22 May 2008

‘There is a good and growing body of research showing beyond doubt that homeopathy is better than placebo’

Courtesy of HMC21:


There is a good and growing body of research showing beyond doubt that homeopathy is better than placebo; in fact so much, that this leaflet can only provide a minute selection. There is a list of sources of further, detailed information at the end of the summary. Different types of research have been used to study effectiveness of homeopathic remedies, and all have provided positive evidence, although in the case of RCTs not consistently.


Laboratory research                                                                         (including tests on animals and plants)

This research is important because there can be no placebo effect, but there are ethical problems when it involves subjecting animals to toxic substances and procedures. We include animal studies here and leave it to you to decide whether you want to use them or not.

·         Belon P, Cumps J, Ennis M, Mannaioni PF, Roberfroid M, Sainte-Laudy J, Wiegant FAC, ‘Histamine dilutions modulate basophil activation’, Inflamm. Res., 2004, 53:181-188. In a study including four research centres in Europe the effect of potentised high dilutions of histamine were confirmed. Researchers were able to document that these dilutions of histamine inhibit basophile degranulation. Results cannot be explained through molecular theories.

·         Brizzi, M. et al., ‘Biostatistical Insight into the As2O3 High Dilution Effects on the Rate and Variability of Wheat Seedling Growth’, Forsch Komplementärmed Klass Naturheilkd, 2005,12:277-283. Plant-based bioassays are suitable for basic research – lacking the placebo effect and ensuring large data samples for structured statistical analyses. A team of researchers at the University of Bologna carried out a structured experiment, performed blind over nine weeks, using wheat seeds previously stressed with a sub lethal dose of As2O3 (arsenic trioxide). The seeds were then treated with either potentized As2O3 (5x, 15x, 25x, 35x, 45x), potentized water (equivalent potencies) or diluted As2O3 (10-5, 10-15, 10-25, 10-35, 10-45). The working variable was the stem length, measured after 4, 5, 6 and 7 days. Results: Some potencies (As2O3 45x and water 45x) induced a relevant increase in seedling growth and/or a variability decrease. Diluted As2O3 did not induce any significant results. Conclusions: Confirmation of a significant stimulating effect on seedling growth and a significant decrease of variability was obtained with ultra-high dilutions at the 45x potency. The model of wheat germination and growth has been confirmed to be a good tool for basic research in homeopathy.

·         J. Bildet, M. Guyot, F. Bonini, et al., ‘Demonstrating the Effects of Apis mellifica and Apium virus Dilutions on Erythema Induced by U.V. Radiation on Guinea Pigs’,  Berlin Journal of Research in Homeopathy, 1990, 1:28. Albino guinea pigs were exposed to small doses of X-ray that cause reddening of the skin. Studies showed that Apis mellifica 7c or 9c had a protective effect and a roughly 50% curative effect on X-ray-induced redness of the skin. Apis mellifica (honeybee) is a homeopathic medicine for redness, swelling, and itching, common symptoms of bee venom.

·         Endler, P.C. et al., ‘The Effect of Highly Diluted Agitated Thyroxine on the Climbing Activity of Frogs’,  Veterinary and Human Toxicology, 1994, 36:56. Thyroxine 30x (thyroid hormone) was placed in the water of tadpoles. When compared to tadpoles who were given a placebo, the study showed morphogenesis of the tadpoles into frogs was slowed for those who were exposed to the homeopathic doses. Thyroid hormone in crude doses is known to speed up morphogenesis; it makes sense from a homeopathic perspective that homeopathic doses would slow it down. See doi:10.1016/j.homp.2007.11.002 at http://dx.doi.org for a further experiment in 2006 which confirmed this research.


Meta-analyses                          (the statistical amalgamation, summary, and review of previous quantitative research)

·         Linde, K. et al.,  ‘Are the clinical effects of homoeopathy placebo effects? A meta-analysis of placebo-controlled trials’, The Lancet, 1997, 350:834-843: Meta-analysis of 89 trials of homeopathic medicine versus placebo. Result: significantly in favour of homeopathy (OR 2,45 (95% CI 2,05-2,93)). This meta-analysis included 186 placebo-controlled studies of homeopathy published until mid-1996, of which data for analysis could be extracted from 89 studies. The main conclusion was that the results “were not compatible with the hypothesis that the effects of homeopathy are completely due to placebo”.

·         Homeopathic Medicine Research Group, Report to the European Commission directorate general XII: science, research and development, vol. 1 (short version), Brussels: European Commission, 1996:16-17. This is an overview of clinical research in homeopathy which identified 184 controlled clinical trials. They selected the highest quality randomized control trials, which included a total of 2617 patients for a meta-analysis. This meta-analysis resulted in a p-value of 0.000036 (which means that results are highly significant) indicating that homeopathy is more effective than placebo. The researchers concluded that the “hypothesis that homeopathy has no effect can be rejected with certainty”.

·         Ullman D, ‘Controlled Clinical Trials Evaluating the Homeopathic Treatment of People with Human Immunodeficiency Virus or Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome’, The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, vol. 9, no. 1, 2003, pp. 133–141. A review of placebo-controlled clinical trials using homeopathic medicines to treat people with AIDS or who are HIV-positive found five controlled clinical trials. Results showed statistically significant results in subjects with stage III AIDS, and specific physical, immunologic, neurologic, metabolic, and quality-of-life benefits, including improvements in lymphocyte counts and functions and reductions in HIV viral loads in patients receiving homeopathic treatment.


Randomised Controlled Trials (RCTs)           (where one group of subjects is given the treatment being tested,

                                                                                       while a control group is given either a current treatment or a placebo)

Dozens of individual RCTs have been carried out, sometimes repeatedly, researching the effectiveness of homeopathy for a range of conditions. Many are covered in the meta-analyses discussed above.  See the websites below for details.


Non-controlled clinical study             (comparison of new or different types of treatments with current treatments)

·         Witt, C. et al., ‘Outcome and costs of homoeopathic and conventional treatment strategies: A comparative cohort study in patients with chronic disorders’, Complementary Therapies in Medicine, 2005, 13, pp. 79-86. Researchers at the Institute for Social Medicine, Epidemiology and Health Economics, Charite University Medical Center, Berlin, Germany and the Institute for Statistics and Econometrics, Economics, University of Hamburg, Germany  conducted an evaluation of  the effectiveness of homeopathy versus conventional treatment in routine case. Patients with selected chronic diagnoses received either homeopathy or conventional treatment.  Severity of symptoms was assessed by patients and physicians on a scale of 0 to 10, at baseline, 6 and 12 months; costs were also compared. The analyses of 493 patients (315 adults, 178 children) indicated greater improvement in patients’ assessments after homoeopathic versus conventional treatment (adults: homeopathy from 5.7 to 3.2; conventional from 5.9 to 4.4; p = 0.002; children homeopathy from 5.1 to 2.6; conventional from 4.5 to 3.2). The conclusion was that patients having homeopathic treatment had a better outcome overall compared with patients on conventional treatment, whereas total costs in both groups were similar.


Clinical outcome survey              (secondary analysis of data collected routinely by clinical services, in order to

                                                        judge the effectiveness of interventions; allows the study of large databases of patients)

·         Spence DS, Thompson EA, Barron SJ, ‘Homeopathic Treatment for Chronic Disease: A 6-Year, University-Hospital Outpatient Observational Study’, Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 2005, 11:793-798. In one of the largest studies ever carried out, over 70% of the 6500 patients involved reported significant benefits from homeopathic treatment. The results come from a 6 year study of 6500 consecutive patients seen in the outpatient clinic of the Bristol Homeopathic Hospital in the UK, a UK National Health Service Hospital. Patients with a wide range of conditions such as eczema, asthma, migraine, irritable bowel syndrome, menopause, arthritis, depression and chronic fatigue syndrome were included in the study, all patients having been referred by their General Practitioner or a hospital specialist after unsuccessful conventional treatment.


Good Sources of Research Information:

·         Bianci, Prof. Ivo et.al. (2002) Homeopathy: The scientific proofs of its efficacy.  This excellent report has detailed information about many trials and comparative studies, including cost comparisons, and is based on international research. It can be downloaded as an e-book at: http://www.guna.it/eng/ricerca/Homeopathy%20the%20scientific%20proofs%20of%20efficacy.pdf

·         www.homeopathic.com is the website of Dana Ullman’s Homeopathic Educational Services and provides a wealth of good research information.

·         An Overview of Positive Homeopathy Research and Surveys; March 2007. This document has been produced by the European Network of Homeopathy Researchers and can be downloaded from the Research page of the Society of Homeopaths’ website (www.homeopathy-soh.org).

·         www.thehomeopath.org.uk is the website of homeopath Ralf Jeutter PhD RSHom, and has detailed research information.


Skeptics are advised to comment on their own blogs. I will accept links. H4H


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