Every day we have discussions with people who think suspiciously of homeopathy. On the other hand, some people are fanatics and convinced of its effectiveness. The latter are those who have experienced a spectacular cure in themselves or in their immediate family.
While homeopathy is not recognized by the majority of doctors, homeopaths considered the action of homeopathic medicine as a given, and therefore did not attempt to prove it. They therefore focused on experiments related to the action of certain substances aiming at enriching knowledge of homeopathic materia medica, without going into the process of proving to the ‘unfaithful’ how the homeopathic medicine works.
Some scientists often criticize homeopathy claiming that it uses medicines without knowing their action mechanism. This does not happen only in homeopathy. It is known that today there are several conventional medicines which are given by prescription and are effective, but we do not know their action mechanism. As an example I can mention aspirin and some antibiotics which, although they are given by prescription, their action mechanism is still unknown.
In order to consider the action of homeopathic medicine we must refer to a recognized principle in pharmacology called the “biphasic response of drugs”. According to this principle every medicine has two action phases that depend on dosage. Therefore, rather than the effectiveness of a medicine increasing with the increase of the dosage, research has consistently proven that very small dosages of a substance have the opposite result of larger ones. For example, it has been proven that the usual medical dosages of atropine inhibit the parasympathetic system and cause dryness in the pituitaries, while very small dosages cause increased secretions.
The above principle was discovered in 1870 simultaneously by Hugo Schulz and Rudolf Arndt. Initially it was named as the law of Arndt - Schulz and it has been registered in the medical dictionaries under this name until today. More specifically, these researchers discovered that weak stimuli accelerate normal activity, moderate stimuli suspend it and strong stimuli stop the activity completely. For example very weak concentrations of iodine, bromine, mercuric chloride and arsenic acid will enhance the development of yeast (fungus), moderate dosages of these elements will suspend it and large dosages will kill it.
The first officially registered study of the effectiveness of homeopathy was conducted in the 19th century when an epidemic of cholera broke out in the 1850s. When the mortality from cholera in London hospitals was announced in the Parliament, information from homeopathic hospitals was not included. One of the members of Parliament insisted on obtaining information from homeopathic hospitals. Due to his intervention, information about the enormous benefits of homeopathy in the treatment of cholera was presented. According to data from the homeopathic hospital of London, the mortality rate of patients suffering from cholera was 16,4% while in all other hospitals it was 51,8%.
The most serious attempts to prove the action of homeopathic medicine took place in the last century. Several research projects on the effectiveness of homeopathic medicine will follow below.
One group of studies refers to the individualized administration of homeopathic medicines. In 1991, three professors of Medicine from the Netherlands conducted a meta-analysis of the clinical studies of the last 25 years in which homeopathic medicines were used, and published the results in the British Medical Journal. (J. Kleijnen, P. Knipschild, G. ter Riet, "Clinical Trials of Homoeopathy," British Medical Journal, February 9, 1991, 302:316-323).
This meta-analysis covered 107 controlled test-studies out of which 81 showed that homeopathic medicines are effective, 24 showed that they are not effective and 2 were inconclusive. The professors concluded that ‘the amount of positive results came as a surprise to us’. More specifically they noted the following:
13 out of 19 tests showed successful cure in cases of upper respiratory tract infection.
6 out of 7 tests showed positive results in the treatment of other infections.
6 out of 7 tests showed improvement in affections of the digestive apparatus.
5 out of 5 tests showed successful cure of spring allergy.
5 out of 7 showed faster recovery after intra-abdominal surgical operation.
4 out of 6 helped the cure of rheumatological diseases.
18 out of 20 showed benefit in the treatment of pain or trauma.
8 out of 10 showed positive results in the relief of mental problems.
13 out of 15 showed benefit in the cure of various diseases.
Despite the high percentage of studies providing successful data from the use of homeopathic medicines, most of these studies were – in one way or another – incomplete. However, researchers found 22 highly precise studies, 15 of which showed that homeopathic medicines were effective. It is of great interest the fact that 11 out of the 15 best studies showed that these natural medicines were effective, indicating that the better the design and execution of these studies, the higher the percentage of finding these medicines as effective.
This is not something that is observed only in the field of homeopathy; during the last 25 years, a similar percentage of incomplete studies is revealed by conventional medicine. Therefore the researchers of meta-analysis concluded that ‘the proof presented in this review would probably be satisfactory to establish homeopathy as a valid therapeutic method with specific therapeutic indications’.
Another research project on the action of homeopathic medicine was an isolated study for the homeopathic treatment of asthma (David Reilly, Morag Taylor, Neil Beattie, et al., "Is Evidence for Homoeopathy Reproducible?" Lancet, December 10, 1994, 344:1601-6.).
Researchers at the University of Glasgow used conventional allergy tests to see which allergic substances the patients of asthma were most sensitive to. After defining the substances the patients were randomized into 2 groups – one to be treated with homeopathic medicine and the other with placebo. Patients to be treated with homeopathic medicine were given the substance they were most sensitive to in its 30th centesimal potency (the most common substance was the acarid from home dust.). The persons that participated in the experiment were examined and evaluated by homeopaths and conventional doctors. This study showed that 82% of the patients treated with homeopathic medicines had improved, while only 38% of those treated with placebo felt a similar relief.
Another study published in the American Journal of Pediatrics, examined the use of homeopathic medicine in the treatment of childhood diarrhea. (Jennifer Jacobs, L. Jimenez, Margarita, Stephen Gloyd, "Treatment of Acute Childhood Diarrhea with Homeopathic Medicine: A Randomized Clinical Trial in Nicaragua," Pediatrics, May 1994, 93,5:719-25). Over 5 million children die every year of diarrhea mainly in non-industrialised countries.
This randomized double-blind study involving 81 children was conducted in Nicaragua in cooperation with the University of Washington and the University of Guadalajara. The results showed that, the individualized homeopathic medicine showed clinically and statistically significant improvement in the children’s diarrhea, compared to the children treated with placebo. Children that received homeopathic medicine recovered from infection 20% faster than the children treated with placebo. The children who were more sick reacted to the homeopathic treatment in a spectacular manner. In total the study used 18 different homeopathic medicines selected on an individualized basis according to the symptoms of each child.
In Italy, a study was conducted on the effectiveness of homeopathic treatment on migraine, with 60 patients who were chosen randomly and participated in the double-blind study. Patients filled in a questionnaire on the frequency, intensity and the characteristics of the headache (Bruno Brigo, and G. Serpelloni, "Homeopathic Treatment of Migraines: A Randomized Double-blind Controlled Study of 60 Cases," Berlin Journal on Research in Homeopathy, March 1991, 1,2:98-106).
They were given homeopathic medicine, a single dosage of the 30th centesimal potency, which was repeated four times in total with two week intervals. Eight medicines were chosen and therapists were allowed to give any of the two medicines to each patient. While only 17% of placebo-treated patients felt relief from migraine, an impressive 93% of patients who were given homeopathic medicine had good results.
Another study concerning individualized homeopathic treatment focused on the effectiveness of homeopathy in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis. (R.G. Gibson, S. Gibson, A.D. MacNeill, et al., "Homoeopathic Therapy in Rheumatoid Arthritis: Evaluation by Double-blind Clinical Therapeutic Trial," British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, 1980, 9:453-59).
The study included forty six patients. Two homeopaths prescribed individualized homeopathic medicines to every patient, although only half of them were given the real medicine; the rest were given placebo. The study showed that 82% of the patients treated with individualized homeopathic medicine felt some relief in their symptoms, while only 21% of the placebo-treated patients felt relief of a similar degree.
Apart from studies based on prescribed homeopathic medicines, there is also another research method where isolated medicines are tested based on the cause of the illness. It is known that if a toxic factor affects different diatheses, symptoms will appear related to the effect of the factor, regardless of the type of the diathesis. For example the symptoms from the bite of a poisonous snake in different diatheses are commonly independent from the diathesis of the person. Some of the studies conducted based on the cause of the illness are mentioned below.
During World War II the British government financed a research which was conducted separately in two different centres (London and Glasgow) using the double–blind control trial with similar results. (R.M.M. Owen and G. Ives, "The Mustard Gas Experiments of the British Homeopathic Society: 1941-1942, Proceedings of the 35th International Homeopathic Congress, 1982, 258-59).
The study concerned volunteers who had burns from neurotoxic chemical weapons (‘mustard gases’) and who received homeopathic treatment. The treatment scheme included Mustard Gas 30CH as a prophylactic substance, and Rhus Toxicodendron 30CH and Kali Bichromicum 30CH was given as treatment. The individuals that received the homeopathic treatment presented significant improvement.
It must be mentioned that researchers also tested the effectiveness of Opium 30CH, Cantharis 30CH and Variolinum 30CH, none of which proved to be effective. If research had only tested these medicines, researchers could have concluded that homeopathic medicines are not effective for the treatment of burns from the mustard gas. The key to an effective homeopathic treatment is and always will be the identification of the appropriate medicine.
Another illness for which the effectiveness of homeopathic treatment was proved is diabetic retinitis. (Zicari, et al., "Valutazione dell'azione Angioprotettiva di Preparati di Arnica nel Trattamento della Retinpatia Diabetica," Bolletino de Oculistica, 1992, 5:841-848).
Retinitis is a complication of diabetes in which there is retina inflammation, causing vision problems, edema, and secretion from the eye and sometimes bleeding inside the retina. In the double–blind study of 60 patients Arnica 5CH was given. The results showed that 47% of patients treated with Arnica 5CH showed an improvement in the central blood flow of the eye, while only 1% of the placebo-treated patients showed this improvement. Additionally 52% of patients who received the medicine showed improvement in the blood flow in other parts of the eye as well, while only 1% of the placebo group showed a similar improvement.
In France, the best-selling anti-flu drug is actually a homeopathic medicine. Anas Barbariae 200CH, which is marketed under the trade name of Oscillococcinum TM, is highly effective during the early stages of flu. A double-blind study was conducted on 478 patients having the flu. (J.P. Ferley, D. Zmirou, D. D'Admehar, et al., "A Controlled Evaluation of a Homoeopathic Preparation in the Treatment of Influenza-like Syndrome," British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, March 1989, 27:329-35).
The study also indicated that almost double the number of the subjects who received the medicine overcame flu within 48 hours in comparison with those who received placebo.
Although the medicine seemed to be effective in all age groups, it showed its maximum action in subjects under 30 years old rather than in older subjects. However it was not proven effective in advanced symptoms of flu where homeopathic medicine with greater individualization of symptoms would be advisable.
In a study conducted in the University of Crimea (Influence of various dilutions of homeopathic drugs on blood sedimentation rate by E. Sokol, E. Tefukova, G. Loukas) the homeopathic medicines Arnica, Millefolium and Acidum Salicylicum were given in potencies of 6X, 12CH and 30CH in healthy subjects. In another group of 9 people, placebo was given. The medicine Salicylicum Acidum was the only one that caused an objective increase of ESR in relation to placebo. Later the medicine Salicylicum Acidum was given to a group of 10 people after it was boiled for 5 minutes. The results in this case did not differ from the group who took placebo.
Studies using animals and plants are also of significant interest. It was observed that the dispensing of the homeopathic medicine Apis Melifica 7CH- 9CH (a medicine that comes from the poison of the sting of a bee), had a protective effect in the erythema caused in guinea-pigs with ionized radiation. (J. Bildet, M. Guyot, F. Bonini, et al., "Demonstrating the Effects of Apis mellifica and Apium virus Dilutions on Erythema Induced by U.V. Radiation on Guinea Pigs," Berlin Journal of Research in Homeopathy, 1990, 1:28).
In another experiment white mice were exposed to X radiation with a power of 100 to 200 rad (non lethal dosage) and were then evaluated after 24, 48 and 72 hours. Ginseng 6X, 30CH and 200CH and Ruta graveolans 30CH and 200CH were given before and after the radiation. In comparison to mice who received placebo, those who were administered with homeopathic medicines presented significantly less damage in cells and chromosomes. (A.R. Khuda-Bukhsh, S. Banik, "Assessment of Cytogenetic Damage in X-irradiated Mice and its Alteration by Oral Administration of Potentized Homeopathic Drug, Ginseng D200," Berlin Journal of Research in Homeopathy, 1991, 1,4/5:254. Also Khuda-Bukhsh, A.R. Maity, S., "Alteration of Cytogenetic Effects by Oral Administration of Potentized Homeopathic Drug, Ruta graveolens in Mice Exposed to Sub-lethal X-radiation," Berlin Journal of Research in Homeopathy, 1991, 1, 4/5:264).
There are over 100 research studies which evaluate the preventive and therapeutic action of homeopathic dosages of naturally toxic substances. Scientists from German research institutes and from America's Walter Reed Hospital, worked together to conduct a meta-analysis of these research studies. (K. Linde, W.B. Jonas, D. Melchart, D., et al., "Critical Review and Meta-Analysis of Serial Agitated Dilutions in Experimental Toxicology," Human and Experimental Toxicology, 1994, 13:481-92).
As was the case for the meta-analysis of clinical research for homeopathic medicines, it was now found that most studies were, in a way, incomplete. However, it was also found that in high quality studies positive results were more than double the negative ones. It was worth noting that researchers who tested dosages of sub-molecular level (potencies greater than 12CH), designed the most complete studies available and often with statistically more important results.
More specifically, several researchers gave, usually to mice, crude dosages of arsenic, bismuth, cadmium, mercuric chloride and lead. Research showed that animals which had been preventively given homeopathic micro dosages of these toxic elements and that received treatment with repetitive homeopathic dosages, after the exposure to crude dosages of the substances, excreted these substances in greater percentage through urine, stool and perspiration in comparison to the animals that received placebo.
German researchers concluded that milk cows that received Sepia 200CH, presented much less complications in giving birth than those taking placebo. (A.V. Williamson, W.L. Mackie, W.J. Crawford, et al., "A Study Using Sepia 200CH given Prophylactically Postpartum to Prevent Anoestrus Problems in the Dairy Cow," British Homoeopathic Journal, 1991, 80:149. Also refer to the following by the same researchers: "A Trial of Sepia 200," British Homoeopathic Journal, 1995, 84:14-20).
Other experiments showed that the administration of low potency medicine combinations such as the Lachesis, Pulsatilla and Sabina, or Lachesis, Echinacea and Pyrogenium, together with Caulophyllum, given to pigs, provided protective and therapeutic action against infections (inflammation of udders and uterus) as well as diarrhea in young swine. (G. Both, "Zur Prophylaxe und Therapie des Metritis-Mastitis- Agalactic: Komplexes des Schweines mit Biologischen Arzneimitteln," Biologische Tiermedizen, 1987, 4:39).
Another study involving pigs showed that homeopathic medicines and especially Caulophyllum 30CH could reduce stillbirths. Pigs who received placebo, presented 103 normal births and 27 stillbirths (20.8%) while those who received Caulophyllum 30CH had 104 normal births and 12 stillbirths (10.3%). (Christopher Day, "Control of Stillbirths in Pigs Using Homoeopathy," Veterinary Record, March 3, 1984, 114,9, 216. Also Journal of the American Institute of Homeopathy, December 1986, 779, 4:146-47).
In another interesting experiment, Thyroxine 30X (thyroid hormone) was placed in water for tadpoles. In comparison to the tadpoles who received placebo, the morphogenesis of tadpoles who received homeopathic dosages into frogs slowed down. Because the intake of crude forms of thyroxine accelerates the morphogenesis, it is logical from a homeopathy aspect that the intake of potentized thyroxine will slow it down. (P.C. Endler, W. Pongratz, G. Kastberg, et al., "The Effect of Highly Diluted Agitated Thyroxine on the Climbing Activity of Frogs," Veterinary and Human Toxicology, 1994, 36:56. Also, P.C. Endler, W. Pongratz, R. van Wijk, et al., "Transmission of Hormone Information by Non-molecular Means," FASEB Journal, 1994, 8, Abs.2313).
An extensive and very thorough research was conducted back in 1941-42 by W.E Boyd, a Scottish homeopathy scientist. (W.E. Boyd, "The Action of Micro doses of Mercuric Chloride on Diastase," British Homoeopathic Journal, 1941, 31:1-28; 1942, 32:106-11). This research showed that micro dosages of mercuric chloride had a statistically significant effect in the action of diastase (an enzyme produced during the sprouting of seeds). This research was so carefully designed and executed that the dean of an American medical school commented that “the precision of Boyd’s technique sets an example of scientific study of the highest level”. (Mock, D., "What's Going on Here, Anyway? A Review of Boyd's 'Biochemical and Biological Evidence of the Activity of High Potencies,'" Journal of the American Institute of Homeopathy, 1969, 62:197).
In a study conducted in the Moscow People’s Friendship University, the electric activity of the muscular wall of the stomach and duodenum was studied after the effect of the homeopathic medicine Nux Vomica (A. Zavadskaya, K. Privalova, S. Pasin, G. Loukas, Department of Homeopathy). In an experiment using cats the effect of the medicine Nux Vomica 30CH was studied after applying it to the region of electrodes in the cardia of the stomach, the body, the pylorus and the duodenal bulb. After the application of the medicine, the muscular activity in the body increased by 3.2 times, 2.1 times in the pylorus, while in the duodenal bulb it was reduced by 2.2 times. The experiment proved the ability of the homeopathic medicine Nux Vomica to have an effect on the function of the stomach. The results of this experiment agree with the results of the homeopathy experimental proof for this medicine.
In another research conducted in the same university, the endurance of mice under hypoxia conditions due to the administration of the homeopathic medicine Hydrogenium Peroxydatum 30CH was studied (A. Chochlov, A. Zavadskaya, Ch. Efstathiou, G. Loukas, Department of Homeopathy). Two groups of mice were used, one of which received homeopathic medicine and the other placebo. Mice who received placebo were the healthier ones while mice that received the homeopathic medicine were the weaker ones. An experimental model was used, where the two groups were placed under high altitude conditions. Mice that received the homeopathic medicine showed faster and better adaptation to hypoxia conditions. Furthermore, when they returned to normal conditions, they reverted to their normal state more quickly and had longer life duration than the mice of the other group.
In another research conducted in the same university, the effect of the homeopathic medicine Berberis vulgaris on the lymphatic drainage was studied (A. Zavadskaya et al.). Plant tincture and homeopathic medicines in the 3rd, 6th and 30th potency were given to mice. Initially the time of drainage of the coloring substance from the intestine to the mesentery was measured before providing any medicine. Then the various medicines were tested and the drainage time was measured. The study of the results showed that the potentized forms of Berberis vulgaris increase the lymphatic drainage while the corresponding plant tincture contains it. Especially the 3rd and 6th potencies increased the drainage more in the intestine than in the mesentery while the 30th increased it to the same degree in both the intestine and the mesentery.
We have discussed the results of certain studies concerning the effectiveness of homeopathic medicine. For some, the above studies are adequate enough to prove the effectiveness of homeopathic medicine while for others, they do not prove anything. Although the best proof is the thousands of patients that have been helped from the application of homeopathy, there is a great interest in the progress of research on the effectiveness of homeopathic medicine.