Homeopathy is more than medicine

OPINION: Homeopathy is able to render safe and affordable healthcare to millions of people.

Homeopathy is tried and tested, finding favour amongst millions over the past two centuries and relied upon by some country’€™s national health systems, such as India.

Homeopathy, in the hands of a trained professional, is capable of rendering an affordable, effective service to the millions of destitute people requiring healthcare, for acute as well as chronic conditions, in this country.

This is why two world leading homeopathic degree courses exist at two universities in South Africa ‘€“ supplying a professional need and service, together with conventional medicine, to the population of this country so desperately needed.

Homoeopathic practice has seen physiological effects and curative properties with the usage of extremely high potencies. It should be noted that some homeopathic medicines used in practice lie in the same range of concentrations as those used in conventional medicine (10-6 to 10-22 M). Research has even indicated that concentrations as low as 10-22 M might be pharmacologically active. 1

The proven effect of high dilutions, such as those used in homeopathy, can be best demonstrated by an article published by the journal, Inflammation Research (April 2004) entitled, ‘€œHistamine dilutions modulate basophil activation’€. One of the researchers heading the study included Professor Madeleine Ennis, a renowned pessimist of homeopathy, who originally conducted this research to disprove the phenomenon entirely. Contrary to expectations, the research established that basophils (white blood cells), which are normally responsible for the release of histamine during the process of inflammation, responded to the ultra-dilute solutions of histamine just as they would to pure histamine.

Materials Science (a multi-disciplinary field involving the property of matter and its applications to various areas of science and engineering) continues to investigate and accept the notions of homeopathy. Dr. Rustum Roy, Ph.D. distinguished material scientist from Penn State University has commented that “(Recent criticism of)’€¦ homeopathy relies on a quaint old idea from the nineteenth century that the only way that the property of water can be affected or changed is by incorporating foreign molecules.

This is the Avogadro-limit high-school level chemistry argument. To a materials scientist this notion is absurd, since the fundamental paradigm of materials-science is that the structure-property relationship is the basic determinant of everything. It is a fact that the structure of water and therefore the informational content of water can be altered in infinite ways”. 2

On March 14, 2005 the Programm Evaluation Komplementarmedizin (PEK) commission published a preliminary report recommending that homeopathy should remain part of the Swiss Health Insurance system but was omitted after significant political pressure. The economic report published as a result of the PEK programme is still available and clearly demonstrates that homoeopathic treatment can reduce the general costs of medical treatment considerably, due not only to its cost but also its apparent efficacy, including less hospitalisation, less side effects and greater improvement after treatment when compared to conventional medicine 3.

Following the removal of complementary medicine from state health benefits an outcry ensued from the Swiss population who have subsequently reacted with an initiative, through proposed constitutional amendments, aimed at promoting a health care sector based on Integrated Medicine, using the best of both worlds, i.e. conventional medicine and CAM.

A research study in 2001 analysed 160 evaluations of conventional studies performed by the renowned Cochrane institute. They concluded that only a small number (15-40%) of conventional treatments are based on solid scientific research and that the evaluation of the research is highly subjective 4, 5. Yet the focus of the lack of scientific evidence and justification continues to fall on homeopathy. This, when a report, still in draft form, prepared by an office of the World Health Organisation set up to examine traditional medicine mentions that most of the studies published in the last 40 years have shown homoeopathic remedies to be superior to placebo and ‘€œequivalent to conventional medicines in the treatment of illnesses, in both humans and animals’€.

In addition, the World Health Organisation stated in their Journal “The World Health Forum” that “Homeopathy seems well suited for use in rural areas where the Infrastructure, Equipment, and Drugs needed for Conventional Medicine cannot be provided.” Mahatma Gandhi said, “Homeopathy cures a greater number of people than any other method of treatment.” President Francois Mitterand of France, and six Deans of Medical faculties, called for more research on homeopathy in an article in “Le Novel Observateur” one of France’€™s leading magazines, the Editor of this magazine stated in his editorial, “It is a Fact that Homeopathy obtains results, and sometimes spectacular results.

As reported by Immediapress, 18 November 2004 in an article entitled ‘€œClear Evidence for Effectiveness of Homeopathy‘€ ten internationally renowned university professors in the field of research, met in Brussels for a 3-day meeting to present their collective findings on the effectiveness of homeopathy. The various fields presented showing a clear efficacy of homeopathy included: veterinary practice, clinical research, basic research and immunology. The results of the research studies conducted by these university professors were all in accord with one another – namely, that there is clear evidence for the effectiveness of homeopathy and that there is sufficient reason for further research.

Trials of homeopathy in the treatment of specific disease conditions, while difficult due to the individualised approach taken by homeopathy, do in fact yield exceptional results. Such examples include studies where homeopathy assisted/reduced the amount of stringy tracheal secretions in patients with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease 6, homeopathy was found to reduce the recurrences of middle ear infections compared to conventional antibiotic usage 7, and where homeopathy was used together with conventional treatments the survival rate of patients with severe sepsis treated with homeopathy was 25.8% higher than just conventional medication 8.

Moreover, the placebo argument does not stand when taking into consideration the effect of homeopathy on children 7, 9, animals and even plants. Results have shown that substances potentised beyond Avogadro’€™s number have an effect on arsenic poisoned wheat 10 and our very own University of Pretoria conducted a study entitled, ‘€œHomoeopathically prepared gibberellic acid and barley seed germination’€ 11.

Their conclusions read as follows: ‘€œHigh-vigour seeds treated with HGA3 4, 30 and 200CH (all homoeopathic preparations) germinated faster, and roots of medium-vigour seedlots treated in HGA3 15CH were longer.’€

Brian D. Josephson’€™s (Nobel Laureate ‘€“ Physics, University of Cambridge) statement in 1997 appears to continue to hold ground, ‘€œSimple-minded analysis may suggest that water, being a fluid, cannot have a structure of the kind that such a picture would demand. But cases such as that of liquid crystals, which while flowing like an ordinary fluid can maintain an ordered structure over macroscopic distances, show the limitations of such ways of thinking. There have not, to the best of my knowledge, been any refutations of homeopathy that remain valid after this particular point is taken into account.’€

The Homoeopathic Association of South Africa (HSA) can assure the general public that the profession are certainly in favour of responsible and ethical regulations governing the control of Complementary and Alternative Medicines in South Africa and are assured by the Department of Health that such regulations are currently under development.

* Gower is National Secretary of the Homoeopathic Association of South Africa (HSA)


1. Eskinazi D (1999). Homeopathy re-revisited ‘€“ is homeopathy compatible with biomedical observations? Archives of Internal Medicine, 159;1981’€“1986.

2. Gold P; NCH Press Release; Prominent U.S. Research Scientists Counter Lancet Claims On Homeopathy, August 25, 2005.

3. Antrag des Schweizerischen Verein homöopathicscher Ärzte und Ärztinnen SVHA an die Eidgenössische Kommission für algemaine Leitungen (ELK) in Sachen der definitiven Anerkeunnung der Klassischen Homöopathie als Pflichtleistung; 31 März 2005

4. Ezzo J, Bausell B, Moerman DE, Berman B, Hadhazy V. Reviewing the reviews. How strong is the evidence? How clear are the conclusions? Int J Technol Assess Health Care. 2001 Fall;17(4):457-66  

5. Smith, R., editor:   The poverty of medical evidence.   BMJ 303, 5 Oct 1991

6. M. Frass et al. CHEST,  March, 2005; Influence of (homoeopathic) potassium dichromate on tracheal secretions in critically ill patients

7. KH Friese et al.; Biomedical Therapy, 60,4,1997:113-116; Acute Otitis Media in Children: A Comparison of Conventional and Homeopathic Treatment

8. M. Frass et al.; Homeopathy. 2005 Apr;94(2):75-80; Adjunctive homeopathic treatment in patients with severe sepsis: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial in an intensive care unit

9. Steinsbekk A, Fønnebø V, Lewith G, Niels Bentzen; Homeopathic care for the prevention of upper respiratory tract infections in children: A pragmatic, randomised, controlled trial comparing individualised homeopathic care and waiting-list controls; Complementary Therapies in Medicine (2005) 13, 231’€”238

10. Binder M, Baumgartner S, Thurneysen A.   The Effects of a 45x Potency of Arsenicum album on Wheat Seedling Growth ‘€“ a Reproduction Trial.   Forsch Komplementärmed Klass Naturheilkd 2005; 12: 284-291.

11. Hamman B, Koning G, Lok KH.; Homoeopathically prepared gibberellic acid and barley seed germination; Homeopathy; 2003 Jul;92(3):140-4.

Please Note: The above article is an opinion piece and does not necessarily reflect the views of Health-e. We are open to publishing contributions that will stimulate debate.


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About the author

Dr Neil Gower