This entry was posted on September 8, 2011 by Mary Aspinwall.
Homeopathy is perhaps one of the most contentious areas in holistic medicine, with opinion polarized into two camps:
- those who think it is scientifically impossible for homeopathic remedies to work
- those who have used homeopathic remedies and know from direct experience that they do work
Homeopathic preparation of most remedies involves so much dilution that not even a molecule of the original substance remains. Although this may sound strange, some scientists, even those with no affinity for Homeopathy, have claimed that dilutants can have ‘a memory’ of the original substance even when no molecules are present.
The best known was French immunologist Jacques Benveniste who was head of a research team at the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research. He diluted a solution of human antibodies until not a single molecule remained. Provided the solutions were shaken vigorously, Benveniste found that human basophils reacted as if the original antibody was still there.Two years after publishing his findings he lost his job and research funding.
In 1999, a team of scientists led by Professor Madeleine Ennis of Queen's University of Belfast claimed they had replicated his results. Benveniste died in 2004. Nobel prize winner, Luc Montaignier who is now researching in China, to avoid people trying to influence or suppress his work, recently confirmed that homeopaths are right. He stated serial dilutions are "not nothing," because the dilutant is imprinted with the original substance. The "Memory of Water" controversy will not go away.
When others try to replicate these findings they are unable to do so and some suggest that this is due to a phenomenon called 'plausibility bias'.
Dr.Peter Fisher, who is Clinical Director at the Royal London Homeopathic Hospital, and since 2001 has also been the Physician to Queen Elizabeth II notes that:
"Plausibility bias obstructs a fair evaluation of the evidence around homeopathy; its extent and implications have not been adequately recognized or discussed. It should not impede further research, but we must recognize that such new research in homeopathy, if positive, may have limited impact on practice until a plausible theoretical framework is established."
In simple terms this means some observers will not be able to accept that homeopathy works, whatever the evidence until they know exactly how it works. Whatever evidence they are presented with they tend to insist that any benefit users experience is purely due to placebo effect.
Placebo effect is undoubtedly a powerful tool against illness. If someone is convinced a medicine, even a sugar pill, will help them, it generally does. However, this effect fails to explain why animals, babies, small children and skeptics, respond beautifully to a well prescribed homeopathic remedy or why a poorly prescribed homeopathic remedy has little lasting effect.
A further issue to consider is that true Homeopathy does not fit well into the double blind method. Many of the trials of homeopathy, including those which found it was beneficial, have often been unsatisfactory. The experimenters design double blinds, where the first group takes sugar pills and the second group all take the same homeopathic medicine (e.g. diluted grass pollens to treat hay fever). This is not Homeopathy. A homeopath would interview each member of the second group about the precise symptoms they get and prescribe each with a different medicine accordingly.
Skepticism is healthy, but not if it means you ignore a huge amount of empirical evidence from people who are certain that their return to health was due to Homeopathy. One of the easiest ways to see if Homeopathy works is to try it. The healthiest mind is an open one.