Homeopathy - Why the Bad Rap?
Lately, homeopathy has been getting a beating from various “quack-busters” and “independent” researchers, many of whom have hidden financial ties to pharmaceutical companies. Those who scoff at homeopathy as being nothing more than sugar pills or placebo assert that homeopathy cannot be “proven” on the basis of randomized, controlled trials (RCT’s), the current “gold standard” of pharmaceutical drug testing. While this is a bit like comparing apples and oranges, nevertheless some current, documented scientific research does exist to back up the positive results thousands of people have experienced from homeopathy during its 200+ year history.
We are lucky to live in a time where clicking just a few keys allows access to many websites, including scientific journals and scholarly publications. And despite the slippery slope of assessing the quality and bias that exist even within RCT’s, enough positive results show that even here, homeopathy emerges as more than mere placebo.
Numerous trials have been conducted that show a statistically significant positive outcome for homeopathic remedies on various conditions, despite the difficulty of testing something so individually-prescribed. The bulk of RCTs are testing one substance’s action on the symptoms of a specific disease diagnosed within a large number of people. Such a “one size fits all” hypothesis is directly opposite homeopathic practice, where a remedy is prescribed individually on the basis of each person’s particular symptoms and not on the disease category they may or may not fall into. Even so, various trials do show positive evidence of homeopathy’s action. Here are a few resources on RCT’s of homeopathic remedies: www.library.nhs.uk (click on “homeopathy”), www.homeopathy-ecch.org and a systematic review of the quality of homeopathic trials at www.biomedcentral.com/1472-6882/1/12/.
When independent researchers reviewed various homeopathic trials, their conclusion was “… it became clear to us that using review criteria based on diagnostic classifications developed for assessing conventional medicine did not address the differing classification frameworks between homeopathy and conventional medicine.” Jonas, Anderson, Crawford and Lyons, BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2001; 1: 12. Therefore to more accurately assess the efficacy of homeopathic treatment, new and different methods of testing need to be developed.
While homeopathy’s benefits aren’t easily measured through RCT’s, their safety record far surpasses that of pharmaceutical medications. Every year previously approved and widely prescribed pharmaceutical drugs are withdrawn from the market due to safety issues; a survey in 2000 showed that adverse effects or complications from drugs and medical treatment was the 3rd largest cause of death in the US, only behind cancer and heart disease. (JAMA. 2000;284:483-485). Pharmaceutical companies pay out billions of dollars annually in settlements for damages or fraudulent marketing practices (on Oct. 16th 2009 Pfizer agreed to pay a record $2.3 billion settlement for fraudulently promoting their drug Bextra after it had been withdrawn in 2006 due to serious side effects – see www.adrugrecall.com/bextra/side-effects.html). Even over-the-counter medications such as Tylenol are now linked to causing asthma and overuse can lead to serious liver damage and death.
Homeopathy is inexpensive medicine that cannot be patented and is prescribed on the individual’s symptoms. It is made from natural substances whose only alteration is an extensive dilution and succession (shaking) process. No chemicals are added, and through the continual dilution, any harmful action of the original substance is removed. This means homeopathic remedies are safe, even if a wrong prescription is made or excessive amounts consumed.
As homeopathy is individual medicine, it doesn’t fit into the “one size fits all” method of conventional medical prescribing. In homeopathy, the individual symptoms a person is experiencing are the most important criteria in selecting a remedy, rather than their medical diagnosis. If someone takes a remedy and nothing happens, it’s not that homeopathy doesn’t work – it’s just the wrong choice of remedy. Fortunately the only result of a “wrong” remedy is simply that nothing happens; finding a remedy that more accurately reflects the person’s symptoms is needed to stimulate a cure.
The great benefit of living in this country means we have access to a wide variety of medical and alternative health care and using one modality doesn’t exclude using others when indicated. Taking responsibility for our health and well-being means exploring, researching and above all, weighing our own experiences in what can best support us to live fulfilling and vital lives. Homeopathy has been gently but profoundly curing and caring for people for over 200 years. Take a look at www.homeopathy.org or www.homeopathic.org to get an idea of just how useful and popular homeopathy is.
Susan Drury, RSHom(NA), CCH is a homeopathic practitioner working in N. Vancouver, B.C. Along with her private practice, she regularly teaches classes in helping people use homeopathy and other natural remedies to both avoid and treat acute illness as well as other common conditions. She can be reached at 604-671-7863 and her website is www.healinglifehomeopathy.com