Homeopathy: nothing to sneeze at

Homeopathy: nothing to sneeze at

A study reported in the British Medical Journal found that homeopathy is a far more effective treatment than conventional medical practitioners are willing to admit. The study investigated the effectiveness of homeopathic treatments in cases of allergic rhinitis (nasal congestion). Results revealed that of the 50 patients who completed the study, those who received homeopathy had a 28 percent improvement in their nasal air flow-whereas those in the placebo group experienced a 3 percent improvement.

The author of the study, Dr. David Reilly of the Glasgow Homoeopathic Hospital, explained in an interview with Reuters Health how homeopathy works: Homeopathy is “a method of stimulating or provoking the body to defend itself (rather than the usual methods of blocking body responses by drugs).” It goes against some basic tenets of science and so the method is simply unacceptable to “modern” scientists-no matter how well it works.

In a related editorial, Tim Lancaster of the Oxford Institute of Health Sciences and Andrew Vickers of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City give Reilly a strong endorsement. They acknowledge that the methods employed by Reilly and his colleagues “were rigorous and it is unlikely that their results arose from methodological bias.”

Reilly and his co-workers studied 51 patients who suffer from perennial allergic rhinitis (hay fever). Twenty-four of the study subjects received daily homeopathy and 27 received a daily placebo treatment during the four-week study period. In addition, all of the subjects kept a diary in which they recorded twice daily their nasal air flow measurements and symptoms such as sneezing, runny nose, and eye and chest problems.

The study was conducted according to scientific standards, including using a placebo for comparison purposes, randomly assigning participants to either treatment or placebo groups, and making the study “double blind,” that is, making sure that neither participants nor researchers knew who was taking the homeopathic drug.

The editorialists from the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center concluded: “The new challenge for Reilly and colleagues is to do the large trials that really could change thinking.”

Well, this is where they are wrong: A very sophisticated study was done in Italy a few years ago using immunological methods that proved, beyond a doubt, that homeopathy works. It was immediately attacked by the medical establishment, and, eventually, the study was declared invalid.

Action to take:
Acute conditions, such as colds and allergies, will often respond to homeopathic treatment. However, treating yourself with health food store homeopathic remedies is not advised. It takes years of training to become a qualified homeopath. To find a doctor in your area, contact the International Foundation for Homeopathy at (206)776-4147 or the National Center for Homeopathy at (703)548-7790. RH

British Medical Journal 321: 471-476
Reuters Health, 8/18/0