Evidence Check 2: Homeopathy - Science and Technology Committee Contents

Memorandum submitted by John Boulderstone (HO 03)

  This submission refers to Government policy on Licensing Homeopathic Products and the Evidence base on homeopathic products and services.

  1.  As you are aware there is a lot of controversy on the internet and in the press about homeopathy. A vast amount of the problems come from people who think they understand what homeopathy is but have not checked with the original source. It is important that the Science and Technology Committee have an understanding of what homeopathy is and not get their understanding from ill-informed journalists, websites or "quack-busters" who distort the definition of homeopathy for their own purposes. In short a scientific (meaning accurate) definition is needed.

  2.  Initially, I would like to point out what homeopathy is not. Homeopathy is not the prescription of diluted substances. The proof of this, if any is needed, lies in the fact that initially Samuel Hahnemann administered homeopathic substances that were not diluted and still called what he did homeopathy. In fact he gave the same medicines as the orthodox medical practitioners of the time. What made, and makes, medicines homeopathic is ONLY the philosophy by which they are prescribed and NOT that they are diluted.

  3.  Some journalists, comedians and the "quack-busters" choose to not understand this fact about homeopathy because it is then easy to make jokes about it.

  4.  The misunderstanding of what homeopathy is runs very deep and some people who call themselves homeopaths have also forgotten what homeopathy is.

  5.  Homeopathy is badly defined on websites and in newspapers. It is definitively defined by its founder Samuel Hahnemann in his "Organon of Medicine". However, this book is difficult to read which is why there is so much misinformation. It is not defined well by Wikipedia.

  6.  Also, most, if not all, scientific trials test for the efficacy of potentised substances and these tests do not test homeopathy. Even so, very often the scientists conducting these trials believe they are testing homeopathy.

  7.  What is currently used as an explanation is the phrase "like cures like". While this is a succinct explanation and useful for homeopaths, it allows non-homeopaths to believe the prescribed remedy does the work and not the reaction from the patient. This then leads to the inevitable focus on the remedy and its "strength" instead of the way the remedy is selected. The phrase "like cures like" misleads.

  8.  A better explanation comes in two parts. Two parts are needed to emphasise an important point that is missed in other explanations. The first is: Homeopathy is a prescription that causes a reaction in the patient; A remedy becomes homeopathic only when it matches the symptoms of the patient so it is the act of prescribing that makes it homeopathy. Notice that there is no mention of dilutions because this is not a requirement for homeopathy. The second part is: this reaction cures the patient.

  9.  Reiterating the explanation: Homeopathy is a prescription that causes a reaction in the patient; this reaction cures the patient.

  10.  Allopathy may be explained in a similar way as: A prescription that removes the problem. Usually using an anti-drug (antibiotics, anti-depressants, anti-inflammatories, anti-virals), taking little account of the differences in different patients. This explanation could be accepted by both homeopaths and allopaths. And now the difference between the two therapies can be clearly seen.

  11.  Therefore, the term "homeopathic products", used to describe potentised material is misnamed. Products used by homeopaths vary in strength from highly dilute to NOT DILUTE AT ALL, they can also be orthodox medicines if they are prescribed in the correct way. Remember, it is not the substance or its method of manufacture that makes it homeopathic but the reason for prescribing.

  12.  So, to be accurate, scientific and not misleading the term "homeopathic products" cannot be used before the products are prescribed. To do so misunderstands what homeopathy actually is. Instead, the appropriate term may be "potentised substances". If this distinction between "homeopathic products" and "potentised substances" is not made a nonsense will result when looking at the evidence base and licensing of products.

John Boulderstone

Declaration of interests: I am a homeopath that does not prescribe potentised substances.

November 2009

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