SCIENTIFIC EVIDENCE AND HOMEOPATHY
It is often said that there is “no scientific evidence” that homeopathy works- this is definitely not the case! Admittedly more research is needed, but there are already high quality randomised clinical trails demonstrating that homeopathy is clinically effective beyond placebo.
Scientific scepticism about homeopathy arises from its use of highly dilute medicines. A recent systematic review found that 75% of 67 published in vitro experiments investigating the effects of high potency homeopathic medicines reported effects of homeopathic ultra- high dilutions (1). For example, homeopathically-prepared thyroxine can slow down metamorphosis of tadpoles into frogs (2). These results were replicated by five separate laboratories in Austria and confirmed by the results of similar experiments carried out by an independent team in Brazil (3). The homeopathic thyroxine used was so highly diluted that you would not expect any molecules to be present.
Methods used to prepare homeopathic medicines are remarkably similar to some used in cutting-edge nanotechnology and there is growing evidence that nanoparticles play a crucial role in the action of homeopathic medicines.
The balance of evidence also suggests that homeopathically prepared remedies are not the same as plain water and do indeed have some biological activity. Nobel Prize-winning Virologist who discovered the AIDS virus Professor Luc Montagnier wrote: “that DNA produces structural changes in water, which persist at very high dilutions, and which lead to resonant electromagnetic signals that we can measure. High dilutions of something are not nothing. They are water structures which mimic the original molecules. You can calculate that there is not a single molecule of DNA left. And yet we detect a (n electromagnetic) signal” (4).
There is sound evidence of research has been done of homeopathy’s effectiveness, particularly with regard to chronic, long term conditions.
For example, up to the end of 2014, there have been 189 peer-reviewed papers, with useable data, that reported randomised controlled trials (RCTs) of homeopathy on 100 different medical conditions. Of these, 104 papers were placebo-controlled and were eligible for detailed review programme. Of these 104 RCT papers, 43 (41%) reported positive findings, 5 (5%) were negative and 56 (54%) were non-conclusive (5).
- A service evaluation at the Bristol Homeopathic Hospital recorded the outcome of homeopathic treatment in over 6,544 consecutive patients. In this study, carried out over a six-year period, 70.7% of patients reported an improvement in their health (6). The best clinical results were seen in the treatment of children with eczema and asthma, and adults with inflammatory bowel disease, irritable bowel syndrome, menopausal problems and migraine. Other conditions which improved after homeopathic treatment included arthritis, depression and chronic fatigue syndrome.
In laboratory experiments, homeopathic medicines have been shown to exert effects in white blood cells, cancer cells, tadpoles and plants (Belon’s work with histamine inhibited the allergic response in human white blood cells. Endler’s work with thyroxine slowed down the metamorphosis of tadpoles) (7).
The dramatic reduction (84%) in Leptospirosis infection rate observed in 2007 when Cuban government, which did not have time to produce vaccines for the entire population during an epidemic outbreak, gave a homeopathic medicine to 2.3 million people (8).
- A multinational comparative effectiveness study with 30 doctors, at six clinical sites in four countries, including the UK, treating patients with acute respiratory problems. Response at 14 days was 82.6% for homeopathy compared to 68% for conventional treatment. The rate of adverse events for conventional treatment was 22.3%, versus 7.8% for homeopathy. A replication of this study included 1,577 patients, of whom 857 received homeopathic and 720 conventional treatment: improvement was significantly faster with homeopathy (9), (10).
A double-blind, randomised, placebo-controlled trial of individualised homeopathic treatment (LM potency) versus placebo in 53 patients concluded that individualised homeopathy is significantly better than placebo in lessening tender point pain, improving the quality of life and overall health, and less depression of persons with fibromyalgia. A broad selection of homeopathic medicines in LM potencies was prescribed and the trial was carried out over a four- month period (11).
- Hay fever, asthma and perennial rhinitis
A study of 200 patients suffering from hypersensitivity illnesses, including asthma, eczema, urticaria, hay fever and other allergies, showed that homeopathy was at least as effective as conventional treatment. The study, which was retrospective and comparative, looked at the experienced effect in everyday clinical practice of general practitioners and classical homeopaths. Where most patients who were treated by medical doctors experienced an aggravation of their symptoms when stopping conventional drugs, only 1/3 of patients in the homeopathy group experienced such an aggravation (p = 0.002). Only one patient on conventional treatment experienced improvement of symptoms after stopping medication, compared to improvement in 2/3 of homeopathy patients. Patients in the homeopathy group reported a larger improvement in their general state of health, with 57% improving, compared to 24% in the conventional group (difference p = 0.004). Homeopathy patients also experienced more positive change in their psychological state (p<0.0001). For quality of life 53% in the homeopathy group improved, compared to 15% in the conventional group. (12)
- A survey of 147 patients suffering from respiratory allergies showed that 87.6% improved. Out of 42 patients suffering from pulmonary allergies, only two aggravated and three were unchanged. (13)
- Sperm quality
A research trial of 45 sub-fertile men showed that homeopathy improved both the number and the quality of sperm. Significant changes were found in sperm density, percentage of sperm with good progressive motility and density of sperm with good propulsive motility. The general health of the patients also improved significantly. It did not matter whether these men were subject to stress or had been childless for a long period of time. (14)
- A meta-analysis of childhood diarrhoea trials
This metaanalysis of 242 children showed a highly significant result in the duration of childhood diarrhoea (p=0.008). It should be noted that the World Health Organisation consider childhood diarrhoea to be the number one public health problem today because of the millions of children who die every year from dehydration from diarrhoea. (15)
- Recurrent acute rhinopharyngitis in children
Prospective pragmatic study, comparison of homeopathy versus antibiotics in the treatment of recurrent acute rhinopharyngitis in 499 children (18 months to four years) over a six-month period. Results showed that homeopathy was significantly better than antibiotics in terms of episodes of rhinopharyngitis (2.71 vs 3.97, p<0.001), number of complications (1.25 vs 1.95, p<0.001) and quality of life (global score: 21.38 vs 30.43, p<0.001). Homeopathic treatment also contributed to lower medical costs (88 Euros vs 99 Euros, p<0.05) and significantly less sick-leave (9.5% of parents vs 31.6% of parents, p<0.001). (16)
- Otitis media in children
Prospective observational study, comparison of homeopathy versus conventional treatment in acute otitis media. Results showed median duration of pain of two days in the homeopathy-group and three days in the conventional medicine group. 70.7% of the children receiving homeopathic treatment did not have another ear infection the next year and 29.3% had a maximum of three ear infections within one year. 56.5% in the conventional medicine group did not have another ear infection the next year and 43.5% had a maxi- mum of six ear infections the next year. Results showed that in the group receiving homeopathic treatment only 5 out of 103 children needed antibiotics. (17)
- Acute otitis media in children
In a trial of 230 children who were given homeopathic treatment to treat acute otitis media, pain relief was achieved in 39% of the patients after 6 hrs and another 33% after 12 hrs. The resolution rates were 2.4 times faster than in placebo controls. No complications were observed and compared to conventional treatment the homeopathic approach was 14% cheaper. (18)
- Glue ear in children
In a pilot study in children suffering from glue ear treated with homeopathy 75% had normal tympanogram, compared to 31% in the group treated with convention- al medicine. A higher proportion of children receiving homeopathic treatment had a hearing loss less than 20 dB at follow-up, though the difference was not statistically significant. The authors concluded that further research comparing homeopathy to standard care is warranted; 270 patients would be needed for a definitive trial. (19)
- An outcome study and service evaluation of homeopathy service found that 88% of patients reported clinically significant improvement in their primary symptom. Greatest clinical benefit was reported by women for headaches, tiredness, vasomotor symptoms, locomotor symptoms and sleeping difficulties. (20)
A randomised controlled trial of homeopathic treatment for PMS showed that homeopathy is helpful in PMS. Journal of Family Planning & Reproductive Health Care. (21)
Homeopathic treatment has been shown to be effective for hot flushes and sweats, tiredness, anxiety, sleeping difficulties, mood swings and headaches. In a study carried out at an NHS Well Woman clinic in Shefield, 81.4% of 102 patients recorded improvement of these menopause symptoms after homeopathic treatment. (22)
- Homeopathy after oestrogen withdrawal
40 out of 45 women with breast cancer, withdrawing from oestrogen and then treated homeopathically, experienced significant improvement in their primary symptoms, anxiety and depression, as well as improvement in quality of life. Primary symptoms changed from 7.8 to 5.4, and from 7.2 to 4.1 (p<0.001). The homeopathic approach appears to be clinically useful in the management of oestrogen withdrawal symptoms in women with breast cancer. (23)
In a trial on fertility disorders researchers found a positive effect of homeopathic prescriptions in 38 out of 67 women (57%). Positive results were found on inducing pregnancy, as well as a number of factors that are important to enable pregnancy, including regulating menstruation (both to induce spontaneous menstruation and shorten the menstrual cycle), regulating hormones (improved concentration of progesterone in the luteal phase) and earlier ovulation. (24)
Further information on homeopathy research resources
- British Homeopathic Association
A charity which promotes the practice of homeopathy by doctors and other registered healthcare professionals. http://www.britishhomeopathic.org/research
- CAM-quest database
CAM-quest provides access to clinical research studies in nine therapy categories: acupuncture, anthroposophy, ayurveda, bioenergetics, homeopathy, manual medicine, mind-body medicine, phytomedicine and TCM. Searches can be made by disease, therapy and study design. http://www.cam-quest.org
- Homeopathy Research Institute
A UK based charity established to facilitate scientific research in the field of homeopathy. This includes research into homeopathic medicines, treatment by homeopaths and the underlying principles of this therapeutic system. https://www.hri-research.org
- 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: 128–138
- Endler PC, Heckmann C, Lauppert E, et al. The metamorphosis of amphibians and information of thyroxine. In: Schulte J, Endler PC (eds). Fundamental Research in Ultra High Dilution and Homoeopathy. Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 1998
- Guedes JR, Ferreira CM, Guimaraes HM et al. Homeopathically prepared dilution of Rana catesbeiana thyroid glands modifies its rate of metamorphosis. Homeopathy, 2004; 93:132–7
- Enserink M. “Science”, 2010; 330 (6012):1732
- Faculty of Homeopathy, 2015. “Research”. Available from: https://facultyofhomeopathy.org/research/
- Spence D, Thompson E, Barron S. Homeopathic treatment for chronic disease: A 6-Year, university-hospital outpatient observational study. J Altern Complement Med 2005; 5:793-8.
- Homeopathy Research Institute, 2015. “Homeopathy is just a placebo effect”. Available from: https://www.hri-research.org/resources/homeopathy-faqs/the-best-studies-have-shown-homeopathy-is-just-placebo/
- Bracho G, et al. “Homeopathy”, 2010; 99 (3): 156-66
- Riley D, Fischer M, Singh B, et al. (2001). Homeopathy and Conventional Medicine: An Outcomes Study Comparing Effectiveness in a Primary Care Setting. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 7:149–159.
- Haidvogl M Riley D, Heger M et al. Homeopathic and conventional treatment for acute respiratory and ear complaints: A comparative study on outcome in the primary care setting. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2007; 7:
- Bell IR, Lewis II DA, Brooks AJ, Schwartz GE, Lewis SE, Walsh BT, Baldwin CM (2004) ‘Improved clinical status in fibromyalgia patients treated with individualized homeopathic reme- dies versus placebo.’ Rheumatology Advance Access, January 20, 2004. http://rheumatology.oupjournals.org/ cgi/reprint/keh111
- Launsø L, Kimby CK, Henningsen I, Fønnebø V (2006) ‘An exploratory retrospective study of people suffering from hypersensitivity illness who attend medical or classical homeopathic treatment.’ Homeopathy 95, 73-80
- Colin P (2006) ‘Homeopathy and res- piratory allergies: a series of 147 cases.’ Homeopathy 95, 68–72
- Gerhar I, Wallis E (2002) ‘Individua- lized homeopathic therapy for male infertility.’ Homeopathy. 2002 Jul; 91(3):133-44
- Jacobs J, Jonas WB, Jimenez-Perez M, Crothers D Homeopathy for Child- hood Diarrhoea: Combined Results and Meta-analysis from Three Randomized, Controlled Clinical Trials. http://homeopathic.com/ articles/research/diarrhea_t.php
- Trichard M, Chaufferin G, Nicolo- yannis N (2005) ‘Pharmacoeconomic comparison between homeopathic and antibiotic treatment strategies in recurrent acute rhinopharyngitis in children.’ Homeopathy. 2005 Jan;94(1):3-9)
- Friese K-H, Kruse S, Ludtke R, Moeller H (1997) ‘Homeopathic treatment of otitis media in children: comparisons with conventional therapy.’ Interna- tional Journal of Clinical Pharma- cology and Therapeutics; 35: 296-301
- Frei H, Thurneysen A (2001) ‘Homeo- pathy in acute otitis media in children: treatment effect or spontaneous resolu- tion?’ British Homeopathic Journal; 90: 180–182
- Harrison H, Fixsen A, Vickers A (1999) ‘A randomized comparison of homoeo- pathic, standard care for the treatment of glue ear in children.’ Complementary Therapies in Medicine 1999; 7: 132–135
- Thomas KJ, Luff D, Strong P (2001) ‘Complementary Medicine Service
in a Community Clinic for Patients with Symptoms Associated with the Menopause: Outcome and Service Evaluation.’ ScHARR, University of Sheffield
- Jones A (2003) Homeopathic treatment for premenstrual symptoms. Journal of Family Planning & Reproductive Health Care. 2003 Jan;29(1):6-7
- Relton C, Weatherley-Jones E. Homeopathy Service in National Health Service community menopause clinic: audit of clinical outcomes. Menopause Int, 2005: 11 (2):72-3
- Thompson EA, Reilly D (2003) ‘The homeopathic approach to the treatment of symptoms of oestrogen withdrawal in breast cancer patients. A prospective observational study.’ Homeopathy. 2003 Jul; 92(3):131-4
- Bergmann J, Luft B, Boehmann S, Runnebaum B, Gerhard I (2000) ‘The efficacy of the complex medication Phyto-Hypophyson L in female, hor- mone-related sterility. A randomized, placebo-controlled clinical double-blind study.’ Forschende Komplementärmedi- zin und Klassische Naturheilkunde. 2000 Aug; 7(4):190-9