Homeopathy

Homeopathy: To BElieve Or Not To BElieve?

Homeopathy was invented by German physician Samuel Christian Hahnemann at the end of the 18th century. It has been a prominent form of alternative medicine in India with several national Associations for homoeopathy practitioners and patients who avail it. The Government of India encourages its practice with the introduction of the Ministry of AYUSH in 2014 including homeopathy in its system of alternative healthcare coverages. Despite
homeopathy not being traditionally an indigenous form of treatment, it was popularized by the Calcutta Homeopathic Medical College and the government of India officially recognizing it as a national system of medicine. Today, it is the second most popular form of alternative therapy in India after Ayurveda and the most popular alternative medicine worldwide. However, it is currently described by the FDA, the FTC, EASAC and the WHO as a pseudoscience with no scientific basis.

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Despite its immense popularity in India, there is not a single prominent double-blind peer reviewed study on homeopathy that indicates a positive correlation towards the efficacy of homeopathy. There has been overall a poor quality of studies conducted and it requires more research with larger sample sizes. Until more empirical evidence is provided, it cannot be viewed as an evidence-based form of therapy and does not show replicable results of significant difference from placebo. In a meta-analysis and systematic review of 75 eligible studies on the effectiveness of homeopathy done, 72 had either unclear or high risks of bias. Now, homeopathic therapy has defined rules and guidelines by its inventor, all compiled in a book called Organon of Medicine or Organon of the Healing Art. It is a collection of 291 sections where Hahnemann describes the process, his directives for those practicing healing and his criticisms of the system of medicine prominent at the time. He described medicine
of the time as “…this practice plays an irresponsible, murderous game with the life of the patient, by means of dangerously violent medicines, the effects of which are unknown, based on empty assumptions, given in large, frequent doses…”

Rather dramatic don’t you think?

Allopathy is an archaic term for what is known today as science-based, modern medicine. It is a term coined by Hahnemann to differentiate alternative methods of treatment from the standard of the time. Not all his criticisms are baseless of course; Modern medicine in the 1700s had several outdated and egregious methods of treatment such as bloodletting — allowing blood to drain out of the patient’s body to get rid of ‘impure fluids’. This was
responsible for an initial trust in homeopathy by the general public as doing no harm was significantly better for the patients’ health than actively hurting them with remedies that didn’t work. Which is understandable, I am also much more likely to have sugar pills for two weeks than let a physician drain 10 ounces of my blood to get rid of bad vibes. His biggest gripe with ‘allopathy’ however, was the fact that drugs used for treatment had
no direct pathic relationship with the nature of the disease and its symptoms; According to him, for effective medicine, the drugs had to have either similar or opposite drug symptoms to the patient’s symptoms. And this brings us to the most important thing about homeopathy you must know.

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Homeopathy has three basic principles that define its method of healing and its effectiveness. If it were to be boiled down to its grassroots, this is what homeopathic therapy is and studying its underlying principles is essential in understanding its critiques and its inherent flaws:
(I) Principle of Similars: Remedies are chosen based on how closely the patient’s toxicological symptoms resemble the symptoms of the patient’s disease. So, to treat a fever you would use belladonna (which causes fever). This could be attributed as a reference to vaccines; however, the underlying principles are
completely ignored and it is boiled down to individual symptoms and not the cause or origin of the malady itself. This supposed pillar of the homeopathic doctrine ignores individuals differing physiologies, immune systems and
reactions.
(II) Potentization: This is the biggest and most intuitive criticism; it argues that increase in dilution somehow increases potency of the medicine because the water theoretically “remembers” the healing properties despite extreme amounts of dilution which lead to ineffective concentration of the remedy present in the solution. Now apart from this contradicting everything we know of chemical and physical properties of water, on a purely practical level we know this isn’t true. It’s the same reason rain water doesn’t taste of salt, fish and kelp, and why sewage treatment plants actually purify water. The most common dilution homeopaths prescribe is something called 30C. They take one part of the remedial ingredient and put it into 99 parts water. They then
repeat this 30 times. Almost no original ingredients remain in the medicine at that point — you are consuming pure water.
(III) Totality of Symptoms: Remedies are chosen based on “total” characteristics of symptoms exhibited and not the symptoms of the underlying disease. So, two patients with throat infections displaying different symptoms could be administered different remedies, simply because one of them also had a slight cold or headache. Once again, this all but ensures the practitioner ignore individual physiologies and differing reactions to common stimuli.

This is not meant to be purely a tirade against the ‘horrors’ of homeopathic therapy. But there are three essential questions we must consider:
(1) According to the science of its working, should homeopathy be effective?
(2) Is homeopathy, in practice, effective?
(3) Can modern medicine learn anything from homeopathy?

We answered the first two questions in detail earlier, but the third is where the unique appeal of homeopathy, even in modern times, is revealed. Modern medicine is a well-oiled machine which works to conform to the overwhelming load of patients and thus offers lesser personal care, which is where homeopathy finds a foothold. The initial long consultation is therapeutic and calming, especially if you’ve had frustrating efforts with running from doctor to doctor, a barrage of tests and terms medical professionals simply do not have the time to guide you through. The simplicity and safety offered by homeopaths comforts patients, which is a simpler remedy with a more direct goal (of treating every one of your symptoms). It also provides less opacity on part of the practitioner. Medicine has evolved greatly through rigorous research, study and practice, and a great deal of effort has been put into a system of efficiency that can treat people to the best of their ability. The prevalence of homeopathy means there is an element of personal care and familiarity missing, and modern medicine must mold this system to better fill the void.

 

Sources –
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Ved Joglekar

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