Practice of Homeopathy around the World

There are estimated to be over 100,000 physicians practising homeopathy world wide, with an estimated 500 million people receiving treatment. Over twelve thousand medical doctors and licensed health care practitioners administer homeopathic treatment in the United Kingdom, France, and Germany. Since 2001 homeopathy is regulated in the European Union by Directive 2001/83/EC. The latest amendments to this directive make it compulsory for all member states to implement a special registration procedure for homeopathic remedies.

In the United Kingdom, as in most countries, homeopathic remedies may be sold over the counter. The UK has five homeopathic hospitals where treatment, funded by the National Health Service, is available and there are numerous regional clinics. Homeopathy is not practised by the majority of the medical profession but there is a core of public support, especially in Scotland and also from the English royal family.

Homeopathy has been used in India since the middle of the 19th century and is today a widely practised and officially recognized system of medicine there. India has the largest homeopathic infrastructure in the world in terms of manpower, institutions and drug manufacturing industry. There are 300,000 qualified homeopaths, 180 colleges, 7500 government clinics, and 307 hospitals.

In the United States, homeopathic remedies are, like all healthcare products, subject to regulation by the Food and Drug Administration. However, the FDA accords homeopathic remedies a treatment significantly different from that accorded to other drugs. Homeopathic products are not required to be approved by the FDA prior to sale, not required to be proven either safe or effective prior to being sold, not required to be labeled with an expiration date, and not required to undergo finished product testing to verify contents and strength. Homeopathic remedies have their own imprints that, unlike conventional drugs, do not have to identify their active ingredients on the grounds that they have few or no active ingredients. In the United States only homeopathic medicines that claim to treat self-limiting conditions may be sold over the counter, while homeopathic medicines that claim to treat a serious disease can be sold only by prescription. Neither the American Medical Association nor the American Academy of Pediatrics has an official policy for or against homeopathy.

Homeopathy's popularity in the United States is growing. The 1995 retail sales of homeopathic medicines in the United States were estimated at US$201 million and growing at a rate of 20 percent a year, according to the American Homeopathic Pharmaceutical Association. The number of homeopathic practitioners in the United States has increased from fewer than 200 in the 1970s to approximately 3,000 in 1996.

In Germany, about 6,000 physicians specialize in homeopathy. In 1978 homeopathy, along with anthroposophically extended medicine and herbalism, were recognized as "special forms of therapy", meaning that their medications are freed from the usual requirement of proving efficacy. Since January 1, 2004 homeopathic medications, albeit with some exceptions, are no longer covered by the country's public health insurance[5]. Most private health insurers continue to cover homeopathy.

In Austria homeopathy has been a recognized part of the medical system since 1983.

In Switzerland homeopathy is one of the five classes of complementary medicine. At one time, homeopathic medications were covered by the basic health insurance system, as long as they were prescribed by a physician. This practice ended in June 2005. The Swiss Government, after a 5-year trial, has withdrawn insurance coverage for homoeopathy and four other complementary treatments because they did not meet efficacy and cost-effectiveness criteria.

In Mexico the Instituto Polit├ęcnico Nacional (IPN) has had a school of Homeopathy since 1936. This school has both bachelor and master degrees.

There is, and always has been, considerable diversity in the theory and practice of homeopathy. The major distinction may be between what can be called the pragmatic and the mystical approach, but it should be remembered that there are not two distinct groups, but a spectrum of attitudes and practices. An early advocate of pragmatism was Richard Hughes, while the most influential mystic was James Tyler Kent. The pragmatists tend to be open to "whatever works", whereas the mystics tend to rely on the research of one or more authorities. There is still considerable diversity in both camps because the pragmatists usually define "working" based on personal experience and the mystics use various sources as authorities. The pragmatists tend to see homeopathy as complementary medicine and are more willing to co-exist with conventional doctors. The mystics, some of whom are also conventional doctors, see homeopathy as alternative medicine and have more confidence that homeopathy can be used effectively against all diseases, with the caveat that many potential remedies have not yet been proven.

Pragmatists are more likely to be interested in proving homeopathy in the framework of mainstream science, and will talk about the "memory of water" and stimulation of the immune system. The mystics see less need to justify their methods with conventional criteria. For them, homeopathy acts on a vital force that is, so far, not accessible to science. The pragmatists are more likely to prescribe (relatively) low dilutions in multiple doses, and sometimes use more than one remedy at a time. The mystics often use higher dilutions, but generally prefer a single remedy and sometimes a single dose. In the extreme form, pragmatists will even accept over-the-counter homeopathic remedies, but the mystics will always insist on an individual prescription. The mystics may see themselves as "classical" homeopaths, although the historical accuracy of the term may be questionable. The pragmatists see themselves as scientific, even though they are not accepted by the scientific establishment.


  1. I am Dr. Apurva Tamhane from India. I am currently pursuing my MD in Homoeopathy in Homoeopathic Materia Medica and will be completing around June - July 2011.

    I am looking out for opportunities to practice Homoeopathy at various institutions around the world to spread Homoeopathy knowledge gained thus.

    Can you please tell me about the prospects of practicing Homoeopathy in terms of:
    1. Own Homoeopathy Clinic
    2. Teaching at Homoeopathic Colleges.
    3. Both 1 and 2.

    I desire to settle outside India and explore opportunities in other countries.


    Dr. Apurva Tamhane

  2. Hi Apurva,

    The practice styles and legal guidelines vary by country and at times even by province/state. You will need to contact the appropriate institutions in the various countries/places you are interested in practicing and they may be in a better position to guide you and provide some starting assistance on available channels, legalities and any restrictions.

    Wish you the best...