Homeopathy, by turns decried and oversold, releases highly irrational passions, at the expense of firm scientific and medical fact. Homeopathy is scientifically-based, and remains highly relevant today because it stresses the human: listening to the patient and respecting his/her health.
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“There’s nothing in it.” “It’s the only one that works.” Throughout the ages, homeopathy has always unleashed the most passionate, often ideological, opposition at the expense of rational and scientific discussion. Popular with many generations of men and women, mothers and athletes but also doctors, paediatricians, midwives and veterinarians – in short, a wide range of healthcare professionals – homeopathy is primarily a full therapy that respects the health of the patient and is deeply human. It is founded on a number of principles, including those of globality – taking the individual as a whole – and similarity. It is based on the latest primary research, on good-quality clinical research, and on the proof of its effectiveness in practice.
Similarity of symptoms
Homeopathy: what exactly is it? Homeopathy is “based on similarity to the symptoms,” as Dr Daniel Scimeca instructively reminded us in a recent interview with www.monhomeomonchoix.fr (read it here). Any substance capable of causing symptoms in a healthy individual may, in a low dose, cure these same symptoms in an individual who is ill. In simple terms, cure evil by evil. For example, if you want to treat nervousness, insomnia or a wasp bite, you will use a homeopathic remedy made from a substance (animal, plant or mineral in origin) that causes these symptoms – subject of course to the advice of a health professional.
The individual as a whole
Another feature of homeopathic therapy is that it considers the individual as a whole: his/her history, family background, environment and living conditions, etc. Homeopathy is deeply human, and thinks globally. Sudden fatigue can hide much else and can be expressed in different ways depending on the person. At this point, the healthcare professional will collect as much information as possible about the patient in order to individualise the therapeutic response.
Homeopathy also has the benefit of causing no known side effects and there are no contraindications. It can therefore be prescribed in conjunction with conventional treatment, and is suitable for the whole family, including pregnant women and infants.
Prevention of post-infection
The areas where homeopathy may be used are very broad and often badly understood. They include anxiety disorders, ENT, gynaecology, dermatology, paediatrics, winter ailments and hay fever, etc. Whether the illness is common, chronic or recurrent, homeopathy works quickly or may take several weeks or months.
According to Agnès Castor, a midwife: “I prescribe it to pregnant women to treat nausea and vomiting and to counter some types of pain and recurrent fungal infections during pregnancy, to prepare for delivery. I always look for a treatment to suit the person.”
In the most serious cases, homeopathy can help patients in supportive care, reducing vomiting, alleviating stress or relieving the adverse effects of cancer treatments. Dr Emmanuel Berland, an oncologist and radiotherapist, finds that if patients’ pain is reduced using homeopathy “they are better able to follow their conventional anti-cancer treatment.”
Manufacture of the homeopathic medicine
Homeopathic medicines are prepared from diluted solutions of plant, animal, mineral and chemical substances. The manufacturing process consists of converting the original substance into a medicinal product, following a precise protocol of successive dilutions to arrive at the desired concentration. European, French and American pharmacopoeias code the homeopathic medicine and its method of preparation. In France, the French National Agency for Medicines and Health Products Safety (Agence Nationale de Sécurité du Médicament – ANSM) inspects the various laboratories producing homeopathic medicines and issues a Marketing Authorization or a Homeopathic Registration.
“It doesn’t work”,”There’s nothing in it”
Today more than ever, homeopathy is attacked by people for whom “what you can’t see doesn’t exist” and reject any other form of complementary therapy. Standing aside from ideological and impassioned debate, it should be borne in mind that homeopathy is always an adjunct and not a replacement. Firstly, the evidence from primary research. Primary research uses cutting-edge technologies to show that the action of homeopathic medicines is plausible. Such research includes, for instance, Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR). Dr Alexandre Tournier explains in a video that this “lets us explore the properties of a material at an atomic scale, and in particular to study its structure”. NMR is used for instance in medical imaging.
Secondly, the evidence from good quality, internationally recognised clinical research, where the results are positive. Again according to Dr. Tournier, about 200 of the studies “meet very precise methodological criteria, the same as those used in conventional medicine. Such studies are described as “randomized and placebo-controlled”. They are methodologically identical to those carried out in conventional medicine; the results are 40% positive, which is the same result obtained from studies of conventional medicine.” In research, it is normal not to achieve 100% positive results. Scientists form hypotheses, test them and, regardless of the results, constantly make progress and ask questions. So a negative study is not the opposite of a positive study, because it is used to move forward. For instance, it can be used to optimize the conditions for future studies on the same subject. In general, analysing the results of studies makes it possible to draw conclusions that are as near as possible to reality.
Observed biological activity
So can we say that homeopathy has an effect on biology? The scientists say “Yes”. When a diluted solution is placed on cells or plants, biological activity is observed. For instance, at the level of the cell, diluted solutions of Gelsemium (a plant with beautiful yellow flowers) are observed to increase the synthesis of a hormone involved in controlling anxiety1. Other experiments have been carried out on plants: for instance, homeopathically diluted solutions have been observed to have a biological action on the germination of wheat grains2.
Attacked for 200 years ?
Or should we rather say that homeopathy has been popular for 200 years?
Homeopathy’s effectiveness for patients is being demonstrated in real life every day: the elderly, the sick, oncologists, midwives, pharmacists and veterinarians see it in practice and in their health. Certainly it is criticized. But it is also championed for its great advantages: the absence of known side effects and the respect for the individual.
Today, over 20,000 doctors3 rely on homeopathy and have made it part of their daily practice. So why not study it more? Why want to reduce the reimbursement rate for these medicines, why seek to discredit them, why not use them in hospitals? Gentle, effective and inexpensive, homeopathy not only benefits health but also provides an opportunity for medicine.
CH ? Come again ?
This is the dilution method devised by Samuel Hahnemann at the end of the 18th century and is the most commonly used. It requires successively diluting a solution, each time by a factor of 100. One dilution to one part in a hundred is equivalent to 1 CH (Hahnemann’s “centesimal”); 9 CH, for instance, means there have been 9 successive dilutions to one part in a hundred and that the substance has been “dynamized” 9 times.
1. The data presented may under no circumstances be extrapolated to any clinical property or to any clinical use for humans. This would require further studies.
2. Source Nani D et al. (2007) “The role of variability in evaluating ultra-high dilution effects: considerations based on plant model experiments”. Forsch Komplementmed. 14(5):301-5
3. Source: Independent general practitioners and homeopathy – IPSOS Survey 2019 – Study conducted by IPSOS for Weleda/Lehning/Boiron of 302 independent general practitioners representative of the population surveyed. If extrapolated to 58,400 independent general practitioners (source: CNOM 2017), this represents 20,000 French general practitioners who prescribe homoeopathic medicines on a daily basis.