Homeopathy Explained – Gentle Healing or Reckless Fraud?

What are the principles behind Homeopathy and does it work ? 

Homeopathy is a system of alternative medicine created in 1796 by Samuel Hahnemann, based on his doctrine of like cures like (similia similibus curentur), a claim that a substance that causes the symptoms of a disease in healthy people would cure similar symptoms in sick people. 

Homeopathy is a pseudoscience – a belief that is incorrectly presented as scientific. Homeopathic preparations are not effective for treating any condition; large-scale studies have found homeopathy to be no more effective than a placebo, indicating that any positive effects that follow treatment are only due to the placebo effect, normal recovery from illness, or regression toward the mean.

Hahnemann believed the underlying causes of disease were phenomena that he termed miasms, and that homeopathic preparations addressed these. The preparations are manufactured using a process of homeopathic dilution, in which a chosen substance is repeatedly diluted in alcohol or distilled water, each time with the containing vessel being bashed against an elastic material, commonly a leather-bound book. Dilution typically continues well past the point where no molecules of the original substance remain. Homeopaths select homeopathics by consulting reference books known as repertories, and by considering the totality of the patient's symptoms, personal traits, physical and psychological state, and life history.

Homeopathy is not a plausible system of treatment, as its dogmas about how drugs, illness, the human body, liquids and solutions operate are contradicted by a wide range of discoveries across biology, psychology, physics and chemistry made in the two centuries since its invention. Although some clinical trials produce positive results, multiple systematic reviews have indicated that this is because of chance, flawed research methods, and reporting bias. Homeopathic practice has been criticized as unethical because it discourages the use of effective treatments, with the World Health Organization warning against using homeopathy to try to treat severe diseases such as HIV and malaria. The continued practice of homeopathy, despite a lack of evidence of efficacy, has led to it being characterized within the scientific and medical communities as nonsense, quackery, and a sham.

Assessments by the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council, the United Kingdom's House of Commons Science and Technology Committee, the European Academies' Science Advisory Council, and the Swiss Federal Health Office have each concluded that homeopathy is ineffective, and recommended against the practice receiving any further funding. The National Health Service in England has announced a policy of not funding homeopathic medicine because it is "a misuse of resources". They have called on the UK Department of Health to add homeopathic remedies to the blacklist of forbidden prescription items.

Revival in the 20th century

According to Paul Ulrich Unschuld, the Nazi regime in Germany was fascinated by homeopathy, and spent large sums of money on researching its mechanisms, but without gaining a positive result. Unschuld further argues that homeopathy never subsequently took root in the United States, but remained more deeply established in European thinking. In the United States, the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act of 1938 (sponsored by Royal Copeland, a Senator from New York and homeopathic physician) recognized homeopathic preparations as drugs. In the 1950s, there were only 75 pure homeopaths practising in the U.S. However, by the mid to late 1970s, homeopathy made a significant comeback and sales of some homeopathic companies increased tenfold. Some homeopaths give credit for the revival to Greek homeopath George Vithoulkas, who performed a "great deal of research to update the scenarios and refine the theories and practice of homeopathy", beginning in the 1970s, but Ernst and Singh consider it to be linked to the rise of the New Age movement. Whichever is correct, mainstream pharmacy chains recognized the business potential of selling homeopathic preparations. The Food and Drug Administration held a hearing April 20 and 21, 2015, requesting public comment on regulation of homeopathic drugs. The FDA cited the growth of sales of over-the-counter homeopathic medicines, which was $2.7 billion for 2007.

Bruce Hood has argued that the increased popularity of homeopathy in recent times may be due to the comparatively long consultations practitioners are willing to give their patients, and to an irrational preference for "natural" products, which people think are the basis of homeopathic preparations.

Government level reviews

Government-level reviews have been conducted in recent years by Switzerland (2005), the United Kingdom (2009), Australia (2015) and the European Academies' Science Advisory Council (2017).

The Swiss programme for the evaluation of complementary medicine (PEK) resulted in the peer-reviewed Shang publication (see Systematic reviews and meta-analyses of efficacy) and a controversial competing analysis by homeopaths and advocates led by Gudrun Bornhöft and Peter Matthiessen, which has misleadingly been presented as a Swiss government report by homeopathy proponents, a claim that has been repudiated by the Swiss Federal Office of Public Health. The Swiss Government terminated reimbursement, though it was subsequently reinstated after a political campaign and referendum for a further six-year trial period.

The United Kingdom's House of Commons Science and Technology Committee sought written evidence and submissions from concerned parties and, following a review of all submissions, concluded that there was no compelling evidence of effect other than placebo and recommended that the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) should not allow homeopathic product labels to make medical claims, that homeopathic products should no longer be licensed by the MHRA, as they are not medicines, and that further clinical trials of homeopathy could not be justified. They recommended that funding of homeopathic hospitals should not continue, and NHS doctors should not refer patients to homeopaths. The Secretary of State for Health deferred to local NHS on funding homeopathy, in the name of patient choice. By February 2011 only one-third of primary care trusts still funded homeopathy. By 2012, no British universities offered homeopathy courses. In July 2017, as part of a plan to save £200m a year by preventing the "misuse of scarce" funding, the NHS announced that it would no longer provide homeopathic medicines.

The Australian National Health and Medical Research Council completed a comprehensive review of the effectiveness of homeopathic preparations in 2015, in which it concluded that "there were no health conditions for which there was reliable evidence that homeopathy was effective. No good-quality, well-designed studies with enough participants for a meaningful result reported either that homeopathy caused greater health improvements than placebo, or caused health improvements equal to those of another treatment."

On September 20, 2017, the European Academies' Science Advisory Council (EASAC) published its official analysis and conclusion on the use of homeopathic products, finding a lack of evidence that homeopathic products are effective, and raising concerns about quality control.

Explanations of perceived effects

Science offers a variety of explanations for how homeopathy may appear to cure diseases or alleviate symptoms even though the preparations themselves are inert:

·    The placebo effect – the intensive consultation process and expectations for the homeopathic preparations may cause the effect.

·    Therapeutic effect of the consultation – the care, concern, and reassurance a patient experiences when opening up to a compassionate caregiver can have a positive effect on the patient's well-being.

·     Unassisted natural healing – time and the body's ability to heal without assistance can eliminate many diseases of their own accord.

·    Unrecognized treatments – an unrelated food, exercise, environmental agent, or treatment for a different ailment, may have occurred.

·    Regression towards the mean – since many diseases or conditions are cyclical, symptoms vary over time and patients tend to seek care when discomfort is greatest; they may feel better anyway but because of the timing of the visit to the homeopath they attribute improvement to the preparation taken.

·    Non-homeopathic treatment – patients may also receive standard medical care at the same time as homeopathic treatment, and the former is responsible for improvement.

·    Cessation of unpleasant treatment – often homeopaths recommend patients stop getting medical treatment such as surgery or drugs, which can cause unpleasant side-effects; improvements are attributed to homeopathy when the actual cause is the cessation of the treatment causing side-effects in the first place, but the underlying disease remains untreated and still dangerous to the patient.

Thanks to Wikipedia: Homeopathy

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