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Monday, July 23, 2012

How homeopathy has worked for me


As scientist, we are taught to be skeptical: we ask questions about how things work and we only believe things when we see scientific data from properly executed experiments. We want to understand how things work and often don’t believe that it works if we don’t understand the mechanism (although a lot of current day medication has been found serendipitously and was prescribed before science understood its mechanism of action). So I was surprised when about 10 years ago one of my undergrad professors (a virologist) suggested that I should go see a homeopathic doctor when I was suffering from migraines and allergies that modern medicine could only relieve but not prevent. I had 2-3 migraine attacks each month that I could most of the times treat effectively with an injectable triptan, but whenever that medication didn’t work I would lay in bed nauseous for about 72 hours. When the medication did work I was still pretty drowsy and sleepy for another day because of that medication. I was also allergic to pollen, dust and animal dander and took antihistamines every day.

So I found a kind lady who was an MD but specialized in homeopathy. She had bookshelves full of medical books and a cabinet full of homeopathic pills: little sugar balls that contained substances that were diluted so much that there was probably not a molecule left but sugar. She took the time to get to know who I was and what kind of things I did and liked. Unlike the average family doctor that spent about 5 minutes to diagnose and write a prescription, appointments with her lasted 30-40 minutes. She was very attentive and tried to figure out why I was suffering from these migraines and allergies. At the end of every session she gave me one of the tiny sugar pills that I had to melt under my tongue. She always looked me in the eye and said that she could see in my eyes that she choose the right pill. I never really felt anything and was skeptical that she could see something happening. What struck me though, was that I also got small patches of rash at different sites on my body after every session and she could usually predict where the rash would be next time.  

After about a year of seeing her about every 2 months I didn’t need to take antihistamines every day anymore. I still have allergies, but it’s by far not as bad as it used to be. And before I started seeing her I had at least one migraine attack every time I had my period, and after that year the miraculous thing happened: I had my period without having a migraine attack. I visited her less frequent and until I moved to the US I only occasionally went to see her if I felt like my migraines were getting worse again.

So for the past ten years I wondered how this is possible: did I just ‘outgrow’ my migraines and allergies? I doubt it. Or did I learn to live a more balanced life which caused me to have less migraine attacks? Maybe. Does it just help if someone pays attention and listens to your story and could I just as well have gone to see a therapist instead of a homeopath? Perhaps. Or was it all placebo effect? Possibly.
I know that in science an n=1 doesn’t really count. And whenever people review the literature on homeopathy they find that it doesn’t work. But I can imagine that it is extremely difficult to find study the effect of homeopathy because it requires every individual to get a different treatment based on their complaints and their personality. Similarly, antidepressants and antipsychotics often hardly work better than placebo, because some work for one person but not for the other.

I guess I should add a disclaimer here saying that I don’t encourage people to go to a homeopath instead of to a regular doctor.

15 comments:

  1. Thank you for sharing. I know it takes courage to talk about homeopathy in the climate of fear created by bullies of the scientific world. These bullies purport to speak for science. In fact, they speak for grade school, simplistic non-sense and almost none of these so-called ‘skeptics’ actually have any grasp about what homeopathy is and the abundant literature which supports it.

    These people issue all sorts of vague critical statements, none of which are precise and testable (i.e. scientific). They say things such as “if homeopathy is true, it wrecks the edifice of science” and other such non-sense. What supposed law, pray tell, does homeopathy break? Avagadro’s supposed constant? – this was discredited many years ago, and not by homeopaths, but materials scientists. The kT paradox, the nano-heterogeneity of water structure, etc – all of these completely discredit the idea of solvent as blank backdrop.

    But all of this may be irrelevant anyway, as recent research has discovered nanoparticles of source substance in high-potency remedies (this research was conducted by one of the foremost nano-scientists in the world, Jayesh Bellare – Chair of Materials Science at the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay – a member of the Indian National Academy of Sciences, he did his post-doc at MIT).

    The truth is, many very serious scientists have studied homeopathy in rigorous experiments. Many other scientists are of course interested in homeopathy, but are afraid of investigating for fear of ridicule and professional banishment. There is a growing body of basic research demonstrating clearly the difference between homeopathic remedies and solvent controls.

    And again, I appreciate your sharing, and I don’t want this to be critical or mean, but practicing homeopathy has nothing to do with looking into people’s eyes and it also has nothing to do with causation (knowing ‘why’ a person is sick). It is a pure, empirical science – based on pure, un-biased observation of data without reference to theory (this of course, also has its shortcomings). It has nothing to do with new age non-sense and does not require a compassionate doctor to connect with a patient. Homeopathic remedies are biologically active substances which elicit a non-linear, time-dependent, host-amplified, dynamic systems response in the body.

    If you are interested in knowing more you can visit my blog. I only have a few articles, but it will give you a taste of what I am talking about: http://WorldOfHomeopathy.wordpress.com

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    1. Where is the scientific evidence for homeopathy? Any observations of effectiveness are merely a combination of the placebo effect and regression to the mean. Every properly conducted study into homeopathy has found it to be as effective as a placebo.

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    2. You're right that there is no conclusive evidence for homeopathy using the standard case-control type studies. In my non-expert opinion, I think that treatment is so suited to the individual that it is almost impossible to study that in that way. If you give everybody the same homeopathic drug for a given treatment, I'm sure you will find that it doesn't work, because everybody will benefit from a different treatment.

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  2. I don't understand why you say "I was lucky to find a homeopath who did not tell me to stop my meds".

    I am a homeopath and we are taught, when we are studying, to never tell the patients to stop their medication from the doctor!

    We say: " I will treat you while you take them. Once we see good results from the homeopathic treatment, you can go to your doctor/specialist and talk with them about cutting down your meds".

    This idea, that we make patients go off their meds, is one of the lies spread about homeopathy.

    Believe it or not, there are vested interests who do this (very naughty!)

    All the best and thanks for letting ppl know that it really works

    :)

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    1. Thanks for your comment! I wrote that because when I started visiting my homeopath I really thought that that was what happened. I'm sorry though and I will change the little disclaimer on the bottom of my post.

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    2. If only more people knew that the homeopath should be the first person they go to..some people just want a quick fix magic pill and have little idea what is in that "magic" pill or the side effects that can be involved in doing that..I totally agree about the "vested Interests" Eva...

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  3. Ref the supposed placebo effect - why, then, does homeopathy have such a good record in the treatment of animals?

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    1. Anyone who has ever used Homeopathy on their animals knows that it works..i personally have had amazing results and it is always the first thing i use to treat disease.Not only have i saved the lives of my animals but i have done it without the need for a vet or any costly traditional medications.

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    2. Can you kill an animal with homeopathic "medicine"? If homeopathic medicine is so personalized, then why do so many people swear by the homeopathic stuff in the supermarket? It just sounds like you're making excuses.

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  4. can i ask what homeopath you went too? how does one find a reliable one who can actually cure and is not just making money or giving wrong remedies and making a person worse off than before????

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    1. In my case, I got my homeopathic doctor referred from my undergrad professor, but I think that that is pretty rare....

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  5. The good thing about homeopathy is that you will never be worse off than before as if it is not the right remedy you wont have a response but when it is the right remedy and fits the picture that the person present then you will soon know you have the right remedy..So many people are ill informed about Homeopathy which is sad as it is a safe and effective why to help your body heal ( on the principle of like cures like) and unlike modern medicine to my knowledge no one has ever died from using homeopathy where as the side effects of prescription medication kills people very single day.I would rather give my money to a homeopath any day..At least you are given a long consultation to find out what is really going on and not just handed a script to take to the chemist after 5 minutes with a doctor.

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  6. "But I can imagine that it is extremely difficult to find study the effect of homeopathy because it requires every individual to get a different treatment based on their complaints and their personality."

    Some studies have allowed homeopaths to provide individualised treatments - they still don't improve outcomes. It's great that you've found a caring MD who can spend time with you, but her "sugar pills" can't have any direct effect.

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  7. Homeopathy is an alternative powerful medicine without any side effect. Homeopathy is getting popular worldwide slowly.

    Homeopathy Clinic in Panchkula

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  8. Friday I foolishly lifted something too heavy, it slipped in my hand and I damaged a ligament. I took homeopathic Arnica and the pain went away. There is some swelling and I am being careful to not lift or press anything but I continue to be pain-free. I know enough not to assume that because there is no pain that I can just act normally. This kind of injury will take at least a week or two. But I am typing with most fingers, I am not costing the province money for emergency care nor taking space from someone who needs help.
    Arnica fits its description of treating soft tissue trauma. Canada saves money. I see no question except who profits if Homeopathy does not exist?

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