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Homeopathy research roundup

Critics of homeopathy have sometimes cited a dearth of large-sample, double-blind clinical studies that support homeopathic treatment options. But in the past few years, an increasing number of meaningful studies have been published, and several older studies also offer evidence of homeopathy’s efficacy.

Here, NFM highlights recent research, with the guidance of Dana Ullman, founder of Homeopathic Educational Services, a Berkeley, Calif.-based publisher of books, software and curriculum on homeopathy. Ullman is also the author of The Homeopathic Revolution (North Atlantic Books, 2007). (Listen to a podcast with Dana Ullman, MPH).

Kali bichromium and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
Research published in the pulmonary medicine journal Chest in March 2005 showed that potentized Kali bichromium (potassium dichromate) may help reduce breathing problems associated with COPD. In critically ill COPD patients, particularly those who are or have been long-term smokers, mucus often builds up and obstructs airways, causing serious breathing problems. This randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study assessed the influence of sublingually administered Kali bichromium on tracheal secretions of 50 critically ill COPD patients, with a history of tobacco use. Patients in group one were administered 30c Kali bichromium globules every 12 hours, while those in group two received a placebo. Researchers recorded the amount of tracheal secretions and length of hospital stay. The data showed that group one had shorter average ICU stays (4.2 days versus 7.68 days), could have breathing tubes removed earlier, and did not require reintroduction of the breathing tube.

Homeopathy and fibromyalgia
A randomized, double-blind and placebo-controlled study published in the journal Rheumatology in 2004 followed 62 patients suffering from fibromyalgia—a chronic-pain condition for which few conventional therapies exist. Homeopaths selected remedies specifically for individual participants, who were examined at baseline, two months and four months. Researchers found that patients given homeopathic treatment reported significantly less pain and rated the “helpfulness of the treatment” significantly higher than the placebo group.

An additional feature of the study, published in the International Journal of Neuroscience, measured the patients’ response to medicine given by olfaction (smell), using EEG to monitor physical response. The active group experienced significant increases in EEG relative alpha magnitude--an indicator of a relaxed, less anxious state--compared to the control group.

Arsenicum album and arsenic poisoning
A 2007 study published in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine looked at two groups of people in West Bengal, India, who had been affected by groundwater arsenic. Subjects were given the potentized homeopathic remedy Arsenicum album 30 or a placebo twice daily and monitored for arsenic in their blood and urine, as well as for blood-toxicity marker enzymes. After 10 days, the Arsenicum album group excreted consistently higher arsenic amounts than the placebo group. Laboratory tests confirmed a decline of toxicity-denoting enzymes in the patients taking the remedy versus the placebo. A third group of study participants that took the remedy were tested for blood arsenic levels after 30 and 60 days. By 60 days, blood arsenic levels had returned to normal. Groundwater arsenic poisoning affects hundreds of millions of people in more than 20 countries around the globe, particularly in areas of West Bengal and Bangladesh.

Common remedies and childhood diarrhea
A study published in Advances in Pediatric Infectious Diseases followed 292 Honduran children who were given either a placebo or a tablet containing five common homeopathic remedies used for diarrhea. Parents administered treatments following each unformed stool. The homeopathy group experienced an average of 3.3 days of diarrhea versus 4.1 days in the control group, suggesting that homeopathy is a promising adjunct therapy to oral rehydration. According to the World Health Organization, childhood diarrhea is the leading public-health problem worldwide, claiming 3 million lives annually because it leads to dehydration.

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