Homeopathic medicines are primarily used by a small segment of the US population for common, self-limited "non-serious" conditions such as the common cold or back pain, a new survey has found.
The report published in the American Journal of Public Health also showed that homeopathy users, particularly those who also report visiting homeopathic practitioners, find the use of these products helpful.
"Since most people purchase these products over the counter without physician guidance, it is reassuring to see that most use them for non-serious, self-limited conditions," said lead author Michelle Dossett from Benson-Henry Institute at Massachusetts General Hospital in the US.
Homeopathy is a 200-year-old system of medicine based on the principal of similars - that highly diluted substances can be used to treat symptoms similar to those that would be caused by large doses of those substances in healthy people.
While it is controversial because of the extremely diluted nature of homeopathic medications, interest in homeopathy has increased in recent years.
The study analysed data from the National Health Interview Survey, which is conducted annually by National Centre for Health Statistics of the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.
The 2012 survey included a number of questions about participants' use of complementary and integrative medicine (CIM) and was completed by more than 34,500 adults.
While two-thirds of the 718 respondents who used homeopathy ranked it among their top three CIM therapies, only 140 or 19 percent reported seeing a homeopathic practitioner during the preceding year.
One third of homeopathy users - both those who did and did not consult practitioners - reported using homeopathy to address specific health conditions, most commonly head and chest colds.
Those who did see a practitioner were significantly more likely to report that homeopathy was very important to maintaining their health and that it had helped their health problem 'a great deal.'