Homeopathy Research: State of the Science - Part 2

Experimental Research on Homeopathy’s Mechanism of Action

1 Experimental research on the similarity principle

The best known current work concerning scientific evidence of the similarity principle stems from two researchers, Roeland van Wijk and Fred A. C. Wiegant. They examined the recovery process of cell cultures that were previously exposed to different cell toxins (arsenic and cadmium) or damaging heat. Their primary focus was to measure the concentrations of stress proteins produced by cells as a response to damage. Wijk and Wiegant were able to show that previously damaged cell systems recover faster when they are confronted again with the harmful substance in an attenuated form, either slightly reheated or treated with diluted arsenic or cadmium. These experiments provide the first indications of how the similarity principle can be preclinically investigated on the cellular level and physiologically understood.

2 Experimental research on potentized remedies

Physical experimental methods

In recent decades, numerous experiments have been conducted to decode homeopathy’s physical mechanism of action. High potency medicines were compared with placebo using mainly standard spectroscopic methods to draw conclusions about physical differences. Significant results that were obtained with Raman and NMR spectroscopy (research methods that examine molecular structure through the means of stimulation by laser light or magnetism) were successfully reproduced. The meta-study by Witt (2006) provides a detailed overview of the different experimental physical studies.

Research on living organisms

Likewise, statistically significant results with regard to the effect of high potency remedies were obtained with test systems that work with plant, animal and cell systems. In this case, the focus is less on how the drug works and more on whether it is possible to prove significant effects. Research teams led by Dr. Peter Christian Endler and PD Dr. Stephan Baumgartner have presented especially promising results.

Endler’s research primarily focuses on tadpoles, which are randomized (assigned randomly) to different groups and then treated differently in a blind approach—the investigator does not know which group is receiving the drug and which the placebo. This amphibian model is based on the influence on the development of the tadpole into a frog by treatment with the thyroid hormone thyroxine, which accelerates the rate of transformation. Endler has conducted numerous trials, including trials with potentized thyroxine compared to placebo to impact the speed of metamorphosis. In another series of tests, all the tadpoles were pretreated first with slightly diluted thyroxine and subsequently further treated with either placebo or potentized thyroxine. The aim of the research was to determine whether the administration of homeopathically prepared thyroxine cancels the accelerated transformation through non-potentized thyroxine. Endler‘s team was able to show that the tadpoles treated with the homeopathic high potency hormone actually developed more slowly than those treated with placebo.

The research group led by the physicist Baumgartner also expended great efforts on experimental research. Their focus is on ultra-high dilutions: on the one hand in physical studies, on the other, their effects on in-vivo test systems. Very plausible results that support the impact of highly potentized homeopathic preparations were obtained with a test system consisting of duckweed cultures, a standard system in ecotoxicology (research on environmental toxins). Since then, several experiments have been carried out with this test system, such as the measurement of the influence of potentized plant hormones (gibberellins) on the growth of duckweed. Likewise, an attempt was made to treat duckweed deficient in calcium, iron or magnesium with potentized remedies. In the case of calcium deficiency, clear effects of homeopathic potencies on plant growth are observed.

The results published in 2009 by Bellavite also support the impact of homeopathic high potencies. This involved an experiment in which the activity of mice was tested. Mice that were treated with gelsemium showed significantly more active behavior towards placebo-treated mice.

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