Research and Homeopathy

The scientific understanding of homeopathy is difficult primarily because it deals with the idea of self healing. In regular medicine and biology the same difficulty is found when they try to understand homeostasis. Essentially they are all the same: homeopathy is self healing, homeostasis creates self healing.

To learn more about this topic I wrote a book based on some research I did:

Link to this book: Homeopathic Pharmacology

This book contains many references to studies and research on  homeopathy. Here is one interesting video that is referenced in the book.

The video documentary about Luc Montaigner:

Link to emission spectrum from different elements:

Showing the effectiveness of homeopathic remedies

The following information was adapted from works by Dana Ullman, M.P.H.

Some helpful definitions before you continue:
•    Double-blind:  a study in which neither the researcher nor the participant know if either a placebo or a drug were given
•    Placebo:  a sugar pill or similar non-drug substance with the appearance of the real drug.
•    Placebo-controlled: a study with two groups; one given a placebo and the other the drug.
•    Randomized:  the participants in the study are placed in either group randomly to create a more equal mix of traits and factors between groups.
Clinical research
An increasing number of controlled trials demonstrate that the homeopathic treatment method is valid and not a mere placebo effect.
Research on the homeopathic treatment of asthma that has been published in The Lancet (December 10, 1994) suggests that relief is in sight for asthma sufferers. Research conducted by professors at the University of Glasgow, Europe’s largest medical school, indicates that those patients given an exceedingly small homeopathic doses of whatever substance to which they are most allergic can provide significant relief within the first week of treatment. The authors called this unique method of individualizing medicines ‘homeopathic immunotherapy’.

This double blind, placebo controlled trial showed that over 82% of patients who were given a homeopathic remedy improved, while only 38% of patients given a placebo experienced a similar degree of relief. A homeopathic physician and a conventional physician assessed the patients. When the patients and doctors were asked if they felt the patient received the homeopathic medicine or the placebo, both the patients and the doctors tended to guess correctly. This shows that both the patients and doctors were able to see and feel the differences between the placebo and the homeopathic remedy.  The researchers utilized conventional allergy testing to determine what substances the asthmatic patients were most allergic, and then gave a 30th potency of this substance to half of the subjects in a double-blind study (neither the experimenters nor the subjects knew who was given the medicine and who was given a placebo). The 30th potency refers to the number of times the medicine was diluted 1:10 with distilled water, with vigorous shaking in between each dilution.
Along with their asthma study, the authors performed a meta analysis (an analysis by a third scientist, or group of scientists, to critique the methods and findings of the original scientists), reviewing all of the data from the three studies which totaled 202 subjects. The researchers found a similar pattern in the three studies. Improvement begins within the first week and continues through to the end of the trial four weeks later (research has not yet investigated longer time frames).

The results of this meta analysis were so stunning that the authors concluded that either homeopathic medicines work or controlled clinical trials do not. Because modern science bases itself on controlled clinical trials, it is more likely that homeopathic medicines are indeed effective.

Homeopathy had previously been considered an unproven medical treatment. However, Dutch researchers, none of whom were homeopaths, published a review of 107 studies in the British Medical Journal (February 9, 1991), 81 of which showed that the homeopathic medicines worked. While most of the experiments had one or more flaws, 22 of these studies were considered of a high caliber, and 15 of them showed efficacy of the homeopathic medicines.

The researchers concluded, “The amount of positive evidence came as a surprise to us. The evidence presented in this review would probably be sufficient for establishing homeopathy as a regular treatment for certain indications.”

The Lancet published the most significant and comprehensive review of homeopathic research ever published in its September 20, 1997, issue. This article was a meta analysis of 89 blinded, randomized, placebo controlled clinical trials. The authors conclude that the clinical effects of homeopathic medicines are not simply the results of placebo.

The researchers uncovered 186 studies, 119 of which were double blind and/or randomized placebo control trials, and 89 of which met pre defined criteria for inclusion into a pooled meta analysis. The researchers found that by pooling the 89 trials together, homeopathic medicines had more than 2 times greater (2.45) effect than the placebo.

The researchers found 22 high caliber studies, 15 of which showed that homeopathic medicines were effective. Of further interest, they found that 11 of the best 15 studies showed efficacy of these natural medicines, suggesting that the better designed and performed the studies were, the higher the likelihood that the medicines were found to be effective. Although people unfamiliar with research may be surprised to learn that most of the studies on homeopathy were flawed in one significant way or another,  research in conventional medicine during the past 25 years has had a similar percentage of flawed studies.

With this knowledge, the researchers of the meta analysis on homeopathy concluded, “The evidence presented in this review would probably be sufficient for establishing homeopathy as a regular treatment for certain indications.”

Another recent study, published in the American Journal of Pediatrics, tested homeopathic medicine for the treatment of a condition recognized to be the most serious public health problem today, childhood diarrhea.  Over 5 million children die each year as the result of diarrhea, mostly in nonindustrialized countries. Conventional physicians prescribe oral rehydration therapy (ORT, a salt solution that helps children maintain fluid balance), but this treatment does not fight the infection that underlies the diarrhea.

Conducted in Nicaragua in association with the University of Washington and the University of Guadalajara, this randomized double blind, placebo controlled study of 81 children showed that an individually chosen remedy provided statistically significant improvement of the children’s diarrhea as compared to those given a placebo. Children given the homeopathic remedy were cured of their infection 20% faster than those given a placebo, and the sicker children responded most dramatically to the homeopathic treatment. A total of 18 different remedies were used in this trial, individually chosen based on each child’s symptoms.

Another study that involved individualized homeopathic care was in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis.  The study involved 46 patients. Two homeopathic physicians prescribed individually chosen medicines to each patient, though only half of them were given the real remedy, while the other half were given a placebo. The study found that 82% of those given an individualized homeopathic remedy experienced some relief of symptoms, while only 21% of those given a placebo experienced a similar degree of relief.

These same researchers next conducted a more sophisticated trial in the treatment of primary fibromyalgia.  This double blind, placebo controlled, crossover trial (where the placebo group then receive the drug, and the drug group receive the placebo) admitted only those patients who fit the symptoms of Rhus tox. The researchers found that this constituted 42% of the patients interviewed. One half of these 30 patients were given Rhus tox 6c during the first phase of the experiment, while the other half were given a placebo. During the second phase, those patients initially given the medicine were given a placebo, and those patients initially given a placebo were now given the homeopathic remedy.

Researchers determined at the beginning of the experiment that improvement in pain and sleeplessness were the outcome measures most important in evaluating the results of this trial,.  The results showed that 25% more of the patients experienced pain relief when taking the homeopathic remedy compared to when they were given a placebo and nearly 50% had improved sleep when taking the remedy.

This type of crossover design is considered a sophisticated type of research because it compares each person when using a treatment with the same person when using a placebo. Most other research compares two supposedly similar groups of people, but researchers commonly acknowledge that it is difficult and perhaps impossible to get two exactly similar groups of people. The limitation of the crossover design for homeopathic treatment, however, is that most homeopathic medicines provide long term benefits, so that once a person stops taking a homeopathic remedy he or she may still continue to improve, even in the placebo stage of the trial. Low potency medicines, such as the 6c used in the above described experiment, generally have short acting effects, while higher potency medicines generally have increasingly longer term effects.

Some skeptics and journalists inaccurately report that homeopathy is primarily used to treat minor health problems. On the contrary, homeopaths primarily treat chronic ailments for which conventional medicine has not provided effective treatment. One example of a chronic and serious problem shown by a controlled study to be effectively treated by homeopathy is diabetic retinitis  (retinitis is a common complication of diabetes in which there is an inflammation of the retina causing impairment of sight, perversion of vision, swelling, discharge from the eye, and sometimes hemorrhages into the retina). This double blind, randomized, placebo controlled study on 60 patients used Arnica 5c. The results of this study showed that 47% of patients given Arnica 5c experienced improvement in central blood flow to the eye, while only 1% of patients given the placebo experience this improvement. Further, 52% of patients given Arnica 5c experienced improvement in blood flow to other parts of the eye, while only 1.5% of those given the placebo experienced a similar degree of improvement.

An example of significant results from a homeopathic combination remedy (one containing more than one homeopathic remedy, making it impossible to determine which medicine is doing the healing) was in the treatment of women during their ninth month of pregnancy.  90 women were given the 5c potency of the following remedies: Caulophyllum, Arnica, Cimicifuga, Pulsatilla, and Gelsemium. They were given doses of this combination remedy twice daily during the ninth month. This double blind, placebo controlled study showed that women given the homeopathic medicines experienced a 40% shorter labor than those given a placebo. Also, the women given the placebo had four times as many complications of labor as those given the homeopathic medicines.

One of the limitations of research on combination remedies is that the results do not reveal whether the effective treatment came from one specific medicine or from the unique combination of remedies. A study of 22 healthy women in their first pregnancies tested Caulophyllum, one of the medicines used in the study cited above, which was administered in the 7c potency during the active phase of labor (one dose per hour repeated for a maximum of 4 hours). The time of labor for those women given the homeopathic medicine was 38% shorter than for women given a placebo.  This trial was not double blind; however, the researchers recently completed a double blind trial and confirmed their earlier results.

A popular homeopathic external application marketed as TraumeelTM has been studied for its efficacy in the treatment of sprained ankles.  This combination of 14 remedies in 2x to 6x potencies was given to subjects with sprained ankles. After 10 days, 24 of the 33 patients who were given the homeopathic medicine were pain free, while 13 of 36 patients given a placebo experienced a similar degree of relief. (Showing that 30% more were helped by the homeopathic remedy). This same medicine was also used in the treatment of traumatic hemarthrosis (joint swelling) and was shown to significantly reduce healing time as compared to a placebo. Objective measurements of joint swelling and movement and evaluation of the synovial fluid at injury were assessed.

A study of 61 patients with varicose veins was performed double blind and placebo controlled.  Three doses of a popular German combination of eight homeopathic medicines were given daily for 24 days. Measures were venous filling time, leg volume, and subjective symptoms. The study found that venous filling time improved in those given the homeopathic medicines by 44%, while it deteriorated in the placebo group by 18%. Other measures also had significant differences.

A study of 212 men and women between 50-75 years of age who were diagnosed with mild cardiac insufficiency (the heart is not pumping the blood efficiently) were given either conventional medical treatment (ACE inhibitors and/or diuretics) or were given a unique homeopathic formulation called Cralonin, consisting of Crataegus mother tincture (hawthorn berry), Spigelia anthelmia D2 (wormbush or pinkroot), and Kalium carbonicum D3 (potassium carbonate).   The subjects in this experiment who were given this homeopathic formula were given it three times a day for 8 weeks. The subjects given conventional medical treatment were given a dosage schedule at the physician’s discretion.

The study found that both treatment regiments improved scores on most variables studied.  The global assessments of treatment found that 28.2% of the homeopathic patients judged their results as “very good” and 58.2% as “good,” compared with only 15.7% and 52.0% of the conventionally treated (P=0.002).

The study found both treatments to be well tolerated, but 82.7% of the patients who were given the homeopathic formula evaluated the tolerability of the remedy as “very good,” while only 46.1% of patients undergoing conventional medical treatment assessed that similar level of tolerability (P<0.0001). Also, patients using the homeopathic medicine demonstrated a higher degree of compliance in taking their medicine (57.3% were judged by practitioners as “very good,” while only 37.3% of patients using conventional treatments were judged to have a similar level of compliance (P=0.007).

A recent preliminary study has found that a homeopathic medicine, Ruta graveolens, can be effective in treating plantar fasciitis (a painful inflammation on the sole of the foot).  A study of 14 patients with plantar fasciitis was conducted in which the subjects were given either Ruta graveolens 30C (2 tablets three times a day for 14 days) or a placebo.  The results showed a significant improvement (P<0.05) in patients given the homeopathic medicine, when compared with those patients given a placebo, as early as the 4th day of treatment and lasted throughout the 14 days of the trial.

A study in Japan of 17 patients with intractable atopic dermatitis (also known as severe eczema) was conducted using individually chosen homeopathic medicines.  All of these patients had previously been treated with conventional medicines for many years and also had received several psychological therapies and/or traditional Chinese medicines.  Of these 17 patients, 13 had severe symptoms, 4 had moderate symptoms, and 4 had suffered since childhood.  After between 6 and 31 months of homeopathic treatment, all patients have experienced at least 50% overall improvement, 15 of the 17 patients experienced 50% improvement in itchiness, and 10 of 13 patients experienced improvement in sleep. One patient experienced a complete recovery, seven patients improved about 80%, and nine patients improved by 50%.

Earaches have become so common today in American children that they are the number one reason that parents take their child to a physician. One of the reasons for this recurring problem is that antibiotics may reduce the infection, but they tend to increase the chances for return of the ear problem.

Homeopathic medicines are wonderfully effective in treating this common ailment. Although recurrent or severe earaches may require the care of a professional homeopath, there are several homeopathic remedies that primary care providers, care-takers and parents can use at home to heal acute earaches.

A randomized double-blind, placebo controlled study prescribed individualized homeopathic medicines or placebo to 75 children.  There were 19.9% more treatment failures in children given a placebo. Diary scores showed a significant decrease in symptoms at 24 and 64 hours after treatment in favor of those given a homeopathic medicine. What was particularly impressive about these results was that improvement from homeopathic medicines occurred rapidly and within the first day.

Another study that also provided evidence of rapid resolution of ear infection in children given a homeopathic medicine was a trial of 230 children.  These children were given an individually chosen homeopathic medicine. If pain reduction was not sufficient after just six hours, another individually chosen homeopathic medicine was prescribed. The researchers found that 39% of patients experienced sufficient pain reduction in the first 6 hours and another 33% after 12 hours.  This improvement was more than 2 times faster than in children prescribed a placebo.

Another study compared children with ear infections who were treated with homeopathic medicines and those who were treated with antibiotics.  The researchers found that over 30% of children given an individually chosen homeopathic medicine experienced significant improvement in three hours, while only 11.5% of children prescribed an antibiotic experienced similar relief.  The experimenters also found that the average duration of pain for children taking a homeopathic medicine was two days, compared to three days for those taking an antibiotic. Of particular importance was that 70.7% of children given the homeopathic medicine had no further recurrence of ear infection during the next year, but only 56.6% of children given an antibiotic had no further recurrence.

One study compared individualized homeopathic treatment with standard conventional medical treatment in children with otitis media.  (ear infection) This study was randomized but not double-blinded.  The researchers found that more children given homeopathic treatment had a normal tympanogram after 12 months than children given conventional medical care. This research suggests that homeopathic medicines work fast, even faster than antibiotics, and that children taking homeopathic medicines are less likely to experience recurrent ear infections.

There have been few formal studies on the homeopathic treatment of addiction, but one from India merits attention. This double-blind study was of 60 heroin addicts, of whom half were given individualized homeopathic medicines and half were given placebos. The number and intensity of the symptoms during withdrawal and detoxification were significantly less in patients given an individualized homeopathic medicine than those given a placebo. Further evidence of the benefits received from the homeopathic medicines was the fact that 35% of patients on the placebo left the study prior to its completion due to lack of therapeutic benefit, while only 5% of those taking the homeopathic medicine left the study.
The empirical and research results using homeopathic medicines for treating addicts is so significant that several police stations in India have integrated homeopathic medicine into their drug abuse treatments.  From 1987 to 1993, over 3,000 addicts have been detoxified with homeopathic medicines as their primary method of treatment.

Clinical experience with homeopathic medicines provides additional evidence of the benefits from these natural medicines.  Jack Cooper, M.D., a now deceased psychiatrist and homeopath who served as chief psychiatrist for 17 years at New York’s Westchester County Prison and Jail, commonly treated inmates who were going through withdrawal.  Besides experiencing good results from using homeopathic medicines to treat withdrawal and detoxifi¬cation, he consistently found better results when the jailed patients did not know they were receiving treatment than when they did know.  While such care without consent may not be ethical today, its practice several decades ago suggests that homeopathic medicines offer bene¬fits beyond the placebo effect and even beyond the patients’ awareness of being treated.

Jonathan Davidson, MD, a professor of psychiatry at Duke University, conducted a small study of adults with major depression, social phobia, or panic disorder.   He found that 60% of the patients responded favorably to homeopathic treatment.  When one recognizes the considerable safety of homeopathic medicines, it is remarkable that the majority of psychiatrists and psychologists do not yet refer appropriate patients to homeopaths prior to prescribing powerful conventional drugs for them.

The Menninger Clinic is world-renowned as one of the leading mental health centers for research and treatment.  Most people don’t know it, but the founder of the Menninger Clinic, Charles Frederick Menninger, MD, was originally a homeopathic physician. He was even the head of his local homeopathic medicine society.  He was so impressed with the results that he got from homeopathic medicines, he once said, “Homeopathy is wholly capable of satisfying the therapeutic demands of this age better than any other system or school of medicine.

A small but significant study of people with brain cancer was conducted in association with M.D. Anderson Cancer Center at the University of Texas (one of the most respected cancer research centers in the world), and it was published in the prestigious journal, International Journal of Oncology) Fifteen patient diagnosed with intracranial tumors were treated with Ruta 6X and Calcarea phosphorica (calcium phosphate) 3X.  Of the 15 patients 6 of the 7 glioma patients showed complete regression of tumors.

These researchers also conducted several laboratory experiments in which one or both of these homeopathic medicines showed induction of survival-signaling pathways in normal lymphocytes as well as the induction of death-signaling pathways in brain cancer cells (this means that these medicines improved immune function and increased the body’s ability to kill cancer cells). The researchers also note that one of Ruta’s active ingredients is Rutin, which is known for having anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory activities and for reducing oxidative damage.  The researchers also provide additional detail about the therapeutic benefits from calcium phosphate.

Another double-blind, placebo-controlled study  found that patients who required long-term intravenous therapy experienced significantly less hematomas (bruising) when given Arnica 5C, as compared to those given a placebo.  The Zell trial found that an external homeopathic formula sped up the healing time of strains as compared to subjects given a placebo application.

A unique study in Switzerland evaluated 115 children (92 boys, 23 girls) with an average age of 8.3 years at diagnosis of ADD/ADHD.   The children were first treated with an individually chosen homeopathic medicine.  Children who did not improve sufficiently on homeopathy were changed to Ritalin and evaluated after 3 months.  After an average treatment time of 3.5 months, 75% of the children responded favorably to homeopathy, attaining an improvement rating of 73%.  22% of the children were treated with Ritalin and attained an improvement rating of 65%.  The children were also evaluated according to the Conners Global Index (CGI), a recognized scale that measures the degree of hyperactivity and attention deficit symptoms.  The children who responded to the homeopathic medicine experienced a 55% amelioration of the CGI, while the children who responded to Ritalin experienced a 48% lowering of the CGI.  Three children didn’t respond to homeopathy or Ritalin, and one child left the study before completion.  The researchers concluded that homeopathic treatment was comparable in its benefits to Ritalin.

A double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial was conducted in Cuba on patients with bronchial asthma.   In this study 63 patients (34 children and 28 adults) participated, 39 of whom were given individualized homeopathic treatment and 24 were given a placebo.  In the treated group, 97.4% improved and 2.6% worsened. 87.2% reduced their use of conventional medication. In the placebo group, 12.5% improved, 16.7% stayed the same, and 70.8% worsened.  None of the subjects given a placebo reduced their conventional medication.

In Summary
This review of research is not meant to be complete. Despite the resistance to change in general and to homeopathy specifically, it is getting increasingly difficult for physicians and scientists to doubt the benefits that homeopathic medicines offer. Italian hematologist Paolo Bellavite and Italian homeopath Andrea Signorini’s  book Homeopathy: A Frontier in Medical Science is presently the most comprehensive resource of controlled studies on homeopathy. The authors conclude, “The sum of the clinical observations and experimental findings is beginning to prove so extensive and intrinsically consistent that it is no longer possible to dodge the issue by acting as if this body of evidence simply did not exist.”  They go on to say, “To reject everything en bloc, as many are tempted to do, means throwing out the observations along with the interpretations, an operation which may be the line of least resistance, but which is not scientific because unexplained observations have always been the main hive of ideas for research.”

Science is supposed to be objective, though both physicists and psychologists teach us that objectivity is impossible. Science’s long term antagonism to homeopathy is slowly breaking down, but not without significant reaction, fear, anxiety, and sometimes downright attack against homeopaths. To ignore the body of experimental data that presently exists on homeopathic medicines, and to deny the body of clinical experience of homeopaths and homeopathic patients, one would have to be virtually blind. One can only assume that this blindness is a temporary affliction, one that will soon be cured.

Change is difficult, and significant change is even more difficult. Even though science grows from new knowledge, it tends to be resistant to perspectives and knowledge that do not fit contemporary paradigms and scientific theories. The information presented in this chapter and in this book in general is not meant to overthrow science, but instead, to enlarge its perspective so that it more broadly and accurately describes, and accepts, many presently unexplainable phenomena of nature.

Although homeopathic medicine is little known in the U.S., it is very popular throughout the world, especially in Europe. Approximately 40% of French physicians and 20% of German physicians prescribe homeopathic medicines. Over 40% of British physicians refer patients to homeopaths, and almost 50% of Dutch physicians consider these natural medicines to be effective.

A recent survey of primary care physicians who are members of the American Medical Association revealed that an astonishing 49% of them expressed interest in training in homeopathy (British Homeopathic Journal, July, 1997). This survey was conducted by researchers at the University of Maryland. These same researchers also surveyed Maryland family practice doctors and discovered that 69% expressed interest in homeopathic training (Journal of the American Board of Family Practice, 1995, 8, 361 6). Both of these studies show an impressively high degree of interest in homeopathy.

Medical history books must now be rewritten. Instead of describing homeopathy as an invalid therapy, it must now be written that homeopathy has been unfortunately misunderstood, attacked, and suppressed since its inception. While it is too early to determine how much of a role homeopathy will have in the future of health care, physicians and scientists must now make room for it.  Homeopathy now has a clinically proven rightful place in health care.

The above information was excerpted from an e-book, Homeopathic Family Medicine, by Dana Ullman MPH: it can be found on his website:

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