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Homeopathy- Why Does It Attract So Much Controversy?



Hpathy Ezine, April, 2012 | Print This Post Print This Post |

The author discusses the criticism directed at homeopathy.

It’s probably pretty obvious to most that complementary medicine (CM) in general attracts a great deal of criticism by advocates of orthodox western medicine. Vitamins are frequently described as agents that do little more than produce expensive urine, herbs are labeled as useless if not outright dangerous. Bach flowers, reflexology and aromatherapy are dismissed as fanciful nonsense. Vast clinical studies with questionable methodology that find no benefit from these therapies are held up as proof that they have no effect while smaller properly designed studies that show them to be successful are ignored. Yet CM continues to provide relief for millions of people and every year sees more and more people turning to these therapies. This situation appears to cause enormous irritation for orthodox western medicine and as much as they’d like it to, CM refuses to go away.

Fortunately, in recent times the critics of herbs and supplements have become marginalised and their credibility has become increasingly dubious as they struggle under the weight of higher quality evidence of clinical effect. Regrettably, criticism aimed at homeopathy remains undiminished. It comes under regular attack in pharmacy and other orthodox journals1, 2. And it is vilified by national broadcasters3. Organisations have been established with the apparent aim of eradicating it4 and clinical trials that fail to show an effect receive inordinate levels of attention while successful trials are ignored.

What are the criticisms of homeopathy?

There is no scientifically plausible mechanism for Homeopathy.

This is certainly true, but it’s also true that the mechanism for the action of many commonly prescribed drugs, such as dexamphetamine in the treatment of ADHD, is yet to be determined. The failure to understand the mechanism of a therapeutic substance, particularly where that substance is a drug, does not normally diminish the enthusiasm for it by prescribers. Why then should homeopathy be criticised for this?

The concept of a memory for water is unscientific.

This relates to the fact that many researchers have speculated that the potentisation process used to manufacture homeopathic medicines causes the water in which the medicines are made to retain a “memory” of the starting material from which the potencies are derived. In response to this criticism, we should be clear on what “science” actually is. Science is not a body of facts. It’s a process used to study, by deduction and inference, specific issues that one seeks to understand. The fact that the memory of water has yet to be adopted by orthodox science does not make it unscientific. In fact, various studies have shown that water may be imprinted by the electromagnetic energy signature derived from physical substances to which it is exposed5-7. These studies would tend to support the concept the memory of water.

There’s nothing in a homeopathic medicine so it couldn’t possibly work.

Those making these kinds of assertions seem to miss the point that past certain potencies (12C or 24X), a homoeopathic medicine will contain the base substance (alcohol and water in the case of a liquid, or sugar in the case of a solid dose form such as a pilule) and it will also contain the electromagnetic energy that’s derived from the starting material via the process of potentisation. This latter component is not detectable by normal assay techniques, but its effects are certainly demonstrable. Studies have confirmed that biological systems can be influenced by these electromagnetic frequencies8-12. The criticism that there’s nothing in a homeopathic medicine is also frequently leveled at products, often homeopathic combination products, where the medicines are used at potencies below 12C or 24X. Anyone making the statement that there’s nothing in these products , may have a little difficulty with the information in the following table, which demonstrates the levels at which the human body responds to normal human hormones and metabolites.

Lower Limit of Biological Activity of Human Hormones and Metabolites

Substance Limit Equiv. homeopathic potency
Parathyroid Hormone 10 picograms/mL 11X
Free Oestrogen 0.6 picograms/mL 12X
Brain Natriuretic Hormone 4 picograms/mL 12X
ACTH 20 picograms/mL 11X
Oestrogen 10 picograms/mL 11X
Vitamin B12 150 picograms/mL 9X
Testosterone 200 picograms/mL 9X
Progesterone 100 picograms/mL 10X
Free Thyroxine (Pregnancy) 5 picograms/mL 12X
Triiodothyronine (Children) 1 picograms/mL 12X
Acetylcholine (miniature end potential) 0.0001 picograms/mL 16X

Homeopathy is not evidence based- there are no successful trials.

This is an interesting point. It’s true that the number of successful homeopathic trials is relatively small, the numbers of people participating in the trials is often relatively small and few trials have been replicated. The reason for this is that unlike drugs, homeopathic medicines in most cases cannot be patented, so there is little incentive to invest the vast quantities of money that the drug companies often spend to mount large clinical trials if the sponsors cannot monopolize the results. However, homeopathy has produced successful clinical trials, and they’re relatively easy to find13-17. As a final point, surveys have found that only 10-20% of all standard medical procedures have been validated by controlled clinical trials18 and yet orthodox medicine is held up as the gold standard to which homeopathy should aspire.

Homeopathy stops people from using drugs that may provide better results in disease control.

This again is an interesting issue, and the criticism can be answered with a few simple facts. Trials comparing homeopathy with standard medical treatment have found that it can provide outcomes as good as or better than orthodox medicine for particular conditions19, 20. It’s also useful here to put the relative safety of various forms of medicine into perspective. The total number of adverse reactions to drugs in Australia from the year 1999-2000 was 400,00021. The total number of adverse reactions from CM for the same year was 2322, and none of these were caused by a homeopathic medicine23. Even more interesting is the fact that only 1-10% of all adverse drug reactions are reported24. In the US up to one fifth of all new prescription drugs may ultimately be recalled or produce potentially harmful side effects25. No homeopathic medicine has ever been subject to a product recall on the basis of toxicity, or has been recorded as producing serious side effects.

Robert Medhurst

Robert Medhurst BNat DHom DBM DRM DNutr is a qualified Naturopath & Homoeopath with 28 years of clinical experience and currently practices in the Adelaide Hills in South Australia. He has written many articles and lectured on homeopathy throughout Australia and the U.S. Robert previously operated several natural therapies practices in Sydney and was involved in teaching and research. He was formerly the Expert Advisor on Homeopathy to the Federal Government of Australia, Dept. of Health & Ageing. He specialises in homeopathy and is the author of The Business of Healing, the definitive guide for clinical practice establishment and management. For more information see adelaidehillsnaturopath.com.au. Robert Medhurst is author of the recently released : The Concordant Clinical Homeopathic Repertory

Comments

  1. karl

    April 17, 2012

    Your third comment shows the lowest concentration of an active ingredient to give measurable results is 16X – that’s 1 with 16 zeros i.e 1 part in 10,000,000,000,000,000 The “concentration” of a 24X “remedy” is 1 with 24 zeros i.e. 1 part in 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 or 10,000,000 times less concentrated that’s another 10 million times more diluted than the weakest concentration shown to be active. 16X and 24X look similar (its only 8X different) but they are hugely different and not comparable.

    • Venkatesh.K.N.

      May 4, 2012

      Dear karl, 24x and 16x are not hugely different when considering the Avogadro’s number is dependent on an equally variable concept, “gram molecule”. 6.22 (10^23) that is, 622 followed by 20 zeros is the number of molecules present in 12 grams of carbon (because 12 is the molecular weight of carbon) or 1 gram of hydrogen ( 1 is the molecular weight of hydrogen). and some of the polymers are so huge that they are about 220 million times heavier than the hydrogen molecule. Hence a difference of 8x is not so huge as to make it incomparable. Its only fashionable for skeptics to show their abundant ignorance by referring to this issue.

  2. Tetenterre

    April 17, 2012

    You wrote:
    “The fact that the memory of water has yet to be adopted by orthodox science does not make it unscientific.” That is correct. What makes it unscientific is it’s inability to make scientifically testable predictions.

    “various studies have shown that water may be imprinted by the electromagnetic energy signature derived from physical substances to which it is exposed”
    (a) That is correct. The memory persists for a few femtoseconds.
    (b) This does not explain how it is supposed to “forget” everything else to which it has been exposed and remember only what the homoeopath pretends it does.

    • venkatesh.K.N.

      April 23, 2012

      Dear Tetenterre, It seems you know that homeopathy is based on the observation of the universal phenomena of “similia similibus curantur” meaning,like cures the like. Just like any other science, this law of nature has other attendant principles which are the unavoidable implications of the fundamental law.They are together called the “Law of similars”. They aren’ t bizarre and arbitrary either, but beautifully coherent and integral. Please study them. according to the laws, only a potentised substance which has some affinity (similar,opposite or inimical) to the disease in question will only act on that patient. all other substances just remain neutral. Many skeptics in their eagerness to protect the gullible humanity are found to make this mistake. Unfortunately good homeopathy practitioners aren’t good at defending their beliefs and convictions, making homeopathy an easy target for service minded gentlemen. I also wish to draw your attention to what George Vithoulkas has said about how the future generation will accuse the irresponsible attitude of the people in the health care field for neglecting such a scientific and wonderfully effective system of medicine. Please keep in mind that your volunteering to help the skeptics may result in unintentional disservice.

  3. Avinash Agnihotri

    April 19, 2012

    Robert Medhurst article may be more acceptable and convincing to followers of homeopathy than to critics,whose very existence is criticism. They have hundreds of thousands of drug related diseases and deaths every year , yet they will not raise a voice against their system. If there is a cure by homeopathy, they would brand it as placebo effect. An allopathic doctor said the same thing to me. I replied,” Wonderful, then close all your hospitals and colleges and start giving placebo and control disease and death without any expense.” The best proof of homeopathy is in its efficacy and millions of people are benefited by it every year. You cure a case by homeopathy, the whole family converts to the new system. Dr. Medhurst’s article is based on great labor and research and is a great moral booster for the faithfuls. I proudly tell my critics” Our system of potentization or attenuation is a science and our practice is an art” Our remedies are a product of science,but their application is an art and product art may not be the same always.

  4. Dr. C. S. Gupta

    May 3, 2012

    DEAR DR,
    HOMEOPATHY IS NOT A VERY OLD SYSTEM. IT IS GAINING IMPORTANCE EVERY DAY. IT IS OUR WEAKNESS THAT AFTER READING HOMEOPATHY 5.5 YEARS SCIENTIFICALLY WE FAIL TO PROVE ITS EFFECTIVENESS. THE PREPARATION OF HOMEOPATHIC MEDICINES ARE BASED ON SCIENTIFIC SYSTEM. IF MEDICINE IS DILUTED AND DILUTED IT DOES NOT MEAN THAT IT IS NOT THERE. MEDICINE IS ALWAYS THERE. IF IT IS NOT THERE THEN WHERE HAS IT GONE? THE SUCCUSSION MAKES IT POWERFUL AND MORE POWERFUL. RIVERS NEVER SHOW THEIR WATER SALTY BUT THEY HAVE MADE SEA WATER VERY SALTY LITTLE BY LITTLE. IN MILLIONS OF YEARS SCIENCE HAS PROVED IT. SO ARE THE HOMEOPATHIC MEDICINES. HOMEOPATHS MAY FAIL, BUT HOMEOPATHY NEVER FAILS
    THANKS
    DR SHEKHAR

  5. Dr S.K.VASHISHT

    May 16, 2012

    The answer to this query is NOT FROM THE CLINIC OR PHYSCIAN IT– lies with the Homoeopathic pharmaceuticals , let these scientific seekers visit a Homoeopathic pharmaceuticals , and then prove nothing is be done there, no raw material added, there is no preparations , we do add sodium chloride, Arsenic salts, Animal extracts, snake poisons in our preparations , we have a process of potentisation , which their instruments fail to detect ,but definetely their eyes and mind could see, and never can deny that they have not seen.

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