Homeopathy: Efficacy and Evidence Base
There are many misconceptions about homeopathic medicine. One of them is that it is not scientific but a chimera, at best. It is dismissed by skeptics without considering the evidence justly. Science is supposed to be a method and not an ideological end in itself. Many so called scientists have taken their pseudo-scientific practices to increase their stock value or advance their career rather than answer the right questions ethically and objectively. There are still many unanswered yet answerable questions about homeopathy only if we can approach them honestly.
From a historical standpoint, Samuel Hahnemann, the founder of homeopathy, actually followed the scientific principles and methods of his time. He was an innovator in the area of experimentation of chemical compounds in the healthy; he and his family were the first subjects. He recorded his observations very meticulously, and his observations are the basis for the development of homeopathic medicine to this day. His observations, indications, and directions have remained constant for over two hundred years and applied by thousands of homeopaths around the world without any changes; this gives weight to the reliability of his observations.
There is no other branch of medical therapeutics that can claim this degree of stability. However, to bring homeopathy to current times we will need to perform more rigorous and repeated testing of the technique. The definition Hahnemann gave to homeopathy, "similia similibus curentur" in latin, means: "let like cure like". Homeopaths look for a similarity between the patient's symptoms and the remedy to use for the treatment.
The second principle of homeopathy, the minimum dose, involves the use of the smallest dose necessary to see a response in the patient. This principle influenced conventional medicine during the 19th century and moved regular physicians to use this principle, still in practice today. A corollary to this principle is the use, in homeopathy, of extremely diluted substances as dosages; these preparations reach concentrations beyond what is measurable according to current scientific methods. This is the most controversial aspect of homeopathy.
Before we enter the discussion about the clinical research validating homeopathy it is important to present evidence from other, non-clinical, areas of biological research. There are thousands of research studies published on the biological effects of ultra diluted concentrations of substances. This phenomenon is called "hormesis", or DDRE (dose dependant reverse effects). According to these observations, there is a biological stimulation with moderate dosages and inhibition with large dosages of chemically or biochemically active compounds.
Research has been performed in plants and animals, in particular, with the conclusion that, in fact, there is a biological effect using substances that are diluted beyond Avogadro's number and therefore with no remaining molecules of the original substance. All of this research has been carried out by researchers who are not affiliated to the homeopathic community in any way, and actually, have disclaimed that their research has anything to do with it. (Merizalde B, "Samuel Hahnemann, Hormesis and a probable mechanism of action of homeopathic remedies", Am J of Homeopathic Med, Winter, 1995, 249-254)
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