The mystery of the white ball
Homeopathy ( from the Greek. “Similar” and “disease” ) is a type of alternative medicine, involving the use of highly diluted drugs, which, presumably, cause symptoms in healthy people, similar to symptoms of a patient’s disease. The concept of treatment according to the pseudoscientific principle “similar to the like” (lat. Similia similibus curantur) is opposed by homeopaths to the principles of rational pharmacotherapy. The founder and author of the term is the German physician Christian Friedrich Samuel Hahnemann .
The theoretical justification of the homeopathic principle does not correspond to scientific ideas about the functioning of a healthy and sick body, and the clinical trials of homeopathic remedies did not reveal differences between a homeopathic remedy and a placebo. This means that any positive feelings after treatment with homeopathy are explained by the placebo effect and the natural recovery from the disease. Trivial calculations show that in preparations with dilutions of 12C and higher, the probability of having at least one molecule of the active substance is close to zero. For these reasons, the scientific community regards homeopathy as pseudoscience , quackery or fraud. The World Health Organization (WHO) warns against the homeopathic treatment of infectious and any other serious diseases. According to the organization’s experts, “the use of homeopathy does not have an evidence base, and in cases where it is used as an alternative to the main treatment, it poses a real threat to the health and life of people.”
The UK Parliament Science and Technology Committee issued a 275-page paper in February 2010 to test the evidence base for homeopathy. According to the findings of the Committee, state medical insurance should not cover homeopathic treatment, because "systematic evaluation and meta-analysis conclusively demonstrate that homeopathic products do not work better than placebo." The committee also pointed out to the Medicines and Health Care Agency that homeopathic medicines should not be licensed, as this creates the illusion that the public is being offered truly topical medicines. Among the findings of the document are also assessments of the basic principles of homeopathy. According to these findings, the principle of “treating the like with like” has no theoretical basis and is not able to provide a reasonable regimen for the therapeutic use of homeopathic products, and the idea that traces of dissolved substances are preserved during superstrong dilution is scientifically untenable.
The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) ordered manufacturers of homeopathic medicines to inform consumers that homeopathy is based on theories of the 18th century, and that the medicines themselves do not pass the necessary clinical trials and are not approved by medical experts. The FTC published a 24-page report outlining the position of homeopaths, those who are skeptical of homeopathy, and those who have used it. Specialists of the organization came to the conclusion that there is no reason not to expose the advertising promises of homeopathic manufacturers to the same control as the advertising of medicines. The information on the packaging, according to experts, appears distorted. To clarify, manufacturers will now have to indicate that their product has not been tested and manufactured in accordance with principles that do not have evidence.
What unknown power lies in homeopathic remedies and why do these seemingly harmless balls irritate some science representatives so much?
I have long given myself the word not to be surprised at the intricate whims of journalistic fate. Today you interview the president in the luxurious interiors of his residence, and tomorrow you feed lice in the Arabian desert. So what? Be patient and rejoice. But interesting. But the last order of the editors puzzled me a lot. It is necessary to understand what is homeopathy? The branch of serious medicine or the wiring of unsuspecting suckers?
The difficulty was also in the fact that I was always very skeptical of any manifestations of alternative medicine, in particular, boxes with white balls that my wife brought home after taking a homeopath. These balls supposedly helped her, as well as her sister, friends, relatives and acquaintances. And since all of them are still alive and well, I didn’t mind. Just to not harm. But now this issue should be taken seriously.
First of all, I carefully studied the arguments of the opponents of homeopathy, writing to one of them by e-mail, and seeing someone in person. The picture, which appeared in the end, was murderous. I was assured that clinical trials conducted with appropriate quality and in accordance with accepted standards did not show any advantages of homeopathic medicines over placebo (dummy). I was told that the very principles underlying homeopathy are incompatible with the modern natural-scientific picture of the world. Here it is: either homeopathy, or physics with chemistry. In one row they do not exist.
The main principle is " treat like like ." In other words, to wedge a wedge a wedge.
One must be flexible and look at the obvious results, and there are more than enough of them in homeopathic practice. Our medicine cannot be called unproven. She's just different. And in order to understand this, you need to change your mind, you need to understand that this is also a reality.
I learned that the medicines used by homeopaths are diluted to ultra-low doses, that is, to such an extent that no molecules of the primary substance remain in the “ball”. Which, you see, is strange: due to what, then, is the therapeutic effect achieved? When homeopaths are reproached for this, they allegedly explain the inconsistency with all sorts of pseudo-scientific theories, for example, the “memory of water”, the “wave genome” and other miracles. Others believe that the therapeutic effect occurs in a way unknown to science. Mysticism again?
“Well, let it be so,” I told my counterparts. “But you will not argue that homeopaths have not harmed anyone.” If there is nothing in these preparations, then there is no harm.
“The danger,” they answered me, “is that people who believe homeopaths will not turn to conventional medicine specialists in a timely manner, they will start the disease.”
Christian Samuel Hahnemann ... Every German homeopathic doctor considers it his duty to pay tribute to the founder of an alternative medicine.
Along the way, I learned that in Russia homeopathy revived in the early 90's. We proceeded from the fact that since homeopathy exists in different countries, then we should have it. This is a true fact: homeopathic practice is permitted and is present in seventy states. The most convincing example is India, where about two hundred thousand (!) Homeopathic doctors practice and more than two thousand homeopathic clinics work. There is the All-India Institute of Homeopathy, and one hundred twenty-two specialized faculties are opened in educational institutions. But in Europe, this branch of medicine is quite thriving. Austria, France, Belgium, Great Britain - everywhere it exists legally, universities train doctors, the number of patients is growing. Moreover, in some countries, sufferers are paid the cost of homeopathic treatment at the expense of compulsory medical insurance policies (MHI). Although with reservations. Take, say, advanced Switzerland. On the one hand, the Federal Department of Health in March 2016 confirmed that "there is still no absolutely reliable data proving the effectiveness and efficiency of homeopathy." On the other hand, the same department, "reflecting the will of the people", allowed to pay for the services provided by homeopaths at the expense of the MHI. The Swiss asked to give them a couple more years to put an end to this debate: research is ongoing. Well, after all I heard and read, I went to Germany, to the small Saxon town of Köthen, where homeopathy was born almost two hundred years ago.
And now - to practice
In this city, there is one monument to composer Johann Sebastian Bach and two to Dr. Christian Samuel Hahnemann. Quotes from the works of the world's first homeopath decorate the facades of many houses. In the city museum, an entire hall is dedicated to the life of Hahnemann. And every German homeopathic doctor considers it his duty to pay tribute to the founder of a non-traditional branch of medicine. Just on the day of my arrival here, leading German experts gathered in Köthen to discuss preparations for the next, 72nd in a row, World Congress of Homeopaths, which will be held in Leipzig in June. Well, I took advantage of this to ask my accumulated questions to the president of the Central Association of German Homeopaths Cornelia Bayich.
I immediately warned her that some questions would be uncomfortable. “It's your profession to ask bad questions,” Frau Bayich encouraged me.
I know that in Russia many biologists, chemists, physicists, and also some doctors practicing conventional medicine categorically do not recognize homeopathy. Why do you think so?
Cornelia Bayich: I think this is a problem of scientific understanding of the world. Today, life is changing rapidly and changing ideas about the world. If the traditional framework does not accommodate new ideas, then this does not mean that such ideas are erroneous. Skeptics view homeopathy from those scientific positions that are based on the traditional allopathic understanding of medicine. Scientific or evidence-based medicine has proven its worth, and we do not deny it. But it is impossible to approach with the same standards the usual medical research and the research in the field of homeopathy. One must be flexible and look at the obvious results, and there are more than enough of them in homeopathic practice. Our medicine cannot be called unproven. She's just different. And in order to understand this, it is necessary to change consciousness, to understand that this is also a reality.
Still reality or mysticism? There is a common opinion that the effectiveness of your treatment depends on faith, on the patient’s conviction of success ...
Cornelia Bayich: Of course, if the patient believes the doctor, that’s good. Then he strictly follows the advice of a doctor, takes medication correctly. But, answering your question, I’ll say: we conducted studies in which we gave our patients dummies (placebo) and homeopathic remedies, and so - the placebo did not work, and homeopathy yielded results.
Believing is not harmful, but the fact is that homeopathy also helps young children who are difficult, you see, to suspect being engaged. Or animals - and here it is not necessary to speak about faith at all.
Do vets use homeopathic remedies?
Cornelia Bayich: Of course. For example, yesterday a farmer contacted us who has an eco-farm and does not want to use antibiotics. Treats animals with homeopathy.
And why did he refuse antibiotics?
Cornelia Bayich: The hidden presence of antibiotics in food is a big problem. And homeopathy comes to replace them. European Commission standards require homeopathy to be used first, then other natural remedies, and only as a last resort antibiotics.
Then I will come from the other side. Do homeopaths really recognize that they themselves do not fully understand the mechanisms of action of their drugs?
Cornelia Bayich: Here I have to agree: this is true. Rather, we are dealing with a phenomenon that is not yet fully understood. We do not refuse to put research at the proper scientific level, conduct expert analyzes, accumulate and systematize data. We are open to any checks, all this will only benefit the cause.
In the course of research, we gave our patients dummies (placebo) and homeopathic remedies, and so - placebo did not work, and homeopathy yielded results.
We have experiments with plants that were placed in glass capsules with a poisonous solution. Then ordinary water was added to some capsules, and homeopathic remedies to others. And in the last capsules, the plants were restored, revived.
Hahnemann's quotes adorn the facades of many houses, and in the city museum a whole hall is dedicated to him.
The favorite trump card of your opponents is as follows. Allegedly, when the drug is diluted to the degree of C30 (this is the most common dilution, in which the drug is diluted hundred times thirty times. - V.S.), not a single molecule of the initial substance remains in the test tube. But if so, then what works?
Cornelia Bayich: Before the dilution of C10 and even C23, some molecules of the initial substance are preserved. But in subsequent dilutions they are no longer there. This means that there is some other mechanism that is still unknown to us. We are doing research to figure out what the matter is. But this, of course, is not mysticism. Perhaps something is happening that changes this substance in an unknown way to us. We can only observe this, but still cannot explain it.
Your opponents also say the following: people with serious illnesses go to homeopaths, wasting valuable time. And then it's too late ...
Cornelia Bayich: Perhaps this is so with you. Usually they turn to us when other doctors could no longer help, that is, at the very end of the chain. Or they come to us, wanting to combine allopathic and homeopathic treatment. Such a combined method is very common. For example, in the treatment of oncology, in ninety-nine out of a hundred cases, it is he who is used. We look at the patient’s medical history and sometimes we suggest that he use only allopathy, and only then, perhaps, we connect homeopathy. We approach each strictly individually.
That is, it is impossible to understand which treatment worked: conventional or homeopathic?
Cornelia Bayich: I have already said that in most cases the patient comes to us after not entirely successful allopathic treatment. But when homeopathy joins this treatment and the result improves, it means that we are helping. If the treatment was combined from the very beginning, it is difficult to talk about what turned out to be more effective.
Is it true that most homeopaths oppose vaccinations?
Cornelia Bayich: Not true. We believe that vaccination should be strictly individual, because some people cannot tolerate it. But vaccination has proven its worth, and we are not against it.
Can a homeopathic medicine become poison?
Cornelia Bayich: This is possible if the patient does not use drugs that contain toxic substances, such as belladonna or mercurius. But in Germany you can’t buy them without a prescription.
With German pedantry
Good. Is a homeopathic doctor required to have a basic medical education?
Cornelia Bayich: Of course! A person must first obtain the diploma of an ordinary doctor - therapist, surgeon, pediatrician, anesthetist, and only then he has the right to supplement his qualification by studying for a further three years as a homeopath. This is an official legal practice. Then, for five years, the doctor who received the certificate of a homeopath must attend lectures and seminars, otherwise he will not be extended with a work permit. Today in Germany we have more than seven thousand such doctors. And half of them are in our association, founded almost two hundred years ago here in Kothen, in the house of Samuel Hahnemann.
Cornelia Bayich: We are dealing with a phenomenon that is not yet fully understood.
Do compulsory medical insurance policies cover the costs of homeopathic treatment in Germany?
Cornelia Bayich: We have two structures: the National Health Insurance System and private insurance companies. As for the first, it covers up to ninety percent of the country's population, and within the framework of this state structure, we have concluded agreements on homeopathic care for eighty percent of insured persons. If we talk about private insurance companies, then they all pay for treatment from homeopathic doctors.
Somewhere I heard that it was in Germany that underestimated certification requirements for homeopathic medicines compared with allopathic remedies. This is true?
Cornelia Bayich : According to our legislation, homeopathy refers to special therapy. Therefore, all drugs also undergo special registration. You can use only those drugs that are on the list of the Chamber for the registration of drugs and whose benefits have been proven. There is also a research institute that studies all new drugs. I would refrain from calling the certification requirements underestimated, they are simply different, as well as other requirements for herbal medicine, traditional folk medicine that has been used for hundreds of years, have proven their worth and safety.
How many medical faculties in Germany train homeopaths?
Cornelia Bayich: In Germany, the teaching of homeopathy at the medical faculties is widespread. I am not ready to name the exact number now, but I think that at least half of them can offer specialization in homeopathy.
Is it possible, on the basis of what has been said, that homeopaths in Germany have no opponents?
Cornelia Bayich: Six years ago, a wave of negative newspaper articles passed, but the more they scolded, the more patients we got. 65 percent of the German population used homeopathic services. And in the world this indicator is constantly growing. I could tell you many authoritative people in various fields who are proponents of homeopathy. These are members of the royal families, and stars of show business, and famous athletes. By the way, now, when doping problems started in big sport, many athletes began to use homeopathic medicines to restore strength. Among them are winners and prize-winners of the Olympic Games, world championships. And the players of the leading Bundesliga clubs, too.
By the way
Having caught myself wanting to tell Frau Cornelia Bayich the details of my own ailments and asking her for advice, I realized that I had to say goodbye. And he did not begin to draw conclusions from these notes either. Let everyone make them for himself.
One of the documents of the regulatory framework for homeopathy in our country.