Homeopaths point to the nearly two hundred years of clinical experience of convinced doctors and satisfied patients. Homeopathic remedies are believed to be effective in treating a wide variety of illnesses: infectious diseases such as flu and colds; chronic conditions such as allergies, asthma, migraines, and PMS. Conventional medicine has not had much of success in treating many of these conditions.
Several clinical studies exist that show the effectiveness of homeopathic remedies. Many of these studies employed double blind studies, accepted by scientists. Recent clinical trials suggest that homeopathic medicines have a positive effect on allergic rhinitis, asthma, treatment of dermatological complaints, fibrositis, influenza, and for the treatment of migraine.
In 1994, the first study that involved homeopathy was published in a peer-reviewed American scientific journal. Jennifer Jacobs, M.D., led the study, which was conducted in Nicaragua and included eighty-one children with acute diarrhea. All the children received standard antidehydration treatment for diarrhea, consisting of water containing salt and sugar. In addition, half the children received homeopathic treatment and half received a placebo. The study confirmed homeopathy's effectiveness: the recovery time for children receiving homeopathic treatment was 20 percent faster than those receiving the placebo, reducing the bout of diarrhea by one day. These results are heartening because diarrhea is the leading cause of death in developing countries such as Nicaragua.
In 1991, the British Medical Journal published an analysis of 107 clinical studies published between 1966 and 1990. The authors found that in 81 of the experiments, the homeopathic treatments were successful. Even when they included only the 23 studies that they considered to be of the highest quality, the vast majority of these (15) showed positive results. Here's how the results broke down: 13 out of the 19 trials of respiratory infection treatment were effective, 6 out of 7 were positive for other infections, 5 out of 7 were positive for digestive system treatment, 5 out of 5 were successful for hay fever, 5 out of 7 showed accelerated recovery after surgery, 4 out of 6 helped in rheumatological disease, 18 of 20 were beneficial for pain or traumatic injury; and 8 out of 10 worked for mental or psychological problems.
In one study published in Lancet by Dr. David Taylor Reilly and his colleagues compared the effects of a homeopathic hay-fever remedy with a placebo. In this double-blind controlled study, Dr. Reilly found that those who received the homeopathic remedy had six times fewer symptoms and were able to cut their use of antihistamines in half.
Another study published in 1989 in the British Medical Journal dealt with fibromyalgia. The double- blind, controlled trial was also "crossed over," meaning the treatment lots were switched after one month so the subjects could be compared, not only with each other, but also with themselves. The results were evaluated by a rheumatology professional who was not a homeopath. The study found that the homeopathic remedy provided highly statistically significant improvement in both subjective and objective symptoms.
In a double-blind controlled study conducted in Britain in 1980, 82 percent of those receiving the homeopathic remedy enjoyed improvements in rheumatoid arthritis versus 21 percent of the control group on placebo. The subjects in this study received remedies that were individually prescribed.
Other significant positive studies show homeopathy helps in pain following tooth extraction (76 percent versus 40 percent for a placebo}; reduces vertigo and nausea; reduces labor time in pregnant women (5.1 hours versus 8.5 hours}; and reduces risk of abnormal labor (11.3 percent versus 40 percent).
Two double-blind studies compared Quietude, a combination of homeopathically prepared plant extracts that has been very popular in France, with diazepam (Valium). The subjects were adults and children who were nervous and suffered from sleeplessness. The results showed that the homeopathic product increased sleep time, reduced interruptions during sleep, and reduced nervousness. Both products relieved insomnia and minor nervous tension 63 percent of the time. However, the homeopathic remedy produced no side effects: there was no daytime dizziness, as opposed to 13 percent of the diazepam group. Homeopathic remedy group suffered no daytime drowsiness, but 53 percent of the diazepam group felt drowsy. In addition, Quietude was better at reducing children's nightmares, and 74 percent of the Quietude patients said the product was better than other treatments, as opposed to 48 percent of the diazepam group who felt this way.
A study, conducted in 1985, found that patients who took the homeopathic product Oscillococcinum, derived from duck heart and liver, experienced reduction in their fever much rapidly (in two days ) than those who took placebo. Shivering disappeared by day four. In another controlled study, published in 1989 in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, 66 percent more of the Oscillococcinum group recovered within forty-eight hours as compared to the placebo group.
Clinical studies show the effectiveness of homeopathic remedies in treating infectious diseases. In a French study published in 1987, silica, prepared homeopathically to the 10c potency, stimulated macrophage activity by nearly 70 percent. Macrophages are white cells belonging to the immune defense system that destroy harmful cells and microorganisms. Homeopathic remedies were also shown to be effective in correcting immunological disorders in mice. In other studies, eight out of ten homeopathic remedies tested were able to inhibit the growth of viruses (in chicken embryos) by 50 to 100 percent.
Other studies show the usefulness of homeopathic remedies in treating diabetes. A 1992 study examined sixty people with retinal problems due to diabetes. In approximately half of the patients taking the homeopathic remedy (Arnica), the eye condition improved; only 1 percent of the subjects receiving placebo improved a like amount. The subjects were evaluated using objective measuring instruments, indicating that homeopathy may prove valuable in helping this group of diabetics preserve their sight.
Conventional physicians often belittle homeopathic remedies and their effectiveness to placebo effect. However, several studies on animals and infants show that homeopathic remedies do work. Obviously, animals and infants are less likely to be influenced by placebo. In Germany, poultry farmers are treating their hens with homeopathic remedies instead of antibiotics for coughs, colds, and digestive problems. Farmers also treat their cats, dogs, horses, cattle, and birds homeopathically.
Other animal studies add to the evidence. A 3x potency of Chelidonium lowered cholesterol in rabbits by 25 percent. Microdoses of Arsenicum (10x up to 30x; and 5c up to 15c) helped rats eliminate toxic doses of arsenic from their systems, a study that has important implications for humans who are increasingly exposed to many heavy metals in the environment. And pigs given Caulophyllum had half as many stillbirths as those who received a placebo.
Homeopaths have been reporting good results when treating infants for common health problems such as teething, colic, eczema, and fever.