Caution: Some complementary agents or therapies may be useful for cancer patients; however, some may be harmful in certain situations. MD Anderson Cancer Center cautions patients to consult with their oncologist before attempting to use any agents or therapies referenced on these pages. Inclusion of an agent, therapy or resource on this CIMER Web site does not imply endorsement by MD Anderson Cancer Center
- This review is based upon articles identified on five databases during June of 2005
- Information on the scientific basis of homeopathy is provided in the Detailed Scientific Review
The practice of homeopathy is based on its “law of similars” which proposes that “like cures like”. That is, a substance that causes specific symptoms in a healthy person is believed to ultimately relieve those same symptoms in a sick person. A few homeopathic physicians treat cancer by prescribing minute doses of tumors and carcinogenic substances.
The intent of homeopathic medicine is to help the body begin the healing process. Rather than focusing on a specific diagnosis, prescriptions are tailored to an entire set of symptoms and may vary between individuals with the same disease.
Significant reduction of some side effects of cancer treatments has been reported in two randomized controlled trials justifying further research with larger trials.
Current research includes a National Cancer Institute (NCI) clinical trial of a homeopathic substance for chemotherapy induced mucositis in children.
Extremely small doses of natural substances are diluted in water or alcohol many times. They are so dilute that sometimes not even a single molecule of the original substance may remain although homeopathic practitioners believe that a “memory” remains.
A different form of homeopathy known as “homotoxicology” was developed in the 1950s. This form uses measurable amounts of ingredients to help the body eliminate toxic substances and many of these ingredients would not be used in classical homeopathy.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates homeopathic medicines. Because these medicines are so dilute, they are regulated less strictly than other drugs.
Homeopathic medicines may be bought without a prescription for the self-care of limiting conditions such as colds. Prescribing them to others is regulated by individual states in the United States. In most states this usually includes anyone whose degree entitles them to practice medicine in that state such as doctors of medicine (MD), osteopathy (DO) or naturopathy (ND) and sometimes dentists (DDS), veterinarians (DVM) and doctors of chiropractic (DC). No homeopathic schools exist in the U. S. whose graduates are entitled to legally prescribe these medicines.
How it is taken
Homeopathic medicines may be taken orally or applied to the skin.
Side effects are expected to be minimal due to the extreme dilution of these substances.
Nevertheless, toxic substances such as tumors, carcinogens, aristolochic acid, belladonna and snake venom are sometimes prescribed. Accordingly, users should always be aware of any unexpected reactions and let their primary physician and/or oncologist know when taking any homeopathic substances.
Substituting homeopathy for conventional treatment of cancer has been associated with progression of cancer for some people. Even minute doses of tumors or carcinogens could potentially be associated with risks.
To avoid potential interactions, be sure to let your health care provider know if you use this or any other type of complementary therapy.
Authors and Editors
Published and peer-reviewed article:
Stefania Milazzoa, Nancy Russellb, Edzard Ernsta. Efficacy of homeopathic therapy in cancer treatment. European Journal of Cancer, 42 (2006) 282-289:
aDepartment of Complementary Medicine, Peninsula Medical School, Universities of Exeter and Plymouth, United Kingdom
bIntegrative Medicine Program, MD Anderson Cancer Center
Web site review:
Nancy C. Russell, Dr.P.H., senior health education specialist, Integrative Medicine Program, Education Resources, MD Anderson Cancer Center
Assistance with Web site update:
Lorianne Janszen, health education specialist, Integrative Medicine Program, Education Resources, MD Anderson Cancer Center