Should we be skeptical of homeopathy research conducted in India? A look at the evidence

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Edzard Ernst
Edzard Ernsthttps://edzardernst.com/
Edzard Ernst is Emeritus Professor of Complementary Medicine at the Peninsula School of Medicine, University of Exeter. He is the author of ten books on complementary and alternative medicine.

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“Homeopathy must be effective! It is used extensively throughout the world, not least India! If it were ineffective, Indians would not use it in such large numbers.” How often have we heard such arguments?

Take, for instance, statements from the ‘peer-reviewed’ literature such as this one: 

At present, in India, homeopathy is the third most popular method of medical treatment after allopathy and Ayurveda. There are over 200,000 registered homeopathic doctors currently, with approximately 12,000 more being added every year.”

Or take statements from UK homeopaths like this one:

It seems clear that homeopathy is there to stay in India. So next time you see or read some condescending and patronising rubbish about homeopathy in the media, know that in India, a country with a population of 1.2 billion people (that’s more than 20x the population of the UK) homeopathy is an integral part of the healthcare system and deeply respected by the people of that country.”

The appeal to popularity is, of course, an appealing fallacy – but, in the case of homeopathy’s popularity in India, it is not just that; there is another much more intriguing aspect to homeopathy in India: research into homeopathy published by authors and researchers in India. It has often been suggested to me that this research should not be trusted – as this is a grave allegation indeed, I felt obliged to look into the matter.

In January 2021, I searched Medline for ‘homeopathy, study, India’. This resulted in 101 hits. Of these 101 articles, 31 contained data published by Indian authors providing evidence related to the effectiveness of homeopathy. I decided to include these papers in an analysis. Below I quote first the title of each paper followed by the sentences from the 31 abstracts that best describe the direction of the results.

1. Multimorbidity After Surgical Menopause Treated with Individualized Classical Homeopathy: A Case Report
She was treated with individualized classical homeopathy and followed up for 31 months. She was relieved of the vasomotor symptoms and psychological disturbances of climacteric syndrome, her weight reduced, the ultrasound scan showed absence of lipomatosis/gall bladder disease/hepatic steatosis. Blood tests showed reduction of thyroid stimulating hormone and a balance in the lipid status. Individualized classical homeopathy may have a role in the climacteric syndrome and comorbidities after surgical menopause.

2. Therapeutic evaluation of homeopathic treatment for canine oral papillomatosis
The current study proves that the combination of homeopathy drugs aids in fastening the regression of canine oral papilloma and proved to be safe and cost-effective.

3. Deep vein thrombosis cured by homeopathy: A case report
The present case report intends to record yet another case of DVT in an old patient totally cured exclusively by the non-invasive method of treatment with micro doses of potentized homeopathic drugs selected on the basis of the totality of symptoms and individualization of the case.

4. Diabetic retinopathy screening uptake after health education with or without retinal imaging within the facility in two AYUSH hospitals in Hyderabad, India: A nonrandomized pilot study
AYUSH hospitals could provide a feasible and acceptable location for providing DR screening services.

5. Individualised Homeopathic Therapy in ANCA Negative Rapidly Progressive Necrotising Crescentic Glomerulonephritis with Severe Renal Insufficiency – A Case Report
A 60-year-old Indian woman was treated with classical homeopathy for ANCA-negative RPGN, and after one year of treatment, serum creatinine and other parameters indicating renal injury dropped steadily despite the withdrawal of immunosuppressive drugs; renal dialysis, which was conducted twice a week initially, was made rarer and stopped after one year. Classical homeopathy may be considered a potential therapeutic modality in severe pathologies.

6. Improvements in long standing cardiac pathologies by individualized homeopathic remedies: A case series
… individualized homeopathic therapy was instituted along with the conventional medicines and the results were encouraging. The changes in the laboratory diagnostic parameters (single-photon emission computed tomography, electrocardiograph, echocardiography and ejection fraction as the case may be) are demonstrated over time. The key result seen in all three cases was the preservation of general well-being while the haemodynamic states also improved.

7. Could Homeopathy Become An Alternative Therapy In Dengue Fever? An example Of 10 Case Studies
We present a retrospective case series of 10 Indian patients who were diagnosed with dengue fever and treated exclusively with homeopathic remedies at Bangalore, India. This case series demonstrates with evidence of laboratory reports that even when the platelets dropped considerably there was good result without resorting to any other means.

8. Homeopathic Treatment of Vitiligo: A Report of Fourteen Cases
In 14 patients with vitiligo treated with individualized homeopathy, the best results were achieved in the patients who were treated in the early stages of the disease. We believe that homeopathy may be effective in the early stages of vitiligo, but large controlled clinical studies are needed in this area.

9. An Exploratory Study of Autonomic Function Investigations in Hemophiliacs on Homoeopathy Medications Using Impedance Plethysmography
Homoeopathic medicines used as an adjunct was associated with decrease in parasympathetic modulations.

10. Embryonic Zebrafish Model – A Well-Established Method for Rapidly Assessing the Toxicity of Homeopathic Drugs: – Toxicity Evaluation of Homeopathic Drugs Using Zebrafish Embryo Model
Our findings clearly demonstrate that no toxic effects were observed for these three homeopathic drugs at the potencies and exposure times used in this study. The embryonic zebrafish model is recommended as a well-established method for rapidly assessing the toxicity of homeopathic drugs.

11. Treatment of hemorrhoids with individualized homeopathy: An open observational pilot study
Under classical homeopathic treatment, hemorrhoids patients improved considerably in symptoms severity and anoscopic scores. However, being observational trial, our study cannot provide efficacy data. Controlled studies are required.

12. Patients’ preference for integrating homeopathy (PPIH) within the standard therapy settings in West Bengal, India: The part 1 (PPIH-1) study
A favorable attitude toward integrating homeopathy into conventional healthcare settings was obtained among the patients attending the homeopathic hospitals in West Bengal, India.

13. Patients’ Preference for Integrating Homoeopathy Services within the Secondary Health Care Settings in India: The Part 3 (PPIH-3) Study
A total of 82.40% (95% confidence interval = 79.23, 85.19) of the participants were in favor of integrating homoeopathy services.

14. Obstetrics and gynecology outpatient scenario of an Indian homeopathic hospital: A prospective, research-targeted study
The most frequently treated conditions were leucorrhea (20.5%), irregular menses (13.3%), dysmenorrhea (10%), menorrhagia (7.5%), and hypomenorrhea (6.3%). Strongly positive outcomes (+3/+2) were mostly recorded in oligomenorrhea (41.7%), leucorrhea (34.1%), polycystic ovary (33.3%), dysmenorrhea (28%), and irregular menses (22.2%). Individualized prescriptions predominated (95.6%).

15. Relative Apoptosis-inducing Potential of Homeopa-thic Condurango 6C and 30C in H460 Lung Cancer Cells In vitro: -Apoptosis-induction by homeopathic Condurango in H460 cells
Condurango 30C had greater apoptotic effect than Condurango 6C as claimed in the homeopathic doctrine.

16. Beliefs, attitudes and self-use of Ayurveda, Yoga and Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha, and Homeopathy medicines among senior pharmacy students: An exploratory insight from Andhra Pradesh, India
Pharmacy students held favorable attitude and beliefs about AYUSH use.

17. Integrative nanomedicine: treating cancer with nanoscale natural products
Taken together, the nanoparticulate research data and the Banerji Protocols for homeopathic remedies in cancer suggest a way forward for generating advances in cancer treatment with natural product-derived nanomedicines.

18. Evidence of an Epigenetic Modification in Cell-cycle Arrest Caused by the Use of Ultra-highly-diluted Gonolobus Condurango Extract
Condurango 30C appeared to trigger key epigenetic events of gene modulation in effectively combating cancer cells, which the placebo was unable to do.

19. Calcarea carbonica induces apoptosis in cancer cells in p53-dependent manner via an immuno-modulatory circuit
Our results indicated a “two-step” mechanism of the induction of apoptosis in tumor cells by calcarea carbonica

20. Post-cancer Treatment with Condurango 30C Shows Amelioration of Benzo[a]pyrene-induced Lung Cancer in Rats Through the Molecular Pathway of Caspa- se-3-mediated Apoptosis Induction: -Anti-lung cancer potential of Condurango 30C in rats
The overall result validated a positive effect of Condurango 30C in ameliorating lung cancer through caspase-3-mediated apoptosis induction and EGFR down-regulation.

21. The potentized homeopathic drug, Lycopodium clavatum (5C and 15C) has anti-cancer effect on hela cells in vitro
Thus, the highly-diluted, dynamized homeopathic remedies LC-5C and LC-15C demonstrated their capabilities to induce apoptosis in cancer cells, signifying their possible use as supportive medicines in cancer therapy.

22. Ameliorating effect of mother tincture of Syzygium jambolanum on carbohydrate and lipid metabolic disorders in streptozotocin-induced diabetic rat: Homeopathic remedy
The result of the present study indicated that the homeopathic drug S jambolanum (mother tincture) has a protective effect on diabetic induced carbohydrate and lipid metabolic disorders in STZ-induced diabetic animal.

23. SEM studies on blood cells of Plasmodium berghei infected Balb/c mice treated with artesunate and homeopathic medicine China
The combination of artesunate and China was found to be very effective and did not cause any alteration on the surface of blood cells as observed in SEM.

24. Induction of apoptosis of tumor cells by some potentiated homeopathic drugs: implications on mechanism of action
These data indicate that apoptosis is one of the mechanisms of tumor reduction of homeopathic drugs.

25. TDZ-induced high frequency shoot regeneration in Cassia sophera Linn. via cotyledonary node explants
Regenerated plantlets were successfully acclimatized and hardened off inside the culture room and then transferred to green house with 100 % survival rate.

26. Modulation of Signal Proteins: A Plausible Mechanism to Explain How a Potentized Drug Secale Cor 30C Diluted beyond Avogadro’s Limit Combats Skin Papilloma in Mice
We tested the hypothesis if suitable modulations of signal proteins could be one of the possible pathways of action of a highly diluted homeopathic drug, Secale cornutum 30C (diluted 10(60) times; Sec cor 30). It could successfully combat DMBA + croton oil-induced skin papilloma in mice as evidenced by histological, cytogenetical, immunofluorescence, ELISA and immunoblot findings.

27. Can homeopathy bring additional benefits to thalassemic patients on hydroxyurea therapy? Encouraging results of a preliminary study
The homeopathic remedies being inexpensive and without any known side-effects seem to have great potentials in bringing additional benefits to thalassemic patients; particularly in the developing world where blood transfusions suffer from inadequate screening and fall short of the stringent safety standards followed in the developed countries.

28. Effect of homeopathic medicines on transplanted tumors in mice
These findings support that homeopathic preparations of Ruta and Hydrastis have significant antitumour activity. The mechanism of action of these medicines is not known at present.

29. Inhibition of chemically induced carcinogenesis by drugs used in homeopathic medicine
These studies demonstrate that homeopathic drugs, at ultra low doses, may be able to decrease tumor induction by carcinogen administration.

30. Can homeopathic treatment slow prostate cancer growth?
The findings indicate that selected homeopathic remedies for the present study have no direct cellular anticancer effects but appear to significantly slow the progression of cancer and reduce cancer incidence and mortality in Copenhagen rats injected with MAT-LyLu prostate cancer cells.

31. Ameliorating effect of microdoses of a potentized homeopathic drug, Arsenicum Album, on arsenic-induced toxicity in mice
The results lend further support to our earlier views that microdoses of potentized Arsenicum Album are capable of combating arsenic intoxication in mice, and thus are strong candidates for possible use in human subjects in arsenic contaminated areas under medical supervision.

I know, this research is a bit ‘rough and ready’, but 31 of 31 yield positive results and conclusions; if my calculation is correct, that’s 100%. When I considered the possibility that Indian research into homeopathy might not be up to scratch, I was merely speculating on the basis of occasionally reading such papers. I had not seen a systematic analysis to justify my suspicion. In fact, I don’t think that such a review existed. I had no idea how true my seemingly disrespectful suspicion would turn out to be. There is not one paper from India that does not suggest positive findings for homeopathy. I find this truly remarkable.

We can, of course, interpret my findings in two very different ways, given that homeopathy research produced in India generates so many more positive results than elsewhere in the world:

  • Either we assume that homeopathy is hugely effective and works always and for everything under every experimental condition… in India.
  • Or we conclude that research from India into homeopathy is not trustworthy.

Which of the two is more likely?

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