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Yep, This Popular Alternative Treatment Probably Doesn't Work

You can put that overpriced bottle back on the shelf: New research confirms — yet again — that homeopathy is more hype than actual health.

Homeopathy, based on the idea that "like cures like," claims to treat illnesses with sickness-causing compounds that have been repeatedly diluted. People say they've used homeopathic remedies to cure everything from minor muscle soreness to Ebola to cancer. And, it's estimated that Americans spend nearly $3 billion on homeopathic treatments every year, making the pseudoscience both dangerous and expensive. 

This new meta-study, just published by the Australian government's National Health and Medical Research Council, looks through a gigantic amount of data. The researchers went through 57 systematic reviews encompassing 176 individual studies comparing homeopathy to placebo or other available treatments, concluding "there are no health conditions for which there is reliable evidence that homeopathy is effective."

Studies that did conclude homeopathy was effective tended to have some major methodological problems. For instance, they used too few participants, didn't fully report their study design, or were only performed on animals. Therefore, many of these studies were left out of the overall analyses.

Of course, homeopathy may work for some — but, only as well as placebo. As Ben Goldacre wrote at The Guardian, this is often about more than the pills. For many, the benefit to the individual likely derives from the fact that someone is taking their health issues seriously. Homeopathy may fill this void because it often comes with a consultation, and it's hard to find a condition it doesn't claim to cure. So, because we feel like we're finally getting the medical(ish) attention we deserve, homeopathy may deliver a placebo effect. But, this research suggests it won't do much more, and it certainly won't live up to the price.


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