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Homeopathic basic research: state of research and quests for the future
24 January 2018 (online)
Homeopathy relies on two basic tenets: the simile principle and the potentisation procedure. The validity of these presumptions is being questioned since there seems to be no obvious scientific basis supporting justifiable application in pharmacy and medicine. Nevertheless, homeopathy is being practised and many patients as well as practitioners are quite satisfied with clinical outcome in daily practice. However, the lacking understanding does lead not only to problems with legal recognition, integration into public healthcare and reimbursement by health insurances, but also hampers further development and optimisation of homeopathic therapy. Therefore, development of a deeper understanding of the two basic tenets of homeopathy is of ultimate importance.
Only few basic research projects seem to have been performed to investigate the simile principle. The fundamental pioneering work of van Wijk and Wiegant so far has not been taken up by any other research team. Determination of the areas of applicability of the simile principle is an important task, as is the elucidation of the mode of action.
Comparably more research has been carried out to investigate the potentisation procedure. However, I currently do not know any laboratory model that reproducibly yields specific effects of highly diluted homeopathic potencies in different laboratories, and I do not know any theory that would satisfyingly explain any such specific effects of ultramolecular potencies. Thus I think that the following two main topics have to be addressed in the next years: development of optimal laboratory models to identify specificity and reproducibility of homeopathic effects, and identification of the long-sought-for mode of action of highly diluted potencies.
Are there any experimental laboratory systems that reliably yield reproducible evidence for specific effects of homeopathic potencies? To resolve this question, it will be necessary to investigate various model systems in parallel in different laboratories to determine any necessary and sufficient conditions for successful reproducibility; until now, according to my knowledge, corresponding parameters could be identified for three model systems only. Optimisation of the laboratory models does involve the choice of the test organism in a defined physiological state, an adapted potentised substance in an adequate potency level applied in an optimal route and dosage as well as optimal outcome measures. Furthermore, it will be necessary to develop model systems that not only demonstrate empirical effects of single homeopathic remedies, but also differentiate effects of different potentised substances. Thus, model systems have to be simple and cost-effective to enable easy implementation in other laboratories, and to allow multiple parameters to be tested in parallel (e.g. different substances and/or potency levels). Finally, stability of any experimental system used must be demonstrated by systematic negative control (SNC) experiments on a routine basis.
Identification of the mode of action of highly diluted homeopathic remedies is the ultimate goal of homeopathic basic research. This involves determination of the general type of interaction present between homeopathic potency and test organism: local material-like, force-like, or non-local entanglement-like. This not only implies precise investigations of homeopathic preparations by sophisticated physicochemical methods, but also experimental approaches to test Hahnemann's premise of force-like effects of homeopathic potencies. Furthermore, the general nature of the effects of homeopathic potencies has to determined: reproducibly deterministic, chaotic or inherently indeterministic. Solid experimental data regarding these questions will enable development of a precise theoretical framework, ultimately resulting in a thorough understanding of homeopathic effects.