MD, PhD, FMedSci, FRSB, FRCP, FRCPEd.

An exhaustive study of homeopathic remedies for Eczema“, this is the title of an article I just stumbled across. It leaves no doubt that homeopathy is effective for eczema (which is also what I was told all those years ago when I trained in a homeopathic hospital). Here are a few excerpts from the article:

The appropriate internal remedy will usually be one of the following, according to the indications:

Aconite

In the simpler forms of eczema, and when there is much febrile disturbance. Acute cases, with stinging and pricking of the skin, in plethoric persons.

Alumina

Hard crusts on the scalp, face and extremities. Gnawing itching, worse in the evening, not relieved by scratching. Aggravated on alternate days and from eating new potatoes. Dryness of the skin.Constipation.

Ammonium carbonicum

Eczema in the bends of the extremities. Excoriations between the legs, and about the anus and genitals. Violent itching relieved by scratching. Aggravated by either cold applications or hot poultices. In children.

Ammonium muriaticum

Anacardium orientale

Acute eczema on the face, neck and chest. Intense itching usually aggravated, but occasionally relieved by scratching. Redness of the skin with eruption of small vesicles. Sensitiveness to draught.

Antimonium crudum

Pustular eczema about the face and joints. Painful cracks in the corners of the mouth. Violent itching and burning, better in the open air, worse after bathing. Thick, heavy, yellow crusts upon the face. Gastric derangement with thick white coated tongue. In children who grow fat.

Antimonium tartaricum

Eruptions about the nose and eyes, neck and shoulders, and back of the ears. Vesicles surrounded by a red areola. Pustules, as large as peas. Itching worse in the evening, better in the open air. Eruption leaves bluish-red stains upon the face. Child wants to be carried; cries if touched.Desire for acids ; aversion to milk. Rattling cough.

Apis mellifica

Red and edematous skin, with burning and stinging. Better from cold applications, worse after warm applications. Large vesicles. Urine scanty and high colored.

Argentum nitricum

Eczema on the genitals. Urging to urinate. In children who eat too much sweets.

Arsenicum album

Eczema on the face, legs and genitals. Intense burning of the surface. Itching worse during the first hours of sleep. Better from external heat ; worse from cold or from scratching. Dry scaly eruption with parchment-like skin. Falling out of hair in patches. Useful in chronic cases.

Arundo

Eruption on the chest, upper extremities and behind the ears. Intolerable itching, crawling sensation, especially over the loins and shoulders. In young children.

Astacus fluviatilis

Thick crusts on the scalp. Enlargement of the lymphatic glands. Clay colored stools.

Aurum muriaticum

Smarting, itching papular eruption on the lips or above the pubis. Constant desire to be out in the open air. In corpulent old people. After abuse of mercury.

END OF QUOTE

And the evidence, where is the evidence for these seemingly detailed recommendations?

The answer is, there is none, at least not in this article.

So, I look into Medline. Apart from some observational studies, the most recent relevant paper on controlled clinical trials happens to be my very own systematic review published in the British Journal of Dermatology entitled “Homeopathy for eczema: a systematic review of controlled clinical trials.” Here is its abstract:

BACKGROUND:

Homeopathy is often advocated for patients with eczema.

OBJECTIVES:

This article systematically reviews the evidence from controlled clinical trials of any type of homeopathic treatment for any type of eczema.

METHODS:

Electronic searches were conducted in Medline, Embase and the Cochrane Library with no restrictions on time or language. In addition, the bibliographies of the retrieved articles and our departmental files were hand searched. All controlled trials of homeopathy in patients with eczema were considered. Their methodological quality was estimated using the Jadad score.

RESULTS:

One randomized and two nonrandomized clinical trials met the inclusion criteria. All were methodologically weak. None demonstrated the efficacy of homeopathy.

CONCLUSIONS:

The evidence from controlled clinical trials therefore fails to show that homeopathy is an efficacious treatment for eczema.

________________________________________________________________

So, what does that tell us?

I think it demonstrates the following relevant points:

  • Homeopaths seem convinced to be able to treat eczema effectively.
  • They teach this to junior clinicians and tell it to their patients.
  • They trumpet this message out on the internet (a Google search on ‘homeopathy for eczema’ generates 242 000 hits).
  • They even claim that they have done ‘exhaustive studies’ that prove their point.
  • Yet, the actual evidence fails to show that homeopathy works for eczema.

Does that mean homeopaths are lying?

Does that mean homeopaths mislead their patients thus causing needless suffering?

Does that mean homeopaths care more about their cash-flow than the welfare of their patients?

What do you think?

30 Responses to An exhaustive study of homeopathic remedies for eczema … turns out to be a big, fat lie

  • I would suspect that most practitioners of homeopathy have been told that what they do is supported by copious evidence. They have never checked. It is the same mentality as a religion. Most Christians will say that there is vast evidence for Jesus. Sadly, there is is no contemporary extra-biblical evidence to confirm the historical Jesus. Are Christians lying? Probably not. More likely misinformed with no motivation to check.

    The skill set needed to critically read the literature may be common among those who do research, but most practitioners will not get past the abstract and conclusions. Active lying is likely what you get from those who know the literature. Unfortunately the result is the same for the patient who is advised to use useless treatments.

    • in my view, even those who are not ‘actively’ lying, are still lying because they pretend to know, they have an ethical duty to know – and yet they don’t.

      • The above is a perfectly good definition of a ‘quack’ and charlatan.
        Have homeopaths such as these no pride?
        No professionalism?
        No conscience?

        Sad to the power of 30 x 100.

    • While not in any way wishing to equate the two, IME plenty of medical doctors also prescribe what they’ve been taught to prescribe without particularly understanding why. I’ve had medical doctors suggest acupuncture, for example (which I take as a sign to change doctors).

      wg

      • that’s why it is important that doctors are not taught nonsense

      • Many doctors fall for the placebo fallacy, that if nothing better can be offered, give a placebo. The fallacy is that placebo has a 30% effect, which is better than 0%. As most of us know so well, the 30% (or whatever proportion youwish to believe) is a result of overinterpretation of incompetent research.
        Many have written about this, here is one essay from professor (emeritus) David Colquhoun

  • Well, here’s those crazy homeopaths at BHA

    https://www.britishhomeopathic.org/charity/how-we-can-help/articles/conditions/e/managing-eczema/
    has it thus [my comment bracketed]:

    “It is no surprise that eczema is the most frequently referred condition to the homeo­pathic hospitals.

    Anti­biotics, antihistamines and steroids are on offer to manage symptoms and these may help in the short-term, but can become in­effective over time or less well tolerated.

    Recently, new “immunosuppressive” drugs have been introduced to tackle severe eczema, including what are known as topical NS calcineurin inhibitors (tacrolimus, pimecrolimus). [And they have a downside]

    But a report in the British Medical Journal in 2006 judged that the “formal evidence is lacking… for the efficacy of these agents in patients who have failed to respond to topical steroids.” Patients are also worried about the long-term effects of using strong topical corticosteroid cream, which can cause atrophy or thinning of the top layer of the skin.”

    On the other hand, conventionally we have failure, guesswork, adverse effects, off-label etc etc. Profits are good of course, that’s a bonus.

    Systemic Treatment of Adult Atopic Dermatitis: A Review
    Matteo Megna et al. 2016
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5336433/
    “Data for the long-term safety and comparative effectiveness of different systemic immunosuppressive therapies in adult AD patients are insufficient.”

    Although on the brighter side , there’s phototherapy. But not being pharmaceutical, it is out of fashion.
    “Although evidence supporting the efficacy and tolerability of phototherapy is well established, long-term data and quantification of its possible carcinogenesis risk in adult AD patients are still limited.”

    Well, there you go, then.

    Perhaps there is a more current safe and effective approach? I hope so.
    Then people wouldn’t have to go to homeopaths, a route which they are now denied on the NHS.

    • Crazy? Well, there’s money to be made in that thar scam, so not completely crazy.

    • Will, you’ve lost me.

      Just because conventional treatment has not worked, why do ” people…have to go to homeopaths.”?

      Why not counselling, if they have emotional problems?
      That’s available on the NHS.

  • PS a quick web search of ‘homeopathy cured cases eczema’ could explain why homeopaths find they can cure eczema, sometimes.
    Yes, I know that actual facts aren’t the highest standard of proof.
    By contrast ‘conventional medicine cured cases eczema’ will get you
    “You’ve got eczema. There’s no known cure.”
    (see above)

    • are you saying that, because some charlatans claim to cure incurable diseases, patients with such conditions should give them a try?

      • Edzard, dear chap.

        Comprehension difficulties again? Have you had a check-up recently? I gather there are some good diets to stave off mental decline. Do take care of yourself, I’m sure your positive input to the alternative medicine sector would be missed.

        No, I don’t recall ever saying that patients should give charlatans a try.

        On the contrary, I often warn people to be careful about inaccurate claims, and cautious about advice even from the conMed sector (the best Science money can buy).

        “There’s no known cure”, indeed.

        What I do say if that if medics tell you there’s no known cure, they may not be exactly honest. And that patients should carefully assess any conventional approach with a view to making an informed choice. And that if conMed only offers charlatanism, one would be well advised to look elsewhere and in turn, carefully assess what one finds. Without bias.

        Felicitations.

  • And the above quote is only the first page of 14, featuring almost 70(!) wildly varying ‘remedies’ for eczema.

    I can just imagine this mr. Kartik Raghava Murty talking to someone with eczema:
    “Oh, I’m so sorry to hear that the Cantharis still didn’t have the desired effect… Yes, it must be very frustrating… But do not despair, because we still have another 46 remedies to try! I’m sure that we’ll find the right one sooner or later! Now, let’s give the Carbo vegetabilis a try, shall we? That’ll be 15 dollars for the remedy and another 50 for the consultation, thank you very much.”

    • “Oh, I’m so sorry to hear that the Cantharis still didn’t have the desired effect… Yes, it must be very frustrating… But do not despair, because we still have (.. other remedies ..) to try!”

      In contrast to the conventional approach, you mean?
      “We can try this one, Mrs Muggins, it may suit you but it’s very expensive I’m afraid, but as I’ve explained, there is no cure. See the receptionist on the way out.”

      Did you happen to notice the extra indications for particular remedies? Those are derived form experiment and long experience.

      On that website, there are only brief notes, indications to be followed up and confirmed. A homeopath would want to match an entire ‘remedy picture’ in far more detail. Diagnosing the patient in the way others would diagnose the disease. Thus the choice is limited, fairly precise, and changes only if the character of the patient’s idiosyncratic reaction to the disease changes. There is a little more to it, as you might imagine it you had ever studied any particular subject in depth.

      The process is not hit-and-miss guesswork, as some pseudo-skeptics would have you think. One can tick off the formal and rhetorical fallacies in the anti-homeopathic propaganda thinking. Oft repeated and ssadly effective in warping opinions. Straw homeopaths, red Herings.

      That one of yours is a trope, an “aunt Sally” https://www.democraticunderground.com/10025515571
      with an overtone of argumentum ad ridiculum, ad verecundiam, and of course ad ignoratium (look it up).

      Carbo veg is a great remedy. It was much used by midwives before the hatred stepped in.

      • In contrast to the conventional approach, you mean?

        The conventional approach is prescribing inexpensive ointment and/or skin moisturizer to alleviate the symptoms, and telling the patients that there isn’t really a cure. And oh, if this medication is prescribed, it is usually covered by health insurance, so it doesn’t cost the patient anything.

        Homeopaths, on the other hand, are habitual liars and con artists, fooling people into believing that their useless sugar crumbs can cure ailments, and charging their gullible audience a mint for the privilege. The only mitigating circumstance is that most homeopaths first and foremost fool themselves. Then again, they deliberately choose to ignore scientific reality, so I think that calling them con artists and frauds isn’t really too harsh.

        Did you happen to notice the extra indications for particular remedies?

        Oh yes, I did. Those ‘extra indications’ are a sure sign that homeopaths are deluded fools. Because not only do they claim that there are between a few dozen and a hundred ‘remedies’ for any given ailment, but they also claim that any given ‘remedy’ has between a few dozen and a hundred ‘indications’. Just look up ‘Natrium muriaticum’, with no less than 119 ‘symptoms’ and matching ‘indications’. Only an idiot believes that ordinary table salt diluted into oblivion does anything in the human body, given that the average adult has some 200 grams of sodium chloride in their body already. And sure enough, already in 1835, it was scientifically established beyond all doubt that ‘Natrium muriaticum’ does nothing at all.

        Those [extra indications] are derived form experiment and long experience.

        No. Those are fully derived from imagination and wishful thinking. And no, homeopathic provings are not experiments, as they involve no patients and no ailments. It is all fantasy, illusions and playing doctors in the manner of five-year-olds.

        Summarized:
        There is not a single homeopathic ‘remedy’ the efficacy of which for any condition has been convincingly established in a repeatable scientific manner. NOT ONE

  • Interesting that all the appropriate remedies begin with ‘A’. Could it be that homeopaths are too lazy to search more deeply into their Materia Medica

    • Didn’t make it to page 2, I see.
      Could it be that some pseudo-skeptics are too lazy to search more deeply?

    • Scroll down to the bottom of the page, and you’ll find links to another 13 pages with ‘remedies’, all the way down the alphabet to Thuja, Viola tricolor, and Zincum phosphoricum.
      It would appear that the man simply worked his way through the Materia Medica looking for any ‘symptoms’ that even remotely resembled eczema, and then just copy/pasted these ‘remedies’ into his ‘study’.

      (And my apologies for my liberal use of quotation marks, but I see no other way to convey the notion that we’re of course not dealing with any real remedies, symptoms or study at all.)

      This is in fact the epitome of the homeopathic philosophy: no actual patients, ailments or even observations are involved at all, let alone that any one of those is deemed necessary. It is simply assumed that the Materia Medica presents the absolute truth about symptoms and remedies, and that an appropriate remedy for anything that may be wrong with a patient can be reliably deducted from the contents of this book. No checks against reality are needed whatsoever.
      Yes, the parallels with certain religious people who believe in biblical inerrancy are quite striking. Those people too believe that any and all answers can be found in just one old book, and that this book contains the absolute Truth with a capital T. And when reality contradicts that Truth, they quickly turn their eyes away from reality and back to their book, so that they can avoid all those nasty contradictions that would otherwise rear their ugly head.

  • I’m not sure about skin remedies, but while I had to wait for benefits to cover the pulling of 4 infected teeth, I was told to take antibiotics. Instead, I chose homeopathy. By day 2, using pyrogenium, the infection pain was 100% gone, until my appontment weeks later.

    We used to run a health food store, and had repeat customers with children using homeopathy for bedwetting, colic, and teething. It was also used on pets. No placebo effect there! Although clinical studies are advantageous, sometimes we can draw from common sense.

    • ” No placebo effect there! ”
      why not?
      “Although clinical studies are advantageous, sometimes we can draw from common sense.”
      perhaps, but when the two fail to agree, the science is usually correct and the common sense wrong.

  • Edzard is the charlatan. He fails to recognize that modern medicine is equally, likely more so, guilty of lies and decent, for FAR MORE money. Why do you think you only found three studies? Why would there not be more? Because charlatans like you automatically dismiss the notion of anything other than manufactured drugs are capable of healing. Medical charlatans suppress and block legitimate science. They suppress and block REAL healing. Note that I am not claiming homeopaths can heal eczema. Rather, they haven’t been given the chance to prove that they can. Why? Modern medical charlatans like you ensure funding will not go to such science. Too much money to be lost to alternative, more affordable treatments. A healed patient no longer contributes income for Big Pharma and the likes.

  • I was treated for eczema throughout my childhood with homeopathic medicine- from the age of 6 to around 14 (early 90s). It never worked, in fact it did the oposite, i.e made it chronic. The practitioner at the time consistently told my parents he was ‘taking all the eczema out’ – I ended up with chronic eczema all over the face and parts of the body and having to go to a special needs school for a year. My parents were naive and blindly followed the practitioner’s advice for years. Luckily, I found other remedies by the time i was 18 and have just about managed to keep it under control through diet and allergy tests but my childhood experience left me under confident and socially awkward for years!. I now have a daughter and to imagine putting her through the same would seem like child abuse. Homeopathic “doctors” have a reputation for wasting people’s time and money – it’s been completely true in my experience . I wish there was some law against it or some way of monitoring such practices .

  • I say, do your own research into which remedies you can try for your particular condition. Buy it on Amazon for under $9 and try it. Most of these people commenting on here have never tried homeopathy but, have strong opinions against it. It helped to get rid of my eczema or maybe you think that was all in my head. Even if it was, my eczema is finally gone, that’s all I care. Steroids didn’t work well and it kept on coming back. Now, it is gone…didn’t change my diet either.

    • Will give Homeopathy a try soon. My eczema is so severe, I feel like killing myself. Mordern medicine is absolute useless.

      • good luck!

        • EE

          This is what you fail to hear… and realize, over and over.
          Patients turn to alternatives after SBM has failed, can you blame us ?

      • I genuinely understand your pain but be careful about trying and spending too much on homeopathy as mine became chronically inflamed after trying it for many years… it might work as a placebo.though.

        If you haven’t tried already i recommend thorough allergy/intolerance tests. Also non-steroidal Tacrolimus ointment has been a great savior for me (you may already know of it)…we have overactive skin immunity and the ointment helps to surpress it hence stopping your skin reacting to food and environmental factors. Hope that helps sorry if it’s no help but there’s alot out there to explore.

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