HOMEOPATHY

Laurie Eddie

(Investigator Magazine 187, 2019 August)




Homeopathy is a highly systematized method of medical therapeutics and clinical evaluation. Lange, A. (1999)

NCAHF … believes that marketing unproven homeopathic products and services precisely fits the definition of quackery: "A quack is anyone who promotes medical schemes or remedies known to be false, or which are unproven, for a profit'': NCAHF Position Paper on Homeopathy. (1994).

Lines on Homeopathy.

Stir the mixture well

Lest it prove inferior,
Then put half a drop
Into Lake Superior.

Every other day
Take a drop in water,
You'll be better soon
Or at least you oughter.

Bishop William Croswell Doane, (1832–1913), first Episcopal bishop of Albany (NY)

 

Although widely promoted by its followers as a "highly systematized method of medical therapeutics and clinical evaluation" (Lange, 1999, p. 335), in reality, Homeopathy is nothing more than a collection of pseudo-medical concepts, the remnant of a pre-scientific age when physicians were still disputing whether disease and illness were spiritual or physical afflictions; as such, it has absolutely no relationship to legitimate scientific medicine.

Despite the claims of physician Dr. Samuel Christian Hahnemann, (1755-1843), that, "I was the first that opened up this path…" (Hahnemann, Section 109, - hereafter § = Section), the basic principles of Homeopathy are neither new, nor original. The concept that "like cures like" (similia similibus curantur), also known as the "Law of Similars" or the "Law of Signatures", was based upon the ancient and quite erroneous concept of homogeneous medicine.

One of the earliest concepts of pre-scientific medicine it was mentioned by Hippocrates who observed that, "while the general rule of treatment be contraria contrariis curantur" opposites cure opposites, (Hippocrates, p. 77) the opposite rule, similia similibus curantur (similars cure similars) also applied.

Although the earliest references to homogeneous medical principles come from Babylonia and Egypt and are some 5,000 years old, it appears likely that this particular concept predated even these ancient civilizations by many millennia and was part of the most ancient oral lore of the wise-women, shamans and medicine men.

When early humans began to use plants for medicinal purposes they had no real idea as to which plants to use for specific disorders. However, from earliest times humans appear to have developed a belief in the interrelationship of all things on Earth, and since plants were thought to contain vital life energy, it was considered appropriate to use them to restore the vital energy that they believed escaped from wounds, or to restore the lost energy that was so common with illness.

However early humans went one step further, developing a homogeneous belief that, where there was a degree of similarity between the plant’s colours, shape, or of the environment in which it grew, this increased the efficaciousness of the plant in treating the disorder. While most often the only effect of treatment was that of a placebo, or an emotive factor, (the plant gatherers were women, and no doubt used them on their sick children); occasionally however, some of the plants they used did actually have curative qualities, and was appropriate for the use to which they applied it. One successful application of this homogeneous logic was the willow tree. Since the willow grew in damp, wet areas, it was considered suited to treat those illnesses that produced bodily chills and sweating.

Over time homogeneous principles became increasingly more sophisticated so that in early China specific plants became associated with specific organs, bitter red plants were used for heart complaints, while sour, green plants were used to treat the liver. In Europe such concepts merged with a long standing Christian philosophical belief that, although God had created a mystical world filled with hidden truths, he had provided cryptic, symbolic clues, evidence of his "divine signature" which could be deciphered by the wise. However, by the Middle Ages it was increasingly accepted that the stars, rather than God, had imprinted a hidden pattern into each type of plant. Consequently, treatment involved using plants that were not only homogeneously appropriate, but more importantly, were astrologically significant to the patient. This belief was firmly established by Paracelsus, (1493-1541), who formulated the Doctrine of Signatures;

"Whatever tinges with a white colour has the nature of life, and the properties and power of light, which causally produces life. Whatever, on the other hand, tinges with blackness, or produces black, has a nature in common with death…" (Paracelsus: Part II).

Possibly the most devastating argument against Homeopathy is that Hahnemann’s basic belief that, "like cures like", may have been based upon an error. It appears Hahnemann first tested his theory in 1790, using what was probably a solution prepared from crude cinchona bark, although most reports erroneously claim he took quinine, (which was not actually isolated until 1818 and Hahnemann himself refers to "cinchona bark", which contains quinine, throughout the Organon, e.g. §74, 234). Nevertheless, while cinchona bark was known to reduce malarial fever, Hahnemann experienced a completely opposite reaction, his temperature increased. This opposite response has led some, like Weldon (1991) and Thomas, to suggest that what Hahnemann experienced was an allergic reaction to the cinchona, and, as a result, his claim that cinchona elevated the temperature, producing a reaction similar to malarial fever, was completely erroneous.

Early medicine was primarily based upon religious and superstitious beliefs, and even when Greek medicine became more secular, the quasi-religious belief evolved that humans were divinely created spiritual beings, animated by a "divine" life-force and that "sickness was due to some type of interference with the spiritual aspect, or else a disruption of this vital force.

In this secular arena disease was increasingly attributed to such things as an imbalance of humours, to the capricious whims of obscure cosmic influences, to the malaria – "bad air" that emanated from rotting material in swamps (Nero had swamps near Rome drained to rid them of their bad-air disease), mysterious airborne miasmas, (Florence Nightingale believed that if the Crimean hospital wards were kept clean it would prevent miasmic infections). Although there was a growing belief that disease and sickness were caused by physical agents, proof was lacking and overall, medicine was in a wretched state. It remained insular, trapped in the past, with physicians blindly following the teachings of Aristotle and Galen, except where these disagreed with Christian doctrines. Thus, although Galen had discovered that blood, not air, flowed through the veins and arteries, since Christianity insisted the arteries were filled with air and spirit, (Hellman, 2001, p. 7), such contradictory ideas were generally ignored.

Since the ‘infallible authorities’ revealed all that needed to be known about medicine it was considered unnecessary to seek new explanations, or to challenge their claims with empirical research. Not only were such efforts forbidden by the Church, but so infallible were the ancient texts thought to be that it was taught that, if empirical observations should reveal evidence that contradicted the ancient texts, the conflicting empirical evidence was to be rejected as invalid.

Even practical areas of medicine, such as anatomical dissection, were discouraged, physicians being encouraged to consult the works of Galen for anatomical information, despite the fact that it is unlikely that Galen had ever actually dissected any human bodies. The result of all this was that until the 19th century medicine was primitive, irrational and the treatments that were accepted as "normal, were often dangerous; they included: -

•    Bleeding: It was thought that when a person’s blood became too plenteous, (plethora) it would produce diseases. For orthodox practitioners, the treatment was to remove the patient’s blood either by:
a) Leeching – cutting the skin with a knife and applying leeches to the wound; or,
b) Cupping, heated glasses or cups were placed over the wound; the reduced air pressure within the cup formed a suction-seal by pulling in the skin and muscle layer, producing faster, more voluminous bleeding. According to Hahnemann, (§60, 6th edition footnotes), such bleeding was often done with the patient immersed in a warm bath;
•    Purging: Administration of laxatives, cathartics, or enemas to cleanse the bowels;
•    Blistering: The application of hot irons to the skin, creating large blisters. It was believed that the pain helped to expel evil energies from the body, and, at the same time, malignant energies were drained from the body as the liquid from the blisters was expelled; 
•    Fumigation: A claustrophobic process in which the victim was either placed in closed room filled with thick stupefying smoke, or over a bowl with a blanket over their head and inhaled smoke or vapours from a bowl;
•    Overdosing with drugs: With no scientific testing, it was thought that if a drug was suitable to treat a disease, then the more the better. Unfortunately while many drugs were harmless in small amounts, in larger doses they could often be injurious or even toxic.

These primitive treatments were based on the primitve belief that, since bleeding, swelling, abscesses, etc. were normal symptoms of disease, producing them artificially would speed up the normal healing process. Hahnemann rejected such ideas; he believed that these "natural symptoms" were produced by, "The vital force ("dynamis" - §9) in order to relieve the internal malady…" (Hahnemann, p. 25), and he was extremely critical of practitioners who sought to replicate these physical manifestations believing they would accelerate healing. In fact Hahnemann’s attacks on such practices, (Hahnemann, p. 18; 25) appear to have been completely justified, for not only were these treatments unscientific and useless but they were also harsh, incapacitating, and often fatal for the patients.

Haggard (1929) gave an example of how physically devastating these treatments could be, when King Charles II collapsed suddenly in 1685 his physicians bled half a litre of blood from his right arm, then another 226 grams by cupping from his shoulder. He was given an emetic to induce vomiting, a purgative to move his bowels, and when this failed, another purgative. His physicians then administered an enema, then, two hours later another enema and purgative. The king’s head was shaved and blistered, he was given sneezing powder and a plaster of pitch and pigeon dung on his feet. After regular purging and administration of numerous herbs and remedies, including Raleigh’s Sovereign Antidote1 and Goa Stone2 extract of human skull and bezoar stone it appeared the king was dying, and, in desperation, "…a mixture of Raleigh’s antidote, pearl julep and ammonia was forced down the throat of the dying king."  (Haggard, 1929, p. 335) Finally, after four days of this physical onslaught, and the administration of some fifty-eight different drugs and concoctions, (Thompson, 1928, p. 126), the king finally died. Such severe treatments were still being used until the 19th century, and death from such treatments was not unusual; as Moerman (2002) commented, "… it is generally agreed by historians that George Washington was bled to death by his physicians in 1799." (p. 11)

Evidence suggests that Hahnemann was a gifted, independent thinker, who, at a time when medicine was still primarily based  upon superstitious nonsense, rejected many of the contemporary ideas, and sought an approach that was not only more humane, but was also more scientific. Indeed, Hahnemann become so disillusioned with contemporary medicine that, in 1782, he withdrew from medical practice for fourteen years, spending his time researching and translating medical texts, (Lange, 1999, p. 336). It was during this time that he developed his theories on Homeopathy, the term derived from the Greek words, homoion (like or similar) and, pathos (suffering), to describe a system of ‘medical’ treatment using various substances that produced a physical reaction in patients that was similar to the symptoms produced  by the actual disease. 

During Hahnemann’s lifetime there were three principal theories as to the origins of disease, each with its own followers: -

•    Materialists: Who, although unable to produce any proof of their theories, believed that all disease was caused by some form of invisible, physical or material agency, known as "morbific matter";

•    Allopathists: Hahnemann introduced the terms Allopathist and Allopathic for those physicians who used medicines that produced symptoms that were the opposite of those of the disease, a concept previously mentioned by Galen. Many Allopaths were also Materialists;

•    Vitalists: This group believed that humans were animated by a cosmic life-force, and that sickness resulted from this energy being "disturbed" or interfered with, they sought ways to restore the vital balance.

Hahnemann was a Vitalist, the basis of his homeopathic theories was that although humans were physical organisms, they were animated by a life force, a, "spirit-like vital principle" (p. 11), which contained an intrinsic healing ‘intelligence’. However Hahnemann went much further, he declared that this "vital principle was not only the source of a natural healing power, but that when this life force was "deranged" illness resulted.

According to Hahnemann, disease was a, "… (spiritual) dynamic derangements of our spirit-like vital principle… "(Hahnemann, p 11); it was this, "… morbidly affected vital force (in 6th edition "vital energy") alone that produces diseases..."  (Hahnemann, §12) He claimed that, "The causes of our maladies cannot be material…" (p. 11), and insisted that the only real way to cure disease was to activate the body’s spiritual self-healing potential by using appropriate homeopathic medicines. He claimed that giving the sick minute amounts of drugs that produced physical symptoms similar to those of their disease, these would produce an artificial "morbid affection" powerful enough to displace the disease (§29). At the same time, the vital force, boosted by the homeopathic medicine, would apply an, "…  increased amount of energy," (§29) to deal with the artificial infection, and since only a minute amount of medication had been used, this would be of such a slight level that the vital spirit, which is "merely medicinally ill" (§29, Note 1), would be able to quickly overpower it, (§29 and §68) leaving the patient fully recovered.

It appears he became so obsessed with his own ideas that he chose to ignore a growing body of contemporary evidence of the existence of the invisible "morbific matter". Prior to his death in 1843 Hahnemann lived in Paris, a leading centre of 19th century medical science, and the midst of the ongoing controversy between these various theories.

Materialistic ideas had been proposed by Gerolomo Frascatoro, (1530) and Marcus von Plenciz, (1762), who had even suggested that specific agents could be responsible for each type of disease. His book, Organon, was essentially a polemic against those who believed in non-Vitalistic theories, and he attacked the Materialist theories as "imaginary" (p. 8), "fantasies" (p. 11), "idle dreams" (p. 11). Yet time was running out for the Vitalists, for although Hahnemann declared, "Did any nosologist ever see with corporeal eyes such a morbific matter…" (p. 12), the fact was that in 1683, using a primitive microscope, van Leeuwenhoek had already seen some of these invisible agents of disease. Hahnemann was unwilling, or unable, to accept that his theories might be invalid, so that in his fifth edition of the Organon, (circa 1833), he still asserted that,

"... just as a child with smallpox or measles, communicates to a near, untouched healthy child in an invisible manner (dynamically) the smallpox or measles, that is, infects it at a distance without anything material from the infective child going or capable of going to the one infected." (Hahnemann, footnote to §11,)

Nevertheless, for his patients, Homeopathy must have seemed a much more attractive option than the harsh and often dangerous contemporary forms of treatment. It is also very likely that, for many, Homeopathy was actually an effective form of treatment, not for the reasons Hahnemann claimed, but largely because: -

a) As a mild, non-invasive treatment, it allowed patients the opportunity to recover naturally;
b) Because homeopathic drug dosages were too small to have any effect, they avoided the toxic or poisonous side-effects of orthodox drug treatments;
c) Homeopathic medicine was essentially a placebo.

Regrettably, while Hahnemann’s objectives were praiseworthy, his theories were much less so. It was a great tragedy of the past that while many well-intentioned researchers, such as Hahnemann, genuinely sought to revolutionize medicine, lacking a proper scientific foundation for their theories, they were led astray by the archaic pre-scientific theories of their time.

This is what happened to Hahnemann, basing his theories on various pseudo-scientific concepts he evolved what was in fact a religious-philosophical model of illness rather than a medical model. Rather extravagantly he proclaimed that it was only by the use of homeopathic medicines, "that the certain cure of human maladies is possible." (§109) In his footnotes to this same section he added, "It is impossible that there can be another true, best method of curing dynamic diseases (i.e. all diseases not strictly surgical) besides homœopathy." (§109)

Most erroneous were his theories of Miasms and Psora, concepts now rarely mentioned by Homeopaths, probably for fear of ridicule.

It was mentioned earlier that miasmas were thought to be noxious vapours produced by mephitic decaying animal or vegetable matter; these dank, fetid miasmas were believed to carry on the air, in some ethereal manner, various infectious diseases. Those miasms which attack individuals "but once in a lifetime" (§73) were defined as acute miasms, while other diseases were produced by, "… a transient explosion of latent psora". (§73)

In seeking to assimilate this concept into his theories Hahnemann experienced difficulties as he sought to identify the nature and operation of these miasms, for, while he clearly sought to identify these miasms as non-physical, a "miasmatic exhalation hovering about" (Hahnemann, 2004, p. 759), in describing the cholera-miasm he clearly seems to suggest that they had within them an actual physical component, thus,

 "… the cholera-miasm finds a favourable element for its multiplication, and grows into an enormously increased brood of those excessively minute, invisible, living creatures, so inimical to human life, of which the contagious matter of the cholera most probably consists…" (Hahnemann, 2004, p. 758)

Overall, what he actually meant by the concept of the miasms remains unclear, even his followers were uncertain; later, after the discovery of germs, some of his followers even suggested he had been referring to germs, but lacked the language to name them as such.

The problem Hahnemann faced was that although he claimed his homeopathic medicines were efficacious in treating all forms of disease, he was faced with the reality that, for many of his patients, the diseases kept returning time after time.

At a loss to explain why he came up with the theory that there were three chronic forms of miasms, (Hahnemann, p. 20), each one  being associated with a specific type of personality and producing specific types of illness:

•    Syphlitic Miasm: Said to be a "suppressed" form of Syphilis, which was manifested in ulceration, gangrene, and syphilitic type infections.
 
•    Sycotic Miasm: A "suppressed" form of gonorrhea, it tended to produce tumors, allergies and fibrous tissue.

•    Psoric Miasm: Psora, (from the Greek, meaning "an itch").  was the principal miasma, "… the psora the only real fundamental cause and producer of all the other numerous, I may say innumerable forms of disease;" (§80), in particular, "… nervous debility, hysteria, hypochondriasis, mania, melancholia, imbecility, madness, epilepsy and convulsions of all sorts, softening of the bones (rachitis), scoliosis and cyphosis, caries, cancer, fungus nematodes, neoplasms, gout, hemorrhoids, jaundice, cyanosis, dropsy, amenorrhea, hemorrhage from the stomach, nose, lungs, bladder and womb, of asthma and ulceration of the lungs, of impotence and barrenness, of megrim, deafness, cataract, amaurosis, urinary calculus, paralysis, defects of the senses and pains of thousands of kinds," (§80)

While Hahnemann suggested these miasms were "transmitted" from the parents to the child, they were apparently not genetic components, but rather, like the "inherited" characteristics of the doshas in Ayurvedic Medicine, they were the result of some form of "interference" with the "vital force" of the parents at the actual moment of conception. Reflecting the ignorance of the past, pre-scientific medicine assumed that conception occurred at the time of intercourse, whereas, it actually occurs hours, sometimes days, after the act of intercourse.

Attempting to attribute the numerous types of diseases to a few basic causes reveals either an incredible degree of naivety, or the ignorance that comes from pre-scientific theorizing. It appears that Hahnemann was creating elaborate rationales in an attempt to cover the fact that, despite homeopathic treatments, the diseases were never completely eliminated.

Possibly the most contentious aspect of Homeopathy is the so-called process of "dynamization, or potentizing"(§128; 246-247; 269). This theory proposes that, contrary to all accepted principles of science, the more one dilutes or reduces the amount of a drug in a solution, the more potent, and more effective, it becomes. The dynamization process begins with the preparation of a Mother Tincture, where the plant, or mineral agent, is dissolved in a mixture of 90% alcohol and 10% water, (although these amounts can vary). The mixture is stored for two to four weeks, and shaken, (a process known as succusion), at regular intervals. A small amount is removed and is then added to either nine or ninety parts of alcohol or water; as before this is shaken briskly, at least forty times.

This process is repeated so that each time the previous mixture continuing to be diluted; the strength of the dilution is identified by Roman numerals, X = 10 and C = 100, thus 1X is a 1:9 mix, while 1C is a 1:90 mix. Eventually the mixtures reach an ultra-molecular level for, scientifically, there are limits to how often a mixture can be diluted before all traces of the original substance are completely lost. This maximum limit is known as Avogadro's number (6.023 x 1023) which actually corresponds to homeopathic potencies of 12C or 24X (1 part in 1024); despite this Hahnemann indicates the process should be continued until, "… the thirtieth development of powerwhich is the one most generally used." (§270)

While orthodox science can find no reason why dynamization should work, as Bopp (1985) noted the lack of scientific or mathematical proof does not upset homeopathic doctors (p. 10) for, following the lead of Hahnemann they attribute it to a metaphysical process,

"The homœopathic system of medicine develops for its use, to a hitherto unheard-of degree, the spirit-like medicinal powers of the crude substances by means of a process peculiar to it and which has hitherto never been tried, whereby only they all become penetratingly efficacious1 and remedial…" (Hahnemann, §269) 

Hahnemann lived at a time when many physicians accepted without question that, "… disturbances of the mind and body were mirrored in the motion of the stars." (Leavesley, 2000, p. 36); as such, astrological influences were the principal means of medical diagnosis; Hahnemann appears to have been influenced, at least in part, by such ideas. In treating patients their actual symptoms were deemed essentially irrelevant; all that the physician required was their birth details to plot their natal planetary influences and from this information, he could prescribe astrologically appropriate herbs.

Ancient herbal medicine was based on the belief that each plant contained a small amount of cosmic life-energy that had been absorbed by the plant when certain planets were in their ascendancy. The appropriateness of the drug, its active ingredients, or the strength  of the dose were totally unimportant; all that mattered was this energy component, and since this energy was considered to be so potent, the minutest  amount of this energy was deemed sufficient to cure any disease.

More importantly since Homeopathy is based upon Vitalistic concepts, a belief in a, "spirit-like vital principle… "(p 11), an, "… instinctively perceiving and regulating vital force…" (§15), Hahnemann claimed that disease, per se, was the "morbid derangement" of this life energy, and that cures could only be effected by the use of medicines that could act upon this "spirit-like vital forces" (§16). According to Vitalistic theory, since the life-force found in plants is part of the great spiritual force that brought the universe into being, and continues to sustain it, even though the amount of the original substance, the herb or mineral, might be diluted, the actual life-force within that substance can never be diluted. This means that, no matter how endlessly diluted a substance might be, however minute might be the final amount of that substance, the life-force within that substance remains as powerful as when the process began.

Thus while Hahnemann claimed that the potentially harmful effects of substances, especially poisons was reduced with each dilution, the innate spiritual essence of the substance, remained undiminished, its power spread throughout the greatly increased volume, with no loss of its initial potency! Reflecting the  philosophical concept of the Alchemists that matter could be "converted" to release its inherent nature, so too Hahnemann indicated that the dynamization process would ultimately reduce the original substance to its most basic elemental form, the, "…  individual spirit-like, (conceptual) essence.   (§270, 6th edition)

If the dynamization process is actually effective in producing medicines of extraordinary efficacy, then it should be a simple matter for Homeopaths to demonstrate this fact. However, the fact is that despite hundreds of attempts to demonstrate the efficacy of homeopathic remedies, so far there is no evidence to indicate they are any more effective than placebos.

An overview of six trials, involving 556 subjects by McCarney, Linde and Lasserson (2004), found no evidence to support the use of Homeopathy for chronic asthma.

Significantly most homeopathic research is conducted by Homeopaths and other Complementary and Alternative Medical (CAM) researchers.  In a randomised, double-blind, placebo controlled trial by CAM researchers White, Slade,  Hunt, Hart, and Ernst (2003), no differences were found between the two treatments and it was concluded that that was no evidence to support that homeopathic remedies were any better than placebos.

CAM researchers Brien, Lewith and Bryant,  (2003) examined the proposal that, if ultramolecular doses are clinically active, then a group given Belladonna 30C should experience more true Belladonna proving symptoms than a placebo group; they found no significant difference between the groups. The finding that homeopathic remedies are no better than placebos is endlessly repeated. Walach, Koster, Hennig and Haag (2001) found nothing to indicate differences in responses between subjects given homeopathic Belladonna 30C and those given a placebo.

 A meta-analysis by Shang, Huwiler-Müntener, et al.  (2005), indicated that, "… the effects seen in placebo controlled trials of homeopathy are compatible with the placebo hypothesis." (p. 731); in other words, results produced by homeopathic remedies are nothing more than a placebo effect.

CAM researchers Long and Ernst (2001) found that while a number of trials on the use of homeopathic substances to treat Osteoarthritis, a common rheumatic disease, favoured homeopathic treatment, they did not however allow any definite conclusions to be reached as to the effectiveness of homeopathic remedies to treat this disease. Similarly, while Fisher, Greenwood, Huskisson, Turner and Belon (1989) indicated the homeopathic medicine R toxicodendron 6C did produce improvements in patients with fibrositis, re-analysis of the data by Colquhoun (1990) indicated there was, "…no firm evidence for the efficacy of homeopathic treatments of fibrosistis." (p. 442)

A major problem with much CAM research is the poor methodology, in an overview of 5,000 trials Bloom, Rethi, Dahan, and Jonsson (2000) found that only 258 met acceptable criteria. Similarly Ernst and Pittler (1998) from the Department of Complementary medicine, University of Exeter reviewed eight separate trials of homeopathic arnica; not only did they find that most contained "severe methodological flaws" but they also found no evidence to indicate that homeopathic arnica was any more efficacious than a placebo.

Similar findings, that highly dilute homeopathic remedies were no different from placebos and were most likely due to non-specific treatment effects, was also reported by Ernst (2005).

One of the most extensive studies into Homeopathy was conducted by Scofield (1984), a proponent of Homeopathy, and, in his final analysis he was forced to concede, "It is obvious from this review that, despite much experimental and clinical work, there is only little evidence to suggest that homeopathy is effective." (p. 218)

While complementary health researchers consistently fail to achieve any positive results they seem unable to admit that Homeopathy is a fallacious concept. They resort to a cognitively dissonant approach, blaming the failure on such things as, "… the unknown role of publication bias." Kleijnen, Knipschild and Riet (1991), or, as Scofield rationalized, if only homeopathy was, "… properly tested  on a large enough scale " (p. 218) it is certain it would be proven to be a valid form of health care!


It is interesting that while researchers are unable to find any scientific basis for the various Homeopathic claims, supporters of Homeopathy persistently insist that areas of physics, as yet to be discovered, will ultimately provide adequate explanations for the various homeopathic processes.

"Apparently, what we confront here is not a dilution in the ordinary sense, but another, as yet unknown, dispersion of the substance which while "dematerializing" on the molecular level preserves its specific dynamic characteristics and intensifies its energetic charge." (Whitmont, 1993, p. 6)

They point to such work as that of Davenas, Beauvais, Benveniste, et al, (1988) and Samal and Geckeler, (2001). Davenas et al (1988) claimed that solutions containing anti-IgE antibodies that had been diluted to levels of 1 x 102 to 1 x 10120 –"… beyond the Avogadro limit" (p. 818)   were still able to effect antibodies of the immunoglobulin E, (IgE). Although admitting that, "… none of the starting molecules is present in the solution…" it was suggested that, "… specific information must have been transmitted during the dilution/shaking process." (p. 818)
 
The paper was accepted by the authors of Nature with certain reservations, and a degree of incredulity, adding, "There is no physical basis for such an activity."

An essential aspect of all scientific research is that, when replicated by others, similar results are found. The editors of Nature arranged for independent investigators to visit the laboratories where the research was conducted and the investigators, Maddox, Randi and Stewart, (1988) found numerous inconsistencies, for instance, the experiments, "…do not always "work" (p. 287), sampling errors were ignored, (p. 288). The investigative team concluded "We believe that experimental data have been uncritically assessed and their imperfections inadequately reported." (p. 287); thus, the claims by Davenas, et al, (1988) remain unsubstantiated.

Samal and Geckeler (2001) reported finding evidence of unusual properties in aqueous solutions; they found evidence that the compounds being tested tended to cluster together, and increased in size as the solution was diluted. This increase in size was rapid, occurring when the solution was diluted rather than over time. In their article they mentioned only that their discovery, "…could be of general importance with profound implications on the universal understanding of diverse phenomena involving dilution and dilute solutions." (p. 2224) Although they specifically made no reference to any homeopathic processes, others, like Coghlan (2001), suggested that this research, "…could provide the first scientific insight into how some homeopathic remedies work." (p. 4)

However, in a response to this article, O’Brien and Spencer (2001) pointed out that if "clumping" did occur, then there was even less likelihood that we would find residual molecules dispersed in homeopathic solutions. Rowland (2001) offered a possible explanation for the ‘phenomena’ observed by Samal and Geckeler (2001), namely that many molecules are known to adsorb into two-dimensional films onto the walls of the containing vessels. They suggested that the original results were quite consistent with observation of these films rather than suspensions in solution.

The Law of Potentization is contrary to every known concept of physics and medicine; if it is valid, then every known principle of orthodox chemistry must be abandoned! The problem is that if, as it is claimed, Homeopathic drugs perform more effectively at a diluted level, then so too should every other chemical, either alone or in combination; yet the fact is they do not, all of which suggests that either the Homeopaths or the Chemists are wrong.

Homeopathy is essentially a religious-philosophy in the guise of medicine, an amalgam of various ancient pre-scientific theories, including Vitalism, Christianity, Astrology, Alchemy and Animal Magnetism.

Homeopathic Vitalism is based upon Christianity; Hahnemann appears to have believed his theories were a divine revelation from God. The vital force "…comes from the central source of all life… the great Creative Intelligence" (Lindlahr, 2002, p. 230). It is this same deity who reveals, "His wisdom and goodness" (§17) by producing physical symptoms that makes known to the physician what must be "removed" so as to restore good health. (§22) Such is the complexity of disease only God can understand it; it would be of no practical use for physicians to know what causes disease, and so, "… will forever remain concealed from him;" (§ 12, Note 1, 5th-6th edition). The concept of the vital spirit was also an expression of the Christian theme of the "memento mori" (remember you must die) – the belief that while eventually the body will die, the spirit, the creation of a supreme God "the preserver of mankind" (§17), will survive.

One can see within Homeopathy aspects of the ancient Astrological concept of the Macrocosm-Microcosm. Just as on a Macrocosmic level, God created man and the cosmos, instilling within all living things a vital-spirit,  so too on a mundane Microcosmic level the Homeopaths replicates the process by locating and releasing the vital force from plants and minerals so that, as God’s agents, they can restore health to the sick.

Homeopathy proposes that diseases are caused by a morbific agent, an immaterial form of infection (§ 11, Note 2, 6th edition), an invisible form of energy, rather like gravity, or magnetism, that morbidly affects and deranges our vital force (§ 12); each particular disease being the result of, "a peculiar morbid derangement of our vital force." (§29) but that this derangement of the vital force can, by the use of the mystical homeopathic potions, be overcome.

Hahnemann was keen to draw on any sources that supported his mystical theories, and he seems to have adopted a number of ideas from Franz Anton Mesmer. There is evidence to suggest that while visiting Vienna, Hahnemann met and was profoundly influenced by the transcendental teachings of Mesmer, whose theories were a combination of astrology, mysticism and vitalism.

His principal idea concerned the existence of a universal healing energy, (gravitas universalis), which he perceived as a form of magnetic energy, (animal magnetism), that could be drawn down from the heavens by certain gifted individuals and channeled into patients. Hahnemann appears to have accepted many of Mesmer’s ideas for he mentions Mesmer (§293), animal magnetism (§288), ‘mesmerism’ (§280; 288-290; 293; 294), magnetism (§11; 269; 280; 286; 287) and its effects on "our life principle" (§286).

Homeopaths are much like the Alchemists of old who spent years in a fruitless search for the philosopher’s stone never realizing, or accepting, that their theories were simply fanciful delusions. Living in a pre-scientific age they can be excused for their ignorance; modern Homeopaths have no such excuse! Instead, following the example of Hahnemann, they dogmatically refuse to accept reality, rationalizing their failures to the nth degree.

Perhaps the truth of the matter was inadvertently revealed by Dr. Sandra Cabot, a local Australian GP and a Homeopath. In a radio interview in June 2002, responding to a listener’s question on homeopathic vaccination, she stated that homeopathic vaccination did not work, because, in her own words,

"…when the active vaccination substance was diluted several million times, it would render the active agent totally ineffective in triggering the body’s natural response to create antibodies."

Is it rather strange to note that, while she could clearly see that diluting a vaccine several million times rendered it totally useless, she apparently could not see that the same process would also apply equally when other substances are diluted to a similar level!

Notes:
1.    Raleigh’s Sovereign Antidote - a concoction of forty roots, herbs and seeds, plus bezoar stone, pearls, coral, deer horn, amber, musk, and the flesh, heart and liver of a viper. (Thompson, (1928)
2.    Goa Stone – an apple sized ball of gum-resin, coral, pearls, sapphires, ambergris and gold leaf, prepared by the Jesuit Fathers in Goa, and highly prized as an antidote for poison and as a cure for the plague. 


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