CBC Marketplace says there is no scientific evidence behind homeopathic remedies for cold and flu despite several published studies

CBC Marketplace has criticized pharmacists for recommending homeopathic remedies for children’s colds. Was that fair?

CBC Marketplace reporters criticized pharmacists for being willing to recommend homeopathic remedies for children with colds.

They called homeopathy “scientifically absurd.” They called it “sugar water.” They said that “unlike vitamins and supplements, there is no debate in the scientific literature about homeopathic remedies.” They accused homeopathy of being “pseudoscience at its worst.”

A professor of Health Law and Policy interviewed by CBC scolded the pharmacists for not saying, “There is no evidence to support this.” The Canadian Pharmacists Association said that “scientific evidence does not support the effectiveness of homeopathic products.”

They are likely right that there is not as much research as there is on herbs and vitamins. A quick look at this blog will reveal that there are thousands of published, controlled studies on vitamins and herbs. But they are not right that there is no research and no debate.

A quick look reveals the following studies:

  • Placebo-controlled study: Significantly more people with symptoms of the flu recovered in 48 hours with homeopathic treatment than placebo (Br J Clin Pharmacol. 1989 Mar;27(3):329-35).
  • Double-blind study: People with acute maxillary sinusitis given a homeopathic remedy had significant improvement on sinusitis severity scale compared to placebo (Explore. 2007 Mar-Apr;3(2):98-109).
  • Double-blind study: People with acute sinusitis given a homeopathic remedy had significantly greater improvement on sinusitis symptom sum score than those given a placebo. 90.3% of the homeopathy group were free of symptoms versus 11.1% in the placebo group (HNO. 2007 Apr;55(4):271-7).
  • Controlled study: Homeopathics reduce the need for antibiotics in children with acute upper respiratory tract infections (Multidiscip Respir Med. 2016 ;11:19).
  • Controlled study: Children with upper respiratory tract infections have significantly greater improvement on symptom score and recover significantly faster with homeopathic treatment than children treated with placebo (Complement Ther Med. 2005 Dec;13(4):231-8).
  • Comparative cohort study: Homeopathic medicine is as effective as conventional medicine in both children and adults for acute respiratory and ear complaints, but it works faster and is safer (BMC Complement Altern Med. 2007;7:7)
  • Observational cohort study: When people with mild viral infections were given homeopathic or conventional treatment, the homeopathic treatment was successful in 78.1% versus 52.2% on conventional treatment. 88.9% rated the homeopathic treatment as very good for tolerability and compliance versus 38.8% of the conventional therapy group (Int J Clin Pract. 2004 Sep ;58(9):827-32).
  • Double-blind study: Children with acute viral tonsillitis given homeopathic treatment had significantly greater improvement than the children given a placebo for pain, inflammation and tonsil size (J Altern Complement Med. 2014 Nov ;20(11):868-73).
  • Placebo-controlled study: Children with upper respiratory tract infections had significantly greater improvement on a homeopathic syrup in sneezing, cough and composite cold score than children given a placebo (Complement Ther Med. 2016 Dec ;29:229-234).
  • Controlled study: People with feverish upper respiratory tract infections got better faster and used less medication than people on conventional treatment. The homeopathic treatment was also safer (Forsch Komplementmed. 2015 ;22(3):163-70).
  • Placebo-controlled study: Homeopathics prevented influenza and acute respiratory tract infection significantly better than placebo (Homeopathy. 2016 Feb ;105(1):71-7).
  • Controlled study: People with common cold given homeopathic treatment had significant improvement with significantly more improving by day 3 than those treated with over-the-counter medications (Explore. 2006 Mar ;2(2):109-14).

That’s not none. CBC says experts say these studies have been debunked or rejected. Though these studies may not settle the debate, it is disingenuous to suggest that there is no debate.

CBC’s Marketplace also says that the difference between the homeopathic remedies and the Tylenol and Advil on the shelf beside them is that the over-the-counter cough and cold drugs do have scientific evidence.

But it’s not clear that that’s what the science says. Though taking Aspirin or Tylenol for cold relief is a common practice, they actually make congestion and other symptoms worse (J Infect Dis 1990;162:1277- 82). What’s worse is that they also suppress the immune system.

When children were given the popular decongestant/ antihistamine Dimetapp, they actually did worse than children given a placebo (J Pediatr 1991;118:125-30).

As for what the science has to say about the pills on the shelf beside the unproven homeopathics, let’s let the science speak for itself. In 2007, an FDA advisory panel said that over-the-counter cough and cold medicines offer no benefit, but considerable risk, for children under 6 and recommended against their use (CBC forgot to mention that!). In 2018, the FDA repeated the warning not to give any kind of cough or cold product to children under two.

In 2019, the Mayo Clinic, in total disagreement with CBC, reminds parents that over-the-counter cough and cold medicines, “haven't been proved to work any better than inactive medicine (placebo). More important, these medications have potentially serious side effects. . . .” They advise against using cough and cold medicines “in children younger than 6 years old,” and then, again in total disagreement with CBC, the Mayo Clinic extends the age of concern to cover all children, adding, “Also, consider avoiding use of these medicines for children younger than 12 years old.”

If you want to see which treatments really work for cold and flu, then check out Vol.25, No.2 of The Natural Path.


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For much more on preventing and treating cold and flu naturally, see our book The Family Naturopathic Encyclopedia


For comprehensive help with your health, make an appointment to see Linda Woolven nowLinda’s clinic is now open for virtual appointments.

The Natural Path is intended for educational purposes only and is in no way intended for self-diagnosis or self-treatment. For health problems, consult a qualified health practitioner for a comprehensive program.


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