18 February 2008

Water research scientist’s view of homeopathy

Martin Chaplin BSc PhD CChem FRSC Professor of Applied Science, Water and Aqueous Systems Research, London South Bank University has this to say about Homeopathy which I extract and highlight here:

Re Jacques Benveniste’s research

“A controversial paper in Nature [132] containing data from several laboratories, claiming to prove the efficacy of extreme dilution (the ‘memory of water‘ [1112])a has not been generally accepted after the results were reported as not reproducible under closely controlled and observed (by Nature’s self-acknowledged biased observers), but strained, overly-demanding and unsympathetic, conditions with negative results from only one laboratory being cherry-picked from amongst otherwise positive results [133]. The original results [132] were, however, confirmed in a blinded study by the statistician Alfred Spira [346e] and also in a rather bizarre Nature paper purporting to prove the opposite [346b],b and were subsequently comprehensively confirmed by a blinded multi-center trial [346a]. In spite of this apparent confirmation by several laboratories, there are still doubts over whether the experiments are truly reproducible and whether the noted effects may be due to the origin of the biological samples or human operator effects [1362].”

Re structural change from potentisation, the effect of glassware and thermoluminescence: 

“A thorough investigation into the structural differences previously reported between homeopathically potentized (that is, succussed and extremely diluted) and unpotentized nitric acid solutions showed that the effect was lost or changed if different glassware was used [495]. Changes in the thermoluminescence of ice produced from ultra-diluted water have been noted [500a] but can be explained by remaining trace amounts of material (due to poor mixing, impurities, absorption, nanobubbles (that is, nanocavities) [500d] or other causes) being concentrated between ice crystals [500b]; an explanation supported by later work [500c].”

Re meta-analyses and The Lancet:

“Meta-analysis of 89 placebo-controlled trials failed to prove either that homeopathy was efficacious for any single clinical condition OR that its positive clinical effects could entirely be due to a placebo effect [121a], thus leaving the scientific door open both ways. A further analysis of this data, however, indicated that some of these studies may have failed to avoid bias and that studies using better methodology yielded the less positive effects [121b]. It should also be noted that placebo effects constitute real clinical effects [121c], should be judged positively and probably account for a significant proportion of the success of prevailing established medicine. A recent analytical review has reinforced the, more negative, view concerning the clinical effectiveness of homeopathic remedies [527]. Further, a recent quality assessment of published experiments on homeopathic preparations has concluded that many were performed with inadequate controls [651]. ”

Re television investigations: 

“Although a scientific trial of homeopathy conducted for the BBC and similar work reported on ABC News’ 20/20 program both failed to show any homeopathic effect, the experiments they reported have been subject to serious criticism including that of careless scientific methodology. In August 2005 [840], the medical journal ‘The Lancet’ controversially argued for halting any further research into homeopathy concluding it has no effect other than as a placebo. This judgment was based on a comparative study of 110 matched placebo-controlled trials of homoeopathy and conventional medicine [841]. The conclusion was reached, however, in spite of the study apparently showing little evidence of differences between the two groups (homeopathy and conventional) when all the data was considered. There were differences when a tiny percentage of unmatched larger trials were cherry-picked for further analysis (that is, 102/110 of the homeopathy studies and 104/110 of the conventional studies were discarded).c The remaining 6% of the studies, however, still showed positive (if not conclusive, possibly as the number of trials left in this final grouping was so small) evidence in favor of a homeopathic effect over placebo. Although this study has come in for considerable and rightful criticism, as above and [1381, 1382], it is often put forward in support of the view that homeopathy works no better than as a placebo, a fact that it clearly does not deliver.”

Re bias: 

“Many laugh homeopathy out of serious consideration as a clinical practice, sometimes resorting to unscientific, unbalanced and unrefereed editorial diatribe. One of the main reasons concerning this disbelief in the efficacy of homeopathy lies in the difficulty in understanding how it might work. If an acceptable theory was available then more people would consider it more seriously. However, it is difficult at present to sustain a theory as to why a truly infinitely diluted aqueous solution, consisting of just H2O molecules, should retain any difference from any other such solution. It is even more difficult to put forward a working hypothesis as to how small quantities of such ‘solutions’ can act to elicit a specific response when confronted with large amounts of complex solution in a subject. A major problem in this area is that, without a testable hypothesis for the generally acknowledged potency of homeopathy, there is a growing possibility of others making fraudulent claims in related areas, as perhaps evidenced by the increasing use of the internet to advertise ‘healthy’ water concentrates using dubious (sometimes published but irreproducible) scientific and spiritual evidence.”

Re possible explanation for homeopathy:

“A key feature of any difference between water before and after its use in preparing homeopathic dilutions is likely to be the vigorous shaking (succussion) that must be carried out between successive dilutions, and which may produce significantly increased concentrations of silicate, sodium and bicarbonate ions [335, 1207] by dissolution of the glass tubes and increases in nanobubbles and redox molecules [1066] from the atmosphere, respectively.

How water may show a memory is explored further in the ‘memory of water’ page

18 January 2008

Homeopathy myths: It’s a drop in the ocean

A response to my explanation today by Jeff Garrington:

“In homeopathy each succussion takes place in the small environment of a closed test tube and involves a relatively very small amount of water.” Surely this isn’t the case with Helios, Nelsons and other manufacturers of Homeopathic Water.
Or am I mistaken, are thousands employed shaking test tubes.

My reply:

“JG: You are mistaken.

Remedies were laboriously handmade but now many homeopathic pharmacies use Korsakoff machines where ONE vial is emptied (the small residue in the bottle being considered the ‘one drop’) and refilled and succussed to the required potency over hours or days.”

Here is Helios’s page: http://www.helios.co.uk/Helios%20Potentising%20machine.html

Here is a picture of the machine:

Helios Homoeopathy High Potency Korsakoff Machine

No swimming pools or oceans required.

More myth-busting at http://www.homeopathyworkedforme.org/

It continues to amaze me how skeptics are ignorant of the facts of the therapy they love to hate (although to be fair to Jeff he isn’t too bad).

13 January 2008

Structures of liquids are easily and regularly changed and homeopathic remedies exhibit biological activity

Homeopathy – Quackery or a Key to the Future of Medicine?

Debate between Dr Steven Novella, Dr Rustum Roy, Dr Donald Marcus, Dr Iris Bell, Dr Nadav Davidovitch, Dr Andre Saine.

Rustum Roy: ‘There are three vectors in the homeopathic process which can change structure which are well established in materials science:

1. Pressure during succussion

2. Epitaxy on each remedy’s structure

3. Nanobubbles formed by succussion.” (Slide 57)

“There have been excellent papers using physio chemical methods to show that homeopathically processed lab samples are measurably different from the original waters.  Especially the several papers by Elia et al flux calorimetry, conductivity, pH, electrode potentials and by Rey using standard thermo luminescence.” (Slide 53)

Differences in spectrometry between homeopathic Natrum Muriaticum and Nux Vomica (Slide 54)

Dr Iris Bell: Histamine Dilutions Modulate Basophil Activation Non-linearly Multicentre Study (Belon et al) (Slide 88)

Thrombogenic effects of Ultra-High Dilution Aspirin (ASA): a Nonlinear Dose-Response Relationship (Slide 89) “we see a reversal of what we usually anticipate aspirin to do at the toxic level.”

Animal studies demonstrate biological effects of homeopathic remedies (Slide 90)

What you see is an 70-80% rate of favourable outcome for the people in the real world who have found their way to homeopathic treatment across a large range of chronic and acute illnesses.” (Slide 95)

[The full write up of the debate is in the article in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine January 1, 2008, 14(1): 9-15]

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