Can homeopathic medicines be used without knowing how they work?

Knowing how a medicine works has never been a pre-requisite for its use. Aspirin (acetylsalicylic acid) is one of the most widely used drugs in the world,1 yet it was used for over 70 years before its mechanism of action was discovered in 1971.2  The drug is still actively researched today, as it has numerous biological effects which are still not fully understood.

Variations of acetylsalicylic acid have been used to treat pain and fevers since ancient times, beginning with preparations made from its natural forms – the leaves and bark of willow or poplar trees.1

In 1899 an artificially synthesised form of the active ingredient passed clinical trials and the drug ‘aspirin’ as we know it today was launched.

Similarly, homeopathy has a long history of traditional use. This has led to our clinical understanding of what homeopathic medicines can do being ahead of our theoretical understanding of how these medicines have a biological effect.

Finding the mechanism of action of homeopathic medicines will be fascinating and many teams around the world are carrying out fundamental and basic research to investigate this important question.


1. Norn S. et al. [From willow bark to acetylsalicylic acid].[Article in Danish]. Dan Medicinhist Arbog., 2009;37:79-98 | Abstract

2. Bottling RM. Vane’s discovery of the mechanism of action of aspirin changed our understanding of its clinical pharmacology. Pharmacol Rep., 2010; 62(3):518-25 | Abstract | Full text

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