Homeopathy: Healing Some, Harming Others

The Physicians Committee

Beyond Animal Research

By Jonathan Balcombe, Ph.D.
December 2005

Homeopathy: Healing Some, Harming Others

My local paper recently profiled the Samueli Institute for Information Biology (SIIB), a nonprofit medical research organization that emphasizes complementary medicine, such as acupuncture and homeopathy, a system of medical practice that treats a disease especially by the administration of minute doses of a remedy that would in healthy persons produce symptoms similar to those of the disease.

The organization’s stated mission is strongly geared towards healing, and its goals include alleviating suffering, enhancing well being, and establishing sustainable healthcare approaches. So far, so good.

Then I noticed that the article mentioned animal studies.

Troubled and somewhat incredulous that animals might be harmed in homeopathy studies, I visited the SIIB website. Among dozens of laudable clinical studies, the site also described two ongoing homeopathy studies using animals, including one in which rats are infected with viruses and killed.

Delving further, I soon learned that animal studies of homeopathy have been going on for more than 20 years. Here is a sample:

  • In Rome, Italy, rats had blood injected into their feet to cause inflammation, then were dosed with the homeopathic anti-inflammatory Trumeel S and bled five hours later to assess response.1
  • In Baroda, India, rats were poisoned with lead at various doses, then given two homeopathic drugs to assess response.2
  • In Sao Paulo, Brazil, rats were fed a diet conducive to tooth decay to evaluate the effect of homeopathic medicines on their teeth.3
  • At the University of Kalyani, India, liver cancer was induced in mice to assess treatment with homeopathic drugs.4
  • In Melbourne, Australia, 52 mice were used to establish a lethal dose of hydrochloride injected into the abdomen; then 158 more mice were similarly injected to assess a homeopathic treatment.5
  • In Bethesda, Maryland, 142 mice were infected with the lethal bacterium Francisella tularensis and observed for how long it took them to die with or without homeopathic doses of the bacterium.6
  • In Rehovot, Israel, chronic wounds were inflicted on the ears of mice using dental wire, which was left hanging to cause persistent mechanical irritation. Wound size was measured daily with and without homeopathic treatment.7

Plainly, these studies were not done in the interests of the animals involved. Harming these animals makes a mockery of claims of healing and underscores a profound indifference toward others. A comprehensively healing medicine should include all feeling species in its purview and uphold the following values from SIIB’s own list: beneficence, integrity, respect, and joy. My next column will explore approaches more in keeping with such values.

1. Lussignoli S, Bertani S, Metelmann H, Bellavite P, Conforti A. Effect of Traumeel S, a homeopathic formulation, on blood-induced inflammation in rats.
Complement Ther Med. 1999;7:225-230.
2. Begum R, Koshy R, Sengupta A. Effect of homeopathic drugs plumbum and opium on experimentally induced lead toxicity in rats.
Indian J Exp Biol. 1994;32:192-195.
3. Almeida NT, Dalmeida V, Pustiglione M. The effect of fluorine and homeopathic medicines in rats fed cariogenic diet.
Homeopathy. 2004;93:138-143.
4. Biswas SJ, Khuda-Bukhsh AR. Evaluation of protective potentials of a potentized homeopathic drug, Chelidonium majus, during azo dye induced hepatocarcinogenesis in mice.
Indian J Exp Biol. 2004;42:698-714.
5. Kuzeff RM, Topashka-Ancheva MN, Mecheva RP. Inhibition of (-)-trans-(1S,2S)-U50488 hydrochloride by its enantiomer in white mice -- a placebo-controlled, randomized study.
Forsch Komplementarmed Klass Naturheilkd. 2004;11:144-149.
6. Jonas WB. Do homeopathic nosodes protect against infection? An experimental test.
Altern Ther Health Med. 1999;5:36-40.
7. Oberbaum M, Markovits R, Weisman Z, Kalinkevits A, Bentwich Z.  [Wound healing by homeopathic silica dilutions in mice (article in Hebrew)]
Harefuah. 1992;123:79-82.