Homeopathy is the most controversial of all Complementary and Alternative Medicines. Like many types of medicine, (the mechanism of panadol is not fully understood for example), the medical jury is out as to how homeopathy works. Regardless of this fact homeopathy is one of the most globally used complementary medicines with upwards of 550 million users in at least 65 different countries. Homeopathy is still the leading form of complementary medicine in Europe. In India, it is the sole form of medicine for over 100 million people. In many countries, homeopathy is considered to be on an equal footing with conventional medicine. Homeopathy is integrated into the public health systems of many European, Asian, African and South American countries. In the UK, homeopathy has been supported by the British National Health Service (NHS) since it began in 1948.
Many highly respected people, cultural heroes and monarchs over the past 200 years have been strong advocates of homeopathy. This system of medicine has been the choice of the British Royal Family and most European royal families, eleven U.S. Presidents, six popes, JD Rockefeller, Charles Darwin, Mother Teresa and Mahatma Gandhi as well as dozens of authors, corporate leaders, sports stars and musicians.
The Law of Similars?
Homoeopathy as developed by doctor and chemist Samuel Hahnemann over 200 years ago. It is based on the principle the law of similars which states like cures like. This principle was first described by Hippocrates The Father of Medicine.
The law of similars states that a substance which can produce symptoms in a healthy person can be used to treat similar symptoms in a sick person. The substance does not necessarily have to be potentised (small doses) For example chamomile tea can be prescribed for irritability. This is a homeopathic prescription. With this approach, homeopathy uses extremely small, but effective doses of mostly natural substances which stimulating the bodies own self healing homoeostatic mechanisms to aid the body in recovering from illness.
This principle can be found in the relationship between coffee and insomnia. We know that drinking coffee can over-stimulate the nervous system and cause insomnia. However, a traditional homeopathic preparation of coffee is prescribed to treat insomnia. In a similar way, homeopathic preparations of grasses or pollens may be used to relieve symptoms of hay fever.
The manufacture of homeopathic medicines
Homeopathic medicines are made by a specialised traditional process, called potentisation. This potentisation process was discovered and documented by Samuel Hahnemann as a refinement of the law of similars. Potentisation was designed to enhance the medicinal effects of a starting substance while minimising its side effects. This process, which is unique to homeopathy, involves a stepwise process of diluting and shaking active starting substances which reveals and enhances or ‘potentises’ their medicinal effects.
Homeopaths refer to the 'memory of water'. This is the standard explanation for how potentisation works: through the shaking and tapping of succussion, the essence of the remedy is imprinted onto the structure of water which 'remembers' it. Reference is also often made to quantum mechanics or to digital recordings as proposed explanations or analogies for potentisation/water memory.
Professor Luc Montagnier, the French virologist who won the Nobel Prize in 2008 for discovering the AIDS virus, recently published research that confirms that the high dilutions used in homeopathy result in modifications to the water’s structure, which mimics the original molecules used to make the medicines. This research has indicated that electromagnetic signals of the original medicines remain in the water and are still able to give rise to biological effects.
Montagnier L et al., Electromagnetic signals are produced by aqueous nanostructures derived from bacterial DNA sequences. Interdiscip Sci. 2009.
The evidence for homeopathy
The body of scientific evidence for homeopathy is growing. Much of this clinical research on homeopathy published in medical journals has shown positive results supporting homeopathy’s effectiveness. As well as these clinical trials, many basic science studies confirm the biological activity of homeopathic medicines. For over 200 years, homeopaths, naturopaths and lay people globally have consistently experienced and documented positive therapeutic effects from homeopathic medicines without the numerous side effects associated with western medical drugs. Homeopathy works on animals and it works on babies and children who do not understand the effect of placebo; so homeopathy works.
Efficacy of homeopathic treatment
A rigorous and focused systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials (RCTs) of individualised homeopathic treatment has not previously been undertaken. We tested the hypothesis that the outcome of an individualised homeopathic treatment approach using homeopathic medicines is distinguishable from that of placebos. Medicines prescribed in individualised homeopathy may have small, specific treatment effects. Findings are consistent with sub-group data available in a previous 'global' systematic review. The low or unclear overall quality of the evidence prompts caution in interpreting the findings. New high-quality RCT research is necessary to enable more decisive interpretation. Again is does not discount the effectiveness only calls for more vigorous research.
Mathie RT et al., Randomised placebo-controlled trials of individualised homeopathic treatment: systematic review and meta-analysis. Syst Rev 2014
Homeoprophylactic interventions might help to control epidemics of Leptospirosis
Leptospirosis is a bacterial tropical disease. Incidence peaks in rainy seasons and during natural disasters presenting a big challenge in endemic regions. Vaccination is an effective option but of reduced effectiveness in emergency situations. Homeoprophylactic interventions might help to control epidemics in a short time scale. Results of a very large-scale homeoprophylaxis (HP) intervention (highly-diluted pathogens) to induce protection against Leptospirosis in a dangerous epidemic situation in three provinces of Cuba in 2007 concluded the homeoprophylactic approach was associated with a large reduction of disease incidence and control of the epidemic. The results suggest the use of HP as a feasible tool for epidemic control, further research is warranted.
Bracho G et al., Large-scale application of highly-diluted bacteria for Leptospirosis epidemic control. Homeopathy. 2010 Jul;99(3):156-66.
Evidence of clinical efficacy of homeopathy
There is some evidence that homeopathic treatments are more effective than placebo; however, the strength of this evidence is low because of the low methodological quality of the trials. Studies of high methodological quality were more likely to be negative than the lower quality studies. Further high quality studies are needed to confirm these results. Again there is some evidence is not no evidence and these are people looking for no evidence.
Cucherat M et al., Evidence of clinical efficacy of homeopathy. A meta-analysis of clinical trials. HMRAG. Homeopathic Medicines Research Advisory Group. Eur J Clin Pharmacol 2000 Apr;56(1):27-33.
Homeopathy is effective in prevention of mastitis in cows
A Randomised placebo-controlled trials (RCT) to compared the use of homeopathy and internal Teat Sealers for the prevention of mastitis in cows found under the studied conditions herd-specific homeopathic dry cow therapy was effective in increasing the number of animals with normal milk secretion after subsequent parturition, compared to untreated control. It may be an effective alternative to Teat Sealing. Further research is required to confirm these results, and under different environmental conditions.
Klocke P et al., A randomized controlled trial to compare the use of homeopathy and internal Teat Sealers for the prevention of mastitis in organically farmed dairy cows during the dry period and 100 days post-calving. Homeopathy. 2010 Apr;99(2):90-8.
Homeopathy and atopic eczema
One of five children visiting a homoeopathic physician is suffering from atopic eczema. A study comparing homeopathic treatemtn to conventioal reatment found. homoeopathic treatment was not superior to conventional treatment for children with mild to moderate atopic eczema. The study doesnt say it was less effective.
Witt CM et al., Homoeopathic versus conventional therapy for atopic eczema in children: medical and economic results. Dermatology 2009
Ruta Graveolens and Rhus Tox for pain in women taking aromatase inhibitors
A study aimed to determine the possible effect of two homeopathic medicines, Ruta graveolens 5CH and Rhus toxicodendron 9CH, in the prevention of aromatase inhibitor (AI) associated joint pain and/or stiffness in women with early, hormone-receptor positive, breast cancer concluded that treatment with Ruta graveolens 5CH and Rhus toxicodendron 9CH may decrease joint pain/stiffness in breast cancer patients treated with AIs. A larger-scale randomised study is required to confirm these results.
Karp JC et al., Treatment with Ruta graveolens 5CH and Rhus toxicodendron 9CH may reduce joint pain and stiffness linked to aromatase inhibitors in women with early breast cancer: results of a pilot observational study., Homeopathy. 2016 Nov;105(4):299-308
Homeopathic medicine PC and Anxiety and sleep disorders (SDS)
Anxiety and sleep disorders (SDS) are frequently treated with psychotropic drugs. Health authorities in France have been advised to improve access to alternative treatments such as homeopathic medicines. The homeopathic medicine Passiflora Compose (PC) for anxiety and/or SDS significantly improved patient symtoms. Further studies are needed to confirm those results. Homeopathic medicine PC could be an alternative to the use of psychotropic drugs for first intention treatment of anxiety and Anxiety and sleep disorders (SDS).
Villet S et al.,Open-label observational study of the homeopathic medicine Passiflora Compose for anxiety and sleep disorders.Homeopathy. 2016 Feb
Bachelor of Health Science (Homeopathy)
A Bachelor of Health Science Homeopathy course provides graduates with specialist homeopathic medicine clinical knowledge and skills to become future leaders within the area of homeopathy practice. The course includes in-depth study in medical science and pharmacology, evidenced-based practice, homeopathic materia medica and pharmacy, homeopathic therapeutics, clinical case taking, communication and professional interaction. I completed the only degree course in Australia that is accredited with the Australian Register of Homeopaths, the professional body that regulates the discipline in Australia. I am a published author of homeopathic scientific research; determining the effect of a homeopathic medium potency of calcium on the bone density of women as measured by bone ultrasonometry: a pilot study comprising one year.
Carina Harkin, Effect of Homeopathic Calcium on Bone Density., Homeopathic Links., 2008
Not all Homeopaths are considered equal
Homeopathy is not Junk Science as some doctors claim but I have to agree that some courses that students complete can be junk. The problem with the industry in certain places is not the lack of evidence that homoepathic remedies don't work, but the lack of regulation in both the education sector and the industry resulting in the difference in qualifications of your homeopath, acupuncturist, naturopath or nutritionist being a vast chasm. In order to successfully integrate Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) into main-stream healthcare the basis of training of CAM practitioners needs to be equivalent to university degree programmes offered currently to mainstream health professionals. In Australia is absolutely is. The Homeopathy degree I completed, indeed the 3 degrees I completed, were all 4 year full-time Bachelor of Health science degrees with contact hours equalling 24 hours per week or 96 hours per month. Compare this with many Irish/UK naturopathy or nutrition courses that are 3 year part-time courses equating to 14 contact hours per month only. There is simply no comparison.
Australia is at the forefront of natural medicine training, having offered degree programmes for 20 years. The industry is well-regulated and moving towards registration with the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) the national registration body that develops a nationally consistent approach to auditing health practitioners including doctors, nurses, acupuncturists and allied health professionals. I was, while living in Australia, a registered acupuncturist. Common registration standards include criminal history checks, ensure English language skills are met and ensures all it's members meet continuing professional development requirements. Registration standards are regularly reviewed. This National registration body will, soon cover Naturopathy as a discipline. It is undoubtedly moving in that direction as acupuncture is already covered.
Please consult a naturopath before taking natural remedies if you are on medication or your doctor if symptoms persist.
Carina Harkin BHSc.Nat.BHSc.Hom.BHSc.Acu.
Cert IV TAE. ARCHTI mem.