What is homeopathy?

Homeopathy is a medical system based on the principle of 'like cures like'. For example, cutting an onion can cause watery stinging or burning eyes, sneezing, runny nose and headache. Likewise, in an upper respiratory reaction in a cat where there is sneezing and a runny nose, a homeopathic medicine prepared from onion may be indicated to treat the cold or hay fever symptoms.

How is homeopathic medicine made?

Homeopathic medicines are prepared from the original substance (e.g. the recently discussed onion) by a process called potentisation. This involves serial dilutions and succussion (vigorous shaking). Evidence from experiments, both human and animal, demonstrates that substances which show a destructive effect at high concentrations may have a stimulatory effect at low concentrations. (e.g. Calabrese, Ref 1 below).

Debate about the effectiveness of Homeopathy

There is debate about the effectiveness of homeopathy. Veterinarians who use homeopathy to treat animal disease do so because they have used it as a treatment and repeatedly observed positive response.

Most people who disagree with the use of homeopathy do so because they cannot rationalise the action of very dilute substances. A reference where arguments against homeopathy are expressed occurs in the Australian Veterinary Journal: Rijnberk A, Ramey D. The end of veterinary homeopathy, Aust Vet J 2007;85:513-516.

There is research showing that pure water's structure and properties can be changed. Some experiments using thermoluminescence have shown that dissolved substances modified the intensity of signals related to structure, even when they had been homeopathically diluted beyond Avogadro's number (e.g. van Wijk, Bosman & Van Wiljk Ref 2 see below). The Journal "Homeopathy" has more references describing many physical properties of water and additives which account for a change in water structure with ultra dilute additives. These same articles do not go on to examine specific remedies and their effects in the light of the structure. This research is to come when more money is invested in homeopathic research.


The Types of Research

There is allot of homeopathic research. However due to time and expense, in all medical fields, including homeopathy, there is less good quality quantitative research than is needed.

Much of the statistically significant homeopathic medical research is qualitative (a large quantity of results are examined and compared, and the results of those using homeopathy are compared with those that do not, there are usually no specific controls. The quantity of data produces the statistical significance). There is also valid comparative research (the effects of homeopathic medicines are compared with mainstream medicine designed to treat similar conditions).

Such research shows that homeopathy has well grounded reasons for being considered effective.

This is described in the book " The Little black book: Seven steps to quantitative homeopathic research" author C F Smith BVSc. ( charissa.smith@uqconnect.edu.au)

Qualitative research and comparative research do not describe giving a certain quantity of substance with the return of a certain medical response to disease treatment. This is described in quantitative research. Quantitative homeopathic research is a new and exciting field and many more well designed quantitative trials will be forthcoming in the future.