|Letter from the Publisher
by Jonathan Collin, MD
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In July, I was asked to give the commencement address at the National University of Natural Medicine. This was its first commencement as NUNM; previously it was the National College of Natural Medicine. Due to time constraints part of the speech was cut out. While a discussion about homeopathy was omitted then, I believe it deserves to see the light of day now:
From an educational perspective, perhaps the most controversial elective offered is a series of courses on homeopathy. Homeopathy is a system of medicine that was named by a German physician, Dr. Samuel Hahnemann, in the early 1800s. The name homeopathy literally means & "similar suffering." It is based on the Law of Similars, often referred to as & "like cures like." What Hahnemann discovered, and what has been essentially known since Hippocrates, is that when a substance – be it plant, mineral, or animal based – evokes illness in a previously healthy individual, that same substance is capable of healing a sick individual but only if the substance is administered in very, very dilute concentration. Homeopathic remedies, and there are many, each have very specific physical and emotional characteristics, and the practice of homeopathic medicine requires that the patient's symptoms must match exactly the homeopathic remedy's characteristics.
Since Hahnemann's publication of the Organon of the Art of Healing in 1810, homeopathy has flourished as a system of medicine during the past century in Europe and the US. However, in 1910, Flexner published a report in the US establishing new standards for medical education and practice, essentially paving the way for pharmaceutical medicine, and dismissing homeopathy. At that time, homeopathic medical colleges no longer were authorized funding. Homeopathy lost favor in the US, but it continued to be well accepted in the UK, Germany, France, and especially in India. The Royal Family in the UK favored homeopathic medicine, and London maintained several homeopathic hospitals. Physicians in Germany and France never eliminated their use of homeopathy, administering drugs and homeopathic remedies to patients as appropriate. The acceptance of homeopathy in India was so remarkable that there are now 300,000 homeopathic practitioners in India with 180 homeopathic medical schools, 7500 homeopathic clinics, and 307 homeopathic hospitals. In the US, homeopathy had a renaissance in the 1970s not the least of which was the education offered by naturopathic medical colleges. However, homeopathy was not limited to naturopathic physicians, as MDs including myself recognized its effectiveness and, particularly, its safety.
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However, just as the authors of the Flexner report attempted to do, skeptics have persisted in the AMA and elsewhere disputing the effectiveness of homeopathy. The argument boiled down to how could a remedy that is so dilute, more dilute than what chemistry defines as the number of molecules in a mole (6 x 10 to the 23rd power) diluted 6, 12, 30, or 200 times, how could a substance so dilute have the physical, chemical, or biologic ability to do anything? From a logical point of view, it would appear impossible that such a diluted substance would be able to exert any physiological or biochemical activity, but, in fact, for more than two hundred years there have been countless cases, not one, or two, or one hundred, but countless cases of individuals not only responding to homeopathic treatment, but responding in many cases heroically, dramatically, and without harm. Before I venture into any further science, let me provide a few examples of homeopathy at work. I take liberty here as these cases have been previously reported by Drs. Judyth Reichenberg-Ullman, ND, Robert Ullman, ND, and Richard Moskowitz, MD, in the February/March 2017 issue of the Townsend Letter.
This first case was diagnosed and treated by Drs. Judyth Reichenberg-Ullman and Robert Ullman. A 72-year-old individual was admitted to a university hospital after having his colon removed for unsuccessfully treated ulcerative colitis. The colitis had been treated with pharmaceutical drugs for the past few decades but had become completely unmanageable. Following the removal of the colon, the patient developed severe complications. First, the remaining intestine that was to substitute for the colon failed to function with normal peristalsis (intestinal movement). Second, the patient developed chronic, violent, constant hiccups. And thirdly, the patient acquired severe pneumonia while hospitalized. On top of this, the patient had very severe post-surgery abdominal pain and weakness. The hiccups were incapacitating causing difficulty in breathing, eating, and being able to sleep. Drs. Reichenberg-Ullman and Ullman pieced together the patient's history and discovered that the patient acquired colitis following the administration of vaccinations needed for exotic travel. That information and the patient's current symptoms led to a clear-cut homeopathic diagnosis of needing the homeopathic prescription, Thuja occidentalis (also known as Arbor vitae cedar). Yes, a homeopathic prescription of the tree, cedar. The patient's wife was advised to give the patient Thuja at the hospital bedside, and the hiccups stopped in five minutes!
Five minutes after going on for more than 24 hours. Does this seem like placebo? Does this sound like shamanism or hypnotism? Yes, the hiccups returned two hours later; but following a second dose of Thuja, the hiccups completely resolved never to return. The normal intestinal peristalsis resumed the next day. The pneumonia resolved. The attending doctors were shocked at his improvement and discharged him two days later.
Dr. Richard Moskowitz, MD, had a 34-year-old female patient who was a nurse and who had been severely symptomatic with endometriosis since her teens. Endometriosis is a very disabling condition where the same tissue that lines the inside of the uterus grows outside the uterus, abnormally growing, and profusely bleeding like having a monsterous period. In a word, it is horribly painful. The nurse already had had four surgeries to remove large blood-filled cysts from her bladder and pelvic organs. She had a course of male hormone to suppress the growths. When the patient sought homeopathic care, she only wished to restore her menstrual cycle without having any thoughts about later becoming pregnant. After being given a homeopathic prescription, she first had some scanty periods. With additional homeopathic medicine, the menstruation became regular. Within six months, she became pregnant and eventually delivered a normal baby. When Dr. Horowitz saw her next, eight years later, she reported that she had two pregnancies with uncomplicated births, and her health had been excellent with no further symptoms of endometriosis.
Again, how could this be placebo effect?
Yet, that is the cry of the homeopathic critics: There is no scientific evidence that homeopathy medicine can work – that any case reporting success is the result of placebo effect. If this were the extent of it – skeptics complaining about homeopathy not working – we would not be too concerned (although we are). The problem, unfortunately, has become as worrisome as when the Flexner report came out in 1910. Late last year the National Health Service in the UK made a policy decision that because there have been evaluations that homeopathy does not work, the National Health Service would no longer reimburse homeopathic prescriptions as they had been doing. Also last year, the news service in Moscow reported that the National Academy of Sciences in Russia deemed homeopathy as ineffective. A similar report was made by the medical board in Australia. In the US, the FTC proposed requiring homeopathic manufacturers to include a statement on OTC remedies that homeopathy is not proven to work scientifically. Also, recently the FDA has demanded that homeopathic manufacturers recall homeopathic teething remedies because of safety worries. Recall that homeopathy is an ultra-dilute remedy – how something that is diluted to essentially zero can pose a safety risk is beyond understanding.
Despite the onslaught of negative reports and policy decisions, homeopathy remains a safe, effective treatment system that is well documented in case reports and clinical trials. Recent scientific reports support the mechanism of action of homeopathy. In 2014, a systematic review and meta-analysis demonstrated effectiveness in randomized trials of individualized homeopathic treatment. In 2015, the prestigious journal Nature reported the effect of homeopathic drugs modifying gene expression in cancer cells. Last November, a paper in PLOSOne demonstrated the effect of a well-known homeopathic remedy, Arnica montana, stimulating gene expression in white blood cells. Finally, the recognition that nano-particles exert important medical effects is being demonstrated – after all, homeopathy is essentially nano-medicine.
Controversy or not, it is vital that homeopathy medicine continue to be accepted and practiced. NUNM and other naturopathic colleges deserve recognition for their role in educating physicians in homeopathy and ensuring its ongoing practice in the US and abroad. We need to remain steadfast in refusing to allow politicians and regulators from dismantling homeopathic medicine and pharmacy.
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