Alternative medicine is a medical practice that is generally founded on metaphysical beliefs. Many a times, alternative medicine is found to be antiscientific. The practice of alternative medicine has progressively become popular in the recent past decades with more and more patients preferring alternative medicine to modern scientific medicine (Skeptic dictionary, 2009). Alternative medicine practice falls into five main categories as classified by National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM). These include alternative medical systems such as acupuncture, ayurveda, homeopathy, and naturopathic medicine; mind-body interventions like art therapy, dance therapy, hypnotherapy and meditation; biologically-based therapies like diet supplements, herbal products and megavitamins; manipulative and body-based methods such as chiropractic massage therapy, osteotherapy, reflexology and acupressure and finally energy therapies like biofield therapies (e.g. therapeutic touch and Qi gong) and bioelectromagnetic-based therapies like pulsed fields and magnetic fields (Wong, 2009).
With a lot of controversy arising as to whether alternative medicine is quackery, this paper focuses on homeopathy with specific attention on the way it is believed to work and the various controversial issues about homeopathy such as dilution problem, quantum entanglement, and clinical evidence and whether it is simply an elaborate placebo.
Homeopathy is a system of medicine whereby individuals are treated with natural substances which are highly diluted. These remedies trigger the body’s natural healing power thereby providing relief from physical and emotional states. The principle of homeopathy is Similia Similibus Curenturc meaning that “let likes cure likes”. The implication of this is that if a substance can bring about signs and symptoms in a health individual, the same substance can be used in curing the same signs and symptoms in such a person (Holistic Being, 2009). Homeopathy identifies an individual’s unique health state and thus homeopathic preparations are customized for each individual.
Samuel Hahnemann (1755-1843) is believed to be the one who came up with homeopathy. The German physician was stirred by the medical practices that existed then such as bleeding and purging which did not satisfy him. The “Principle of Similars” according to Hahnemann was based on the philosophy that disease is due to a vital force or spirit and diseases are not material due to the fact that foreign materials are removed from the blood system immediately they get introduced. As such, Hahnemann believed that knowledge of the symptoms of a disease would help in looking up for substances that stimulated the same symptoms in a healthy person. Hahnemann together with his followers tested the effects of about 100 substances on themselves by taking in a small amount of specific substances and noting likely reaction thereby giving “prove” that a certain substance would cure a certain symptom successfully. It is unfortunate that healthy controls showed related symptoms with a homeopathic dilution intended for belladonna or with a placebo (Ramey, Wagner, Imrie & Stenger, 2009).
The principle of “infinitesimal dilutions” in homeopathy was based on the minuscule doses that individuals used to ingest during tests. The doses were that small since they were generally toxic as in the case with snake venoms and poison ivy. There are allegations that the most dilute remedy is the most potent in homeopathy practice. It is however critical on the benefits of high dilutions. The high dilutions can be such that the molecules that are believed to be curative are no more in the remedy due to increased dilutions. High dilution liquids are also required to remain with the smallest remedial substance which is highly potent. The suggestion by homeopaths that water has a memory lacks scientific basis and therefore not highly supported by many scientists. The debate...
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