In the post I did on July 2 of 2017 I responded to a letter sent to the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Ass. by a professor of pharmacology at the veterinary school in Virginia. The letter written by the professor was a criticism of homeopathy saying it was “imagination” when improvement of the animal was supposedly seen. As I explained in that post a letter like this, coming from ignorance of the homeopathic method, is a form of prejudice and does not serve us as a profession. Even more so it ties into the larger aversion to learning new methods by the veterinary profession as a whole. It is one thing for a professor to object, but a more significant happening when it reveals an antipathy by the profession (not all, but most) against a two century proven method of curative treatment such as homeopathy.
I followed up that post with some example cases of homeopathic treatment so you, the reader, could see for yourself how ascribing this to imagination would not be a satisfactory explanation for what we are actually seeing with homeopathic practice. I also composed a letter back to the editor in response and will copy it here for your perusal, then follow with some further comments.
MY LETTER BACK TO THE EDITOR OF THE JOURNAL
In the letter written by Dr. Peter Eyre, a professor of pharmacology, it is understandable that there would be criticism of homeopathy, a treatment system that does not use drugs in the treatment of disease. The common objection is that “there is nothing in it,” referring to the high dilution of homeopathic remedies to the point of being beyond physical substrate. Common sense would say this would not work. However, this “common sense” is coming from the perspective of Newtonian physics, which has been superseded by quantum physics. What quantum physics has given us is a more accurate understanding of the composition of the physical world.
It turns out that what we observe as “physical” is a manifestation of an underlying energy or informational field. This field is not visible to our senses, but the physical expression of the field is. Einstein tells us that the field is primary, the physical expression secondary. In other words, the energetic field behind physical substance is the basic essence of physical materiality. This is not hypothesis; it has been well established as a more accurate understanding of the make up of our world.
That homeopathy has discovered a way to process physical substance so as to remove the physical substance while retaining the energetic behind it, is in agreement with this physics. One can argue that this is not possible, but the observable effectiveness of homeopathic medicines, both clinically and experimentally, suggests that it is possible. (1, 2) Although the effectiveness of homeopathic treatment has been demonstrated in many research studies, what may more directly point to the validity of this interpretation are research results that address the question, “When a homeopathic medicine is made by ultra-dilution, is it possible to show that the resultant material can show a detectable difference”? This has been asked and answered.
Consider this research study that asked the question, “Is it possible to show that diluted homeopathic remedies are distinct from the water/alcohol liquid that they are made from?” (3) This study used infrared spectroscopy to evaluate the configuration of the hydrogen bonds of the water molecules. The idea here is that if the process of preparing the remedy somehow released an energy that affected the liquid structure in a specific way that persists, then the idea of manipulating a non-physical energy is confirmed.
Six homeopathic remedies were compared with each other and with plain 90% ethanol used for dilution. It was found it was possible to distinguish each remedy based on the changes in the water molecules. Each remedy had its own recognizable signature. The authors concluded: “Finally, homeopathic potencies can be differentiated from each other by FTIR spectra with respect to the O-H bending vibrational band.”
Hopefully what is here will at least bring the question to mind: Is it possible that the homeopathic method actually does produce biologically active medicines? Should we open our minds to this possibility?
- Marzotto M, Olioso D, Brizzi M, Tononi P, Cristofoletti M, Bellavite P. Extreme sensitivity of gene expression in human SH-SYY neurocytes to ultra-low doses of Gelsemium sempervirens. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2014: Mar 19;14:104.
- Bigagli E, Luceri C, Bernardini S, Dei A, Dolara P. Extremely low copper concentrations affect gene expression profiles of human prostate epithelial cell lines. Chem Biol interact. 2010; Oct 6;188(1):214-9.
- C. Sukul, Ph.D., Sudeshna Ghosh, M.Sc., A. Sukul, Ph.D., And S.P. Sinhababu, Ph.D. Variation in Fourier Transform Infrared Spectra of Some Homeopathic Potencies and Their Diluent Media, The Journal of Alternative And Complementary Medicine, Volume 11, Number 5, 2005, pp. 807–812.
- Ellanzhiyil Surendran Sunila, Ramadasan Kuttan, Korengath Chandran Preethi, and Girija Kuttan, Dynamized Preparations in Cell Culture, Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, Volume 6 (2009), Issue 2, Pages 257-263.
- Elisabeth Davenas *, Bernard Poitevin and Jacques Benveniste, Effect on Mouse Peritoneal Macrophages of Orally Administered Very High Dilutions of Silica, European Journal of Pharmacology, 135 (1987) 313-319.
— Richard Pitcairn, DVM, PhD
I realize this letter might be somewhat difficult to understand by some readers so will give a further explanation here. I first state in my letter that in the last century the science of physics has determined that behind all physical manifestation that we see with our senses are fields of energy or influence responsible for their appearing for us. Einstein tells us that these energy fields are the foundation (what is primary) and the physical world is secondary (derivative) of them. This is very important to understand because it turns around the materialistic assumption that we commonly have for how the world is.
Homeopathy ascribes its work to the use of energetic or influential fields underlying the medicinal substances, that are released by the method of dilution and agitation stepwise in the preparation of the medicines. In the same way as energetic fields are behind physical phenomena, homeopathy says that there are energetic fields that maintain living organisms and it is these energetic influences that are in the medicines.
I realize just saying this will not be convincing to the professor or most other veterinarians that read this, so I then refer to a scientific study that gives support to this idea. Since the homeopathic medicines are usually diluted enough that there is no detectable physical substance, like as a chemical, then we have to show some other evidence that the preparation of the medicines has actually had some effect on the liquid in which it is made. This study referred to was using an instrument (spectroscope) that could measure the configuration of the water molecules in the liquid. It is not measuring anything physical in the usual sense, rather the “shape” of the molecule (the details of the hydrogen bonding). What is significant here is that they looked at six different homeopathic preparations, compared to the control liquid diluent, and were able to show that each of the six homeopathic medicines could be distinctly identified in this way. To repeat this, each of the homeopathic preparations resulted in a specific change in the molecular structure of the liquid.
To make this more clear, if the process of making the homeopathic medicine only changed the water molecules in some way that would be interesting but not really convincing us that the medicines are unique. What they found, however, is that each one of the medicines were different from each other. We can draw the conclusion that each medicine had a distinct and individual influence that was contained in the liquid.
Of course this does not prove that the liquid medicine would cure disease (for the skeptic) but what it is showing is that in the sense of physics, there is actually something produced by the homeopathic process of preparing the medicine. It may not be physical, but there is an influence there. This supports at least that part of the homeopathic principles that say for medicines to have effect they need not be limited to only chemical molecules but can also have action on an energetic level.
Does this makes sense? To me it does. It gives support to a basic idea underlying homeopathic work. It is a scientific study and that is what we use to provide information we can rely on.
I sent this letter off to the editor of the journal with the expectation it would specifically address the issue brought up the professor. It was not just my opinion but reporting scientific work.
Imagine my surprise when I received an answer back that they would not publish it. I asked for an explanation but none was forthcoming.
Here is another contemporary example of homeopathic treatment. It is an interesting story and you can see from it why we veterinarians will continue to use homeopathy. Who wants to give up on a suffering patient? We try our best and consider every avenue open to our minds. When we find something like homeopathy that can have such results, why would we not use it? If it were a drug that brought out this improvement, would we not hold it to our chest with gratitude?
This is a case of Dr. Vani Guttikonda of Los Alamitos, California. Her client, Jennifer Parker, graciously offered to share her cat’s story with us.
Ellie, the Hopeless Cat
Considering possible criticisms
You had her for 9 months before using Dr. Vani. During this time she had a number of treatments. Some people will say it was these prior treatments that eventually “kicked in.” Do you think this possible?
Definitely not. She did not improve, but continued to deteriorate. In the last month before I took her to Dr. Vani, they were throwing antibiotics and pain killers at her, but realized that they were doing absolutely nothing. The initial antibiotic treatments 9 months prior had helped temporarily with the respiratory and ear infections, but they always came back. The last ones, the vets admitted that they were doing nothing for her and, moreover, hadn’t expected them to anyway. They just didn’t know what else to do.
You describe the veterinarians “exhausting their resources.” Did they do many things? Did they really do all they could think of?
They ran every possible test. The discussion I had with the vet who sent me to Dr. Vani was “look, I’ve run out of things to try. We’ve done everything. I can either send you to a special diagnostician who will cost you many thousands of dollars and likely will not be able to help, or I can send you to a homeopathic vet in Orange County.” I suspect the implication was, your animal is sick and nothing is going to help. Choose whichever course of action that is going to make you feel less helpless as your cat’s health continues to deteriorate.
On reading this one could object that since Ellie had her first seizure after seeing Dr. Vani and having the idea of seizures being the problem that you now interpreted her condition as a seizure when it was not really changed at all.
It was her first grand mal seizure, but she’d been having smaller ones for some time. But she’d never done it in front of a vet, even when I’d left her there for observation. She seemed to be able to control them in stressful environments, but would start them again immediately after. Because they were smaller, I didn’t recognize them as seizures. And Dr. Vani was very careful to stress that although she thought that’s what was going on, we needed to be open to the idea that it could be something else. But the grand mal seizure was very recognizable as such. And it was not at all surpising that she would have it when she did. Even 5 minutes in the car is almost too much for her, she struggles and fights and is horribly upset. She had spent an hour and a half in the car on the way down fighting so hard to get out, she rubbed all the skin off the end of her nose trying to push through the mesh. Then she was in a veterinary office for 2 hours. We were only a mile away from Dr. Vani’s office when she had the grand mal seziure, because she’d just been through 3 1/2 hours of trauma. Having said that, at the end of the day, even if the diagnosis of the seizures was incorrect (I don’t believe that it was), but her overall health was elevated to normal levels, does it matter what we call it? I know no one will agree with that, but I’m not a vet, so I can’t state with certainty that the diagnosis is correct. Based on what I read after the diagnosis was suggested, the acute symptoms fit. But I would stress that her entire system has improved — not only have the seizures stopped, but the chronic infections have never come back, she doesn’t hide, her overall vitality and temper are vastly improved. I think it’s difficult for us laypeople to understand it, but you’re not treating a symptom, you’re treating the underlying system so that it can reach a level of vitality so that the symptoms disappear. Or, at least that’s how I understand it.
When you say you saw “marked improvement” within 48 hours. Were you much expecting this? Did you have a lot of confidence in homeopathy and perhaps imagined or misinterpreted her change as improvement when it was really about the same?
I didn’t know Dr. Vani, and this is as much an art as a science, so I had no proof yet that she knew what she was doing. I was putting my trust in her, but with a healthy dose of skepticism. I honestly didn’t think anything would help Ellie — this was honestly a Hail Mary pass. To illustrate how marked a change it was, when I first took Ellie to Dr. Vani, I was only leaving the house when absolutely necessary so I could keep an eye on her for as much of the day as possible. I had arranged to work from home because she was so sick, I didn’t think she could be left on her own during the day. After 10 days of treatment, she was well enough that I could go home to see my family for 5 days over Christmas.
When Dr. Vani predicted some symptoms that might appear and then you saw them, do you think you were projecting this on to your cat? That it was Dr. Vani’s influence on your mind that brought you to see it this way?
No, because I frequently would have mentioned to someone previously, gosh, she’s doing this weird thing all of a sudden. And then Dr. Vani would say, it sure would be helpful if she was doing this weird thing, as it would confirm that we’re doing the right thing, and I would say, but she is! I was just talking about it with someone! Again, because I am a scholar who likes evidence, I’m always on the lookput for bias, because you can’t prove your thesis if the evidence is imaginary.
At this point I will present a contemporary homeopathic case to give some idea of the responses we see with homeopathic treatment. No, this is not the one case that improved this year. These are the responses we veterinarians that use homeopathy see in many of our cases and why we have continued interest in the use of homeopathy in our practices.
This case is of a large dog that became suddenly paralyzed, could not use the legs, have a bowel movement or pass urine. It was a sudden occurrence with no obvious cause. The emergency veterinary hospital had given two drugs without any response. The dog’s people were caring for the dog as a hospice situation. Five days into this they consulted with Dr. Matthews who gave homeopathic treatment.
Homeopathic Cure of Paralysis with the Remedy Lachesis
Julie Matthews, DVM, CVA (Acupuncture), CVH (Homeopathy)
Kodiak became suddenly paralyzed in all four limbs on January 24, 2014. Physical exam revealed paralysis of all four limbs. Deep pain with inability to withdraw the limbs was evident. Cranial nerves and swallowing were not visibly affected although his owners reported that Kodiak’s bark had changed. Megaesophagus was absent on lateral thoracic radiographs and neither regurgitation nor vomiting of food was present. Inability to urinate with retention of urine was noted. Spinal hyperesthesia (pain) was absent.
Physical signs were most consistent with lower motor neuron disease. Most likely differentials included idiopathic polyradiculoneuritis, coonhound paralysis, tick paralysis, botulism, and acute (fulminant) myasthenia gravis. Of these, idiopathic polyradiculoneuritis was deemed most likely, given the lack of exposure to ticks (snowy winter in Maine) and raccoons. Acute myasthenia and botulism were ruled out based on normal cranial nerve function as well as the absence of megaesophagus.
Kodiak presented to my hospital for a second opinion on the fifth day of paralysis. The owners had been providing hospice care, turning him from side to side regularly, massaging the limbs, and manually expressing the bladder as well as removing feces from the rectum. The emergency hospital at which Kodiak first presented five days earlier had prescribed Doxycycline(1) and Carprofen(2) and recommended referral to a neurologist.
Recent history revealed the presence of a new dog in the house for the past 5 months. Prior to that time Kodiak had been an “only child” enjoying the attention of both owners exclusively. Of particular interest was the activity in the past month whereby the male owner had taken to running daily with the new dog, leaving Kodiak at home.(3) His owners’ mentioned that Kodiak was weakest in the morning on waking, typical of snake remedies. Homeopathic repertorization suggested Lachesis(4) based on physical symptoms. In light of the case history and the prominent mind symptom of jealousy with this remedy, Lachesis fit the case well.
Treatment was started with a 30C potency of Lachesis on the day of presentation. As the following video shows, the response to the remedy was immediate and progressive. Increases in potency (200C, 1M) were administered when improvement stalled or failed to progress. At no time during treatment did Kodiak ever relapse or regress, walking with assistance within a few days and recovering fully in 3 weeks time.
(1) Doxycycline is an antibiotic that is used in the treatment of a number of types of infections caused by bacteria and protozoa. It is useful for bacterial pneumonia, acne, chlamydia infections, early Lyme disease, cholera and syphilis. It is also useful for the treatment of malaria when used with quinine and for the prevention of malaria.
(2) Carprofen, marketed under many brand names worldwide, is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) that veterinarians prescribe as a supportive treatment for various conditions in animals. It provides day-to-day treatment for pain and inflammation from various kinds of joint pain as well as post-operative pain.
(3) In homeopathic case workups we include possible emotional factors as in homeopathy the whole patient is looked at, not just the physical part. Dr. Matthews is including this as a possible factor, not necessarily the complete cause of the problem, but possibly the emotional stress (which we are translating to jealousy for sake of a better word) might have made Kodiak not as strong and more susceptible to whatever brought this on.
(4) Lachesis is a homeopathic remedy made from the venom of a South America snake. It is used because the symptoms of poisoning are similar to what this dog is manifesting, thus a similar medicine in homeopathic terms. So to assure you, the venom is prepared in a homeopathic pharmacy by sterilizing, and diluting it, so that there is no actual venom in the remedy given. The process releases the energetic aspect of the substance and this is what affects the patient (I know, already critiques of this statement are forming).
The thing to note in this case is that the paralysis had persisted, unchanged, for five days even though conventional use of antibiotics and anti-inflammatories had been used. In contrast as soon as homeopathic treatment was started the dog began to respond.
Referring back to the last post about the letter from the professor criticizing homeopathy a case like this would be attributed to imagination. The clients, presumably having such faith in homeopathy (actually I think they were completely new to it) imagined that their dog got up and started walking. To make the case of homeopathy to be ineffective, we have to instead bring to our minds the scenario of this poor dog remaining paralyzed with full bladder and rectum while the clients imagined their dog was better, that while doing this imagining they were out walking with an empty leash thinking the dog was with them. Amazing, isn’t it?
The video of this case, from 2014, has been on Youtube and there are a couple of critical comments to the video there that might be interesting to look at.
Comment 1: “Recovery was either due to antibiotics prescribed a few days earlier or natural clearance of infection. But very concerning that the owners failed to take medical advice and visited a homeopath rather than a neurologist. They got lucky it wasn’t more serious.”
Do you see how the prejudice is leaking out in this criticism? The dog had been on antibiotics and anti-inflammatories for five days with no response. The drugs were stopped and instead a homeopathic remedy used. Nonetheless, the improvement on day 6 was still due to the stopped antibiotics. Only the prejudiced mind can make such a stretch. How many cases of infection do we think get better after we stop giving the antibiotics?
Then even more odd is the statement that it was “very concerning” that the people turned to homeopathic treatment, that it wasn’t “more serious.” Are you kidding. Imagine it was you, you can’t use your arms or legs, can’t pee or poo, and you say it is “not serious”? Whew!
Comment 2: “Classic “post hoc ergo propter hoc” fallacy.”
The latin phrase here translates to that it is not logical to think that what was done before, is responsible for what happened after. In other words, it is not logical to assume that the homeopathic remedy given was related to the effect of the dog improving.
Again we see the prejudice looking at us over the hedge (though pretending to look wise). Is it a reasonable question for me to ask to consider that if this case and video were about a paralyzed dog that was treated with antibiotics there would not be such a comment? But why can’t it swing both ways? If one can question cause (which can be a smart thing to do) why would we not also question cause if a drug was being used?
Do you see in these comments how obvious it is that people that respond like this are coming from preformed judgments? The unexpressed assumption is that homeopathy cannot work. That assumed, all else follows. But should we not look at how such an assumption was acquired in the first place?
(to be continued)
In the last few years there has been an increasing criticism of the use of homeopathy as a medical treatment system. My suspicion is that this is happening because more and more people are using it and the other medical practitioners and the pharmaceutical companies are starting to feel it in their pocket books. In any case this is happening and it is increasingly annoying.
I want to give you a recent example of this and show how it is an example of prejudice, not the comments of a neutral observer. In the July 1, 2017 issue of the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association is a letter to the editor by a professor of pharmacology at the veterinary school in Virginia. Right away we can be suspicious in that it is written by a professor of pharmacology as such a person is obviously focused on, and committed, to the use of drugs in treatment. If a system like homeopathy comes along and says these drugs are not necessary and even that not using them and instead turning to homeopathy will be more effective, this is a threat to such a person.
I won’t put up the whole letter but rather focus on the part that is criticizing homeopathy. Here is the excerpt:
Botanical medicine, homeopathy, and the placebo effect
The AVMA is currently exploring two aspects of complementary and alternative medicine: a petition before the AVMA American Board of Veterinary Specialties for recognition of the American College of Veterinary Botanical Medicine and a recent news report on the role of homeopathy in the veterinary profession.
As explained in the recent JAVMA News report homeopathy is an 18th-century notion that rests on two basic principles: “the idea that a substance capable of causing particular symptoms in a healthy individual will cure similar symptoms in a person with disease” (the so-called “law of similars”) and the idea that these substances retain their medicinal properties when highly diluted (so-called “potentization”). Large scale studies have shown that homeopathic preparations are not effective and that their reported positive actions are nothing more than a result of placebo effects. In veterinary medicine, some species—especially dogs. cats, and horses—may seem to react positively to placebos, but this generally is a result of conditioned responses to human-animal interactions, such as touch, voice, and visual cues. In addition, a phenomenon known as placebo-by-proxy has been described. by which an optimistic animal owner (or even the veterinarian) may imagine improvements in a sick patient when no true benefit has occurred.
As for homeopathy there seems little justification for recognizing a modality that has not been shown to be effective. The AVMA’s position is clear: “all aspects of veterinary medicine should be held to the same standards, including complementary, alternative and integrative veterinary medicine, non-traditional or other novel approaches.” When we ignore this basic principle, we undermine our credibility as a science based profession.
Notice the use of this language “homeopathy is an 18th-century notion.” I think I can say with some confidence that when this professor talks about the idea of using drugs in amounts enough to influence the body he does not introduce it by saying “use of drugs is a 6th century notion.” (I don’t know if 6th century is accurate, just picking it for effect.) To say “18th century” is to make is sound old and antiquated. Then to use the word “notion” it is a judgment. It is not a principle or a hypothesis, it is a notion. The dictionary defines “notion” as “a belief about something” or “a desire or impulse.” Obviously this denigrates the principle of homeopathic work, the great discovery made by Dr. Hahnemann that medicines could act in this way. It is an indication of pre-judgment, of prejudice.
The next thing to note is the statement “Large scale studies have shown that homeopathic preparations are not effective and that their reported positive actions are nothing more than a result of placebo effects.” What does large scale studies mean? A large number of test subjects? isn’t the critical factor in a study the decision if it is statistically significant or not? We don’t base the evaluation of something because a large number were involved. It depends on how it was set up and if properly controlled. By this standard there are many double-blind, controlled studies of homeopathic treatment that show greater effectiveness than the conventional use of drugs. Why is this ignored?
Then the most outrageous statement of them all is that any perceived effectiveness of homeopathy is due to “placebo.” When the word placebo is used this way it is dismissive, in other words, it is imagination, not real. The professor of veterinary medicine is actually saying that even though there are case reports of animals improving with homeopathic treatment it is all imaginary. In case it is too much a stretch to think that placebos act on animals (because they do not know what they are receiving), we will instead say the client has brought about imaginary improvement because of the way they interact with and touch their animal during the treatment. Is this a stretch or what? I can say, after 50 years of being a veterinarian, that I have not seen this correlation. Sure, it is important how the client thinks and acts towards their animal but this does not show up clearly as the factor that determines if the animal is better or not. Isn’t it incredible that instead of allowing the possibility that homeopathy may be an effective modality this person, ignorant of homeopathy, would make the statement that the clients of homeopathic practitioners are imagining improvements in their animals?
For one thing, there are many clients that come to us that use homeopathy and they are doubtful or skeptical about using this method yet will report improvements. But this ridiculous statement becomes more clearly so if we turn it around. Let us say that “placebo-by-proxy” is a significant happening in medicine. If so, does this not also apply to clients who report their animals are better with allopathic treatment? Or is the author of this letter saying this happens only with homeopathy?
Do you see the lack of intelligence in a letter like this? First of all it is coming from prejudice, a pre-formed conclusion, one made without any personal experience or study. It basically is what this professor was told by someone else. Then to ignore double-blind studies that have shown effectiveness of homeopathic treatment is to act with blinders. The final evidence is making the statement that when improvement with homeopathy is reported it is only imaginations of the client. This is not the action of intelligence, it is simply a closed mind expressing its limitations.
Unfortunately this is commonly the sort of criticisms being put out these days. It is blind, emotional, and ignorant and eventually will have to end. In the meantime those of us that use homeopathy in treatment (in my case now almost 40 years) continue to do so and see wonderful outcomes.
July 1, 2017, Vol. 251, No. 1, Pages 29-31