Articles on Homeopathy

Hundreds of studies demonstrating the effectiveness of homeopathy have been undertaken. Here is a sample, plus New Scientist articles.. More studies are available on Medline, via 'Homeopathy' the UK journal of the Faculty of Homeopathy www.elsevier.com/locate/homp

See also a recent article written by scientist Rachel Roberts.

• Randomised controlled trial of homoeopathy versus placebo in allergic rhinitis with overview of four trial series BMJ 2000; 321:471-476 (19 August)

The aim of this study was to test the idea that homoeopathy is no more than placebo, by examining its effect on patients with allergic rhinitis. This was a randomised, double blind, placebo-controlled trial. Fifty patients from four general practices around London completed the study. These were not trials of treatments; they were designed to test the theory that homeopathy works via the placebo effect, using perennial allergic rhinitis to test this idea. In this study, patients with perennial allergic rhinitis were tested. The researchers found a clear objective difference between the effects of placebo and homoeopathy on nose blockage. Patients in the homoeopathy group had an overall improvement of 21% compared with 2% in the placebo group over the third and fourth weeks of testing. The improvement was the same in all the recruitment centres.

Results

The researchers found that homoeopathy and placebo had different effects. Compared with placebo, homoeopathy provoked a clear, significant, and clinically relevant improvement in nasal inspiratory peak flow, similar to topical steroids. Patients with allergic rhinitis who received homoeopathy had significantly better nasal air flow than those in the placebo group When the results are combined with those of three similar studies, homeopathy is different from placebo both subjectively and objectively.

Clinical trials are important in homoeopathy, as they are a large part of the evidence that treatment can have effects different from placebo. Homoeopathy is biologically implausible because the medicines are so diluted. Therefore lots of randomised evidence is necessary before science will conclude that homoeopathy is an effective method of treatment. An analysis of all the controlled trials on homeopathy shows that homoeopathy is more effective than placebo. In a 1997 it was concluded that 73% of the existing trial data supported homoeopathy being more effective than placebo.

FROM 'NEW SCIENTIST' 26TH MAY 2001 by Jane Seymour London

This article outlines that how improbably homeopathy may seem, there are many instances where patients have benefited from homeopathic treatment. One of these was a young boy who had pains in his legs and was relieved with the remedy Jalapa, a medicine made from the root of a Mexican shrub. Dr Leckridge, from Glasgow homeopathic hospital studies a patient's habits, character, likes and dislikes, then puts together a "picture" of the patient and matches this picture with associated remedies. These remedy 'pictures' have been tested in a process called proving, where homeopaths record the symptoms they produce in healthy people.

Homeopaths explain the effect their remedies have by likening the action to vaccination. By using a substances that produce symptoms similar to the ones they're trying to cure, they bring about a healing response in the body. Homeopathy's founder, Dr Hahnemann discovered his theory after noticing that the malaria drug quinine actually produced symptoms very similar to malaria when given to a healthy person. He then started testing other drugs to see what symptoms they produced. In the hope of making the drugs safer, he started diluting them. To his surprise, he found that the effects produced grew stronger the more he diluted the solution. The medicinal ingredients are usually natural substances.

The article questions if homeopaths are quacks, and points out that millions of people have been treated with homeopathy by the UK's National Health Service five homeopathic centres. Some £20 million are spent on over the counter homeopathic medicines every year. Even with this popularitiy, scientists still doubt that homeopathy works, so homeopaths need a scientific explanation of their art. In 1988 paper in Nature (vol 333, p 816) written by French immunologist Jacques Benveniste, demonstrated how water has a memory which can "remember" molecules that had once been dissolved in it - which explains how diluted medicines can be effective. A huge outcry from the scientific community led to the discrediting of Benveniste's paper.

Since then, in 1997 The Lancet (vol 350, p 834), published a study concluding that the trial results were "not compatible with the hypothesis that the clinical effects of homeopathy are completely due to placebo". Another paper in 1998 in The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine (vol 4, p 371) concluded that "individualised homeopathy has an effect over placebo". Homeopathy has many vehement opponents, one of whom is Madeleine Ennis, professor of immunopharmacology at Queen's University, Belfast. She was invited to join a multicentre European study to look at the effects of "highly dilute" solutions. Her results showed that the ultra-dilute solutions were in fact active and Ms Ennis was not pleased. "Despite my fundamental reservations against the science of homeopathy, the results compel me to suspend my disbelief and start searching for a rational explanation for our findings." Peter Fisher, director of research at the Royal London Homoeopathic Hospital, says: " Ordinary, untreated water has no structure, but somehow information is stored in water." Fisher comments "If you take homeopathic medicine to be analysed, a pharmacologist would say it's water and ethanol and sugar. But if you take a floppy disc to a chemist he will say it is ferric oxide and vinyl. He says we shouldn't write off homeopathy - we just don't know enough about ultra-dilute solutions.

Homeopaths continue practising without an accepted explanation, so a scientific model would be desirable. A scientifically trained person said after taking an "irritatingly successful homeopathic treatment -for hayfever: "It's witchcraft. But it's bloody effective witchcraft." www.newscientist.com

ARTICLE FROM THE GUARDIAN WEEKLY Lionel Milgrom March 15, 2001

MORE RESEARCH SHOWS EFFECTIVENESS OF HOMEOPATHIC DILUTIONS

Another experiment has backed the idea that a medicinal compound diluted out of existence still has a therapeutic effect. This notion was promoted by French biologist Dr Jacques Benveniste and cost him his laboratory, funding and career. Professor Madeleine Ennis of Queen's University Belfast again tried to prove Benveniste wrong. Ten years after the 'Benveniste affair' she joined a European research team, to lay the Benveniste "heresy" to rest. However, the results suggest that Benveniste might have been right all along.

Benveniste's 1985 work showed that basophils (from allergic reactions) showed activity even when they had been diluted out of existence. Benveniste's work was published in 'Nature', speculating that the water used in the experiments must have retained a "memory" of the basophils. Homoeopaths were delighted that the hard evidence which made homoeopathy scientifically respectable. Soon afterwards a 'Nature' team, which included magician James Randi, led to Benveniste's discrediting by the scientific establishment. Ten years later, Professor Ennis and her team have used a refinement of Benveniste's original experiment. They did not know what was in the solutions they were testing. The results were a complete surprise. The total result over all four labs was positive for the ghost histamine solutions. This result, published in 'Inflammation Research', showed that the dilutions showed activity when there was no original substance in the water.

Professor Ennis says, "The results compel me to suspend my disbelief. .despite my reservations about homeopathy" Jacques Benveniste comments: "They've arrived at precisely where we started 12 years ago!" The consequences for science if Benveniste and Ennis are right could lead to a complete re-evaluation of how chemistry, biochemistry, and pharmacology work

New Scientist Nov 7 2001

BIZARRE CHEMICAL DISCOVERY GIVES HOMEOPATHIC HINT by Andy Coghlan

This is another article bringing some scientific basis for thinking homeopathic medicines really work. This time a South Korean team has examined more closely, what happens when you dissolve a substance in water and then add more water. One would think that dissolved molecules spread further and further apart as a solution is diluted. But the Korean chemists have found that some molecules actually clump together, rather than spreading apart. This discovery has stunned scientists, and could be yet another scientific insight into how some homeopathic remedies work. Homeopaths find that the higher the dilution, the more potent the remedy becomes. Homeopaths believe that water holds an 'imprint' of the active ingredient. They often dilute a remedy six-fold. German chemist Kurt Geckler and his colleague Shashadhar Samal accidentally found this effect at their lab in the Kwangju Institute of Science and Technology in South Korea. " When we diluted the solution, the size of the fullerene particles increased," says Geckler. Further work showed it was not accidental. " The history of the solution is important. The more dilute it starts, the larger the aggregates," says Geckler. ... and it only worked in polar solvents like water. This finding may show a mechanism for how homeopathic medicines work which has always defied scientific explanation. Diluting a remedy can increase the size of the particles to the point when they become biologically active. Again, this leads back to the claims of French immunologist Jacques Benveniste. In 1988, who claimed in 'Nature ' that a solution that had once contained antibodies still activated human white blood cells. Benveniste claimed the solution still worked due to the 'memory' of water to imprint where the antibodies had been. Homeopaths still believe he may have been on the right track. Chemist Jan Enberts of the University of Groningen in the Netherlands says that it is still a totally open question, but thinks that Samal and Geckler have discovered something new: Peter Fisher, director or medical research at the Royal London Homeopathic Hospital says: "It doesn't prove homeopathy, but it's congruent with what we think and is very encouraging." He goes on to say that the whole idea of high-dilution homeopathy hangs on the idea that water has properties which are not understood. Geckeler and Samal want other researchers to follow up their work and repeat it. Geckler says: "If it's confirmed it will be groundbreaking." Journal Reference: Chemical Communications (2001, p 2224) www.newscientist.com