By Dr. Zoran Janković, DVM
"Eppur si muove" - And yet it moves - were the words Italian mathematician and physicist Galileo Galilei allegedly uttered after being sentenced by the Inquisition for heresy. Galileo's heresy was his opinion that the Sun lies motionless, that the Earth is not at the centre of universe, and that it moves. Unlike those around him who were quite happy to blindly follow dogma concerning the universal order, Galileo observed the world around him, measured different parameters and finally, after he analysed enough collected data, worked out that the Earth is moving around the Sun. Galileo was certainly luckier then Giordano Bruno, another Italian mathematician, who was burned at the stake in 1600 for advocating the same idea.
People who attack homeopathy these days do so with the same fervor as the Inquisitors. With their small, medieval minds, they repeat the same nonsense and misconceptions about homeopathy, over and over, without making the slightest effort to conduct their own research or empirical quest. I have to admit that my first reaction to homeopathy was of a similar myopic nature, my 'conventional scientific mind' immediately dismissed it as nonsense, and I had no desire to study the subject further.
Enter Spark, the appropriately named dog
But then one day Spark visited my practice and everything changed.
It took me a few moments to realize that Spark was not some strange, hairless breed I had never encountered before, but rather a West Highland Terrier. He had only a few tufts of hair remaining, mostly on his head, chest and the tip of his tail. The rest of his skin was completely bald, blackish and covered with oozing sores and scabs. I was the fourth veterinarian to see Spark. After learning his medical history and previous treatments, it became obvious that there weren't many options left to try. He had already been treated with several anti-parasitic medicines, tested for different allergies and was eating nothing but hypoallergenic dry-foods. None of this had worked. He'd also been on several types of antibiotics and steroids, as well as a course of fungicidal medicine, all to no positive effect whatsoever. In fact his health kept deteriorating.
The last veterinarian had prescribed Cyclosporin, an immunosuppressant, touted at the time as the ultimate solution for atopic dermatitis. It wasn't just that Spark's skin wasn't getting better, the poor dog became severely depressed, refused to eat and also developed bad conjunctivitis as a result of this treatment. I felt so dejected, what was the point of all those years of conventional education and hard work I'd gone through if I was unable to help Spark? I had no other option but to capitulate and admit that I was unable to help. So reluctantly I advised the owners to seek some form of alternative treatment. After a while the shock of realizing the helplessness of my conventional veterinarian training faded away and I forgot about Spark.
No, this isn't Spark, but he looked just as healthy as this Westie following homeopathic treatment
Several months later, Spark visited again. I couldn't believe it was the same dog. His skin was completely healthy, with fully-restored shiny, white coat and bright eyes. His whole demeanour had changed. I couldn't believe this bouncy fluffy ball of happiness was that miserable wretch of a dog I had seen only a few months before. It was nothing short of a miracle. I couldn't wait to learn about this new 'scientific' cure that had solved Spark's problems. But my enthusiasm turned to disappointment when the owners uttered the word 'homeopathy', which, at that time, was synonymous with 'quackery' as far as I was concerned.
I was even more disappointed to learn that the dog had been treated by a homeopath for humans - that was outrageous to a dyed in the wool veterinarian surgeon like me. Animals were animals and humans were humans!
But Spark's full recovery set me on a quest to obtain more knowledge. The fact that conventional science is unable to reconcile the principles of homeopathy caused me much grief in the beginning but I decided to temporarily 'get over it' and focus on a hands-on approach by experimenting for myself. I took an opportunity to study and work with several homeopaths. It was like entering a completely new world full of wonders. The first amazing thing I discovered was the vast amount of literature on the subject. Both ancient and contemporary, whole books had been written by medical doctors and veterinarians-turned-homeopaths - not a bad showing for a 'quacky' method.
Once I started devouring all the books I could get my hands on, I slowly started to realise that homeopathy is anything but quackery - it was an ancient system of knowledge that made complete sense, founded on proven remedies, the records for which have been meticulously kept since the time of Hahneman, an 18th century German physician who systematised this vast ancient knowledge into a coherent medical discipline. At this point I simply didn't care anymore how the homeopathic principles could be made to 'fit' into conventional scientific-medical terms. I couldn't wait to see if it worked in practice.
As soon as I started using homeopathic remedies in my practice I started witnessing more 'miracles'. Now, I should say upfront that it would be irresponsible to claim that homeopathy is a miracle 'cure all' method. It certainly has its limits: when the disease process and pathology of the tissue is very advanced, homeopathy can do very little. At the same same, homeopathy had some solutions to offer that were truly miraculous when compared to available allopathic treatments.
At this point in my career I was in charge of a charity clinic for neutering strays, and I had to operate on an extraordinarily large number of animals in a short time. As a result of my research I had discovered that the simple addition of homeopathic Arnica or Staphisagria to pre-operative protocols significantly reduced bleeding and other surgical complications, while homeopathic Calendula in post-operative protocols virtually eradicated all commonly encountered complications. I was impressed!
'Scientific evidence' and the torch-wielding villagers
I generally try to avoid debating or proselytising about the soundness of homeopathy. People who know nothing about homeopathy usually either express a desire to learn more, or walk away unmoved. Every now and then a 'hater' of homeopathy with the ferocity of a torch-wielding villager crosses my path, the kind of person who would have happily ignited Giordano Bruno's stake over 400 years ago.
Repent sinners, homeopathy cannot work because DuPont Chemical sayeth so!
I used to be baffled that some people would have such strong negative reactions to homeopathy. Homeopathy, after all, is not nearly as damaging as most allopathic medical treatments. It seems that the venomous grudge held by such people against homeopathy is often based merely on what they have gleaned from a superficial search on Google, Wikipedia or other 'debunking' websites. I yet have to meet an opponent of homeopathy whose beliefs are based on in-depth knowledge of homeopathic methods or personal experience with homeopathic remedies. The testimonies of real life professionals who work daily with homeopathic remedies and thousands of happy patients have very little meaning for them. Their mind is shut and nothing can sway their belief that the Earth, and modern science, are the center of the Universe. This certainly leaves very little space for any meaningful discussion.
During the course of my experimentation I have learned that homeopathic remedies can effectively cure conditions which conventional medicine can do very little about. Nowadays, when I hear someone call homeopathic solutions "nothing but water", I think to myself 'tell that to hundreds of my patients who are still happily waging their tails or purring thanks to homeopathy!' Or ask the at least a dozen local stray cat colonies about the scientific studies that can explain how just one inexpensive homeopathic granule per colony can cure highly infectious Ringworm outbreaks in no time.
These are true healing wonders, and while there are no bullet-proof scientific studies that prove the efficacy of homeopathic principles, there are many people out there who can testify to its effectiveness. Then again, most of the scientific studies on conventional medical treatment are not 'bullet-proof' either. Many conventional medical treatments widely prescribed today are based on nothing but shoddy science, manipulated research, and corporate greed. Perhaps the best example of this is the Cholesterol Myth.
Medical dogma about saturated fats and cholesterol causing heart disease has dominated western medical thinking over the last half century, notably since biochemist Ancel Keys published his study on the 'Lipid Hypothesis' in the 1950s. Today we know that his study was flawed because he conveniently swept under the rug a large body of data that didn't fit his hypothesis. The American Heart Association, which concluded in 1957 that "the evidence that dietary fat correlates with heart disease does not stand up to critical examination," changed its position in 1960. Why? Because Keys was on the committee issuing a new report that a low-fat diet was advised for people at risk of heart disease. Since then, the "fat is bad" theory has been accepted as nutritional wisdom, even though clinical trials found no connection.
"Most researchers today consider that a high intake of saturated fat and elevated LDL cholesterol are the most important causes of atherosclerosis and coronary heart disease. The lipid hypothesis has dominated cardiovascular research and prevention for almost half a century, although the number of contradictory studies may exceed those that are supportive. The harmful influence of a campaign that ignores much of the science extends to medical research, health care, food production and human life. There is an urgent need to draw attention to the most striking contradictions, many of which may be unknown to most doctors and researchers."1Indeed, many medical doctors today still prescribe dangerous drugs such as statins because of this flawed study, to the benefit of the pharmaceutical industry and the detriment of people's health.
Homeopathy and allopathy - Two sides of the same coin
There is actually considerably more laboratory and clinical research on homeopathic medicine than most people realise. Not only that, but I can argue that homeopathy and conventional (allopathic) medicine are actually two sides of the same coin. Conventional medicine is based on targeting specific diseases with symptom-specific drugs and procedures. This approach is based on the assumption that the larger dose of a drug, the stronger its effects will be. This makes sense in theory, but knowledgeable physicians and pharmacologists know it isn't true. In fact there is a recognised principle in pharmacology called the 'biphasic response of drugs'. To put this in layman's terms: research has shown that, rather than a drug having increased effects as the dose is increased, the opposite is true, the larger the dose, the more reduced the effect. Meanwhile, exceedingly small doses of the same drug will actually increase its effectiveness.
For instance, it's widely recognised that normal medical doses of atropine block the parasympathetic nerves, causing mucous membranes to dry up, while exceedingly small doses of atropine cause increased secretions to mucous membranes. This pharmacological principle was concurrently discovered in the 1870s by two separate researchers, Hugo Schulz, a conventional scientist, and Rudolf Arndt, a psychiatrist and homeopath. Initially called the Arndt-Schulz law, this principle is still widely recognised, as witnessed by the fact that it's commonly listed in medical dictionaries under the definition of 'law'.
More specifically, these researchers discovered that weak stimuli accelerate physiological activity, medium stimuli inhibit physiological activity, and strong stimuli halt physiological activity. For example, very weak concentrations of iodine, bromine, mercuric chloride, and arsenious acid will stimulate yeast growth, medium doses of these substances will inhibit yeast growth, and large doses will kill the yeast.
In the 1920s, conventional scientists who tested and verified this biphasic response termed the phenomenon 'hormesis'. Dozens of studies were published in a wide variety of fields to confirm this biological principle. In the past two decades there has been a resurgence of interest in this pharmacological law, and at this point hundreds of studies in numerous areas of scientific investigation have verified it.
Because these studies have been performed by conventionally-trained scientists who are typically unfamiliar with homeopathic medicine, they have not tested or even considered testing the ultra-high dilutions commonly used in homeopathy. However, their research has consistently shown very significant effects from such small microdoses that they're left confused and surprised. Reference to this research on the Arndt-Schulz law and hormesis is important for validating homeopathic research because it demonstrates the evidence for the important biphasic responses and microdose effects that lie at the heart of homeopathy. This research is readily available to all physicians and scientists, yet is often ignored or misunderstood.
We live in the age of clinical research and clinical trials, and yet this field is often riddled with contradictions, controversies and confusion, especially for the layperson. More often then not, studies in conventional medicine will show that a certain therapy works, while other studies show that it doesn't. To solve this problem, modern researchers developed a method called 'meta-analysis', a systemic review of a body of research to evaluate the overall results of experiments within any given field.
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.2 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, and
- 13 of 15 showed benefit from miscellaneous diagnoses.
Despite the high percentage of studies providing 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 the 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. The researchers concluded that, "The evidence presented in this review would probably be sufficient for establishing homeopathy as a regular treatment for certain indications."
Skeptics usually argue that most of the studies on homeopathy were flawed in one significant way or another. They do not consider, however, that research in conventional medicine over the past 25 years has yielded a similar percentage of flawed studies. If they applied the same high standards to the therapies that doctors and veterinarians today take for granted, a whole boatload of vested interests would be out of business in no time.
Another favourite argument of skeptics is that all positive results from homeopathy are the result of the placebo effect. However, in one very intriguing study, Thyroxine 30x (thyroid hormone in homeopathic preparation, meaning that it's so diluted that it shouldn't - according to the skeptics - have any effect whatsoever) was placed in the water of tadpoles. When compared to tadpoles who were given a placebo, the study showed, morphogenesis of the tadpoles into frogs was slowed for those who were exposed to the homeopathic doses. Because thyroid hormone in crude doses is known to speed up morphogenesis, it makes sense, according to homeopathic principles, that homeopathic doses would slow it down. 3
There are more things in heaven and Earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy
Just because we yet don't have means to accurately measure and describe certain forces in our universe - and the laws that govern them - doesn't mean they are not there and not at work all around and within us. Imagine if humans didn't have a developed sense of smell. For such humans, the olfactory abilities of working dogs like bloodhounds would be incomprehensible. Quantum physics has long since shown that our knowledge of the world around us is merely the tip of the iceberg. It is now a proven scientific fact that every single material thing in our world vibrates at a certain frequency. In the case of living organisms, these vibrations form complex electromagnetic fields, or EMF. Every living thing has its own EMF: plants and animals have it, I have it, as well as you. Why is it so difficult to fathom that even minute doses of certain matter can influence and temporarily change the EMF of other matter with their vibrations?
This certainly seems like a plausible explanation. Until 'solid scientific proof' is provided, I am more than happy to accept it as working hypothesis, especially after witnessing the effectiveness of homeopathic remedies over and over again. Prescribing certain 'holistic' remedies is so much easier than prescribing many allopathic drugs, which have so many side effects and often deliver lesser results than homeopathic remedies. Our generation now faces the consequences of decades of antibiotics overuse - resistant 'super bugs' which may threaten the entire human race in the not-so-distant future.
Louis Pasteur is often considered to be the 'father' of modern microbiology. Everything conventional medicine knows about infectious diseases today is based on his postulates. Yet very few people are aware that Louis Pasteur on his deathbed admitted that he had got it all wrong:
"At the end of his life, Pasteur admitted that his theory was a fraud. He said that it was not the germs that mattered, but the medium in which they lived."4This means that our approach to healing and medicine requires a serious paradigm shift if we are ever going to come closer to real understanding of the Universe and the world we live in. Alternately, perhaps a serious paradigm shift that brings us closer to real understanding will change our approach to healing, medicine, and a whole lot more besides.
Scientific Evidence for Homeopathic Medicine, Dana Ullman, MPH
1. Uffe Ravnskov, MD, PhD: The fallacies of the lipid hypothesis
2. J. Kleijnen, P. Knipschild, G. ter Riet, "Clinical Trials of Homoeopathy," British Medical Journal, February 9, 1991, 302:316-323.
3. P.C. Endler, W. Pongratz, G. Kastberg, et al., "The Effect of Highly Diluted Agitated Thyroxine on the Climbing Activity of Frogs," Veterinary and Human Toxicology, 1994, 36:56. Also, P.C. Endler, W. Pongratz, R. van Wijk, et al., "Transmission of Hormone Information by Non-molecular Means," FASEB Journal, 1994, 8, Abs.2313.
4. Logan, Cordell E. (2000). 'A Partially Unified Theory of Disease. Priority One Health and Nutrition.'