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Homeopathy Has Minor Role in the Treatment of Acute Childhood Diarrhea

Question

  • Do homeopathic remedies have any utility as an adjunct to conventional therapy for diarrhea?

Clinical Bottom Lines

  1. In the small study examined, use of homeopathy shortened the course of diarrhea by approximately one day.1


Summary of Key Evidence

  1. The children receiving homeopathy had a mean of 3 days until they had fewer than three unformed stools on 2 consecutive days, while the controls had 3.8 days (p=0.48).  However, when evaluating the mean number of stools per day, only on day three of treatment was there a significant difference between the groups.
  2. Unadjusted odds ratios were calculated for cases with diarrhea that lasted <=2 days after the initiation of treatment, compared to those lasting >2 days.  When stratified to include number of days of diarrhea the child had prior to entering the study, the group that had diarrhea over 24 hours and under 5 days prior to entry had the strongest association between treatment with homeopathy and shortened duration of diarrhea compared to controls.

Additional Comments

  • Many more studies need to be done and/or replicated to establish the benefit of homeopathy.  A meta-analysis of 89 double-blinded, placebo-controlled trials of homeopathy states that "...the clinical effects are not completely due to placebo alone."
  • "High potency" homeopathic remedies are so diluted (only one molecule of original substance left) that remedies from reputable homeopathic pharmacies should be quite safe.
  • If indeed effective, there is still no proven mechanism of homeopathy.

Citation

  1. Jacobs J, Jimenez M, et al.  Treatment of Acute Childhood Diarrhea with Homeopathic Medicine.  Pediatrics 1994; 93:719-725.
  2. Linde K, Clausius N, et al.  Are the Clinical Effects of Homeopathy Placebo Effects?  A Meta-analysis of Placebo-controlled Trials.  Lancet 1997; 350:834-843.

CAT Author: Beth Barclay, MD

CAT Appraisers: Tina Buysse, MD

Date appraised: May 24, 1999

Last updated June 15, 2003
Department of Pediatrics and Communicable Diseases
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