A National symposium on the Science Behind Homeopathy was organised at Birla Industrial and Technological Museum, Kolkata on 20th February. This was a joint effort by the Centre for Interdisciplinary Research and Education (CIRE), National Council for Science Museums (NCSM), Birla Industrial and Technological Museum (BITM), West Bengal Academy of Science and Technology (WAST) and Central Council for Research in Homeopathy (CCRH), Ministry of AYUSH.
The initiative for this innovative symposium came from the physicist Prof (Dr.) Papiya S. Nandy M.Sc.(Cal), M.A.(Univ. Calif.), Ph.D.(Kent State), F.A.Sc.T, of the Centre for Interdisciplinary Research and Education (CIRE) and the Hon. Director of Jagadish Bose National Science Talent Search, Kolkata.
Dilemma in science
Science is a discipline that gives importance to rational thinking. In rational discussions, different points of view might emerge and have their own good as well bad aspects. At times, both the sides could be right in their own way even if they hold opposite view points. Rational discussion is the one that doesn’t exaggerate in dealing with the other side and encourages enquiry that goes behind these two divergent views to discover the more rational one. Observation of sequential events paves the way for the formulation of questions in science. Based on the information, scientists prepare a hypothesis and then put it through a series of tests to see whether the results are reproducible. Wherever the results are reproducible, the hypothesis may get validation or would undergo more rigorous testing for acceptance or rejection. This process gets repeated again and again based on the prevailing knowledge. Thus science is a journey from the known to unknown and is never static. That was how yesteryears science has become redundant and new ideas gained more acceptability. A true scientist never rejects an observation unless he himself undertakes an effort to understand the phenomenon.
Homoeopathy, a protected system, neglected by science
There have been questions about the rationality of homeopathy as a science ever since it was introduced by Dr Hahnemann in 1810. This occurred even though homeopathy has been contributing wellness to millions of patients across the world. Many believe the curative effects of homeopathy to be due to placebo. History gives irrefutable evidence on prevention of pan endemic cholera, scarlet fever, plague etc with homeopathic preventive medicines. Homeopathy has also been widely used in veterinary practice, and also in agriculture where it affects plant growth. One cannot attribute the effects of homeopathic medicines in prevention of disease and the clinical results on animals and plants to the realm of placebo. Several stalwarts like Dr M L Sarkar and Dr C Herring who stepped in as critiques to find fault with homeopathy became the greatest advocates of this system. Yet even after 200 years of its successful existence, questions are being asked on the plausibility of homeopathy as a therapeutic system.
Hahnemann, the founder of homeopathy, in many aspects, was ahead of his time. He postulated nine basic tenets that form the medical system of homeopathy. These are:
➢ Similia Similibus Curentur
➢ Drug dynamisation
➢ Single remedy
➢ Drug proving
➢ Minimum dose
➢ Vital principles
➢ Chronic disease
Out of these, the principle of individualization is getting wider acceptability in other medical systems as Personal Medicine or Theranostics. Similarly, Drug Proving is a part of the modern clinical trials and is now known as Homeopathic Pathogenetic Trial (HPT). The principle of Simlia was known even to ancient medical wisdom from Greece and India. Knowledge of human genomics helps us better understand of the concept of the single remedy. The theory of chronic diseases and miasms are interlinked and have a sound theoretical footing especially on lifestyle and non communicable diseases. The minimum dose or appropriate dose is a cornerstone for the safety of medicine. The vital force was a known concept in chemistry till 1790, which Hahnemann adapted in homeopathy with a different connotation called Life Force in the later editions of Organon and is the basis of all vitalistic therapies. As such there is no controversy on eight out of the nine principles of homeopathy laid down by Dr. Hahnemann.
Thus, the only concept that the material science is not able to comprehend in homeopathy is that of Drug dynamisation, wherein the homeopathic medicines are prepared in ultra high dilutions with succussion/ trituration, commonly called potentisation. Homeopaths believe that the higher the potency, the better its therapeutic effects. Material science vehemently opposes this principle, mainly because of the limitations, restricting the theoretical plausibility of any original medicinal substance beyond the 12 C potency. Homeopaths use medicines in 30 C, 200 C and well beyond this. Hence there is a situation of divergent views on the science of homeopathy and the physical laws of science. Rationally, both sides may be right in their own wisdom, even though they are of opposite points of view. The number of protagonists of material science is greater than the protagonists who believe in drug dynamisation. At the moment, rational thinking in physics leans towards the antagonists of drug dynamisation. Therefore, there is a situation where homeopathy is facing repeated, concerted criticism. There are some who consider the concepts of homeopathy more as a religion than a refined science. This sect knowingly or unknowingly did not encourage any impartial investigation into the science of drug dynamisation. This could also be due to the limited knowledge in science. Thus, homeopathy remained a protected system and got neglected by the mainstream science.
Emerging trends in science
India is emerging as one of the leaders in Complementary Alternate Medicine (CAM) and is promoting a pluralistic health care delivery system. Homeopathy is an important component of this mission. The practice of homeopathy has great impact on human life. As such, there is a need to have a balanced investigation of the claims by its supporters and counter claims by its detractors to bring out the truth about the science behind Homeopathy. With such a background, this symposium had a much greater relevance. It is possibly the first time a symposium was organised on such a subject by institutions of excellence who investigated this science from various aspects. Their credentials prove the same.
CIRE is a nonprofit organisation with a vision to foster interdisciplinary research and bridge the cultural divide between the arts and sciences, between lay persons and academicians. People from different disciplines of science and the humanities in India and abroad are their members. CIRE facilitates interdisciplinary research in frontier areas of science such as Nano-technology, Material science, Nano–medicine, Molecular Biology, Virology, Condensed matter, Physics, Geology and so on. CIRE encourages all work that leads towards pursuit of science. There are some students working on experiments and others on theory. While some are post doctoral students, others are working towards their PhDs. CIRE also encourages its members to write books on interdisciplinary topics.
NCSM is an autonomous society under the Ministry of Culture, Government of India, and administers 25 science centers/ museums/ planetariums across the country. Apart from these, NCSM strives to communicate science and educate the masses through demonstrations, lectures, training etc.
WAST, 4, Raja S. C. Mullick Road, Jadavpur Road, Kolkata, is a registered society that has the objective of promoting and applying science and technology, and striving to promote cooperation and excellence in scientific seminars, conferences, workshops etc. WAST coordinates activities of various agencies and institutions engaged in research and development.
BITM was established by the efforts of the late Dr. B C Roy, the then Chief Minister of West Bengal and Shri G.D Birla, and it organizes science demonstrations and lectures. The Museum was opened for the public in 1959. With its various galleries and multifarious activities and satellite centers, it has become a place where science is demonstrated through animated and interactive models.
The effort of the Central Council for Research in Homeopathy, the apex research body to organize this seminar on Science Behind Homeopathy is very appropriate at a time when the beneficial effects of homeopathy are attributed to a mere placebo effect. It is quite interesting to see that the organizers had invited Dr Venkataraman Ramakrishnan, the Indian born American and British Structural biologist, who shared the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2009 and gave a controversial interview in the Times on 7th January, 2016 for this symposium. His response to this invitation was:
“Dear Prof Nandy,
I am sorry I am not available at short notice to come to India given my duties and various commitments here. Moreover, I would not say that more scientists agree that the effect of homeopathy is due to the placebo effect, which is stronger than most people realize. How the brain can have such remarkable effects due to the power of suggestion is certainly a very interesting topic but that would be a different area.
Yours sincerely VK”
The inaugural session was attended by Dr R K Manchanda, Director General, CCRH, Dr G S Rautela, Director General, NCSM, Dr D J Chatopadhyay, President WAST, Prof Utpal De, President CIRE and Sk. E Islam, Director, BITM. Prof Papiya Nandy welcomed the distinguished speakers, guests and delegates to this unique symposium which dealt with the issues related to Science and issues related to Homeopathy. The symposium was mainly intended to explore the science and practice of Homeopathy in terms of the latest research findings. The topics covered were the current research on science and practice of Homeopathy, physics and chemistry of Homeopathy and Homeopathy as an alternative medical system in agriculture and veterinary practice. It was decided that a public debate was necessary.
Dr. Durga Shankar Bhar, CIRE and Managing Director of HAPC presented an overview of homeopathic medicine – In Search of Truth. Though the principles of Homeopathy have been known for long time and its practice has become popular, there is still less clarity on how the medicines in high potencies act. He made a presentation on the method of preparation of the homeopathic medicines.
Prof Jayesh Ramesh Bellare, Department of Chemical Engineering, Department of Bio Sciences and Bio Engineering and Wadhwani Research Centre for Bio Engineering, IIT Mumbai, made a presentation on silica coated nano structures in homeopathic medicines from metals and inorganic salts. This was based on an extension of his earlier studies of nano structures of metals in ultra high dilutions conducted with colleagues Dr Mayur K Temgire, Akkihebbal K Suresh and Shantaram G Kane. In this study, by using Electron Microscopy (TEM) they showed that metals and inorganic salts are present in nano and micro forms, and that silicates play a key role in coating and retaining the starting material in the solution. The demonstration of silicate coated particles in TEM proposes a mechanistic reaction mechanism for the structures seen, which further validates the link between Homeopathy and nano technology.
Dr Prashant Banerjee, Homeopathic Research Foundation, 10/3/1, Elgin Road, Kolkata presented the Banerjee Protocols: A New Method of Treatment with Homeopathic Medicines. He attributed the practice of Homeopathy based on symptoms and not based on modern developments of science as the impediment to the growth of Homeopathy. The Banerjee protocols based on using disease specific homeopathic medicines for the treatment of cancers and other critical intractable diseases gave a new insight in the prescription techniques based on the Hahnemann’s Writings. He also presented cases treated with the Banerjee Protocols on certain diseases threatening mankind with no recourse to solutions by any other systems of medicine.
Prof Anil Kumar Nain, Department of Chemistry, Dayal Singh College, University of Delhi, New Delhi presented a paper on Physicochemical studies on homeopathic medicines, in which he brought out the controversies regarding improbability in biological activities of homeopathic medicines in which the source drug was diluted beyond Avogadro’s number. Based on the studies of two homeopathic medicines in high potencies, where even in high dilutions the molecules of the original substance were present, these two medicines succussed in ethanol demonstrated different physiochemical behaviours. He concluded that the succussion phenomenon could well be the reason.
Dr E S Rajendran, Director, Homeopathic Medical college, Vinayaka Mission University, Salem, Tamil Nadu, presented a paper on “Recent & EDS analysis of Homeopathic High Potencies ( Ultra High Dilutions) – New Challenges and opportunities” . He presented his findings on the study using Electron Microscopy and Energy Dispersive Spectroscopy analysis of 27 homeopathic drug potencies from 6C to CM in Centesimal potencies as well LM1 to LM30 in 50 Millesimal potencies. The study has shown the presence on nano particles in all the potencies. He conducted the studies on metals through HRTEM & EDS and medicines of organic origin were studied with FESEM & EDS. He found that the majority of the particles are quantum dot size (less than 10 nano meter) in metallic and mineral origin and comparatively bigger nano particles in the drugs of organic origin.
Prof N.C Sukul, Sukul Institute of Homeopathic Research, Department of Zoology, Viswa Bharati University, Shantiniketan and Department of Physics, Bose Institute, Kolkata presented a paper on how water structure carries information of homeopathic Potencies, based on a joint study with Tandra Sarkar, Atheni, Dipanwita Majumdar, Achintya Sinha and Anirban Sukul. In their series of experiments on plants and animals, they have demonstrated that water carries the information of the potentised homeopathic drugs. They selected Sulphur and Natrum Mur in 30, 200 and IM potencies for study. All potencies and their aqueous ethanol medium (controls) were diluted with water to reduce their ethanol content to 25 %. Ramn spectra of the entire sample were obtained and studied. The study showed differences in intensities in different potencies and their respective controls. The potencies and controls showed marked variation.
Dr Saura Arora, Editor in Chief, International Journal of High Dilution Research made a presentation of the key research undertaken over the past few decades, that deciphers the physicochemical nature of high dilutions.
Prof Anisur Rahman Khuda-Bukhsh, Emeritus Fellow, UGC and former Professor, Department of Zoology, University of Kalyanai, West Bengal presented his paper on Nano-Encapsulation and Nano precipitation by Homeopathic Mother Tincture: Physicochemical Characterization of nano particles and Tracking down their Drug – DNA interaction and bio-distribution as strategy for understanding molecular mechanism of action of Homeopathic Remedies. His study with nano – precipitates silver of different homeopathic mother tinctures showed subtle difference in respect of differences in their biological activities in terms of anti cancer, anti bacterial and anti fungal activities. This study not only proves there are nano particles in homeopathic remedies but also their role in gene regulatory mechanisms.
Dr CR Mehta, Hony Emeritus Scientist presented: Challenges, Striking facts and Research Findings Suggesting a Generalised Understanding of
Medicines”. His paper focussed on answering how various super- diluted substances differ from one another and (ii) what is the clue to their medicinal value vis-à-vis how they can facilitate cure. His hypothesis is that (i) various super- diluted substances may be chemically just water, but they differ from one another in their molecular structure and (ii) a substance is to be recognised as a medicine if it has the capability of curing diseases, while its medicinal property is to be attributed to molecular structures of a vehicle like water or of a distinct chemical substance, when it exists.
There was a panel discussion after the scientific deliberations. Dr. Eswara Das, Member, Scientific Advisory Committee, CCRH & Chairman, Global Homeopathy Foundation, Dr R.K Manchanda, Director General, Central Council for Research in Homeopathy and all the eminent speakers present, answered the participants’ questions. The symposium was an explorative exercise to demonstrate the recent advances in the scientific basis of homeopathy. It was a good beginning. Two hundred well informed participants and nine eminent speakers made the day memorable. Several innovative ideas came up during the discussion and deliberations.
The symposium proved beyond any doubt that there is a science behind homeopathy. Now, the next efforts could be to explore the physics, chemistry and genetics behind homeopathy, as well as the nano, pico and zepto behind homeopathy. Practitioners have an important role to promote the strength of the system. Scientists have a role to investigate the truth behind the strength. The symposium bridged the gap that existed between the neglected science of homeopathy and the rational thinking of the best of the brains in the material science. This symposium is expected to open more doors and windows in material science to let in more clear and fresh thoughts on drug dynamisation and other principles of homeopathy, so that future homeopaths might have fewer detractors.