We have a bottle of homeopathic arnica tablets in our History of Medicine Collection.
Arnica is a herb which is native to Europe and North America, and is toxic if consumed. These pills are entirely safe, but also entirely ineffective.
Homeopathy arose from ideas developed by a German doctor called Samuel Hahnemann in the 1790s. A key belief is that a substance that causes certain symptoms can also help to remove those symptoms. Practitioners believe that the more a substance is diluted, the greater its power to treat symptoms. In fact, a typical homeopathic remedy has been diluted so many times that there is no molecule of the original substance left in final test tube. A drop of this liquid (with no active ingredient) is then placed on a pill, and this is what patients will consume.
A 2010 House of Commons Science and Technology Committee report on homeopathy stated that homeopathic remedies perform no better than placebos, and that "the principles on which homeopathy is based are "scientifically implausible". Despite there being no scientific evidence that homeopathy is effective, many people continue to use these remedies for a wide range of conditions.
It is a perfect example of patients in the 21st century relying on an ineffective remedy.
Listen to Simon Singh, science author and physicist, talk about homeopathy here: