a new voyage with real homoeopathy

“The father of the child is asleep in the heart of all children.”

It’s a universal truth that has two meanings -

1] the child inherits all the good qualities of the father (parents) through the genes, and

2] again, from parents, various flaws in the character, including six true diseases, are inherited through the genes.

● The old idea here refers to “the old boat” [According to S. Hahnemann, §1, “The physician’s high and only mission is to restore the sick to health, to cure…” and according to J. T. Kent, “That patient has the same disease he had when he was born. This array of symptoms represents the same state before the pathological conditions have been formed as after.”]

● The new idea here refers to “a new voyage” [“Philosophy of early life of an individual” should be the only recourse of the physician in the medical field, neither sign and symptom nor rubric.]

Let’s start our new voyage, “the practice of the true system of medicine” (S. Hahnemann) i.e. practicing “Real Homoeopathy” (J. T. Kent), and be thrice blessed by the Divine Creator of the world.

“§1 THE physician’s high and only mission is to restore the sick to health, to cure …..” [“Organon of Medicine” by C. F. S. Hahnemann] Considering § 81 and “The Chronic Diseases” by S. Hahnemann, the word “sick” denotes the state where an individual has latent state of psoric miasm, which has gradually passed, in some hundreds of generations, through many millions of human organisms, by not producing any disagreeable sensation and morbid symptoms. (§ 11).

● According to the principles of Real Homoeopathy, the word “sick” denotes (apparently) healthy individual who contains inactive harmful group of genes, responsible for different true diseases. Different harmful proteins produced by different groups of harmful genes are neutralized by beneficial proteins which are produced by beneficial group of genes, from which vital force originates. When harmful genes become overactive with the external as well as internal environments, the activities of beneficial genes are not observed. The harmonious cellular activities are disturbed by the excess harmful products in the cell. As a result, the internal economy of an individual becomes poisonous and different disagreeable sensations i.e. sufferings from different results of disease start gradually.

● All existing therapeutic systems, including classical homoeopathy, treat an individual for the present sufferings considering present symptoms, rubrics and pathological reports and give relief shortly, but the person becomes worse and worse gradually [J. T. Kent]. Real Homoeopathy, the exception, treats an individual without considering present sufferings, symptoms, rubrics and pathological reports, giving importance only to the philosophy of early life which is the proof of presence of active harmful genes, responsible for one or more true disease(s). Dr. Shyamal Kumar Das Since overactive harmful genes cause present sufferings, so any treatment that doesn’t consider philosophy of early life, responsible for one or more true diseases, causes complicated situations in the higher center, in the form of deviation from ideology, distortion of thought process and perversions with amelioration of physical symptoms. Due to such a complex mental state, painful physical sufferings from different results of disease, such as hypertension, diabetes, chronic renal failure, cardiac problem, liver problem, problem in the brain, etc., start gradually. Physical and mental peace and also simplicity is taken away from an individual with these types of existing therapeutic systems. “Prescribing for the results of disease causes changes in the results of disease, but not in the sickness except to hurry its progress.” [“Lectures on Homoeopathic Philosophy” by James Tyler Kent, Chapter: ‘The Sick’, Page 23] A New Voyage With Real Homoeopathy

● Different abnormal behavior, sinful acts and criminal activities are the results of the procedure of treatment for quick amelioration of sufferings, without giving importance and consideration to the philosophy of early life i.e. active true diseases controlled by different active harmful genes.

● Only Real Homoeopathy allows a person to be free from any undesired inherited trait and also from any complicated mental as well as physical conditions created by suppressive and palliative type of treatment.

● A perfectly healthy individual or citizen is the invaluable resource of a family, a society, a country and also of the world—who can establish peace everywhere i.e. can make this world Paradise. ● Since the activities of harmful group of genes of an individual can be annihilated permanently, with Real Homoeopathic treatment. Vital force with stable state will establish harmonious cellular activities with which the indwelling, reason-gifted mind can freely employ this living, healthy instrument for the higher purposes of their existence.

● So, another name of a scientific application of a therapeutic system is Real Homoeopathy. ● Regarding treatment, the prescription for an individual by the followers of Real Homoeopathy, all over the world, remains same.

● Since Real Homoeopathic therapeutic system does not depend on the symptoms of the results of disease but on the symptoms of true diseases i.e. philosophy of early life, an

● Real Homoeopathic therapeutic system is able to awaken a sense of brotherhood, humanity towards others, love and affection for the little ones, respect for the elders or seniors and feeling of duty and responsibility for others in an individual. As a result, family and social bonds remain intact and the elderly members of the family are not seen in a helpless state, as there will be no activity of harmful genes and only activity of beneficial genes, responsible for vital force with stable state, will be present.

● This therapeutic system can enrich the rural economy by maintaining the health of domestic animals and birds. ● The appropriate application of Real Homoeopathic therapeutic system can help the farmers by preventing attacks of various diseases and insect on different crops, and make them economically prosperous.

●●● Formation of good character in an individual is possible only with this therapeutic system, as there will be no activity of harmful genes. A New Voyage With Real Homoeopathy Rearing, etc. By preventing and curing different infections, people will become economically self-sufficient.

● Through the above efforts, human beings can get healthy food and environment, and different generations can enjoy beautiful and peaceful lives. “GO BACK” procedure of Real Homoeopathic therapeutic system, therefore, can make this world a paradise. “I must warn the reader that indolence, love of ease and obstinacy preclude effective service at the altar of truth, and only freedom from prejudice and untiring zeal qualify for the most sacred of all human occupations, the practice of the true system of medicine. The physician who enters on his work in this spirit becomes directly assimilated to the Divine Creator of the world, whose human creatures he helps to preserve, and whose approval renders him thrice blessed.” [ORGANON OF MEDICINE BY Samuel Hahnemann, Preface to the first edition]

Illustration of a pattern of homeopathic pill bottles with small pills above them.

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“It’s just a big illusion”: How homeopathy went from fringe medicine to the grocery aisles

As some lose faith in the factory-like care of conventional medicine, these curious remedies are ascendant.

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Part of Issue #7 of The Highlight , our home for ambitious stories that explain our world.

Natalie Grams once believed in homeopathy. She believed that sugar pastilles, distilled and diluted as the praxis of homeopathy prescribes, could treat ailments from colds and flus to depression and anxiety, to allergies, asthma, chronic pain, immune dysfunction, and digestive disorders — you name it.

As a medical student in her native Germany, she’d become increasingly frustrated with the limitations of conventional medicine. There was no time, the 41-year-old physician says, to really care about patients; treating symptoms was the bottom line. Then, in the midst of her studies, she survived a horrific car accident. She escaped mostly unscathed, but soon suffered repeated fainting spells. Doctors could find nothing wrong. A friend suggested she try a naturopath, a practitioner of alternative medicine, who diagnosed Grams with PTSD, and prescribed a homeopathic remedy — specifically, Belladonna C200, tiny, white pills featuring a diluted form of the poisonous plant by the same name.

“And then I felt better,” says Grams. “So I thought, ‘Oh, it was homeopathy that healed me, that cured my symptoms.’”

Homeopathy is a school of alternative medicine based on the principles that “like cures like,” that less is more, that a detailed patient intake is necessary to get to the root of a medical issue. After she recovered, Grams devoted herself to it, not only as a patient, but as a practitioner. She first completed her medical training, and then, after seven years of homeopathic training, including 300 hours of coursework that cost her a not-insignificant sum (weekend trainings were as much as 300 euros, or more than $300), Grams became a licensed medical homeopath. And she opened her own practice.

Much of her homeopathic training ran counter to what she’d studied in med school. Instructors taught that vaccinations contained chemical ingredients like aluminum, and that antibiotics can’t cure disease, recalls Grams. One supervisor stripped away all conventional remedies for most patients he saw, even those with chronic illnesses requiring medication, like high blood pressure, diabetes, and asthma. Grams, though, was all in.

And, as is something of a time-honored tradition in homeopathy, she contended with skeptics and critics. To prove them wrong, she began writing a book in defense of homeopathy.

Instead, she found that the facts and research didn’t support the field she’d built her career on. She read up on clinical trial after clinical trial that could find no hard evidence that homeopathic remedies worked; she consulted chemists and physicists, who explained why quantum physics can’t support homeopathy’s claim that water retains “the memory” of any substance it comes into contact with; she turned to psychologists, who talked in-depth about the placebo effect. The result was a very different book that she titled Homeopathy Reconsidered .

“I was convinced [I was] doing something good, really good,” she says of her homeopathic practice over FaceTime while on vacation with her family at an undisclosed location. (She’s lived “hidden,” as she puts it, since she became a public critic of homeopathy and the death threats began.) “Even perhaps the best form of medicine.”

Homeopathic remedies contain no discernible molecules of their “active” ingredients. And yet, proponents claim they retain the properties of what isn’t there. “It’s like smoke,” says Grams, “like something that if you want to grab it, if you want to get ahold of it, it just vanishes. It’s just a big illusion.”

Homeopathy is a $1.2 billion industry in the US alone, used by an estimated 5 million adults and 1 million kids . It’s become such a staple of America’s wellness industry that leading brands such as Boiron and Hyland’s are readily available at high-end health-focused chains like Whole Foods and Sprouts , supermarkets like Ralphs , and superstores such as Walmart . Analysts project that the global homeopathic market will grow 12.5 percent by 2023.

Once considered fringe, homeopathy is now bundled by conventional medicine under the banner of “complementary and alternative medicine,” with the other usual suspects of the West’s modern wellness movement, a health wave that swelled in the 1970s and crested twenty years later: acupuncture, massage, meditation, yoga, reiki, Ayurveda, etc. “Back in the 1990s,” writes Jennie Rothenberg Gritz at the Atlantic , “the word ‘alternative’ was a synonym for hip and forward-thinking.” Today, about half of adults in the US say they’ve tried alternative medicine.

For those who buy into it, homeopathy is synonymous with holistic health. Surely there are more answers out there, more remedies, homeopaths argue, than ibuprofen, antacids, statins, SSRIs, and surgery. Its rise has been in tandem with a growing sense of perceived failures in medicine, particularly that doctors fail to take “whole health” into consideration. To its followers, homeopathy does.

But these products are not FDA-approved . In 2016, the Federal Trade Commission began a crackdown on the homeopathic remedies that were filling grocery shelves, mandating that they clearly state that they are not, in fact, medicine. Boiron’s website now bears that legally required disclaimer: “Claims based on traditional homeopathic practice, not accepted medical evidence.”

Consumers are beginning to feel “scammed and cheated,” the nonprofit Center for Inquiry argued, in a lawsuit filed last month against Walmart and CVS over the sale of what it called “homeopathic fake medicine.” A consumer survey conducted by the nonprofit found that 41 percent of respondents felt negatively about homeopathic remedies “[o]nce [they] were told the essential facts about homeopathy’s pseudoscientific claims.”

In a statement provided to Vox, Boiron’s chief executive and president Janick Boudazin wrote, “We do not comment on ongoing cases or cases of others. It should be clarified, however, that homeopathic drug products are legally marketed in the United States, ensuring consumers have access to safe and clearly identified homeopathic products from which to choose for their healthcare needs.”

Peter Gold, a spokesperson for the American Institute of Homeopathy, cited several studies, including a controversial one from the Swiss government , that he said proved homeopathy’s efficacy. “Ninety percent of available clinical studies would have to be ignored in order to conclude that homeopathy has no effects,” he said in an emailed statement. “Homeopathy is an important element of an Integrative Medicine, combining the best from conventional medicine and medical homeopathy for the benefit of patients.”

Requests for comment from another leading homeopathy organization — the National Center for Homeopathy — went unanswered by the time of publication.

A history of homeopathy, distilled

Many misidentify homeopathy as “natural” and describe it as plant-based or herbal medicine. It’s not. In his 2016 book, Homeopathy: The Undiluted Facts , Edzard Ernst, a physician, homeopathy researcher, and noted skeptic, classified the “natural” qualifier as one of the many myths about homeopathy disseminated by both believers and skeptics. But there’s “nothing natural” about it, he wrote: Homeopathic remedies include alcohol exposed to x-rays to minimize the effects of radiation therapy, and fragments of the original Berlin Wall to “cure a patient’s communication problems,” Ernst wrote.

Homeopathy isn’t Eastern medicine either. It’s slightly more than 200 years old, and it was born in Germany.

Samuel Hahnemann, an 18th-century physician described by Ernst as a “deeply religious and spiritual man as well as an eccentric, innovator, maverick, and polymath,” first published a new school of medical thought that he named homeopathy in 1790. He’d become disillusioned with the medical model of the time, but was fascinated by cinchona bark powder, then used to treat malaria (and later found to contain the alkaloid quinine, which is still used to treat malaria today). He dosed himself with large quantities of cinchona bark, ingesting it repeatedly to document the fever, sweats, and nausea that set in. His aim: to test whether the remedy for malaria produced the symptoms of malaria in a healthy person. It did.

Hahnemann declared this the first of what would come to be known as “homeopathic provings.” (The etymology of the word “homeopathy” is “like disease.”) He conducted more experiments and reached more provings. Soon, he defined several so-called laws; two are guiding principles of homeopathy today:

  • Like cures like : Homeopathy posits that a substance that produces a disease’s symptoms in a healthy person is a cure for that disease. (In the case of the aforementioned 20th-century remedy known simply as “Berlin Wall,” conditions caused by communication problems are said to be cured by tablets made from finely ground, diluted shards of the actual Berlin Wall, because it was once a concrete barrier to communication.)
  • Law of minimum dose : The lower the dose, say homeopathic practitioners, the more potent the remedy. To that end, homeopathic remedies are extremely diluted. Many are so diluted, in fact, that they contain no detectable molecules of the “mother tincture.” Hahnemann intended to avoid poisoning, as many of the substances that he introduced as remedies were toxic. But soon his rationale became less, well, rational: “Vital energy” was transmitted during dilution, Hahnemann believed, so none of the original substance needed to remain.

Hahnemann’s theories represented a sea change in medical philosophy, a rejection of what he coined “allopathy” — remedies that produce a disease’s opposite symptoms — and derisively dubbed “school medicine.” Hahnemann thought that doctors of his day harmed patients, and he wasn’t wrong. Late 18th century medicine revolved around balancing the four humors, most frequently through bloodletting. Homeopathy’s less-invasive approach attracted followers, who in turn spread Hahnemann’s gospel across Europe, India, and the US. The American Institute of Homeopathy, founded in 1844, even arrived three years before the American Medical Association.

Conventional medicine eventually became increasingly science-oriented, discarding bloodletting and the like for more effective (and drastically less dangerous) treatments. Homeopathy, by contrast, maintained its original dogma, one that hinged on individualized treatment and made it nearly impossible to conduct clinical trials that adhered to the scientific method.

By the 1900s, homeopathy was even recognized by the US government. Royal Copeland , a surgeon, New York City commissioner of health, storied US senator, and homeopath, used his medical authority to lend credibility to homeopathy and his political influence to ensure its recognition by the law. The Food, Drug, and Cosmetics Act of 1938 oversees homeopathy to this day.

From “alternative medicine” to complementary medicine

In the world of homeopathy, there are believers, and there are skeptics. There are also passive participants who seek over-the-counter remedies as supplements, believing in these pastilles (and ointments, tinctures, tablets, creams) enough to buy them, if not necessarily to stake their health on them entirely. There are those who believe in invisible forces, in energies, in spirits; there are those who don’t, who dismiss homeopathic remedies as alcoholic sugar water. And some perspectives, like Grams’s, fluctuate over time.

Boiron was the homeopathic brand of choice for my Southern California family in the 1990s and early 2000s. I grew up in the suburbs, my dad is a doctor, and my parents fully vaccinated me, but there was something about “natural medicine,” and homeopathy in particular, that spoke to them. Whenever I had the flu, my mom gave me a pinky-sized vial of Oscillococcinum , sweet “flu crystals,” as we called them, that I dissolved happily under my tongue. Whenever I had a cold, she gave me something called ColdCalm , which I took, but begrudged for its chalky taste and easily crumpled blister packs.

I know now that the active ingredient in Oscillococcinum is Anas barbariae, extract of duck heart and liver . (The Center for Inquiry asked consumers about their knowledge base of Anas barbariae as part of their aforementioned survey; 46 percent of respondents “viewed the product less favorably” once they learned about this duck stuff.) I don’t know if it worked. My symptoms would eventually abate, but I don’t know that my conditions improved any quicker with the remedy than without. I do know, however, that my parents searched beyond the confines of conventional medicine for ways to improve our health that were more “natural” than prescription drugs and standard over-the-counters, or that seemed more natural anyway — and they’re not alone.

As alternative treatments become immersed in mainstream consumer culture (see again: Whole Foods, worth $13.7 billion as of 2017), there’s been a semantics shift, away from “alternative” to “integrated.” To wit, the National Institutes of Health renamed its alternative health-focused department the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health in 2015.

“The name change really reflects our deep-seated interest in studying complementary and integrative health as part of conventional care, and not as an alternative to conventional care,” says NCCIH Deputy Director David Shurtleff. He uses cancer as an example: There is no known alternative cancer treatment that’s proven effective, but the research supports that alternative treatments can ease common cancer symptoms, such as yoga for anxiety and depression or mindfulness for insomnia .

For supplemental users, homeopathy is an alternative medicine, another option in the medicine cabinet. Critics see all homeopathic use as an alternative to medicine. It’s a subtle, but important, distinction. To the critics’ point, consider this statistic from Pew Research Center : One in five adults in the US uses alternative medicine instead of conventional medicine.

For Grams, this is the biggest risk — that people will forgo conventional, proven treatments in favor of homeopathic remedies which, she says, are nothing more than sugar pills. “You might think, ‘Oh, if that remedy doesn’t help me, I’ll use another, I’ll use another.’ And you lose time. If you have cancer, time is life.”

In the shadows of mainstream medicine’s failures

Doug Brown was happy in his practice as a family nurse practitioner, for a time. Eventually, however, ambivalence about modern medicine set in. “As I became more aware that so many of my chronically ill patients were not really getting better,” says Brown, 62, “that I was managing their illnesses, often by ordering lots of lab tests and adding more and more medications, I began to question what I was doing.”

His path to homeopathy followed a familiar script: disillusionment with conventional medicine, a sense of desperation and yearning for what Brown describes as “something ‘more.’” After his 2-year-old son’s ear infection resisted two courses of antibiotics, Brown — who had spent over a decade prescribing pharmaceutical drugs to his patients — turned to homeopathy. The belladonna remedy, says Brown, cured his son’s infection.

“It seemed to me like a miracle,” Brown says from his office in Portland, Oregon, where he’s practiced homeopathic healing for almost 20 years. “And then when I saw it work on other people, I began to realize that homeopathy held the key to this missing link that I was intuitively searching for in all my years of doing conventional medicine.”

The founder of homeopathy, Samuel Hahnemann, in a religious looking frame.

The people who turn to homeopathy are a subset of a larger wellness-focused demographic that tend to be female, young to middle age, non-smokers, with lower body mass indexes, who make healthy lifestyle decisions (diet, exercise, supplements, you get it). “People who use homeopathy have that same profile, but even more so,” says Michelle Dossett, an assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School who has studied homeopathy usage and published on her national survey findings in the American Journal of Public Health in 2015.

At the same time, there’s a subset of this population of homeopathy seekers that holds a low perception of mainstream medicine. Conventional medicine, they feel, is failing.

“I think there’s a big disconnect between what conventional medicine aspires to do and what actually happens sometimes in the consultation room,” says Dossett. “Because physicians face incredible pressures these days.” A 2017 study found that doctors in the US spend around 20 minutes with their patients, reports Reuters . (Even worse: Primary care consultations last just 5 minutes for half the world’s population.) It’s not for lack of trying. Doctors’ schedules are typically stacked, and wait times are typically long, with the Physician Foundation’s 2017 Patient Survey Report finding that only 11 percent of patients and 14 percent of primary care physicians feel “that they have all the time they need together.”

Most attitudes toward modern medicine are positive. Pew Research Center found in 2017 that more than two-thirds of Americans visited a health care provider in the previous year, with nearly 90 percent of that cohort feeling that they were listened to and 84 percent feeling that their provider “really cared” about their health. But the remainder, albeit a comparatively small sliver of the pie, shouldn’t be overlooked. Misdiagnoses and missed diagnoses may be one reason for their dissatisfaction: According to health care journal BMJ Quality & Safety , 12 million American adults — around 5 percent of the US adult population — are misdiagnosed every year.

“We have sort of an industrial medical system that really isn’t serving patients, and isn’t serving the health care professionals who are trying to serve patients,” says Dossett, who adds that many homeopathic practitioners, on the other hand, tend to spend more time with their patients.

They also spend more time exploring aspects of a patient’s health that might not be immediately tied to the reason they’ve made an appointment, the “chief complaint” or “presenting problem” in medicalese. Homeopathy is decidedly more comprehensive, exhaustive even, in its tack, from the inside out, and top to bottom . “Homeopathy is holistic because it treats the person as a whole, rather than focusing on a diseased part or a labeled sickness,” reads AIH’s description of homeopathic medicine, adding that the practice “stimulates the person’s own healing power” — a.k.a., invisible energy within every individual that Hahnemann termed “vital force.”

In homeopathy’s doctrine, mental, emotional, and social considerations are just as important as what X-rays, imaging, and lab tests can reveal, explains Brown: “What the mind expresses, the body expresses.” This is not to suggest that illnesses are psychosomatic, he adds, but more an issue of trusting patients at their word.

The trouble with homeopathic self-medicating

Buying homeopathic remedies at Walmart and the like, homeopaths would like you to know, isn’t real homeopathy. Dossett’s research found that most people in the US who use homeopathy self-prescribe OTC remedies, as my family did with Oscillococcinum and ColdCalm; only 19 percent of American homeopathic users see a homeopathic provider.

“It’s very unlikely that the remedies at a Whole Foods dispensary [are] going to be what the patient needs,” says Brown. There are more than 4,000 remedies available today, he adds, while at any given store, there may be about 10 on the shelves (none of them “Berlin Wall”). “I’m certainly not in favor of restricting that, but I want people to understand that homeopathy isn’t just the remedies, or just taking remedies,” continues Brown. “It is a process of becoming conscious of one’s experiences.”

Hahnemann believed homeopathy to be the only true medicine. He called the homeopath who combined his teachings and practices with conventional medicine “an apostate and a traitor,” according to Ernst. (Gold, of the American Institute of Homeopathy, dismissed Ernst, writing that “his work lacks the rigor one should expect from serious research.”) He would hate the supporting role that homeopathy’s been cast under the complementary and integrated health umbrella.

Today’s homeopathic practitioners often train in conventional medicine as MDs (like Grams) or nurse practitioners (like Brown), and largely recommend seeing general practitioners and primary care physicians concurrently, and getting X-rays and imaging and lab tests done. “Nothing can be a substitute for what modern medicine can offer in critical, life-threatening situations,” says Brown. “That’s not to say that homeopathy doesn’t have a role.”

When asked whether its line of homeopathic remedies should be considered supplements to conventional medicine, or substitutes, Boiron’s CEO Boudazin wrote to Vox: “Homeopathic medicines are one of the safest choices for self-treatment of everyday conditions like cold and flu symptoms, allergies, and muscle pain. They are often a first line of treatment that can offer relief with a low risk of side effects when used as directed. There are no known interactions with conventional medications or herbal supplements, allowing users to complement other treatments as well.”

Can “harmless” homeopathy become harmful to society?

There’s not going to be a meeting of the minds on this one. Devotees say that homeopathy works. Critics say that any perceived benefit is the work of the placebo effect . Devotees counter with success stories among animals and kids . (Ernst reported that Prince Charles wrote of his homeopathically treated animals: “[Homeopathy] is not the quackery they claim it to be. Or if it is, then I have some very clever cows in my shed!”) Critics counter that counter, asking, well, what about placebo by proxy ?

“So much of conventional medicine actually could be legitimately criticized as exercises in the nocebo effect,” Brown says. The nocebo effect is the phenomenon where a diagnosis, pill, or treatment provokes negative symptoms associated with that diagnosis, pill, or treatment in the patient. Tell someone they have three months to live, and kill their hope, and the prophecy may very well come true. Brown adds, “Our conscious attitude and our conscious expectations do have a profound effect on our patients.”

The old evidence versus feelings debate can be a dangerous one, though, particularly when taken to its extreme. ( See: Trump supporters .) And to that end, with more than 1,090 people in the US contracting measles this year alone, with the US at risk to lose its measles-free status after the measles vaccine eliminated measles just 19 years ago , and with the number of unvaccinated kids in the US quadrupling since 2001, we need to talk about anti-vaxxers.

Vaccinations might appear to follow the same “like cures like” logic as homeopathic remedies, and they do, to a degree; vaccinations, however, contain measurable quantities of their active ingredients. And to be clear, anti-vaxxer ideology is by no means intrinsically part of homeopathic philosophy, or prescribed by homeopathy dogma. “You will find some homeopathic providers who will recommend modifications to [the] vaccination schedule, but it’s not something that becomes part and parcel of homeopathy,” says Dossett.

Still, there is some overlap between individuals who eschew conventional treatments in favor of homeopathic remedies and individuals who forgo vaccinations in favor of homeopathic substitutes.

“Immunizations are a controversial subject,” reads a 2004 blog post from the National Center for Homeopathy, which appears at the top of the site’s search results for ‘vaccinations’ and ‘immunizations.’ “Before making decisions about them, it’s best to arm yourself with information from many different sources.” Four of the five homeopaths interviewed in the post appear to condone the “choice” to not vaccinate, though not necessarily the decision itself.

Concern about this potential overlap is great enough that NCCIH includes a warning box on its homeopathy info page titled, “No Evidence To Support Homeopathic Immunizations.”

What homeopathy can teach conventional medicine

There is a swath of middle ground in the great believers/skeptics debate swirling around homeopathy, and it’s this: empathy.

“There’s so much scorn, and so much ridicule, that it creates a tremendous block,” reflects Brown of negative attitudes toward homeopathy. “And to me that is very, very sad.” He’s sick of seeing homeopathy labeled as “pseudoscience,” or “quackery,” or a “scam.” His lived experience, and his homeopathic practice, tells him otherwise.

“What is it about homeopathy that patients value?” asks a German study published in 2013 in Quality in Primary Care . “And what can family medicine learn from this?” The study singles out empathy as key to establishing positive patient-physician relationships, and to achieving positive patient outcomes. Homeopaths listen to their patients. They believe their patients. Individualization is the most basic driver of their medical philosophy.

Conventional medicine, this argument contends, could stand to take a page from homeopathy’s book, and trust more in what their patients feel to be true. Doing so could be the key to bridging the gap between conventional and alternative, for medicine that is truly holistic and integrated.

Grams left homeopathy behind her, but she still believes in one of its tenets: the power of self-healing. “Our self-healing powers are enormous,” she says. “The patients I treated in my [homeopathy practice], many of them got better. It was not due to homeopathy, but because of their self-healing. And I think we can have more awareness for that power, that it’s really in us.”

This story has been updated.

Stephie Grob Plante is an Austin-based features writer and essayist. Her work has appeared at The Goods by Vox, The Atlantic, Smithsonian Magazine, The Verge, Curbed, Southwest: The Magazine, Playboy, and elsewhere.

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Home » The Hypersensitive Person: Hope and Understanding through Homeopathy

The Hypersensitive Person: Hope and Understanding through Homeopathy

hypersensitivity

   

The alternative practitioners were worse, if anything, believing that the benevolent action of their gentle vitamins could not possibly harm a patient. Newspaper articles quoting leading professionals were no help; one headline read, “Hypersensitivity to the environment and many other factors, medications included, are the result of a psychosomatic attitude.” Or in other words, “It’s all in your mind.” The word “psychosomatic” is a great invention for getting doctors off the hook. Of course, it really stands for the true mind-body connection—but not in this context. Instead, physicians use “psychosomatic” to dismiss the patient as a “nut case” or as someone “on the verge of a nervous breakdown”. The patient feels rejected and insulted. What’s even worse, s/he often loses family support, is abandoned by friends and starts questioning him/herself: “Am I really going crazy?”

Since these hypersensitives first emerged in large numbers in the early ‘80s, they have been labeled “universal reactors” and having “multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS)”. Not that it has helped these unfortunate victims in the least to recuperate—but at least their disorder was given a name, official recognition that they suffer from something more than just a mental disorder. “It’s better than nothing,” hypersensitives tell me. “At least my family doesn’t call me crazy or lazy anymore.” And new syndromes have emerged with hypersensitivity as one of their primary features—or even their only feature. The patients who flocked to my office in the early ‘80s suffered from Chronic Fatigue and Immune Dysfunction Syndrome (CFIDS). A large percentage of them exhibited multiple food and environmental sensitivities, among their myriad symptoms.

 It took ten years before CFIDS was recognized by the official medical world: in 1990 the Centers for Disease Control finally acknowledged the existence of this condition and formulated diagnostic criteria. And the concept of multiple chemical sensitivities was not really taken seriously until Gulf War Syndrome emerged—in which more than 25,000 young, healthy males suffer from the same kind of universal reactivity which was formerly thought to occur only in “hysterical” women. The official explanations have included the industrial pollution in Saudi and nerve gas deployed by Saddam Hussein. The real reason is being covered up: the toxic cocktail of experimental anti-nerve gas and vaccinations to which these soldiers were subjected, without any information or consent.

Is this kind of hypersensitivity a new condition? It has always existed; Hahnemann, the father of homeopathy, first formulated the concept and estimated that 10% of his patients were hypersensitive. Today the real numbers are grossly underestimated. Forty to 50% of the population suffers from some form of environmental or food sensitivity, ranging from some sneezing and snuffling and occasional constipation to severe asthma or allergic reactions to perfume, carpets, paint, or gasoline. In extreme forms, the body even reacts to itself and the patient develops an auto-immune disorder such as ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease. And the numbers are ever increasing.

What has turned human beings into a race of hyper­sensitives? And why such a big jump in the early ‘80s? The first post-World War II generation was just reaching their mid-30s then. Think of the huge difference in how those babies were treated: mass vaccinations and the widespread use and abuse of antibiotics started in the 1950s. American babies now receive more than 20 vaccinations before the age of 2. The immature immune system of an infant cannot handle the shock of so many vaccinations; other countries like Japan and many European countries delay vaccinations to later in childhood precisely for this reason. In addition, exposure to environmental chemicals and pesticides has proliferated. (“Better living through chemistry” went into full swing in the 1950s). Antibiotics are increasingly overprescribed (including for viral illnesses when MDs themselves know they will do no good, but MDs succumb to pressure from their patients to write a prescription).

Antibiotic abuse has weakened our immune systems (partly by destroying the friendly intestinal flora, a cornerstone of our immune system) and has led to a frightening rise in antibiotic-resistant bacteria, which threatens to reintroduce TB, malaria, gonorrhea and syphilis when we thought these conditions were ancient history.

Besides vaccinations, drugs, and a toxic chemical environment, the economic situation has created an extremely stressful mental/emotional environment, all of which makes our immune system pay dearly. In my practice, financial concerns are a close second behind relationship difficulties among the leading causes of stress in my patients’ lives, Anxiety, frustration, anger, and mental, emotional and physical burn-out leave our immune system squeaking in its grooves.

When the immune system is low, we have no defense against the environment. We lose adaptability, one of the cornerstones of good health. At every moment our immune system is battling with the environment; if it is weak, our bodies easily get overwhelmed. So why then isn’t everyone suffering from hypersensitivity? Perhaps you are, yet your friends who have received the same vaccinations and antibiotics can function quite well in this sinister world. But people are individuals, and one of the strengths of homeopathy is to individualize the patient, to look at the person with the illness and not just the illness. People’s sensitivities range in magnitude from 1 to 1000; this was discovered two hundred years ago by Hahnemann, the father of homeopathy, in his infinite wisdom. Some people will react to a trigger (medication, environmental chemical, food allergen, etc.) at only 1/1000th of the strength at which another person would react. Hahnemann classified people in the sensitivity range from 700-1000 as being hypersensitive.

Through homeopathy, we can learn to recognize two types of people who most often suffer from hypersensitivity. Once we recognize these people, we can reduce their doses of medication, vitamins, vaccinations, anesthesia, etc. Let’s take a look at two of the most intriguing hypersensitive personalities, based on two of the leading homeopathic remedies (because these people respond so well to their respective remedies).

The first group—including some of my most beloved people—are the PHOSPHORUS personalities. This homeopathic remedy comes from the element Phosphorus, used to make matches; it flares up with a sudden blinding light, then just as suddenly disappears. This quality explains the physical, emotional and mental make-up of the Phosphorus patient. The Phosphorus person has a radiant, bubbly, effusive energy but is easily physically and mentally exhausted, always in need of a short nap, which revives him easily. We call them good beginners (because they are so easily excitable, they start many things) and bad finishers (because they run out of stamina!).

They are extremely sensitive on all levels: physical, emotional, mental and spiritual. They are the most likely to react to environmental chemicals, paint fumes, etc. They are sensitive to changes in the weather, often getting headaches at the approach of a storm. And they are sensitive to spiritual vibrations, being attracted to all kinds of New Age spirituality, channeling, crystals, etc.

They are often clairvoyant and are great mediums. They are extremely sensitive to others’ emotions, even feeling others’ emotions within themselves, to the point that they often lack boundaries between themselves and others. Thus they are known as “psychogenic sponges.”

Physically the Phosphorus presents mainly as a tall, slender individual with delicate features, long eyelashes, and large shiny, radiant eyes. Phosphorus people stand out through graceful, effeminate manners; they talk with vivid and rapid movements of the hands as if to attract attention to their expressive face. The big eyebrows have a round form, eyebrows belonging to the sentimental and spiritual person, who loves walks in the moonlight, recites poetry, and sings tender, romantic songs. They often have oval nails on long slender fingers.

     

Tears come easily, but they can be promptly interrupted by an infectious smile, especially when the person is entertained or has the attention of an audience. This person detests the winter months, at which time he becomes a reclusive. Being full of light himself, he needs the constant stimulus of growing energy, like in the Spring, to sustain the bubbling, creative personality. This person often suffers from Seasonal Affection Disorder (SAD). Emotionally these people are very sympathetic, too much for their own good. They are especially concerned about the welfare of their loved ones. They love traveling, singing, dancing, parties, anything that is exciting, and any chance to perform for an audience. They have many fears: of being alone, in the dark, thunderstorm and lightning, in large crowds, etc. They crave the company of friends, love consolation when something goes wrong and weep easily even over small events. They choose professions with creativity and flexibility.

Don’t put them in a run-of-the-mill nine-to-five job—it’s like putting a bird in a cage! They are our actors, actresses, dancers, performers, outrageous barbers, travel agents, artists, interior designers, stand-up comedians, pianists, bartenders, astrologers and sentimental novel writers.

Do you recognize yourself here? Then be careful—your middle name is “SENSITIVE.” The physical sensitivity of the Phosphorus person is also reflected by overreactions to anesthesia, even to small amounts in the dentist’s office. The numbness can stay for a long time, or the patient has a hard time waking up from anesthesia after surgery. It is a phenomenon well known in Western medicine, yet anesthesiologists cannot predict it or know how to avoid it. Homeopathy recognizes this sensitive patient before therapy starts, avoiding unnecessary, even harmful aggravations.

Usually hypersensitives need only half or even a quarter of the normal recommended dose, be it drugs, vaccinations, anesthesia or vitamins. More than that, and they are likely to react as though to a toxin (even with vitamins), because their systems are overloaded and their vital energy suppressed.

While the Phosphorus person has a sunny, vivacious, radiant personality, a more gloomy type can have an almost equal sensitivity level. This is the ARSENICUM type: thin, nervous, restless and sometimes angry. They are tall and slender, with a tendency to walk very erect, head up. They are the ones with allergic shiners (black circles under the eyes). They are full of anxiety and insecurity about the future, putting stress on their hard-functioning adrenals. Their lips are often oval, pursed and pinched, as if continually hiding disapproval. Their words are delayed by reflective selectivity.

This all adds up to an uptight personality, quite a contrast with the Phosphorus. Arsenicums are fastidious to the point of obsessive compulsiveness. Their greatest fear is catching a disease, so they are constantly washing their hands, scrubbing their food and disinfecting silverware to avoid those omnipresent germs. They realize they will “succumb to these buggers or maybe cancer” but they are willing to give it their best fight.

They have many fears about the future, afraid that no one will take care of them when they are sick and old. And sick they are. They constantly are on the lookout for a disease which is just around the corner. They are convinced that either no doctor has been able to find their disease or that everyone else has underestimated the “terrible” disease they are suffering from. To control their anxiety as much as possible, they will always pay close attention to detail. While the Phosphorus person looks for the pleasant side of life, the Arsenicum personality always perceives the cup as half empty. They are analytical thinkers, enough to drive you crazy, but great to have as a secretary (your desk will be cleaned if you want it or not!) Nothing gives the Arsenicum personality more joy than cleaning, over and over again.

Of course, they are more dependable and better organized than the Phosphorus person, but there will be a lot less laughter in your office with an Arsenicum. With their eye for detail they make great detectives, inspectors, professors, psychotherapists, dentists, accountants, pharmacists, social workers, and proofreaders. Where the Phosphorus person is usually born as such, the Arsenicum type is often sculpted from sad events: fear and anxieties from a young age on because of the death or illness of relatives or parents, financial loss, poverty, and even food poisoning, all can lead to this Arsenicum personality. And alas, they become almost as sensitive as the Phosphorus person. There is a great difference, though: the Phosphorus person has environmental sensitivities, the Arsenicum food sensitivities or allergies.

By understanding these different types and incorporating this knowledge into our treatment, Western medicine would avoid many of the unfortunate reactions which are so commonplace nowadays. As always, homeopathy will look for the initial cause and treat the whole person. By recognizing sensitive patients, the skillful homeopathic physician will cure their disorder and balance their sensitivity so that the world becomes a friendlier place to live in! If you are hypersensitive, make sure to consult a homeopath who is familiar with LM potencies, the special potencies devised by Hahnemann himself to be gentle enough for hypersensitives. Otherwise aggravations are bound to happen! As you strengthen your constitution through homeopathy, you will become less reactive to the world around you and increasingly able to lead a normal life.

      Author: Dr. Luc De Schepper, MD, DI Hom., CHom., Lic.Ac

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Why homoeopathy is pseudoscience

  • Original Research
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  • Published: 14 September 2022
  • Volume 200 , article number  394 , ( 2022 )

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  • Nikil Mukerji   ORCID: orcid.org/0000-0001-8707-3023 1 , 2 &
  • Edzard Ernst 2 , 3  

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Homoeopathy is commonly recognised as pseudoscience. However, there is, to date, no systematic discussion that seeks to establish this view. In this paper, we try to fill this gap. We explain the nature of homoeopathy, discuss the notion of pseudoscience, and provide illustrative examples from the literature indicating why homoeopathy fits the bill. Our argument contains a conceptual and an empirical part. In the conceptual part, we introduce the premise that a doctrine qualifies as a pseudoscience if, firstly, its proponents claim scientific standing for it and, secondly, if they produce bullshit to defend it, such that, unlike science, it cannot be viewed as the most reliable knowledge on its topic. In the empirical part, we provide evidence that homoeopathy fulfils both criteria. The first is quickly established since homoeopaths often explicitly claim scientificity. To establish the second, we dive into the pseudo-academic literature on homoeopathy to provide evidence of bullshit in the arguments of homoeopaths. Specifically, we show that they make bizarre ontological claims incompatible with natural science, illegitimately shift the burden of proof to sceptics, and mischaracterise, cherry-pick, and misreport the evidence. Furthermore, we demonstrate that they reject essential parts of established scientific methodology and use epistemically unfair strategies to immunise their doctrine against recalcitrant evidence.

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1 Introduction

In discussions about the demarcation of science from pseudoscience (e.g. Hansson, 2013 , 2017 ; Mahner, 2013 ; Oreskes, 2019 ), one doctrine reliably turns up: homoeopathy. Footnote 1 It refers to a school of medicine first developed by the German physician Samuel Hahnemann (1755–1843), which, as Massimo Pigliucci notes, is usually taken to be “one of the clearest examples of pseudoscience by both scientists and philosophers of science” Footnote 2 (Pigliucci 2015 , p. 572). Prominent researchers in alternative and complementary medicine have gone on the record with similar pronouncements. Footnote 3 Though authors commonly provide reasons why homoeopathy should be categorised in that way, there is, to date, no discussion that establishes this systematically. Moreover, historically influential criteria seem ill-suited to explain why homoeopathy is pseudoscience. On Popper’s ( 1963/2002 ) falsifiability criterion , for instance, a pseudoscience must be unfalsifiable. However, homoeopathy is eminently falsifiable and has, in fact, been falsified many times. Kuhn’s ( 1970 ) criterion of puzzle-solving , proposed as an alternative to Popper’s, does not seem much help either. It locates the nature of science in the daily puzzle-solving business of scientists and construes pseudoscience, accordingly, as a doctrine’s failure to guide that activity. As Popper ( 1974 ) pointed out, however, this would commit Kuhn to accepting astrology as a science because astrologers do seem to engage in puzzle-solving, as do homoeopaths. If the course of a disease does not change, the homoeopath may “solve this puzzle” by considering whether, despite her best efforts to determine the correct remedy, the wrong one was chosen or some other factor, such as the consumption of coffee, interfered with it. Footnote 4

In the present paper, we propose, following recent contributions to the debate about pseudoscience (Ladyman, 2013 ; Moberger, 2020 ; Mukerji & Mannino, 2022 ), to apply bullshitology to the problem—as this has been done, for instance, in the recent debate about fake news (Mukerji, 2018 ). In short, we seek to show, using actual examples from the literature on homoeopathy, that this doctrine is a pseudoscience because its disciples defend it not with proper scientific research but with bullshit. In other words, we seek to establish that their argumentative moves betray a carelessness regarding important epistemic standards and, perhaps, even an outright indifference to the truth.

Below, we first provide some background about homoeopathy, its basic principles, and core claim (Sect.  2 ). Then, we discuss what makes an inquiry pseudoscientific (Sect.  3 ). Next, we present evidence from the literature that homoeopathy is a pseudoscience (Sect.  4 ). Finally, we offer thoughts on the significance of our findings in a brief conclusion (Sect.  5 ).

2 What is homoeopathy?

Homoeopathy is a school of medicine, first developed by the German physician Samuel Hahnemann (1755–1843), which is based, essentially, on two guiding tenets. Footnote 5 The first is the law of similars , that is, the principle that like cures like . The second is the doctrine of potentisation (or dynamisation ).

2.1 Principles of homoeopathy

The law of similars states that the physician should, to cure any illness, choose a remedy made from a substance that, in a healthy subject, creates symptoms similar to the ones to be treated. Footnote 6 For instance, to treat hay fever, a homoeopathic doctor may choose Allium cepa , a preparation of onion, because onion can cause symptoms in a healthy subject that are similar to those of hay fever (watery eyes, runny nose, etc.). Homoeopathic remedies can be produced from virtually anything. Plant material is often employed. Some preparations are made from other, sometimes quite peculiar ingredients, such as x-rays, the bones of a Tyrannosaurus Rex, pus, or remnants of the Berlin Wall. Footnote 7

The second principle is that of potentisation . It holds that a substance, such as an extract from the common onion, must be serially diluted, usually in a water/alcohol mixture, and then shaken at each step of serial dilution. Accordingly, the production process of a homoeopathic medicine starts with the so-called mother tincture , which contains the base substance in its undiluted form. This mother tincture is then diluted step-by-step, and the dilution is shaken at each step—a process referred to as succussion . Homoeopaths believe that succussion transfers energy or information onto the diluent. Depending on the chosen method, the mother tincture, as well as the resulting homoeopathic tinctures, are diluted in the ratio of 1:10 (D or X potency), 1:100 (C potency), or 1:50,000 (LM potency) at each dilution step. The labels of homoeopathic remedies usually contain a reference to the potency. C30, one of the most popular potencies, for instance, denotes that the mother tincture has been diluted 30 times in a ratio of 1:100. Accordingly, the overall dilution is 1:100 30 .

High potencies, which dilute the mother tincture beyond D24 (or C12), do, in all likelihood, contain no molecules of the original substance. Allium cepa C 30, for instance, does not contain any molecules from the common onion. This limit is set by Avogadro’s constant (N A ). It denotes the number of molecules in one mole and has the numerical value of 6.022 × 10 23 . Hence, if we dilute a mother tincture by a factor of 10, the dilution (D1) will contain 6.022 × 10 22 molecules of the original substance. If we dilute it again, the resulting dilution (D2) will contain 6.022 × 10 21 , and so on. After 23 steps, we probably only dilute water with more water.

2.2 Varieties of homoeopathy

The two principles mentioned above are common to all forms of homoeopathy. There are, however, different varieties of homoeopathy. In classical homoeopathy (Hahnemann’s original version), prescriptions of remedies are highly individualised. Each anamnesis is an extensive, time-consuming process—the homoeopath considers the patient’s situation well beyond her bodily symptoms. Accordingly, two patients with identical conditions, for instance, the common cold, will not necessarily receive the same remedy.

In contrast, in clinical homoeopathy , the patient’s condition determines the remedy. Accordingly, two patients with identical conditions would be prescribed the same homoeopathic medicine. Hahnemann would have disagreed with this way of practising homoeopathy—and even more so with a third, widespread variant: homoeopathic self-medication . Here, a patient, who is not trained in homoeopathic principles, determines for herself which remedy to use.

2.3 Core claim of homoeopathy

The variety of homoeopathic practices seems to make it challenging to establish the pseudoscientific nature of homoeopathy. After all, as Jay Shelton observes, all arguments appear to invite the reply: “Your criticism is not valid because what you criticized is not real homeopathy” (Shelton, 2004 , p. 43; emphasis in the original). This response would indeed be apt if we were to criticise a specific practice, for instance, dowsing as a means of finding the correct remedy, which is not accepted by all homoeopaths (McCarney et al., 2002 ). However, note that, in all versions of homoeopathy, the idea that highly diluted homoeopathic remedies can have therapeutic effects above placebo is part of the doctrine’s theoretical hard core (Lakatos, 1970 ). Therefore, it can be shown, in principle, that all forms of homoeopathy are pseudoscience by examining the epistemic practices of those who adhere to and defend this core claim. For present purposes, we shall, hence, focus on them. For convenience and brevity, we will refer to the core claim simply as “homoeopathy” and its adherents as “homoeopaths.” When using these terms, we do not talk about what individual practitioners do or what in popular parlance is called “homoeopathy.”

2.4 Evidence for homoeopathy

Homoeopathy makes an empirical prediction, namely, that highly diluted homoeopathic remedies will perform significantly better than placebos in rigorous tests. The gold standard is the double-blind, randomised, placebo-controlled trial (RCT). In an RCT, a group of patients who usually, but not necessarily, have a particular condition or symptom, say, headaches, are randomly divided into typically two subgroups, namely, a treatment group and a placebo group . The two groups are treated precisely the same—for instance, if patients in one group receive an extensive anamnesis, patients in the other group do, too— except in one regard. Patients in the treatment group receive a highly diluted homoeopathic remedy, and patients in the other group receive a placebo , an inert substance with no medicinal effects. Crucially, the trial is double-blind. That is, patients do not know which group they are in, and neither do the persons who administer their treatments or evaluate the results. Both randomisation and blinding are essential for minimising potential biases. In such a setting, homoeopathy is confirmed if the pure medicinal effect is established, that is, if patients in the treatment group improved significantly more than patients in the placebo group. For an improvement to count as significant, the p-value must be 0.05 or lower according to a widely accepted convention. That is, the probability of observing an improvement that large (or larger) above placebo purely by chance has to be 5% or lower.

2.5 Interpreting the evidence

Four points about RCTs are worth emphasising.

Firstly, not all RCTs are created equal. If, for instance, there is no adequate randomisation or blinding, there is a risk of bias .

Secondly, even RCTs with solid randomisation and blinding can yield false-positive findings . RCTs with an ineffective substance should yield evidence of effectiveness in about 5% of trials. This is roughly equal to the probability of a fair coin coming up heads four times in a row. If we run many studies, it is only a matter of time until we find a false-positive result. Footnote 8

Thirdly, scientists are sometimes tempted to use hypothesising after the results are known or HARKing (Kerr, 1998 ) to increase the chance of an interesting result. For instance, there may be a significant difference between the verum and placebo groups regarding a particular symptom six weeks into the study but at no other time. Once this is known, researchers can choose this symptom as the study’s endpoint and report a significant effect. Such HARKing can massively increase the chance of finding statistically significant results and can, hence, distort the evidence.

Therefore, it is essential, fourthly, to consider the entire evidence and evaluate each study regarding methodological quality and indications of data snooping. This is done by way of systematic reviews and meta-analyses . Footnote 9 Such investigations can also look for evidence of missing data, that is, data from studies that were not published. If research outlets are more likely to accept studies with positive results, there will be a bias in the publication record that has to be corrected. Footnote 10

2.6 Problems for homoeopathy

Homoeopathy is confronted with two problems discussed in more detail in Sect.  4 below. The first is its implausibility . Its core claim is that dilutions beyond the Avogadro limit, which probably contain not even a single molecule of the active ingredient, can have therapeutic effects. From the viewpoint of natural science, this does not make sense, as even sympathisers with homoeopathy concede. Footnote 11 The second problem is the insufficiency of acceptable evidence . Confirmatory studies tend to be methodologically weak and at high risk of bias, and systematic reviews and meta-analyses conclude that the available evidence is insufficient.

3 What is pseudoscience?

Some distinctions are instructive in explaining the notion of pseudoscience.

3.1 Pseudoscience versus science

Pseudoscience is a non-science. Footnote 12 However, not all non-sciences are pseudoscientific. Art, for instance, is a non-science that is not pseudoscientific. Artists, after all, do not pretend to be scientists, and pretence is a necessary condition for pseudoscience (Hansson, 2013 , 2021 ).

3.2 Pseudoscience versus parascience

Pseudoscience is not identical to parascience (Mahner, 2007 ). Footnote 13 Unlike the former, the latter does not necessarily claim to abide by the rules of science. It may claim, instead, to possess a superior way of knowing that is preferable to science. To the extent that parascientists show disdain for science, they may also be categorised as anti-scientists .

Examples of parascience may include parts of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), which allege that it is based on ancient knowledge which is not scientifically testable. Footnote 14 Some homoeopaths should be classed as parascientists rather than pseudoscientists when they attack science as such (Hansson, 2021 ). These are not the ones we are interested in here. We are interested, instead, in those homoeopaths who think of themselves as scientists.

3.3 Pseudoscience versus protoscience

Pseudoscience is not protoscience . Protoscientists seek to practice science but have not been able, because of a lack of time or resources, to establish their scientific credentials. The Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) is a good example. SETI researchers monitor the electromagnetic signals from outer space for potential signals from alien civilisations. If there are such signals, it might take a long time to find them because the sky is large and because possible signals would need a long time to reach us. So, it seems reasonable, at this early point, to postpone the issue of whether this project should be classed as a science or not. Time will tell. In the case of homoeopathy, however, we believe time has told. It is straightforward to test homoeopathic remedies in controlled trials against placebo. Unlike SETI, this project does not require rocket science. And it has been done—for over 200 years.

3.4 Pseudoscience versus bad science

Pseudoscience is not just bad science . If a researcher attempts to stay true to the basic tenets of scientific inquiry but makes many mistakes in applying them, she is a bad scientist, not a pseudoscientist. Plausibly, however, there is a continuous spectrum ranging from good science to not-so-good science to bad science to awful science to pseudoscience. As Philip Kitcher puts it, “[w]here bad science becomes egregious enough, pseudoscience begins” Footnote 15 (Kitcher, 1982 , p. 48).

To make the distinction clearer, consider the analogy of chess. A bad chess player makes bad moves and decreases the chance of winning. In comparison, consider pigeon chess —a notion that Scott D. Weitzenhoffer has coined in a now-infamous Amazon review of Evolution vs Creationism: An Introduction by Eugene Scott ( 2004 ). “Debating creationists on the topic of evolution,” writes Weitzenhoffer ( 2005 ), “is rather like trying to play chess with a pigeon—it knocks the pieces over, craps on the board, and flies back to its flock to claim victory.” In other words, while the lousy chess player is at least playing chess, albeit poorly, the pigeon does not even play chess though it claims to do so and may, in fact, genuinely believe this. Analogously, the bad scientist plays by the rules of science but, like the lousy chess players, does so poorly, while the pseudoscientist, like the pigeon, plays an entirely different game.

3.5 Pseudoscience versus science fraud

Pseudoscience is not merely science fraud though it may overlap with it. James Ladyman draws on the distinction between lying and bullshit to explain the difference. He thinks that “pseudoscience is,” in a first approximation, “to science fraud as bullshit is to lies” (Ladyman, 2013 , p. 52). While an honest scientist faithfully follows the rules and procedures of her science and truthfully reports her data, a science fraudster, like a liar, proceeds dishonestly. She either deliberately departs from established scientific procedures or falsifies her data. She does this in order to arrive at the desired conclusion about which she seeks to defraud the recipient of her work. For the pseudoscientist, however, “all these bets are off,” as Frankfurt ( 2005 , p. 56) puts it. She behaves like a bullshitter. Unlike the science fraudster, she does not necessarily seek to deceive her addressee about a specific fact. Instead, she betrays an “indifference to how things really are,” which Frankfurt takes to be “the essence of bullshit” (Frankfurt, 2005 , p. 34).

3.6 Pseudoscience as bullshit

We believe that Ladyman’s observation is on the right track. Footnote 16 His construal, however, needs some refinement, for there is, as Ladyman observes, an apparent disanalogy between the ordinary bullshitter and the pseudoscientist. “[W]e usually assume,” he writes, “that bullshitters know what they are doing whereas (…) many pseudoscientists are apparently genuinely seeking truth” (Ladyman, 2013 , p. 52). Ladyman has a solution to deal with this case. Pseudoscientists who think of themselves as truth-seekers, he thinks, are also bullshitters. However, they are of an even more profound kind. Usually, bullshitting requires a social relation between two persons—a bullshitter and a bullshittee . Footnote 17 In the case of truth-seeking pseudoscientists, however, the relation is reflexive: these pseudoscientists go so far as to bullshit themselves .

How can this be? Moberger ( 2020 ) draws a helpful distinction that seems to explain this. “One can care ,” he writes, “about the truth of one’s statements without taking care with respect to them” (Moberger, 2020 , p. 597, emphasis in the original). On Moberger’s view, the pseudoscientist may care whether p is true. However, she may be self-deceiving because she is epistemically careless or insouciant . This means, as Quassim Cassam eloquently puts it, that she is “not giving a shit” (Cassam, 2018 , p. 2). Unlike a scientist, who strives to arrive at the most reliable knowledge on a topic (Hansson, 2021 ), she does not do what it takes to ensure that what she says is true.

3.7 How to detect pseudoscience

We can, thus, distinguish between two types of pseudoscientists: Some bullshit us and know it (ordinary bullshit), and some just don’t give a shit and may not even realise what they are doing (epistemically careless bullshit). Footnote 18 Often, it may be hard to determine to which category a given pseudoscientist belongs. However, for our purpose, it is not necessary to make this distinction. In the examples we present below, we only need to ascertain whether the person belongs to either of these categories. This can plausibly be done using a “symptomatic approach” (Boudry, 2021 ), that is, by looking out for tell-tale signs of either outright indifference to the truth or epistemic carelessness. Both attitudes should lead to argumentative moves that violate important epistemic standards central to science (Mukerji, 2017 ; Mukerji & Mannino, 2022 ). If these violations occur systematically and become “egregious enough,” the label “pseudoscience” should be warranted.

The symptomatic approach should be reliable for a simple reason: Science is all about debate. Scientists regularly press each other to provide evidence for their claims and justify their theories. Accordingly, pseudoscientists inevitably have to create the appearance that they, too, debate other scientists. However, given their careless attitude toward the truth, they will not defend their assertions using sound logic and intellectually honest arguments. Instead, they will engage in the analogue of pigeon chess: They will do the equivalent of knocking over the pieces and crapping on the board to claim victory. Footnote 19 To the extent that they do this in print, we can use their published assertions as evidence of pseudoscience. We shall do precisely that in the next section.

4 Why homoeopathy is pseudoscience

In this section, we shall present evidence that homoeopathy is pseudoscience. To establish this, we need to show, firstly, that (at least some) homoeopaths claim scientific credentials for their doctrine, to wit, that highly diluted homoeopathic remedies can have therapeutic effects above placebo. Secondly, we need to show that when these homoeopaths defend their doctrine, they produce argumentative bullshit.

Regarding the first criterion, we should repeat what we have said in Sect.  3.2 : Some homoeopaths do not think of their doctrine as scientific. Their claims should not be classed as pseudoscientific, then. There are, however, homoeopaths who undoubtedly do pretend, explicitly or implicitly, that homoeopathy is a science.

George Vithoulkas, a prominent homoeopath, does so explicitly in the title of his book The Science of Homeopathy ( 1980 ) (for another example, see Sankaran, 1988 ). The same is true for some outlets of studies in homoeopathy, for instance, the International Journal of Homoeopathic Sciences . The German society WissHom (“Wissenschaftliche Gesellschaft für Homöopathie”) also has the attribute “wissenschaftlich” (“scientific”) in its name, and the homoeopathy-promoting charity Homeopathy UK also wants us to believe in the scientific status of the doctrine. To this end, it produces a paper by her majesty’s late personal homoeopath, Peter Fisher, that discusses the supposed scientific evidence favouring the creed (Fisher, 2021 ).

Homoeopaths also claim scientific status implicitly. To do so, they mimic, for instance, conventions and organs typical of science. They show their academic credentials (titles such as MD, PhD, etc.), organise conferences, run, as we have mentioned, their own societies and research institutions, and publish books and papers with scientific publishers (the journal Homoeopathy , which is the official outlet of the UK based “Faculty of Homoeopathy”, is published by the scientific publisher Thieme). Also, some influential homoeopaths hold official posts in universities (for instance, Michael Frass and Harald Walach; August Bier had a chair of homeopathy in Berlin in the 1930s).

So, the first criterion for pseudoscience is clearly met in the case of homoeopathy. Footnote 20 In the remainder of this section, we shall provide evidence that the second criterion is also fulfilled. The argumentative moves of homoeopaths frequently contain egregious violations of important epistemic standards. However, before we turn our attention to the many examples we have gathered, let us briefly mention a few arguments we explicitly do not endorse.

4.1 How not to argue against homoeopathy

There are some forms of reasoning one should avoid when arguing that homoeopathy is pseudoscience. Footnote 21 For instance, it is often said that the origins of the doctrine date back to a time when basic medical facts, such as the germ theory of disease, had not been established. However, as Thagard ( 1978 ) points out in a discussion of astrology, the provenance of a doctrine is not, by itself, a reason to reject it as pseudoscience. Astrology, he says, “cannot be condemned simply for the magical origins of its principles” (Thagard, 1978 , p. 225). The same courtesy should be extended to homoeopathy.

Similarly, the psychology of those who believe in a doctrine is, by itself, no reason to disqualify it. To be sure, belief in the theories of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), including homoeopathy, seems to be driven, to a large extent, by an intuitive thinking style (rather than an analytical one), paranormal beliefs, and fundamental confusions about physical, biological, and mental phenomena (Browne et al., 2015 ; Lindeman, 2011 ). Nevertheless, CAM theories, including homoeopathy, may be accurate and genuinely scientific. What causes belief in a theory in laypersons may be suggestive. However, it is ultimately irrelevant to assessing its scientific credentials.

This has an interesting corollary, namely, that several well-known bullshit arguments homoeopaths frequently employ to promote their services should, in fact, not be cited as direct evidence that homoeopathy is pseudoscientific. For instance, homoeopaths often use scientifically irrelevant considerations, such as appeals to the celebrity status of their patients. Footnote 22 They also employ appeals to authority, tradition, and popularity (Ernst, 2020 ), Footnote 23 and they even engage the conspiratorial tendencies of would-be users. Footnote 24 These may be flawed arguments and manipulation tactics, problematic from an ethical perspective. However, we are presently not concerned with an issue in ethics but with a problem in the philosophy of science, namely, what makes homoeopathy pseudoscience. And to that issue, whether homoeopaths use bullshit for advertising their doctrine to laypeople is irrelevant as long as they do not use their flawed arguments to defend its claim to scientificity. Footnote 25

Note, however, that homoeopaths do sometimes use such arguments in professedly scientific discussions. Lionel Milgrom, a frequent contributor to the homoeopathic literature, does precisely this when he writes in a journal paper that behind the critics of homoeopathy, “like some eminence gris [sic], is the financial reach of the globalized pharmaceutical industry” Footnote 26 (Milgrom, 2008a , 590; emphasis in the original). This is bullshit, and it is used in a discussion to respond to those who criticise homoeopathy. Accordingly, Milgrom’s comment is, indeed, an indication that homoeopathy is pseudoscience. Footnote 27

Let us make another surprising statement: The fact that homoeopaths hold pseudoscientific beliefs does not conclusively prove that homoeopathy is pseudoscience. This is because these pseudoscientific beliefs may be logically unrelated to homoeopathy. Consider an analogy: Isaac Newton espoused alchemy. But this does not mean that modern physics is pseudoscientific. The case of homoeopathy is similar. Some homoeopaths, for instance, may believe in dowsing as a means for finding water, which is pseudoscientific. But this does not establish, in and of itself, that homoeopathy is also pseudoscientific. However, if homoeopaths advocate dowsing as a means for finding the correct homoeopathic remedy, this pseudoscientific belief becomes relevant to the assessment of homoeopathy as pseudoscience.

Finally, it is, of course, important not to cherry-pick examples. The fact that some homoeopaths make pseudoscientific assertions does not establish that their doctrine is a pseudoscience, even if they do use these assertions to support that doctrine. What matters is whether what they say is sufficiently representative of their community. Of course, since homoeopathy comes, as discussed in Sect.  2.2 , in various forms, we face the apparent problem that the views of homoeopaths differ. Accordingly, it seems difficult to show that all homoeopaths systematically violate important epistemic standards. Recall, however, what we have said in Sect.  2.6 , namely, that all homoeopaths face two problems: They have to address, firstly, the implausibility of the claim that homoeopathic remedies diluted beyond Avogadro’s limit can work and, secondly, the lack of sufficient acceptable empirical evidence in its favour. Homoeopaths, hence, face a dilemma. Either they bury their head in the sand and ignore these points, or they address them. Ignoring them is, evidently, epistemically careless. If they cannot provide a satisfactory answer to these problems, the only epistemically responsible move is to abandon their belief in homoeopathy. Therefore, all we have to make plausible is that when homoeopaths address these points , they systematically produce egregious violations of important epistemic standards. This, we believe, can be done through examples from influential homoeopaths, official institutional bodies, and publications that homoeopaths themselves recognise as valid contributors to their field.

That said, note that if our examples were, in fact, cherry-picked, this could be easily demonstrated. To this end, one would only have to cite reasonable arguments from homoeopaths that resolve the implausibility problem and provide sufficient acceptable evidence for homoeopathy.

4.2 The implausibility of homoeopathy

As discussed above, homoeopathy posits that substances diluted beyond Avogadro’s limit can have therapeutic effects above placebo. This proposition suggests that a non-existent substance can cause the body to heal itself , which contradicts basic natural science and is, hence, wildly implausible. Accordingly, homoeopaths are in the same boat as, for instance, parapsychologists, who also make claims that are hard to square with natural science (Goode, 2013 ). Footnote 28 When pressed to justify this lack of plausibility, homoeopaths have, as far as we can see, chosen two basic strategies.

The first strategy is to leave the naturalistic framework and make bizarre ontological claims . An example can be found in Applying Bach Flower Therapy to the Healing Profession of Homoeopathy ( 1993/2005 )—a book by Cornelia Richardson-Boedler, who has served as the director of Bach Flower Studies of the British Institute of Homoeopathy. She writes that highly diluted homoeopathic remedies

lose their physical properties after the 12c or 24x potency, or after Avogadro’s number. In this way, the released and highly activated simple substance of the remedy is able to resonate with the highest realms of man’s simple substance or inmost identity . Nonetheless, the higher potencies act powerfully on tissues as well, just as the human soul animates the totality of being. (Richardson-Boedler, 1993/2005 , p. 19; emphases added)

What Richardson-Boedler says in the passage may be in line with the thinking of Hahnemann, who also spoke of “spirit-like vital forces” animating the body. However, the suggestion that material substances suddenly lose their physical properties is incongruent with our best knowledge of the physical world that comes from the natural sciences. As such, it is an egregious violation of an important epistemic standard, namely, epistemic connectedness with other fields of knowledge (Hoyningen-Huene, 2013 ).

Another example comes from George Vithoulkas’ The Science of Homeopathy ( 1980 ):

It appears that some form of energy is released by this technique [i.e. the homoeopathic preparation of remedies]. The energy which is contained in a limited form in the original substance is somehow released and transmitted to the molecules of the solvent. Once the original substance is no longer present, the remaining energy in the solvent can be continually enhanced ad infinitum . The solvent molecules have taken on the dynamic energy of the original substance. (Vithoulkas, 1980 , p. 104; emphasis in the original)

It is unclear which kind of energy Vithoulkas means since he does not specify it. Perhaps, he does not even know it himself. In that case, his talk of dynamic energy transmission and molecules only serves to “language it up” (Dawkins, 2003 , p. 6) and dress up his ignorance in scientific lingo. Footnote 29 If he is referring to a specific kind of energy, his assertion is empirically unsupported because there is no evidence of energy transmission in the preparation of homoeopathic remedies (Ernst, 2016 ). Most likely, he is thinking of a new form of energy that is not part of present-day physics. In that case, he, like Richardson-Boedler and other homoeopaths, is making an ontological claim that is hard to square with a naturalistic outlook.

Some homoeopaths pursue a second strategy. They seek to show that homoeopathy is compatible with natural science, after all. This shtick is well-known from other pseudoscientific realms. Biblical creationism, for instance, was repeatedly thrown out by courts as an alternative theory to biological evolution. So, its proponents refashioned it as “intelligent design theory” and tried to pass it off as a genuinely scientific theory. Footnote 30 In the case of homoeopathy, two different approaches have been pursued.

One approach is to appeal to quantum woo-woo . Footnote 31 An example of this is found in Milgrom ( 2002 , 2007 ). Footnote 32 Following Kent’s suggestion “that a medicine is only homeopathic when the patient and the practitioner are included,” he proposes “to use quantum mechanics terminology” and think of the two as “entangled” (Milgrom, 2002 , p. 243). Of course, no quantum theorist would be able to make sense of such a suggestion—not least because, in physics, the notion of entanglement applies at the level of particles, not people. So, Milgrom clarifies that he uses weak quantum theory , which “explicitly allows its application beyond the narrow confines of particle physics” (Milgrom, 2002 , p. 243). He also says that he intends the entanglement relation as a metaphor . It is not clear what this is supposed to accomplish. A metaphor may, of course, help us to envision how a process might work (Hofstadter & Sander, 2013 ). But, of course, it does not provide any evidence that it actually exists. Suffice it to say, then, that physicists whose work has been implicated in the writings of homoeopaths have distanced themselves from the doctrine. Footnote 33

Another approach is to show that the diluent used to prepare homoeopathic remedies somehow “remembers” the substances with which it has come into touch. One way to establish this would be to dissolve a substance in water, dilute it beyond Avogadro’s limit, and bring it into contact with a biological system to see how that system reacts. If the solution still has an effect characteristic of the diluted substance, this suggests the existence of water memory .

A research team around the esteemed immunologist Jacques Benveniste famously conducted this kind of experiment and published it in the venerated journal Nature (Davenas et al., 1988 ). They used IgE antibodies to prepare water solutions. In them, antibodies were diluted until no active biomolecules were present anymore. Then, they applied the solution to basophils, a type of white blood cell that can be activated by IgE antibodies. The basophils reportedly showed an immune response when they got in touch with the highly diluted solution, suggesting that the water “remembered” the antibodies.

The result, hailed by homoeopaths as proof of the mechanism behind homoeopathy, was met with scepticism from the start. As Nature ’s editor John Maddox commented, there is “no evidence of any other kind to suggest that such behaviour may be within the bounds of possibility” (Maddox, 1988 , p. 787). Subsequently, Benveniste’s team failed to reproduce the experiments under blinded conditions (Maddox et al., 1988 ), and other teams were not able to reproduce them consistently either (Ball, 2004 ).

Nevertheless, some homoeopaths still treat Benveniste’s work as suggestive of a water memory (see, for instance, Thomas, 2007 ), which is epistemically irresponsible. Others take the idea to new extremes. In his book The New Physics of Homeopathy ( 2002 ), homoeopath Colin B. Lessell suggests, for instance, that individual water molecules may have a memory. This idea is so far out that even other homoeopaths find it unpalatable. As Lionel Milgrom complains, Lessell makes this suggestion “without bothering to offer any sensible explanation, within the known laws of chemistry and physics, as to what that memory consists of” (Milgrom, 2003 , p. 62). Bearing in mind that this comes from someone who thinks of practitioner, patient, and remedy as “quantum entangled,” this has to count for something.

We can record, then, that homoeopaths believe in a doctrine that is wildly implausible given our best knowledge of the natural world. This is, in itself, an egregious violation of a crucial epistemic standard. Moreover, when pressed to justify this, they respond with argumentative moves that constitute further violations. They draw on bizarre ontological ideas or quote debunked experimental results.

4.3 Shifting the burden of proof

The second problem for homoeopaths is that their doctrine is, to date, not backed by sufficient acceptable evidence. As we have explained in Sects.  2.4 and 2.5 , the intellectually honest way of dealing with this problem is to conduct high-quality RCTs. However, when confronted, homoeopaths regularly resort to illicit argumentative tactics. One such tactic is to shift the burden of proof to one’s critics. Footnote 34 When this is done without a good reason, it is an illegitimate argumentative move characteristic of pseudoscience more generally (Pigliucci & Boudry, 2014 ). Homoeopathy shares this feature with other pseudosciences, such as intelligent design creationism (Pigliucci, 2010 /2018) and ufology (Oberg, 1979 ).

There are various ways to shift the burden of proof. Some homoeopaths simply appeal to rhetorical phrases, which is evidently ludicrous and shall, hence, not be discussed here. Footnote 35 Others pursue an approach that is superficially more plausible. They rely on the principle that the absence of evidence is not evidence of absence . Footnote 36 In other words, just because we have not found evidence for homoeopathy, we have not found evidence against it.

Arguments that appeal to this principle seem initially reasonable because they merely appear to reject a fallacious way of reasoning. To see this, consider the argument from ignorance , which is widely viewed as a misstep in thinking. Footnote 37 It alleges that since we do not know that p , we know that ¬ p . Now, if we replace “know” with “have evidence”, we get the negation of the above principle: Since we do not have evidence that p , we have evidence that ¬ p . This seems equally fallacious, and adherents of homoeopathy seem quite right to reject it.

Indeed, arguments that rely on an absence of evidence are often unsound. The absence of evidence for a proposition, say, “that a storm is not brewing in the atmosphere of Jupiter,” is, generally speaking, not evidence for its negation, to wit, “that a storm is brewing” (Kelley, 1988 /2013, p. 130; emphasis in the original). However, consider the following example, which shows that this is not generally so:

A man is sitting inside a warehouse that has a tin roof and no windows. Tin roofs are notorious for making lots of noise inside a building when it rains outside. The man in the warehouse cannot see outside, so he could not tell directly if it were raining at a given time. But he could infer indirectly, using, for example, the following argument: if it were raining now I would know it (by the noise); but I do not know it; therefore, it is not raining now. (Walton, 1996 , p. 1)

The latter argument seems unobjectionable. Hence, the question arises when appeals to an absence of evidence legitimately shift the burden of proof.

Evidently, the difference between the two cases is this: If a storm were (or were not) brewing in the atmosphere of Jupiter, we would not expect to have any evidence of it because we are not looking for evidence. Accordingly, we should suspend judgement as to whether a storm is, in fact, brewing in the atmosphere of Jupiter. In the case of the man in the tin warehouse, this is different. If it were raining, he should expect to have evidence of this. He knows that whenever it rained in the past, he would hear the sound of raindrops on the roof. To be sure, he cannot be entirely certain that, this time, the rain would also produce the same sound. After all, someone may have, unbeknownst to him, installed a giant fan on the roof that blows away the raindrops before they hit the tin surface. However, the chance of that is remote. Accordingly, for the man in the warehouse, the absence of evidence for rain is, indeed, evidence of the absence of rain. Footnote 38

We should ask, then, whether the case of homoeopathy is more like the Jupiter case or more like the rain case. The answer is simple: It is much more like the latter. Homoeopathy does not fit the protoscience category, which we have discussed in Sect.  3.3 . This is because the methodology of evidence-based medicine is an effective tool for picking up evidence that a remedy works if it works. After 200 years of research, the chance that we would not have found sufficient acceptable evidence for homoeopathy is tiny if it were true. In this case, the absence of evidence is also evidence of absence. So, the burden of proof lies squarely on advocates of homoeopathy and rejecting it is evidence of epistemic carelessness.

4.4 Mischaracterising the evidence

When homoeopaths are confronted with the problem of the insufficient empirical foundation of their doctrine, they often mischaracterise the evidence. Dey et al. ( 2021 ), for instance, do this in a recent paper. They examined in an RCT whether classical homoeopathy was effective in treating warts and determined that their study was “inconclusive.”

At first glance, this sounds innocent. However, it is a manipulative choice of words because the category “inconclusive” does not exist in statistical analysis. In an RCT, recall, the investigation aims to determine whether a remedy is effective or not. To this end, experimental subjects are divided randomly into two groups. Those in the verum group receive the remedy. Those in the control group get a pharmacologically inert placebo instead. Researchers then collect data and analyse whether there is a difference between the two groups, that is, a therapeutic effect. Crucially though, it is not enough to find that subjects in the verum group have improved more than subjects in the control group since such a difference can arise by chance. The difference between the groups must be statistically significant , as explained in Sect.  2.4 . That is, the probability of a difference that large (or larger) being due to chance has to be 0.05 or less. Only then is the trial counted as a confirmation of the hypothesis that the remedy works. If the difference between the two groups is not statistically significant, the hypothesis counts as disconfirmed (or the null-hypothesis counts as accepted). To be sure, the convention for statistical significance is somewhat arbitrary (Ziliak and McCloskey, 2008 ). But it does ensure some degree of comparability across trials. Therefore, it seems dishonest not to acknowledge what, by convention, is a disconfirming finding. Footnote 39

Homoeopaths also mischaracterise other researchers’ findings. The British Homeopathy Association (BHA), a UK-based charity devoted to promoting homoeopathy, summarises the results of 104 peer-reviewed journal papers with RCTs as follows:

41% of these RCTs have reported a balance of positive evidence, 5% a balance of negative evidence, and 54% have not been conclusively positive or negative. (Homeopathy UK, 2021b )

Here, the BHA uses essentially the same trick. In statistical analysis, the category “inconclusive” does not exist. Therefore, the only adequate description of the evidence is that 41% of RCTs were positive, and 59% were negative. Footnote 40

4.5 Cherry-picking

Cherry-picking is the failure to consider all available and relevant evidence on a given issue. At its most extreme, one picks out a single case report or a small number of cases and draws substantive conclusions. This is problematic for at least three reasons. Firstly, there is no guarantee that all the relevant data was gathered and recorded without error. Footnote 41 Secondly, even if the data were recorded reliably, individual cases do not allow us to disentangle multiple possible factors that might explain the result. It is well known that many factors can explain the observation that the patient gets better after administering a remedy. Among them are, for instance, the placebo effect, the natural course of the condition, other drugs that the patient may have received, and so on. Thirdly, there is no guarantee that the cases are representative. This is why case reports are at the low end of the hierarchy of evidence in evidence-based medicine (Nissen & Wynn, 2012 ).

Cherry-picking the data is a common problem in pseudoscience (Boudry, 2013 ; Hansson, 2017 ; Shermer, 2013 ). It is also common in homoeopathy. Prominent homoeopaths have advocated drawing far-reaching conclusions from individual cases in the research literature. Footnote 42 George Vithoulkas, for instance, argues that homoeopathy journals should invite practitioners to publish more case reports. This way, he thinks, “a huge body of important evidence could be amassed of what homeopathy can or cannot do” (Vithoulkas, 2017a , p. 198).

Some practitioners follow Vithoulkas’s advice and go very far in their conclusions. For instance, Wadhwani ( 2015 ) as well as Choudhury and Khuda-Bukhsh ( 2020 ) conclude, in two separate cases, that homoeopathy cured a patient of deep vein thrombosis (DVT), and Yaseen ( 2020a ) claims, in one case, to have cured a patient, “gently and softly,” of acute lymphoblastic leukaemia and of primary pure red cell aplasia in association with Johnson-blizzard syndrome in another (Yaseen, 2020b ).

The strategic selection of convenient cases is not the only form of cherry-picking homoeopaths frequently use. When reviewing existing studies and, particularly, systematic reviews and meta-analyses, they frequently cherry-pick the statements made in them. One example of this is the review paper of Weiermayer et al. ( 2020 ). The authors discuss the evidence for the homoeopathic treatment of infections in humans and animals and select six systematic reviews they deem relevant (Cucherat et al., 2000 ; Kleijnen et al., 1991 ; Linde et al., 1997 , 1999 ; Mathie et al., 2014 ; Shang et al., 2005 ). Not only do they claim that five of them confirmed the effects of homoeopathy, which is false (Ernst, 2015 ). They also ignore many eminently relevant studies (for instance, Antonelli & Donelli, 2019 ; Doehring & Sundrum, 2016 ; Hawke et al., 2018 ; Qutubuddin et al., 2019 ; Reisman et al., 2019 ).

4.6 Misreporting

So far, we have argued, in Sects.  4.4 and 4.5 , that homoeopaths mischaracterise and cherry-pick the available evidence. Moreover, they do this against the background of an already distorted evidence base because they also selectively report their findings, as Gartlehner et al. ( 2022 ) found in a recent cross-sectional study and meta-analysis. The authors systematically investigated the extent of reporting bias in trials on homoeopathy. Before we summarise their findings, we need some background.

The Declaration of Helsinki is one of the cornerstone documents regulating human subjects’ experimentation. In 2008, it was amended to include an obligation on the part of researchers to preregister and publish all their trials. The rationale for this new requirement is straightforward: If we run enough trials with an ineffective remedy, we will inevitably stumble upon significant findings because these are to be expected in 5% of cases, as we have discussed in Sect.  2.5 . If, in addition to this, we change the end-points of our studies after the results are in (HARKing), we increase the probability of getting positive trial outcomes further. Accordingly, to assess the evidence, it is not only necessary to know how many studies with confirmatory findings exist. It is essential to know, also, how many trials have been performed in total and what endpoints and hypotheses they sought to investigate. The requirement to preregister and publish all trials is to ensure these conditions are met.

The study by Gartlehner et al. reveals that homoeopaths poorly adhere to the preregistration and publication requirements. They found that almost 38% of homoeopathy trials remained unpublished, and 50% of published trials were not registered. In addition, 25% of the primary endpoints were changed, as a comparison with the preregistered research protocols revealed—suggesting frequent HARKing. The researchers hypothesise that, due to the lack of a preregistration requirement for homoeopathy trials, many more unregistered trials likely exist. So, the authors’ results are likely an underestimation. In conclusion, Gartlehner and colleagues state that the lack of preregistration and reliable publication of trials “likely affects the validity of the body of evidence of homeopathic literature and may substantially overestimate the true treatment effect of homeopathic remedies.”

4.7 Rejecting scientific methodology

Pseudoscientists tend to reject essential elements of established scientific methodology. Creationists, for instance, reject radiometric dating (Kitcher, 1982 ). Similarly, homoeopaths tend to dismiss evidence from RCTs (Mathie et al., 2014 ).

Ricotti and Delanty ( 2006 ) write, for instance, that “[i]ndividualized therapies such as homeopathy and reiki cannot be compared with medicines in a conventional pharmaceutical model,” and Vithoulkas ( 2017a , p. 197) calls RCTs of homoeopathy “a waste of time, money, and energy.” Milgrom argues “that no therapeutic modality, conventional medicine included, is ever practiced in real life according to the DBRCT’s [i.e. the double-blind randomised controlled trial’s] procedural separation of therapy and context” (Milgrom, 2008a , p. 591). This is, of course, precisely the point of these experiments. What researchers want to find out is whether the administered substance had any effect of its own, and this can only be done if other factors that could conceivably affect the patients’ outcomes—importantly: the placebo effect—are rigorously controlled. To reject this aspect of established scientific practice in evidence-based medicine is an egregious violation of epistemic standards. This gets even more obvious once we consider the alternative methodologies homoeopaths propose to have their theories “tested,” as we shall see next.

4.8 Immunisation strategies

Pseudoscientists often use immunisation strategies to protect their doctrines from recalcitrant evidence (Boudry & Braeckman, 2011 ). George Vithoulkas proposes to build them right into the homoeopathic research methodology. In his view, homoeopaths should accept research only if it abides by the following principles:

(1) Homeopathy does not treat diseases but only diseased individuals. Therefore, every case may need a different remedy although the individuals may be suffering from the same pathology. … (2) In the homeopathic treatment of serious chronic pathology, if the remedy is correct usually a strong initial aggravation takes place. Such an aggravation may last from a few hours to a few weeks and even then we may have a syndrome-shift and not the therapeutic results expected. If the measurements take place in the aggravation period, the outcome will be classified negative. … At least sufficient time should be given in the design of the trial, in order to account for the aggravation period. … (3) In severe chronic conditions, the homeopath may need to correctly prescribe a series of remedies before the improvement is apparent. Such a second or third prescription should take place only after evaluating the effects of the previous remedies. … (4) As the prognosis of a chronic condition and the length of time after which any amelioration set in may differ from one to another case, the treatment and the study-design respectively should take into consideration the length of time the disease was active and also the severity of the case. (Vithoulkas, 2017b , p. 48; emphases added)

To be sure, it is possible, as principle 1 requires, to investigate the efficacy of individualised homoeopathic treatments rigorously by examining how the individually prescribed homoeopathic remedies perform against placebo. However, the other principles, in effect, make homoeopathy immune to recalcitrant evidence.

Principles 2 and 3 ensure, in conjunction, that every empirical observation is compatible with the hypothesis that homoeopathy had an effect. Frank Cioffi, in his discussion of the pseudoscientific nature of psychoanalysis, explains the mechanism at work. It is “characteristic of a pseudoscience,” he writes,

that the hypotheses which comprise it stand in an asymmetrical relation to the expectations they generate, being permitted to guide them and be vindicated by their fulfilment but not to be discredited by their disappointment. (Cioffi, 1998 , p. 118)

If homoeopathy were effective, we would expect patients to improve more than in the placebo group. Presumably, Vithoulkas would also view the fulfilment of this expectation as a vindication. At the same time, however, principle 2 allows him to avoid admitting defeat if the opposite were to be observed. If patients got worse compared to placebo, this would also be good news for homoeopathy. After all, this could be reinterpreted as an “aggravation,” which, on Vithoulkas’s principle 2, also proves that homoeopathy works.

Finally, if no improvement is found, the condition is apparently chronic, and principle 3 applies: The homoeopath has to prescribe other medications. So, the methodology Vithoulkas proposes in effect immunises homoeopathy against empirical criticisms. He hedges his bets by preparing various possible ad hoc hypotheses that he can draw upon to explain why the prescribed medicine did not make the patient better. This makes homoeopathy unfalsifiable. Footnote 43

Principle 3 has a further interesting consequence. Vithoulkas writes that “a second or third prescription should take place only after evaluating the effects of the previous remedies.” That means, of course, that the homoeopath has to know which remedy was prescribed before in order to evaluate its effects. This prevents adequate blinding and increases the risk of bias.

Finally, consider principle 4. It says that “the treatment and the study-design respectively should take into consideration the length of time the disease was active and also the severity of the case.” In and of itself, this principle may seem innocuous since it is, of course, correct that the history and severity of the disease should be taken into account when predictions are made about its future trajectory—be it with or without medication. Nevertheless, it is an essential principle of scientific research, as discussed in Sect.  2.5 , to formulate a hypothesis before the results are in. The opposite, hypothesising after the results are known or HARKing, can, as discussed in Sects.  2.5 and 4.6 , massively increase the chance of finding a positive result. Vithoulkas’s principle 4 is problematic as it may be interpreted as an invitation to do just this.

The latter seems especially likely in the case of homoeopathy. As discussed in Sect.  2.1 above, homoeopaths propose to identify the correct remedy based on the law of similars , that is, based on the principle that a substance known to cause particular symptoms in a healthy individual can be used to cure these symptoms in a sick individual. In other words, homoeopaths are not interested in the causal mechanisms behind a disease. To them, the disease is, essentially, a black box. This being so, they are at liberty to speculate about its future course and are unbound by the theories of science-based medicine that tell us how the body works.

4.9 Objections

We have argued that homoeopathy is pseudoscience. Our argument contained two parts: firstly, a theoretical criterion for categorising a pursuit as pseudoscience, which we introduced in Sect.  3 , and, secondly, empirical evidence suggesting that homoeopathy matches that criterion, which we have provided in this section. Accordingly, one can object to our argument in two ways, namely, by rejecting our theoretical criterion or the empirical evidence we have presented.

As for the first part, we have followed other authors (Ladyman, 2013 ; Moberger, 2020 ; Mukerji & Mannino, 2022 ) in construing pseudoscience as a form of bullshit in conjunction with a symptomatic approach for detecting it (Boudry, 2021 ). This relatively new approach may, of course, be challenged, and we cannot defend it here in detail. We believe, however, that it wears its plausibility on its sleeves as it can theoretically unite many alternative criteria other authors have proposed to demarcate science from pseudoscience. Fasce ( 2017 ) has reviewed 21 demarcation criteria and found that they contained 70 individual factors. Given the limited space, we cannot discuss them all. However, a few examples should suffice to show how criticisms based on other criteria can be recast in terms of our bullshit criterion.

Fasce’s top-ranked criterion is external incongruity . It corresponds to the implausibility problem discussed in sections 2.6 and 4.2 . As we have argued, homoeopaths egregiously violate important epistemic standards by advocating a doctrine that is incongruent with our best theories of the natural world. This is undoubtedly an indication of bullshit unless it is defended with very persuasive evidence.

The second-ranked criterion is deficient methodology. It is also covered by our approach. As shown in sections 4.4 through 4.8, homoeopaths mischaracterise and mishandle the evidence, reject RCTs, and immunise their theories against recalcitrant findings. Their methodology, in other words, is highly deficient, making their defence of homoeopathy bullshit.

The third-ranked criterion is lack of progress. Homoeopaths would, of course, insist that their field does progress, as is evidenced by the constant discovery of new homoeopathic remedies. However, this is not what the criterion means. For a research field to count as progressive, it must make bold new predictions that are actually confirmed by the data. As we have seen, however, homoeopathy does not do that. Instead, its proponents constantly try to explain away its implausibility and recalcitrant evidence by resorting to grotesque and epistemically irresponsible arguments. This is the mark of a degenerating research programme that does not exhibit progress (Lakatos, 1978 ).

As for the second part, we have shown, using examples from the literature on homoeopathy, that when homoeopaths are confronted with the two central problems of their doctrine, namely, its scientific implausibility and its lack of sufficient acceptable evidence, they produce bullshit in response. They make bizarre ontological claims or resort to quantum woo woo. They also illegitimately shift the burden of proof, mischaracterise, cherry-pick, and misreport the evidence, reject important parts of the scientific method, and seek to immunise their doctrine against recalcitrant evidence. Now, critics may object that we may have cherry-picked the evidence ourselves. Perhaps, they may argue, we have presented a few outliers that are not representative of the academic literature on homoeopathy as a whole? Let us make two brief points in response.

Firstly, the examples we used come from publications, persons, and organisations that are well-established within homoeopathic circles. Secondly, as discussed at the end of Sect.  4.1 , it is clear how our empirical case could be disproven if it were incorrect. To do this, one would need to show that the implausibility problem of homoeopathy can be reasonably resolved and that sufficient acceptable evidence for it can be provided. This would be an easy feat if we had, indeed, cherry-picked the evidence and sidestepped aspects of the literature that did not support our position.

5 Conclusion

At the beginning of the paper, we noted that homoeopathy is commonly named one of the prototypical pseudosciences. However, there has been, to date, no comprehensive discussion as to what makes it a pseudoscience. Moreover, the problem is not trivial since the most well-known and influential demarcation criteria, such as Popper’s falsifiability criterion and Kuhn’s problem-solving criterion, cannot account for it, as we have shown. We have tried to fill this research gap using a novel bullshitology-based approach to the demarcation problem. Following this approach, we have argued that homoeopathy should be regarded as pseudoscience because its proponents claim scientific standing for it and produce argumentative bullshit to defend it, thus violating important epistemic standards central to science.

Further prototypical examples of pseudoscience include, also, “creationism, phrenology, Freudian psychoanalysis, astrology, Intelligent Design, parapsychology, Scientology, Velikovsky’s theories about world collisions, or the theory that vaccines cause autism” (Boudry, 2021 ). Above that, Hansson ( 2017 ) has proposed to include science denialism as well (e.g. climate change denialism, holocaust denialism, relativity theory denialism, aids denialism, and tobacco disease denialism).

Outside of the philosophy of science, homoeopathy is also commonly viewed as a pseudoscience. One example is medical ethics, where authors discuss whether the use of homoeopathy is ethically permissible in medical practice (see, for instance, Smith, 2012 ). Another is psychology. Schmaltz and Lilienfeld ( 2014 ), for instance, examine how a case study of homoeopathy as pseudoscience may be used to teach scientific thinking. The evolutionary biologist and science communicator Richard Dawkins has also chastised homoeopathy as a pseudoscience (Dawkins, 2003 ).

Edzard Ernst, for instance, notes that critics “have long insisted that much of homoeopathy fulfils the criteria for pseudoscience” (Ernst, 2016 , p. 130).

More recent criteria, for instance one based on systematicity theory (Hoyningen-Huene, 2013 ), have also been criticised for not being able to handle the case of homoeopathy properly (see the exchange between Oreskes, 2019 and Hoyningen-Huene, 2019 ).

For reasons of space, the following discussion is rather brief. For more extensive treatments, see, for instance, Ernst ( 2016 ) and Singh and Ernst ( 2008 ).

Strictly speaking, the original phrase similia similisbus currentur should be translated as a subjunctive, namely, that like be cured with like.

These three homoeopathic remedies are actually available for purchase, for instance, in the online store of the British Helios Clinic ( www.helios.co.uk , accessed 15 March 2022).

Since intuition is often not the best guide to sound probability judgements, check how long it takes for the Queen’s face to come up four times in a row when a fair £1 coin is flipped, say, a hundred times: https://www.random.org/coins/?num=100&cur=60-gbp.1pound .

To date, systematic reviews have been conducted by Kleijnen et al. ( 1991 ), Linde et al. ( 1997 ), Linde and Melchart ( 1998 ), Cucherat et al. ( 2000 ), Shang et al. ( 2005 ), Mathie et al. ( 2014 ), National Health and Medical Research Council ( 2015 ), Mathie et al. ( 2017 ), Mathie et al. ( 2018 ), Antonelli and Donelli ( 2019 ), and Mathie et al. ( 2019 ).

A common approach for doing this is to use funnel plots, as described by Duval and Tweedie ( 2000 ).

Linde and Jonas, for instance, say that “homeopathy is highly implausible” (Linde and Jonas, 2005 , p. 2081).

Note, however, that in practice it may be difficult to tell whether a given field falls, unequivocally, on the side of science or on the side of pseudoscience. This is because, even scientific fields may, as Mahner ( 2007 ) puts it, contain “pseudoscientific pockets”.

Note that Mahner ( 2007 ) distinguishes a narrow from a wide concept of parascience. In the wide sense, he proposes to include pseudoscience within parascience. However, unlike pseudoscience, parascience in the narrow sense, thinks Mahner, is not characterised by scientific pretensions. Note, also, that not all authors make the distinction between pseudoscience and parascience in the first place. Grove ( 1985 ), for instance, applies the label “pseudoscientific” both to doctrines that “seek public legitimation and support by claiming to be scientific” and to doctrines that “purport to offer alternative accounts to those of science or claim to explain what science cannot explain” (p. 219).

Though parascience is problematic to the extent that parascientists pretend to possess knowledge which, from a scientific standpoint, they are not entitled to claim, they are, arguably, less of a threat than pseudoscientists. The latter, after all, pose as scientists and seek, hence, to exploit the good name of science, while the former do not. Accordingly, pseudoscience may be viewed as a larger threat to human reason because it may not only affect those who reject the authority of science but also those who accept it.

Not all authors think of pseudoscience as continuous with bad science, however. Michael Gordin writes, for instance: “On the imagined scale that has excellent science at one end and then slides through good science, mediocre science (the vast majority of what is done), poor science, to bad science on the other end, it is not the case that pseudoscience lies somewhere on this continuum. It is off the grid altogether.” (Gordin, 2012 , p. 1; emphasis in the original)

Note that our proposal is not uncontroversial for at least two reasons. Firstly, numerous demarcation criteria have been proposed in the literature—among them, perhaps most famously, Popper’s ( 1959 /2005) falsifiability criterion—and the question which one is most preferable is subject to ongoing debate (see, for instance, the edited volume by Pigliucci and Boudry, 2013 ). Secondly, there has been some scepticism, following Laudan ( 1983 ), as to whether it is even possible to demarcate science from pseudoscience. In the present paper, we sidestep both issues. What we say is based on the premise that science can be demarcated from pseudoscience and that the account we offer is to be preferred. However, in Sect.  4.9 , we show that our bullshitological criterion is quite ecumenical because the most influential criteria for pseudoscience can, in fact, be recast in terms of it.

As Hurlburt ( 2011 , p. 18) puts it, “[t]o bullshit is an inter-personal act.”.

As one of us has argued elsewhere (Mukerji, 2018 ), the notion of fake news can also be analysed as bullshit, and there are also two types of fake news publishers that parallel the two types of pseudoscientists we distinguish here. An interesting corollary of the view we propose here is, therefore, that pseudoscience is to science what fake news is to news.

Our approach for identifying pseudoscience is in agreement, for instance, with what Paul Hoyningen-Huene says about the nature of pseudoscience. He writes that “scientific belief must somehow be backed up by credible arguments”… and that “systems of belief massively deficient in this respect will be judged as nonscientific or as pseudoscientific notwithstanding their own claims to scientificity” (Hoyningen-Huene, 2013 , p. 206).

For further evidence, see Oreskes ( 2019 ).

For a more comprehensive list of spurious arguments against homoeopathy, see Ernst ( 2016 , 61 ff.).

Dana Ullman, a much cited homoeopathy proponent, has chosen to augment the title of his book The Homeopathic Revolution ( 2007 ) with the subtitle Why Famous People and Cultural Heroes Choose Homeopathy , which seems to be an overt appeal to celebrity, the UK Faculty of Homoeopathy prides itself to have King Charles III, then Prince of Wales, as a patron (The Faculty of Homeopathy, 2019 ), and the charity Homeopathy UK, which seeks to promote homoeopathy, has a section entitled “Celebreties and Homeopathy” (Homeopathy UK, 2021a ).

Like in the case of creationism, appeals to authority by homoeopaths often come in the form of what Philip Kitcher has called “credential mongering” (Kitcher, 1982 , p. 178). As we have seen above, homoeopaths often explicitly emphasise the attribute “scientific” in their books’ titles or their institutions’ names. They also like to flash their scientific credentials (“Dr” or “PhD”).

This might be a promising marketing strategy because skepticism regarding big pharma and a preference for complementary and alternative medicine are correlated (Lamberty & Imhoff, 2018 ). Also, as Oliver and Wood ( 2014 ) have established, conspiracy theories about pharmaceutical companies already have a foothold in society.

Perhaps, however, Daniel Loxton and Donald R. Prothero are correct that pretentiousness should make us skeptical. As they comment in Abominable Science ( 2013 ), “if a book says “Ph.D.” on the cover, its arguments probably cannot stand on their own merits” (Loxton and Prothero, 2013 , p. 10). Whether that is true is an empirical issue and cannot be decided from the airchair.

See, also, Milgrom ( 2009 ).

To be sure, a conspiracy theory need not be false (for a comprehensive overview of the academic discussion, see Butter and Knight, 2020 ). In fact, numerous examples of real conspiracies exist (e.g. Watergate, NSA, etc.). However, simply asserting the existence of a conspiracy without providing any evidence is, at best, epistemically careless and, at worst, a deliberate psychological trick. And quite an ironic one at that since homoeopathic products are sold by pharmaceutical companies, too.

For present purposes, we focus on the implausibility that derives from an external inconsistency, that is, from the incompatibility of the core claim of homoeopathy with the known laws of physics and chemistry. Note, however, that homoeopathy also faces a plausibility problem that derives from internal inconsistencies. For instance, most water molecules we ingest have existed for a very long time and have constantly met with other substances. Why, then, should they not bear the memory of these other substances and have effects similar to homoeopathic remedies (Cukaci et al., 2020 )? Also, nobody denies that the “pure” water homoeopaths use to prepare their remedies contain small levels of impurities. Why, we may ask, should these impurities not have effects of their own (Grams, 2019a , 2019b )? This question cannot plausibly be shrugged off by homoeopaths since at least some of these impurities are from substances that also serve as the basis for certain remedies (e.g. Plumbum metallicum, Cadmium metallicum, Ferrum metallicum).

This is a special variety of bullshit, which has recently been called highfalutin bullshit [Mukerji, 2022 ].

For a discussion, see Pigliucci ( 2010/2018 , 160ff.).

This approach is also pursued by parapsychoplogists. In this connection, see, for instance, Radin ( 1997 ).

Further examples can be found in Maity and Mahata ( 2021 ), Walach ( 2003 ), and Weingärtner ( 2005 , 2007 ).

The physicist Anton Zeilinger, for instance, has said that linking homoeopathy with his work is “scientifically unfounded” and that he regrets the association of his name with homoeopathy (Schulte von Drach, 2012 ). On the alleged link between quantum physics and homoeopathy, see, also, Leick ( 2008 ).

There are exceptions, though. Robert T. Mathie, for instance, acknowledges “that homeopathy carries a heavy burden of scientific proof” (Mathie, 2003 ).

For instance, homoeopaths commonly appeal to a Shakespearean dictum. Shakespeare has Hamlet say, in a conversation with Horatio, that “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in thy philosophy” (Act 1, Scene 5). This quote is taken to suggest, as a US based classical homoeopath explains on his website, that “[j]ust because humanity can’t explain something well doesn’t mean it isn’t true” ( https://web.archive.org/web/20210517004257/https://hilltop-homeopathy.com/the-4-pillars/ , accessed 15 March 2022). The first mention of the quote in connection with homoeopathy seems to come from an address delivered to the Medical Society of the State of New York in the year 1838 by its president James M’Naughton (M'Naughton, 1840 ).

Milgrom ( 2008b , 2009 ), for instance, uses this principle. And Levy et al. write in their defence of the ethicality of homoeopathy that “the absence of evidence may not mean that the therapy does not work, just that there is no evidence that it does” (Levy et al., 2015 , p. 206). According to Edzard Ernst, “[i]n alternative medicine, this argument is used to silence doubters and critics. As long as you cannot show that an unproven treatment definitely does not work, we are all supposed to give it ‘the benefit of doubt’ because it might just work.” (Ernst, 2012 )

An early example of this is Richard Whately’s dismissive treatment of the argumentum ad ignorantiam in his Elements of Logic as “evidently nothing more than the employment of some kind of Fallacy” (Whately, 1827 , p. 191). One and a half centuries later, Richard Robinson comes to a similar conclusion. He writes that “[t]he argument from ignorance is bad. Ignorance is not one of the sources of knowledge; and premisses about our ignorance do not reasonably give conclusions about our knowledge. Ignorance is a good ground for suspending judgement, but not for taking a sides.” (Robinson, 1971 , p. 102)

See Sober ( 2009 ) and Strevens ( 2009 ), for a more general analysis of the statement that absence of evidence is evidence of absence and Altman and Bland ( 1995 ) for a brief explanation of how it applies to medical studies.

Individualised classical homoeopathy offers another way to misdescribe findings. Here it is possible to avoid disconfirmation of the core claim by redescribing cases in which the homoeopathic remedy did not work as “cases where the right homoeopathic medicine could not be found” (Rutten and Manchanda, 2016 , p. 72).

Another example comes from Vithoulkas ( 2017b ), who mentions five studies (Kleijnen et al., 1991 ; Barnes et al. 1997; Linde et al., 1997 ; Cucherat et al., 2000 ; Shang et al., 2005 ) and states their findings were “inconclusive”. In fact, however, none of these studies found sufficient evidence for the hypothesis that homoeopathic remedies had a statistically significant effect different from placebo. Researchers generally pointed out that the quality of the reported trials was low.

Jay W. Shelton provides a helpful list of what could go wrong: The practitioner’s desire that the patient heal could “cloud his or her judgment of whether and how much the patient has improved.” Furthermore, the practitioner may want “to succeed for personal and professional reasons,” “show off the power of a particular remedy because he or she may have been involved in developing or proving the remedy,” “count as a positive outcome a case in which the primary complaint has not been relieved but the patient feels better overall.” Also, “the patient may want to please the practitioner and therefore report symptoms in a distorted way” (Shelton, 2004 , p. 194).

We strictly mean the pseudoacademic literature here. Homoeopathy books addressed to laypeople are often far worse in their irrational reliance on case reports. For an example, see Robert Ullman’s and Judyth Reichenberg-Ullman’s popular Patient’s Guide to Homeopathic Medicine ( 1995 ), which is chockful of success stories of homoeopathy’s purported healing powers.

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Mukerji, N., Ernst, E. Why homoeopathy is pseudoscience. Synthese 200 , 394 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11229-022-03882-w

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Homoeopaths treat disease using very low dose preparations administered according to the principle that “like should be cured with like.” Practitioners select a drug that would, if given to a healthy volunteer, cause the presenting symptoms of the patient. For example, the homoeopathic remedy Allium cepa is derived from the common onion. Contact with raw onions typically causes lacrimation, stinging and irritation around the eyes and nose, and clear nasal discharge Allium cepa might be prescribed to patients with hay fever, especially if both nose and eyes are affected.

Samuel Hahnemann (1755-1843), the German physician who first described homoeopathy, began his pioneering experiments in the 1790s.

Other common homoeopathic medicines include those made from plants such as belladonna, arnica, and chamomile; minerals such as mercury and sulphur; animal products such as sepia (squid ink) and lachesis (snake venom); and, more rarely, biochemical substances such as histamine or human growth factor. The remedies are prepared by a process of serial dilution and succussion (vigorous shaking). The more times this process of dilution and succussion is performed, the greater the “potency” of the remedy.

Homoeopathic medicines are made from various materials, including animal products such as sepia from squid ink.

Prescribing strategies in homoeopathy vary considerably. In what is often termed “classical” homoeopathy, practitioners attempt to identify the single medicine that corresponds to a patient's general “constitution”—a complex picture incorporating current illness, medical history, personality, and behaviour. Two patients with identical conventional diagnoses may receive very different homoeopathic medicines.

Other practitioners prescribe combinations of medicines (“complex homoeopathy”) or prescribe on the basis of conventional diagnosis alone. There is currently insufficient evidence concerning the relative benefits of the different approaches to treatment.

The complex lattice formations created by water molecules are thought by some to hold the key to understanding the mechanism by which homoeopathy might work.

How can homoeopathy work?

It is well known that many homoeopathic medicines are ultramolecular—that is, they are diluted to such a degree that not even a single molecule of the original solute is likely to be present. As drug actions are conventionally understood in biochemical terms, homoeopathy presents an enormous intellectual challenge, if not a complete impasse. Many scientists have suggested that the clinical effects of homoeopathic medicines are solely due to the placebo effect. However, there have been rigorous, replicated, double blind, randomised trials showing significant differences between homoeopathic and placebo tablets.

The response to this has been mixed. Some people remain unconvinced by the evidence, claiming that there must be another explanation, such as methodological bias, for the results. Others point out that the evidence is very strong and argue that homoeopathic medicines must work by some, as yet undefined, biophysical mechanism. One possible explanation, currently being investigated, is that during serial dilution the complex interactions between the solvent (water) molecules are permanently altered to retain a “memory” of the original solute material.

What happens during a treatment?

Homoeopaths' consultations for chronic conditions include an extremely detailed case history. Patients are asked to describe their medical history and current symptoms. Particular attention is paid to the “modalities” of presenting symptoms—that is, whether they change according to the weather, time of day, season, and so on. Information is also gathered about mood and behaviour, likes and dislikes, responses to stress, personality, and reactions to food. The overall aim of the history taking is to build up a “symptom picture” of the patient This is matched with a “drug picture” described in the homoeopathic Materia medica . On this basis, one or more homoeopathic medicines are prescribed, usually in pill form. Sometimes treatment consists of only one or two doses. In other cases a regular daily dose is used.

Examples of “drug pictures” of commonly prescribed homoeopathic medicines

Aconite ( aconitum napellus ).

Sudden or violent onset

Ailments from shock, fright, or fear

Intense fear. Terror stricken. Predicts the time of death

Restlessness with fear of death

Ailments from exposure to cold, dry wind

Worse with violent emotions, cold, night (especially around midnight)

Better with open air, wine

Chamomile ( Matricaria chamomilla )

Teething infant.

Child wants to be carried and is then more quiet

Twitchings and convulsions during teething

Frantic irritability with intolerance of pain

Ugly, cross, uncivil, and quarrelsome

Colic after anger

Worse with anger, night, dentition, coffee

Better with being carried, warm wet weather

Rhus toxicodendron

Joint pains worse with first movement and rest and better with motion.

Pain and stiffness worse in damp weather

Irritability and restlessness at night, driving out of bed

Back pains and stiffness compelling constant movement in bed

Urticaria, vesicles. Cold air makes skin painful

Asthma alternating with skin eruptions

Worse with exposure to wet, cold, before storms, rest, first movement

Better with heat, continued motion, rubbing, hot bath

Adapted from Leckridge 1997

Two to six weeks after the start of treatment, progress is reviewed and alterations made to remedy or dilution. A patient's initial symptom picture commonly matches more than one homoeopathic remedy, and follow up allows the practitioner to make an empirical judgment on whether a particular remedy was the correct one to prescribe. If the patient is doing well the practitioner may stop treatment and monitor progress. If symptoms recur the treatment may be repeated at the same or a higher potency. If the symptom picture has changed at follow up a different homoeopathic prescription may be given even though the conventional diagnosis remains unchanged.

Homoeopathic consultations in private practice may last over an hour, although many NHS general practitioners practise basic homoeopathy in 10-15 minute appointments. Many homoeopaths also recommend changes to diet and lifestyle, and some advise against vaccination (see section on safety below).

Examples of symptomatic homoeopathic prescribing

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Therapeutic scope

Most of a typical homoeopath's caseload consists of chronic or recurrent conditions such as eczema, rheumatoid arthritis, fatigue disorders, asthma, migraine, dysmenorrhoea, irritable bowel syndrome, recurrent upper respiratory or urinary tract infections, and mood disorders Homoeopaths also treat a substantial number of patients with ill defined illness that has not been given a conventional diagnosis Children are much more commonly treated by homoeopaths than by other types of complementary practitioner.

Key studies of efficacy

Systematic reviews.

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Some homoeopaths say that few conditions are truly outside their remit, and the homoeopathic case literature includes treatment of complaints as diverse as tuberous sclerosis, infertility, myasthenia gravis, fear of flying, and cystic fibrosis. That said, opinions about what can be effectively treated by homoeopathy differ widely, even among homoeopaths, with medically trained practitioners generally being more conservative than non-medical ones. It is also used, often by self prescription, to treat various acute conditions such as the common cold, bruising, hay fever, and joint sprains.

Research evidence

Given the difficulties in understanding how homoeopathy may work, researchers have concentrated on establishing whether it is a placebo treatment. Current evidence suggests that this is probably not the case. A recent meta-analysis, published in the Lancet , examined over 100 randomised, placebo controlled trials and found an odds ratio of 2.45 (95% confidence interval 2.05 to 2.93) in favour of homoeopathy. The authors concluded that, even allowing for publication bias, “the results of our meta-analysis are not compatible with the hypothesis that the clinical effects of homoeopathy are completely due to placebo.”

Laboratory experiments showing effects of homoeopathic medicines on animals provide evidence that the effects of homoeopathy are not entirely due to placebo.

The notorious Benveniste affair, which involved accusations of fraud and scientific misconduct after the publication of an in vitro experiment in Nature , continues to dampen enthusiasm for basic research in homoeopathy. None the less, laboratory studies have reported biological effects of homoeopathic medicines on animals, plants, and cells—some at ultramolecular dilutions.

Evidence is less clear on the effectiveness of homoeopathy as it is generally practised for the conditions that homoeopaths usually treat. Many trials have investigated treatment of an acute condition with a single remedy. This makes research easier but does not reflect the real world of homoeopathic clinical practice. For example, in the best known UK trial 144 patients with hay fever were randomised to receive either homoeopathically prepared grass pollen or placebo Though there was a significant result in favour of homoeopathy, implications for clinical practice are unclear as most homoeopaths do not treat hay fever with homoeopathic grass pollen alone.

There is currently insufficient evidence that homoeopathy is clearly efficacious for any single clinical condition. For many of the conditions treated in homoeopathic practice—such as depression, fatigue, and eczema—randomised trials have not been undertaken. In addition, few of the existing studies of homoeopathy have been independently replicated.

Some homoeopaths, mainly those without medical qualifications, believe that vaccination does more harm than good.

Safety of homoeopathy

Serious unexpected adverse effects of homoeopathic medicines are rare “Aggravation reactions,” when symptoms become acutely and transiently worse after starting homoeopathic treatment, have been described and are said by homoeopaths to be a good prognostic factor. They may cause concern, especially if patients and doctors are not adequately forewarned.

Pharmacy of Royal London Homoeopathic Hospital. NHS homoeopathic hospitals employ conventionally trained pharmacists, who have additional training in homoeopathy and sometimes herbal medicine. They dispense a range of complementary medicines which are prescribed by medically qualified practitioners.

A potentially more serious issue is the belief of some practitioners that conventional drugs reduce the efficacy of homoeopathy. Serious adverse events have resulted from patients failing to comply with essential conventional treatments while using homoeopathy. Some, mainly non-medical, homoeopaths are also strongly against vaccination, although the official policy of the Society of Homoeopaths is to give patients information and choice and not to pressurise against immunisation. Homoeopaths may offer alternatives to vaccination. These have not been subjected to clinical trials and cannot therefore be recommended as an effective substitute.

There have been examples of homoeopathic medicines being adulterated with drugs, although this is extremely unlikely in the case of registered practitioners in Britain.

Practitioners

About 1000 UK doctors practise homoeopathy, although fewer than half of these are full members of the Faculty of Homoeopathy. Many are general practitioners who have received only a basic training and who normally prescribe a limited number of remedies for specific acute conditions. Over 1500 homoeopaths without a conventional healthcare background are thought to practise in the United Kingdom.

Homoeopathy has been part of the NHS since its inception. There are currently five homoeopathic hospitals, of which the two largest, in Glasgow and London, have inpatient units. The hospitals provide a range of conventional and complementary treatments in addition to homoeopathy Normal NHS conditions apply: patients receive services free at the point of care, and the hospitals are reimbursed through block contracts with health authorities or extracontractual referrals. Some independent homoeopaths have had contracts with fundholding general practices and health authorities and have provided treatment for NHS patients.

A wide range of homoeopathic preparations, usually of low potency, are available over the counter. Most are used for self medication on a simple, symptom matching basis.

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Homoeopathic medicines can be purchased over the counter at chemists and health stores. They can also be prescribed on an FP10 form (GP10 in Scotland) by any doctor registered with the General Medical Council About 10-20% of the UK population have bought homoeopathic products over the counter.

Homoeopathy is particularly popular in Europe: over 10 000 German and French doctors practise homoeopathy, and homoeopathic medicines constitute a substantial share of these countries' over the counter markets.

The Faculty of Homoeopathy offers doctors a 40 hour course, approved for postgraduate education allowance, and an examination that lead to a primary care healthcare certificate. Intermediate and advanced courses are also available The minimum entry requirement for the faculty's membership examination (MFHom) is 150-180 hours of study.

Training for homoeopaths without a medical background varies from three years part time to three years full time. Some training courses lead to university degrees in homoeopathy.

Addresses of regulatory bodies

Faculty of homoeopathy.

For medically trained homoeopaths.

15 Clerkenwell Close, London EC1R 0AA. Tel: 0171 566 7800. Fax: 0171 566 7815. Email: info{at}trusthomeopathy.org

Society of Homoeopaths

Mainly for non-medically qualified homoeopaths.

2 Artizan Road, Northampton NN1 4HU. Tel: 01604 621400. Fax: 01604 622622. Email: societyofhomoeopaths{at}btinternet.com www.homoeopathy.org.uk

The Faculty of Homoeopathy maintains a register of medical homoeopaths. The Society of Homoeopaths is the main regulatory body for practitioners without conventional healthcare qualifications and registers about 75% of homoeopathic practitioners in the United Kingdom.

Further reading

  • Leckridge B

Acknowledgments

The picture of Samuel Hahnemann is reproduced with permission of the British Homoeopathic Association. The picture of a squid is reproduced with permission of Silvestris. The picture of a snowflake is reproduced with permission of Scott Camazine/Science Photo Library. The picture of laboratory mice is reproduced with permission of Daniel Heuclin/NHPA. The picture of vaccination is reproduced with permission of BSIP Laurent & Gille/Science Photo Library The picture of over the counter homoeopathic remedies is reproduced with permission of Boots the Chemist.

The ABC of complementary medicine is edited and written by Catherine Zollman and Andrew Vickers. Catherine Zollman is a general practitioner in Bristol, and Andrew Vickers will shortly take up a post at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, New York. At the time of writing, both worked for the Research Council for Complementary Medicine, London The series will be published as a book in Spring 2000

a new voyage with real homoeopathy

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Home > Books > Aquaculture - Plants and Invertebrates

Aquacultural Homoeopathy: A Focus on Marine Species

Submitted: 13 February 2018 Reviewed: 27 April 2018 Published: 05 November 2018

DOI: 10.5772/intechopen.78030

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Homoeopathy is an alternative medical system proposed by Samuel Hahnemann in the eighteenth century. It uses highly diluted and agitated substances that derived from plants, minerals or animals, which have shown to be effective in human medicine, agronomy, veterinary, and as a novelty, in marine aquaculture. Aquacultural homoeopathy has developed rapidly in recent years, partially motivated by the misuse of powerful drugs (hormones, antibiotics, disinfectants) that when solving a problem generate undesirable side effects. In the last 10 years, scientific articles have been published on its application in freshwater fish native to Brazil, obtaining beneficial effects on growth, survival, hepatosomatic index, development of muscle fibres and lipid content in muscle. At Centro de Investigaciones Biológicas del Noroeste (CIBNOR, Mexico: www.cibnor.mx), we have studied the effects of homoeopathy to improve the culture of economically important marine species of molluscs, fish and shrimp. In this chapter, we show a selection of different research with preliminary or advanced results, related to the use of homoeopathy and its impact on zootechnic, biochemical, genomic and transcriptomic parameters in marine molluscs, fish and crustaceans. The results obtained suggest that homoeopathy is an eco-friendly alternative applicable in aquaculture industry to improve various productive and health aspects.

  • homeopathic medicine
  • marine molluscs
  • crustaceans and fish
  • survival and biomass production
  • physiology and reproduction
  • metagenomic and transcriptomic response

Author Information

Mazón-suástegui josé manuel.

  • Centro de Investigaciones Biológicas del Noroeste S.C., México

Tovar-Ramírez Dariel

Salas-leiva joan sebastian *, arcos-ortega guadalupe fabiola, garcía-bernal milagro.

  • Universidad Central de Las Villas (CBQ), Cuba

Avilés-Quevedo María Araceli

  • Freelance Services for R&D in Marine Aquaculture, México

López-Carvallo Jesús Antonio

García-corona josé luis, ibarra-garcía laura elizabeth, ortíz-cornejo nadia livia, teles andressa, rosero-garcía antonia.

  • Centro Interdisciplinario de Ciencias Marinas I.P.N., México

Abasolo-Pacheco Fernando

  • Universidad Técnica Estatal de Quevedo (FCA), Ecuador

Campa-Córdova Ángel Isidro

Saucedo pedro, barajas-frías josé delfino, ormart-castro pablo, rodríguez-jaramillo carmen, gonzález-gonzález reinaldo, barajas-ponce ulysses.

  • Centro Ostrícola Tecnológico de Tabasco (Commercial Oyster Hatchery), México

Tordecillas-Guillén Jorge Luis

Álvarez-gil francisco antonio.

  • BCS Camarón (Commercial Shrimp Farm), México

Pineda-Mahr Gustavo

  • Acuacultura Mahr (Commercial Shrimp Hatchery), México

Peiro-López Jesús

Robles-mungaray miguel.

  • Acuacultura Robles (Commercial Oyster Hatchery), México

*Address all correspondence to: [email protected]

1. Introduction

Aquaculture has become a dynamic industry in constant development with the fastest growth food production sector of animal origin, even at a higher rate than human population, which could provide half of the fish consumption worldwide. However, its great development has turned out into great problems and challenges, based mainly on hyper-intensive production systems where the common denominator is high cultivation densities that generally cause physiological stress. Acute or chronic stress acts in a synergistic way to other environmental factors, negatively impacting productive parameters or increasing sensitivity to diseases produced by opportunistic pathogens as bacteria and viruses. Altogether finally translates into great economic losses to producers. Among the solutions for these problems is the use of expensive immunostimulant substances, so producers have opted to use and misuse antibiotics and/or prophylactics to treat stress and its consequences. Antibiotics promote the resistance of target organisms and leave residues in the environment and in tissues, which has become a public health problem in some countries [ 1 , 2 ]. For this reason, alternatives have been sought such as the use of probiotics [ 3 ], phytobiotics [ 4 ], and recently homoeopathy that has been investigating as a novel alternative to improve various productive aspects in the culture of aquatic organisms [ 5 ]. Homoeopathy is a branch of universal medicine based on the Law of Similars also expressed as “principle of like” ( Similia Similibus Curentur  = Like cures Like), and it is applied in ultra-diluted and succussed minimal doses. It is assumed that a substance that is applied in high doses (massively) generates a pathological symptomatology, so if it is applied in minimum doses (obtained by serial dilution and agitation), it can in turn cure it [ 6 ]. Homoeopathy derives from a Hippocratic medical concept proposed by the German physician Samuel Hahneman (1755–1843), who developed decimal (D; 1: 9), centesimal (C; 1: 99) millesimal (M; 1: 999) dilutions and other medicines, which are actually known as homoeopathic “dilutions” or “dynamisations.” This process consists of serial dilution of mineral, plant and animal concentrate materials in water-ethanol vehicle, and vigorous agitation or “succussion” [ 7 ]. The starting point to obtain a certain dynamisation is a concentrate or Mother Tincture (MT), which is an alcoholic extract prepared from plants, animals, minerals, and even nanoparticulate metals [ 7 ]. In spite of its high dilution, it is possible to detect nanoparticles of the “ponderable active principle” (MT) in the dynamisations, even in high centesimal dilutions despite the fact that according to Avogadro’s theory, they should not have a single molecule of MT [ 8 ]. Therefore, re-naming homoeopathy as “Adaptative Network Nanomedicine” has been recently proposed [ 9 ].

Homoeopathy has the peculiarity of stimulating the self-recovery of dynamic homeostasis when it has been lost due to exogenous and/or endogenous factors. Therefore, it does not focus on “the disease” but on the manifestations and intrinsic defence mechanisms of the “patient.” It offers “signals” of systemic action to the treated individual to promote its self-regulation to recover homeostasis, and as it uses ultra-diluted minimal doses, it does not leave residues in the organism or in the environment. As a counterpart, the other medicine known as “allopathy” derives from a galenic concept based on the “principle of opposites” and the application of massive doses of various chemotherapeutic agents officially classified as anti-microbial, anti-viral, anti-inflammatory, anti-spasmodic, anti-histaminic, anti-fever and other “anti” drugs. Homoeopathic medicines can be administered to any living being, including terrestrial and aquatic plants, wild animals in captivity and breeding, as well as freshwater and marine species of commercial interest [ 7 ]. It has been widely used in human, animal and plant medicine because it induces specific responses and increases immunity, favouring resistance to pathogens under stressing situations, promoting a better post-infection recovery and improving internal dynamic homeostasis [ 5 , 6 , 10 ].

In Mexico, homoeopathy is recognised as a therapy of alternative medicine, and its practice was authorised by presidential decree in July 31, 1895; today its study and practice is officially recognised in the general health law (2015), and only health professionals can prescribe homoeopathic medicines, which must have an official code. This is the way homoeopathic medicines are differentiated from products like herbs for infusion and herbal remedies. In countries such as Brazil, there are homoeopathic medicines exclusively for veterinary use, for marine and freshwater fishes, registered with the Ministry of Agriculture. Important and promising results have been reported in freshwater organisms, mainly Nile Tilapia Oreochromis niloticus and Pacu Piaractus mesopotamicus [ 11 , 12 , 13 ]. Taking into account these antecedents, this chapter compiles not only the experimental results obtained in marine organisms, such as molluscs, fish and crustaceans when treated with commercial homoeopathic medicines for human use and approved by Federal Health Law and Health Ministry of México but also other ones that have been designed and developed at Centro de Investigaciones Biológicas del Noroeste (CIBNOR) in La Paz, Baja California Sur, Mexico.

For the purposes of this chapter, commercial drugs for human use have been utilised in the form of liquid hydro-alcoholic dynamisations (Similia ® Laboratories, Mexico), injectable aqueous dynamisation (Rubiopharma ® , Mexico) or sugar impregnated with homoeopathic complexes (Arenales Homoeopathy ® , Brazil). They were considered “stock dynamisations,” from which the respective “work dynamisations” were obtained through a serial process of dilution-succussion decimal or centesimal. Other non-commercial medicines were designed and developed at CIBNOR, from bacterial products (nosodes). This chapter deals with unitary or complex laboratory treatments used and registered with the Mexican Ministry of Health, such as Similia ® and Rubiopharma ® and a Cuban drug of Labiofam ® , which will be described as follows: Passiflora incarnata, Valeriana officinalis, Ignatia amara and Zincum valerianicum of Similia ® (PaV); Cyme-Heel, Gal-Heel, Hepa-Heel, Mucs-Heel and Chol-Heel of Rubiopharma ® (INM); Endecto (END) and Infecçoes (INF) of Arenales Homoeopathy ® ; Phosphoric acid (PhA), Phosphoric acid (AcF), Silicea terra (SiT), Sodium methasilicate (MsS), Scorpion toxin Vidatox ® (ViT); Calcium sulphuricum (CaS); Hepar sulphuris (HeS), Ferrum phosphoricum (FeP); Zincum phosphoricum (ZiP); Magnesium phosphoricum (MaP), Mercurius solubilis (MeS). Also, other nosode-type homoeopathic medicines from Vibrio compounds (ViP, ViA) were applied. These and other nosode type HOM-products have been designed by CIBNOR that is processing the respective trademark and industrial property titles (Office for industrial protection and technology transfer; OTT-CEPAT/CIBNOR; www.cibor.gob.mx ). Ethanol (ET) and no-HOM nor ethanol (NT) were used as control treatments. Homoeopathic medicines (HOM) were sprinkled on balanced food or inert sugar pills or added directly to culture seawater.

2. Effects of homoeopathy in marine species

2.1. mollusc, 2.1.1. catarina scallop ( argopecten ventricosus ).

The production of mollusc bivalves around the world is still challenged every year by the propagation and emergence of new diseases. Scallops are especially susceptible to epizootic pathogenic bacteria in the hatchery, mainly those related to Vibrio spp. and Aeromonas spp. [ 14 ]. Four experiments described below were performed with A. ventricosus .

Trial 1 . To assess the effects of homoeopathic treatments (HOM treatments) in the immune system of Catarina scallop A. ventricosus , an experimental design was applied at CIBNOR during nursery management with five homoeopathic treatments and three controls, four replicates each. Juveniles were placed in recirculating upwelling nursery units (40 l), each one with four PVC upwelling cylinders for 21 days. Continuous aeration and a microalgal food mix 1:1 ( Isochrysis galbana - Chetoceros calcitrans ; 150,000 cel ml −1 ) were provided. The following HOM treatments and controls were applied: ViP (T1), ViA (T2), PhA Metasilicate (T3), PhA-SiT (T4), ViT (T5), dynamised ET (T6), diluted ET (T7) and NT nor ethanol added (T8).

At the end of the assay, mainly nosodes (ViP, ViA) formulated from pathogenic bacterial compounds, stimulated a significant ( p  < 0.05) growth rate and increased haemocyte count which were counted using three images at 100X from scallops tissue were processed by Image Pro Plus 6.0 to count the number of haemocytes in a tissue area (0.21 mm 2 ). Haemocytes count was 1–3 times higher than controls ( Table 1 ). These results suggested immune system enhancement by the action of HOM treatments because it is known they stimulate enzymatic activity of superoxide dismutase (SOD) and catalase (CAT) related with antioxidant responses of the organisms during oxidative stress [ 15 ]. The proliferation of haemocytes is related to activation of immune response because they are the primary cells responsible to protect organisms against infections [ 16 ]. Antioxidant activity increases have also been linked to improving survival when organisms are challenged against stressful conditions [ 16 , 17 , 18 ]. These findings make it clear that HOM treatments can activate a quantifiable biological response on the immune and antioxidant system in juvenile scallop A. ventricosus .

Table 1.

Haemocyte count and growth rate in Argopecten ventricosus spat treated with homoeopathic medicines for 21 days.

Numbers show mean ± standard error. Identical lowercase letters denote lack of significant differences between treatments at p  < 0.05.

Trial 2 . To compare between homoeopathy and antibiotic efficiency in A. ventricosus juveniles, an experimental design was performed by triplicate (6 treatments and 18 replicates, 120 seeds each replicate) at CIBNOR for 21 days. Juveniles (4.14 ± 0.06 mm; 13.33 ± 0.03) received PaV-Pha (T1), PaV-Sit (T2) as HOM treatments, ampicillin AMP (T3) as antibiotic treatment, and ethanol ET (T4) and NT (T5) as control treatment. Liquid treatments were applied (100 μl l −1 for homoeopathy and 10 ppm for antibiotic) after seawater exchange every 48 h and before feeding scallops. Evaluations were performed for growth in height (mm), total wet weight of the shell (mg), biochemical flesh composition (mg g −1 ) and SOD activity. Thirty juveniles were taken at random from each replica at 7, 14 and 21 days to measure size and total wet weight and to determine absolute growth in height and weight (mm, mg) for each treatment.

Juveniles grew significantly more in size with HOM T1 (6.22 ± 0.11 mm; 0.05 mm d −1 ) and T2 (6.99 ± 0.09 mm; 0.08 mm d −1) compared with NM (T5) (5 ± 0.02 mm; 0.02 mm d −1 ). A significant increase in total wet weight was recorded with HOM T2 (41.16 ± 0.35mg; 1.3 mg d −1 ) compared to NT group T5 (24.33 ± 0.10 mg; 0.5 mg d −1 ). Survival was 100% in all treatments and their replicates ( Figure 1 ).

a new voyage with real homoeopathy

Figure 1.

Growth in size (μm day −1 ) (left) and weight (mg day −1 ) (right) of juvenile Catarina scallop Argopecten ventricosus treated with homoeopathic medicines.

Trial 3 . As a continuation of Trial 2, once the previous experiment (21 days) was completed, a pathogen challenge was performed at CIBNOR with those treated juvenile scallops. About 30 juveniles were randomly selected from each previous treatment (in duplicate) and challenged with a pathogenic strain of Vibrio alginolyticus (CAIM57: www.ciad.mx ). An initial single dose (1 × 10 7  CFU ml −1 ) was provided as based on the mean lethal dose (LD 50 ) determined by the Probit method and based on the dose–response model described by Finney [ 19 ]. To obtain greater clarity in the results, in addition to the groups previously treated PaV-PhA (T1), PaV-SiT (T2), antibiotic AMP (T3) and ET (T4), two new groups that did not receive any previous treatment were included. First, a new group was infected with CAIM57 and defined as positive control (CTRL + ), and another new group was not infected and defined as negative control (CTRL -). Survival (%) of juveniles was evaluated at 0, 24, 48, 72 and 120 h after infection, and the activity of SOD before infection at 48, 72 and 96 h post-infection was determined. For each treatment, soft tissues (100 mg) from six juveniles were weighted and 500 μl phosphate buffer (pH 7.5) were added. The tissues were homogenised and centrifuged at 9327 ×  g for 10 min at 4°C, recovering the supernatant and storing it at −20°C until further analysis. SOD activity was determined with a commercial kit (SOD Assay Kit #19160, Sigma-Aldrich). Results were expressed as an indirect measure of SOD activity as a per cent of the water-soluble tetrazolium salt formazan complex inhibition. During the challenge, no water changes were made. All juvenile scallops not treated but challenged (CTRL +) died at 72 h while untreated and unchallenged scallops attained the highest survival (95%). The HOM-treated scallops also survived the challenge; T1 scallops attained 85 versus 40% survival in those treated with antibiotic (T3). Finally, the SOD activity increased significantly with respect to the other treatments and controls in the juveniles of the HOM T1 (81%), 72 h post-infection.

Trial 4. To assess the effects of HOM treatments on the microbial communities of the gastrointestinal tract (GIT) of juvenile A. ventricosus an experimental design was applied at CIBNOR during nursery management with five homoeopathic treatments and three controls, four replicates each. Juveniles were placed in recirculating upwelling nursery units (40 l) each one with four PVC upwelling cylinders for 21 days; the following HOM treatments and controls were applied: ViP-ViA/a (T1), ViP-ViA/b (T2), AcF-MsS (T3) PhA-SiT (T4), ViT (T5), ET (T6), and NT (T7). At the end of the experiment, eight scallops were randomly taken from each replica and washed, removed fouling organisms of external sides of shell and sprayed with ethanol and dried. Immediately one of the shells was removed and soft tissues dissected to isolate the gastrointestinal tract (GIT) of each scallop, which were fixed in RNAlater ® (Thermo Fisher Scientific, Waltham, MA, USA) and preserved at −20°C. The technique of massive DNA sequencing was applied, which is widely used in the study of microbial communities associated with biological systems. The bacterial 16S rDNA was extracted according to Garcia-Bernal et al . [ 3 ], amplified for sequencing in the Illumina MiSeq Platform (Illumina, San Diego, CA, USA) in a certified Genomic Services Laboratory ( www.langebio.cinvestav.mx ; Irapuato, Guanajuato, México). Afterward, a bioinformatic and statistical analysis of the generated database was carried out. Initially, significant differences were detected ( p  < 0.05) in growth rate of shell length (μm d −1 ) ( p  < 0.05), with the best results (140 μm d −1 ) in the HOM T2. The groups that received T3 and T5 showed a significantly higher survival rate ( p  < 0.05) than the other groups. Moreover, the dominant phylum was Proteobacteria , followed by Actinobacteria , Firmicutes , and Bacteroidetes . The prevalent genera in GIT were Microbacterium , Bacillus , Symbiobacterium and Burkholderia . In general terms, phyla Proteobacteria and Actinobacteria play an essential role in immunity and nutrition of invertebrates, and both were dominant in juvenile scallop A. ventricosus in all groups treated with HOM.

2.1.2. Horse-mussel ( Modiolus capax )

The Horse mussel Modiolus capax is a native species from the Gulf of California with aquaculture potential, but scientific knowledge must be generated to achieve a sustainable production [ 20 ]. A study was developed at CIBNOR to assess the effect of HOM treatments on gonadal, physiological and transcriptomic maturation in M. capax. Microalga and wheat meal were used as food for broodstock mussels. The experiment was designed in triplicate (482 adult mussels; 60 days) and applied to evaluate three HOM treatments: SiT-CaS-HeS (T1), PhA-FeP-ZiP (T2), ViP-ViA-ViT (T3), ethanol as positive control (T4), and NT as negative control (T5). A sequential sampling in time (days) was made (t 0 , t 30 and t 60 ). The histological analyses showed that mussels treated with T1 and T3 attained (t 30 ) the best results ( p  < 0.05) in total weight increase, gonadal maturation of 100% females ( Figure 2 left), highest frequency of vitellogenic and postvitellogenic oocytes and highest oocyte quality according to the total area, theoretical diameter and % of ovoplasm. Also, mussels treated with T3 attained the best reproductive condition of the females (gonadal coverage area, ovarian maturity index, gonadal development index and reproductive potential); however, those receiving T2, increased oogonia proliferation and bioenergetic quality of the oocytes (amount of lipids and neutral carbohydrates). Histochemical and biochemical analyses revealed that HOM treatments (T1, T2 and T3) contributed to increase the overall energy reserves (lipids, carbohydrates and proteins) in the ovary, digestive gland and adductor muscle. López-Carvallo et al. [ 20 ] using wheat enriched di-algal diet, barely reaching gonad to maturity ~ 25% of the M. capax broodstock. Thus, we considered that better results in reproductive condition and oocyte quality of the species were attained with HOM treatments with respect to control.

a new voyage with real homoeopathy

Figure 2.

Frequency of ovarian developmental stages (left) determined by histology and number of genes (right) with significant differential expression ( p  < 0.01) in the ovary transcriptome of broodstock mussels ( Modiolus capax ) conditioned with homoeopathy for gonad maturation. Stage S0 undifferentiated; stage SI Previtellogenesis; stage SII Vitellogenesis; stage SIII Posvitellogenic; stage SIV partial spawning; stage SV post spawning; n  = 482 mussels. Over-expressed genes = black bars; under-expressed genes = Grey bars.

On the other hand, a de novo transcriptome characterisation of the ovarian tissue treated with homoeopathy was performed using RNAseq. In silico analysis of differential gene expression revealed that mussels treated with T3 showed the highest number of differentially expressed transcripts ( Figure 2 right), and some of them were related to genes that encoded oestrogen receptors ER and ERR2- like ( p  < 0.01). Estradiol levels have been reported to have a direct influence on gonadic development and oocyte quality in marine bivalves [ 21 ] that allowed explaining the high reproductive condition found in the mussels that received T3.

This work has provided a de novo transcriptome characterisation for M. capax for the first time and together with the evaluation of physiological variables, it constitutes the first research about the beneficial effect of homoeopathy in gonadal maturation of the species, which has a clear technological applicability during broodstock gonadic conditioning for seed spawning and production of the species. It will likely be applicable to other bivalve molluscs with commercial interest.

2.1.3. American oyster ( Crassostrea virginica )

The American oyster Crassostrea virginica is an important fishery and aquaculture resource in the Atlantic coast in the Caribbean and in the Gulf of Mexico. A commercial oyster laboratory is already operating in Centro Ostrícola Tecnológico de Tabasco (COTET), Mexico, and homoeopathic medicines were assessed to improve the species culture. HOM treatments were assessed in larval culture and settlement and early nursery of on-cultch and cultch-less seed. Also, a transcriptomic focus study was developed in adult broodstock oyster. The results obtained in six experiments conducted with C. virginica are detailed below.

Trial 1 . A study was conducted at CIBNOR to analyse the transcriptomic response to five HOM treatments in broodstock oyster C. virginica to understand the response mechanisms that are activated by these treatments, thus helping to characterise its mode of action. Adult oysters (120 g; 10–12 cm) from a homogeneous population were conditioned in 80-l plastic boxes provided with continuous microalgal food at COTET for 45 days. An experimental design (3 replicates/treatment; 25 oyster/replicate) was applied with four HOM treatments: ViP-ViA (T1), PhA-SiT (T2), END (T3), INF (T4) and two controls ET (T5) and NT (T6). As treatment vehicle, fully impregnated inert homoeopathic pills were provided one daily per oyster. Routine techniques of the oyster hatchery COTET were applied for conditioning broodstock oyster, and during the trial period, two samplings (S 1 and S 2 ) were performed for histological analyses at CIBNOR. As a general rule, at the end of the conditioning assay, all conditioned groups were capable of sexually maturing and spawning in greater or lesser percentage, but specific details were observed that allowed to distinguish effects associated to different treatments and controls. Female oysters treated with HOM T1 attained the highest frequency of gonad in vitellogesis (48%) and postvitellogenesis (30.2%) stages at first sampling (T1-S 1 ) and 16.7% in the second sampling (T1-S 2 ). In T2-S 2 oysters, the highest frequency (31.6%) showed at resting (undifferentiated) stage and 30.8% post-spawning stage. In ET control T5-S 2 , 38.5% of the female oysters were at resting stage and 30.8% at post-spawning stage. Oysters of NT control group T6-S 2 recorded the highest frequency (37.5%) in postvitellogenic stage, 31.3% in partial spawning stage and 25% in post-spawning stage. In the veterinary HOM T3-S 1 , oysters showed the highest frequency in partial spawning stage (71.4%), and in T4-S 1 , the highest frequency (57.1%) was recorded in post-spawning stage. It is important to highlight that even when T1, T2, T3 and T6 promoted maturation and spawning of the male oysters, there were differences between them related to gamete quality since the presence of atretic oocytes was seen in some samples of T5 and T6 control treatments. The veterinary HOM T4 seemed to have promoted damage to gametes because abundant degenerative oocytes were observed. To evaluate the quality of the oocytes matured under different treatments, the Sudan Black histochemical technique was used staining the lipid components of the cells. The triglyceride lipid index (TLI) was calculated as described by Rodríguez-Jaramillo et al . [ 22 ], and significant differences were found in oocytes from different treatments and sampling times. Lipid content (TLI) was significantly higher ( p  < 0.0001) in oysters receiving HOM T2 in a short conditioning time (S 1 ). The rest of the treatments and replicates recorded significantly lower TLI values, including Veterinary HOM T3 and T4. A difference between HOM treatments lies in the fact that some of them seem to trigger a constant production of new generations of oocytes, which may be useful to hatchery purposes because it could be associated to the possibility of several partial spawning events that could derive into several larval batches and more opportunities for seed production.

Trial 2 . A study was conducted at CIBNOR to analyse the transcriptomic response to five HOM treatments in broodstock oyster C. virginica in order to understand the response mechanisms that are activated by these nanomedicines, thus, helping to characterise their mode-of-action. About 25 groups of 25 adult oysters (120 g; 10 ± 12 cm), each from a homogeneous population, were conditioned in 80-l plastic boxes provided with continuous microalgal food at COTET for 45 days. An experimental design with seven different treatments, each one with three replicates, was developed to determine the transcriptomic effect of an Actinomycetes strain (1 × 10 6  CFU ml −1  = RL8) and four homoeopathic drug complexes, alone and in combination: RL8 (T1), ViP-ViA (T2) PhA-SiT (T3), ViP-ViA + RL8 (T4), PhA-SiT+RL8 (T5) and two control groups: ethanol as a positive control (T6) and NT negative control (T7). Five oysters of each homoeopathic and control treatments were initially (t 0 ) collected and dissected. The rest of the oysters were collected and dissected at the end of the experiment (t 45 ). Several tissues, including mantle, gills, gonad, muscle and digestive gland (DG), were separately placed on snap-frozen tubes in RNA later ® (Thermo Fisher Scientific, Waltham, MA, U.S.A.) and stored at −80°C. The rest of tissue portion were fixed in Davidson solution for histological examination. DG tissues fixed in RNA later ® (Thermo Fisher Scientific, Waltham, MA, U.S.A.) from five individuals of each experimental group were subjected to RNA extraction, for the transcriptomic analysis, using Illumina Hiseq 2000 platform (Illumina, San Diego, CA, U.S.A.). The comparison of the transcriptome data with the KEGG database indicated that the treatments influenced associated metabolic pathways in gonadal development and maturation including “Developmental process involved in reproduction”, “Meiotic cell cycle process”, “Steroid metabolic process”, “Response to oestrogen “and“ Regulation of reproductive process “. These pathways were assigned to the KEGG categories of “Developmental process involved in reproduction” which was among the most important category, indicating the significance of signal transduction systems and endocrine regulation of gonad development and function in C. virginica .

The transcriptome of T2 and T3 had 998 and 881 genes with a significantly increased level of expression, respectively, compared to the control ( p  < 0.05). In T4 and T5, there were 748 and 789 genes with an increased level of expression, respectively, compared to a separate control ( p  < 0.05). No genes were significantly differentially expressed under T1 compared to a separate T2, T3, T4, T5 and controls ( p  < 0.05). Genes with increased expression following T2 and T3 were associated with biological processes, including metabolic pathways, ribosomal biogenesis, and transport of nitrogen compounds and anions. Following T4 and T5, genes with increased expression were involved in metabolism processes related with response to stress, maintaining protein expression. Genes with increased expression following T1 were associated with protein kinase A (PKA) signalling that regulates stress responses and mitochondrion degradation. The transcriptomic results obtained allowed us to determine that homoeopathic treatments expressed transcripts associated with complex biological processes, such as reproduction, stress response, cell growth and metabolism of the C. virginica oyster.

Trial 3 . An experimental design was applied at COTET for oyster larval culture assessment including HOM treatments: SiT (T1), ViT (T2), FeP (T3), MaP (T4) and NT (T5) as a control treatment. The experimental larviculture was performed in 20-l plastic buckets three replicates per treatment with filtered seawater, gentle and continuous aeration and the microalga I. galbana and C. calcitrans (1:1) as food. Three-day old veliger larvae from a mass production fibreglass tank (25 t) were placed in buckets at initial density of 2 larvae ml −1 . Liquid HOM treatments were added daily to culture water (0.01%). The larviculture test finalised when the first pedivéliger larva with a retractable foot was detected but without reaching the final stage of eyed and fully developed pediveliger. Analyses were based on initial and three sequential biometrical data from 30 larvae for each treatment replicate. The HOM larval groups showed better development, survival and setting efficiency in comparison with untreated groups. As seen in Figure 3 , C. virginica larvae that received T1 (162 ± 3.08 μm), T2 (162 ± 2.84 μm) and T4 (162 ± 3.13 μm) reached the largest sizes but T5 (145 ± 2.97 μm) reached the lowest sizes, while those larvae receiving T2 reached the highest setting efficiency (83 ± 7.98%) and the highest seed survival (36.5 ± 4.9%).

Trial 4 . To assess larval settlement, mature eyed pediveliger larvae were obtained by selective screening of the same bulk culture tank; then, they were placed in 20-l buckets at a seeding density of 0.25 larvae ml −1 . The same HOM treatments: SiT (T1), ViT (T2), FeP (T3), MaP (T4) and NT (T5) were applied at COTET during the on-cultch setting process. Seawater change, aeration and microalgae were provided as food, and 50 clean oyster shells/buckets were placed as a natural settlement (cultch) substrate. Liquid homoeopathic treatments were added daily to the culture water (0.02% v/v). The results achieved are shown in Figure 3 .

a new voyage with real homoeopathy

Figure 3.

Larval growth (left), larval setting efficiency (Centre) and seed survival in 20-l plastic buckets (right) of American oyster Crassostrea virginica , treated with homoeopathic drugs in COTET oyster hatchery.

Trial 5. A pilot experimental design in triplicate was applied at COTET for larval culture: MaP–FeP (T1), SiT–ViT (T2) and NT (T3) as control. Four-day old larvae were placed in nine-conical fibreglass tanks (750 l) at initial density of 5.33 larvae ml −1 and the microalgae I. galbana and C. calcitrans (1:1) was provided as food. Larval growth and harvest of pediveliger larval biomass was evaluated. Temperature and salinity were maintained in the range of 27 ± 3°C and 22 ± 7 psu. Liquid HOM treatments were added daily to culture water (0.01%). Based on biometrical data of 30 larvae for each replicate every 48 h, the best results in larval growth were obtained with HOM T1, followed by control (T3) and finally by T2 ( Figure 4 ). The highest yield in biomass of mature pedivéliger larva (9.29 g) was obtained with HOM T2, followed by control T3 (7.42 g) and the lowest production (7.04 g) was obtained with T1 ( Figure 4 ). Differential results obtained in this study were attributable to better survival of larvae because homoeopathy favours nutrition and assimilation of nutrients, increases stress resistance because of high culture density and strengthens the immune system and resistance to attack by pathogens [ 5 , 23 ]. A better survival associated to small sized larvae has been observed in other species treated with homoeopathy, such as Panopea globosa and Crassostrea sikamea (Mazón-Suástegui et al ., unpublished).

a new voyage with real homoeopathy

Figure 4.

Growth in size (μm) of veliger larvae (left) and harvest of pediveliger larvae (right) of American oyster Crassostrea virginica treated with HOM in 750-l conical fibreglass tanks in COTET hatchery.

Trial 6. An experimental design was applied at COTET for cultch-less spat culture with two homoeopathic treatments and one control (four replicates each) in recirculating upwelling nursery units (40 l) each one allocating four upwellers of PVC pipe 4″ and airlift devices. As HOM treatments, MaP–FeP (T1) SiT–ViT (T2) and NT control (T3) were assessed. Initial seed density was set on 4750 spat/upweller and I. galbana and C. calcitrans (1:1) was used as food. The total harvest of seed per treatments and replicates (volume) were measured weekly with a graduated cylinder. Temperature and salinity were maintained in the range of 27 ± 3°C and 24 ± 3 psu. Liquid dynamisation treatments were added daily to culture water (0.02%). Based on initial and weekly biometrical data of 30 spat for each replicate, the best growth results were obtained in the control T3, followed by HOM T2 and finally T1 ( Figure 5 ). In contrast, the best results in oyster seed biomass were attained with HOM T1 (268 ml) and T2 (242 ml) and the lowest production (236 ml) with control T3 ( Figure 5 ).

a new voyage with real homoeopathy

Figure 5.

Growth rate in shell length (μm day −1 ) (left) and volumetric biomass of harvested seed (right) of American oyster Crassostrea virginica seed, receiving HOM treatments in recirculating upwelling nursery units (40 l) at COTET hatchery.

Oyster seed receiving HOM treatments grew less in regard to individual size, but an overall greater volume of marketable juveniles was harvested, which means that survival was greater in HOM treatments. From a commercial hatchery perspective, it is more important to produce live seed biomass even if small sized than dead ones. In real production and profitability terms, the hatchery could produce and sell more seeds if homoeopathic drugs, such as those evaluated in this study were routinely applied. The results in larval settlement and juvenile nursery confirmed a great potential for aquacultural homoeopathy to strengthen the state-of-the-art technology in oyster seed production and increase actual productivity and economic profitability of the commercial production of the species in the hatchery.

2.1.4. Kumamoto oyster ( Crassostrea sikamea )

Kumamoto oyster Crassostrea. sikamea is a highly valuable mollusc species and cultivated in several countries, so it is important to generate new knowledge for its culture and alternative treatments for its management in the laboratory. Four experiments with C. sikamea were performed as described below.

Trial 1 . An experimental design was applied at CIBNOR for conditioning broodstock with two replicates (25 oysters each) in eight plastic boxes (60 l), in which the following treatments were tested: ViP-ViA (T1) and PhA-SiT (T2) as HOM treatments, and ET (T3) and NT (T4). As treatment vehicle, fully impregnated inert homoeopathic pills were used, one-a-day per oyster.

Oysters were dissected (30 at t 0 and 15 from each replicate at t 42 ) and soft tissues histologically processed by haematoxylin and eosin staining to determine gonadic (GI) and digestive gland (DG) indexes, reproductive stages and theoretical diameter in oocytes (DT) according to Rodriguez-Jaramillo et al . [ 22 ] and Barber and Blake [ 24 ]. Moreover, significant differences were observed ( p  < 0.05) in GI in broodstock oysters with respect to the initial value (39%), and the best results were observed in oysters treated with T2 and T3 (63 and 67%). The highest DI was recorded at the beginning of the experiment (60%) and the lowest ( p  < 0.05) for T2 and T3 (36 and 32%), which suggested a greater energy storage in the gonad for oocyte maturation [ 24 ] ( Figure 6 ). A high frequency of organisms in post-spawning and gonadic development stage (38 and 52%) was observed at t 0 . At t 42 , the oysters of T2 and T3 showed the highest percentage of full sexual maturity (50%) while the greatest number (35 and 40%) of organisms in gonadic development stage was observed in T3 and T4 ( Figure 6 ).

a new voyage with real homoeopathy

Figure 6.

Gonadic index (GI) and digestive index (DI) (left) and gonad development (tight) in broodstock oyster Crassostrea sikamea conditioned in the laboratory for 42 days. Different letters show significant differences between treatments ( p  < 0.05). Stage 0: Undifferentiated; stage I: Previtellogenesis; stage II: Vitellogenesis; stage III: Posvitellogenic; stage IV: Partial spawning; stage V: Post spawning.

Relative to the final DT (35 μm), which was 28 μm at t 0 , no significant differences were recorded between HOM-treated and control oysters. However, maturity and undifferentiated stages were simultaneously observed in T3 oysters. Since C. sikamea matures and partially spawns several times during the same reproductive season, this result suggested a positive effect by the activation of a new oocyte production cycle associated to HOM T2 (PhA-SiT). In bivalve molluscs, an expenditure of digestive gland reserves is associated to gonad development and maturation of gametes [ 24 ], and T2 was associated to a greater number of sexually mature oysters with higher GI and lower ID values. It could be applicable to gonadic conditioning for sexual maturation of broodstock oyster at the hatchery.

Trial 2 . Once the broodstock assay finished, a subsequent second bioassay was developed to evaluate larval performance in two different larval cohorts from HOM-treated spawners (T1, T2, T3, T4; three replicates each) and NT spawners (T5, T6, T7, T8; three replicates each). The greatest growth in length was recorded in T5 and T6 (217 and 212 μm) and the lowest in T3 and T4 (197 and 190 μm). A similar growth pattern was observed in height: the greatest in T5–T8 and the lowest in T1–T4. In general, larvae from untreated broodstock grew more. Nevertheless, as a counterpart, the general mean survival of larvae from HOM-treated spawners (T1-T4) was 32.3% higher than those from NT broodstock, and it could be very important to improve hatchery seed production. Those differences in larval survival suggested a favourable effect of HOM treatments in oocyte quality and then a potential effect in the progeny.

Trial 3 . A 35-day experimental design in triplicate (six treatments and 18 replicates, 120 seed each replicate) was applied at CIBNOR to compare efficiency of antibiotics against homoeopathy in juvenile C. sikamea . Juveniles (6.13 ± 0.16 mm) were placed in 2-l plastic containers with filtered (1 μm) and UV-sterilised seawater (23 ± 1°C; 38 psu), continuous aeration and microalgal food. Juvenile oysters received PaV-Pha (T1), PaV-Sit (T2), Pav-MeS (T3) as HOM treatments, ampicillin AMP (T4) as antibiotic treatment, and ethanol ET (T5) and NT (T6) as control treatments. Liquid treatments were applied 100 μl l −1 for homoeopathy and 10 ppm for antibiotic after exchange of seawater every 48 h and before feeding oysters. Evaluations were performed on growth in height (mm), and total wet weight of the shell (mg), biochemical flesh composition (mg g −1 ) and SOD activity. The biochemical composition was determined by triplicate sampling at the beginning and end of the trial. Samples were stored at −80°C and then lyophilized, re-hydrated in 3 ml cold saline solution (35%) and homogenised to obtain crude extracts. Crude extracts were processed at CIBNOR laboratory applying traditional and certified techniques, which are described by López-Carvallo et al . [ 20 ] and Mazón-Suástegui et al . [ 23 ]. For SOD analyses, after deep cleaning of shell, soft tissues were dissected and fixed individually in RNAlater ® (Thermo Fisher Scientific, Waltham, MA, USA) at a 1:5 ratio (100 mg tissue: 500 μl RNA-Later ® ) and then preserve it at −20°C. SOD analyses activity was determined with a commercial kit (SOD Assay Kit #19160, Sigma-Aldrich). Results were expressed as an indirect measure of SOD activity as a per cent of the water soluble tetrazolium salt formazan complex inhibition. The juveniles grew significantly more with HOM T1 (9.27 ± 0.18 mm, 0.073 mm day −1 ) and T3 (9.36 ± 0.18 mm, 0.076 mm day −1 ) compared with NT (T6) (8.02 ± 0.23 mm; 0.053 mm day −1 ), but of all treatments, the ET T5 group was the best (10.17 ± 0.31 mm; 0.105 mm day −1 ). A significant increase in total wet weight was recorded with HOM T2 (107.33 ± 6.9 mg, 2.0 mg day −1 ) compared to NT group T6 (76.11 ± 2.8 mg, 1.1 mg day −1 ) ( Figure 7 ). Survival was 100% in all treatments and their replicates. Moreover, the biochemical composition of the juveniles showed significant differences in carbohydrates and lipids but not in proteins. The highest amount of lipids was obtained with HOM T2 (96.32 ± 1.18 mg g −1 ) and that of carbohydrates in antibiotic T4 (27.48 ± 2.27 mg g −1 ) compared with the NT (T6) (6.96 ± 1.47 mg g −1 ). At the end of this trial, SOD activity was higher in HOM T1 (92%) than control T6 (88%) and antibiotic T4 (84%).

a new voyage with real homoeopathy

Figure 7.

Growth in size (mm day −1 ) (left) and total wet weight (mg day −1 ) (right) in juveniles of the oyster Kumamoto Crasssostrea sikamea treated with homoeopathic medicines.

Trial 4. Once the previous experiment was completed, a pathogen challenge was made with treated seeds. About 30 juveniles were randomly selected from each previous treatment (in duplicate) and challenged at CIBNOR with a pathogenic strain of V. alginolyticus (CAIM57: www.ciad.mx ). An initial single dose (1 × 10 6  CFU ml −1 ) was given as based on the mean lethal dose (LD 50 ) determined by the Probit method based on the dose–response model described by Finney [ 19 ].

To obtain greater clarity in the results, in addition to the groups treated with homoeopathy, antibiotic and ethanol, two new groups were included, which did not receive any previous treatment; one of which was infected with the pathogen (CTRL + ) and another one that was not infected with the pathogen (CTRL -). Survival (%) of juveniles was evaluated at 0, 24, 48, 72 and 120 h after infection and the SOD activity (using a commercial kit; SOD Assay Kit #19160, Sigma-Aldrich) of before infection and at 2, 24, 48 and 72 post-infection was determined. After being infected with the pathogen, all the juveniles survived and no significant differences were observed between treatments and controls with respect to SOD activity. Up to date, that result has no coherent explanation yet; unless the species is highly resistant, the pathogenic strain has not got sufficient virulence or a wrong (lower) dose was applied because 1 × 10 7  CFU ml −1 was applied to juvenile scallop A. ventricosus by Mazón-Suástegui [ 23 ].

2.1.5. Geoduck clam ( Panopea globosa )

The geoduck clam Panopea globosa is an important marine resource distributed on both coasts of the peninsula of Baja California, Mexico. Its cultivation is still in experimental stage and totally depending on juveniles produced in the laboratory. As with other bivalves, there are limitations in their production due to mortalities of larvae and seeds, associated with the presence of pathogens. This problem has led to the search for new eco-friendly alternatives such as aquaculture homoeopathy, which has a positive effect on nutrition, health and immune response of bivalve molluscs, shrimp and marine fish [ 5 , 23 ]. Our study evaluated the effect of various HOM treatments on growth, survival and microbiota of the gastrointestinal tract (GIT) of the species. Juvenile (spat) P. globosa with an average length of 1.98 ± 0.1 cm were produced in the laboratory and provided by the company Acuacultura Robles, a commercial mollusc hatchery located in La Paz, B.C.S. Mexico. Clams with an average length of 1.98 ± 0.1 cm were produced and provided by the company Acuacultura Robles, acclimatised at CIBNOR and then cultured (21 days) in nursery units previously described for A. ventricosus . About 24 upwelling units were used, each one with 52 clams and 13 clams per upweller cylinder; the following HOM treatments and controls were applied: ViP-ViA/a (T1), ViP-ViA/b (T2), AcF-MsS (T3) PhA-SiT (T4), ViT (T5), ET (T6) and NT (T7). Samples were taken at the beginning (t o ) and end of the experiment (t 1 ) by randomly selecting eight clams per replica, accounting for a total number of 216. After external deep cleaning, soft tissues were dissected to isolate GIT of each clam to fix individually in RNAlater ® (Thermo Fisher Scientific, Waltham, MA, USA) at a 1:5 ratio (100 mg tissue: 500 μl RNA-Later ® ) and then preserve it at −20°C. The bacterial 16S rDNA was extracted according to Garcia-Bernal et al . [ 3 ] and amplified using Illumina MiSeq Platform (Illumina, San Diego, CA) in a certified Genomic Services Laboratory ( www.langebio.cinvestav.mx ; Irapuato, Guanajuato, México). Afterward, a bioinformatic and statistical analysis of the generated database was carried out. Taking as reference the microbial diversity in the GIT of P. globosa juveniles, the best results were obtained with HOM T1, a nosode product developed at CIBNOR. T1 favoured dominant abundance of the Proteobacteria phylum and some of its classes as γ-Proteobacteria. In that sense, similarities were observed with the microbiota of other marine species, and that part of the microbiota found in P. globosa is associated with stimulation of the immune system. Overall, the results indicated that the HOM treatments modified the abundance of the microbial communities of the species, mainly in the phylotypes related to nutritional processes. On the other hand, significant differences were recorded with respect to growth in weight and length ( p  < 0.0001) between the clams that received HOM treatment and the control groups. The highest growth in weight was recorded in T3, T4 and T5. The difference in growth in length was smaller but equally superior to these HOM treatments. Significant differences ( p  = 0.019) in survival were also observed. The highest value (95%) was recorded in clams with HOM T3 followed by the NT control group T7 (93%) without homoeopathy or ethanol. In contrast, the lowest survival (76%) was observed in T2 and also in the ET control group T6.

2.1.6. Octopus ( Octopus bimaculoides )

An experimental design in triplicate (10 juveniles/replicate) was developed in 60-l fibreglass units at CIBNOR laboratory to assess growth and survival in juvenile octopus during a 28-day period. This assay was intended to study and compare the effects of fresh crab Callinectes belicosus and squid Dosidicus gigas meat, as raw or thermically processed food (35°C and 60°C). Also, a HOM treatment was added to culture water, as a digestive system enhancer to Octopus bimaculoides . Two processed food treatments (35°C and 60°C), two HOM treatments (HOM-35 and HOM-60), and a positive control treatment (unprocessed raw food) were assessed. As HOM treatment, PhA-SiT was added directly to culture water alternating each medicine every day from Monday to Saturday. Food was provided ad libitum once a day. Wet weight (day 0 and 17) and survival percentage (day 17) were recorded for all 15 groups ( Table 2 ). As expected for a positive control with a traditionally used raw food, the highest survival was attained in juvenile octopus fed on raw meat (97%) but also with HOM-35 (93%) and HOM-60 (86%) the lowest survival was seen in octopuses fed processed food 60°C without giving them HOM treatments ( Table 2 ).

Table 2.

Octopus bimaculoides juvenile growth and survival during food and HOM treatment assessment.

Data are presented as Mean value ± SD. W = Wet weight.

Knowledge concerning octopus culture is recent and scarce even when completing the life cycle successfully in captivity which is possible with some species [ 25 ]. One of the main obstacles to achieve production level is the lack of an industrialised food to be physiologically and economically viable since to date the only efficient food is fresh flesh or live preys [ 26 ]. In meal production, raw material goes through aggressive thermal processes that induce protein denaturalisation, carbonylation, hydrophobicity and aggregation [ 27 ]. Octopus digestive enzymes are sensitive to these effects; therefore, they cannot hydrolyse their substrates, reducing food digestibility and octopus growth [ 28 , 29 ].

Heat treatment to raw crab and squid meat to obtain meal ingredients to formulate a balanced diet is not traditionally preferred because this process denaturalises proteins, reduces digestibility and assimilation [ 28 ], and lipids can oxidise [ 30 ]. Experimental results suggested an enhancement of enzymatic function in O. bimaculoides promoted by HOM (PhA-SiT) treatment dissolved into culture water when food was not processed. HOM treatment seemed to have increased the digestive capability in juvenile octopus and the assimilability of processed food (35°C), but the loss of quality in crab and squid meals in 60°C food could not be compensated by the HOM treatment.

2.2. Crustaceans

2.2.1. white shrimp ( litopenaus vannamei ).

The White shrimp L. vannamei is a species with rapid growth, high survival and price in the market, which makes this crustacean one of the most important resources at worldwide level. Nonetheless, the production of this important resource has been hindered by recurrent epizootic outbreaks and sudden mortalities caused by pathogen microorganisms. To face the challenge, several chemical and antibiotic products have usually been applied whose prophylactic application was initially an effective strategy. However, they have caused the development of resistant bacteria making it necessary to reduce their application. These problems have led the shrimp industry to explore and develop new and more strategies, as effective as or better than antibiotics, eco-friendly and with long-term sustainability. Previous studies have indicated that homoeopathic medicines stimulated the immune system and caused specific organic responses [ 31 , 32 ]. Therefore, we evaluated the effect of homoeopathic medicines in growth and survival of L vannamei postlarvae under controlled laboratory conditions (Trial 1); the survival and antioxidant response through superoxide dismutase (SOD) activity in juveniles when challenged (1 x 10 6  CFU ml −1 ) with a pathogenic strain of V. parahaemolyticus (CAIM-170) at CIBNOR, in a biosecurity laboratory (Trial 2); during the production of postlarvae in a commercial hatchery, focusing on dynamics of the bacterial populations (Trial 3); zootechnical (growth) results and gene expression (Trial 4); and growing-out to marketable size in a commercial farm (Trial 5).

Trial 1. To evaluate growth and survival of postlarvae, an experimental design was applied at CIBNOR with three HOM treatments: ViP-ViA (T1), PhA-SiT (T2), ViP-ViA + PhA-SiT (T3) and ET (T4) as control. HOM treatments were applied for 30 days, spraying liquid dynamisations in commercial pelleted food, administered ad-libitum . In general, the best results were obtained in T3 (T1 + T2), showing a clear synergy between T1 and T2 ( Table 3 ).

Table 3.

Growth and survival of Litopenaeus vannamei postlarvae treated with homoeopathic treatments during an experimental assay at CIBNOR laboratory.

Different letters in the same column, indicate significant difference ( p  < 0.05). Length increase (LI), weight increase (WI), daily weight increase (DWI), growth rate (GR), survival (S).

Trial 2. To assess survival and SOD activity in juveniles, an experimental design with four HOM treatments: INM (T1), PaV (T2), INM-PaV (T3), ViT (T4) and NT (T5) was applied at CIBNOR. HOM treatments were applied to juveniles 7 days prior to challenge and 5 days during challenge. Liquid dynamisations were sprayed in commercial pelleted food, which was supplied ad-libitum , 7 days prior to and during challenge. At 70 h after the start of the challenge, SOD was determined in shrimp tissue. At the end of the challenge (120 h post-infection), the shrimp treated with T2, T3 and T4, exhibited significantly higher average survival ( p  < 0.05) than the control group T5. Juveniles treated with T3 and T4 showed the highest survival with 64.43 and 56%, respectively, while all those treated with T1 and T5 died. These results suggested that the greatest survival of HOM-treated shrimp could have been related to a stimulation of their immune system, and consequently, to a greater resistance to acute infectious diseases associated with the genus Vibrio [ 32 ]. Regarding SOD activity, at 70 h after the start of the challenge, the groups treated with T1 and T2 did not show significant differences (34.48 ± 1.87 and 16.32 ± 1.22, respectively) in relation to the control group (41.63 ± 2.59) while T3 and T4 with a SOD activity of (86.43 ± 1.02 and 83.47 ± 5.54, respectively) exhibited significantly higher values than the control group ( p  < 0.05) (41.63 ± 2.59) ( Figure 8 ).

a new voyage with real homoeopathy

Figure 8.

SOD activity in HOM-treated juvenile shrimp Litopenaeus vannamei treated with homoeopathy and then challenged with Vibrio parahaemolithycus .

Treatment T3 contained PaV used in human medicine as a tranquilliser to reduce stress and improve sleep, in addition to Heel-Mix (Rubiopharma ® , Mexico) that contains medicines used for the treatment of enzymatic disorders, infectious diseases and stimulation of the body defences in human beings, whereas T4 is a homoeopathic medicine whose active principle is the venom of the scorpion Rhopalurus junceus which is an endemic species of Cuba. These results suggested a potential applicability of the homoeopathic medicines studied as prophylactic treatments to reduce stress and to improve shrimp immune response, which could help reduce the incidence of epizootic diseases and massive mortalities that have been a great problem for the industry due to economic losses associated with V. parahaemolithycus in shrimp culture.

Trial 3 . A third experiment consisted of the evaluation of HOM treatments during the commercial production of L. vannamei postlarvae in the facilities of the commercial hatchery Aquacultura Mahr in square concrete tanks with a capacity of 20 t. An experimental design was applied with four tanks with three HOM treatments: MaP-CaP-Fep-Zip-PhA (T1) Hes-Sit-Cap-Pha (T1), INM-PaV-ViT-PhA (T3), and NT as the control group (T4). Liquid homoeopathic dynamisations were added to commercially pulverised food given periodically for a 24-h period (day-night). Shrimp farming has been affected by viral and bacterial diseases principally those associated to a highly virulent strain of V. parahaemolyticus ; this problem is of primary interest concern [ 33 ], so this assay was intended to determine the population dynamics of the bacterial populations mainly Vibrio spp. Bacteriological examination of isolated vibrio species depend mainly on using TCBS agar as a selective media to differentiate between sucrose and non-sucrose fermented colonies; V. alginolyticus is sucrose fermenter and shows yellow-coloured colonies while V. parahaemolyticus and V. vulnificus are non-sucrose fermenters and have green colonies [ 34 ]. Although no statistical significant ( p  > 0.05) differences were found in HOM-treated and non-treated PLs, positive effects were apparently attained with HOM treatments ( Figure 9 ). Research must continue not only with controlled and multi-replicate experimental designs in the laboratory but also efforts should continue in commercial hatcheries even if obvious difficulties exist because production is at most the first priority and not necessarily compatible with a strict and traditional scientific research.

a new voyage with real homoeopathy

Figure 9.

Straight regression showing the increasing trends in the bacterial count of Vibrio spp . in culture seawater and macerate of Litopenaeus vannamei postlarvae. Petri dish with TCBS culture medium, which was previously inoculated, showing the presence of sucrose positive (yellow) and sucrose negative (green) colonies of the genus Vibrio .

Trial 4 . A fourth assessment was made also at Aquacultura Mahr hatchery. An experimental design was applied in six concrete tanks (20 t) with five HOM treatments: BaC-INM, Sit-INM (T2), HeS-INM (T3), PhA-INM (T4), PaV-INM (T5), and two NT control groups (T6 and T7). Liquid homoeopathic dynamisations were provided with pulverised food as vehicle. Growth in weight of the shrimp postlarvae was exponential with a correlation coefficient (r 2 ) > 0.95. The best treatment was T5 (PaV-INM). The NT control group had the lowest growth rate and the lowest survival (20.2%), while in the HOM-treated groups, it was 25.6 ± 5.38% (21–34.1%) ( Figure 10 , Left). At the end of the production cycle, gene expression analyses were made at CIBNOR to compare HOM-treated with non-treated postlarvae. The results of gene expression related to the activities of the aminopeptidase (AMP), amylase (AMY), chymotrypsin (CHY) and trypsin (TRY) enzymes showed clear and statistically significant differences ( p  < 0.05; n  = 30) between the HOM-treated and NT postlarvae ( Figure 10 , Right). These results confirmed a positive impact of the use of homoeopathic medicines in the commercial production of L. vannamei postlarvae.

a new voyage with real homoeopathy

Figure 10.

Growth in weight (left) and gene expression (right) in Litopenaeus vannamei postlarvae or adult treated and with homoeopathic medicines in a commercial shrimp hatchery (Acuacultura Mahr). Aminopeptidase (AMP), amylase (AMY), chymotrypsin (CHY), trypsin (TRY).

Trial 5 . A fourth experiment consisted of the evaluation of HOM treatments during the mass cultivation of L. vannamei from postlarvae to adult size in commercial facilities of the company BCS Camarón, a commercial shrimp farm. The evaluation was performed in six earthen ponds of 10 ha each, initially seeded at a density of 8 PL m −2 . An experimental design was applied with six earthen ponds 10 ha, four ponds with HOM treatment and two NT ponds without homoeopathy: PhA-SiT (T1), PaV-ViT (T2), and NT as negative control group (T3). Liquid homoeopathic dynamisations were sprayed in commercially balanced food and applied in the culture ponds, each treatment component on alternate days for 130 days. Three samplings were made: after seeding and 7 days for acclimatisation (t 1 ); after 52 days (t 52 ) and after 130 days post seeding (t 130 ). Growth parameters and biomass production as body weight (BW), total length (TL) and weight gain average (WGA) were determined. As physiological health indicators, the hepatopancreatic coverage index (HCI) was evaluated as a morpho-histological index variable [HCI (%) = hepatopancreatic coverage area/cephalothorax coverage area × 100]. From an initial time characterised by no significant differences in BW and TL after 130 days of culture both HOM (T1 and T2) produced the best growth results in BW, TL and WGA compared to NT ponds ( Table 4 ).

Table 4.

Growth of Litopenaeus vanamei treated with homoeopathy while cultured in semi-intensive system in a commercial shrimp farm (BCS Camarón Farm; six earthen ponds, 10 ha).

Body weight (BW), Total length (TL), weight gain average (WGA). Values within the same row with different letters represent significant differences ( p  < 0.05).

The shrimp treated with PaV-VIT after 52 days of treatment (T1) achieved the highest HCI (32.32 ± 0.61%) and differed from PhA − SIT and un-treated control ponds. (28.34 ± 0.87%; 26.58 ± 0.64%, respectively). At the end of the experiment (130 days), both homoeopathic treatments showed better HCI; in relation to the negative control group (PhA − SIT  =  33.87 ± 1.02%; PaV − VIT = 33.31 ± 0.77% control T3 = 26.54 ± 0.56%) as shown in Figure 11 .

a new voyage with real homoeopathy

Figure 11.

Hepatopancreatic coverage index (HCI %) of adult shrimp in a commercial shrimp farm (earth ponds 10 h) treated with homoeopathic medicines.

The positive effect of the HOM treatments evaluated in growth and morpho-histological index of L. vannamei could be attributable to smaller micelle and higher activity in water with nanoparticle content [ 35 ]. The presence of nanoparticles has been demonstrated in highly homoeopathic ultra-diluted medicines [ 8 ]. On the other hand, the same homoeopathic medicines used in shrimp ponds, (PaV, PhA, SIT and ViT) outperformed antibiotics in juvenile scallop A. ventricosus [ 23 ] These results enhanced the evidences that aquacultural homoeopathy has applicability in shrimp commercial culture to improve the productivity of the shrimp industry.

3. Conclusion

One of the most promising and novel fields that strengthen the immune system in marine organisms is the use of immunostimulants that are natural compounds modulating the immune system and increasing resistance of the host against disease mainly those caused by bacteria [ 18 ]. Regarding immunostimulants, homoeopathy has been proposed as a novel alternative in aquaculture practices to improve health and strengthen the organism’s immune response [ 5 , 23 ]. The production of marine mollusc, shrimp and fish around the world still challenged every year by the propagation and emergence of new diseases, mainly those related to viruses and bacteria such as Vibrio spp. and Aeromonas spp. , which are treated with conventional methods as antibiotics [ 2 , 14 ]. The findings in our research suggested that homoeopathic medicines have a great potential to increase health and performance in marine mollusc including bivalves and octopus, shrimp and marine fish.

Findings in the scallop A. ventricosus support the fact that homoeopathic medicines do not act directly over the disease-cause per-se , killing the bacteria or removing the stressing agent but enhancing the capacity of the HOM-treated organisms to resist the infection or overpass stressful conditions. Some results in molluscs have shown a greater effect of homoeopathic medicines on survival than on growth of larvae and seeds. However, it is necessary to consider that greater survival implies maintaining a higher density in larval culture and that not only larvae of larger size are able to settle and become marketable seeds with a good performance in the field. From a commercial point of view, it is more important to attain bigger biomass of successfully setting larvae even if small sized because independently of their size, all larvae are capable and competent for setting process and seed sales. This work has also contributed to the knowledge of octopus for aquaculture purposes since this organism is an important fishery in Mexico with precocious development and high growth rates. For this and all other species, homoeopathic medicines are not intended as food additives; on the contrary, they contribute to acquire a better internal homeostasis, and as a consequence, a better digestive enzyme function and nutrition, and an enhanced immune system, despite of lacking differences in growth parameters. Regarding fish culture, this industry is increasing with time in Mexico but especially marine fish, which represents a great opportunity to improve fish culture by using homoeopathy; as it was demonstrated in this work, it participates at diverse developmental stages, enhancing fish health and growth performance.

To date, overall results are positive and suggest that homoeopathy is a natural, viable and eco-friendly treatment to reduce the use of disinfectants and chemotherapeutics, including antibiotics, in mollusc, shrimp and marine fish industries, to reduce stress, improve nutrition and immune response, to increase their resistance to any of the various pathogenic strains of bacteria and viruses that have come to hatcheries and farms and will continue to reach them worldwide. Future experiments are being planned at CIBNOR to elucidate the role that homoeopathic medications could play in these organisms.

Acknowledgments

This study was financed by the Sectorial Fund for Education of Mexico: Project CB SEP-CONACYT-258282 “Experimental evaluation of homeopathy and new probiotics in the culture of mollusks, crustaceans and fish of commercial interest” and Project PROINNOVA-CONACYT-241777 “Innovation and continuous improvement of products and processes to optimise hatchery seed production of the American oyster C. virginica ”, under the academic responsibility of the first author (JMMS); the authors thank Diana Fischer for editorial services.

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