PURE HOGWASH; Homeopathy? You Might as Well Drink a Glass of Water, Says One of Britain's Top Experts in Complementary Medicine. His Reasons May Surprise You
Byline: EDZARD ERNST
BRITAIN'S first professor of complementary medicine, EDZARD ERNST, has declared homeopathy pointless. Here the professor, who is himself homeopathically trained and works at the Penisular Medical School, Universities of Exeter and Plymouth, tells Good Health why he thinks such remedies are a waste of time.
FROM Prince Charles to the new patient who has just had their first appointment with their local homeopath, there has never been a shortage of people raving about homeopathy's benefits and healing powers.
With labelling regulations set to change next year - bottles will be allowed to feature the remedies' uses and indications instead of just the confusing Latin name they carry at present - it is likely that the popularity of homeopathy will soar.
But in this field we have a paradox between the power of the human mind and the proof of science.
It cannot be disputed that, in a clinical sense, homeopathy seems to help patients. Yet, scientifically speaking, the remedies have absolutely no potency. I wasn't joking when I stated last week that you'd be better off with a glass of water than a homeopathic pill.
My remit is to research all forms of complementary medicine, but I personally feel very strongly about homeopathy because it is so popular, with about 3,000 registered homeopaths in the UK. Around 40 per cent of British doctors refer their patients to a homeopath.
Having worked in Germany's only homeopathic hospital in my youth, where I advocated the therapy's use, I have a good understanding of its principles.
Certainly, I do not have any axe to grind against it.
During the 12 years of my research into the subject, countless contradictory studies have emerged, their conclusions swinging from one end of the scale to the other.
For every study that says homeopathy works, there are a barrage of critics who state the opposite. For every study that claims it doesn't work, a whole host of people who have been 'cured' by the remedies retort back.
It is no wonder homeopathy has become a confusing and controversial matter, capable of fuelling endless debate.
But I now believe that, through rigorous trials of my own, combined with analysis of previous trials and an understanding of human psychology, I have unravelled the truth of this controversial medicine and of our own relationship with it.
Homeopathy is based on the theory of treating 'like with like', supposedly giving patients substances that cause the very same problems they are suffering from. Asthma, migraines, irritable bowel syndrome and hormonal imbalances are thought to benefit from the treatment.
The remedies are made using a complex process of diluting and shaking, which is disputable in itself. The process leaves the remedies so diluted there are often no molecules of the supposedly active substance in them.
The remedies have been mathematically likened to putting a glass of an active substance into the Atlantic at New York and then sampling the water in Southampton.
And were it possible for any treatment to work without any active ingredient, then we would have to tear up all our physics books and start again.
ONE of the remedies I looked at in great detail was arnica, which is widely used by homeopaths to treat trauma of all sorts and to aid post-operatic healing.
During our study, we gave two different dilutions of arnica to two groups of patients, and gave a third group a placebo. All subjects had had the same operation.
We then measured and monitored their bruising, swelling and pain. There was absolutely no difference between the three groups and all three groups recovered at the same rate.
In another trial, I looked at the effect of homeopathic remedies on children suffering with asthma. …