Why is homeopathy still around?

The most probable reason that homeopathy has had and will always have defenders is a misunderstanding of what causes disease and how the body copes with it. The father of homeopathy, German physician Samuel Christian Friedrich Hahnemann, first developed it in the 19th century as an alternative to the more traditional yet gruesome medical practices of the day, such as bloodletting and phlebotomy. In comparison, homeopathy not only seemed innocuous but actually effective. All it had to do was what it does now; that is, nothing. As long as Hahneman’s patients didn’t become infected or die, he would reign supreme over his colleagues; his success was not based on the good his treatment did, but on the harm it didn’t do.

homeopathy1That was quite understandable, given the times. What’s surprising though, is the fact that homeopathy is still practiced and that people pay money for it today, despite the fact that homeopaths have failed to produce evidence of the effectiveness of any homeopathic remedy for a couple of centuries now. According to professor of neurology at Pace University and adjunct professor at the New York Medical College Terence Hines, not one of more than 100 reviewed studies have yielded any definitive positive conclusions about homeopathic potions –and those that have were never replicated or were methodologically flawed.

That’s not to say that some people have not improved after taking homeopathic remedies, otherwise the business wouldn’t be as profitable as it is. However, this beneficial effect is entirely due to the placebo effect, the body’s own natural healing mechanisms, and the calming effect that the homeopath himself may have on the patient. The problem though is not that homeopathic potions are inherently harmful. The fact is that they aren’t, and how could they possibly be? They are completely inert and consist of little more than alcohol or water. The true danger comes from delaying or entirely foregoing proper care by a licensed, certified physician.

Homeopathy doesn’t affect the course of the disease; if it goes away, it does so on its own, and if it lingers, only appropriate medical treatment will help. In and of itself, homeopathy is harmless, but it may end up indirectly hurting you by luring you away from scientifically-proven treatment and therapies. To quote American astronomer Phil Plait, ‘if homeopathy works, then obviously the less you use it, the stronger it gets. So the best way to apply homeopathy is to not use it at all.’

15 Responses to Why is homeopathy still around?

  1. Thank you for your very one-sided view. No-one should try to imitate RCTs for the purpose of validating homeopathy. Homeopathy can only be a medicine of experience. Though I know you will not accept experience as valid reason to justify homeopathy, that is what there is. It is this that gives homeopathy its credibility. What the homeopath, as indeed ,the conventional doctor, should do, is diffentiate between placebo effect and a curative effect of the drug. This you do not talk about, but this is essential to know. Did the patient get better anyway or despite the treatment given or if the medication was efficacious. True homeopaths know this skill and know when they are truly helping their patients medicinally. Patients usually know themselves when they have been truly helped medicinally. Of course, there will always be some people who are fooled by charlatan homeopaths or traditional doctors quacks, and we should all be trying to weed these people out; generally their practices will not thrive for very long.

  2. This is what the people who are against homeopathy are fighting to maintain:

    http://atlanta.cbslocal.com/2013/06/19/study-70-percent-of-americans-on-prescription-drugs-one-fifth-take-5-or-more/

    This is what homeopaths and their patients are fighting to maintain:

    Much exciting collaborative research on the effectiveness of homeopathy is being done world-wide and now in collaboration with research institutions in the United States.
    “The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston – The US department of alternative medicine followed the cases presented in Corfu with lab trials using Banerji’s homeopathic medicine on cancer cells at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center (MDACC) in Houston. Dr. Sen Pathak, Prof. of Cell Biology & Genetics, at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, collaborated in this joint research between the PBHRF and the MDACC. The research work is now complete and published. An in vitro study with the medicines has shown brilliant results in killing brain cancer cells while activating the normal cells. The paper entitled “Ruta 6 selectively induces cell death in brain cancer cells but proliferation in normal peripheral blood lymphocytes: A novel treatment for human brain cancer” was jointly published with Pathak S, Multani AS, of the Department of Molecular Genetics, M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, USA., in the October 2003 issue of the International Journal of Oncology. (PBHRF and the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, USA conducted jointly an in vitro research study on the effectiveness of the medicines Ruta 6 and Calcarea Phosphorica 3X in destroying brain cancer cells while activating the normal cells. The research study was published in the form of a paper in the October 2003 issue of the International Journal of Oncology.)”

    http://www.ayudacancer.com/foro/viewtopic.php?id=7778

  3. Christine Jahnig

    Homeopathy is not only used today but is growing in use at rates of 10% to 30% every year in countries around the world because it’s effective, safe and inexpensive. Homeopathy is famous for its cures of chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes, diseases considered incurable by conventional medicine. To see hundreds of case records of such cures of diseases from cancer to psychogenic diabetes mellitus to coma to addiction to Rx drugs google “homeopathy cured cases”. There are 25,000 volumes of cured case records which have accumulated over many decades of homeopathic use around the world.

    The WHO noted in its 2003-4 report “Homeopathy: Review and analysis of reports on controlled clinical trials” that the majority of peer-reviewed scientific papers over the past 40 years “….have demonstrated that homeopathy is superior to placebo in placebo-controlled trials and is equivalent to conventional medicine in the treatment of illnesses in both humans and animals.”

    The Swiss government commissioned the most comprehensive analysis of homeopathic literature ever conducted by any government. That analysis found that homeopathy is as effective as, and in some cases more effective than, conventional medicine and vastly safer. A separate cost analysis found homeopathy to be 15.4% less expensive than conventional medicine.

    Homeopathy is equally wonderful for animals. All 50 U.S. states recognize veterinarians who use homeopathy. Agro-homeopathy is being used world-wide to treat garden and crop diseases and pests with great success. Its use improves the health of plants and eliminates the need for pesticides and other toxic chemicals.

  4. James R. Pannozzi DOM, AP

    “The most probable reason that homeopathy has had and will always have defenders is a misunderstanding of what causes disease and how the body copes with it. ”

    Yes, that seems correct ! Well said. Because in a given population of people, being exposed to exactly the same germs, some will develop a disease said to be caused by the “germs” and others will get no symptoms at all !

    The conventional theory of disease points to the “germ” theory as the “cause” but even modern medicine goes a bit farther and now points to the role of the immune system and other factors, genetic and environmental.

    But Homeopathy anticipated all that and factored it in, thus superseding the modern germ theory long before it even arose.

    This ability to think generally enough to provide for the unknown, is what distinguishes Homeopathy from modern, pseudo scientific medicine which relies solely on the known, and then draws a big area on the map for “there be dragons here” to handle the unknown. It then utilizes double blinded tests and other pseudo “confirmations” of efficacy only to have the “approved” drug withdrawn later do to terrible “side” effects.

    Right now at this moment, there is a small number of patients who recover from fatal cancers without any drugs or treatments. The “there be monsters here” designation is officially given by conventional medicine as “spontaneous remission”. Sounds “sciency.. does it not? But….IT’S NOT.

    And THAT’s why Homeopathy will always have defenders.

    Science can catch up some day, but only by acknowledging the unknown, researching it, and admitting when some alternative system of medicine seems to have the power to activate some unknown curative effect.

  5. Homeopathy is great and I have personally been using it exclusively for all illness since 1991, when I took my last antibiotics.

    In addition, I have witnessed it cure many people.

  6. Homeopathy is still around because it works.

  7. An Editorial: Seems as if this entire article is hearsay, especially when a person starts off with a “probability” and no data to back up a hypothesis.

    The defenders of homeopathy have many personal reasons, most especially intimate experience with their own healing, to base their advocacy for this medical system. One does not need to understand disease nor how the body copes with disease to defend the freedom to choose and use remedies that work for acute care, chronic illness and even contagious disease. The physician does need to understand how the body responds to disease and how drugs effect the mind, body and spirit.

    Dr Hahnemann discovered through precise scientific experimentation and clinical trials of remedies, recording the effects of medicines upon the body, not as an ‘alternative,’ but as a first line of treatment. Unfortunately, many medical colleagues were not open-minded enough to try these remedies or appreciate the genius of this work. However, a small group of followers passionately continued with the trials, called provings, and saw incredible results in clinical settings to carry on with homeopathy. Homeopathy didn’t “seem” to work, it did work! Thousands of recorded documentations testify to that fact. Due to the diligence of these physicians, we have the Materia medica and the repertories to guide us. [http://drnancymalik.wordpress.com ; ; http://www.amcofh.org ]

    While other patients of his day were dying and succumbing to disease, Hahnemann’s patients were showing improvement. To write so glibly and lightly that “all he had to do” brushes aside this major medical breakthrough. We are talking about malaria, tuberculosis, syphilis, rheumatic fever, scarlet fever, arthritis, mental disease and much more. Homeopaths search for etiology of illness including damp basements, toxins in the environment, heavy metals, contaminated drinking water, poor lifestyle, lack of nutrition, etc. If these causes can be taken care of first, then the remedies. But, even with the proper corrections to environment and mental, physical and emotional triggers do not make improvement, then individualized remedies may shift the disorder toward cure. The allopaths were not so successful and hastened death. If the disease took its normal course, the patient would die, a much shorter life span or suffering ensued. Only people with very strong constitutions would recover on their own.

    Since “Do Know Harm” is the watchword for good physicians, we appreciate the author of this article bringing up this important dictum. We still look back in amazement that so many ‘harmful’ treatments were condoned and used on the masses, including the use of lead, mercury, electric shock therapy, lobotomy and bloodletting.

    With all that is written, I cannot see the surprise or shock that anyone would turn toward the life-saving homeopathic remedies which have a foundational scientific basis for its process of healing, which can be read by laypersons and physicians in The Organon Of Medicine.

    There are thousands of recorded cases by many thousands of doctors around the world over the past two centuries showing the effectiveness of homeopathy for a myriad of sufferings including diarrhea, gout, arthritis, vomiting, fever, influenza, headaches, teething pains, diabetes, poor circulation, pains from injury, etc. Seek and yea shall find.

    If we can contribute healing only to the placebo effect, we must also acknowledge that allopathy also has the component of placebo effect based upon the size, color and configuration of the pills; while the homeopathic remedies all look exactly the same. i.e. Study Finds Common Knee Surgery No Better Than Placebo http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2002/07/020712075415.htm
    http://www.homeopathyworldcommunity.com/page/placebo-effect

    Did you know that many drug trials start with a preselection test of patients? They are all given a pill that is actually a placebo. Anyone who responds in any way is automatically refused entry to the trial – and this is not reported in the studies. As a result, those most likely to respond to placebo are eliminated. This makes it much easier for drugs to look good against so-called placebos.

    Good homeopaths are taught when any life save emergency measures are needed to go immediately to the hospital. Homeopaths may be specialists in a variety of areas such as cardiology and oncology blending the best of all worlds. Many recommend relaxation techniques, herbs, massage, hydrotherapy, nutrition, yoga and many other options. The patient is free to select the course of treatment, even surgery, drugs, radiation and chemotherapy. However, more typically the patient has already been through all other allopathic treatments and have landed at the homeopaths door to get off addictive drugs and remove the lasting side effects of harsh medicaments. No danger from homeopathic remedies or denial of patient freedom of choice exists.

    Most everyone knows that pharmaceutical companies blast their advertisements and commercials in every media to ‘lure’ patients to request drugs for every pimple, upset tummy or constipation. Homeopaths do no such thing.

    Quoting Kaviraj, “Healing is not a science, but an Art. Of all things Art is the governor, for it is through Art that Government works. Of all Arts, the Art of Healing is the uncrowned Emperor. Poetry may be its Minister and Painting its Culture, Theatre its Jester and Science its Priest, but above all the Art of Healing, Divine in principle and practice, is without doubt the Emperor.”

  8. @Christine Jahnig. The group behind that WHO report was unsurprisingly the same which caused controversy with a report on acupuncture. Both reports were heavily criticized by supporters of traditional medicine and skeptics of alternative medicine. Some of the criticisms included the fact the draft was overtly biased and based on positive data while ignoring the negative studies and systematic reviews, and also that RTC’s all happen to be positive and weren’t either very rigorous or very recent. There is no doubt that homeopathy is safe, inexpensive, famous and yes, effective. But its effectiveness is due to the placebo effect, and as such it simply cannot be more effective than traditional medicine. It may be safer but only because a few drops of water and alcohol have no side effects.

  9. @Sandra Courtney. It’s very good to know that there is ‘much exciting collaborative research on the effectiveness of homeopathy’ going on. That is exactly what homeopathy needs, actual scientific research. However, that link about The Prasanta Banerji Homoeopathic Research Foundation doesn’t seem to mention anything about randomized control trials or double-blind studies, tough I may have missed that. Now, the fact that 70% of Americans are on prescription drugs has no bearing on whether homeopathy is effective or not. Remember that two wrongs don’t make a right.

  10. @Jamie Taylor. Many homeopaths and defenders of homeopathy believe that randomized control trial (RTC) is not a fitting tool to test homeopathy with, even that it is irrelevant to whether homeopathic remedies are effective other than as a placebo. However, there is only one kind of science, and there is no reason that homeopathy should get a free pass from the rules of science and of logic itself. Controlled studies are performed to prevent the dangers of self-deception and a number of fallacies, and to be able to distinguish between placebo and false placebo effects and unique remedy effects. When homeopaths ask to be exempted from RTC, they are basically admitting that what they do is not science.

  11. @James R. Pannozzi. Homeopathy was a product of its times. It was developed as an alternative to torture-like treatments like bloodletting and phlebotomy. Thus, it is highly unlikely that ‘Homeopathy anticipated all that and factored in’ modern medicine developments, or that its creator ‘provided for the unknown.’ A double-blind test is a control group test where neither the evaluator nor the subject knows which items are controls… so much for ‘pseudo scientific medicine which relies solely on the known.’ What really distinguishes homeopathy from real science is that science knows it is not perfect, which is why it requires so many tests and trials.

  12. @Debby Bruck. The defenders of homeopathy have many personal reasons, most especially intimate experience with their own healing, to base their advocacy for this medical system.’ That is what is called anecdotal evidence; anecdotes and testimonials are unreliable because they may be contaminated by beliefs, later experiences, feedback, selective attention to details, and more. ‘Dr Hahnemann discovered through precise scientific experimentation…’ Actually, Hahnemann believed it is ‘inherently impossible to know the inner nature of disease processes and it was therefore fruitless to speculate about them or to base treatment on theories’ (Campbell, Anthony, 2008, Homeopathy in Perspective – Myth and Reality). Hahnemann potions were meant to help the vital spirit, rather than help the body fight infection or rebuild tissue. He also thought that succussion could release ‘immaterial and spiritual powers.’ Hahnemann did employ empirical observation, but his theory of disease and cure is non-empirical and involves metaphysical entities and processes. His patients showed improvement only compared to those who were being bled to death. ‘Good homeopaths are taught when any life save emergency measures are needed to go immediately to the hospital.’ We all know that early detection is essential in the treatment of many diseases. By the time it’s an emergency, it may already be too late. Finally, I couldn’t help but notice the use of the term ‘allopathy.’ Modern homeopaths and advocates of alternative medicine misleadingly and deridingly call today’s science-trained doctors allopaths, despite the fact that modern scientific medicine has nothing to do with the theory of balancing humors or treating disease with its opposite, labeled by Hahnemann as allopathy.

  13. My dear @JenniferStradlin ~ Every human contaminates their work, thinking and conclusions based upon their personal beliefs. Everyone starts with a set of suppositions. We base math upon a set of assumptions. If we speak the same language, we move forward with the conversation. If we decide to disagree, then there will be setbacks and standstill. I am not able to remove my thinking brain from the environment in which I live and the perspective based upon my own life experience. I don’t know anyone who can do otherwise. We do not live in a sterile world. We are each ‘human’ with emotions, thoughts, and life experience that affect all that we are, live and breath. Blessings, Debby

  14. @Jennifer who said:

    “The Prasanta Banerji Homoeopathic Research Foundation doesn’t seem to mention anything about randomized control trials or double-blind studies.”

    You are correct. The work being done there is in the form of treatment protocols using homeopathy. I should have provided other links which I am taking the liberty to do now. The first link is a case history of lung cancer cured with homeopathy. There are several other lung cancer treatment case histories. All of the studies include thorough documentation including roentenograms, CT, MRI and hematological test results.

    http://www.pbhrfindia.org/index.php/case-studies-at-pbhrf/lung-cancer-casestudies-list/47-cure-of-lung-cancer-casestudy-1

    List of case studies of cancer cured with homeopathic remedies:

  15. Since the author does not say she has ever been treated by a homeopath and does not say that she practices in any of the health care sciences, as a copy writer she would serve her readers more honestly by consulting a professional in the field of conventional AND homeopathic medicine for review, before publication. Her bio on this site proudly declares: “Jennifer has the ability to create a perfect and worth reading copy in less than 24 hours.” I disagree with that statement.

    That said, I am taking this opportunity to provide the readers with links to more information about the practice of homeopathy.

    The Historical Role of Homeopathy in Epidemics and Pandemics

    http://drnancymalik.wordpress.com/2013/01/23/epidemics-and-pandemics/

    http://hpathy.com/

    http://www.homeopathycenter.org/

    http://www.wiki4cam.org/wiki/Homeopathy

    http://www.extraordinarymedicine.org/

    http://avilian.co.uk

    Homeopathy, the skeptics: How Effective Are They Really?

    http://www.homeopathyheals.me.uk/site/featured/3265-homeopathy-the-skeptics-how-effective-are-they-really-

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