About Homeopathy & Evidence Based Medicine
Here's a brief description of how homeopathy came to be. It's followed by some of the scientific evidence to support the safety and efficacy of homoeopathy.
Homeopathy is a complete system of medicine developed over 200 years ago by the German physician Samuel Hahnemann. 19th century medicine was often a dangerous thing to get involved with if you were a patient. Medicines were prescribed in large quantities, unusual combinations and with little true understanding of their effect on the human body.
The Cure Is Worse Than The Disease
Hahnemann became dissatisfied with the practice of medicine as the side effects of the medicines were often worse than the disease they were prescribed to cure. He left practice and earned his living by translating medical texts. During this time Hahnemann’s scientific and linguistic knowledge allowed him to verify, correct and expand the works he was translating. This earned him much respect from his contemporaries and colleagues across europe.
Whilst translating a book by William Cullen (then a well known professor of chemistry at Edinburgh University) Hahnemann was struck by his explanation of how Chinchona (Peruvian Bark) was capable of curing malaria. Cullen suggested that its ability to cure malaria was due to its astringent and bitter properties. Hahnemann knew that many other drugs had the same properties yet could not cure malaria. Something was wrong and Hahnemann set about finding the answer.
The Chinchona Experiment
Hahnemann began to find out all he could about Chinchona. He discovered that in poisonings by Chinchona the effects of the drug produced symptoms very similar to those of malaria. Hahnemann took his research a step further by experimenting with the drug on himself taking ‘four drams daily of Chinchona for several days’. Sure enough, Hahnemann developed all the symptoms of malaria.
The Law Of Similars
This gave Hahnemann the initial clue to the law of similars which is the basis of homeopathy. At great risk to his own health Hahanemann made further experiments with other medicinal substances and found that like Chinchona, the symptoms these drugs could produce they could also cure. Thus he discovered the fundamental principle of homeopathy ‘Let like be cured by like’. If a substance is capable of causing symptoms of illness in a healthy person then it is capable of curing those same symptoms if they arise as a result of ill health.
Hahnemann spent many years researching the poisonous properties of the medicines that were used in daily practice. This research formed his basic understanding of what the medicines could cure. Using single medicines as opposed to the complex formulas of his contemporaries Hahnemann began treating patients using the principle of ‘like cures like’. Despite good results Hahnemann found that patients still took a long time to recover because of the side effects of even single remedies. Hahnemann thus began diluting the remedies further and further. In this Hahnemann made a further discovery, instead of weakening the effect of the medicines the more they were diluted the more profoundly they acted.
Hahnemann then began to expand his medicine chest. He was helped in this endeavour by his wife, children and a group of interested doctors and medical students. All of them participated in Hahnemann’s research into the properties of each new homoeopathic remedy. The process of testing each remedy is known as a proving and its protocols are still used today in both homeopathic and conventional drug trials.
In the proving of a homoeopathic remedy healthy volunteers take a diluted substance until they begin to produce symptoms. All the changes from their normal patterns of health whether mental, emotional or physical are carefully noted, these are symptoms of the diluted substance, not of the volunteer. Once the volunteer stops taking the diluted substance the symptoms it has produced quickly subside or a suitable homoeopathic antidote is found to relieve any lingering discomfort.
When all the recorded symptoms are collected together the core symptoms experienced by all the volunteers is used to understand the essential affinities of the remedy. The remedy can now be used when a person with closely similar symptoms comes for treatment.
The Medicine Of Experience
This is how homeopathy began in Germany in the early nineteenth century. By the 1840’s there were homeopathic doctors who had trained with Doctor Hahnemann in Europe, Great Britain and America. Since Hahnemann’s formulation of homeopathy’s basic principles over two hundred years ago the theory and practice of homeopathy has remained unchanged. Dedicated volunteers still take part in the proving of potential new remedies. Remedies are still prepared by homeopathically trained pharmacists according to Hahnemann’s original guidelines. Remedies are still prescribed according to their similarity to a patient’s symptoms by lay-people, doctors and homeopaths the world over.
The reason for this is not a blind adherence to a set of rules which have not been verified, quite the opposite in fact. Each time a remedy, carefully selected according to homeopathic principles gives someone the stimulus they need to overcome their illness the principle is confirmed by the material evidence and experience of the patient. Homeopathy is best described as the medicine of experience. The best way to understand what homoeopathy is and what it can do for you is to try it.
Evidence Based Medicine
Is there any evidence to support the effectiveness of homoeopathy?
Homeopathy’s reputation for effectiveness in England was established beyond doubt during the cholera epidemic of the 1840s. 80% of affected people survived when treated with homeopathy at the London Homoeopathic Hospital compared to only 20% surviving at other hospitals.
There is a lot of recent research evidence conducted by reliable organisations which supports claims to the effectiveness of homeopathy. The effectiveness of homoopathy is supported by randomised clinical trials for childhood diarrhoea, hay-fever – post operative ileus and osteoarthritis all of which were the subject of meta-analyses with positive conclusions. It has proved effective with asthma, fibromyalgia, influenza, glue ear, side effects of radiotherapy and chemotherapy, pain, sprains, upper respiratory tract infections and vertigo – each of which has undergone at least two positive randomised control trials. The 2006 Annual Report for the IMPACT Integrated Medicine Project in Nottingham found that 87% of patients using homoeopathy reduced or stopped using prescribed medicine; 76% visited their GP less and some no longer required hospital treatment; Demand for IMPACT’s service is still very high, and 85% of patients who completed a survey reported being very satisfied.
Bristol Homeopathic Hospital surveyed what happened to 6,500 patients over six years. 70% reported improvement in their symptoms and well being for conditions which had not responded to conventional treatment. 89% of patients aged under sixteen suffering from asthma and 68% with eczema all reported improvements in their symptoms. Randomised control trials carried out in America also reported positive results when homeopathy was used to treat the symptoms of hayfever.
Drs David Spence, Elizabeth Thompson and SJ Barron, October 2005, Homeopathic Treatment for Chronic Disease: A 6 year university hospital outpatient observational study, The Journal of Complementary and Alternative Medicine, Vol 11 No 5.
Launs L, Kimby CK, Henningsen I, Finneb V. (2006) An exploratory retrospective study of people suffering from hypersensitivity illness whpo attend medical or classical homeopathic treatment. Homeopathy, 95.
Colin, P. (2006) Homeopathy and respiratory allergies: aseries of 147 cases. Homeopathy, 95.
Kim LS, Riedlinger JE, et al. (2005) Treatment of seasonal allergic rhinitis using homeopathic preparation of common allergens in the Southwest region of the US: A randomised controlled clinical trial. Annals Of Pharmacotherapeutics, 39 (4).
A review by an NHS Community Menopause/PMS clinic in Sheffield reports high levels of benefit in reducing menopausal symptoms as well as improved mood and quality of life following homeopathic treatment. Research has found that physical and emotional changes during pregnancy such as distress, high blood pressure, nausea, urinary problems, diarrhoea, heartburn, anaemia, varicose veins, backache, cramps and thrush can also be helped by professional homoeopathic treatment.
Relton C, Weatherley-Jones E (2005), Homeopathy service in a National Health Service community menopause clinic: audit of clinical outcomes. Journal of the British Menopause Society
Goodman, S 1999. Quality of life in pregnant women in homeopathic or mainstream medical type care and the course of the pregnancy (review). Positive health – Women’s Health 43.
Homeopaths claim that the serial dilution of substances to prepare remedies makes them safe to use and without the danger of side effects. Critics claim that the degree of dilution makes it impossible for the remedies to have any effect. Recent research into the effect of highly dilute substances on human immune cells shows that homeopathic dilutions are effective. Professor Ennis of Queen’s University, Belfast who conducted one of the trials stated ‘The results compel me to suspend my disbelief and to start searching for rational explanations for our findings’. Research also supports the claims that homeopathic remedies do not produce side effects.
Belon P, Camps J, Ennis M, et al (2000), Inhibition of human basophil degranulation by successive histamine dilutions: Results of a European multi centre Trial, Inflammation Research, 49.
Saint-Laundy J (2000), Modulation of allergen and IgE induced human basophil activation by several histamine dilutions, Inflammation Research, 49.
Belon P, Camps J, EnnisM, et al (2004), Histamine dilutions modulate basophil activation. Inflammation Research, 53.
Rey L (2003). Thermoluminescence of ultra-high dilutions of lithium chloride and sodium chloride. Physica (A). 323.)
Dantas F, Rampas H, (2000). Do homeopathic remedies provoke adverse effects? A systematic review. British Homeopathic Journal 89.
Homoeopathy can be used to treat mental and emotional problems and has a track record of effectiveness in this field. 87% of patients visiting homoeopaths with mental and emotional problems reported a positive change. A double blind placebo controlled trial also found that homeopathy could alleviate attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
The Society Of Homeopaths National Service Evaluation; The Homeopath 25.2, 2006.
Thurneysen A, et al (2005). Homeopathic treatment of children with ADHD: A randomised, double blind, placebo controlled cross-over trial. European Journal Of Paediatrics, 27 July 2005, Springer-Verlag, Issue 1 – online 27/07/2005.
Gp’s are increasingly welcoming the contribution complementary therapies make to healthcare, 70% feel that they should be more freely available on the NHS.
(GP Magazine, 12th November 2004).
Cuba's health system has made great achievements in homeopathic medicine, as part of modern procedures to treat a wide range of diseases.
Experts noted that homeopathy has been successfully used to treat patients suffering from herpes zoster, as proved in a study of 65 patients in the city of Guantánamo.The disease reactivates the virus of chicken pox, which is latent in a sensitive ganglion and reproduces itself.
Due to that, it causes a neuronal necrosis, intense inflammation and a strong neuralgia, the experts added, so homeopathy is an excellent treatment to relieve the pain. In that regard, they recalled that homeopathy is cheaper than conventional therapy and does not cause side effects.
Cuban medical researchers have successfully prevented the annual outbreak of Leptospirosis in Cuba among a population of 5 million people across two regions using homeopathy in both 2007 and 2008, a homeopathy conference in Havana Cuba heard recently.
Using Homeoprophylaxis, the equivalent of vaccinations in homeopathy, a nosode of Leptospirosis was prepared and administered along with two Bach Flower Essences to address the typical mental and emotional effects of the disease.Two doses were given to a population of 5m over a month bringing the incidence of infection to just under 10 people with no fatalities.
Previously, conventional treatment of the population with a vaccine still resulted in thousands of infections and a number of fatalities and at a cost of US $2m.The homeopathic solution cost just 10% of that, at US $200,000.
Swiss Federal Government report supports homoeopathy
The English translation of the Swiss Health Technology Assessment (HTA) report on homeopathy was published in December 2011. This extensive and authoritative report offers an unambiguous endorsement of the evidence base for homeopathy. Click here to read the report
But the best evidence of all is the evidence of experience. Visit a homeopath yourself or ask a friend who sees one and find out what homeopathy really is and what it can do for you. You can also visit the research pages on the Society of Homeopaths website
French study finds that homoeopathy can help muskuloskeletal problems
In a study of 1153 patients suffering from muskuloskeletal problems researchers in France found that reliance on NSAID drugs was halved in patients using homoeopathy whilst their condition continued to improve. Those using homoeopathy also suffered fewer adverse drug reactions.
The study compared patients using homoeopathy and NSAID drugs with those using conventional medicine and a third group which used a combination of alternative therapies and conventional medicine.
Homoeopathic 'hangover cure' reduces alcohol intake in rats
Nux Vomica 30c is most popularly known as a way of reducing the symptoms of a hangover or over indulgence in rich food. In a recent study using rats Nux Vomica 30c and its mother tincture were found to reduce alcohol consumption.
Despite the original substance of Nux Vomica being diluted beyond Avogadro's number in Nux Vomica 30c, analysis showed that it's preparation as a homoeopathic remedy had changed the molecular structure of the solution.
Isopathic use of E Coli 30K reduces diarrhoea in piglets
The use of antibiotics in the livestock sector is increasing to such an extent that it threatens negative consequences for human health, animal health and the environment. Homeopathy might be an alternative to antibiotics. It has therefore been tested in a randomised placebo-controlled trial to prevent Escherichia coli diarrhoea in neonatal piglets.
On a commercial pig farm 52 sows were treated twice a week with either the homeopathic agent Coli 30K or placebo. The 525 piglets born from these sows were scored for occurrence and duration of diarrhoea.
Piglets of the homeopathic treated group had significantly less E. coli diarrhoea than piglets in the placebo group. The diarrhoea seemed to be less severe in the homeopathically treated litters, there was less transmission and duration appeared shorter.
In Vitro study finds that homoeopathic remedies inhibit the growth of tumours
A new study, just published in the International Journal of Oncology, reveals that homeopathic remedies have a beneficial effect on breast cancer cells.
The study, which was done in Houston Texas, shows that certain homeopathic remedies have preferentially elevated cytotoxic (killing) effects on breast cancer cells - compared with cells derived from normal breast epithelium.
The team of researchers commented that the homeopathic remedies appeared to have similar activity to the activity of paclitaxel (Taxol), the most commonly used chemotherapeutic drug for breast cancer, without the toxic effect on the normal cells.
The experiments were conducted in triplicate and repeated at least twice for each remedy. The homeopathic medicines tested included: Carcinosin, 30C; Conium maculatum, 3C; Phytolacca decandra, 200C and Thuja occidentalis, 30C. The most effective remedies were found to be Carcinosin and Phytolacca.
The researchers concluded, "the ultra-diluted natural homeopathic remedies investigated in this study offer the promise of being effective preventive and/or therapeutic agents for breast cancer and worthy of further study."
This is the first scientific study that investigated the effect of homeopathic remedies on breast cancer cells.