What is Homeopathy?
Homeopathic medicine is a medical method which works using micro doses of toxins in order to stimulate the body’s auto-regulatory mechanisms. This principle was first developed by Hippocrates (the father of medicine) in 450 BC. Later, the method was rationalized into a clinical system by the German physician Samuel Hahnemann in the late 18th century. In this period, homeopathy was well known in the medical area to be an excellent method for the disease treatment.
Homeopathy is a therapeutic system that is based on natural principles to relief some diseases such as diabetes, obesity, cancer, depression and more. Homeopathic remedies are based on the energetic patterns of active ingredients, such as minerals and extracts from plants. The method has been used for over 200 years. For hundreds of years, homeopathy has been recognized and considered as a very safe alternative to cure a disease or relief a condition by treatment experts.
In order to avoid symptoms and side effects that are mostly caused by consuming large doses, the active ingredients in homeopathic remedies are diluted into very small amounts. Hence, one of the fundamental precepts behind homeopathy is that similar substances can both cause and treat a condition. Homeopathic remedies work by eliminating symptoms AND by stimulating the body to heal itself using its own sel-relief mechanisms.
One of the homeopathy bases is the concept that “like cures like.” That is, if a substance causes a symptom in a healthy person, then by giving him a small amount of the same substance may cure the illness. In theory, a homeopathic dose enhances the body’s rejuvenating and self-regulatory processes improving the health of a patient.
A homeopathic health professional (homeopathic) uses pills or liquid mixtures (solutions) that contain an active agent (usually a plant or mineral extract) in order to treat a disease. These substances are “enhanced” or highly diluted in the final remedy. There is evidence that homeopathic medicines can have a lot of positive effects in the body.
Its clinical application was widely used throughout Western Europe in the 19th century. Homeopathy is extremely popular among patients and its uses have been increased in the last years due to its effectiveness.
Used by millions of persons and thousands of homeopathic physicians worldwide, homeopathy is suitable for people of all ages, including children. Homeopathy can be used to treat both acute conditions (developing over a long period and has no long-term symptoms or signs) and chronic conditions.
How homeopathic treatments are formulated?
Homeopathic medicines usually come in the form of small tablets that contain micro doses from active ingredients from plants, minerals and/or animals.
Homeopathic solutions are diluted again and again. Between each homeopathic dilution, the solution is stirred to allow the active ingredients mix well with the dissolvent substance. This process is performed hundreds of times to achieve the necessary formula and concentration in the appropriate energy level. Finally, the homeopathic solution is enclosed into capsules or liquid formulas which are extremely diluted but with a powerful energy activity that is able to activate the body’s natural mechanisms to fight against a disease.
Frequently Asked Question
Are homeopathic treatments the same for each person?
No. In a state by state basis, homeopathic treatments are formulated according to the patient’s needs.
Is homeopathy supported by scientific research?
Yes. The mechanisms and effects of homeopathy have been strongly studied by scientific and medical specialists over the years. Researchers have demonstrated the therapeutic benefits of homeopathic treatments in controlled laboratories.
Most current research is focused on the study of the biological activity of highly diluted doses of the active ingredients. In addition, many pieces of evidence based on patients’ experiences have served as support for those studies.
Although the basic idea of homeopathy is the similarity, his most controversial bases are the properties of ultra-molecular dilutions. Avogadro constant, the number of particles (atoms or molecules) in a gram mole of a substance is about 1023. In the homeopathic terminology, 1023 corresponds to about 12C or 23X dilutions. Homeopathic preparations contain material traces of the original substance in the lower dilution; the high dilution (high-molecular) is unlikely to do so.
The theory of "water memory"
The most common hypothesis, the mechanism of action of homeopathic dilutions refers to the “memory of water” to explain the effects: “In the right circumstances, the water retains information of the substances with which has been in contact beforehand and then, transferred it to the biological systems.” Standard physicochemical techniques and UV-VIS spectroscopy have shown this. Nevertheless, it remains to see if these changes can affect water characteristics as a chemical substance.
Molecular aggregates and other theories
Other alternative theories have been proposed to explain the mechanisms of action of homeopathic medicine. One of them has shown that when a solution is increasingly diluted, more stable “pieces” or materials are developed in it instead of more concentrated solutions as thought. This means that the rest of the mass from the original substance may be present in the homeopathic dilutions in the form of the stable material mentioned above. Succession could also be responsible for the creation of very small bubbles (called nano bubbles) which contain gaseous inclusions of oxygen, nitrogen, carbon dioxide and possibly, a source of the homeopathic material.
High power effects in biological experiments
A recent meta-analysis (published in 75 scientific papers) evaluated 67 biological experiments in vitro in order to measure the high power effects of homeopathy in biological systems. This analysis found that the effects of high power were almost 75% (very effective) compared with all replicated reported studies; however, after a series of in vitro experiments, no positive result was stable enough, varying from the original results.
Other models were also studied in order to find out a relationship between homeopathy effects and biological systems. In the allergic reaction to test antibodies in human basophil degranulation model, the first study of degranulation inhibition reported an effect with anti-IgE. Ultra-molecular dilutions of these initial tests haven’t seen to be reproducible. Further studies and modified methods using a high molecular weight of the histamine dilutions have shown, however, positive results. These results have been replicated in several independent laboratories and research centers.
A number of reviews have been examined in the literature related to homeopathy. In the following section, we will review homeopathy’s impact on the human health, without considering other conventional medicine methods.
The first systematic review was published in 1991. It considered and analyzed a total of 105 studies. With interpretable results, 81 of these studies showed positive results, containing high-quality RCTs critical to randomization received, blinding, sample size and other methodological criteria. The authors concluded: “Based on this evidence we accept that homeopathy would be willing to be effective only if the mechanism of action were more plausible” and also “the evidence presented in this report would be probably enough for the regular homeopathy treatment setting for some guidance.”
In 1996, the Group of Homeopathic Medicine (HMRG) did a research related to conventional and homeopathy medicine. HMRG’s preliminary report contained an overview of clinical research in homeopathy in which 184 controlled clinical trials were identified. Placebo trials were selected to provide a full report, adding a total of 2001 patients. With at least two new studies related to the meta-analysis and a total of 2579 patients, the HMRG demonstrated that “evidence that homeopathic treatments are more effective than placebo” was p <0.001; it was concluded that “the strength of this evidence is weak because of the poor methodological quality of the studies analysed.”
In a meta-analysis published in The Lancet (1997) 186 homeopathy placebo-controlled trials and data from 89 types of research were studied. The average rate of the overall relationship of these 89 studies was 2.45. This result could be (95% CI 2.05 -2.93) in favor of homeopathy (individualized therapy, homeopathic, complex products or isopathy). Even after correcting the results for publication, they were statistically significant. The main conclusion is that the results “are not consistent with the hypothesis which says that the effects of homeopathy are completely due to placebo effect”.
In another analysis of the same dataset, Linde and his colleagues examined the methodological quality indicators’ influence and found out that studies with superior quality scores were less likely to show positive values. Low-quality studies showed that homeopathic treatments were more effective than placebo. In both systematic reviews, there was insufficient evidence to draw conclusions on the effectiveness of homeopathy for a specific medical condition.
A new revision to evaluate the clinical efficacy of homeopathy on systematic reviews can clarify this. Linden based on seventeen papers that met the inclusion criteria (including 6 new analyses in 1997 meta-analysis). This approach revealed that the clinical evidence of homeopathy was missed. In particular, there was no disease in where the homeopathic treatment performed better than other interventions or placebo control. However, this just was a review to draw conclusions related to previously reviews and not a primary research.
In the other hand, Shang et al. did a meta-analysis of 110 homeopathy placebo-controlled trials and 110 conventional medicines treatments, in 1995. The comparison showed that there were an overall treatment and a positive impact on similar studies. Twenty trials of homeopathy and conventional medicine were “high quality” examined and the results of 14 major studies with higher quality (8 homeopathies, conventional medicine 6) were also analyzed. The average ratio of ratings for studies about homeopathy was 0.88 (95% CI, 0.65 to 1.19), and 0.58 (95% confidence interval 0.39 to 0.85) for 6 trials of conventional medicine. Unlike Linde et al., 1997 this study showed an odds ratio less than 1.0 indicating a superior placebo effect. The authors concluded that there was a “weak evidence for a specific effect of homeopathic remedies, but strong evidence for specific effects of conventional interventions. This finding supports the notion that the clinical effects of homeopathy are a placebo effect.” This review was criticized for its lack of transparency. The British Homeopathic Association reported some new developments for the results of individualized homeopathy using RCT data and controls. Finally, a program financed by donations is finding systematic review and analyzing literature
Systematic reviews with a focus on specific clinical areas
A wide range of documents, several essential criteria for data extraction and different styles of homeopathy applications has been studied in different medical conditions expressed simultaneously. Researchers based on Linde’s and Shang’s previous reviews. They found a problem with the disease heterogeneity in 35 reviews which focused in homeopathy RCTs, avoiding clinical settings.