Homeopathy Research, Clinical Trials & Studies. Does Homeopathy Work?
The short answer is yes. Homeopathy does work. It works well and has spread and survived over more than two hundred and twenty-two years. It has become the most widespread and accepted form of alternative medicine in the world today.
So why is it not more acknowledged and integrated? We see it as complementary to the orthodox medical approach, it cannot completely replace it. Why do the “authorities” do so much to discredit it? This includes dishonest and unscientific assessment of research data. We have certainly witnessed that recently here in Australia.
It does represent a challenge to accepted medical paradigms and pharmaceutical profits. With an antithetical view of health and disease to that of the established order, this is little wonder. The scorn and laughter of the past has now become a vigorous campaign against homeopathy in the western world..
In this blog post we will show you the homeopathy research that proves it to anyone with an open mind. At our Perth naturopathic clinic, we know it works. We see that proof in action every day. That’s the bottom line for us. We have been prescribing homeopathic remedies for more than thirty years and wouldn’t have a practice or business if it didn’t. Of course, not every case gets better. But if not, we know why. In those cases, we see the case isn’t clear yet – and it is obvious we have not found the right remedy.
In cases that don’t get better, we retake the case and look more closely. Once more clear, the results always follow. Homeopathy has very clear guiding principles and philosophy. It is always a case of understanding the patient better on all three levels: mental, emotional and physical. We must treat the patient who has the disease, not the disease itself. Knowing the name of the problem is little help.
So it is not a routine thing. We must give the remedy that suits that patient’s spectrum of symptoms. In that respect, our job is much more difficult than a doctor’s, and requires more skill and understanding of the patient. That may take more time than a doctor gives, but it’s worth it!
For more on the principles of homeopathy see our page Homeopathy Explained. For a typical day in practice, and homeopathic principles in action, see our blog post A Day in the Life of a Perth Homeopath and Naturopath by Michael Blanch.
Homeopathy Vs. the Skeptiks
Of course none of this convinces the skeptiks. By convention, we will use the American spelling rather than the English/Australian one of “sceptic”. That is because “skeptic” has become the accepted description of those who refuse to entertain even the idea that homeopathy might work.
A true sceptic (with a “c”) is one who wants to see the evidence, but retains an open mind. The skeptics (with a “k”), on the other hand have made up their mind that homeopathy can’t possibly work. Therefore, of course, it doesn’t.
With that mindset they can conveniently ignore, or search for flaws in the methodology of the research, however tenuous, to discredit any positive results. They are certainly not sceptics. Sceptics by definition have an open mind, and come to any new situation without an agenda.
Cognitive dissonance is one explanation of that behaviour. We will let that descriptive image on the left speak for itself. Of course, two can play that game, and they can and do accuse us of the same thing. However, those of us in practice have a vested interest in the truth. We want to use what works.
On the other hand, skeptiks appear to defend a mainstream “scientific” view at all costs. They are rarely physicians themselves, or even scientists. They show little compassion for sick individuals and are simply out to ridicule and rubbish, and support a narrow materialistic agenda.
Homeopathy & Science
Homeopathy is in no way anti-science. Hahnemann the inventor of homeopathy was a very rational man who proceeded by observation and experimentation. He sought to test all homeopathic remedies by a process called “proving” on healthy individuals, and recorded all his results meticulously. We are yet to uncover how homeopathy works, but are confident that it is only a matter of time.
Science is a work in progress. It changes with time. However, philosophies and institutions build an historical edifice around an accepted view that preserves the status quo. That view has financial, political and institutional support. A rigid philosophical framework supports the accepted research framework. The vested interests that control that research, especially that of the pharmaceutical industry, are profit driven rather than humanitarian.
It takes a major paradigm shift to break that edifice and allow and test new viewpoints. In the meantime, science is almost religious in its applications and in support of its vested interests. It has its churches and its priesthood. Anyone who questions it becomes a heretic – and dangerous as well, in the mainstream viewpoint, especially to skeptiks.
Homeopathy & Scientific Research Methods. The Randomised Controlled Trial
Of course, clinical trials and scientific methods should validate any therapy that works. Our experience in practice – and any individual result – is simply anecdotal. We understand that. We do say, however, that enough anecdotal evidence should prove a compelling trend.
Nonetheless, impartial testing in trials should be able to validate those results in an unequivocal way. But to be truly valid the research method should be suited to the methodology of the therapy.
The Randomised Controlled Trial (RCT) is the “gold standard” for clinical research in medicine. In an RCT, a cohort of people with the same condition get the same drug, while some in the trial receive placebo. Then they analyse the results to see if there is a significant improvement of those receiving the active drug over those receiving placebo.
This is ideal for testing drugs. That is because the whole philosophy of pharmaceutical drugs is to treat the symptoms of the named disease. From our viewpoint they suppress symptoms, they don’t attempt to restore health to the patient. Drugs are not individualised to minute differences in a patient’s symptom picture.
Homeopathy & Drugs: the Philosophical Difference
In homeopathy however, the approach and philosophy is very different. In fact, it is antithetical. To the homeopath, the important thing is the individual differences in a patient’s symptom picture. It is precisely those things that deviate from the typical clinical diagnosis that determine the remedy choice. The homeopath would typically give ten patients with the same disease ten different medicines. That is the only way we would expect the remedy to work.
Our blog post on the differences between homeopathy and allopathy (modern medicine) explains more.
Randomised controlled trials typically cost millions of dollars. Drug companies fund them, and of course they expect a return on their investment. For one thing, they are not going to fund research into homeopathy, a rival to their philosophy and profits.
For another thing, to properly validate homeopathy through RCT’s, the participants would all have to receive an individual prescription from a homeopath. Such a procedure would test homeopathy itself in a condition, not a specific homeopathic medicine. RCT’s are difficult anyway, and this would introduce more complexity. You see, the design of RCT’s is to test drugs, not homeopathy.
Even so, many RCT’s have validated homeopathy at least as well as drugs. We outline some studies below. Many have treated homeopathy in the same way as drugs, giving the same remedy to all. Some have been with individual prescriptions.
Observational Studies and Homeopathy
Observational studies are another way of assessing treatments. They are usually regarded as inferior to randomised controlled trials. Undertaken where it is impractical or unethical to have a control group, they are also known as “real world” studies. This is because they can assess the effect of treatment or lifestyles in a realistic clinical or real life setting, which corresponds to the way medicine is actually practised. They are not “blinded” and without placebo.
Basically, they follow a “cohort” of individuals over a period of time and assess the effects of treatments, procedures and lifestyles, or compare rival treatments. They may compare, for instance, those treated with homeopathy with those treated by conventional medicine.
Observational studies are obviously better suited to testing homeopathy. They allow a practitioner to make individual prescriptions, as is the case in a homeopathic practice always. So they are better designed to test the methodology and practice of homeopathy. It is also true that there is a growing acceptance of observational studies. In some cases they are seen to rival or exceed the “gold standard” of RCT’s, even in regular medicine.
Now let us look in detail at some of the homeopathic research. First, we will examine the meta-analyses or overall view of the evidence.
Homeopathic Research: the Meta-analysis
By 2014, peer-reviewed journals had published 189 randomised controlled comparing homeopathy with placebo or medical treatment . Of these, 74 were able to draw firm conclusions. 63 showed positive results for homeopathy and 11 were negative.
Five major meta-analyses have also analysed the balance of evidence from RCTs of homeopathic treatment. Four revealed positive effects (Kleijnen, J, et al; Linde, K, et al; Linde, K, et al; Cucherat, M, et al). One (Shang, A et al) showed negative results.
When you consider a wide range of research results on one topic, it’s normal to get differing conclusions. If this data were from trials measuring the efficacy of orthodox drugs, ratios of 63:11 and 4:1 in favourable balance of any sort of treatment would be considered fairly positive.
Now let us look at some of the individual trials and studies.
1) Homeopathy Research in Ear infections
In this 2012 randomised controlled trial with 80 participants, individualised homeopathy was found as effective as conventional treatment in acute otitis media Symptomatic improvement was quicker in the group receiving homeopathy, and they required far less antibiotics as support.
In this study of homeopathy in ear infections, pain control was achieved in 39% of the patients after 6 hours, and another 33% after 12 hours. This resolution rate is 2.4 times faster than in placebo controls. The study group had no complications, and compared to conventional treatment the approach was 14% cheaper.
In 1996 research Friese and colleagues compared a group of students treated for ear infections by homeopathy against a group treated by antibiotics and other conventional therapies. Those receiving homeopathy were completely free of pain more quickly. They were better in two days, while those treated by conventional medicine took three days.
Here is our page on treatment of ear infections.
2) Homeopathy Research in Fibromyalgia
Iris Bell, MD, PhD and others from the University of Arizona School Of Medicine carried out four trials. The results were published in a regular medical journal. A synopsis appeared in Rheumatology, 43: 577-82, 2004a, the journal of the British Society for Rheumatology.
This trial reported that most patients treated by homeopathy experienced almost twice the improvement of those on placebo. Researchers measured the EEG readings. Those treated by homeopathic group showed a significant improvement in alpha brain wave patterns, revealing decreased anxiety. Those receiving placebo experienced an increase in beta waves, showing increased anxiety.
Our page on the treatment of fibromyalgia.
3) Homeopathy Research in Asthma
In this double-blind, randomised controlled trial, 63 asthma sufferers were treated for 4 months with either specific homeopathic medicines or placebo. Assessed using peak flow rates, 97% of those taking homeopathic remedies and only 12% or those taking placebo had an improvement. Boletin Mexicano, 1998, 31, 2, 54-61
Our page on the treatment of asthma.
4) Homeopathy Research in Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
In this 2004 RCT of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome patients, more people in the homeopathic medicine group showed clinical improvement on all primary outcomes.
Our page on chronic fatigue syndrome.
5) Homeopathy Research in Depression
In this recent 2015 double-blind RCT, individualised homeopathy was found as effective as fluoxetine (Prozac) in managing symptoms of depression in menopausal women. Homeopathy also helped their menopausal symptoms.
Our page on the treatment of depression.
6) Homeopathy Research in Hay Fever (Allergic Rhinitis)
This 2009 study examined individual homeopathic treatment in patients with hay fever. Results showed that the average patient-assessed level of symptom severity had fallen significantly. 4% of patients were cured, 44% were much better, 25% were better, 4% slightly better.
Here is our web page on treatment of hay fever, rhinitis and sinusitis.
7) Homeopathy Research in Menopausal Hot Flushes
In this 2008 study, researchers set out to analyse the effect of constitutionally prescribed homeopathy on menopausal hot flushes. 99 different homeopaths across 8 countries treated 438 women suffering these symptoms. On analysis, 90% of the women reported a complete cessation or significant reduction in their symptoms. Of these, the majority improved within 15 days of commencing treatment.
Here is our page on treatment of menopause symptoms.
8) Homeopathy Research in Autism Spectrum Disorder
In this 2010 study, 25 children who had been diagnosed with ASD were enrolled. They were given individualised homeopathy and were monitored for 18 months. They found significant positive and curative response with homeopathic medicines in subjects with ASD. This showed how homeopathic medicines can treat abnormal behavioural problems in children presenting with ASD
Here is our page on the treatment of autism spectrum disorder.
9) Homeopathy Research in Endometriosis
In this controlled trial researchers studied 50 women aged 18-45 years old with diagnoses of deeply infiltrating endometriosis based on magnetic resonance imaging. Results showed that potentised oestrogen (12C, 18C and 24C) twice daily for 24 weeks was significantly more effective than placebo for reducing endometriosis-associated pelvic pain.
Here is our page on endometriosis.
10) Homeopathy Research in Uterine Fibroids
This multi-centric randomised trial was to evaluate any differences between centesimal and fifty-millesimal potencies in the treatment of uterine fibroids. Both were found to be equally effective. There was a statistically significant difference before and after homeopathic treatment in both groups.
This is just a short summary of some of the positive research and clinical trials and study on homeopathy. We will be adding more in the weeks ahead…
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