Creating Waves of Awareness
An Evidence-Based Response to Skeptics of Homeopathy
I was an electrical engineer prior to entering alternative medicine and, in fact, I turned down my acceptance to a conventional medical school (which I had previously been very much hoping to attend) on discovering naturopathic medicine during the applications process. At that time, I had no knowledge of homeopathy, however, but was really into the gym and nutrition, and felt that I wanted to be in a program that recognized these aspects of health.
Indeed, in my early years of naturopathic medical school, I was so firmly entrenched in the analytical empirical approach that all my schooling to date had reinforced that I was extremely skeptical of things such as acupuncture, meditation, psychology / counseling … and especially homeopathy.
Not only did the concept sound ridiculous, but my occasional early experiment with remedies for minor acute things didn’t seem to yield any conclusive results … I mean, those acute things (eg. colds/flus) went away, but it may or may not have had anything to do with the remedy.
In fact, on reflection, I imagine that it did not – I was self-prescribing (something I now realize is inherently a poor idea - I can expand on at a future time if desired) and was working with a pitifully small group of remedies, about which I had an academic understanding, but no real experience. Thus, I am not surprised that these had no effect.
I should say at this point as a caveat (or perhaps as part of the explanation) that virtually everything I say and will support comes from my own clinical experiences, rather than what I have learned from textbooks.
One thing that my cases, as well as my personal treatment and healing journey have taught me is that it is more important to ask what than why.
The why will change. The why has always changed. Science has been continually evolving and completely reinventing itself for centuries, and it will doubtlessly continue to do so.
However, if one observes something repeatedly – I mean, hundreds of times, in a large percentage [but not all, mind you] of my cases, as well as in my personal treatment under another homeopath – one cannot help but believe it to be true.
Perhaps this is part of the reason why many homeopaths do not attempt to defend homeopathy on grounds which are consistent with modern science, as their belief in it is not based on any theoretical basis, but rather on personal experience.
Certainly, a case can be made against anecdotal evidence, which from an modern scientific standpoint commits the dual sins of being unblinded and being backed by my (now strong) confirmation bias.
However, back in the day, this was not so – I would experiment with many remedies on myself and found that many did nothing whatsoever, while some first aggravated and then improved some aspect of me - changes that were often more noticeable to acquaintances I saw only infrequently than to myself, as they occurred only gradually. Only the small number of these remedies that were well-matched to my entire constellation of symptoms, as well as to my more subtle nature of being, would act at all, but these acted in a strongly curative manner.
Only one of the remedies I took during this period in my life had a truly permanent and life-altering effect, but a single dose of this remedy completely cured the physical condition I was then suffering from, vastly improved my mood and emotional well-being, and even opened my mind to the vast world of energy that - while it cannot be described by Newtonian physics and which, for most people, exists outside of conscious perception - is at the core of our health.
Scientific Evidence supporting Homeopathy
Of the articles I’ve posted on Twitter thus far, I admit that many of them are not so rigorous – Twitter, IMHO, being ideal for raising awareness at a grassroots level, but ill-designed for evaluating any concept with scientific precision.
However, I’ve also referenced some pretty decent studies in my Twitter microblogging; these have been reprinted below:
1. “Homeopathic Doses of Gelsemium sempervirens Improve the Behavior of Mice in Response to Novel Environments”, Oxford University Press, September 14, 2009 http://bit.ly/5BFp7w
2. “Inhibition of CD203c membrane up-regulation in human basophils by high dilutions of histamine: a controlled replication study”, Inflamm Res. 2009 November; 58(11): 755–764. http://bit.ly/5VYtd9
3. “Observational Prospective Study of Homeopathic Treatment in Patients with Migraines”, Journal of Hellenic Headache Association, Volume 13, Number 3, July-September 2006. http://bit.ly/4DVqjI
4. “The Research Evidence Base for Homeopathy”, http://bit.ly/5SusLi
The following articles (and audio lecture) provides some insight into the quantum mechanical basis of homeopathy:
1. “Is Homeopathy Possible?” The Journal of the Royal Society for the Promotion of Health, Vol. 126, No. 5, 211-218 (2006). http://bit.ly/6Zr6U2
2. “Homeopathy in the Light of Modern Science”, http://bit.ly/4xK6Wu
3. “Homeopathy and Quantum Field Theory”, Forsch Komplementärmed 2006;13:140, http://bit.ly/6tm4BN
4. Homeopathy & Quantum Physics (1 hour audio lecture), Montreal Institute of Classical Homeopathy, http://bit.ly/83xaPU
Finally, the following journal articles – some from esteemed conventional journals such as The Lancet and the British Medical Journal – provide meta-analyses and condition-specific support:
1 Kleijnen J, Knipschild P, ter Riet G. Clinical trials of homeopathy. Br Med J 1991; 302: 316–23.
2 Linde K, Clausius N, Ramirez G, et al. Are the clinical effects of homoeopathy placebo effects? A meta-analysis of placebo-controlled trials. Lancet 1997; 350: 834–43.
3 Linde K, Scholz M, Ramirez G, et al. Impact of study quality on outcome in placebo controlled trials of homeopathy. J Clin Epidemiol 1999; 52: 631–6.
4 Cucherat M, Haugh MC, Gooch M, Boissel JP. Evidence of clinical efficacy of homeopathy – A meta-analysis of clinical trials. Eur J Clin Pharmacol 2000; 56: 27–33.
5 Shang A, Huwiler-Muntener K, Nartey L, et al. Are the clinical effects of homoeopathy placebo effects? Comparative study of placebo-controlled trials of homoeopathy and allopathy. Lancet 2005; 366: 726–32.
6 Bornhöft G, Wolf U, Ammon K, et al. Effectiveness, safety and cost-effectiveness of homeopathy in general practice – summarized health technology assessment. Forsch Komplementärmed 2006; 13 Suppl 2: 19–29.
7 Jacobs J, Jonas WB, Jimenez-Perez M, Crothers D. Homeopathy for childhood diarrhea: combined results and metaanalysis from three randomized, controlled clinical trials. Pediatr Infect Dis J 2003; 22: 229–34.
8 Vickers A, Smith C. Homoeopathic Oscillococcinum for preventing and treating influenza and influenza-like syndromes (Cochrane Review). In: The Cochrane Library. Chichester, UK: John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. 2006; CD001957.
9 Barnes J, Resch K-L, Ernst E. Homeopathy for postoperative ileus - a meta-analysis. J Clin Gastroenterol 1997; 25: 628–33.
10 Jonas WB, Linde K, Ramirez G. Homeopathy and rheumatic disease – Complementary and alternative therapies for rheumatic diseases II. Rheum Dis Clin North Am 2000; 26: 117–23.
11 Wiesenauer M, Lüdtke R. A meta-analysis of the homeopathic treatment of pollinosis with Galphimia glauca. Forsch Komplementärmed Klass Naturheilkd 1996; 3: 230–6.
12 Taylor MA, Reilly D, Llewellyn-Jones RH, et al. Randomised controlled trials of homoeopathy versus placebo in perennial allergic rhinitis with overview of four trial series. Br Med J 2000; 321: 471–6.
13 Bellavite P, Ortolani R, Pontarollo F, et al. Immunology and homeopathy. Clinical studies – Part 2. eCAM 2006; 3: 397–409.
14 Schneider B, Klein P, Weiser M. Treatment of vertigo with a homeopathic complex remedy compared with usual treatments: a meta-analysis of clinical trials. Arzneimittelforschung 2005; 55: 23–9.
15 Fisher P. An experimental double-blind clinical trial method in homoeopathy. Use of a limited range of remedies to treat fibrositis. BrHomeopath J 1986; 75: 142–7.
16 Bell I, Lewis D, Brooks A, et al. Improved clinical status in fibromyalgia patients treated with individualized homeopathic remedies versus placebo. Rheumatology 2004; 43: 577–82.
17 Shealy CN, Thomlinson RP, Cox RH, Borgmeyer RN. Osteoarthritic pain: a comparison of homeopathy and acetaminophen. Am J Pain Manage 1998; 8: 89–91.
18 van Haselen RA, Fisher PAG. A randomized controlled trial comparing topical piroxicam gel with a homeopathic gel in osteoarthritis of the knee. Rheumatology 2000; 39: 714–9.
19 Friese K-H, Zabalotnyi DI. Homeopathy in acute rhinosinusitis. A double-blind, placebo controlled study shows the effectiveness and tolerability of a homeopathic combination remedy. HNO 2007; 55: 271–7.
20 Zabolotnyi DI, Kneis KC, Richardson A, et al. Efficacy of a complex homeopathic medication (Sinfrontal) in patients with acute maxillary sinusitis: a prospective, randomized, doubleblind, placebo-controlled, multicenter clinical trial. Explore (NY) 2007; 3: 98–109.
21 Jacobs J, Springer DA, Crothers D. Homeopathic treatment of acute otitis media in children: a preliminary randomized placebo-controlled trial. Pediatr Infect Dis J 2001; 20: 177–83.
22 Zell J, Connert WD, Mau J, Feuerstake G. Treatment of acute sprains of the ankle. Controlled double-blind trial to test the effectiveness of a homeopathic ointment. Fortschr Med 1988; 106: 96–100.
23 Diefenbach M, Schilken J, Steiner G, Becker HJ. Homeopathic therapy in respiratory tract diseases. Evaluation of a clinical study in 258 patients. Z Allgemeinmed 1997; 73: 308–14.
24 Weatherley-Jones E, Nicholl JP, Thomas KJ, et al. A randomized, controlled, triple-blind trial of the efficacy of homeopathic treatment for chronic fatigue syndrome. J Psychosom Res 2004;56: 189–97.
25 Yakir M, Kreitler S, Brzezinski A, et al. Effects of homeopathic treatment in women with premenstrual syndrome: a pilot study. Br Homeopath J 2001; 90: 148–53.
26 Witt C, Keil T, Selim D, et al. Outcome and costs of homeopathic and conventional treatment strategies: a comparative cohort study in patients with chronic disorders. Complement Ther Med 2005; 13: 79–86.
27 Witt CM, Lüdtke R, Baur R, Willich SN. Homeopathic medical practice: long-term results of a cohort study with 3,981 patients. BMC Public Health 2005; 5: 115.
28 Trichard M, Chaufferin G Nicoloyannis N. Pharmacoeconomic comparison between homeopathic and antibiotic treatment strategies in recurrent acute rhinopharyngitis in children. Homeopathy 2005; 94: 3–9.
29 Spence D, Thompson E, Barron S. Homeopathic treatment for chronic disease: a 6-year university hospital based outpatient observational study. J Altern Complement Med 2005; 5: 793–8.
30 Sharples F, van Haselen R, Fisher P. NHS patients’ perspective on complementary medicine. Complement Ther Med 2003; 11:
31 Rey L. Thermoluminescence of ultra-high dilutions of lithium chloride and sodium chloride, Physica (A) 2003; 323: 67–74.
32 Bell IR, Lewis DA, Brooks AJ, et al. Gas discharge visualisation evaluation of ultramolecular doses of homeopathic medicines under blinded, controlled conditions. J Altern Complement Med 2003; 9: 25–38.
33 Elia V, Niccoli M. Thermodynamics of extremely diluted aqueous solutions. Ann N Y Acad Sci 1999; 879: 241–8.
34 Linde K, Jonas WB, Melchart D, et al. Critical review and meta-analysis of serial agitated dilutions in experimental toxicology. Hum Exp Toxicol 1994; 13: 481–92.
35 Belon P, Cumps J, Ennis M, et al. Histamine dilutions modulate basophil activation. Inflamm Res 2004; 53: 181–8.
36 Witt CM, Bluth M, Albrecht H, et al. The in vitro evidence for an effect of high homeopathic potencies – A systematic review of the literature. Complement Ther Med 2007; 15: 128–38.
I want to conclude by acknowledging that I may very well be wrong in my beliefs, and I am fully willing to be proven wrong.
In fact, I believe that homeopathy is really only a small piece of a much bigger puzzle, and that every scientific and even pseudoscientific discipline has something to contribute to our greater understanding and many things that are just wrong. It will be no different for homeopathy, and the medicine of the future will probably draw on allopathy, homeopathy, and everything in between to gain a balanced view of the body and health.
My personal experience is that a large percentage of my patients have had marked improvement under homeopathic treatment (albeit sometimes requiring several failed remedies before a good prescription was found and this improvement materialized).
This improvement has varied from:
- vague subjective reports of brightened mood and spiritual awakening, to
- reduced functional pathology such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and interstitial nephritis, to
- the remission of objective organic pathology such as cancer, osteonecrosis, anklyosing spondylitis, steven johnson syndrome, and more.
BTW, I do not want to allege that my cancer cases are technically ‘cured’, as they all don’t yet have 5 years of follow up – I’m a young practitioner, after all – but they’re getting there!
Additionally, the vast majority of my patients report during intake having attempted conventional medical treatment and other forms of less-esoteric alternative medicine (supplementation, nutrition, exercise, herbs, etc) before finally resorting to homeopathy when none of these modalities helped to treat their chief complaint.
This is not to say, however, that homeopathy is the best medicine for everyone, or to demean conventional medicine at all. I’m certain there are many patients who never make it to my office because their allopathic treatment is working well for them and they have no need to even seek an alternative! In fact, many skeptics may be such people, which makes your criticism very understandable.
If my belief in homeopathy has been ratified by clinical experience, my growing love of it has been based not on the concept of serial dilutions & succussions (potentization), but rather on the idea of individualization.
Finding a one remedy among the hundreds that I own (and literally infinite number that are possible) which is most suitable for a given patient (or at least suitable enough to trigger their own self-healing … if the remedy needed to be the exact substance, I would have a very low success rate indeed) is a time-consuming and arduous one, but one which leads to holistic healing across the physical, mental and emotional spheres.
It is a beautiful model and one which could be incorporated across all fields of medicine, conventional and alternative alike.
Unfortunately for all of us, it is also a concept that is far less profitable than the current conventional one.
The homeopathic interview process is far more indepth than can be performed in the 7 minute time frame allocated for standard conventional visits.
The patients only have to take one or two doses of inexpensive homeopathic medication instead of ongoing treatment with expensive patented pharmaceuticals.
Worst of all, their complaints are eventually healed by their bodies, allowing them to retain their restored health completely independent of the doctor, rather than the patients complaints (and the patients themselves, for that matter) being ‘controlled’ by a pharmaceutical.
Again, I do not mean this as an attack on pharmaceuticals themselves, nor the many good and talented conventional physicians who are doing indispensable work in each of our communities. There is a place for surgery, a place for heavy drugs, and even a place for the 7 minute visit. But – if you take nothing else good about homeopathy away from this – please consider the role of truly individualized care in all forms of medicine.
And, if after reading the provided articles and evidence you still find the concept of homeopathy difficult to believe, please simply find yourself a good constitutional (one remedy at a time) homeopath with a strong track record of cured cases, and experience what homeopathy can do first-hand. I am confident that, if you keep an open mind and allow yourself to recognize that the changes that are occurring are more than simply a ‘temporal correlation’ or ‘coincidence’, you will be pleasantly surprised.
Dr. Andy Somody, B.Eng, C.C.H.(Ca), N.D.