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Worse, the same, better: Theoretical considerations

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Single individuals may not be able to prove that a single homeopathic cure helped, harmed or did not work

- and what we may do about it.

We may not escape some theoretical concerns.

The following figures are to be read from left to right like this: Upward line better in time. Downward line: worse in time. Not slanting: unchanged condition, neither better nor worse.

The red line from A through B and further illustrates what would have happened "by itself, naturally - if no homeopathic remedies were applied at the B-point in time. Lines that slant upwards from B, illustrate betterment. Lines that go on horizontally, show no changes. Lines that slant downwards, tell of becoming worse.

Graph illustration
Fig. 1. Coloured lines and what they stand for

Blue lines are the (theoretical) effects of the remedy. Upwards - it has helped. Horizontal - it has no effect for some reason or other. Downwards - it has harmed (theoretically).

Green lines are the outcomes, the results of the combinations or interactions of what would have happened by itself and the effect of the remedies.

Figures 2, 3, and 4 (below) show why we should not tell that a single homeopathic cure helped us, harmed us, or did not work. It is rather easy to see why. And it is not necessary to take in the figures either. However, some like visual aids, so here are some.

Case 1. If you were in for getting worse

Figure 2 illustrates three outcomes where the results would have been worsening if things had been left to themselves (three red lines) The final outcome is marked by a C in the upper example, which shows that when you were in for getting worse, and the selected remedy had no effect, you get worse. The green line overlaps the red line in this case.

Graph illustration
Fig. 2. If you would have got worse anyway
In the second part of fig. 2, the worsening is counteracted by the remedy. The remedy helps, but since the organism was in for worsening, deterioration, and the like, the remedy in this scenario brings about a result somewhere between the red and blue line, most likely. Interestingly, depending on the strengths of the main influences, you may get better, remain the same, or get worse, helped by the remedy. You may not think you have been helped, though. In fact, if you get less worse than you otherwise might have got, you still note that you get worse after you took the remedy, and faultily claim it harmed you.

The point is: you cannot prove that, and every doctor should know it. He would probably say: "It did not work, so how could it harm?" I know one way it could, though: "If the remedy helped, but not for long, and you threw away medicine that was vital to your health during the not so long-lasting improvement, and then got worse - then you would be without your medicine, which could have very alarming results."

Case 2. If you were in for remaining the same

Graph illustration
Fig. 3.

Figure 3 illustrates that in cases where the natural flow of things would have been the same, the remedy may help, not help, and harm (theoretically, that is).

In this scenario, if you get better due to the remedy, you may rightly think so in the face of improvement, but you cannot prove it. If you don't get better, you may also rightly think the remedy did not help. At this point the homeopath may wish to switch to a higher potency or another remedy, or both, saying, "It seems another remedy or potency could be needed." Maybe is the right response. "Maybe."

In case you get worse after taking the remedy, you may rightly ascribe your worsening to it, but it will most likely be overheard, and you will be told, "Homeopathic remedies do not harm." Or a doctor: "Homeopathic remedies do not work." A possibility of harm is there though, in the case of homeopathic nosodes. In lower potencies (D30, D12, and D6) them may contain germs, according to an official at the Danish ministry of health. It is true; homeopathic remedies from nosodes may harm the ones they are intended to help unless one is careful. It is good if lay persons do not administer nosodes, then.

Case 3. If you were in for getting better

Graph illustration
Fig. 4.

Figure 4 indicates three different outcomes where improvement would have set in at point B, and you got a remedy then. In the first scenario you get better, and ascribe it all to the remedy. That is not so sure. In the second scenario you get better and say the remedy helped - but it did not (blue line) - you improved anyway. That happens too. Some ascribe it to "placebo" and coincidence, suggestions, and relief from talking about one's problems - but such "explanations" are due to faith, it has to be said. One should be careful neither to believe blindly, or explain away (rationalise) happenings.

In the third scenario you were due to get better, but the remedy harmed you, to the effect that nothing (much) changes. In this case you may think the remedy did not help, although it harmed - and these things are among those that many a doctor and homeopath has to understand and consider.

Can we prove or disprove that homeopathic medicine works, and how?

It is rather easy to do it if we have at least some twenty persons to treat, and a similar amount to serve as a control group. In such as case we may get statistical figures that look significant - and by that method we get proofs or documentation.

For personal use, professor Olof Lindahl proposes to try a remedy on and off and note changes in the health condition over time. Instead of forty persons given a remedy at the same time, a remedy may be administered to the same person many times in some cases. This approach may be tried with remedies in low potencies, such as D6. It is highly recommended that you take down notes regularly in that case, to document possible changes with some accuracy.

There is also clinical testing - which may or may not be a misleading term. At worst it stands for about the same as getting anecdotal evidence.

The point is that whether you get better, remain the same, or get worse, you cannot prove that the homeopathic remedy did it. You may be right or wrong, but proofs require more work - involving at least some twenty subjects and a control group for the simplest double-blind tests. Such research designs are needed.

Either a homeopathic remedy works or it doesn't. How can you tell?

Life is usually a complex web and tough to see through in all respects. Let us say someone got better after being given homeopathic remedies. Some think that such betterment is proof that homeopathy works, but no: Theoretically speaking, the remedies either helped, harmed, or had no effect whatever. The one who got the remedies, could have improved for other reasons and might have got far better without remedies, and so on.

These points are to be counted in for proofs that are thought to be valid. It is hard to prove things by single cases. Three options emerged:

Getting worse, helped anyhow?

  1. Even if you got worse, the remedy could theoretically, have hindered that you got much worse.
  2. Although you got much worse right after the intake, the remedy could have been completely ineffective in itself. White sugar is often said to have such healing propensies. Therefore it is suitable as a placebo.
  3. And then again, you can't know if there was no deep and helpful effect of that medication either. Some remedies are said to be slow- and deep-acting. We find that note in primers in homeopathy, for sure. Realising this, there is the theoretical option that even if you got violently worse right after the administration, without that stuff you might have got frighteningly worse without it. Who can tell?

Is it odd that basic facts and theories related to one singular trial are so little highlighted? At one point in time we are given a remedy, and then we get better, remain about the same, or get worse afterwards. The over-all idea is:

  1. If we get better, it may not have been the remedy that caused it. Or maybe it was. Or we could have become far better without it, or not as much better without it.
  2. If our health remains the same, we are prone to think the remedy did not work - but that is a fallacy, at least theoretically. If we remain the same, the remedy could have helped tremendously if we were heading for "doom and gloom" without it, perhaps without know it. In such a scenario, we may be prone to say, "The remedy did not help at all," even though it helped tremendously. It is also possible - although not very likely at all times - that we remain about the same, and think the remedy did not help us, while it actually harmed us without our knowing. That happens if we are slowly poisoned and deranged, or if we were actually improving unaided, and the remedy took us down. Think about it. A remedy may help, not work, or harm - these three options are there. In single cases you cannot tell what causes what either. That is a problem in single cases, and as patients we are just that - single cases.
  3. If our health gets worse after we get a remedy, we are perhaps polite and say, "Well, it did not help." However, how can we be sure? That is the question. The remedy might have helped, but not enough for us to sense it, for example. There are these three main options: It could have helped, had no effect, or actually dragged us down - and it is not easily found out in single cases.

In any single case, whether improving, remaining the same, or getting worse, one may think, "Could have been better, the same, or worse anyhow, and the medicine could have helped, been ineffective, or harmful at the time."

That sums up things very simplified, leaving out fluctuations, possible interactions, or various complications. The value of placebo effects is to be counted in too, in actual life.

It is when single cases are compounded that side effects of some medicines are seen. Thus, we cannot rest content with what just seems to help (or hurt). We need to think deeper in some cases, at any rate.

Outcomes can hopefully be measured. And it may be a very good idea to write a diary from the cure you are undertaking. Maybe - maybe not - some patterns stand out.

Good statistics is a formidable help, but it does not always go well to deduce from an average account (statistical figures) to an individual case. They may not match, not completely - just as there is no average person to find either.

We Do Not Need to Jump to Horrible Conclusions

Scientific research is not geared to individual cases, but to averages calculated from scores of single cases that can be treated in various statisticalways.

Stress and hassles may kill, and stress stems from awkward coping also. Medical doctors estimate that over fifty percent of all bodily diseases have to do with psychosomatic influences, and let me add that stress is a major one among them. [Smith et al, 203:515]

Mind it is not proper to use speculations about "infinitesimal doses" where there' is nothing at all but sugar, physically speaking. It is polite to let facts come first and adjust the language to them instead of misleading young and naive ones.

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Suck It

Homeopathic remedies consist of sugar and next to nothing else. In lots of cases there is absolutely nothing but sugar in them, physically speaking: homeopathic remedies in high potencies, their one and only substance is sugar (glucose and sucrose). Perhaps we may find they are aura organisers. [More]

According to the British pioneer-investigator Malcolm Rae, the "strength" of a homeopathic remedy is well aligned with its somewhat old-fashioned name "potency". He has devised a scheme to use for comparisons and the like. The scheme he ended up with, is shown in a book he co-authored. [Tansley 1977]

Substances are macerated in alcohol or crushed into a fine powder, and next diluted to so-called infinitesimal quantities while shaken rather sternly over and over according to a scheme that stems from Samuel Hahnemann, the founder of homeopathy.

As for potencies and dosages it may be fit to start administering only low potencies (low numbers) if you are no expert. You may step up the potencies later, for example after four months if you try to get a good grasp on the subject.

Also, it is a "golden rule" that low potencies are for acute problems, and high potencies for long-lasting, more chronic and delicate diseases and disturbances. But start gently in these cases too, to reduce the risks of ruffling the health of the patients, if your remedies affekt them at all, that is. Refrain from administering potencies above D200 or c100 while being an amateur. Just go gently until you have much and good experience. Safety first, in other words - you may want to adhere to a selection of so-called basic rules of the game from a 200-year old tradition to be on the safe side.

Try not to side with confusing names in this: What you get - speaking of chemical ingredients that matter over and above the dosage D6 - is sugar pills carrying different Latin names, and shabbiness should not be welcome. Instead we could seek to assuage well where it is feasible.

The codes D6, D30, D200 speak of "potencies", which may be more aptly called charges. In English-speaking countries you're likely to meet with C instead of D. Thus: c6, c30, c100 - Replace "D200" with "c100" and feel happy about it, if you don't mind. As for CM, it can be largely the same in both the c row of dilutions and the D row, more or less.

As a self-tester or self-helper - choose the term you like best - What to do on your own and far from an established "know-all":

  1. D 6: Try 6 small, round pills (or 2-3- tablets) three times a day for at least 6 weeks.
  2. c12 or D12: Similarly: 6 sugar pills three times a day. Space them out as best you can. Further, I would strive to drop "D6".
  3. c30 or D30: 10-12 sugary pills twice a day is best, or maybe you can do with once a day, with less severe symptoms - I don't know. Suck them carefully morning and evening to allow the "faith" inside them the "full, spaced-out time" to do their work, thank you.
  4. c100 or D200: About 12 pills every third or fourth day for c100, (two times a week).
    As for D200, try each 5th day (quite ideally). If you have troubles with that, a severely faltering dosage - once a week - may be better than not at all, but I would not bet on that.
  5. CM: Once every second month, and up to two or three times should be enough. Empty the whole glass for one dose. Suck well, slowly. Use ten minutes for it.

    Special aid: Always try to back up the "heavy CM" with such as c100 (or if not had, get c30 or D30) of the very same remedy. Thus: start a round - or "cure attempt" if that feels better - by imbibing the CM stuff, and follow up by sucking c100 or D200, or c30 or D30 for many weeks after it - more than four, it is suggested, and not less than three, if you can get to it. Now, this quite traditional way of dispensing was devised to lessen some special troubles or pains. You may try it out.

Homeopathic potencies over and above D30 (slightly less than that, really), contain nothing of the original substances. There is nothing but alcohol and "alcohol diluted in alcohol", or "water diluted in water" if we talk of chemical components. Avogadro's constant in chemistry shows it to be the case.

Homeopathic Nosodes

In 1980-81 a Danish government official informed me, "Even if there shouldn't be one molecule left of anything but sugar (or alcohol) in the D30 potency, still there have been found dangerous bacteria or toxins!" She talked of homeopathic nosodes; they are homeopathic remedies too, prepared from microbes or virus that give us chicken pox, measles, and so on.

So, in some provings referred to by a Danish public servant that surveyed these matters, bacteria were found in some of the homeopathic nosodes of the D30 "strength" - that dilution or "potency". This was so, even though the theoretical average (according to Avogadro's constant) indicated they were gone. But since microbes cluster and and don't behave mechanically, we can get such surprises.

Thus, Avogadro's constant (Avogadro's number) give us a rule of the thumb that is most welcome, but not perfectly descriptive for real life practice.

On Homeopathic Literature

There are many books on homeopathy, some old ones, some more recent ones. To survey new ones, try Amazon.com. Homeopathic literature may give us details that fit, but may be so weak in theory that it is dismaying to some. It is also good to know that what symptoms each remedy covers it is not any agreed-on or clear-cut matter. There are differences of opinion among homeopathy authors. For all that, one may try to be allied with the helpful placebo effect from "Autosuggestion, belief, goodwill, coincidence" as long as it works for good. [Lindahl och Lindwall, 1979]

Many homeopathic works

Smartness

To reduce remedy costs to a fraction, learn to make your own homeopathic remedies from those you buy at the pharmacist. It is easy to do. [Link]

COLLECTION
Worse, the same, END MATTER

Worse, the same, LITERATURE  

Lindahl, Olof, och Lindwall, Lars: Laegevidenskaben i nyt perspektiv. Copenhagen: Reitzel, 1979.

Smith, Carolyn D., ed, et al. Hilgard's Introduction to Psychology. 14th ed. Belmont: Thomson Wadsworth, 2003.

Tansley, David. Dimensions of Radionics. Bradford: Health Science, 1977.

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