How does it work
How does homeopathy work?
Homeopathy works on the principle of ‘Like Cures Like’ or the Law of Similars. This is well understood and is used in many systems of medicine including conventional medicine (e.g. immunology, allergy treatments and vaccinations). If a substance is capable of causing, it is also capable of curing. This principle was written about by Hippocrates (often called the father of medicine) “By similar things a disease is produced and through the application of the like is cured.”
To create a homeopathic medicine, you take a medicinal substance from nature (such as a plant), you then add it to pharmacy grade ethanol to preserve it. This creates a tincture. One drop is then taken and added to ninety-nine drops of distilled water. The vial is then vigorously agitated. This process of serial dilution and agitation is called potentisation. Homeopathic pharmacies prepare the medicines in this manner because it reduces the toxic effects of the original substance and helps to ensure the remedy acts gently and with few side effects.
However, once the medicine has been through this process more than twelve times it reaches a point know in chemistry as Avogadro’s number - the point at which no molecules from the original substance can remain. Some, but by no means all, homeopathic remedies are potentised beyond Avogadro’s number.
We understand conventional drugs as chemicals interacting directly with the body’s biochemistry. In contrast, homeopathy – with minimal or no molecular substance – must have an entirely different mechanism of action. How is it that these remedies still have an effect above and beyond the placebo effect? Three promising theories are currently being explored by scientists and may shed some light on how homeopathy works:
Nanoparticles are tiny, microscopic particles. Interestingly, nanoparticles behave very distinctly to their ‘bulk’ material counterparts, often with different biological, chemical, electrical and magnetic properties. They are currently at the forefront of scientific research due to their great potential for use in the biomedical, optical and electronic fields. Yet, we are only just starting to understand this complex and cutting-edge field of science. Read more
In the USA, Dr. Iris Bell has been investigating nanoparticles as a possible explanation of how homeopathy works. Her work, which has been reproduced in labs around the world, clearly shows that nanoparticles of the original substance remain in homeopathic medicines past Avogadro’s number. It appears they get trapped in bubbles created during the production process of homeopathic medicines, when the solution is agitated.
Nanoparticles have been shown to be enough to stimulate a healing response in an organism. Dr. Bell sees human beings as complex systems that adapt to a variety of stressors. When an illness takes hold, the body reacts and ‘mal’adapts, producing symptoms. Homeopathic remedies contain nanoparticles which, when matched correctly to the disease symptoms, act as low-level, but highly salient, stressors to the organism. The nanoparticles are not capable of producing pharmacological effects (so there are few side effects), but are highly reactive and can stimulate a reversal of the maladapted process.27 A homeopathic remedy could be a nano-sized stimulus that initiates a large response.
Meanwhile, Cambridge trained researcher and scientist Dr Alexander Tournier is exploring the concept of coherence domains.28 His work shows that when a substance is placed in a liquid, it can affect that liquid, even after the physical substance is removed. Read more
It is thought that during the production processes of homeopathic medicines, the original medicinal substance, creates water molecule clusters that mimic the substance. In effect, the process imprints information from the active ingredient (e.g. a plant) into the water in which it is dissolved, so that even when it is highly diluted and there are no longer any molecules of the substance left, its characteristics remain in the water.
Tournier’s work on coherence domains is similar to that of French virologist and Nobel prize winner, Dr Luc Montagnier. In 2009, Montagnier published results of his study which showed that samples of highly diluted and agitated substances (processed in a similar way to homeopathic medicines) emitted specific electro-magnetic signals.29 The research team suggested that these signals were caused by ‘nanostructures’ created during the preparation process, i.e. tiny new structures formed by the interaction between molecules of the substance and the water with which it is diluted.
In an interview in Science Magazine December 2010,30 Professor Montagnier said, “High dilutions of something are not nothing. They are water structures which mimic the original molecules.” Today, Dr Tournier, whose PhD is in water protein interactions, is leading further investigations at Heidelberg’s Water Research Lab,31 where state of the art experimental techniques will explore the underlying physics of water. These experiments, carried out in collaboration with a range of international experts, could potentially tell us more about how homeopathic high dilutions can still contain information and be biologically active.
Cambridge trained biochemist and best-selling author, Rupert Sheldrake has written extensively about the importance of similarity in nature. His morphic resonance hypothesis32 works on the theory that there is an inherent memory in nature – that the laws of nature are more like habits, and that things in nature that are similar to each other have an effect on each other, regardless of whether they are in physical contact or not. The more similar, the more resonance there is. Read more
So, for example, chemicals should get easier to ‘crystallise’ as time goes on because the crystal formations become increasingly habitual, sustained by morphic resonance from all similar crystals that have gone before. Equally, if rats learn a new trick in one place, rats all over the world should be able to learn it quicker. It’s like an inherited collective memory and there is already evidence that these effects occur.
This theory could explain homeopathy, which is also based on the law of similars. If disease symptoms are similar to those produced by snake venom, then snake venom is the substance in nature that has most resonance with the condition. And because the body is so highly sensitised to this similar substance by morphic resonance, administering the minimum dose will exert an influence that prompts a response from the body’s immune system.
Steven Cartwright has been carrying out basic research on homeopathic potencies using solvatochromic dyes for the last ten years57. These dyes not only detect the presence of potencies through subtle changes in their spectra (colour) but are giving us insights into the fundamental nature of potencies and how they might work therapeutically. Read more
Amongst the many results obtained so far recent research has shown that potencies produce an electric field and that they can be amplified by biological systems at the cellular level.
Collaboration with Professor Bonamin in Sao Paulo, Brazil has produced a remarkable study in which it was shown that on adding Phosphorous 30 to one end of a series of connected lakes the remedy spread throughout the whole lake system of 2 million litres in a matter of minutes and then slowly declined after 72 hours. The whole process could be tracked using solvatochromic dyes.
Two further theories that could help explain the mode of action in homeopathy are Torsion Fields and Intention-Based Fields. Science is continually evolving, moving on from the limiting Newtonian theories of 200 years ago. It is only a matter of time before science provides us with a full explanation for how homeopathy works.
‘like cures like’
Some people say, ‘Homeopathy cannot work’. ‘Homeopathy does not work’
Saying, “Homeopathy does not work”, ignores the simple observation that it clearly does work. Millions of people benefit from homeopathic treatment every day. Thousands of homeopaths using homeopathy in busy practices would not continue to do so if it did not work. Patient outcome studies and randomised controlled trials in homeopathy prove its effectiveness. Something therapeutically useful is clearly going on.
It is true that we do not yet fully understand how homeopathy works. Yet we observe what it can do. Science is a constantly evolving field. What is declared impossible in one era is often proven to be fact in another. This has been the case throughout the ages; Galileo was ridiculed for saying the Earth revolved around the sun at a time when the reverse was thought to be true. A more recent example of U-turns in science was in 1982, when Drs. Marshall and Warren were derided for their theory that bacterial infection was an underlying cause of stomach ulcers.33 Scientists said it was impossible for bacteria to survive the acidic environment in the stomach, let alone thrive there, but years later they were vindicated when it was finally accepted that they were correct. In 2005 they were awarded the Nobel prize for Physiology and praised for their “tenacity, and willingness to challenge prevailing dogmas”.
Science is littered with many other similar examples; it is an issue that stifles innovation. French virologist and Nobel prize winner, Dr Luc Montagnier has spoken about the ‘intellectual terror’ surrounding work on ultra-dilutions in the EU. As a result, he moved his lab to China.
There is a growing stack of evidence that shows the benefits of homeopathy. Independent researcher Professor R. G. Hahn, an internationally recognised expert in assessing medical research and meta-analyses, has closely scrutinized the clinical trials on homeopathy and reached this verdict: “To conclude that homeopathy lacks clinical effect, more than 90% of the available clinical trials had to be disregarded.”34
“To conclude that
homeopathy lacks clinical
effect, more than 90% of the available clinical trials had to be disregarded”
Do all scientists agree about homeopathy?
No, they do not all agree. Scientists argue over homeopathy as much as they do over many major questions in the world today, like climate change, the workings of the mind, or the immune system.
Many well-respected scientists have found in favour of homeopathy, such as Professors Jacques Benveniste, Madeleine Ennis, Rustum Roy and Luc Montagnier. Many have then suffered ridicule and ostracism from the orthodox scientific community, not unlike that suffered by Galileo and Semmelweis.
There are many things scientists cannot explain. We have only recently understood how anaesthesia works. We relied on the clinical experience and our observations of it working, rather than a scientific understanding of the mechanism of action. Knowing how a medicine works has never been a pre-requisite for its use. On the contrary; aspirin, one of the most widely used drugs in the world, was used for over 70 years before we determined how it works in 1971.35 The drug is still actively researched today, as it has numerous biological effects which are still not fully understood.
Scientists argue over homeopathy as
much as they do over any other major questions
Isn’t homeopathy just placebo?
No, it is not. If homeopathy really is just a placebo, then how do we explain the following?
- The existence of positive, high quality, placebo-controlled trials? The most recent of these studies, published in 2014, found that homeopathic medicines, when prescribed during individualised treatment, are 1.5-2.0 times more likely to have a beneficial effect than placebo.36
- In laboratory experiments, homeopathic medicines have been shown to exert effects in white blood cells, cancer cells, tadpoles and plants (Belon’s work with histamine inhibited the allergic response in human white blood cells. Endler’s work with thyroxine slowed down the metamorphosis of tadpoles).37
- The observed effects of treatment on animals38 and babies.
- The dramatic reduction (84%) in Leptospirosis infection rate observed in 2007 when the Cuban government, which did not have time to produce vaccines for the entire population during an epidemic outbreak, gave a homeopathic medicine to 2.3 million people.39
There are many other trials which demonstrate outcomes well beyond any conceivable placebo effect.
more likely to have a beneficial effect than placebo
Is it right to treat people with medicines if we don’t know how they work?
Care needs to be taken in the use of any medicine and research into its mode of action and clinical effectiveness needs to be implemented. Equally, it would seem unreasonable not to try and relieve suffering by the judicious use of such agents. Remember that 50% of treatments currently provided by the NHS have “unknown effectiveness.”11
“Doctors and patients need good scientific evidence to make informed decisions. But instead, companies run bad trials on their own drugs, which distort and exaggerate the benefits by design. When these trials produce unflattering results, the data is simply buried. All of this is perfectly legal. In fact, even government regulators withhold vitally important data from the people who need it most. Doctors and patient groups have stood by too, and failed to protect us. Instead, they take money and favours, in a world so fractured that medics and nurses are now educated by the drugs industry. The result: patients are harmed in huge numbers.”14
Find out about Homeopathy Awareness Week
50% of treatments currently provided by the NHS have “unknown effectiveness”