I grew up with homeopathy all around me; I have not been vaccinated, I have had the measles (I was sent to a measles party!), mumps and chicken pox – all were treated homeopathically. I suffered from eczema when I was young; it too was treated with homeopathy and it has never came back. I can count the times I have been to the doctors on one hand; I am rarely sick.
Over the years I have witnessed thousands of happy patients come and go from my father’s practice. When I studied homeopathy, the principles, methods and philosophy seemed clear to me and made good sense. Then, when I became involved with the School of Homeopathy I got to witness further successful patient cases though the School clinics, the students and eventually my own practice.
Yet I find myself in a profession that is often misunderstood, criticised and ridiculed – why? Homeopathy is a form of medicine; it helps people and it does this naturally, with remedies that come from nature and work in line with nature. It does not help 100% of people but no medicine does. From what I have seen and experienced, and from what research tells us, homeopathy is highly effective – and yet it does divide people.
The healing mechanism of ‘Like Cures Like’ is well understood and is used in many systems of medicine as well as homeopathy. The word homeopathy means ‘similar suffering’. Homeopathic treatment focuses on the entire person, not just the disease. A homeopathic remedy is selected according to ‘Like Cures Like’, also known as the Law of Similars; a substance that provokes symptoms in a healthy person can heal those symptoms when given to someone who is sick. This principle was written about by Hippocrates (often called the father of medicine) and can be traced back to Egyptian times.
The division seems to be around the highly diluted remedies – the chemistry and the potentisation of the medicine (dilution and succession). Potentisation is done to remove the toxic poisoning effects of the substances. The founder of homeopathy Dr Samuel Hahnemann discovered the process through painstaking trial and error. He discovered that the patient only needed the tiniest dose of the medicine to stimulate the bodies own innate healing mechanism. However, in his day (200 years ago), with science as it was, he had no idea that by diluting the substances beyond 1023 (12c in homeopathy) he would surpass Avogadro’s number, the point where no atom of the original substance could be left in the solution – but amazingly this did not affect his work or results.
Today, homeopathic remedies are available with dilutions above and below Avogadro’s number. What science does not yet fully understand is how the dilutions above Avogadro’s number continue to work.
As a result of this, homeopathy as a system of medicine has been written off by sceptics. Their thinking presupposes that because the usual standards of science cannot explain highly potentised medicines, they must be wrong – and therefore homeopaths must be fraudulent.
I have been in this situation. Thinking back on the conversation I am not sure I would describe it as a discussion, but more of an attack. The sceptic had no intention of ‘discussing’ homeopathy with me; he just wanted to discredit it and me. He came from a point of view that science (or more accurately scientism1) explains everything. But the simple fact is that science does not. In reality, science has barely scratched the surface of understanding the physical world around us, let alone the energetic world. But the sceptic seems to cling onto an old Newtonian view of the world that suited his materialistic paradigm; he refused to believe that science does not understand everything around us, and therefore he threw out anything that could not be explained scientifically.
Both the brain and the immune system are still mysteries to us in many ways, although ignorance has not prevented the development of effective healing techniques. Through trial and error, observation and inference, humanity has developed many therapies. This is just as true for mainstream science-based medicine as it is for natural medicine.
It is also interesting to note that, as published in the BMJ (an international peer reviewed medical journal), 50% of all treatments prescribed through the National Health Service are not evidence based2, that is they are not supported by scientific research. If we apply the same requirements being asked of homeopathy to the NHS, 50% of treatments would be removed. But, if patients are telling you they feel better then you keep using a treatment – that is evidence. Just because you do not have the scientific evidence that a treatment works does not mean you stop using it.
Science still cannot explain how anaesthesia works, but we would never dream of getting rid of that; we rely on the clinical experience and our observations of it working, rather than a scientific understanding of the mechanism of action. Knowing how a medicine works has never been a pre-requisite for its use. Aspirin (acetylsalicylic acid) is one of the most widely used drugs in the world, yet it was used for over 70 years before its mechanism of action was discovered in 1971. The drug is still actively researched today, as it has numerous biological effects which are still not fully understood. To say homeopathy does not work because there is no scientific evidence does not make sense. It reminds me of the ‘experts’ in the early 17th century who refused to look through Galileo’s telescope and instead locked him up and continued to believe the earth was at the centre of our solar system.
A good scientist would start from the hypothesis, if homeopathy works, and people experience its positive results, then how and why? Instead of, ‘prove that it works’. Why not, ‘prove that it doesn’t work’. Science is to be curious, to explore the unknown, to find things out and discover, to measure and quantify.
Homeopaths believe that one day science will discover the mechanism through which homoeopathy works, that one day we will have the tools that are sensitive enough and the understanding to figure it out. But until then we should continue to use this effective and safe form of medicine. The sceptic believes all homeopaths are wrong and all patients are wrong, ruling out the views and experiences of thousands of highly educated homeopaths (most homeopaths are degree educated before training to be a homeopath). These homeopaths are branded liars, cheats, con artists and thieves – they pray on the weak, steal their money and kill them by preventing them from going to the ‘proper’ doctor when they are sick (which they do not). But worse than that the sceptic ignores the experience of millions of patients who benefit from homeopathy every year. They simply write these people off as delusional, desperate and ignorant, or they proclaim they would have got better anyway. But can the estimated 500 million (1 in 12) people who use homeopathy every year really be wrong? And why is homeopathy the second largest system of medicine in use worldwide today (after Chinese medicine)? Patients are often the strongest advocates of homeopathy; why would they recommend it to their friends and family if it didn’t work?
Because science is yet to understand how homeopathy works, it is often stated that there nothing in the pills and therefore any healing response must just be the placebo effect (a false effect). However as already mentioned, not all homeopathic remedies are potentised (diluted) beyond Avogadro’s number. We also see homeopathy working on babies, young children, animals and the unconscious – those unable to be affected by placebo. I would also ask why these patients that come to see homeopaths have not been affected by the placebo when they are taking other forms of treatment? Often those that come to homeopathy come as a last resort and have had many other forms of medication – why no placebo effect then? And what about those patients who do not get the correct homeopathic remedy first time, why did it take three or four different remedies for the placebo effect to start for them? Further, scientific trials clearly demonstrate that homeopathy has a greater effect than placebo. There have been several different and easily repeatable scientific experiments that demonstrate this. By the end of 2013, 188 Randomised Controlled Trials (RCTs) on homeopathy have been published in peer review journals. 44% demonstrate that homeopathy works above and beyond placebo, 5% were negative and 47% were non conclusive.3 These percentages are strikingly similar to those found in conventional medicine.
In 2013 the Homeopathic Research Institute (an innovative UK charity) held a research event in Barcelona4 – a programme dedicated solely to high-end, robust scientific research with forty speakers presenting over sixty-five papers (abstracts). All speakers were highly educated clinicians, PhD academics and researchers – most from outside the world of homeopathy. We saw presentation after presentation that demonstrated through clear research and evidence that homeopathy works and is effective.