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The Modern Case for Homeopathy
Most are skeptical of this centuries old medical discipline, but advancements in modern research may vindicate homeopathy.
Since becoming disenchanted with allopathic medicine, I’ve spent more of my time trying to understand different ways of conceptualizing the human body, health and disease.
To be quite honest, I have yet to encounter a long-standing discipline of medicine that I could dismiss outright as nonsense or pseudoscience. This includes Tibetan, Islamic, Medieval, Chinese, Chiropractic, and now…Homeopathic medicine.
All of these disciplines have extremely useful ways of conceptualizing body physiology, illness and treatment.
I am sure they have their short-comings, but which discipline does not?
When it came to homeopathy, there was one thing I could not get past.
You see, homeopathy is quite a robust practice from a diagnostic perspective. But, the treatments are difficult to justify for the classically educated scientific mind.
Now, I am far less skeptical.
Let me explain.
What is Homeopathy?
Homeopathy is an 18th-century medical discipline formalized by Samuel Hahnemann in his seminal work The Organon of the Healing Art published in 1810. In subsequent editions, he changed the title to The Organon of Medicine.
As far as I can tell, Hahnemann was an exceptionally well-read and thoughtful physician. Trained in classical allopathic medicine, he soon found it lacking. Fortunately for us, Hahnemann was fluent in several languages (like many medical scholars of history) which allowed him to explore texts both ancient & contemporary.
It is in the work of Hahnemann that the term “allopathic” medicine originates.
In the introduction to his final (6th) edition, Hahnemann opines on the shortcomings of allopathy:
In order to give a general notion of the treatment of diseases pursued by [allopathy] it may be observed that it presupposes the existence of…excess blood…and morbid matters…hence it taps off the life’s blood and exerts itself either to clear away the imaginary disease-matter or to conduct it elsewhere, in the vain belief that the disease will thereby be weakened and materially eradicated…
It assails the body with large doses of powerful medicines, often repeated in rapid succession for a long time, whose long-enduring, not infrequently frightful effects it knows not, and which…makes unrecognizable by the commingling of several such unknown substances in one prescription…develops in the body new and often ineradicable medicinal diseases.
Whenever it can, it employs, in order to keep in favor with its patient, remedies that immediately suppress and hide the morbid symptoms by opposition…for a short time (palliatives), but that leave the cause for these symptoms strengthened and aggravated.
The most commonly recited philosophy of homeopathy is similia similibus curentur - let like be cured by like. However, this is not a novel concept.
Hippocrates wrote about treating like with like in the 5th century. Paracelsus, a widely regarded 15th-century physician of the German Renaissance, contrastingly popularized the notion of the poison lying in the dose.
All things are poison, and nothing is without poison; the dosage alone makes it so a thing is not a poison. -Paracelsus, 1539
In 1790, Hahnemann explored the work of William Cullen that used Cinchona tree bark for the treatment of malaria. Hahnemann noted the overlap of symptoms between cinchonism (high dose of Cinchona; active ingredient quinine) and malaria. The poison & cure were one in the same.
He went on to test several other substances, and formulated his ‘law of similars.’
As one reads Hahnemann, one notes a principle focus on a thorough and robust medical history and physical examination.
People may argue that this is commonplace in allopathic medicine, but I would beg to differ. If anything, the current trend in medical care is to order tests. Most patients do not receive a physician’s touch. Nor are they given the time and space to speak their heart and mind.
As a result of this pattern, most newly trained physicians have lost the art of history-taking. Which is a rigorous and nuanced art-form in itself.
Criticism of Homeopathy
To understand the criticism of homeopathy, we need only dissect this Wikipedia entry:
The strength and limitation of homeopathy are one in the same.
Homeopathy is a practice centered around the patient. Patients differ on enough dimension of existence, that almost everyone is unique. This makes it very difficult for the modern medical paradigm to quantify its effects.
Nowadays, modern medicine is inextricable from aggregate data analytics as it concerns management and treatment options. Large randomized control trials, systematic reviews, and meta-analyses are the mainstay. Unfortunately, a practice as personalized as homeopathy does not do well under these circumstances.
Algorithmic medicine (aka allopathic), on the other hand, can generate some signal from noise. As it perceives and treats patients with distinct categories.
The practice of treating like with like led Hahnemann down a path to dilute certain poisons that would be harmful if taken at a ‘normal’ dose. He found that these more dilute substances cured the disease, and did so with less side effects. This was the principle breakthrough that created homeopathic medicine as we know it.
Unfortunately, for those insisting on a biophysical mechanism by which this makes any sense - it was a nightmare.
I must admit - I am one of those people. This was a major stumbling-block for me. How could something so dilute as if to be negligible, have any physiologic impact?
However, you can see how Hahnemann struggled with this discovery himself. In his attempt to reconcile the observations with the chemistry-driven anti-disease approach of using drugs, he wrote an essay in 1796.
In it, Hahnemann promotes the notion of “proving” - a rigorous approach to testing the impact of different remedies as they interact with specific diseases.
…we should “go to work as rationally and as methodically as possible“ and “should trust as little as possible to chance“, experience on the human body is the only alternative for reliably determining the healing capability of remedies.
Each remedy produces a specific artificial disease; in the treatment of natural diseases the remedy to be selected, is the one which in the proving has produced symptoms similar to those of the disease which is to be healed.
Vindication from a Nobel Laureate
Most know of Luc Montagnier as the Nobel Prize winning chemist credited with the discovery of Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV).
However, during the late stage of his career he built upon the work of Gilbert Ling and Gerald Pollack - who have heavily focused on the nature of water. Particularly, the behavior of water under certain boundary conditions. These boundary conditions that make water behave in unique ways (structure, and coherent domains) are commonplace in biological and cellular life.
In the last decade of his life, he and his colleagues discovered that nucleic acids (ie. the building blocks of DNA and RNA) had the capacity to structure the water around them in such a way, so as to transmit a coherent electromagnetic signal. A signal so robust, that they successfully transmitted the DNA of a bacteria across the internet to another lab. In this lab, they used PCR to produce DNA clones from water that was resonant with the code they received digitally. This is literal science-fiction come to life. I would highly recommend you read their original works (example below).
At this point, you are likely wondering what this has to do with homeopathy.
Let’s get into it.
First, let’s clarify their observation. Montagnier et al discovered that the water in which DNA was dissolved, would resonate to such a degree that a detectable electromagnetic signal was observed. It wasn’t the DNA that produced the signal, but the structured and resonant water which interacted with it.
When Montagnier et al start experimenting with DNA solutions in this manner, they noted a fascinating phenomenon. Only highly dilute solutions would produce a detectable signal. Concentrations of 10-9 to -38.
These are highly dilute solutions - so dilute, in fact, one would question if the quantity of DNA is ‘negligible.’
They then performed a series of experiments to observe the relationship between dilutions.
In one experiment, they mixed a high concentration (silent) solution with a low concentration (signal) solution and found that the signal was lost from the low concentration solution.
In another experiment, they placed a silent solution next to a positive signal solution.
The solution that originally produced signal (10-9) became silent after 24 hours.
Even more fascinating, they repeated this same experiment but this time they put a piece of electromagnetic blocking metal between the test tubes. The effect of ‘silencing’ the positive tube was lost. I told you. This is straight science-fiction.
In one paragraph, we see Montagnier et al trying to understand why only the highly dilute solutions can reliably generate transmissible genetic information.
They provide two possibilities:
The silent low dilutions are self-inhibitory. The relevant substance produces so many EM signals that are slightly out of phase, and cancel each other out. Like jamming a radio signal.
The abundance of biologic material in the low dilution solution can cause the water to create a thicker gel, which would effectively dampen any resonant vibrations that could create signal.
Both seem highly plausible to me, and there may be an element of both at play.
Do you not find it strange that two scientists separated by 200 years find a similar phenomenon as it concerns the communicative ability of biologically active substances?
Note on Samuel Hahnemann
I have only started this journey on Hahnemannian medicine, but already have noticed a rather distinct character to Hahnemann’s work.
First and foremost, he appears to be one of the most well read physicians I have encountered. Today, most ‘academic’ physicians all cite the same articles without actually reading any of them.
As you read Hahnemann’s work you find that he delves into ancient texts, medieval work, and contemporary research articles with fluidity and effortlessness. As a polyglot, this is one of his greatest strengths. He may very well be one of the most informed and worldly writers in the western medical canon.
Most entertainingly, he held back no punches:
It seems that the unhallowed principal business of the old school of medicine (allopathy) is to render incurable if not fatal the majority of diseases, those made chronic through ignorance by continually weakening and tormenting the already debilitated patient by the further addition of new destructive drug diseases.
When this pernicious practice has become a habit and one is rendered insensible to the admonitions of conscience, this becomes a very easy business indeed.I am still reeling from the findings of Montagnier et al.
The moment I read Montagnier’s experiments, I could only think of the homeopathic implications.
As it turns out, so did he. One of my readers pointed out that in his later life Montagnier became quite the advocate of homeopathic medicine. For this reason, he may have lost the attention of the mainstream scientific community.
Whatever you think of these findings, it is enough for me to give Hahnemann a chance.
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