Is homeopathy and allopathy safe together

With allopathy and homeopathy it's all a question of the dose



by Thomas Scior, Puebla, Mexico

In contrast to allopathy, homeopathic teaching assumes that the bioactivity of a remedy increases when it is diluted. In earlier medicine this observation was often correct, since overdosing did more harm than good to the patient. Dose facit remedium: The individualization of the amount of medicinal substance seems to be the adequate answer of allopathy to the obvious harmlessness of homeopathic preparations.

In the course of the last few decades, the molecular mechanism of action of many drugs has been clarified. This always involves a physico-chemical interaction at the molecular level between the active ingredient and the biological tissue, i.e. with cellular or extracellular stereochemical substructures. Receptor-ligand models serve as an explanation in many cases and represent an important chapter in modern pharmacology. This is an integral part of academic medicine and pharmacy training.

For this area of ​​today's pharmacotherapy, the founder of the homeopathic healing process, Samuel Hahnemann (1755 to 1843), coined the term allopathy. It is derived from the Greek words for "allos", other, and "pathos", suffering. In short, the disease or disease is combated by another, opposing substance.

Dose facit venenum

Since ancient times man has known that the harmful effects of a substance up to poisoning increase with the dose taken, which can be found in Latin doctrines such as "dose facit venenum". In contrast to this, homeopathy uses the gradual dilution, the "potentization", in order to increase the medicinal effect. The pharmacist processes small quantities of substances which, according to the rules of homeopathy, trigger the same ("homeo") symptoms in larger quantities, into homeopathic medicinal forms.

The main difference between the two pharmacotherapeutic worlds lies in the amount of bioactive substance that is administered to the patient. The importance of the concentration of active substances in the human body can be shown scientifically by describing the frequency of desired and undesired effects depending on the dose administered. Nevertheless, the complexity of each disease enables a very large number of clinical pictures or variability.

More than the manual repair of a technical defect, which follows the strict laws of classical physics reliably and always reproducibly, the treatment of the living reaches the magical dimension of an "art". After all, humans can be described as a galactic puzzle of over 70 trillion cells with around 1030 biochemical reactions.

Dose variation in allopathy

The allopathic treatment is based on the legally required principles of effectiveness and harmlessness. In general, based on medical experience, standard doses of medicinal substances are applied, which are also listed in dosage tables for specialist groups. However, one does not necessarily achieve an optimal biological response of the body with standard doses. Severe to fatal damage can occur, for example, in renal insufficiency. Meanwhile, the rhythmic influence of the time of day has been scientifically proven by chronopharmacology.

The doctor adjusts the amount in the individual case to personal requirements such as age, weight or metabolism. The pharmacist will discuss the deviations from the dosage regimes specified in the package insert when dispensing the drug.

Homeopathy: dilution or potentiation

In contrast to allopathic pharmacology, homeopathic teaching speaks of the increase in the bioactivity of a medicinal product when diluted. In earlier medicine this observation was probably often correct, and the conclusions that its founder Hahnemann drew saved the lives of many patients.

It is assumed that the composer of classical Viennese court music, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, died very young from chronic poisoning. At that time, mercury, a metal that was liquid at room temperature, was an integral part of many "cleaning" agents due to its laxative effect. Two centuries ago, however, nothing was known about the existence of the therapeutic dose, which lies between the sub-therapeutic and toxic or lethal dose. Remedies had to be "strong" in their effect or simply "strengthen" the sick person.

It can be assumed that some disease progression seriously deteriorated iatrogenically. The doctors administered all sorts of powders made from minerals, metal dust, animal and plant parts to the patient in fantastic quantities, which today would simply be qualified as an overdose. In these cases, reducing the amount of substance improved the patient's condition because the plasma concentration dropped from the toxic to the harmless, therapeutic to sub-therapeutic range.

This positive, sometimes life-saving experience led Hahnemann to believe that the other cases could also be cured by targeted dilution. His teaching spread widely in the nineteenth century, when dosimetry was still unknown to medicine. Homeopathy as a harmless and personal treatment is increasingly benefiting from the psychosomatic properties of certain disease processes.

It's the amount that matters

The relationship between the desired effect and side effect plays a prominent role in the decision about the adjustment of the standardized intake regimen for allopathic drugs. The minimum dose in the therapeutic range develops the full drug effect while at the same time reducing side effects. In the case of (too) high application quantities, as is mandatory in chemotherapy, for example, there is a "pushing to the foreground" of side effects that the cancer patient increasingly perceives as unbearable.

Nowadays, dosing individualization is an interdisciplinary routine work in everyday clinical practice between doctors and pharmacists. Subjectively, this increases the patient's quality of life, but the expenditure on personnel and equipment results in severe economic restrictions in the use of dose monitoring.

Scientific progress

Thanks to the establishment of scientific methods, both allopathic and homeopathic medicines have the pharmaceutical (manufacturing) quality laid down in pharmacopoeias and international standards. With the advancement of drug science, scientific knowledge has accumulated in all areas of pathophysiology and pharmacology to which allopathy can refer today. In contrast to this dynamic development, homeopathy is based on the authority of a historical person with the knowledge of his time. Hahnemann thus created a static and monolithic theory. He assumes a "potentiation" of the healing powers through the material dilution of the substances that can achieve the same symptoms of illness in the organism that one wants to fight. This is what the proposition "Similia similibus curentur" says.

Surprisingly, the saying "Contraria contrariis curentur" cannot fully capture allopathy. Some infectious diseases can now be actively combated with vaccinations, which could be described with the doctrine of homeopathy. However, the immunological mechanism of action is not based on the homeopathic dilution principle. Rather, whole pathogens or their parts are attenuated (weakened) during production in order to activate the body's defense system in a similar way (similis) to the pathogen.

Which is the more useful healing direction?

From a statistical point of view, an answer is easier. Statutory evidence of the quality, harmlessness and effectiveness of an allopathic drug is required by law. In particular, when used as intended, the general benefits must outweigh the risks.

Of course, the followers of homeopathy document their successes, but there is a lack of statistically reliable material. They string together descriptions of successful individual cases, but nothing can be said about cause-effect relationships without statistics. Even the use in children or even animals is not an argument. Did the drug, the homeopathic drops, actually have a healing effect on the dog of Frau "Keinezeit"? Or was it not more the smoker's increased attention, the change of location from the balcony to the quieter living room, the changed menu, the more gentle treatment of the children with the dog? What is the factor or cofactor of subjective improvement?

In addition, some diseases such as skin injuries and gastritis tend to heal themselves. Too often it is not really clear what was decisive, alone or jointly responsible for the illness and recovery. The medical terminology describes this as idiopathic, endogenous, neurovegetative or psychosomatic.

In view of the lack of knowledge that is still possible today, homeopathic healing seems to be at least an inexpensive and inherently harmless method of treatment that deserves the tolerance of allopathy when it does not promise more than its historical background allows.

Author's address:
Dr. Thomas Scior
Department of Farmacia
Facultad de Ciensias Quimicas de la BUAP
C.P. 72570 Puebla Mexico

I would like to thank pharmacist S. Roth, Karlsruhe, pharmacist H. Uhlmann, the staff at his Schwarzwald-Apotheke, Baiersbronn, and their customers and spa guests who were happy to discuss, for stimulating discussions.

Dedicated to Professor Dr. Hermann Josef Roth, University of Tübingen, on the occasion of the award of an honorary doctorate from the University of Puebla, Mexico on May 14, 1999.

© 1999 GOVI-Verlag
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