I once asked a prominent medical scientist and noted critic of Homoeopathy what he’d do if he were given the results of a clinical trial showing that homeopathy actually worked. His response was, “I’d design a different trial.”
From near and far for the last 70 odd years, those working in the area of Homoeopathy have been asked by their medical counterparts to, “Show us your proof!” That proof has been around for quite some time. In the last 50 or so years there have been lots of trials conducted on these medicines, many done double blind and most, placebo controlled. In some respects it may be wise to look with scepticism at clinical trials themselves, particularly given comments made a while back in the Lancet by Canadian Epidemiologist, David Moher. He found that in clinical trials done on orthodox drugs, the results in some cases may have been exaggerated by up to 50%. Although there are methodological difficulties involved with clinical trials and homeopathy, in the absence of any other objective measure, clinical trials are probably one of the best indicators we have. This is the first of a number of articles looking at the work that’s been done in this area. Prior to looking at these, I thought it might be useful to explore some of the non-clinical areas that provide some fairly solid proof of a homeopathic effect. Following are some of the more notable.
PARADOXICAL EFFECTS OF DRUGS
For an interesting view of the homeopathic effect itself, i.e., that small amounts of a particular substance can be used to treat the symptoms generated by larger amounts of that same substance, some interesting effects can be seen with several drugs. Here are some examples:
- Digoxin, normally used to treat arrhythmia, if given in large doses will produce arrhythmia1.
- Novocaine- anaesthetic at low, therapeutic dose- in larger doses stimulates neurological activity2.
- Additional doses of the same narcotic which has just caused narcosis, administered during the narcosis, will counteract that narcosis3
- Coffee has been used clinically to sedate hyperkinetic children.4
Iodine salts show a capacity to stimulate thyroid activity at a therapeutic dose, and inhibit its activity at a higher dose.5
- A 0.5% solution of Silver nitrate is used to burn tissue from cervical erosions and warts etc, however, a stronger solution than this will necrotise and destroy the tissue.6
In addition to these, we’re all well aware by now of the use of amphetamines, (normally used as stimulants) which are being used to treat children with ADHD, and radiotherapy (radiation is obviously capable of causing cancer) for the treatment of cancer.
Moving on from the effects of drugs, hormesis was the name given to a field of science which looked at the stimulatory effects of low levels of potentially toxic substances. Much of this work was carried out in the US in the 1960’s and 70’s, and unfortunately much of it involved animal testing. In one of these, an experiment designed to show if low doses have any influence on the retention and clearance rates of toxins from biological systems, rats were given large doses of arsenious anhydride and divided into control and test groups. The test groups were given homeopathic dilutions of arsenious anhydride, and the control groups were given water, treated in the same homoeopathic dilution fashion. The test group showed a higher clearance level and significantly lower retention level of arsenic7. In another one of these experiments, silver nitrate (which is known to inhibit the growth of wheat seedlings at a high molecular concentration), was shown to stimulate the growth of wheat seedlings when at a concentration of 1 by 10 to the minus 24M8. At this dilution, none of the original silver nitrate is present. This experiment has been duplicated on numerous occasions with the same result.
One more of these studies involved the exposure of various dilutions of cobra venom on a piece of isolated heart muscle. At a dilution of 1 in 15,000, the cobra venom caused the myocardial tissue to cease contracting. As the dilutions increased, this effect was replaced with one causing diminishing levels of arrhythmia, until a dilution of 1 in 150,000 was reached, which caused a stimulation of the myocardial contraction9. The venom of the cobra is known by the name of the Indian Cobra, Naja tripudians, and one of its uses in homeopathy, where the rest of the patient’s symptom picture matches, is in cardiac arrhythmia and diminished cardiac ejection.
- IMS Publishing, Mims Annual, 1988, 2-111
- Wilder, J. The Law of Initial Value in Neurology and Psychiatry, J Nervous and Mental Dis, 125, 1957, 73-86.
- Schnakenberg, R. Caffeine as a substitute for Schedule II Stimulants in Hyperkinetic Children, Am J Psychiatry, 130, 1973, 796-798.
- Starling and Lovett Evans, Principles of Human Physiology, 14th Ed, J&A Churchill, London, 1988, 1492.
- Howell J. A., Silver Nitrate and Sulfamylon in the Treatment of Burns, North Carolina Medical Journal, 29, 1968, 280-283.
- Cazin, J. C., et al, Influence of Several Physical Factors on the Activity of Ultra Low Doses, Ultra Low Doses, Taylor and Francis, London, 1991, 69-80.
- Pongratz, W., Highly Diluted Agitated Silver Nitrate and Wheat Seedling Development- Effect Kinetics, Fundamental Research in Ultra High Dilution and Homoeopathy, Kluwer Academic Publishers, Boston, 1998.
- Buecherl and Buckley, Venomous Animals and their Venoms- Volume 2, page 14, 1971, Academic Press, New York.
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