Harvard Study Has Good News for Homeopathic Medicine
March 4, 2016
The American Journal of Public Health has recently published a survey article out of Harvard that shows that homeopathic medicine, while still only used by a small fraction of the U.S. population, has jumped 15% in use. In addition, most users put homeopathy among the top 3 complementary and integrative strategies they use in their health care.
The interest of this journal in this publication is linked to possible public health benefits from the use of homeopathic medicine. The principal investigator was Michelle Dossett, MD, PhD and the team also included placebo expert Ted Kaptchuk, OMD. They hail from Harvard’s School of Public Health and from a Harvard Medical School affiliated hospital, Beth Israel Deaconess. The teams notes that prior studies of homeopathy “suggest potential public health benefits such as reductions in unnecessary antibiotic usage, reductions in costs to treat certain respiratory diseases, improvements in peri-menopausal depression, improved health outcomes in chronically ill individuals, and control of a Leptospirosis epidemic in Cuba.”
The data was gleaned from the 2012 National Health Interview Survey. The researchers explored the prevalence and use patterns of homeopathic medicines among U.S. adults in relation to other complementary and integrative medicine (CIM) use. Versions of this survey in 2002 and 2007 found use of homeopathic medicines at 1.7% and 1.8% of the adult population, respectively. The 15% growth in the recent half-decade corresponds to an overall use rate of 2.1% in 2012. The most common conditions for which people sought homeopathic treatment were respiratory and ear-nose-and-throat complaints as well as musculoskeletal pain syndromes. Users tended to be more educated than non-users.
Use of homeopathy in the US is lower than in many European countries. The authors note, for instance, that surveys have found rates at 8.2% in Italy and nearly 15% in Germany. A recent Italian wire-service story reported findings of a 2012 survey by a homeopathic manufacturer that found much higher use, at close to one-in-six adult Italians.
The Harvard team reported that positive views of homeopathy were much higher among those who saw a professional homeopath compared to those who simply purchased the pills from the store and self-prescribed. Those who consulted professionals were more likely to feel that homeopathy was “very important in maintaining health and well-being.” The sense of the importance of the remedies was also stronger. More of those who’d consulted a homeopathic practitioner thought that homeopathy helped their health condition “a great deal” than did the self-prescribers.
Naysayers, who believe these medicine are nothing more than placebos, will likely question the additional perceived value post practitioner visit. Is it anything more than the greater level of investment in a placebo one has if the placebo is practitioner-recommended rather than self-prescribed?
The article came to The Integrator from homeopath and author Dana Ullman, MPH, CCH (pictured). He sent notice of the Harvard publication and of the recent report on Italian use with this note: “Here’s some GOOD news about homeopathy!”
Ullman adds: “This survey confirms that a certain well-educated and well-satisfied group of Americans benefit from self-prescribing homeopathic medicines as well as from going to professional homeopaths. Although these numbers are much higher in select countries in Europe, it is more than reasonable to support individual choice in health care. Just as our country is a melting pot of different cultures and races, our health and medical care likewise needs this healthy diversity.”
Homeopathy has taken it on the chin the last two years. The Harvard study was published amidst a renewed flare up of bad publicity following a controversial 2015 report from the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council. The chair of the report, general practitioner Paul Glasziou, MD blogged on the controversial findings at the British Medical Journal. A wave of postings from anti-homeopathy writers, such as this, immediately followed.
Weighing the public health potential of homeopathic medicine requires a wading into a river of twin ambiguities. These can each be true simultaneously: 1) homeopathic treatment only has value as a placebo, and 2) expanded use of these medicines can be useful tools in the public health campaign against antibiotic overuse. This 2008 study, for instance, found that 13% of doctors use antibiotics as placebos. Mightn’t we have been better off, from a population health perspective, had they prescribed homeopathic remedies and not delivered this extra load of antibiotics onto the terrain?
French researchers spoke to this potential last year when they concluded that “management of patients by homeopathic GPs may be less expensive from a global perspective and may represent an important interest to public health.” The Harvard researchers included a similar note: “Because of potential public health benefits associated with the use of homeopathy, further research on this modality and targeted studies of users are warranted.”
Perhaps the way to move forward is to allow skeptical doctors to deliver homeopathic medicine to their patients while announcing to them that it is a placebo. Kaptchuk and others have reported that the placebos can still work. If they have more significant positive value, well, that healing can take place without the skeptic’s approval.
About the Author:
John Weeks is a writer, speaker, chronicler and organizer with 32 years of experience in the movement for integrative health and medicine. the long-time founder/editor of The Integrator Blog News & Reports, a primary connective terrain for the diverse stakeholders and professions in the field and was invited in May 2016 to serve as editor-in-chief of the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. Besides his Integrative Practitioner column, he presently writes for Integrative Medicine: A Clinician’s Journal, the Huffington Post and elsewhere.
He increasingly enjoys teaching and mentoring. He has keynoted, led plenary sessions, breakouts, and offered guest lectures for dozens of organizations ranging from the Bastyr University to the Association of American Medical Colleges, the UCLA School of Medicine to the Institute for Health and Productivity Management, the AANP and AIHM to the American Hospital Association. He has consulted with insurers, employers, professional organizations, universities and government agencies at all levels.
As an organizer, Weeks convened the Integrative Medicine Industry Leadership Summits (2000-2002), directed the National Education Dialogue to Advance Integrated Care (2004-2006), fund-raised the start-up of the Integrated Healthcare Policy Consortium (2002), and co-founded the Academic Collaborative for Integrative Health, which he directed 2007-2015. In 2014, three consortia and others combined to grant him a Lifetime Achievement Living Tribute Award. Four academic institutions have granted Weeks honorary doctorates for his work. Seattle-based, he considers himself a particularly lucky soul to have worked remotely while living with his spouse Jeana Kimball, ND, MPH, and their children in Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Puerto Rico for 6 of the last 15 years.
Altern Ther Health Med. 1997 Jan;3(1):46-9.
Davidson JR1, Morrison RM, Shore J, Davidson RT, Bedayn G.
Homeopathy is a well-established therapeutic system with potential relevance to psychiatry, but as yet it is largely untested.
To report the use of homeopathic treatment in patients with depression and anxiety.
Individually selected homeopathic remedies were used on an outpatient basis to treat 12 adults who had major depression, social phobia, or panic disorder. The patients either requested homeopathic treatment or received it on a physician’s recommendation after partial or poor response to conventional therapies. Duration of treatment was 7 to 80 weeks. Response was monitored by using a clinical global scale (n = 12), the self-rated SCL-90 scale (n = 8), and the Brief Social Phobia Scale (n = 4).
Overall response rates were 58% according to the clinical global improvement scale and 50% according to the SCL-90 or the Brief Social Phobia Scale.
Homeopathy may be useful in the treatment of affective and anxiety disorders in patients with mildly to severely symptomatic conditions.
Does additional antimicrobial treatment have a better effect on URTI cough resolution than homeopathic symptomatic therapy alone? A real-life preliminary observational study in a pediatric population.
Zanasi A1, Cazzato S2, Mazzolini M3, Ierna CM3, Mastroroberto M4, Nardi E4, Morselli-Labate AM4.
The effectiveness of a homeopathic syrup on cough has been demonstrated in an adult population in a previous double-blind randomized study. The present prospective observational study investigated children affected by wet acute cough caused by non-complicated URTIs, comparing those who received the homeopathic syrup versus those treated with the homeopathic syrup plus antibiotic.
The aims were: 1) to assess whether the addition of antibiotics to a symptomatic treatment had a role in reducing the severity and duration of acute cough in a pediatric population, as well as in improving cough resolution; 2) to verify the safety of the two treatments.
Eighty-five children were enrolled in an open study: 46 children received homeopathic syrup alone for 10 days and 39 children received homeopathic syrup for 10 days plus oral antibiotic treatment (amoxicillin/clavulanate, clarithromycin, and erythromycin) for 7 days. To assess cough severity we used a subjective verbal category-descriptive (VCD) scale.
Cough VCD score was significantly (P < 0.001) reduced in both groups starting from the second day of treatment (-0.52 ± 0.66 in the homeopathic syrup group and -0.56 ± 0.55 in children receiving homeopathic syrup plus oral antibiotic treatment). No significant differences in cough severity or resolution were found between the two groups of children in any of the 28 days of the study. After the first week (day 8) cough was completely resolved in more than one-half of patients in both groups. Two children (4.3 %) reported adverse effects in the group treated with the homeopathic syrup alone, versus 9 children (23.1 %) in the group treated with the homeopathic syrup plus antibiotics (P = 0.020).
Our data confirm that the homeopathic treatment in question has potential benefits for cough in children as well, and highlight the strong safety profile of this treatment. Additional antibiotic prescription was not associated with a greater cough reduction, and presented more adverse events than the homeopathic syrup alone.
Anti-bacterial agents; Antitussive agents; Cough; Homeopathy; Respiratory tract infections
Homeopathy. 2010 Oct;99(4):231-42.
Extreme homeopathic dilutions retain starting materials: A nanoparticulate perspective.
Chikramane PS, Suresh AK, Bellare JR, Kane SG.
Department of Chemical Engineering, Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay, Adi Shankaracharya Marg, Powai, Mumbai, Maharashtra, India.
Homeopathy. 2010 Oct;99(4):229-30.
Homeopathy is controversial because medicines in high potencies such as 30c and 200c involve huge dilution factors (10⁶⁰ and 10⁴⁰⁰ respectively) which are many orders of magnitude greater than Avogadro’s number, so that theoretically there should be no measurable remnants of the starting materials. No hypothesis which predicts the retention of properties of starting materials has been proposed nor has any physical entity been shown to exist in these high potency medicines. Using market samples of metal-derived medicines from reputable manufacturers, we have demonstrated for the first time by Transmission Electron Microscopy (TEM), electron diffraction and chemical analysis by Inductively Coupled Plasma-Atomic Emission Spectroscopy (ICP-AES), the presence of physical entities in these extreme dilutions, in the form of nanoparticles of the starting metals and their aggregates.
Copyright © 2010 The Faculty of Homeopathy. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
by Dr. Nancy Malik BHMS
Nobel laureates, doctors, scientists, professors and science writers had plenty to say on homeopathy.
Nobel Laureates agreed that there’s strong evidence for Homeopathy [click to tweet]. Homeopathic remedies act as they are supposed to. By the end of year 2013, there have been 5 Nobel laureates in support of Homeopathy, 1 in opposition and 857 have not stated any opinion on Homeopathy.
1. Emil Adolf von Behring (1905)
The Father of Immunology
Emil Adolf von Behring (1854–1917) won the first Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine in 1901 for his discovery of the diphtheria antitoxin.
FATHER OF IMMUNOLOGY Emil Behring asked to suppress his successful work on Homeopathy. He discovered that homeopathic medicine enhances immunogenic activity. Behring wrote: “Samuel Hahnemann was right when he took his starting point in the symptoms of patients.”
Ref: Coulter, Harris L, Divided Legacy: A History of the Schism in Medical Thought, Volume IV: Twentieth-Century Medicine: The Bacteriological Era. The North Atlantic Books, Berkley, 1994, p. 96
In 1892 Behring actually experimented with serial (homeopathic) dilutions and found paradoxically enhanced immunogenic activity, but he was advised to suppress this experiment due to the aid and comfort it would provide to homeopaths. Only after he won the Nobel Prize did he feel comfortable in making public these experiments. In 1905, Behring admitted that colleagues remonstrated with him not to make such remarks public ‘since it was grist for the mill of homeopathy’.
Ref: ibid p.97
Behring broke from orthodox medical tradition by recognizing the value of the homeopathic law of similar in 1905
Ref: Dana Ullman http://bit.ly/HdOryq
He asserted that vaccination is, in part, derived from the homeopathic principle of similars. “In spite of all scientific speculations and experiments regarding smallpox vaccination, Jenner’s discovery remained an erratic blocking medicine, till the biochemically thinking Pasteur, devoid of all medical classroom knowledge, traced the origin of this therapeutic block to a principle which cannot better be characterized than by Hahnemann’s word: homeopathic. Indeed, what else causes the epidemiological immunity in sheep, vaccinated against anthrax than the influence previously exerted by a virus, similar in character to that of the fatal anthrax virus? And by what technical term could we more appropriately speak of this influence, exerted by a similar virus than by Hahnemann’s word “homeopathy”? I am touching here upon a subject anathematized till very recently by medical penalty: but if I am to present these problems in historical illumination, dogmatic imprecations must not deter me….only the road of Homeopathy lead to my goal.”
Ref: Behring, A. Emil von, Moderne phthisiogenetische und phthisoitherapeutische: Probleme in historischer Beleuchtung. Margurg: Selbsteverlag des Verfassers, 1905, http://bit.ly/YVpoZs
Behring concludes, ‘If I were confronted with a hitherto incurable disease and could see no way to treat it other than with homeopathy, I can assure you that I would not be deterred from following this course by dogmatic considerations’.
2. Brian David Josephson (1997)
Nobel Laureate – Physics 1973
Nobel Laureate – Physics 1973
“Simple-minded analysis may suggest that water, being a fluid, cannot have a structure of the kind that such a picture would demand. But cases such as that of liquid crystals, which while flowing like an ordinary fluid can maintain an ordered structure over macroscopic distances, show the limitations of such ways of thinking. There have not, to the best of my knowledge, been any refutations of homeopathy that remain valid after this particular point is taken into account.”
Dr. Brian D. Josephson’s (Emeritus Professor, University of Cambridge) responding to an article in the New Scientist (October 18, 1997) Ref: How Homeopathic Medicines Work: Nanopharmacology At Its Best 3. Luc Antoine Montagnier (2009)
Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 2008
“Nobel Laureate Luc Montagnier is to science what homeopathy is to medicine” ~Nancy Malik
Interdisciplinary Sciences: Life Sciences (SpringerLink)
Nanostructures in highly diluted biological samples of bacteria and virus DNA produces electromagnetic signals (2009) FULL TEXT
Luc Montagnier observed that potentised bacteria and virus DNA sequence emits electro-magnetic signals (low frequency radio waves) at 5C and 6C potencies and forms specific nano-structures which lasts 48 hours and are responsible for the EM effects measured. The EM signature changed with dilution levels but was unaffected by the initial concentration and remained even after the remaining DNA fragments were destroyed by chemical agents. However the EM signal was sensitive to heat over 70 degrees C and freezing -80 degrees C. Not only that, DNA sequences were recreated from its EM signature in pure water. That means EM signals were transmitted to pure water (that never had a DNA in it) placed in a container nearby in 18 hours. He reproduced his results 12 times.
Discussion on Luc Montagnier paper by Society of Homeopaths, Institute of Science in Society,Homeopathy World Community
Dr. Luc Montagnier, the French virologist said about homeopathy, “High Dilutions of something are not nothing…”
Nobel laureate Montagnier says homeopathic medicine is “real” phenomenon & Benveniste is today’s Galileo
Nobel laureate Luc Montagnier escapes intellectual terrorism and he currently works as a full-time professor at Shanghai Jiaotong University in China. He, in an interview in Science (24 Dec 2010) said, “”I am told that some people have reproduced Benveniste’s results (showing effects from homeopathic doses), but they [Europe] are afraid to publish it [homeopathy] because of the intellectu¬¬al terror from people who don’t understand it.” He concluded the interview by saying, “These are real phenomena which deserve further study.”
It shows intellectual terror the so-called science puts up on homeopathy and homeopaths
Water has a memory
Nobel Prize Winner does homeopathic study; with supportive findings.
Nobel Prize winner reports effects of homeopathic dilutions
Luc Montagnier delivered talk on “Electromagnetic Waves & Water Properties” in UNESCO Headquarter on 8th Oct 2014
4. Ervin Laszlo (2004)
Twice nominated for Nobel Peace Prize 2004/5
“Water has a remarkable capacity to register and conserve information, as indicated by, amongst other things, homeopathic remedies that remain effective even when not a single molecule of the original substance remains in a dilution”,
-Dr. Ervin Laszlo, Professor of ‘Systems Theory’ and the author of book ‘Science and the Akashic Field’, 2004, p. 53.
5. Rabindranath Tagore (1936)
Nobel Prize in Literature 1913
“I have long been an ardent believer in the science of Homeopathy and i fell happy that it has got now a greater hold in India than even in the land of its origin. It is not merely a collection of a few medicines but a real science with a rational philosophy as its base. We require more scientific interest and inquiry into the matter with special stress upon the Indian environment.”
Ref: Bagchi, A. K. Rabindranath Tagore and His Medical World. New Delhi: Konark Publishers, 2000
6. Mother Teresa (1950)
Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu
Nobel Peace Prize 1979
Mother Teresa added homeopathic care to the services at her missions. She opened her first charitable homeopathic dispensary in Calcutta in 1950. At present, four charitable homeopathic dispensaries are run under the guidance of the Mother’s Missionaries of Charity
Ref: Dana Ullman, The Homeopathic Revolution: WhyFamous people and cultural heroes love homeopathy
7. Mahatma Gandhi (1936)
Nominated 5 times Nobel Peace Prize between 1937-1948
“Homeopathy is the latest and refined method of treating patients economically and nonviolently. Government must encourage and patronize it in our country. Late Dr. Hahnemann was a man of superior intellectual power and means of saving of human life having a unique medical nerve. I bow before his skill and the Herculean and humanitarian labour he did. His memory wakes us again and you are to follow him, but the opponents hate the existence of the principles and practice of homeopathy which in reality cures a larger percentage of cases than any other method of treatment and it is beyond all doubt safer and more economical and the most complete medical science.”
-Mahatama Gandhi, 30 Aug 1936
Ref: Das, 1950; All India Homeopathic Medical Conference, 1968, http://sueyounghistories.com/archives/2009/07/26/mohandas-karamchand-gandhi-1869-%E2%80%93-1948/
“Homeopathy is the most modern and the most intelligent way to economically and nonviolent sick to treat. The government must promote in our country and support.”
-Ghandi cited in Martin Schmitz (ed.), Strömungen der Homöopathie, KVC Verlag Essen, Essen 2002
Gandhi also persuaded people to study homeopathy
Federal jury clears producer, marketer, and seller of homeopathic products in $255m class … Tucker Ellis
“Bell testified about her scientific studies in multiple chemical sensitivity and homeopathy, including how “nanoparticles” and “nanobubbles” can have an effect in biological cells. Dr. Bell opined, “It is very clear that nanoparticles in low doses are capable of capable of creating hermetic effects…similar to vaccine.” Dr. Bell explained how “hormesis” is a medical principle that describes how small doses of a substance can trigger the opposite effect of high doses of the same substance.”
USA September 18 2015
In a class action of importance to producers, marketers, and sellers of homeopathic products, on Friday, September 18, 2015, a federal jury in the false advertising trial of Allen, et al. v. Hylands, Inc., et al., Case No. 2:12-cv-01150 (“Hylands”) took less than a day to find defendants did not breach any express warranty or violate the California Consumer Legal Remedies Act, California Civil Code sections 1750 et seq.
The putative class plaintiffs sued defendants Hylands, Inc. and Standard Homeopathic Company alleging they made false and misleading representations about the effectiveness of the active ingredients in 12 homeopathic products produced, marketed, and sold by the defendants throughout the United States.
Homeopathic products are derived from botanical, mineral or biological substances and are classified as either over-the-counter (OTC) or prescription medicines. In contrast to conventional (allopathic) medicines, homeopathic remedies are predicated in part on the “principle of dilutions” under which active ingredients are thought to be more clinically useful or effective when they are significantly diluted, typically with purified water or an alcohol solution.
Homeopathic remedies and their packaging are not reviewed by the Food and Drug Administration (“FDA”). Homeopathic remedies, however, are classified as drugs under, and subject to, the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, and thus, must comply with the labeling requirements of the Act. The FDA has stated that it is not aware of any scientific evidence that homeopathic products are effective.
Back in August 2014, a California federal district court judge certified a nationwide class of purchasers of 10 of the products covering February 2008 to the present. The plaintiffs claimed defendants’ 12 homeopathic products, including some intended for infants and children, did not work as advertised because they were so diluted that the ingredients were “effectively non-existent” and the products were therefore not effective for their intended uses. The plaintiffs also alleged the homeopathic products labeling claims of “100% Natural,” “All Natural,” and “Natural” were untrue as the products purportedly contained synthetic chemicals, synthetically derived or chemically reduced elements, artificially produced elements, and/or dangerous or potentially dangerous ingredients.
The trial in Hylands spanned approximately two weeks and included expert testimony from both sides. Plaintiffs’ expert, Dr. Noel Rose, the director of John Hopkins’ Center of Autoimmune Disease Research testified as a medical expert, having reviewed materials provided by the plaintiffs’ counsel, as well as his own research into clinical and compilation studies, expert reports, published journal reports and the Hyland’s products and their labels. Dr. Rose stated, “[In] my opinion, there is no sound scientific or medical evidence that they provide any benefit to patients with medical conditions, such as those described and indicated on the labels, beyond the placebo effect.”
Defendants kicked off their defense by calling Dr. Iris Bell, a former Harvard psychiatry instructor and holder of a doctorate degree from Stanford University in neuro- and biobehavioral sciences who has consulted with Highlands, Inc. to design clinical trials. Bell testified about her scientific studies in multiple chemical sensitivity and homeopathy, including how “nanoparticles” and “nanobubbles” can have an effect in biological cells. Dr. Bell opined, “It is very clear that nanoparticles in low doses are capable of capable of creating hermetic effects…similar to vaccine.” Dr. Bell explained how “hormesis” is a medical principle that describes how small doses of a substance can trigger the opposite effect of high doses of the same substance.
Although the plaintiffs initially sought full refunds worth $350 million, plaintiffs’ counsel wrapped up closing arguments with a demand of $255 million for allegedly tricking consumers into purchasing “simple sugar pills” that provide no medical benefit. The jury of six women and three men did not agree, and needed less than a day to deliberate.
Tucker Ellis – Ronie M. Schmelz, Matthew I. Kaplan and Ndubisi Ezeolu
Management of Upper Respiratory Tract Infections by Different Medical Practices, Including Homeopathy, and Consumption of Antibiotics in Primary Care: The EPI3 Cohort Study in France 2007–2008
Lamiae Grimaldi-Bensouda,1,2,* Bernard Bégaud,3 Michel Rossignol,4,5 Bernard Avouac,1 France Lert,6 Frederic Rouillon,7 Jacques Bénichou,8,9 Jacques Massol,10 Gerard Duru,11 Anne-Marie Magnier,12 Lucien Abenhaim,13,14 and Didier Guillemot15,16
C. Mary Schooling, Editor
Author information ► Article notes ► Copyright and License information ►
This article has been cited by other articles in PMC.
Prescribing of antibiotics for upper respiratory tract infections (URTI) varies substantially in primary care.
To describe and compare antibiotic and antipyretic/anti-inflammatory drugs use, URTI symptoms’ resolution and occurrence of potentially-associated infections in patients seeking care from general practitioners (GPs) who exclusively prescribe conventional medications (GP-CM), regularly prescribe homeopathy within a mixed practice (GP-Mx), or are certified homeopathic GPs (GP-Ho).
The EPI3 survey was a nationwide population-based study of a representative sample of 825 GPs and their patients in France (2007–2008). GP recruitment was stratified by self-declared homeopathic prescribing preferences. Adults and children with confirmed URTI were asked to participate in a standardized telephone interview at inclusion, one-, three- and twelve-month follow up. Study outcomes included medication consumption, URTI symptoms’ resolution and potentially-associated infections (sinusitis or otitis media/externa) as reported by patients. Analyses included calibration to account for non-respondents and groups were compared using multivate analyses adjusting for baseline differences with a propensity score.
518 adults and children with URTI (79.3% rhinopharyngitis) were included (36.9% response rate comparable between groups). As opposed to GP-CM patients, patients in the GP-Ho group showed significantly lower consumption of antibiotics (Odds ratio (OR) = 0.43, 95% confidence interval (CI): 0.27–0.68) and antipyretic/anti-inflammatory drugs (OR = 0.54, 95% CI: 0.38–0.76) with similar evolution in related symptoms (OR = 1.16, 95% CI: 0.64–2.10). An excess of potentially-associated infections (OR = 1.70, 95% CI: 0.90–3.20) was observed in the GP-Ho group (not statistically significant). No difference was found between GP-CM and GP-Mx patients.
Patients who chose to consult GPs certified in homeopathy used less antibiotics and antipyretic/anti-inflammatory drugs for URTI than those seen by GPs prescribing conventional medications. No difference was observed in patients consulting GPs within mixed-practice. A non-statistically significant excess was estimated through modelling for associated infections in the GP-Ho group and needs to be further studied.