Homeopathic remedies have been touted as possible ways to reduce risk of contracting the new coronavirus (COVID-19), mainly through the web and social media.

COVID-19 is a new disease, so there is not a lot of research yet on what can prevent or treat it. There is currently no evidence that homeopathic remedies can reduce the chance of getting COVID-19, or treat it. This means they should not be being promoted for this purpose and medicines regulators have asked for at least one such social media post to be removed.

Based on what we already know about homeopathic remedies it is extremely unlikely that they would be able to prevent COVID-19. A UK House of Commons Science and Technology Committee report from 2010 concluded that studies have shown that homeopathic remedies are no more effective than placebo, and there is no scientific basis for expecting them to have an effect.

Where did the story come from?

Various web and social media posts, such as this one, have been suggesting that regularly taking homeopathic remedies can help people to avoid COVID-19. Indeed, the Ministry of Ayurveda, Yoga & Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha, Sowa Rigpa and Homoeopathy (AYUSH) in India has also made a similar suggestion.

What is the basis for the claim?

The claim is based on homeopathic theories and not on research evidence.

Homeopathy has been used since the 18th century, and is based on the idea that substances that cause certain symptoms can also help treat those symptoms if given at a very, very low dosage. The relevant substances are diluted in water until there is almost none left.

Based on the symptoms of COVID-19, homeopaths have suggested remedies that they believe may help prevent the disease or treat it.

No research evidence to support these claims was identified through searches of databases of ongoing studies or published studies. No ongoing trials testing whether homeopathic remedies can prevent or treat COVID-19 were identified in the ClinicalTrials.gov trial registry as of 4th March 2020. No published studies testing the impact of homeopathy for prevention or treatment of coronavirus were identified in a search of the research literature catalogued in PubMed (4th March 2020).

What do trusted sources say?

As no published evidence on homeopathy for COVID-19 was identified, we looked at evidence on homeopathy for respiratory infections more broadly.

A Cochrane systematic review from 2018 looked at homeopathic remedies for preventing or treating acute respiratory tract infections in children. It found no benefit of homeopathic remedies compared with placebo. In 2015 the Australian Government’s National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) assessed evidence on the use of homeopathy to treat a range of health conditions. They concluded that there was no reliable evidence that homeopathy was more effective than placebo for treating upper respiratory tract infections or flu-like illness.

Citation

  1. Mahon B. Regulator calls for covid-19 ‘remedy’ Facebook post to be removed. The Times. 29 February 2020. https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/regulator-calls-for-covid-19-remedy-facebook-post-to-be-removed-jlt25sbmp (Accessed March 4 2020)

 Reading list

  1. Hawke K et al. Homeopathic medicinal products for preventing and treating acute respiratory tract infections in children. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2018. https://www.cochranelibrary.com/cdsr/doi/10.1002/14651858.CD005974.pub5/full
  2. NHMRC. Homeopathy. https://www.nhmrc.gov.au/about-us/resources/homeopathy (Accessed March 4 2020)
  3. NHS website. Health A to Z: Homeopathy. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/homeopathy/ (Accessed March 4 2020)
  4. UK House of Commons, Science and Technology Committee. Fourth Report. Evidence Check 2: Homeopathy. 2010. https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200910/cmselect/cmsctech/45/4502.htm

Hear what hygiene expert Dr. Elizabeth Scott from Simmons University, Boston has to say: