Are the benefits of homeopathy more than just placebo effects?

It is frequently argued that homeopathic medicines are ‘just sugar pills’ that don’t contain any active ingredients, so any benefits patients report are due purely to the placebo effect i.e. people believe the pills are going to help and this belief alone triggers a healing response.

With any medical treatment there is likely to be some degree of ‘placebo effect’ and in this respect homeopathy is no different, but the theory that homeopathy’s effects are only a placebo response is not supported by the scientific evidence.

If homeopathy is really just a placebo effect, how does one explain:

  1. The existence of positive high quality placebo-controlled trials?
    These trials are designed specifically to separate out the placebo effect from the real clinical effect of the treatment being tested.
  2. Homeopathic medicines having effects in laboratory experiments?
    Effects have been seen on white blood cells, frogs and wheat plants to name just a few examples.
  3. The fact that homeopathy can work in animals?
    A rigorous research study found that a homeopathic medicine can prevent E. coli diarrhoea in piglets1 – a big problem in commercial farming.

Find out more about similar statements:

A report from Australia just found homeopathy doesn’t work for anything and is just placebo

A UK Parliamentary report looked at the evidence and said it’s just placebo


  1. Camerlink I, Ellinger L, Bakker EJ, Lantinga EA. Homeopathy as replacement to antibiotics in the case of Escherichia coli diarrhoea in neonatal piglets. Homeopathy, 2010;99: 57–62 | PubMed

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