People are often confused by research, not only because it can be overly technical but because some studies show that a therapy works and other studies shows that it doesn’t. To solve this problem, a recent development in research is used, called a “meta-analysis,” which is a systematic review of a body of research that evaluates the overall results of experiments.
For access to many clinical and laboratory studies as well as to theoretical foundations of homeopathic microdoses, we recommend to review the books listed in the Resources section of this article.
In 1991, three professors of medicine from the Netherlands, none of them homeopaths, performed a meta-analysis of 25 years of clinical studies using homeopathic medicines and published their results in the British Medical Journal(1). This meta-analysis covered 107 controlled trials, of which 81 showed that homeopathic medicines were effective, 24 showed they were ineffective, and 2 were inconclusive.
The professors concluded, “The amount of positive results came as a surprise to us.”
Specifically, they found that:
13 of 19 trials showed successful treatment of respiratory infections
6 of 7 trials showed positive results in treating other infections
5 of 7 trials showed improvement in diseases of the digestive system
5 of 5 showed successful treatment of hay fever
5 of 7 showed faster recovery after abdominal surgery
4 of 6 promoted healing in treating rheumatological disease
18 of 20 showed benefit in addressing pain or trauma
8 of 10 showed positive results in relieving mental or psychological problems
13 of 15 showed benefit from miscellaneous diagnoses
Despite the high percentage of studies that provided evidence of success with homeopathic medicine, most of these studies were flawed in some way or another. Still, the researchers found 22 high-caliber studies, 15 of which showed that homeopathic medicines were effective. Of further interest, they found that 11 of the best 15 studies showed efficacy of these natural medicines, suggesting that the better designed and performed the studies were, the higher the likelihood that the medicines were found to be effective. Although people unfamiliar with research may be surprised to learn that most of the studies on homeopathy were flawed in one significant way or another, research in conventional medicine during the past 25 years has had a similar percentage of flawed studies.
With this knowledge, the researchers of the meta-analysis on homeopathy concluded, “The evidence presented in this review would probably be sufficient for establishing homeopathy as a regular treatment for certain indications.”
Despite the resistance to change in general and to homeopathy specifically, it is getting increasingly difficult for physicians and scientists to doubt the benefits that homeopathic medicines offer. Italian hematologist Paolo Bellavite and Italian homeopath Andrea Signorini’s Homeopathy: A Frontier in Medical Science is presently the most comprehensive resource of controlled studies on homeopathy. The authors conclude, “The sum of the clinical observations and experimental findings is beginning to prove so extensive and intrinsically consistent that it is no longer possible to dodge the issue by acting as if this body of evidence simply did not exist.”(2)
They go on to say, “To reject everything en bloc, as many are tempted to do, means throwing out the observations along with the interpretations, an operation which may be the line of least resistance, but which is not scientific because unexplained observations have always been the main hive of ideas for research.”
To ignore the body of experimental data that presently exists on homeopathic medicines and to deny the body of clinical experience of homeopaths and homeopathic patients, one would have to be virtually blind. One can only assume that this blindness is a temporary affliction, one that will soon be cured.
©, Dana Ullman, M.P.H.
Excerpted from Consumer’s Guide to Homeopathy,Tarcher/Putnam
1 J. Kleijnen, P. Knipschild, G. ter Riet, “Clinical Trials of Homoeopathy,” British Medical Journal, February 9, 1991, 302:316-323.
2 Paolo Bellavite and Andrea Signorini, Homeopathy: A Frontier in Medical Science. Berkeley: North Atlantic, 1995.
Paolo Bellavite and Andrea Signorini book, Homeopathy: A Frontier in Medical Science. Berkeley: North Atlantic, 1995
Harris L. Coulter, Homoeopathic Science and Modern Medicine: The Physics of Healing with Microdoses. Berkeley: North Atlantic, 1980
P.C. Endler and J. Schulte (editors), Ultra High Dilution: Physiology and Physics. Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic, 1994
M. Doutremepuich (ed.), Ultra-Low Doses. Washington, DC/London: Taylor and Francis, 1991
Gerhard Resch and Viktor Gutmann, Scientific Foundations of Homoeopathy. Munich: Bartel and Bartel, 1987
A.M. Scofield, “Experimental Research in Homoeopathy: A Critical Review,” British Homoeopathic Journal, 73, 3-4, July-October 1984, 161-80, 211-26
Dana Ullman (ed.), Monograph on Homeopathic Research, volumes I and II, 1981, 1986
Roeland van Wijk and Fred A.C. Wiegant, Cultured Mammalian Cells in Homeopathy Research: The Similia Principle in Self-Recovery. Utrecht: University of Utrecht, 1994
British Homoeopathic Journal (2 Powis Place, Great Ormond St., London, WC1N 3HT, England)