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Homeopathy - Hocus Pocus or a Miracle Cure?

January 24, 2019

You may have heard about homeopathy but are not really sure what it is; or you use it for yourself but are not sure if you can also use this type of medicine for your pet. Let us give you an overview of homeopathy and perhaps help you make the decision of whether you want to use this alternative treatment for your pet.

 

What is Homeopathy?

Homeopathy is a branch of medicine that uses natural substances derived from plant, mineral and animal sources to work in conjunction with the body in supporting and stimulating its built-in defense mechanisms to fight illness. Unlike traditional medicine which often uses drugs to suppress symptoms of an illness, homeopathy works on the root cause of the illness by helping your body to heal itself. Homeopathy also considers all the symptoms of the body to be important to restoring equilibrium and dealing with the disease, while traditional medicine looks at only the immediate symptoms that are most obviously related to the problem and ignores others.

 

Where Did Homeopathy Originate?

The first recorded use of homeopathy was by Hippocrates in 400 B.C. He noticed that herbs given in a low dose tended to cure the same symptoms that they produced in a large poisoning dose. In 1790 a German physician, Samuel Hahnemann, made similar observations and spent the next twenty years developing a medical system around this principle that a substance capable of causing particular symptoms in a healthy individual will cure similar symptoms in a person with disease. You may have heard of this principle as “like cures like”, or that a medicine or remedy selected is one that would produce in a healthy body the same symptoms found in the sick animal (thus “like cures like”).

 

Homeopathic Remedies Preparation

A homeopathic remedy  is derived from plants that are either dissolved into a tincture or ground into a powder from which a tincture is made. One part of the “mother tincture” is mixed with either 9 parts of a solvent such as water or alcohol for an X potency or 99 parts for a C potency. The newly diluted mixture is shaken vigorously, a process that Dr. Hahnemann called “succussion” and said “energizes” the dilution. After being diluted and succussed one time, the tincture is called 1X or 1C, depending on the proportions. The process continues in this way, with each step using the product of the preceding one as the basis for the next dilution. A 24C potency, for instance, has undergone 24 dilutions and succussions.

Potencies up to 30C are often referred to as low potencies and those of 200C and higher are referred to as high potencies.  

The lower the potency, the more frequently the medicine typically needs to be re-administered.

This process of diluting the remedy has created some contention in the medical community and depending on whom you ask, consider homeopathy either a gentler and more natural alternative to traditional medicine or an unproven and useless placebo, at best.

 

Homeopathy - the Pros and Cons

Homeopathic medicine has been the topic of debate for many years. Scientists determined to expose homeopathy as a hoax have found mixed results, many of them concluding that homeopathy is fake, but many others have found the just the opposite. Below you will find evidence for both sides of the argument so you can make your own decision:

In Favor of Homeopathy:

1. A book including the results of five-year-long tests by researchers from various international universities was published by the Swiss government (known for their neutrality) in 2011. These tests are considered the most comprehensive review of homeopathy by a country’s government in the history of homeopathic medicine. The government examined 22 different analyses of homeopathy by university researchers. Out of these, the review found that 20 of these were in favor of homeopathy. Authors of the study, titled ‘Homeopathy in Healthcare - Effectiveness, Appropriateness, Safety, Costs,’ confirmed that natural, homeopathic medicines are able to promote homeostasis in specific cells and living organisms. In short, it proved that homeopathic treatment is both effective and cost-effective.
2. In 2009, 142 trials were carried out to determine the effectiveness of homeopathy versus placebos (sugar pills with no medicinal content). Published in peer-reviewed journals, 74 or these trials were able to successfully present their results: 63 studies were in favor of homeopathy as an efficient and useful medicine.

3. Three medical professors from the Netherlands analyzed clinical studies over the course of 25 years involving homeopathic medicines and published their findings in the British Medical Journal in 1991. Out of 107 trials, 81 showed that homeopathic medicines were effective. Specifically, the results demonstrated that:

        •  13 of 19 trials incorporating people with respiratory infections were successful
        •  6 of 7 trials showed positive results in treating other infections
        •  5 of 7 trials showed improvement in people with digestive system diseases
        •  All trials covering people with hay fever showed successful treatment
        •  5 of 7 recovered faster after abdominal surgery with the use of homeopathic medicine
        •  4 of 6 promoted healing in treating rheumatologic diseases
        •  18 of 20 showed benefit in addressing pain or trauma
        •  8 of 10 showed positive results in relieving mental or psychological problems
        •  13 of 15 showed benefit from miscellaneous diagnoses

       

      Against Homeopathy:

      1. A 1990 article published in Review of Epidemiology performed and analyzed 40 trials comparing homeopathy with prescribed medicine, a placebo, or no treatment at all. Scientists initiated the trials found that 37 of the 40 trials had major design flaws. Out of the three that were left, only one of those three relayed evidence in favor of homeopathy. The scientists concluded that there was little to no proof that natural treatment works any better than a sugar pill.
      2. The UK House of Commons Science and Technology Committee published a report in 2010 that found that there is no absolute evidence of homeopathy working to treat patients and that the placebo effect (when patients believe that they will improve because of the act of taking a pill, even though the pill in useless) is the cause of any perceived effectiveness. However, these findings were highly criticized for poor procedure, bias and misinformation.
      3. In October of 2013, the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council evaluated the scientific evidence proving the effectiveness of homeopathic treatments. Their research concluded that there were not enough studies reporting the homeopathy as effective, and the available evidence was not sufficient or conclusive. Yet later, the NHMRC themselves acknowledged that they only covered systematic reviews of homeopathy.  Also, professional homeopaths in Australia believed that Australian researchers did not directly examine submitted evidence. Instead, they looked at what others had found – especially the UK House of Commons Science and Technology Committee’s flawed report, mentioned above.

        Homeopathy can be an excellent treatment for your pet but it does have important limitations however. Because it relies on the natural healing abilities of the body, advanced diseases such as cancer and crippling arthritis which involve changes in the structure of the body, can rarely be fully reversed. However, animals who suffer from such conditions can still be helped to become stronger, more comfortable and have a better quality of life.  

        Homeopathy also does not have to be used exclusively. There are generally no contraindications between traditional and homeopathic medicines when taken simultaneously. If you are unsure about a specific combination, check with your doctor or pharmacist.

        Recognized Associations for Homeopathic Medicine

        The Academy of Veterinary Homeopathy, founded in 1995, is the only veterinary certifying body in the U.S. recognized by the National Center for Homeopathy. The academy currently has 120 members, 49 of whom are certified. Certified members have completed the Professional Course in Veterinary Homeopathy offered by the Pitcairn Institute of Veterinary Homeopathy and have passed a continuing education certification process administered by the AVH.

        Dr. Maniet is a certified homeopath that like other advocates, became a proponent of homeopathy after seeing cases that seemingly demonstrated its healing powers. She uses it mostly on young animals. “They haven’t had a chance to be messed up too much by years of drugs—heartworm prevention, over vaccination, and so forth,” she said. “Their vital force is much stronger, so their response to homeopathy is much more rapid. When you have a dog that is much older and on medication, it’s a much slower response, and people don’t have the patience for that.”

        If you are interested in seeing a Homeopathic Vet but don’t know where to find one, you can consult the Academy of Veterinary Homeopathy referral page for a list of licensed homeopathic veterinarians.


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