that this comment will make in onto your site. With love from a compassionate, passionate student of healing in South Africa.

  • Guys, why do I feel you have not even read the entire article that this blog starts off with? Go back to it, shed your beliefs about alternative health care for a moment and try to actually see the picture. I’m willing to stick my head out and say that most people will not even be able to satisfy the requirements for being allowed to study Homoeopathy at UJ in Johburg or in Durban. Also that most of those accepted doesn’t cut it – it’s certainly not a walk in the park. Last year saw the introduction of an internship year, which makes it a six year affair before you can call yourself a Homoeopath – in South Africa, that is.

    I have been told by a Homoeopath that you should steer clear from any alternative health care provider that does not know the importance of modern medication or it’s place in treating a patient. That explains why these practitioners are qualified to refer their patients to specialists or other care providers; they have been trained to diagnose an ailment via the same subjects that a GP has to pass before he/she can do the same, it’s all up there, go and read again…

    The days of becoming a Homoeopath in two or three years via some obscure college education or course is long gone, belief me. It has become a very difficult qualification to obtain. One example; during their second year anatomy students dissect cadavers down to the finest detail, using the same handbooks as a budding GP would do. They even use the same practical exam method other “accepted” health care providers use and know so well; the tables laden with organs and body parts and you have limited time at each station to answer questions, diagnose, etc before you have to rotate to the next organ or body part. I’ve seen the handbooks used by a second year student, I’ve seen the test and exam papers, I have a Master’s degree in a different field of study and I was shocked because I also thought that most of these guys are quacks. Well, maybe some of them are, but I don’t think that of this new breed of Hom’s being trained lately here in SA. There is a good reason why you can call your recently qualified Hom “Docter”, they deserve a good deal of respect for what they have achieved, academically as well as for what they can offer.

    I can not stress this enough; a Hom telling you that conventional medicine is a no-go is a no-go himself – go talk to any respected Hom, they will tell you the same. Actually, that’s how you can identify the quacks and those that are just picking your pocket.

    One last thing; you may not be aware of this but the typical Homoeopathic appointment takes up to 1½ hours. Now, who’s picking pockets here, the guys (not named) that puts you through the rather expensive fifteen minute assembly line and sends you off with a bag of equally expensive medication that is not guaranteed to cure your ailment (and it often does not, other times it does because being a GP does not guarantee you not being a quack…) or the guy/girl that takes more than an hour to find out (in a suitably qualified manner as per normal medicine standards) exactly what your problem may be….? I for one can not see any GP even considering this because the financial implications will be dire.

    I guess in the end it’s horses for courses, is it not? These days alternative health care can be provided by competent and properly qualified service providers and it certainly is an option – yes, depending on your ailment you may be referred to somebody else in conventional medicine, that is why Homs are trained, qualified and registered as a health care provider.

    Just go and read – with attention – the article above and be honest with yourself; do you really think that somebody that has successfully completed that training with a year of internship to make it six years are still not able to tell you what is wrong with you? Normally people are scared of the unknown – go enlighten yourself and get off that anti-Hom bandwagon because the tune it’s playing has been out of fashion for a number of years….

    Scary? Nahhhh….. Interesting? You bet.


    • Joe said:

      One example; during their second year anatomy [homeopathy] students dissect cadavers down to the finest detail, using the same handbooks as a budding GP would do.

      A homeopath wielding a scalpel? Not even at Hallowe’en have I read anything so frightening…

      Regardless of that, I note you never provided even a jot of good evidence that homeopathy is a medicine.

      BTW, I’m fully qualified to call myself a homeopath and to practise homeopathy in the UK.

      • Alan, Alan…
        You have become so intent on playing down anything vaguely related to homoeopathy that you stopped reasoning completely; the “scalpel wielding” is an integral part of anatomy training – you, being “fully qualified to call yourself a homeopath” should know that. Proof (what you’re bent on having) that your training did not include anatomy to the level that it’s being taught here. That would have been my first worry from your perspective; yes, things have changed, maybe you got left behind…

        And that’s just one subject. What about the others?

        May I suggest that you go back to where you received your (inadequate, it seems) anatomy training and just check it out again? If they are still churning out “Homoeopaths”, that is…

        BTW, where did you train??

        You now have my full attention!

        A lot of things remain unsaid from my side. I’ve seen the message from the person elaborating on Ed’s bald patch and his moustache – in fact I think Ed gave it too much airtime, the writer should have been seen off with a one -liner. I prefer to persist with pointing out to you that stereotyping is not on in this case.

        Next point?

  • Joe, this is utter non sense, how could you be ‘doctor’ in a ‘science’ that doesn’t even exist in our -real- world ?
    Homeopathy is not possible and can’t stand physics or show me the evidence ! I don’t care that somewhere there is a bogus training in how to treat people with magical effect of non-existent molecule (guess what : you can’t make mistake giving sugar pill !) – homeopathy still have no logical basis.
    Homeopathy is so far from reality that even a clinical study of this is a non-sense and wasted money. In science based pharma you have to go into vitro study before clinical trial, homeopathy won’t pass the in vitro because cells don’t care of placebo.

    By the way, I don’t need a six years training to be kind to other people. However, maybe some years are needed to be a good salesman…

  • I wonder how many homoeopathy bashers out there have actually tried homoeopathy…. surely the proof is in the pudding, positive or negative… next time you are a little under the weather try a homoeopath and then I feel you will be more qualified to pass comment or judgement. The “real” world has many faces, how boring to try and squash it into a box calling it scientific method I mean really… amazing how for over 60 years only anecdotal evidence existed for aspirin what a tragedy if that was shelved because heaven forbid it did not show a p value!!! I am all for science, but also free thinking everything has its time. I confess I have a deep respect for a system of medicine that has not changed since its inception, if it was that pathetic it would have petered out ages ago. patient centred is what it is about if that’s what you get from your GP great!! if that’s what you get from your homoeopath great!!

    • @Mel:

      The “real” world has many faces, how boring to try and squash it into a box calling it scientific method I mean really… amazing how for over 60 years only anecdotal evidence existed for aspirin what a tragedy if that was shelved because heaven forbid it did not show a p value!!!

      Eh… I would guess you have never actually learned or understood what a p-value is.
      The real explanation for the lack of p-values for the medical effect (and side effects) of Acetylsalicylic acid before the advent of proper scientific scrutiny, was simply that no one calculated it! It was there all the time, waiting for someone to find out how to calculate it. Now, when we know how to, we can repeatedly and consistently calculate a nice p-value that suggests convincingly that
      Asetylsalicylic acid has the well known medical properties (and the unavoidable side effects of all efficient medications).
      P-values are not something that grows on trees or can be extracted from the bark of a tree. A p-value is only an estimation of likelihood expressed as a numeric value. It is (should be) calculated from numerical evidence carefully gathered to minimise error (bias) and maximise its meaning. There are better methods of presenting statistical estimations, such as confidence intervals, but that is another story.
      Despite these wonderful methods of finding out simple truths, homeopathy still does not work above and beyond what effect wishful thinking and expectation will produce.
      You cannot actually prove that it does not work (because it doesn’t 🙂 ), you can only hypothesise that it works and then try to prove that it works. If you succeed you can infer that your hypothesis holds (t is still only hypothesis). If it fails, you cannot draw the conclusion that the assumption (hypothesis) that it works is true so it is more likely that it is wrong. This is what scores of properly conducted trials of homeopathy have shown during the past decades. Of course, if you repeat a trial of something that doesn’t work, often enough, sooner or later you will by pure coincidence get one trial that seems to show “positive” results.
       Repeatedly failed proof of efficacy, reinforced by a little mathematics and simple logic and reasoning will tell us that homeopathy doesn’t work.
      This is why doctors do not even try it for their children’s colds or their parent’s cancers.
      I would suggest that before you expose any more of your obvious lack of knowledge, you learn a little bit about how to find out if something works or it doesn’t.
      There are a lot of online courses and texts online that explain these research methodology and simple epidemiology and statistics. Most universities offer courses that anyone can attend.

  • Mel said:

    I wonder how many homoeopathy bashers out there have actually tried homoeopathy…. surely the proof is in the pudding, positive or negative

    Erm…no, the proof of the pudding isn’t in the eating. As Richard Feynman once said:

    The first principle is that you must not fool yourself and you are the easiest person to fool.

  • Just for some fun. How would homeopathy help in a world of emergency medicine? Hahahaha! Imagine homeopaths trying to stabilise a patient with an extract froma tree via drips or stop bleeding with some alien plant extract. Hahahaha! Imagine homeopaths in a trauma case? I mean let’s be realistic. Since they see the real organs in practical and do dissections, what’s the point of such unnecessity if they aren’t authorised to so surgery. How could they even think that they are equivalent to allopathic doctors, when surgery is not in their scope. U can’t give herbal anesthetic hhahahahaha!

  • So they extended the training to be a homeopathic quacktitioner from five years to six? That must make it even stronger! It’s funny, if you gave someone six placebo pills a day in stead of five, there would be an appreciable increase in ‘effect’… Similarly, I imagine that those effectively treating FWD generate stronger ‘effects’ the more they charge

  • Hi, I practice homeopathy and personally I have found it very useful and effective. Classical homeopathy is a holistic therapy. The individual is considered as a whole and symptoms from the body, mind, and spirit are considered when choosing a homeopathic remedy. Homeopathy takes into consideration a person’s environment and lifestyle, providing individualized treatment for the person. Classical homeopathy most closely matches the totality of the individual’s symptoms and personality with the homeopathic remedy in order to stimulate the body’s own natural healing response. In classical homeopathy, the use of a single remedy at a time is a basic principle.

    • with all due respect: what you are stating here are platitudes without evidence. show us the evidence that classical homeopathy is more than a placebo therapy, please.

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