A Defense of Homeopathy

A Defense of Homeopathy

Jared Zeff, ND, VNMI

There is a growing clamor coming from some of our schools, if not elsewhere, that it is time to divest our Naturopathic curricula of homeopathic medicine.  It has been stated, incorrectly, that homeopathic medicine is nothing but placebo, and is “unscientific”, irrational, and stains us with this label in the eyes of the larger, rational, conventional medical community.  Divesting ourselves of the ‘albatross of homeopathy’ is even being proposed at the level of intercollegiate curriculum agreement.

As a practitioner of Naturopathic medicine for 40 years, a Professor of Naturopathic Medicine, a former Dean of Academics (NCNM, 1988 – 1993), and one who loves this medicine, I have to protest such foolishness.  I propose that we, as a profession, do not succumb to this. The assumption that homeopathic medicine is simply placebo, and is “unscientific”, is based at best on ignorance, laziness, or perhaps something darker.  One has only to type something about homeopathy into the search bar of PubMed and one can find many journal articles, including double-blinded studies, most of which are positive, and demonstrate the “scientific” efficacy of this old medical practice.

As one who has practiced this art and science on a nearly daily basis for the past forty years, I can only marvel at the puerile absurdity of this proposition.  I have seen homeopathic medicine save lives.  I see it reduce pain and suffering in predictable ways on a daily basis, which demonstrates its “scientific” efficacy.  I have effectively treated babies with it, or seen one remedy fail and then a second one succeed, both nullifying the “placebo” argument.

Let me return to PubMed for a moment.  Here are three simple examples of the “scientific” basis of this medicine, in modern terms, which I quickly grabbed from the PubMed site:

  1. Homeopathy. 2019 Apr 20. doi: 10.1055/s-0038-1677495. Effects of Ultra-Low-Dose Aspirin in Thrombosis and Haemorrhage. Eizayaga F1, Belon P2, Desplat V3, Aguejouf O3, Doutremepuich C3.Abstract: Homeopathic dilutions of aspirin, notably 15 cH, have shown a pro-thrombotic effect in humans and in in-vivo animal studies.
  2. Homeopathy. 2006 Oct;95(4):223-8. Effects of homeopathic medications Eupatorium perfoliatum and Arsenicum album on parasitemia of Plasmodium berghei-infected mice.Lira-Salazar G1, Marines-Montiel E, Torres-Monzón J, Hernández-Hernández F, Salas-Benito JS.

    Abstract: Malaria is one of the most important parasitic diseases in the world and a major public health problem because of emerging drug-resistant strains of Plasmodium. A number of synthetic and natural compounds are now being analysed to develop more effective antimalarial drugs. We investigated the effect of homeopathic preparations of Eupatorium perfoliatum and Arsenicum album on parasitemia using a rodent malaria model. We found significant inhibitory effect on parasite multiplication with both medications with a level of 60% for Eupatorium perfoliatum at a 30 CH potency. Arsenicum album gave 70% inhibition…

  3. Sci Total Environ. 2007 Oct 1;384(1-3):141-50. Epub 2007 Jul 12.Homeopathic remedy for arsenic toxicity?: Evidence-based findings from a randomized placebo-controlled double blind human trial.Belon P1, Banerjee A, Karmakar SR, Biswas SJ, Choudhury SC, Banerjee P, Das JK, Pathak S, Guha B, Paul S, Bhattacharjee N, Khuda-Bukhsh AR.

    Abstract: Millions of people are at risk of groundwater arsenic contamination, but supply of arsenic-free drinking water is grossly inadequate. The present study was intended to examine if a potentized homeopathic remedy reportedly showing ameliorating potentials in people inhabiting high-risk arsenic-contaminated areas but drinking arsenic-free water, can also ameliorate arsenic toxicity in subjects living in high-risk arsenic-contaminated areas, and drinking arsenic-contaminated water. This pilot study was conducted on 20 males and 19 females of village Dasdiya (arsenic contaminated) who initially agreed to act as volunteers; but as many as 14, mostly placebo-fed subjects, later dropped out. 18 volunteers, 14 males and 4 females, from a distant village, Padumbasan (arsenic-free), served as negative controls. In a double-blind placebo-controlled study, a potentized remedy of homeopathic Arsenicum Album-30 and its placebo (Succussed Alcohol-30) were given randomly to volunteers. Arsenic contents in urine and blood and several widely accepted toxicity biomarkers and pathological parameters in blood were analyzed before and after 2 months of administration of either verum or placebo. Elevated levels of ESR, creatinine and eosinophils and increased activities of AST, ALT, LPO and GGT were recorded in arsenic exposed subjects. Decreased levels of hemoglobin, PCV, neutrophil percentages, and GSH content and low G-6-PD activity were also observed in the arsenic exposed people. The administration of “verum” appeared to make positive modulations of these parameters, suggestive of its ameliorative potentials. Most of the subjects reported better appetite and improvement in general health, thereby indicating possibility of its use in remote arsenic-contaminated areas as an interim health support measure to a large population at risk.PMID: 17628642 DOI: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2007.06.001

My teachers all used homeopathy to great effect.  John Bastyr, known for the “scientific” basis of his practice, used it. It is reliable, safe, effective, predictable in its effects, and among the most important medical tools with which I have to work.

When I first encountered homeopathy in school, in 1975, I was a bit confused by it, and then decided that this was a self-deluded placebo cult in which a number of my less-than-scientific classmates had indulged. I am a scientist, with degrees in science. I heard my teachers telling me that “nothing” is “something”, and that the more dilute the greater effect, even beyond Avogadro’s number.  I did not believe that at all.  But in the school clinic I was required to use it. I saw it seemingly work, much to my consternation.  And then it worked again. And then it worked on me!  Being a scientist, when I witness a phenomenon that challenges my assumptions, I must explore it and either negate my presumed observation or change my assumptions.  I found it necessary to change my assumptions. I could see that homeopathic treatment was clearly an effective and real phenomenon, and so I needed to continue to explore it and adopt it into my clinical practice, because it worked.  And it worked elegantly.

There is a problem with the teaching of this art and science in our institutions, however, which may be the origin of at least part of this current argument against homeopathic medicine.  Given only the most formal of presentations, many students become intimidated by the apparent complexity of this medicine, and tend to avoid it. They are essentially taught that it takes 2 hours to take a case, and another two hours to “repertorize” the case and arrive at an appropriate medicine.  They are taught that one must be critically careful to obtain the correct medicine, and that an error may have significant consequences.  But when one encounters doctors in the field, the older, respected practitioners, the majority of then use homeopathic medicine daily in practice, and do so in such a fashion that they provide a reasonable and effective medicine to each patient, even seeing several patients in an hour.  One usually sees the effect of a well-chosen remedy almost immediately.  It does not take hours to prescribe effectively; it generally takes minutes.  I have developed a short course, two hours long (available on-line through NMI), which I call “Rapid Prescribing”.  Thom Kruzel, ND, a former President of the AANP and a highly regarded colleague, has a similar course.  Eli Camp, ND, has an excellent presentation that explains the basics in a non-intimidating fashion.  And there are others.

Several years ago I was talking with a colleague who told me that he didn’t use homeopathy.  I was surprised, because of its obvious clinical successes. So I prepared a little instruction sheet, and sent him several reliable remedies for common clinical situations.  He then contacted me back, thanked me for the effort, and laughingly informed me that it was not that he didn’t know how to use it, it was that he did not believe in it. I was surprised.  This is a medical practice, not a religion.  It either works or it doesn’t.

I am concerned for our little profession, that there are internal forces attempting to remake us and our fundamental assumptions for reasons that have nothing to do with efficacy. We have struggled for over a century to survive as a separate and distinct branch of the healing arts.  We have created a significant infrastructure of our own standards and institutions, and we have succeeded.  Misguided attempts to make us appear more acceptable in the eyes of those who have sought to eliminate us seems unwise to me, and destructive. If one wants to be a conventional medical doctor, they should become one.  Do not try to re-sculpt our profession into one more acceptable to those who do not understand our basic philosophy and reason for existence.

Beyond this, I would urge that we must insist in the strongest way that homeopathic medicine is a respected element of naturopathic medicine in modern times, and insure its continued inclusion in the curriculum of any accreditable naturopathic college.

Jared Zeff, ND, VNMI

Response to:
Naturopathic Medicine in the 21st Century: Time for a Seventh Guiding Principle – Scientia Criticus

In response to the recently published article entitled “Naturopathic Medicine in the 21st Century: Time for a Seventh Guiding Principle – Scientia Criticus:”

It seems to us most peculiar that the authors chose to begin a discussion of changing the established principles of naturopathic medicine in an interdisciplinary journal whose primary audience is members of the Association for the Healthcare Environment (AHE) of the American Hospital Association. We are especially alarmed that a few naturopaths would choose such an avenue to propose a major change to the tenets of our profession when, as far as we know, no appropriate input or comment was solicited from the board members of the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians (AANP), the AANP House of Delegates, the state associations, any of the affiliated organizations, or “elders” in the profession.

Outreach to others in the healing arts is laudable. What concerns us are the numerous unsupported assertions or outright mis-characterizations in the article as well as its generally apologetic and disparaging tone. It belittles or demeans much of what licensed naturopathic physicians do and have done with great success and virtually no harm for over a century.

Self-examination is always warranted for the advance of any profession. The ability to evaluate evidence critically is a basic requirement for the successful practice of any medical approach. However, we believe that the advance of scientific knowledge is only slowly catching up with the observable truths handed down over generations by our predecessors. Furthermore, there is a wealth of discussion of how, all too often, modern scientific ‘evidence’ is easily skewed by things like prejudice, pride, greed, and corruption.

Projecting the weaknesses of the conventional medical system onto the naturopathic profession is unwarranted, misleading and divisive. Over the past 150 years, conventional medicine has been far more susceptible to the adoption and maintenance of dubious practices. There is a long history of now discredited drugs and surgeries that caused harm and death. The most recent examples include the opioid epidemic, harm from off-label prescribing of pharmaceuticals, surgical procedures that provide little demonstrable incremental health benefit, etc. Conventional medicine has a mixed record when it comes to successful application of scientifically valid and evidence based medicine. Today, Iatrogenic (medical treatment caused) is a leading cause of death in the United States. This is not and has never been the case with the care provided by licensed naturopathic physicians.

In our view, this poorly conceived article provides an inaccurate view of the naturopathic profession and its practices and is a disservice to your journal’s readers.