Edzard Ernst

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

“Edzard and his ilk are not really serious about honoring the Hippocratic tradiiton of “First, do no harm,” and even then, they will spin what seemingly good responses to homeopathic treatment as a placebo.”

This comment came recently from our good friend Dana Ullman, and it made me think again about homeopathy and the ‘first do no harm’ principle.

  • The first thing to note is that the Hippocratic oath does not contain this sentence.
  • And the second thing to stress is that clinicians are doing harm regularly. The ‘first do no harm’ principle has long been understood to mean that clinicians should always take care that their actions generate more benefit than harm.

As we discussed all this in more detail before, I do not intend to dwell on it. Today, I rather consider three exemplary scenarios in order to investigate how the principle of doing more good than harm applies to homeopathy (or indeed any other form of so-called alternative medicine (SCAM)).

SCENARIO 1:

PATIENT WITH A SELF-LIMITING CONDITION

Let’s assume our patient has a cold and consults her physician who prescribes a homeopathic remedy. One could argue that no harm is done in such a situation. The treatment will not help beyond a placebo effect, but the cold will disappear in just a few days, and the patient will not suffer any side effects. This attitude is common but it disregards the following potential harms:

  1. The cost for the treatment.
  2. The possibility that our patient suffered for several days needlessly from cold symptoms that might be treatable.
  3. The possibility of our patient getting the erroneous impression that homeopathy is an effective therapy (because the cold did go away quickly) and therefore opts to use it for future, more serious illnesses.

What if the physician only prescribed homeopathy because the patient asked him to do so? Strictly speaking, the above-named issues still apply in this situation. The ethical thing would have been to inform the patient what the best evidence tells us (namely that homeopathy is a placebo therapy), provide assurance about the nature of the condition, and prescribe effective treatments as needed.

And what if the physician does all of these things and, in addition, prescribes homeopathy because the patient wants it? In this case, the possibility of harms 1 and 3 does still apply.

SCENARIO 2

PATIENT WITH A CHRONIC CONDITION

Consider a patient suffering from arthritis who consults her physician who prescribes homeopathic remedies as the sole therapy. In such a situation, the following harms apply:

  1. The cost for the treatment.
  2. The possibility that our patient suffers needlessly from symptoms that are treatable. As the symptoms can be serious, this would often amount to medical negligence.

What if the physician only prescribed homeopathy because the patient asked him to do so and the patient refuses conventional therapies? In such cases, it is the physician’s ethical duty to inform the patient about the best evidence as it pertains to homeopathy and conventional treatments for her condition. Failure to do so would amount to negligence. The patient is then free to decide, of course. But so is the physician; nobody can force him/her to prescribe ineffective treatments. If no consensus can be reached, the patient might have to change physician.

And what if the physician does inform the patient adequately but also prescribes homeopathy because the patient wants it? In this case, the possibility of harms 1 and 3 does still apply.

SCENARIO 3

PATIENT WITH A LIFE-THREATENING CONDITION

Consider a young man with testicular cancer who consults his doctor who prescribes homeopathic remedies as the sole therapy. In such a situation, the physician is grossly negligent and could be struck off because of negligence.

What if the physician prescribed homeopathy because the patient asked him to do so and refuses conventional therapies? In such a case, it is the ethical duty of the physician to inform the patient about the best evidence as it pertains to homeopathy and to the conventional treatment for his cancer. Failure to do so would amount to negligence. The patient is then free to decide, of course. But so is the physician; nobody can force him to prescribe ineffective treatments. If no consensus can be reached between the physician and the patient, the patient might have to change physician.

And what if the physician does inform the patient adequately makes sure he receives effective oncological treatments, but also prescribes homeopathy because the patient insists on it? In this case, the possibility of harms 1 and 3 does still apply.

These scenarios are, of course, rather schematic and, in everyday practice, many other factors might need considering. They nevertheless show that the ‘do more good than harm’ principle does not support homeopathy (or any other ineffective SCAM). In other words, the practice of homeopathy is not ethical.

But what if someone (like Dana Ullman) strongly believes in the effectiveness of homeopathy? In this case, he or she is not acting according to the best available evidence – and that, of course, is also unethical.

 

Traditional European Medicine (TEM) is an increasingly popular yet ill-defined term. Like Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), it encompasses all the traditional therapies from the respective region. One website describes it with this very odd graph:

On Medline, I found only very few papers on TEM. One article reported about a congress based on the concept of TEM but confusingly called it ‘European Traditional Medicine (ETM). Here are a few excerpts:

… the aim of this congress is to explore and survey, very old and modern traditional based therapies and treatments curing the principles of scientific medicine (). Discussions of the links between ETM and other traditional medicines therefore are mandatory, particularly when considering the importance of traditionally based therapies that are still a source of primary health care to about 70 percent of the world’s population. Connections between traditional medicine and human health have been addressed and commented upon by many national and international political and sanitary bodies because: a) the good health of populations requires enlightened management of our social resources, economic relations, and of the natural world, and b) that many of today’s public-health issues have their roots in lack of scientifically sustainable holistic approach to the patient c) many socioeconomic inequalities and irrational consumption patterns that jeopardize the future economic sustainability of health.

In the same context the conventional biomedical approach to health is based on methods of diagnosing and treating specific pathologies: one pathogen = one disease, an approach that does not take into account connections between diseases, humanity, and some psychological aspects of suffering, and other socioeconomic factors such as poverty and education, and even the connections between disease and the environment in which sick people lives (,).

Other authors, like the one on this website, are much more concrete. Again, a few excerpts must suffice:

Bloodletting
When bloodletting according to Hildegard von Bingen max. 150 ml of blood taken. It is one of the most valuable and fastest detoxification options in TEM. In some people, no blood comes, because the body has no need to excrete something. For others, the doctor may say a lot about human health after the blood has been left for about 2 hours. If the serum is yellowish or whitish, this indicates excess fats. If certain threads form, they are signs of inflammation. Then the doctor gives recommendations for certain herbs and applications.

Wraps and packs
Whether neck wrap or hay flower sack. In TEM, there are many natural remedies made from natural materials (clay, pots) and herbs that support the body’s self-healing powers.

Wyda instead of yoga
Wyda is a holistic philosophy that is about getting in touch with yourself. In doing so, one can relax through flowing exercises and energy sounds, strengthen one’s mind or stimulate the metabolism. The exercises are similar in some ways to yoga. Here you can learn more about European yoga!

Which archetype are you?

In Traditional European Medicine (TEM), the archetype of a human is first determined so that the TEM doctor can coordinate the treatments. There are 4 temperatures:

Sanguine: He is active, open-hearted, energetic and mostly optimistic and cheerful. He is not resentful and does what he enjoys.
Suitable use: cool applications such as chest and liver wrap, whole body rubbings with grape seed and lemon balm oils.
Abandonment: too much sweet and fat, animal foods, sweet alcohol.

Choleric: He has a hot temper, shows leadership qualities, is prone to hyperbole, emotional and outbursts of anger, is extroverted, but often uncontrolled. Suitable application: cooling and calming applications. Massages with thistle, almond and lavender oils.
Avoidance of: too much animal protein, alcohol, hot spices and fatty foods.

Phlegmatic: enjoyment is important to him. He is reliable, can accomplish things, but seldom initiate. To get going causes him problems when he “runs”, then persistently and with energy.
Suitable application: warming and drying applications, warm chest wraps. Abdominal massages with camelina oil, marigold ointment.
Abandonment: too much sweets, milk, whole grains, tropical fruits, pork, too many carbohydrates.

Melancholic: He is an admonisher and a thinker, appreciates beauty and intelligence, is more introverted. He tends to ponder and pessimism, struggling for an activity.
Suitable use: warm applications such as warm chest wraps and liver wrap. Clay in water in the morning relieves gastrointestinal discomfort. Massages with strengthening cedar nut oil.
No: Frozen food, raw food, hard to digest, too much salt and sugar.

Yes, much of this is dangerous nostalgic nonsense that would lead us straight back into the dark ages.

Do we need more of this in so-called alternative medicine (SCAM)?

Definitely not!

TCM was created by Mao as a substitute for real medicine, at a time when China was desperately short of medicine. The creators of TEM have no such reason or motivation. So, why do they do it?

Search me!

I have repeatedly likened so-called alternative medicine (SCAM) to a cult – not a religious cult, of course, but to a ‘health cult’. A health cult is defined as a system for the cure of disease based on dogma set forth by its promulgator. So, are you a member of a health cult?

In case you are a proponent of SCAM, you might be in danger. Here are a few questions you should ask yourself:

  1. Is your SCAM based on dogma, such as ‘LIKE CURES LIKE’ or ‘SUBLUXATIONS ARE THE CAUSE OF DISEASE?
  2. Does the cult demand you accept its dogma or doctrine as truth?
  3. Is it set forth by a single guru or promulgator?
  4. Is your SCAM supposed to cure all ills?
  5. Is belief used by proponents of your SCAM as a substitute for evidence?
  6. Does the SCAM determine your diet and/or lifestyle?
  7. Does the SCAM exploit you financially?
  8. Does your SCAM impose rigid rules and regulations?
  9. Does your SCAM practice deception?
  10. Does your SCAM have its own sources of information/propaganda?
  11. Does your SCAM cultivate its own lingo?
  12. Does your SCAM discourage or inhibit critical thinking?
  13. Are questions about the values of your SCAM discouraged or forbidden?
  14. Do the proponents of your SCAM reduce complexities into platitudinous buzz words?
  15. Do they assume that health problems are the result of not adhering to the dogma?
  16. Does your SCAM instill fear into members who consider leaving?
  17. Do the proponents of your SCAM depict conventional medicine as ineffective or harmful?
  18. Are you asked to recruit new members to your SCAM?

Please try to answer these questions honestly and self-critically.

If more than a handful turn out to be positive, you have, in my view, a reason to be concerned. In this case, I would recommend you go to a library and start reading a few books that provide critical analyses of SCAM.

 

I was alerted to an interesting article about homeopathy in Switzerland. Its author points out that homeopathy is paid for by health insurance in Switzerland because of anything remotely related to evidence but because of a referendum in 2009. At the time, one of the arguments of the proponents was that health care costs would tend to decrease if more so-called alternative medicine (SCAM) would be paid for by the public purse. This is what Jacques de Haller, the president of the medical association, claimed: because SCAM is comparatively cheap and helps to prevent more expensive consultations, the total cost of health care would decrease.

This rather naive assumption was also one made in 2005 by the ‘Smallwood-Report’, commissioned by Charles and paid for by Dame Shirley Porter, specifically to inform health ministers. It stated that up to 480 million pounds could be saved if one in 10 family doctors offered homeopathy as an alternative to standard drugs. Savings of up to 3.5 billion pounds could be achieved by offering spinal manipulation rather than drugs to people with back pain. (Because I had commented on this report, Prince Charles’ first private secretary asked the vice-chancellor of Exeter University, Steve Smith, to investigate. Even though I was found to be not guilty of any wrongdoing, specifically of violating confidentiality, all local support stopped which led to my decision to retire early.)

In Switzerland, the assumption that SCAM saves money was refuted in 2019 by the Swiss health insurance association Santésuisse in a proper cost analysis. According to this analysis, doctors who also prescribed homeopathy caused 22% more costs per patient than those practicing conventional medicine. As it turned out, SCAM would be charged in addition to existing conventional medical services. Consequently, from a point of view of health economics, SCAM should not be called “alternative”, but rather “additive”, Santésuisse wrote at the time.

More evidence comes from a German study (authored by proponents of homeopathy!) that confirms these findings. Integrated care contracts for homeopathy by German health insurers were shown to result in higher costs across all diagnoses.

The recognition that homeopathy lacks sound evidence has already led to an end of reimbursement in the UK and France. Both in Germany and Switzerland, strong pro-homeopathy lobbies have so far succeeded in preventing similar actions. Yet, there is no doubt that, in these and other countries, the writing is on the wall.

Some used to think that Deepak Chopra is amongst the biggest charlatans on the planet. Well, they were wrong! And his new venture proves it beyond doubt.

The Lovetuner is a revolutionary approach to reduce stress, relieve anxiety and arrive in the present moment, connecting your exhale with the power of the 528hz frequency. That’s what the ad says, and Dr. Deepak Chopra agrees!

The website contains a short video which is a ‘MUST WATCH’. Please do have a look at it. Deepak will show you how to use the ‘LOVETUNER’. I promise you, it is impressive! In the video, Deepak also states that he is enthusiastic about the LOVETUNER and promises that:

  • the LOVETUNER creates the frequency of love;
  • the LOVETUNER can replace meditation;
  • the LOVETUNER is inviting love into your life;
  • the LOVETUNER increases your lung capacity;
  • the LOVETUNER increases the coherence of your biofield;
  • the LOVETUNER changes the biofield of the surroundings.

I am sure all these claims are based on the most solid of evidence. The fact that none of it has been published should not disturb us; on the contrary, it means that the evidence is so important that BIG PHARMA does not allow it to be published through the usual peer-reviewed channels – hence the video.

For those who are still not convinced, Deepak adds a written text:

“We want the world to be a more loving, peaceful, harmonious, happier and healthier place, right? First, we need to start with ourselves and be the change we want to see in this world. With the Lovetuner this is an easy and fun way to connect with ourselves and the world around us. The Lovetuner is more than just a meditation device – it is a mindset and a global peace and love movement. The Lovetuner teaches you the breath that spiritual gurus across the globe are going to recommend to you. It’s what you’ll find at your yoga retreat, sound bath, and guided meditation, but with the Lovetuner you can be your own guru.”

So, how does the LOVETUNER work? The website provides a most plausible explanation:

The Lovetuner is a revolutionary mindfulness tool that aligns you with the 528hz frequency, the vibration of love. In music, tuning means adjusting the pitch of a tone. In humans, it means adjusting your emotional and physical state to align with your environment – literally “tuning in” and harmonizing with yourself and what is around you. The Lovetuner has a profound effect on the body, mind and spirit.

Our entire universe is comprised of light and sound, frequency and vibration. The connections between music, cosmos and nature have been known since ancient times. In 1978 Hans Cousto, a Swiss mathematician and musicologist, compared the frequencies in planetary orbits, in architectural works, in old and modern measuring systems, in the human body, in music and in medicine and “discovered” their connection. John Lennon used the 528hz frequency for his song “Imagine.” In music, the 528Hz frequency refers to the note “Mi” and is traced back to the expression “Mi-ra gestorum” on the scale, which in Latin means “miracle”.

The 528hz frequency has a healing and health-promoting effect on our body, mind, and soul. Our cells and organs resonate with this frequency. The vibration is transferred to our entire organism where it can unfold its positive effect. It activates and strengthens our natural self-healing powers.

The 528hz frequency has a very special physical and biological importance.

The medical pioneer Dr. Royal Raymond Rife, who researched at the beginning of the 20th century, used many frequencies in his practice of radionics or electromagnetic therapy, but he specifically referred to 528 because of its ability to repair DNA. Dr. Rife used this frequency among hundreds of others for use with his Rife Machine – “Radionics.” He referred to 528 as “DNA repair.”

Molecular genetic investigations have shown that this frequency can be used to repair defective DNA strands or to restore human DNA to its original state. Scientific studies further showed that it increases the UV light absorption in DNA and can cure DNA by removing impurities that cause disease.

Today, the use of non-pharmacological and non-invasive agents is quite common. Sound waves, which are classified as non-invasive means for stimulating auditory cells, also affect non-auditory cells. Since the frequency of 528hz is related to the musical note Mi, effects such as an increase in the ability to repair DNA are observed.

 

I know, you are dying to know how much the LOVETUNER costs. For just $ 62, it can be yours! I do think that this is a bargain and am deeply thankful to Deepak for alerting me to this life-changing device. Yes, some used to think that Deepak Chopra is amongst the biggest charlatans on the planet. I am sure that his support for the LOVETUNER will make these people change their minds.

Past life regression therapy (PLRT) is, according to one practitioner, a therapeutic technique for accessing and re-experiencing your past lives directly.  A branch of hypnotherapy, past life regression therapy has grown over the last 50 years to be an important addition to the healing arts. This website also informs us that:

Past life regression is an amazing, full-sensory experience.  You might experience the memory as a vivid movie, or see only vague flashes of images that prompt the narrative.  You might hear gunshots or explosions on a battlefield, or music at a dance.  It is possible to recall smells too:  smoke from a fire, leather from a saddle, or the sweat of a dirty body.

As the story unfolds, you feel real emotions appropriate to the story.  You may cry when you re-experience deep sadness at the death of a beloved child, feel despair in the pit of your stomach as you witness a massacre, or elation at a long-awaited homecoming from war.  And just as you can recall strong emotions, you feel the pain of an arrow piercing your body as you are dying, or the heaviness of a load you’re carrying on your back.  These physical sensations and emotions are very real in the moment, but pass quickly as you move through the past life story and death.

PLRT is used by some clinicians for anxiety disorders, mood disorders, gender dysphoria, and other conditions. One survey suggested that 22% of European cancer patients use PLRT as a so-called alternative medicine (SCAM) to treat their illness. Some proponents argue that, since the exploration of the event/memory is actually helping the client resolve the challenge, the overall process can have immense therapeutic benefit, provided it is done responsibly and effectively.

So, it is effective because it is effective??? Such assurances make my alarm bells ring loud and clear. And I am not alone. It has been argued that PLRT is unethical:

  • First, it is not evidence-based. Past life regression is based on the reincarnation hypothesis, but this hypothesis is not supported by evidence, and in fact, it faces some insurmountable conceptual problems. If patients are not fully informed about these problems, they cannot provide informed consent, and hence, the principle of autonomy is violated.
  • Second, past life regression therapy has the great risk of implanting false memories in patients, and thus, causing significant harm. This is a violation of the principle of non-malfeasance, which is surely the most important principle in medical ethics.

I was unable to find convincing evidence that PLRT is effective. Furthermore, PLRT is by no means cheap; a typical session lasts two hours and costs $350. This suggests that PLRT is

  • unproven,
  • expensive,
  • and unsafe.

In other words, it is not a therapeutic option that I would recommend to anyone for any condition.

Mesotherapy is a treatment where fine needles or a high-pressure ‘gun’ are used to inject vitamins, enzymes, hormones, plant extracts, etc. into the skin of a patient. Michel Pistor, a French doctor, developed the therapy in 1952. It was originally used to relieve pain. Today, mesotherapy is also employed for a range of further indications:

  • remove fat in areas like the stomach, thighs, buttocks, hips, legs, arms, and face
  • reduce cellulite
  • fade wrinkles and lines
  • tighten loose skin
  • recontour the body
  • lighten pigmented skin
  • treat alopecia, a condition that causes hair loss

Mesotherapy is said to deliver drugs into the middle layer (mesoderm) of the skin. It is claimed to correct underlying issues like poor circulation and inflammation that cause skin damage.

Many different drugs can be used for mesotherapy, including:

  • prescription medicines like vasodilators and antibiotics
  • hormones such as calcitonin and thyroxin
  • enzymes like collagenase and hyaluronidase
  • herbal extracts
  • homeopathic remedies
  • vitamins and minerals
  • vaccines

According to the Italian Mesotherapy Society, the mechanisms of action of mesotherapy can be summarised as follows:

But is there at all any sound evidence that mesotherapy works?

It turns out that there are few rigorous studies. The most recent review concluded that mesotherapy proved to be more effective than systemic therapy in the treatment of local pain and functional limitations caused by a variety of musculoskeletal conditions. However, because of the heterogeneity of the analysed studies in terms of injected drugs, administration technique, associated treatments, frequency and total number of sessions, more randomized controlled trials are needed, comparing a standardized mesotherapy protocol with a systemic treatments.

Mesotherapy is not free of serious adverse effects. They include bacterial infections, hair loss, scarring, panniculitis, tissue necrosis, allergic reactions, and other complications.

So, is mesotherapy a treatment that might be recommended?

  • Its effectiveness remains unproven.
  • It can cause serious adverse effects.
  • It is by no means cheap.

I think these facts answer the question fairly well.

I came across a little article by the homeopathy firm Boiron. Normally, I would not mention such promotional literature, but this one is special. Here it is:

These days, leaving home is an exercise in mental fortitude with trying to remember your mask, packing enough hand sanitizer, and taking a host of other precautions. Our daily routines have been upended, leaving us on high alert. As each day brings a new set of challenges — like hybrid learning or work closures — it’s easy for our confidence and self-esteem to take a hit.

If these feelings begin to hold you back, health professionals like Heidi Weinhold, ND, recommend turning to Gelsemium sempervirens. “I think of this remedy whenever I need help facing my fears,” she says.

Dr. Weinhold recommends Gelsemium sempervirens 30C for anyone experiencing nervousness from anticipatory or situational stress. “For college students, that could mean test anxiety before an exam. Some of us are having fears of getting back on a plane or flying, or even going to the grocery store and shopping.”

Gelsemium has a long history as a stress reducer. According to Dr. Weinhold, this remedy was found in Civil War first aid kits where it was used to help give soldiers courage before walking on to the battlefield. Now Gelsemium, too, can help you face your battles and provide you with the strength to persevere through tough times, she says.

Click here to watch this video featuring Dr. Weinhold explaining the uses and benefits of Gelsemium sempervirens.

The short article begs, of course, many questions. What, for instance, is Gelsemium sempervirens? It is a plant sometimes used as a folk remedy for various medical conditions. It looks a bit like honeysuckle but is quite toxic due to the alkaloids that it contains.

Is there any evidence that Gelsemium sempervirens is effective for any condition? No! But that does not matter in the context of homeopathy because a C30 potency would not contain a single molecule of the plant anyway.

And who is Dr. Heidi Weinhold? According to her own website, she

received her Bachelor’s Degree in Biology from Washington & Jefferson College. Dr. Weinhold completed a four-year doctoral program in Naturopathic Medicine from Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine in Tempe, Arizona. Her studies included drug-herb interactions, homeopathic intakes, dialoguing with physicians, and incorporating natural modalities to enhance conventional treatment. Dr. Weinhold spent 9 months doing supervised clinical rotations through Arizona Pathways, a drug Rehabilitation Community Center, where she provided Naturopathic support to individuals recovering from addiction. In 2013 she received the Alumni Award from Southwest College in recognition of her contribution towards the advancement of Naturopathic Medicine. In 2017, Southwest College further honored Dr. Weinhold by bestowing upon her an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters.

From 2008-2016, Dr. Weinhold served as the legislative chair for the Pennsylvania Association of Naturopathic Physicians (PANP), working with legislators to promote legislation to license Naturopathic Doctors in Pennsylvania. A giant step towards this effort was achieved with the passage of House Bill 516 in 2016. HB 516 provides title protection and registration for Naturopathic Physicians graduating from accredited Naturopathic Medical Colleges. Full licensure efforts are currently underway. Dr. Weinhold received the 2017 Physician of the Year Award from the Pennsylvania Association of Naturopathic Physicians.

Fascinating! I am particularly interested in her studies of drug-herb interactions, homeopathic intakes, dialoguing with physicians, and incorporating natural modalities to enhance conventional treatment. So I looked her up on Medline: nothing! Heidi has not a single publication in her name.

Now, that’s surprising. It could mean that her studies were too important to be published and the findings are still top secret. Dr. Weinhold has received a prestigious award for advancing naturopathic medicine; it, therefore, stands to reason that we can very soon expect the announcement of a major breakthrough regarding the medicinal powers of homeopathic Gelsemium sempervirens preparations that are devoid of any molecules of Gelsemium sempervirens.

I for one am looking forward to it.

Yesterday, I received this strange comment:

“One day he will have his come uppance…”

Was this a threat?

Someone wishing me personal harm?

According to the dictionary, a comeuppance is:

a person’s bad luck that is considered to be a fair and deserved punishment for something bad that they have done.

So, what bad deed did I commit to deserve punishment?

I posted my criticism of a paper that I consider highly unethical and irresponsible. But is it really punishable to stand up for medical ethics? Surely not … except, of course, in the eyes of a fanatic advocate of homeopathy.

And what punishment do I deserve in the eyes of fanatic advocates of homeopathy? The post was about patients who suffered from COVID-19 infections and who recovered quickly after receiving some unnamed homeopathic remedies. Does the author of

“One day he will have his come uppance…”

want me punished by falling ill with COVID, reject the life-saving homeopathy, and thus not recover from the infection?

Is that possible?

Surely not!

Sadly, it is not just possible but not even unique. A German pharmacist who dared to criticize homeopathy was recently told this (my translation):

I wish you an incurable disease, despair and a good homeopath who will give you quality of life again. Then we’ll talk again. Or a conventional doctor who sends you to a hospice.

And in the past, I have been the recipient of many threats, including overt death threats.

Sometimes I really do wonder why people think that so-called alternative medicine (SCAM) is gentle, soft, and harmless.

This shocking paper presents 5 cases of patients with moderate to severe COVID-19 infections, 2 of them hospitalized in the intensive care unit, who were successfully treated with homeopathy. All 5 patients responded to homeopathic treatment in an unexpectedly short time span (in fact, it took up to 8 days), improving both physically and mentally.

The authors concluded that the present case series emphasizes the rapidity of response among moderate to severely ill patients to homeopathic treatment, when conventional medical options have been unable to relieve or shorten the disease. The observations described should encourage use of homeopathy in treating patients with COVID-19 during the acute phase of the disease.

If I hear about patients suffering from a cold, or tennis elbow, or otitis, or back pain, or allergy who responded to homeopathic treatment in an unexpectedly short time span, I tend to giggle and usually consider it a waste of time to explain that the observed outcome most likely is not a RESPONSE to homeopathic treatment but a non-causally related by-product. Correlation is not causation! What caused the outcome was, in fact, the natural history of the condition which would have improved even without homeopathy. To make this even clearer, I sometimes ask the homeopath: HOW DO YOU KNOW THAT THE PATIENT WOULD NOT HAVE IMPROVED EVEN FASTER IF YOU HAD NOT GIVEN HIM THE HOMEOPATHIC REMEDY? This question sometimes (sadly not always) leads to the realization that homeopathy may not have caused the outcome.

But when, in the middle of a pandemic during which millions of people died and continue to die, someone writes in a medical journal that 5 COVID patients responded to homeopathic treatment in an unexpectedly short time span, I feel compelled to disclose the statement as pure, unethical, irresponsible, and dangerous quackery.

The 5 patients with COVID-19 were hospitalized at a tertiary medical center in Jerusalem for moderate to severe
COVID-19-related symptoms. Each of them requested homeopathic treatment in addition to conventional therapy from the hospital’s ‘Center for Integrative Complementary Medicine’. All 5 patients were over 18 years old and had confirmed COVID-19 infection at the time of admission. They received their homeopathic medications as small round pills (globules); no further information about the homeopathic treatment was provided. Similarly, we also do not learn whether some patients who did not receive homeopathy recovered just as quickly (I am sure that worldwide thousands did), or whether some patients who did get homeopathic remedies failed to recover.

To make matters worse, the authors of this paper state this:

Several conclusions are evident from the cases presented:
1 homeopathy’s effect may be expected within minutes or, at most, hours;
2 contrary to classical homeopathic consultations, which may extend over an hour, correct medications for patients with acute COVID-19 symptoms may be determined in minutes;
3 there were no observable adverse effects to homeopathic treatment of COVID-19;
4 therapy can be administered via telehealth services, increasing safety of treating patients with active infection;
5 patient satisfaction was high; scoring their experience of homeopathic therapy on a 7-point scale, ranging
from “It greatly improved my condition” to “It greatly aggravated my condition,” all 5 patients indicated it
had greatly improved their condition.

The possibility that the outcomes are not causally related to the homeopathic treatment seems to have escaped the authors. The harm that can be done by such an article seems obvious: fans of homeopathy might be misled into assuming that homeopathy is an effective therapy for COVID infections and other serious conditions. It is not hard to imagine that this error would cost many lives.

The authors state in their article that, to the best of their knowledge, this is the first time that a tertiary medical center has permitted homeopathic therapy of patients under treatment for COVID-19-related illness.

I sincerely hope that it is also the last time!

Recent Comments

Note that comments can be edited for up to five minutes after they are first submitted but you must tick the box: “Save my name, email, and website in this browser for the next time I comment.”

The most recent comments from all posts can be seen here.

Archives

Categories