It is difficult to tell whether such cures result from the homeopathic remedies or from a placebo effect, similar to patients in medical studies who feel better on sugar pills. Homeopaths tend to spend much more time with patients than do most medical doctors, and such attentiveness can provide a great deal of comfort and soothe many ills.
For patients with illnesses that are not life-threatening or that present moderate symptoms, homeopathic remedies will do no harm. And most minor health problems disappear on their own anyway. An average cold, for example, runs its course in about seven days. The key caution is not to depend on homeopathic remedies when a symptom might represent a more serious problem. Don't delay proven medical therapy for a problem that might threaten your good health.
Barrie R. Cassileth, PhD, is chief of integrative medicine at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York She can be reached at BarrieC@Juno.com. Her column appears the first Monday of the month.