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They used polysomnography (PSG), which can distinguish divergent findings, if present, between subjective sleep complaints and objective all-night sleep recording assessments in certain types of insomnia.
The authors refer to multiple studies on healthy animals that have shown measurable effects on sleep of three different homeopathic medicines at potencies prepared to a dilution past Avogadro’s number (Histamine, Coffea Cruda, and Nux Vomica) compared with placebo. In these studies each medicine at a 30c potency altered sleep patterns notably with differential effects on electroencephalographic delta frequency (0.5– 2.5 Hz) power during sleep, while other investigators have demonstrated effects of Nux Vomica 30c on alcohol-induced sleep time in mice.
The authors argue that the relative lack of objective measures to evaluate homeopathy in human subjects has thus far hindered advances in both clinical care and research. Polysomnography, in their opinion, can offer a potentially valuable tool for homeopathic investigations.
In this trial young adults of both sexes (ages 18–31) were included with above-average scores on standardized personality scales for either cynical hostility or anxiety sensitivity (but not both) and a history of coffee-induced insomnia. At-home polysomnographic recordings were obtained on successive pairs of nights once per week for a total of eight recordings (nights 1, 2, 8, 9, 15, 16, 22, 23).
Subjects (N = 54) received placebo pellets on night 8 (single-blind) and verum pellets on night 22 (double-blind) in 30c doses of one of two homeopathic medicines, Nux Vomica or Coffea Cruda. Subjects completed daily morning sleep diaries and weekly Pittsburgh sleep quality index scales, as well as profile of mood states scales at bedtime on polysomnography nights.
This study demonstrated that the homeopathic medicines significantly increased PSG total sleep time and NREM, as well as awakenings and stage changes. Findings are similar though not identical to those reported in animals with the same medicines. Possible mechanisms include initial disruption of the nonlinear dynamics of sleep patterns by the homeopathic medicines.
Bell IR et al (2010). Effects of homeopathic medicines on polysomnographic sleep of young adults with histories of coffee-related insomnia. Sleep Medicine, doi:10.1016/j.sleep.2010.03.013
The response clearly states that ‘local NHS and clinicians, rather than Whitehall, are best placed to make decisions on what treatment is appropriate for their patients – including complementary or alternative treatments such as homeopathy – and provide accordingly for those treatments.’
Dr Sara Eames, President of the UK Faculty of Homeopathy states: ‘As a doctor who practices homeopathy on the NHS, I know homeopathy is an important part of our health service helping tens of thousands of patients annually, a majority of whom have not been helped sufficiently with conventional treatments. I am pleased to see the government, contrary to the recommendations of the Science and Technology’s report, agrees that homeopathy has a place in the NHS and offers choice to both patients and local purchasers of healthcare.’
‘I am pleased to see that the government’s response embraces patients’ right to make informed choices about healthcare,’ notes British Homeopathic Association Chief Executive, Cristal Sumner. ‘This response makes it quite clear that this choice includes complementary medicine and homeopathy more particularly, which is a welcome affirmation to all current and potential patients across the UK.’
To see the full government response click here.
To see commentary on Science and Technology report click here.
Some excerpts from that resolution:
“The Council takes the position that homeopathy should fulfil the same scientific and ethical requirements as any other medical activity.”
“The Council assumes its rightful role in defence of society and citizens’ health, based on the fundamental premise that any therapy, conventional or not, allopathic, holistic or homeopathic, is a medical act which requires a prior diagnosis of its therapeutic indication and application, and should necessarily be made by an individual who is legally qualified and authorized to do so, which means a physician.”
“Regardless of their results, all activities concerning a person’s health are regarded as health acts. If, in addition, they require a diagnosis, they become a medical act. Under existing law, in order to give a correct diagnosis a body of knowledge is essential which only medical doctors have acquired.”
“Homeopathic doctors are trained in both conventional medicine and homeopathy, and only their diagnosis and differential diagnosis ensures that citizens will receive a correct therapeutic approach, avoiding, above all, the error of omission and the delay in necessary treatment that, regardless of their effectiveness, may endanger their lives”.
“Homeopathy should be subject to the same ethical and scientific criteria as any other medical activity. Thus, to prove, scientifically, its effectiveness and efficiency through the implementation of relevant studies, developed with sufficient rigour and adequate methodology”.
The overuse of antibiotics in poultry, beef cattle and swine production poses a serious threat to human health, animal health and the environment. Sustainable alternatives to antibiotics are desperately needed.
In the organic livestock sector antibiotics are preferably replaced by complementary or alternative medicines (CAM), of which homeopathy is the most frequently applied. Homeopathic treatment has significant benefits since there are no residues of homeopathic medicines in animal products, nor does homeopathy generate resistant microorganisms.
The Biological Farming Systems Group at the Wageningen University in the Netherlands recently conducted a research study to investigate if homeopathy might be an alternative to antibiotics in one of the most common illnesses in swine which is neonatal diarrhoea of piglets. This disease leads to weight loss and increased piglet mortality, which has substantial economic consequences. Conventional treatments of Escherichia coli (E. coli) diarrhoea is administration of antibiotics to affected piglets, or preventive vaccination of the sows.
To investigate if E. coli diarrhoea in neonatal piglets could be prevented by homeopathy, the researchers set up a randomised, observer blind and placebo-controlled trial. On a commercial pig farm 52 sows of different parities, in their last month of gestation, were treated twice a week with either the homeopathic agent Coli 30K or placebo. The 525 piglets born from these sows were scored for occurrence and duration of diarrhoea.
Piglets of the homeopathic treated group had significantly less E. coli diarrhoea than piglets in the placebo group (P < .0001). Especially piglets from first parity sows gave a good response to treatment with Coli 30K. The diarrhoea seemed to be less severe in the homeopathically treated litters, there was less transmission and duration appeared shorter.
Advantages at farm level are application of the treatment by the farmer and cost reduction. These advantages and the positive results from this study make the homeopathic agent Coli 30K an attractive potential alternative in the prevention of E. coli diarrhoea. This study also suggests that homeopathic treatment in livestock may help the European citizen be protected from pharmacological residues in animal products and thus reduce the problem of antibiotic resistance.
Camerlink I, Ellinger L, Bakker EJ, Lantinga EA (2010). Homeopathy as replacement to antibiotics in the case of Escherichia coli diarrhoea in neonatal piglets. Homeopathy, 99; 57–62.
Critics argue that homeopathy is something like a super-placebo, saying that homeopathy has the ability to evoke large nonspecific health effects. It is said that the long interview carried out by an empathetic practitioner during diagnosis may explain why people report improvements in their health.
The research team therefore investigated whether contextual effects in classical homeopathy are higher than in conventional medicine. For this they compared the changes in the placebo groups of RCTs from classical homeopathy and matching conventional trials.
The authors performed a systematic literature analysis on placebo-controlled doubleblind RCTs on classical homeopathy. Each trial was matched to three placebo-controlled double-blind RCTs from conventional medicine (mainly pharmacological interventions) involving the same diagnosis. Matching criteria included severity of complaints, choice of outcome parameter, and treatment duration. Outcome was measured as the percentage change of symptom scores from baseline to end of treatment in the placebo group. 35 RCTs on classical homeopathy were identified. 10 were excluded because no relevant data could be extracted, or less than three matching conventional trials could be located.
The results showed that in 13 matched sets the placebo effect in the homeopathic trials was larger than the average placebo effect of the conventional trials, in 12 matched sets it was lower (P = 0.39). Additionally, no subgroup analysis yielded any significant difference.
The authors conclude that placebo effects in placebo-controlled double-blind clinical trials (RCTs) on classical homeopathy did not appear to be larger than placebo effects in conventional medicine.
Nuhn T, Lüdtke R, Geraedts M (2010). Placebo effect sizes in homeopathic compared to conventional drugs – a systematic review of randomised controlled trials. Homeopathy, 99: 76–82.