The Secret of the White Ball
Homeopathy ( from the Greek "similar" and "disease" ) is a kind of alternative medicine that involves the use of highly diluted drugs that presumably cause symptoms in healthy people similar to those of the patient's illness. The concept of treatment according to the pseudo-scientific "similar to similar" (Latin similia similibus curantur) is counterposed to the principles of rational pharmacotherapy by homeopaths. The founder and author of the term is the German physician Christian Friedrich Samuel Hahnemann .
The theoretical basis of the homeopathic principle does not correspond to the scientific notions of the functioning of a healthy and sick organism, and the performed clinical trials of homeopathic preparations did not reveal differences between homeopathic medicine and placebo. This means that any positive sensations after treatment with homeopathy are explained by the placebo effect and natural recovery after the illness. 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 homeopathic treatment of infectious and any other serious diseases. As the experts of the organization note, "the use of homeopathy has no evidence base, and in those cases when it is used as an alternative to the basic treatment, it poses a real threat to the health and life of people."
The Committee on Science and Technology of the British Parliament in February 2010 issued a 275-page document on the verification of the evidence base of homeopathy. According to the Committee's conclusions, state health insurance should not cover homeopathic treatment, because "systematic evaluation and meta-analysis finally demonstrate that homeopathic products work no better than placebo." The committee also told the Agency for the Control of Medicines and Health that it is not worthwhile to license homeopathic medicines, since this creates the illusion that the public is being offered really topical medications. Among the findings of the document are also estimates of the basic principles of homeopathy. According to these conclusions, the principle of "treating like-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 the traces of dissolved substances persist at a super-strong dilution is scientifically untenable.
The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) obliged manufacturers of homeopathic medicines to inform consumers that homeopathy is based on theories of the 18th century, and the drugs themselves do not undergo the necessary clinical trials and are not approved by medical experts. The FTC published a 24-page report in which she set out the positions of homeopaths, those who are skeptical about homeopathy, and those who have used it. Experts of the organization came to the conclusion that there is no reason not to expose the advertising promises of the producers of homeopathy to the same control as the advertising of medicines. Information on the packaging, according to experts, appears in a distorted form. To make it clear, now the manufacturers will have to indicate that their product has not been tested and manufactured in accordance with principles that do not have an evidentiary basis.
What kind of unknown power lies in homeopathic preparations and why do these seemingly harmless balls so irritate some representatives of science?
For a long time I promised myself 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 Arab desert. So what? Be patient and rejoice. But interesting. But the last instruction of the editorial staff greatly puzzled me. It is necessary to understand what is homeopathy? The branch of serious medicine or the distribution of trusting suckers?
The difficulty was also that I was always very skeptical about any manifestations of alternative medicine, in particular, to the boxes with white balls that my wife brought home after taking a homeopath. To her, and also to her sister, girlfriends, relatives and acquaintances these balls supposedly helped. And since they are still alive and well, I did not object. If only do not harm. But now this issue should be treated with all seriousness.
First of all, I carefully studied the arguments of opponents of homeopathy, having written to one of them by e-mail, and having seen someone personally. The picture, which appeared in the end, was murderous. I was assured that clinical trials conducted with proper quality and in accordance with accepted standards did not show any advantages of homeopathic drugs over placebo (pacifier). I was told that the principles themselves, which are the basis of 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 to " treat like like ". In other words, wedge the wedge.
You have to be flexible and look at the obvious results, and there are more than enough of them in homeopathic practice. Our medicine can not be called unsubstantiated. She's just different. And in order to understand this, you have to change your mind, you have 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 the extent that there are no molecules of the primary substance in the "ball" at all. What, too, agree, it's strange: at the expense of what is the therapeutic effect achieved then? When homoeopaths are blamed for this, they allegedly explain the inconsistency with all kinds of pseudoscientific theories, for example, "memory of water," "wave genome," and other miracles. Others believe that the therapeutic effect occurs in an unknown way in science. Again mysticism?
"Well, let it be so," I said to my counterparts. - But in fact you will not begin to argue with that homeopathists still did not harm to anybody. If there is nothing in these preparations, then there is no harm.
"The danger is," they answered me, "that people who believe in homeopathy will not turn to specialists in conventional medicine 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 the nontraditional branch of medicine.
In passing, I learned that in Russia homeopathy revived in the early 90's. They proceeded from the fact that once homeopathy exists in different countries, then it should be with us. This is a real fact: homeopathic practice is permitted and is present in seventy states. The most convincing example is India, where about two hundred thousand (!) Homeopathic doctors work and more than two thousand homeopathic polyclinics work. There is the All-India Institute of Homeopathy, and one hundred and twenty-two specialized faculties are open in educational institutions. But in Europe this branch of medicine is quite flourishing. Austria, France, Belgium, Great Britain - everywhere it exists legally, doctors prepare universities, the number of patients grows. And in some countries, the costs of homeopathic treatment due to compulsory medical insurance (MHI) policies are paid to the sufferers. Although with reservations. Take, say, advanced Switzerland. On the one hand, the Federal Health Office in March 2016 confirmed that "there is still no absolutely reliable evidence proving the effectiveness and efficacy of homeopathy." And on the other hand, the same agency, "reflecting the will of the people," allowed to pay for services provided by homeopaths, through the OMS. The Swiss asked them to give them another couple of years to put an end to this dispute: the research continues. Well, after all I heard and read, I went to Germany, in the small Saxon town of Köthen, where almost two hundred years ago, homeopathy was born.
And now - to practice
In this city one monument to the composer Johann Sebastian Bach and two to Dr. Christian Samuel Hahnemann. Citations from the works of the world's first homeopathy decorate the facades of many houses. In the city museum a whole room is dedicated to the life of Hahnemann. And every German homeopath doctor considers it his duty to pay tribute to the founder of the non-traditional branch of medicine. Just on the day of my arrival, the leading experts of Germany gathered in Köthen to discuss the preparations for the next, the 72nd, according to the account, the World Congress of Homeopaths, which in June will be held in Leipzig. Well, I took advantage of this to ask my questions to the president of the Central Association of Homeopathists Germany Cornelia Bayich.
I immediately warned her that some questions would be uncomfortable. "It's your profession to ask bad questions," Frau Baiich encouraged me.
I know that in Russia, many biologists, chemists, physicists, and also part of doctors practicing conventional medicine categorically do not recognize homeopathy. What do you think, why?
Cornelia Bayich: I think this is a problem of scientific understanding of the world. Today, life is rapidly changing and changing perceptions of the world around us. If traditional frames do not contain new representations, this does not mean that such representations are wrong. 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 one can not approach with the same standards to conventional medical research and to research in the field of homeopathy. You have to be flexible and look at the obvious results, and there are more than enough of them in homeopathic practice. Our medicine can not be called unsubstantiated. 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 according to which 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, it's good. Then he strictly follows the doctor's advice, takes the medicine correctly. But, answering your question, I will say: we conducted research, during which patients were given dummies (placebo) and homeopathic remedies, and so - the placebo did not work, and homeopathy yielded results.
It is not harmful to believe, but the fact is that homeopathy also helps young children, who are difficult, you will agree, to suspect of bias. Or animals - but there is no need to talk about faith at all.
Do veterinarians use homeopathic remedies?
Cornelia Bayich: Of course. For example, yesterday we were approached by a farmer who has an eco-farm, and he does not want to use antibiotics. Heals animals with the help of homeopathy.
And why did he give up antibiotics?
Cornelia Bayich: The latent presence of antibiotics in food is a big problem. And homeopathy comes to replace them. The standards of the European Commission require first to use homeopathy, then other natural remedies, and only as a last resort - antibiotics.
Then I'll come from the other side. Do homoeopaths recognize that they themselves do not understand the mechanisms of action of their drugs themselves?
Cornelia Bayich: Then I must agree: it's true. Rather, we are dealing with a phenomenon that has not yet been fully understood. We do not at all refuse to place 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 the research, we gave our patients dummies (placebo) and homeopathic remedies, and so - the placebo did not work, and homeopathy yielded results.
We have experiments with plants that were placed in glass capsules with a toxic solution. Then ordinary capsules were added to the capsules, and homeopathic remedies were added to other capsules. And in the last capsules the plants were restored, revived.
Quotations of Hahnemann 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 C30 (this is the most dilution, in which the drug is diluted 30 times - VS), no molecule of the starting material 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 remain. But in the 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 find out what's the matter. But this, of course, is not mysticism. Perhaps something is happening that changes this substance in an unknown way so far. We can only observe this, but still can not explain it.
Your opponents also say the following: people with serious diseases go to homeopaths, losing valuable time. And then it's too late ...
Cornelia Bayich: Perhaps this is the case with you. Usually we are treated when other doctors could not help, that is at the very end of the chain. Or they come to us, wishing to combine allopathic and homeopathic treatment. Such a combined method is very common. For example, in the treatment of oncology in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred it is used. We look at the patient's medical history and sometimes suggest that he apply only allopathy, and only then, perhaps, we connect homeopathy. We approach each person strictly individually.
That is, it is impossible to understand what treatment worked: normal or homeopathic?
Cornelia Bayich: I have already said that in most cases the patient comes to us after an unsuccessful allopathic treatment. But when homeopathy joins this treatment and the result improves, it means that we help. If the treatment was combined from the very beginning, it is difficult to say that it turned out to be more effective.
Is it true that most homeopaths oppose vaccinations?
Cornelia Bayich: That's not true. We believe that vaccination should be strictly individual, because some people do not tolerate it. But the vaccination has proved its worth, and we are not against it.
Can a homeopathic medicine become a poison?
Cornelia Bayich: This is possible if the patient incorrectly uses drugs containing toxic substances - such as belladonna or mercurius. But in Germany they can not be bought without a prescription.
With German pedantry
Good. And the homoeopathic doctor must have a basic medical education?
Cornelia Bayich: Of course! A person must first obtain a diploma of an ordinary doctor - a therapist, a surgeon, a pediatrician, an anesthesiologist, and only then he has the right to supplement his qualifications, after three years of studying for a homeopath. This is an official legal practice. Then within five years the doctor who received the certificate of a homeopath should attend lectures and seminars, otherwise he will not be renewed for work permit. Today we have more than seven thousand such doctors in Germany. And half of them are in our association, founded almost two hundred years ago here in Köthen, in the house of Samuel Hahnemann.
Cornelia Bayich: We are dealing with a phenomenon that has not been fully understood yet.
Do OMI policies compensate for 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 contracts for the homeopathic care of eighty percent of the insured. If we talk about private insurance companies, they all pay for the treatment of homeopathic doctors.
Somewhere I heard that it is in Germany that the requirements for the certification of homeopathic medicines are underestimated compared to allopathic remedies. This is true?
Cornelia Bayich : According to our legislation, homeopathy refers to special therapy. Therefore, all medicines also undergo special registration. You can use only those drugs that are on the list of the Chamber for the registration of medicines and whose benefits are proven. There is also the Research Institute, which is studying all new drugs. I would refrain from calling certification requirements underestimated, they are just different, as well as other requirements for phytotherapy drugs, to the traditional medicines that have been used for hundreds of years, have proved their usefulness and safety.
How many medical faculties in Germany do doctors-homeopaths prepare?
Cornelia Bayich: In Germany, the teaching of homeopathy in medical faculties is widespread. I'm not ready to say the exact number now, but I think that at least half of them can offer specialization in homeopathy.
Is it possible, proceeding from what has been said, to consider that homeopaths in Germany have no enemies?
Cornelia Bayich: Six years ago there was a wave of negative articles in the newspapers, but the more they scolded, the more patients we became. 65 percent of Germany's population used the services of homeopaths. And in the world this indicator is constantly growing. I could tell you a lot of the most authoritative people in various fields who are supporters of homeopathy. This is the members of the royal families, and show business stars, and famous athletes. By the way, now, when in the big sports problems with doping have begun, many athletes for restoration of forces began to use homeopathic preparations. Among them - winners and prize-winners of the Olympic Games, world championships. And the players of the leading clubs of the Bundesliga are, too.
By the way
Catching myself on the desire to tell Frau Cornelia Bayich details of my own ailments and ask her for advice, I realized that we must say goodbye. And conclusions from these notes also did not. Let everyone make them for himself.
One of the documents of the normative base on homeopathy in our country.