Michelle Kardys, Alejandra Iniguez, Debbie Noah Yolande Grill, Cyndi Meyer, ?, Nancy Tichenor, Neepa Sevak, Martha Aubrey, Jyl Steinback, Eric Rudnick, Audrey Ward, Front:Greg Meyer MD(H), ? , Reza Sharifi, ? Judy Schmitz
Michelle Kardys, Alejandra Iniguez, Debbie Noah Yolande Grill, Cyndi Meyer, ?, Nancy Tichenor, Neepa Sevak, Martha Aubrey, Jyl Steinback, Eric Rudnick, Audrey Ward, Front:Greg Meyer MD(H), ? , Reza Sharifi, ? Judy Schmitz
In August, 2015, I contributed an article to the Research page of the Homeopathy Association of Arizona, which was an attempt to inform the attitudes of both practitioners and users of homeopathy about research in homeopathy, where I wrote the following:
“Research is done by humans who have egos and may also have individual and collective economic or political agendas. This includes not only researchers themselves, but also journal editors, peer reviewers and research funders, as well as the media figures who report research results to the public”.
This observation was neither new nor original, however, it is only rarely that we get a roadside glimpse of these kinds of processes in action. Below is a link to an article offering such a glimpse that includes part of an E-mail exchange between a lawyer who defends companies that exposed people to asbestos and a scientist formerly from Harvard University’s School of Public Health who was at the time working for a consulting firm. The E-mails illustrate how the scientist offered to publish a series of three articles in peer-reviewed medical journals “for a 10% discount” supporting a bogus theory that mesothelioma can be caused by tobacco as well as asbestos. The scientist also offered to use the theory as part of expert testimony he would provide in lawsuits against mesothelioma victims.
Aside from the morally repugnant nature of this story, what does it have to do with homeopathy? Well, it is a window into how science– which is supposed to be protected by checks and balances and which many people trust– can be compromised. It is not much of a stretch to consider that if information known to be false can so easily be included in scientific journals, then legitimate research can for similar reasons be excluded. In 1995, Dr. Jennifer Jacobs, a medical doctor and epidemiologist at the University of Washington’s School of Public Health, conducted one of the more significant triple-blind studies of individualized homeopathic treatment of acute diarrhea in children. (A triple-blind study means that neither those receiving the treatment nor those receiving placebo knew which group they were in; but in addition, the researchers themselves were “blinded”).
Turns out her research, which showed statistically significant positive results for individualized homeopathic treatment, was actually published in the prestigious medical journal Pediatrics, but not without significant fallout. Here is a link to the abstract of this study:
For Dr. Jacobs’ story as told in her own words, take a listen:
Between early February and early March of this year (2016), Medscape, the newsletter of the American Medical Association (AMA), featured a series of articles entitled “The 50 most influential physicians in history”. (Check http://www.medscape.com/features/slideshow/influential-physicians-part-4 for the top 10). Sadly, perhaps the most important physician of all did not even appear on the list: Samuel Hahnemann (1755-1843), the founder of homeopathy. To practitioners and most users of homeopathy, this comes as no surprise.
But there is an interesting twist to this story…
The #1 most influential physician in history according to the AMA is Sir William Osler (1849-1919), a Canadian who held leading positions at McGill University, the University of Pennsylvania, Johns Hopkins University and Oxford University, and who helped lay the foundation for clinical training and “bedside manner” in the practice of modern medicine. Osler is well known for having made the following statements (referred to in medical textbooks as “aphorisms”):
Listen to your patients; they are telling you the diagnosis.
The practice of medicine is an art, not a trade; a calling, not a business; a calling in which your heart will be exercised equally with your head.
What is not so well known is that Osler was an admirer of Samuel Hahnemann, was well aware of the important contribution that homeopathy made to the practice of medicine, and spoke frequently about it:
Ask not what kind of illness the patient has, ask what kind of patient has the illness.
—quoted in Dana Ullman, Discovering homeopathy: medicine for the 21st century (North Atlantic Books, 1 Jun 1991). Page 55
… No one individual has done more good to the medical profession than Hahnemann…
— quoted in Harry Cushing 1940 The Life of Sir William Osler Vol. 1 Page 171
Variability is the law of life, and as no two faces are the same, so no two bodies are alike, and no two individuals react alike and behave alike under the abnormal conditions which we know as disease.
— William Osler 1932 Aequanimitas: with other addresses to medical students, nurses and practitioners of medicine
And in a flash of prophecy, Osler wrote this:
I fear that we may return to the state of polypharmacy, the emancipation from which has been the sole gift of Hahnemann and his followers….
— William Osler 1905 Counsels and ideals from the writings of William Osler
Polypharmacy is the concurrent use of multiple medications and is recognized as a common and serious problem, particularly among elderly patients who frequently receive medications from multiple prescribers. It seems the AMA would do well to heed not only the warning issued by William Osler, who it deems to have been the most influential physician in history, but also the proposed solution– homeopathy.
Samuel Hahnemann is not the only homeopath who has profoundly influenced medicine and medical science. In a recently published book called A Century of Homeopaths: Their Influence on Medicine and Health (2014), Jonathan Davidson MD, Professor emeritus at Duke University, outlines major contributions made by other homeopaths. For example, the first physician to identify that pollen caused hay fever was a homeopathic doctor; the first to experiment with radiation as a cancer treatment was a student at a homeopathic medical school in Chicago. In total, the book describes the contributions of 100 homeopaths– some are women and many are virtually unknown– on a range of subjects including surgery, anesthesiology, neuroscience, public health, oncology and cardiology.
On December 29, 2015, a piece appeared in Medscape, the professional newsletter of the American Medical Association, entitled “Flu Vaccine For All: A Critical Look at the Evidence” by Eric A. Biondi, MD, MS and C. Andrew Aligne, MD, MPH. The article traces the earliest days of testing a vaccine for influenza in 1968 to the current time when influenza vaccination has emerged as a major public health priority. It also briefly summarizes some of the important systematic reviews on flu vaccine efficacy. (Please see previous HAAZ post in August, 2015 called “Research in Homeopathy” which refers to the importance of examining the body of evidence rather than drawing rapid conclusions from individual studies). Instead of paraphrasing, we will quote directly from the authors’ conclusion:
“… Influenza vaccination now supersedes many other priorities of public health (such as obesity, illiteracy, and high school dropout), and we question whether so much time, effort, and money should be dedicated to flu vaccination while these other national healthcare priorities remain on the back burner”.
Here are the reasons why the authors reached this conclusion:
“The rationale for flu immunization as a national health priority is that influenza is a disease with serious complications, such as pneumonia, hospitalization, and death. If the reason for influenza vaccination is that flu is such a serious disease, then the relevant outcomes are whether vaccination improves morbidity and mortality from flu. However, after decades of vaccine use, it is hard to detect any public health impact”.
“Despite the lack of high-quality data supporting the value of the flu shot, widespread vaccination policy might still be reasonable if observational studies consistently showed a benefit. However, the observational studies cited by flu shot proponents are frequently flawed. In many studies, relevant clinical outcomes are ignored in favor of immunogenicity (ie, the ability to elicit an antibody response). “Influenza-like illness” (ie, cold symptoms) is frequently measured instead of serious outcomes, such as pneumonia or death”.
The authors also quote from a specific 33-year 2005 study of flu vaccinations for seniors:
“‘[Our] estimates, which provide the best available national estimates of the fraction of all winter deaths that are specifically attributable to influenza, show that the observational studies must overstate the mortality benefits of the vaccine…[even during two pandemic seasons] the estimated influenza-related mortality was probably very close to what would have occurred had no vaccine been available.'”
Here is the link to this article which you should read for yourself.
Woke Up To Pitchforks This Morning!
(Written January 2015 but still relevant today)
Full self-disclosure and a small amount of self-pity to follow. You’ve been warned.
It’s tough being a holistic-medicine-minded kind of person in America these days. I’m not sure there was ever a time when it was easy (maybe the early 1900’s when homeopathic medicine ruled the land for a brief stint and sick people were actually healed rather than just drugged) but that’s another story for another day. Perhaps I should rephrase that first sentence. . . It’s tough being a holistic-medicine-minded kind of person these days and participating in social media. There, that sounds better.
Myself, I am a homeopath, one who tends to be of a sensitive and impressionable nature and who gets pretty beat up in climates such as the one we are currently in.
For my comrades who have a harder shell I say Good for you, keep your head down, keep moving forward, keep dodging those arrows, it’s just a flesh wound, buck up, you’re doing great!
But, for all the other softies out there like me, I feel you. I get that same pukey, sinking feeling you get with every article that calls us “negligent,” “uneducated,” even “criminal.”
By now you’ve probably figured it out, I’m referring to the big, bad, never-ending issue of Vaccines which has exploded since the recent increase in Measles cases out of California.
**Disclaimer: this story is in no way intended to label homeopathy or any other form of holistic medicine as “Pro Vaccine” or “Anti Vaccine”. I happen to be a homeopath and happen to fall on a certain side of the vaccine issue. I use homeopathic medicine as a form of disease prevention because that is my personal preference. This is not to say that all homeopaths, naturopaths or any other kinds of “paths” do the same. Seriously, we are at a place where I feel the need to say that??
Let me tell you about my morning. My hubby, who is amazing, let me sleep in until 9:30, got the kids up, got them to school, and left me alone to enjoy a much needed morning to myself.
AT 9:31 I MADE THE MISTAKE OF OPENING MY FB NEWSFEED TO FIND A LOVELY LITTLE ARTICLE, SHARED BY A FRIEND, CALLING FOR THE ARREST OF ALL PARENTS OF UNVACCINATED KIDS.
Morning ruined. Dang, I wish I was born with a harder shell! Now I am sitting here writing this (when I am supposed to be working on my dad’s affairs). Yep, I just played that card.
THIS WAS CERTAINLY NOT THE FIRST ARTICLE OF THIS TONE I HAVE ENCOUNTERED THIS WEEK, IT WAS JUST THE LAST STRAW.
Here’s the kicker of it all, my kids ARE vaccinated (mostly). I didn’t learn about vaccine alternatives and homeopathic medicine until it was too late for them. I did, however, learn about homeopathy in time to address and reverse the damage connected to the vaccines they did receive.
I am not here right now to talk about “to vax or not to vax?” SO PUT YOUR PITCHFORKS AWAY. That is another topic for another day (or 8 days). I want to talk about the sweeping generalizations and one-sided articles being slung around our social media like a junior high food fight.
Friends, there are real people behind these issues. It is so easy to fall into that false sense of anonymity when sharing info or making comments through social media. I am very, very guilty of this (there was a little incident a while back) and I certainly learned my lesson after making some fired-up comments. I am still feeling the repercussions of that in certain relationships and whole-heartedly regret ever pushing that enter button.
I’ve been there friends and I know you mean absolutely no harm when sharing a strongly worded article which supports your stance on an issue. But, I am here to say that there are real people on the other side of that issue, with concerns just as valid as your concerns, who have just as much education and knowledge on the subject as you do, but for their own very good, fact-based reasons, find themselves on the other side of the fence.
You don’t need to throw us in jail. How about an open-minded conversation free of insult and sweeping judgment? That would be a good start.
I can hear you right now, seriously, I know you are thinking, “Quit being such a baby, why are you taking these articles so personally, just ignore them.” Right? Yeah I know. But, SENSITIVE AND IMPRESSIONABLE. I’m not proud of it.
In my practice I offer a little something called Homeoprophylaxis (don’t even try to say it, just go with it, call it HP), which is a form of Homeopathy for Disease Prevention. Basically, an option for families who CANNOT or will not vaccinate their children. It offers protection against disease by educating the immune system to recognize disease and know how to naturally process it when encountered. Same idea as vaccines, very different method.
Let me tell you, the families we encounter through HP are real people too. They are real people who have come to the “no vax” decision for reasons like; a family history of vaccine injury, child with an autoimmune disorder, neurological disorder, religious reasons, vaccine allergy, adjuvant sensitivity, it can go on and on.
Then there are the families who say something like, “I have a very different perspective than the mainstream medical establishment and I understand that the disease process plays a critical role in the development of my child and his immune system and I have made an educated decision not to vaccinate my child. Oh, and it is still my right in this country to decide what is best for my child’s health, wellbeing and development.” Something like that.
True stories. Real people.
Folks, I hate to tell you this, but I think the scale is shifting on the vaccine paradigm. More and more people are making the informed decision to not vaccinate and its pissing a lot of folks off. Understandably. Our society has been taught to fear disease and to believe the only way to prevent it is through vaccine. The fear is real. Some diseases are terrifying. I won’t argue that. However, I DON’T BELIEVE EXCESSIVE VACCINES ARE THE ANSWER, and I am not alone.
Mamas, you don’t want to assault your child’s perfectly healthy immune system with 49 doses of vaccine before she is even 6? I don’t really blame you.
There are other options, alternative schedules, spreading them out, one dose at a time, homeoprophylaxis. It doesn’t have to be so excessive and we don’t have to be so scared.
I thank God every day that I have homeopathy. I have a doctor who can treat my kids for all those diseases with a kind of medicine that has proven successful time and again. I have the understanding that disease plays an important role in immune system development and that we can move through the disease process without being afraid of death or disfigurement. That’s what homeopathy gives us.
The problem here is that I may have homeopathy and don’t have to fear disease, many of my friends can say the same, but most people can’t.
MOST PEOPLE DON’T HAVE ACCESS TO HOMEOPATHY, don’t understand it, don’t believe in it, flat out hate it because it doesn’t make any sense.
I hear you folks, it is really hard to wrap your head around the way homeopathic medicine works, it goes against everything we have been taught about microbiology, physics, disease, medicine. I could take another 8 days here trying to help you understand how and why homeopathic medicine works. But I won’t because I see that this is moving in a direction that I did not originally intend it to be, which was a pity party.
So, back to that.
You guys, seriously, quit flinging all that crap around on my FB feed. If you’re gonna fling crap, at least attach some Ricky Gervais or James Franco for a good laugh.
For now, while I’m dodging the arrows and pitchforks in the midst of this Measles hysteria, I will sit here with my gelato, tell myself to buck up, it’s just a flesh wound, and look forward to our trip to Disneyland next month.
If you are a “no vax” parent and are concerned about Measles, give this a peak or give me a call. You have options.
If you want to know a more about Homeoprophylaxis, give these a gander.
Friends, if you are participating in or organizing any public study groups, please feel free to share and advertise them here
Please join us for our next meeting February 10th at Phoenix Natural Medicine and Detox Center: 301 W. Roosevelt Ave: Ste #2 at 6:30 pm. Hope to see you there!
In previous posts, we have discussed how to think about research and where to find a comprehensive research database, how homeopathy works, homeopathic provings as a special type of research, and suggestions on how to plan and prepare clinical case reports. In this post, we point to another vital resource for anyone looking for succinct and reliable information about homeopathy research.
You may know of the excellent work done by The Homeopathy Research Institute (HRI), based in England. But you may not be aware that this organization does far more than funding, coordinating and publishing research, and arranging research conferences. It also provides accessible, concise, reasoned and well supported analysis of homeopathy research as well as other information that can help cast serious doubt on some of the criticisms of homeopathy typically circulated in the media.
A handy research reference
Pouring through scientific research databases can be time-consuming and challenging, so HRI has added a page to their Resources section called “Essential evidence”. This page has several sub-pages, including statistics on homeopathy use in several countries and a quick overview of placebo-controlled clinical trial research. It also provides a concise description of 6 meta-analyses that have so far been done (a meta-analysis is a systematic way of reviewing several similar studies at a time), of which 5 were positive and 1 was negative. Other pages worth checking out touch on homeopathic treatment of specific conditions such as diarrhea or influenza, and studies that compare homeopathic with conventional medical treatment. Interestingly, while the volume of research in homeopathic and conventional medicine research differs greatly, the percentages of positive, negative and inconclusive study results are similar (41-44% positive, 5-7% negative and 49-54% inconclusive). This should certainly create pause for reflection among those who would believe that clinical trials of conventional medicine always show positive results whereas results of trials testing the efficacy of homeopathy are always negative.
Addressing the criticisms
The other page in the Resources section that you could look at is “The homeopathy debate”, which provides analyses of reports that have generated a lot of public discussion, including the negative and frequently cited Shang (et al.) Lancet meta-analysis of 2005, which claimed to be based on more than 100 clinical trials, but was in fact based on only 8, none of which used homeopathy in the way typically employed by clinicians. Another significant policy report reviewed is Homeopathy in Healthcare published in Switzerland in 2011, which concluded: “There is sufficient evidence for the preclinical effectiveness and the clinical efficacy of homeopathy and for its safety and economy compared with conventional treatment”. Based on this report’s findings, homeopathy was subsequently included in the Swiss national healthcare scheme.
– – – — – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
So if you want to stay on top of developments in homeopathy research, you should bookmark these important web pages, and check them regularly since HRI frequently updates them. Even easier, you can sign up for HRI’s newsletter.
Most homeopathic practitioners regularly attend homeopathy conferences and study groups. (The Homeopathy Association of Arizona has organized three study groups in the Phoenix area alone!) These usually include presentations of cases, or descriptions of how specific individuals have been helped by homeopathy. Case reports are typically thought to be simply narrative stories that chronicle a case from beginning to end. But how you choose, prepare and present that case can make a significant difference to what others are able to learn from it. Case reports should always be geared to specific audiences, which can vary widely from members of the general public who want to learn more about the process of homeopathic care to students of homeopathy who want to learn more about how to take, analyze and manage a typical case. Although in the end we are all students of homeopathy, this discussion focuses on case presentations aimed for a conference or study group audience comprised mainly of professional homeopaths.
Case studies are actually a type of research method. Of course, homeopaths do not take cases for research purposes; they take them so they can help heal individuals. But similar to case study researchers, homeopaths collect data from a number of different sources, including interview notes or transcripts, direct observation and other objective data such as laboratory test results. Using different information sources to help understand a case in this way is referred to as “triangulation”. Homeopaths also use techniques similar to those employed by researchers to analyze their cases, such as pattern-matching (seeing if an individual’s symptoms fit a remedy pattern), repeated observations (looking for repetitions of this pattern within the case), explanation-building (using timelines to investigate symptom etiology) and testing rival explanations (looking for evidence in the case that might contradict the suspected pattern)[i]. As a result of these and other similarities, there are lessons that can be learned from case study research that can be applied to case reports shared at homeopathic conferences and study groups. So in order to improve the learning from your case, you may want to consider asking yourself the following questions:
This question is central since it partly determines which case you choose to share. Generalizability is the key to maximizing what others can learn from your case since it helps them transfer the lessons you learned to their own cases. In order to figure out if your case is generalizable, you are looking for what might be typical in your case, so you might ask yourself: How common is the main health condition in my case? If uncommon, is there a need among homeopaths to learn more about it? How small or large is the population my case falls within? How likely is it that other homeopaths will encounter clients in this group? Did I use resources available to most other homeopaths in working through the case? The answers to these questions provide the context for your case and help others determine how and whether the lessons learned might apply to their cases. Even if your case deals with a rare condition and/or a small sub-population or employs a tool that is unavailable to most homeopaths, it would be helpful to communicate this clearly so that audience members can assess whether your case is generalizable to their practice.
This question also relates to the case you choose to share. An audience of professional homeopaths is mostly interested in adding to their understanding of the healing process (theory) or improving how we facilitate healing (methods). Here, what you are looking for is what makes the case unique, which on the surface might seem to be the opposite of what might make a case generalizable. The Journal of Medical Case Reports advises that case reports should include a “new association or event” or what is “previously unreported”, “unusual” or “unexpected”. Of course, homeopathic care is clearly different from conventional medical treatment because it is individualized, however, the process of teaching and learning about a case is actually similar. What makes the case unique is not what is unusual or unexpected about the individual who is the center of the case (i.e. their childhood, symptom etiology, etc.), but rather, what is unusual about the case (what it illustrates generally about healing or how to bring about healing).
In order to help figure out how to identify what is unusual or unexpected about your case, here are some questions you could ask yourself: Did I use an approach to case-taking, case analysis or case management that is not yet well established? Did I prescribe a well-known remedy for a symptom or condition not normally associated with it? Or a lesser known remedy within a well-known remedy family? Did my client’s healing follow an unusual path? If the answer to all of these and similar questions about theory (the healing process) and methods (how to bring about healing) is “no”, then your case may still be engaging, but might have limited learning value for your audience. That said, simply thinking about these kinds of questions may help you identify new lessons from your case that you didn’t previously consider and can share with others.
You have now chosen your case based on the balance between what is typical about it (generalizability) and what is unusual or unexpected about it (adds to knowledge). It’s now time to plan the presentation. It is at this point that it’s important to distinguish between a story and a case report. Details in homeopathic cases are always critical in the process of providing homeopathic care, so it is tempting to want to share as many of them as possible in case presentations. While the basic story of the case is almost always necessary, story details tend to direct the attention toward the storyteller and his or her personal abilities as a practitioner rather than the lessons others can learn from the case. So rather than fill all the available time elaborating on the particulars of the case, it may be constructive to take some of that time to spell out the reasons for how and why your case is generalizable and how it adds to knowledge. This requires a higher level of analysis over and above telling the story.
This may seem like a strange question, but describing what you did not do and why you didn’t do it also further helps others learn what is unusual or unexpected about your case. So you could ask yourself the following questions: Did I explain how the outcome of my case might have been different if I had chosen a more typical approach to case-taking (or case analysis, or case management)? Or why my attempt to employ the usual approach did not or would not work? Answering these questions might help sharpen the focus on why your case is significant.
– – – – – – – – – – – – –
The ultimate purpose of sharing case reports at conferences and study groups where the audience consists primarily of practicing homeopaths is to communicate what you have learned from a case that has enhanced your practice and helped make you a better homeopath. So perhaps the most important question to ask yourself is: How and why did this case transform my practice? This is what others want to learn from you!
[i] Robert K Yin (1994) Case Study Research: Design and Methods 2nd edition. Thousand Oaks: Sage. This book is actually in its 5th edition (2014).
It’s that time of year. Always lots of media hype and controversy. Everyone has to make their own decisions based on the information available and their own situation. I’m not going to tell you what to do. I am going to tell you what I do.
I never get a flu shot, and never will. Mainly because I know that if I should happen to get the flu, it is easily treatable with a homeopathy remedy. Homeopathy became really mainstream in the 1800’s because of its success in treating epidemics, including the flu. I have personally treated patients with the flu that have improved within an hour of taking a homeopathic remedy. There are several over-the-counter homeopathic remedies that may be useful to treat the flu. Which one is best for you is determined by your individual particular symptoms. This link gives the common remedies, and explains what remedy to use, and when.
Just look at the data on death rates during epidemics of influenza on people treated with homeopathy. The numbers speak for themselves. In the 1918 flu pandemic the death rate for allopathically treated patients was 28%, with homeopathy it was 1%. There are many similar studies.
Working in the medical field, it is not uncommon for me to see patients with a cold, or illness, and they say “how can I get sick, i just had a flu shot 10 days ago.” Random coincidence? I don’t know. I saw a 60 year old woman a few weeks ago that was in a wheel chair. She got transverse myelitis after a flu shot 5 years prior, and now can’t walk. This very rare, but it happens. Even the FDA drug insert for the H1N1 Vaccine even lists it as a possible side effect.
The vaccine prevents some people from getting the flu, but at what cost? I’m not sure, and perhaps it is really difficult to measure that. I am not so sure the medical community even wants to know the answer. I think multiple vaccinations can affect the body in an adverse way. You may not get the disease that you are trying to prevent, but your body may be weakened in other aspects, so that slowly other chronic problems now appear over time. And, the vaccine is not that effective….18% effective!
In the regular monthly postings, we have touched on “How to cope with research” (August 12, 2015) which deals with the sometimes dizzying and often confusing world of research in homeopathy. “How does homeopathy work?” (September 23, 2015) focused on Dr. Iris Bell’s extremely useful answer to this question. This month, we turn our attention to an important aspect of research in homeopathy: homeopathic provings.
A “proving” is a special type of research unique to homeopathy initially developed by its founder, Samuel Hahnemann, (a German physician-chemist who lived in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries) that documents the action of homeopathic preparations of specific substances on humans. One of the important and enduring distinctions between homeopathic provings and conventional medical research is that homeopathic medicines (“remedies”) are tested on healthy subjects rather than those who have already succumbed to disease symptoms. This is due to one of the central principles of homeopathy: ”like cures like”, which means that a substance capable of inducing symptoms in a healthy individual can cure those same symptoms in a sick person. Information gleaned from provings combined with scientifically-based information on sources (the material from which homeopathic remedies are made) along with clinical observation and outcome research form the body of knowledge on which homeopathic prescribing is based.
Hahnemann on homeopathic provings
Chapter 4 of Hahnemann’s famous book The Organon (the last edition completed in 1842) is dedicated to homeopathic provings. In it, he describes the possible internal processes related to the action of medicinal substances on the human body during a proving (aphorisms 111 to 115); prescribes the preparation, potency and dosage of the substance to be administered to “provers”, or those who are testing the substance (122-4, 128-37); outlines basic instructions for provers after taking the medicine (124-6); and provides instructions to provers on how to document and record symptoms (133, 138-9). In addition, Hahnemann describes the “qualifications” of provers in that they must be healthy rather than sick (106-8,141-2) and specifies that provers should be both male and female (127, 135). This last point is significant in that as recently as 20 years ago– over 150 years after Samuel Hahnemann’s death!– modern medical research was conducted mostly on men. He further states that provings should be repeated multiple times on many different provers, addressing the important issue of replicability, or the repetition of research findings. Over the many decades that Hahnemann conducted provings, he observed that some symptoms appeared among provers more frequently (116), others were more rare (“idiosyncratic”, 117), and that not all symptoms appeared in all provers (134).
Modern homeopathic proving research has built on this foundation, but has added other features. In the US, Arizona’s American Medical College of Homeopathy (AMCH, now part of the Phoenix Institute of Herbal Medicine and Acupuncture, PIHMA) has been conducting provings since the 1990s and has set a high standard for this type of homeopathic research. AMCH provings use a double-blind randomized design in which roughly 20% of proving participants are given placebo. All provers must be 18 years or older, cannot be pregnant or lactating, have serious medical conditions, or be taking prescription drugs. Research ethics guidelines established by the Department of Health and Human Services that are used in conventional medical research are also followed for homeopathic provings. These guidelines include verification of lack of financial interest on the part of the principal investigator, preservation of the confidentiality of information, informed consent, and appropriate monitoring and response protocols in the event of adverse effects.
Steps for conducting a proving
The first stage of an AMCH proving consists of establishment of a thorough baseline of symptoms for each prover through labwork, prover logs and an extended interview. After this, a low-potency homeopathic preparation of the substance is administered daily for up to seven days or when signs or symptoms first appear. The observation phase lasts for three weeks, during which subjects keep a daily log of their symptoms. A final exit interview is conducted after one month. Follow-up continues for up to sixty days or when the prover no longer has signs or symptoms. Not infrequently, symptoms in some provers are actually cured, and in this case the prover is followed for an additional period in order to determine if the improvement is sustained.
The accumulated data from all research subjects (interview transcripts, daily logs, etc.) are then qualitatively analyzed and a remedy “picture” is constructed based on these data. A final open meeting is held for all provers, supervisors and interested members of the general public at which the remedy substance is named and the main findings are summarized. The accumulated symptoms for the remedy are then entered into homeopathic “repertories” (the databases used by homeopaths to look up symptoms) so they can be accessed by homeopaths prescribing for their clients. Following some additional steps, the remedy monograph can be added to the Homeopathic Pharmacopeia of the US (HPUS), which is overseen by the FDA (see http://www.hpus.com/what-is-the-hpus.php for more information on HPUS).
This is a fascinating process to participate in! For examples of provings done by the American Medical College of Homeopathy, or if you live in the Phoenix area and are interested in taking part in homeopathic research, call 602-274-1885 or send an E-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also visit the AMCH website at http://www.amcofh.org .