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Why Conventional Medicine Hates Homeopathy

If it’s of any comfort to US homeopaths, until the past ten years or so, when the health insurance industry gave conventional medicine something serious to fret about, the organized hostility toward alternative medicine was mostly democratic. It hated all forms.

Their battle cry, “We’re the real doctors, down with quacks,” was directed at any healer who didn’t follow three rules: Go to our schools. Get the licenses we control. Don’t make waves.

A good example of this conventional hostility can be gleaned from the Wikipedia entry on homeopathy, obviously written by a virulent anti-homeopath. The writing style makes me suspect it’s by Stephen Barrett, MD, a retired psychiatrist who runs quackwatch.com. He’s recognizable because the piece is littered with his usual buzzwords, including “pseudoscience,” “placebo effect,” and “lacks biological plausibility.” To express his contempt, he has a habit of placing the vocabulary of an alternative therapy in quotation marks, like homeopathy’s “provings,” chiropractic’s “subluxations,” or Ayurvedic’s “chakras.”

At one time or another, conventional medicine has vilified each and every form of alternative medicine as pseudoscience. But given that scientifically developed and correctly taken prescription drugs are currently the fourth leading cause of death in the US, you yourself might be a little safer using one of these “pseudoscientific” treatments.

Homeopathy has been a thorn in the side of conventional medicine since the early 19th century, and it should come as no surprise that the basis for this hostility was originally economic. In those days, conventional medicine was even more brutal than it is now. Medicines were more toxic (mercury and arsenic were used to treat syphilis), bloodletting was common, and amputation was the surgeon’s procedure de choix. To no one’s surprise, patients preferred the gentle remedies of homeopathy. When during a mid-century cholera epidemic patients treated by homeopaths fared better than those managed by the medical establishment, conventional doctors began to worry.

The bullies win
By manipulating the government into licensing graduates of non-homeopathic (allopathic) schools only, the medical establishment ensured the 20th century dawned with virtually all homeopathic medical colleges closing their doors. By mid-century, MD homeopaths had simply died of old age with no one to replace them. In conventional medical schools, generation after generation of medical students listened, as I did, to the same blather against homeopathy and chiropractic. Finally, in 1965, the Supreme Court told the AMA to keep its mouth shut about chiropractic.

But homeopathy was defenseless.

You’d see this helplessness were you to Google around (don’t bother, I’ll just tell you) for info on homeopathic clinical trials performed by MDs. These remind me of the Moscow show trials under Stalin, whose victims were allowed to go through the motions of having a trial even though the conclusion was predetermined and the firing squad stood just outside the door. Once anti-homeopath clinical trials are published, the livid responses from homeopaths protesting that the study was performed incorrectly and that the conclusions are biased rarely get printed or manages to appear at the bottom of the very last page of the journal.

Yet all around the world, homeopathy continues to not only survive, but actually thrive. Travel just about anywhere and you’ll see signs for “Homeopathic Physician” or “Homeopathic Pharmacy.”

I think patients like homeopathy for two compelling reasons
First, when remedies are selected by a trained homeopath (rather than you staring at the often-overwhelming display case at a health food store and hazarding a best guess), homeopathy can be quite effective. Second, homeopathic remedies are virtually free of side effects. All that awful stuff you hear rattled off at the end of a TV drug commercial never, ever occurs with homeopathic remedies. If your toddler accidentally polishes off a whole bottle of a homeopathic remedy, the worst-case scenario is he won’t be very hungry at suppertime.

Patients themselves are not only open to homeopathic principles, but seem to grasp them more fully than conventional physicians, who are too busy with axe-grinding to think clearly. When you, the patient, read the sentence “A homeopathic remedy consists of an extremely tiny amount of a substance that if taken in large amounts could cause illness in a well person,” you shrug your shoulders and think, “Sounds like immunizations. Sounds like allergy shots.”

But your conventional doctor bellows, “Sounds impossible! Quackery!”

Learning how truly small—and I mean really really small–homeopathic doses actually are, you rightly wonder, “Aren’t they too small to do anything?” But then you remember that birth control pills are now dosed in micrograms, one millionth of a gram. “Gee! That’s pretty small too,” you might think. “I guess if a few millionths of a gram can turn off my entire fertilization system, I’d better not use small as a reason to disparage homeopathy.”

The real bête noir for conventional medicine occurs when carefully controlled studies show that homeopathy works. These studies of course need to be free from the prejudice and bias of MD researchers. When a positive report appearing in 2005 related that 70% of 6,500 patients suffering chronic illnesses (asthma, eczema, migraines, IBS, arthritis, etc.) self-reported improvement using homeopathic remedies, it was dismissed because it came from Bristol Homeopathic Hospital in the UK, home to some of the world’s best homeopaths.

When a conventional hospital (University of Southampton) pulled a Benedict Arnold and reported that rheumatoid arthritis patients fared better when they received homeopathic remedies along with conventional therapy, the response was unintentionally amusing: This couldn’t have been the remedies; it must have been the compassionate personality of the homeopath.

A report from Germany and Switzerland should stop the bickering
Public health researchers who were neither holding a grudge nor waving a flag tracked for eight years the health of 3,709 people of all ages (children and adults) who were patients of 103 homeopathic primary care practices. Some, but not all, patients combined conventional therapies with homeopathic ones. At the end of the study, 40% of responders were “very satisfied” with their treatment. Just 11% were “little satisfied.” Even better, 68% of adults and 80% of children experienced “clinically relevant treatment success.”

The conclusion, reached not by MDs, not by homeopaths, but by public health researchers? “These data consistently show substantial health improvements in patients under homeopathic treatment, which persisted through the whole observation period. Improvements were more pronounced in younger patients, females, and those with greater disease severity at baseline.”

If you’re interested in trying homeopathy
I’ve referred patients regularly to Dr. Sujatha Mannal, WholeHealth Chicago’s resident homeopath, for more than 20 years. From my work with her I’ve gotten a strong sense about when homeopathy will be useful and when it won’t. Here are some ideas to consider if you’re pondering homeopathy for yourself:

  • This is a treatment for people who think of themselves as sensitive. They look with dread at a doctor’s prescription because they know they’ll be battling side effects. These are individuals who get nauseated from chemical smells, are sensitive to certain foods, and literally feel unpleasant symptoms from offensive colors, sounds, and weather changes.
  • This is a treatment for people with chronic symptoms of virtually any stripe, especially those accompanied by conventional medicine’s mantra “we can’t find anything wrong with you, all your tests are normal.”
  • This is a treatment for those getting partial relief using conventional medicines but who are unable to tolerate higher doses.
  • This is a treatment for people wanting to reduce their dependence on conventional medicines. Using homeopathy, someone with asthma who carries four inhalers in her purse might cut that number to one or two.
  • Homeopathy is ideal for shortening the duration of acute, self-limiting conditions like colds, flu, sprains, indigestion, and so forth. For this reason, it’s especially great for kids.
  • I don’t recommend homeopathy for serious infections, like pneumonia, or when surgery might be the only option, like appendicitis, though hospital-based homeopaths in Europe, the UK, and India would argue otherwise. Homeopathy has never cured cancer, but it certainly can reduce the symptoms of the disease and the side effects of chemotherapy.
  • Having a homeopathic first aid kit in your home, especially if you have kids, may save you trips to the crowded, germ-infested pediatrician’s office. In my home, we used homeopathy when my kids were small and, yes, they managed to make it into adulthood.

Be well,
David Edelberg, MD



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15 comments on “Why Conventional Medicine Hates Homeopathy
  1. Rick says:

    What should a homeopathic first aid kit contain?

  2. linda wolf says:

    Homeopathic first aid kit. Sounds wonderful. What should be in it?

  3. Mark Evans says:

    The other reason to love Homeopathy is that compared to most MD’s and pharamacuticles, it’s dirt cheap, whether you’re seeing Dr. Mannal (which is where you should start) or getting a book and learning some home care and first aid for simple things. I also used it to care for my Dog with great success.

  4. Bernadette Corsaro says:

    I always look forward to your articles Dr. E. Since my Levequin posioning, I am senstive to everything. St. John’s Wort v.s. all those horrible anti-depression drugs has worked wonders for my mild depression with NO side-effects.
    Thanks Dr. E!

  5. Andrew Nebel says:

    I have tried Homepathy several times from supposedly well respected homeopaths and have found no help for a chronic digestive disorder or anxiety.

    I a happy if some people find it useful. I found it a large expense with no results.

    Also, I know you like the study by Bayer but if Hershey’s did a study saying chocolate was good for your health would you believe that? I think healthy speculation about studies done by those with serious interest in the outcome should be OK whether it’s by the establishment ie MD community or whoever.

  6. Charlotte Lino says:

    I have always questioned the overuse of drugs for children.
    Particularly the use of anti-biotics. My 4 year old grandson has been given anti-bio tics every time he gets an ear ache or cold or temperature. Can’t some of these ailments be treated without such drastic and constant drugs.
    I hope my grandson never has a very serious infection where his body is no longer able to be cured or treated with anti biotics. Would love to hear from a Holistic doctors opinion on this.

  7. Dr E says:

    To Charlotte
    The first step for your grandson is to take him off dairy. That may be all that’s needed. Homeopathy would be helpful here, too

  8. Vivian Hood says:

    Some years ago a very respected acupuncturist said acupuncture therapy was good for moderate depression. I used to feel some very short-term relief, but that was also due to the fact that other needles were used to put the body (meridians) in balance. Psychotropic drugs are very important in the case of clinical depression and no one should be led to think they should toss them aside when they need them. Clinical depression too often leads to suicidal ideation which is beyond the training of acupuncture.

  9. Vivian Hood says:

    Please don’t think I’m trashing acupuncture (still go)…as for a first aid kit, nux vomica is magic to stop the vomiting and works instantly as it’s sublingual. Made by Boiron and the vial is the size of a little finger. For the opposite end, have found vials (same size) of Culing (Chinese) to be wonderful. Mark, were you speaking of Rescue Remedy? A friend gave it to her dog many years ago with good results. But every being is different, right?
    Andrew, I hope you get the help you need!

  10. Addie says:

    Is Stephen Barrett still quacking? I had a go-round with him many years ago about acupuncture (with chiropractic my only form of treatment). He actually told me I hadn’t got the results I experienced!

  11. Nicole H says:

    Thank you for the article! I am absolutely on the side of homeopathic remedies as the first method of treatment. Only until many avenues have been exhausted does conventional medicine seem appropriate (last resort type of thing). There was only one major thing that stuck out to me – that if a toddler consumed an entire bottle of a homeopathic remedy the worst case scenario would be that he isn’t very hungry later on. Some natural remedies can actually be fatal if taken in large amounts – for instance essential oils because they are so concentrated and potent. Of course even homeopathic remedies should be taken carefully. Other than that I agreed with everything else! Thank you!

  12. Jacky says:

    Homeopathy works effectively. I and my family members have been successfully treated with homeopathic remedies for more than 10 years.

  13. rahul says:

    Homoeopathy surely works specially for chronic ailments, skin diseases, arthritis and in several other conditions. Family kit should contain nux comica, arnica, allium cepa, arsenic, aconite, belladonna, chamomilla, ferrum phos, hepar sulphur, antim tart, ipecac all these drugs in 30 n 200 potency..

  14. Dr Vishal Rampuria says:

    Homoeopathy is the best Medical system in the world but one should be sound good in the knowledge.And be able to practice in all circumstances. Only reading one book makes no Homoeopathic doctor, it require lots of patience & experience.

  15. Dr Vishal Rampuria ( Homoeopath). India says:

    I am practicing homoeopathy since 1997, none of my patients have reported of non curing till today.

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