Homeopathy in a nutshell – for beginners

The image shows four common homeopathic remedies in glass bottles.

Homeopathy – a method from the transition from 18th to 19th century

Homeopathy is a therapeutic concept developed by the German doctor Samuel Hahnemann at the time of the French Revolution. It is therefore inevitable that it is based on concepts of health, illness and life, which originate from a time when very little was known in the field of natural science. Chemistry, physics, biology, physiology were poorly developed and Hahnemann had to fit his observations into a more still mystical world view and then draw his conclusions. The fact that he was quite successful in this was in all probability mostly due to the ineffective and harmful methods of the medicine of the time. Every less aggressive type of medicine had inevitably to appear advantageous, but therefore not necessarily leads to are regarded as effective.

Today, however, medicine has developed into a much more powerful system due to the scientific approach that has gradually been emerged since the Enlightenment. Whereby the significant discoveries that shape our medicine today were only made long after Hahnemann’s death (1843). The old concepts from pre-scientific times have been examined for their validity and, if necessary, discarded.  This cleansing of the doctrine has not taken place in homeopathy, and Hahnemann’s major works from the first half of the19th century, such as the “Organon der rationalen Heilkunde“, are still standard works, and many therapists in classical homeopathy still follow them today.

Homeopathy from today’s perspective

It is therefore not surprising that the homeopathy practised today cannot stand up to a scientific examination of its principles and concepts. This scientific approach is characterised by the fact that methods are used to avoid or quickly uncover misconceptions and errors in gaining knowledge. This also means that statements must not contradict certain knowledge of other scientific fields. Thus, contradictions between scientific knowledge and medical methods lead to a consistent review and, if necessary, revision of medicine. It is quite different in the case of homeopathy: there are a whole series of essential contradictions between certain scientific findings and homeopathy, but these are not taken into account by the users.

These contradictions are by no means marginal, but concern the fundamental statements of homeopathy:

    • There is no vital life force whose balance means health and which should be influenced by homeopathy.
    • A principle of similarity as a general rule, especially for use in pharmacology, is not known to natural science.
    • The symptoms that have occurred in healthy test persons in a homeopathic drug trial are not a suitable basis for determining the areas of application and effectiveness of the drug under investigation.
    • Potentiating the remedies, whereby the concentration of the active ingredient decreases until it is no longer present in the preparation, does not lead to an increase of effectiveness.
    • Miasmas (“inherited primeval evils”), which can be attributed to a few basic diseases such as gonorrhoea, scabies or genital warts, do not exist and are therefore not causes of chronic diseases.

A therapy system based on these principles leads not to effectiveness: neither due to the agent used nor beyond placebo effects. Nevertheless, the advocates of homeopathy cite evidence to prove the contrary; justifications and assumptions are made to make the effectiveness plausible, even suggesting that the scientific approach is unsuitable for homeopathy.

Our information offer

On our pages, you will find many articles that deal with the content of such statements, for example why the phrase “He who heals is right” is misleading, why case reports are not suitable as proof of effectiveness, why old knowledge is initially simply old and not necessarily true, and why assertions must be proven, and by whoever makes them.

We also look at how homeopathy is anchored in the health care system. You can learn about why, when homeopathic preparations are approved, it is sufficient for homeopaths to believe that the remedy is effective or why health insurance companies cover the costs of homeopathy and doctors acquire the additional title “homeopathy”. You can read about this in the various open letters in which we have contacted health care representatives with the aim of change this.

Finally, you will find several disputes with analogues that are not very sound, for example, why a CD is not a model for storing information in water, why nanoparticles cannot provide any justification for the effectiveness of homeopathy, and why the study situation does not justify the statements made by homeopaths at all.

You will certainly find even more interesting aspects on our site – and if we were able to make you aware of the scientific approach, which often seems complicated for outsiders (it’s not that incomprehensible!), this is a thoroughly desirable side effect.

Have a look around! Already in this article, you will find many links to individual contributions. Our Frequently Asked Questions offer a comprehensive  overview. Have a look at the menu items “Briefly explained” and “Points of view” where a lot of topics can be found; a complete overview of all our articles by keyword can be found here. And you are welcome to ask us more at anfrage@netzwerk-homoeopathie.info!

Udo Endruscheit

Picture shows a portrait of Udo Endruscheit, one of the spokesmen of the INH
Udo Endruscheit (Credits: M. Endruscheit)

I am a retired civil servant in the higher civil service and was professionally involved for decades with problem-solving strategies and error detection. As a freelance lecturer at a University of Applied Sciences, I have worked with my students on logical-analytic thinking and argumentation techniques. I don’t have a medical education – but do you need it as a critic of homeopathy? I think: No. A view focused solely on the medicine may even encourage an uncritical adoption of established methods or of what one believes to be such. Basic scientific knowledge and critical-rational thinking are sufficient, but also necessary conditions for recognising the absurdity of the method and being able to argue for it. To quote Maxim Gorki: You do not need to have been inside the frying pan to be able to write about a schnitzel.

In my earlier years, homeopathy was more of a reason to shake my head. Occasional discussions gave me an idea of the potential for conflict in the subject. I was confronted with the real consequences of believing in homeopathy when my wife fell ill with cancer. Suddenly there was “good advice” from everywhere, both from relatives and acquaintances as well as during hospital stays by “word of mouth”. I’ve seen some clinical cases, which in one way or another suffered serious disadvantages due to the turn to homeopathy. Thereupon I started with homeopathy-critical contributions in the social media and in the blogosphere. This led me to the Information Network Homeopathy in 2016, where I have been trying to support its educational work ever since.

Why do I do this? Firstly, because I identify with the aims of the Freiburg Declaration on Homeopathy of the INH. Furthermore, I see the irrational anchoring of homeopathy in the general consciousness as a symptom and at the same time as a cause of the tendency towards irrationality and scientific scepticism in the general public. Criticism of homeopathy is therefore much more than mere criticism of a medical method: homeopathy is not only an obstacle on the way to a generally better medicine; it also stands in the way of an urgently needed deeper understanding of rationality and science by the general public. In short: As long as it is possible to sell ineffective sugar pills to the people on a large scale as medicine (and this is even privileged by law), it will not be possible to arouse acceptance for scientifically based problem solutions in other, even more, problematic areas.

You can find out more about the INH and me in an interview with the “Skeptical Inquirer”, the (online) magazine of the US skeptics association CFI (in English).


Please write to me at endruscheit@netzwerk-homoeopathie.info.

You can find me on Twitter under @UEndruscheit.

Prof. Dr. Jutta Hübner

Picture shows Prof. Dr. Jutta Huebner, head and spokeswoman of the INH
Professor Dr. Jutta Huebner – Credits: UKJ/Schroll

I am an oncologist and palliative physician and have been working for over 30 years with and for patients who have a serious illness.

Since 2017 I have held an endowed professorship for Integrative Oncology of the German Cancer Aid Foundation at the University Hospital Jena. In addition to research on the various methods of complementary and alternative medicine, I and my colleagues are very intensively involved in the needs of patients.

To accompany patients and their relatives in a good way is my most important concern. But what does “good” mean in this context?

First of all, good is good medicine – in other words, therapies that are as effective as possible with as few side effects as possible. The goal is lifetime and quality of life.

But good also means “well informed”. Patients have a right to comprehensive information about their disease and the various options for diagnosis and therapy, which can be understood by laypersons. Unfortunately, this does not yet work as well as it should in our health care system, especially when patients themselves are to actively participate in making decisions about complex therapies and life-threatening disease.

Many of our patients with cancer and their relatives but also patients with other diseases ask themselves if naturopathy can help them and therefore come to me for counselling. This often involves the question of whether naturopathy alone would be able to help them – without “the chemistry”. While minor illnesses such as a cold can be alleviated very well with naturopathy and disappear on their own, this does not apply to cancer. To tell this the patient honestly is not always easy. But naturopathy can help patients tolerate cancer therapy better – and thus it can also contribute to a better therapy outcome.

I am often asked by patients about homeopathy. Most people are not even aware that homeopathy has nothing to do with naturopathy at all. Naturopathy means to help with natural remedies – e.g. with effective medicinal plants, heat or cold applications etc.. However, homeopathic remedies are not only made from natural substances but very different things. Moreover, the higher “potentiated” – i.e. diluted – homeopathic remedies do not contain anything at all – i.e. also no nature.

Some doctors think that the patient should be allowed to take sugar pills without active substances – belief helps and cannot harm. Is that so? – I think not. Again and again, I have particularly tragic cases in the consultation hours, in which patients with a still curable cancer first used homeopathic globules – and realized too late that the cancer is growing and cannot be cured anymore. Much more often, however, my experience is that patients namely rely on conventional medicine for their cancer remedies, but at the same time try to use globules to alleviate the discomfort caused by the tumour disease or the side effects of tumour therapy, what leads them to avoid effective painkillers or medication against nausea.

To prevent this, we need informed and responsible patients, honest, committed doctors, better training of our medical students, doctors and nurses, on what serious naturopathy is and can achieve, critical media and a courageous policy that demands the same scientific proof of effectiveness for all that which wants to be recognised as “medicines”.

In addition to my work at the University Hospital Jena, I am head of the working group Prevention and Integrative Oncology in the German Cancer Society. A few years ago I established an own foundation (Foundation Perspectives for People with Cancer), which supports various projects for patients and operates a knowledge portal on complementary and alternative medicine.

Dr. Christian W. Lübbers

Photo of Dr. Christian W. Lübbers, one of three speakers of the INH
Dr. Christian W. Lübbers

I am an ENT specialist and I’m pracising in my own surgery in Upper Bavaria. My motivation as a doctor is to offer honest medicine for all patients. Part of this honesty is telling the patient what helps and what does not help. As tempting as the ideas about homeopathy may sound, I experience every day in practice that globules do not help with illnesses and do not bring any improvement.

I came into contact with the Homeopathy Information Network in January 2017 when I published on Twitter a homeopathic mistreatment that had particularly shocked me. A four-year-old girl was given globules to treat a purulent middle ear infection. Not to swallow, but to the ear canal on the inflamed eardrum.  I must admit, I almost got into a froth thereby. It is important to me to take the patients seeking help seriously and to listen to them.

Contact: Dr. Lübbers on Twitter

You can find more about me on the German Wikipedia

Dr. Norbert Aust

Das Bild zeigt den Initiator und Mitgründer und einen der Sprecher des INH, Dr. Nobert Aust.
Dr.-Ing. Norbert Aust

Homeopathy as an effective treatment? Even without any active ingredient? This is a scientifically proven fact our friend said. Even if it failed on me, she said, it served her fine after all. This made me curious about how this proof was established. Is it possible, that something could be shown to work which is impossible by any scientific standard? What is wrong? Physics or this evidence? How do you know that some remedy is effective anyway?

This triggered me to consider homeopathy, its claims and evidence with the eyes of an engineer. The results of my review found their way into a book and a blog, where I try to show in detail how invalid the evidence really is. It is based on errors in design and performance of clinical studies, in data assessment and evaluation or simply on a lack of logic or an unclear description. You cannot help and check for the tenets themselves in their context. You realise the high claims of homeopathy and the methods deployed to avoid to provide any proof. Health insurance companies, universities, medical chambers, politics, all promote homeopathy instead to focus on a medicine based on science and evidence and to fight deceptions and quackery as would be their obligation.

Because I do not consider this development to be a positive one I strive to share information about homeopathy to the public. It should be understood as what it really is: a long since outdated teaching whose basics are unsupported by modern science and that could be subject for study as a feature of the history of medicine – if at all. I am running a blog “Beweisaufnahme in Sachen Homöopathie” (“Taking on evidence in homeopathy”) with a few articles in English.

Write to me at aust@netzwerk-homoeopathie.info

Literatur- und Blogempfehlungen

Literatur über Homöopathie gibt es unglaublich viel. Kritische Bücher und Blogs sind dabei sehr selten. Viele davon stammen von Mitgliedern unseres Netzwerks, die sich fundiert mit den Irrtümern der Homöopathie befassen.

Wir empfehlen Ihnen:

Bücher unserer Mitglieder

Aust, Norbert: In Sachen Homöopathie – eine Beweisaufnahme, Eigenverlag, 2013

Berndt, Edmund: Der Pillendreh, Ein Apotheker packt aus, Edition Va bene, 2009

Ernst, Edzard: Nazis, Nadeln und Intrigen, Erinnerungen eines Skeptikers, JMB Verlag, 2015

Ernst, Edzard; Singh, Simon: Gesund ohne Pillen – was kann die Alternativmedizin? Hanser Verlag, 2009

Ernst, Edzard: Homöopathie – Die Fakten [unverdünnt], Springer Heidelberg, 2018

Ernst, Edzard: SchmU: Schein-medizinischer Unfug, JMB Verlag, 2019

Grams, Natalie: Homöopathie neu gedacht, Was Patienten wirklich hilft, Springer Verlag, 2015 (2. Auflage 2017) – Englische Ausgabe “Homeopathy reconsidered – What Patients really helps”, 2019

Grams, Natalie: Gesundheit! Ein Buch nicht ohne Nebenwirkungen; Springer Verlag, 2017

Lambeck, Martin: Irrt die Physik? Über alternative Medizin und Esoterik, Beck Verlag, 2003

Much, Theodor: Der große Bluff: Irrwege und Lügen der Alternativmedizin, Goldegg Verlag, 2013

Mukerji, Nikil: Die 10 Gebote des gesunden Menschenverstandes – Zentrale Regeln vernünftigen Denkens, Springer Verlag, 2017

Schmacke, Norbert: Der Glaube an die Globuli. Die Verheißungen der Homöopathie, Suhrkamp Verlag, 2015

Vahle, Wolfgang: Nichts als Ohren im Kopf: Faszinierende Welten im Spiegel eines HNO-Arztes

Weymayr, Christian; Heißmann, Nicole: Die Homöopathie -Lüge: So gefährlich ist die Lehre von den weißen Kügelchen, Piper Verlag, 2012


Blogs unserer Mitglieder

Beweisaufnahme Homöopathie

Diaphanoskopie

Edzard Ernst

Excanwahn Bullshit! – Anmerkungen zur Alternativmedizin und anderem Unsinn

GWUP

Homöotology – sanfte Infos zum Sektenausstieg 

Keineahnungvongarnix

Ratgebernewsblog


Weitere empfehlenswerte Bücher

Dobelli, Rolf: Die Kunst des klaren Denkens: 52 Denkfehler, die Sie besser anderen überlassen, Hanser Verlag, 2011

Goldacre, Ben: Die Wissenschaftslüge, Wie uns Pseudo-Wissenschaftler das Leben schwer machen, Fischer Verlag, 2010

Goldacre, Ben: Die Pharma-Lüge, Wie Arzneimittelkonzerne Ärzte irreführen und Patienten schädigen, Kiebenheuer und Witsch Verlag, 2013

Kahneman, Daniel: Schnelles Denken, langsames Denken, Penguin Pocketbook, 2016

Lammers, Christoph; Graf, Dittmar: Anders heilen? Wo die Alternativmedizin irrt, Alibri Verlag, 2015

Wo ist der Beweis? Plädoyer für eine evidenzbasierte Medizin – Buch im Volltext als PDF – kostenlos


Weitere interessante Blogs

Geschichten aus der Kinderarztpraxis (“Kinderdok”)

Gesunder Menschenverstand 

Gesundheitscheck

Krebsinformationsdienst

Naturwissenschaftliche Bildung: “Mit Nichts lässt sich viel Geld verdienen – wenn es überzeugend verkauft wird. Was Schlehmihl aus der Sesamstrasse nur versucht, gelingt der Homöopathie wesentlich besser, und das seit über 200 Jahren. Jährlich geben die Deutschen mehr als eine halbe Milliarde Euro für homöopathische Mittel aus. Ein glänzendes Geschäft, denn der Materialeinsatz ist äußerst überschaubar.”

Ratioblog


Bildnachweis: Fotolia 62974061 Davis

Freiburg Declaration on Homeopathy

Freiburg, location of the foundation meeting of the Information Network Homoeopathy

In accordance to the Marburg Declaration *), we wrote the Freiburg Declaration on Homeopathy at our INH foundation meeting. It presents our position focused and can be co-signed here.

We declare:

Homeopathy is neither naturopathy nor medicine

Despite the political support and the silence of those who should know better, homeopathy is and remains a procedure that clearly contradicts sound scientific foundations. The members and promoters of the “Information Network Homeopathy” see homeopathy as a persistent doctrine that is neither naturopathy nor medicine. Doctors, pharmacists, veterinarians, biologists, natural scientists and other committed critics of homeopathy have come together in the network, which unites the goal of bringing this often veiled fact more clearly into the consciousness of society.

No special status for homeopathy

In more than 200 years of its existence, homeopathy has not managed to prove its specific effectiveness according to objective criteria. Rather, it survives only because it has a special status in the German health system, which the experts of the network do not believe it deserves. While pharmaceutical drugs have to prove their effectiveness according to objective criteria, homeopathy is exempt from this. We oppose such a two-tier system in medicine.

Homeopathy has also failed to demonstrate a plausible mechanism of action. Instead, its representatives give the impression that there are still uncertainties needed to be clarified. We vehemently contradict this. Homeopathy is not an unconventional method that requires further scientific examination. Its foundation consists of long-disproved theses such as the “rule of similarity”, the “vital force” or the “potentiation by dilution”.

Self-deception of patient and therapist

We don’t deny any therapeutic effects that can be achieved within the framework of homeopathic treatment. However, these have nothing to do with the specifically administered homeopathic remedy. Rather, the presumed and supposedly experienced effectiveness of homeopathic preparations is based on the suggestion and autosuggestion of patients and therapists. The mechanisms of such (self-)deceptions are manifold, but well known and researched. Improvements in well-being caused by contextual effects cannot and must not be causally attributed to the homeopathic remedy. We assume that many homeopathic physicians and alternative practitioners are not aware of the existence and variety of such mechanisms and act with the best of intentions. However, this does not change the fact that the conclusions they draw are wrong and can, therefore, be harmful.

Medicine and Science

We are by no means claiming that the scientific method we advocate can currently recognize and explain everything. But it enables us to explain that homeopathy cannot explain itself. And it is the best way we have to distinguish effective treatments from ineffective ones. A belief in the promise of salvation that is firmly anchored in the population, which is further nourished by interested parties, politics, and journalism, can never be a guideline for action in medicine.

Our aim of this declaration

The goals of our criticism are neither the patient seeking healing nor the individual homeopathically working therapist, but the established doctrine and the institutions of the health care system, which could recognize the absurdity of homeopathy long ago, but nevertheless do not intervene. We call upon the actors of the scientifically based health care system to finally turn away from homeopathy and other pseudo-medical procedures and return to what should be taken for granted: Scientifically validated, fair and generally comprehensible rules for high-quality medicine, geared to the well-being of patients.

Freiburg, February 2016


Authors:

Dr.-Ing. Norbert Aust, Initiator Information Network Homeopathy
Dr. med. Natalie Grams, Head of Information Network Homeopathy
Amardeo Sarma, GWUP Chairman and Fellow of CSI (Committee for Skeptical Inquiry)

First signatories:

Prof. Dr. Edzard Ernst, University of Exeter, UK
Prof. Dr. Rudolf Happle, author of the Marburg Declaration on Homeopathy
Professor Dr. Wolfgang Hell, chairman of the science board of the GWUP
Prof. Norbert Schmacke, Institute for Public Health and Nursing Research, University of Bremen
Dr. rer. nat. Christian Weymayr, freelance medical journalist

Here is an online petition where you can co-sign if you agree with our statement: Sign now!

Status: 2.229 signatories (07.02.2020)


*) Given 1992 by the medical faculty of the University of Marburg, Germany, against the attempt to make homeopathy compulsory in medical curricula

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