Cochrane Summaries

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Homeopathic medicines for adverse effects of cancer treatments

Kassab S, Cummings M, Berkovitz S, van Haselen R, Fisher P
Published Online: 
15 August 2012

Homeopathic medicines are used by many patients with cancer, usually alongside conventional treatment. Cancer treatments can cause adverse effects, and one of the reasons patients use homeopathic medicines is to help with these symptoms. This review looked at whether these medicines could help patients with problems caused by cancer treatments. Eight studies with a total of 664 participants were included in this review. Three studied adverse effects of radiotherapy, three studied adverse effects of chemotherapy and two studied menopausal symptoms associated with breast cancer treatment. Two studies with low risk of bias demonstrated benefit: one with 254 participants demonstrated benefits from calendula ointment in the prevention of radiotherapy-induced dermatitis, and another with 32 participants demonstrated benefits from Traumeel S (a complex homeopathic medicine) over placebo as a mouthwash for chemotherapy-induced stomatitis. These trials need replicating. Two other studies reported positive results, although the risk of bias was unclear, and four further studies reported negative results. The homeopathic medicines used in all eight studies did not seem to cause any serious adverse effects or interact with conventional treatment. No cancer treatments were modified or stopped because of the homeopathic interventions.