B218 - The use of homeopathic products in childhood data generated over 85 years - 01/02/2005

B number: 
Principal applicant name: 
Dr Elizabeth Thompson (University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust, Bristol)
Title of project: 
The use of homeopathic products in childhood: data generated over 8.5 years.
Proposal summary: 

The overall aim of this project is to increase the awareness, knowledge and understanding of homeopathic product use in such a large cohort of children and to generate hypotheses for future research. Objectives included identifying the following:

* The number of children using homeopathic products and at what ages.

* The frequency of homeopathic product use at these different ages.

* The types of conditions for which homeopathy is used by children.

* The names of the actual homeopathic products used (names of remedies, creams, preparations etc).

* The source of the child's homeopathic prescription e.g. GP, Homeopathic doctor, Professional Homeopath, chemist etc.

Further objectives included:

* What are the misconceptions of homeopathic product use for children?

* What are the patterns of use? How often are children given homeopathic remedies over time, infrequently or frequently?

* What is the perceived usefulness of homeopathic medicine use and is there greater usefulness in certain indications such as glue ear, eczema and asthma?

* What are the differences in conditions treated with products/treatments prescribed by GP, Homeopathic doctor, Professional Homeopath, chemist etc.?

* Does family use determine whether children receive homeopathic medicine?


The Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC), is a population-based cohort study of 14,000 children recruited in Avon, South-West England during 1990-92 while their mothers were pregnant(6). The study has generated data regarding many aspects of the families' health, well being, social, demographic and environmental features. Questionnaires completed by the mother at regular time points during pregnancy and throughout the life of the child have provided a valuable data source of CAM use including use during pregnancy and over time by the children (now aged 12-14 years) and their parents. For this project, 7 time points were identified as providing available data on child homeopathic product use at 18, 54, 65, 78, 81, 91 and 103 months. These included a specific question enquiring about the child's use of homeopathic medicines asked at 18 and 81 months and also provides information on conditions treated using homeopathic products at these ages.

At 81 months the question asks about who had prescribed the homeopathic medicine, whether it was, for example, a homeopathic doctor, professional homeopath or chemist. A question enquiring about treatments for accidents and illnesses (that included a list of substances including homeopathic medicines) was asked at 54, 65, 78, 91 and 103 months. A further question dedicated to the child's use of CAM was asked at 103 months. This will provide information on the use of CAMs (including homeopathic medicines) ever taken, the age of the child when taken, the condition it was taken for and the perceived usefulness of the treatment. Table 1 summarises the above questions asked at each time point.

For the data analysed here, all questions had both a tick box response and a space for a written text description of the homeopathic products used. Tick box entries were keyed and entered into a statistical program. Text descriptions were keyed and then coded by a Homeopath using a coding frame specifically devised for the ALSPAC CAM data.

The criteria of inclusion for the written descriptions of homeopathic products were: (a) named individual remedies, (b) New Era Tissue Salt products, (c) Nelson's formulated range, (d) specific products from Weleda's range, (e) other combination remedies, (f) homeopathic creams and tinctures, and (g) Bach Flower Remedies and Essences (including Bach Flower Rescue cream). Each remedy or product was assigned an individual code.

Where written descriptions did not automatically link to any of the products listed in the inclusion criteria above (such as "remedy for...", "from my homeopath...", "constitutional remedy" etc) they were assigned a non-specific homeopathic product code (labelled as 'HPNS'). Any descriptions that were clearly non-homeopathic were coded as such and will be used in the analyses of the specific homeopathic questions at 18 and 81 months as analyses of other products confused with homeopathic ones to show misconceptions of use.

All data were analysed using SPSS v.12.0.1, frequencies of overall use and of specific homeopathic products were generated at each time point.

Date proposal received: 
Tuesday, 1 February, 2005
Date proposal approved: 
Tuesday, 1 February, 2005
Primary keyword: