The Logic, Wisdom and Scientific Evidence for the Homeopathic Treatment of Influenza
This is the time of year that Big Media seeks to appease its biggest advertisers, Big Pharma, by helping to spread fear and panic about this year’s “flu epidemic.” They commonly quote sensationalized statistics, suggesting that you will die or become very ill unless you vaccinate. However, conveniently enough, even the Lung Association admits that the vast majority of these deaths associated with the flu are not from this illness at all but from pneumonia.1
This merging of statistics is rare in medicine or science, except when the economics of Big Pharma (or another big industry) are involved, as their bible seemingly becomes “Lies, Damn Lies and Statistics” (in other words, how to use statistics to create fear and sell drugs). The fact that last year’s flu vaccine was a dismal 42 percent effective2 is completely ignored by the media, though the 2014-15 flu vaccine was only 23 percent effective (and not surprisingly, virtually no major media reported on this fact).
The real problems from getting the flu are not from the disease itself but from the mismanagement of the disease by doctors and by patients. People with the flu mistakenly take aspirin or acetaminophen to “lower the fever” of the flu, but that is one of the worst things that you can do for yourself, unless one happens to have a fever with a high temperature of 103 degrees Fahrenheit or more (a very rare experience, except in infants).
Generally, physicians and pathologists consider a fever to be one of the important defensive functions of the body. The fever is one of the methods that your body deploys to fight viral infection. During a fever, the body secretes increased amounts of interferon, an antiviral chemical. If a person takes a fever-lowering drug, the body doesn’t secrete this antiviral chemical as much, enabling the virus to overwhelm the sick person.
New York City was found to have one of the lowest mortality rates from the flu than any major city in the U.S.,4 in part because the health commissioner of New York City was Dr. Royal Copeland, a homeopathic physician who discouraged the use of aspirin and encouraged safer natural methods, including homeopathic medicines.5
Copeland was later elected senator for the state of New York three times, and he wrote the famed Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act of 1938, which was one of the most important consumer rights laws ever written because it empowered the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to regulate drugs — and it also gave federal recognition to homeopathic medicines as “drugs.”
The Wisdom, Logic and Scientific Evidence for Homeopathy and the Flu
It is generally recognized that living organisms, including the human body, will go to extraordinary measures to survive. In doing so, it can and will create symptoms as defenses and as adaptive measures to fight infection or stress. When the human body is exposed to a flu virus, the body inflames into a fever as a defensive effort to fight the virus. During a fever, the body increases its number of T-cells and B-cells that help fight viral infection.
The wisdom and logic of homeopathic medicines are that instead of suppressing symptoms with fever-lowering drugs, a nano-dose of a medicine that might actually cause a fever or flu-like condition will be used to augment the person’s immune and defense system. It is therefore no wonder that the first scientist to be granted the Nobel Prize in Medicine was Dr. Emil Adolf von Behring who discovered the tetanus and diphtheria vaccines. After he won this Nobel Prize, von Behring admitted that his discovery was inspired from homeopathy.6
Even though the extremely small nano-sized doses were considered impossible or improbable to have any biological effects, today the emerging field of nanomedicine and nanopharmacology is verifying the significant power of nano-doses of medicines. A 2015 report about the field of nanomedicine expected sales to be over $130 billion.7 It is only a matter of time before physicians, scientists and the general public realize that homeopathy was the “original nanomedicine.”
The bottom line is that our body’s hormones and cell-signaling agents are known to operate at nano-dose levels.8 Further, solid research published in one of the most respected scientific journals in the world, the American Chemical Society, has confirmed that homeopathic doses, even those at extreme dilutions, have significant amounts of nano-doses as verified by three different types of spectroscopy.9
Homeopathy as a Form of Homeo-Immunotherapy
Generally, homeopathic medicines are not prescribed for specific diseases but instead for specific syndromes of each disease. For instance, the syndrome of symptoms one person with the flu may have (fever, body aches and a frontal headache worsened by all types of motion, increased thirst for cold fluids and irritability with a desire to be alone) will require a different homeopathic medicine from another (who may have a fever, great fatigue, a headache in the back part of the head and no thirst).
In fact, from a homeopathic point of view, it is strange and weird that people would think it is wise to use the same drug to treat everyone, even though people with the same illness may have totally different syndromes of symptoms. However, in homeopathy, there are select conditions for which certain specific homeopathic medicines can be effective for larger groups of people despite their differences in symptoms.
The use of a homeopathic medicine called Oscillococcinum is an example of a remedy that can be effective for many people with the flu, though clinical experience suggests that it is most effective when used within 48 hours of getting flu symptoms. Although most homeopathic medicines are made from the plant or mineral kingdom, Oscillococcinum is unusual in that it is made from the heart and liver of a duck.
Although this source may initially sound strange, it makes sense for anyone familiar with how influenza is spread throughout the world. Epidemiologists have determined that various birds, including ducks, carry influenza viruses in their digestive tracts. Most people today have heard of the “bird flu,” and this fact makes reference to this common source of the flu.
The fact that homeopaths have used Oscillococcinum since 1925 verifies that homeopaths have incorporated this accurate and cutting-edge medical information for almost a century, considerably ahead of modern medicine. Ultimately, people who use this homeopathic medicine are therefore being given exceedingly small doses of various flu viruses, making this medicine a type of homeo-immunotherapy.
Scientific Evidence That Homeopathy Works for the Flu
There are several scientific studies published in peer-reviewed medical journals that have confirmed Oscillococcinum’s efficacy. One large study of 487 patients found that almost twice as many patients who were given Oscillococcinum recovered from the flu within 48 hours as those given a placebo (17 percent versus 10 percent).10 What was particularly remarkable about this study was a short report written about it in the Lancet.
Their headline was “Quadruple Blind Study.”11 Because most physicians and educated consumers are familiar with “double-blind” studies, very few people don’t know what is meant by “quadruple blind” studies. The Lancet article posed the question: What would happen if the reader of the study was blinded to the results of it? They then described the study without mentioning what treatment was given, and then they described the significant results that verified the positive results of treatment.
The Lancet then posed the provocative question: Now, how do you feel about these results when you are informed that the treatment used was a homeopathic medicine? The author of this article in the Lancet also happened to mention that “a 7 percent difference in efficacy as defined would be a respectable proportion in most drug trials.”
A different group of researchers conducted a randomized, double-blind study involving 372 patients (188 treated with Oscillococcinum and 187 with placebo) of both sexes, ranging in age from 12 to 60, who presented rectal temperature ≥ 100.4 F, muscle pains, headache, or at least one of the following symptoms: shivering, chest pain, spine pain, coughing, irritation of nasal mucosa or feeling of malaise.12
Patients received three tubes of Oscillococcinum or placebo each day (morning, noon and night) for three days. The results of this trial show a highly statistically significant difference between the two groups, for what concerns disappearance of symptoms after 48 hours (19.2 percent in the Oscillococcinum group versus 17.1 percent in the placebo group) and improvement in symptoms (43.7 percent vs 38.6 percent for placebo) ) (p = 0.0028).
Moreover, the frequency of use of concomitant medicines was slightly higher for the placebo group, as was also the use of multiple medicines. Only 13.8 percent of the Oscillococcinum group used two or three drugs (analgesics and antirheumatics), against 19.6 percent in the placebo group.
Another parameter considered was the percentage of patients able to return to work, which was higher in the Oscillococcinum group, both two days after the onset of the illness (16.3 percent against 9.3 percent) and after four days, with highly significant differences.
Homeopathic Treatment Reduced Length of Influenza Illness
The Cochrane Collaboration is an internationally respected group of researchers who evaluate scientific studies. In 2004, they reviewed seven studies using Oscillococcinum in the treatment or prevention of influenza.13 Four treatment trials (n = 1,194) and three prevention trials (n = 2,265) were evaluated.
Only two studies had sufficient information to complete data extraction fully, and both of these studies only evaluated the use of this medicine in the treatment of influenza or influenza-like conditions (the two studies mentioned above were the two studies that were evaluated).
Oscillococcinum treatment reduced length of influenza illness by 0.28 days (95 percent confidence interval 0.50 to 0.06). Oscillococcinum also increased the chance of a patient considering treatment effective (relative risk 1.08; 95 percent CI 1.17, 1). This review also concluded that the number of days needed to return to work were significantly reduced by 0.49 days (95 percent CI 0.89-0.08) compared to the control (average of 4.1 days).
The relative risk from treatment was 0.60 (0.37-0.98), meaning that the proportion of patients treated with Oscillococcinum who considered the treatment to be useless was 0.6, relative to 1.0 for the placebo (a significant difference of 40 percent). The authors of this research review considered these results “promising,” though not strong enough to warrant a general recommendation to use Oscillococcinum for “first-line” treatment of influenza or influenza-like syndromes.
As for the use of Oscillococcinum in the prevention of the flu, the researchers concluded that it was not effective. However, it should be highlighted that the company that makes Oscillococcinum does not market this medicine for “prevention” of the flu, only for the treatment of it (and for “influenza-like” syndrome).
In 2012, a new analysis of research on Oscillococcinum in the treatment of influenza was conducted by the Cochrane Collaboration, and their conclusion was more conservative than previous analyses by this organization.14
The 2012 analysis concluded, “Although the results from four other clinical trials (total of 1196 participants) suggested that Oscillococcinum relieved flu symptoms at 48 hours, this might be due to bias in the trial methods.” In other words, even though two of these studies were double-blind, randomized and placebo controlled, these studies did not achieve the higher caliber of standards of research, thereby enabling the possibility of bias in the results.
It should be noted that around 99 percent of clinical studies conducted today and published in peer-reviewed medical journals would also be deemed to have some degree of the “potential for bias.”
Other Studies on Homeopathic Medicines
Homeopathic medicine is impressively popular amongst physicians in Brazil. In fact, there are 15,000 physicians in Brazil who specialize in homeopathy, making it the 16th largest group of physicians of the 61 medical specialties.15
It is further impressive to note that various Brazilian public health agencies have studied the efficacy of homeopathic medicine and have advocated for its usage. Studies on the use of homeopathic medicine in the treatment of dengue fever have found remarkably positive results,16 which is particularly important because conventional medicine offers so little.
A pragmatic clinical trial on preventing influenza was conducted in the Brazilian Public Health System in Petrópolis (a major city in Brazil) with children aged from 1 to 5 years old.17 The medications used were mainly selected based on in vitro experiments (InfluBio, which is a homeopathic dose, 30X, of influenza virus [A/Victoria/3/75 (H3N2)]), and in successful qualitative clinical experiences (Homeopathic Complex composed of Streptococcus and Staphylococcus and inactivated influenza virus in a 30X dilution).
Following informed parental consent, subjects were randomly distributed, in a blind manner, to three experimental groups: Homeopathic Complex, placebo and InfluBio. Brazil public health officials collected flu and acute respiratory infection symptomatic episodes monthly following the established protocol. The number of these episodes was registered in one year (2009 to 2010). Out of the 600 children recruited, 445 (74.17 percent) completed the study (149: Homeopathic complex; 151: Placebo; 145: InfluBio).
The number of flu and acute respiratory infection symptomatic episodes detected in this clinical trial was low; however, it was different between homeopathic groups and placebo (p < 0.001). In the first year post-intervention, 46 out of the 151 (30.5 percent) children in the placebo group developed three or more flu and acute respiratory infection episodes, while there was no episode in the group of 149 children who used Homeopathic Complex, and only one episode in the group of 145 (1 percent) children who received InfluBio.
The researchers concluded that the use of homeopathic medicines minimized the number of flu and acute respiratory infection symptomatic episodes in children, signalizing that the homeopathic prophylactic potential should be investigated in further studies.
In the U.S., no formal studies have been conducted testing homeopathic doses of influenza viruses in the prevention of the flu. However, a popular protocol derived from European experiences have utilized Influenzinum 9C, using an annually changing formula of the three most common flu viruses.
Typically, a five-dose regiment is recommended, taking one dose a week for four weeks and then taking a fifth dose one month later. Although no clinical studies have been conducted testing homeopathic doses of Influenzinum, there has been one basic science in vitro study of Influenzinum 30C.18 In this study, the cellular alterations induced by Influenzinum 30C were analyzed by optical and electron microscopy, MTT and neutral red assays. Glycolytic metabolism (PFK-1) was studied by spectrophotometric assay.
Additionally, the production of tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF-α) by J774.G8 macrophage cells was quantified by ELISA before and after infection with H3N2 influenza virus and treatment. Influenzinum was not found to cause cytotoxic effects but induced morphological alterations in Madin-Darby canine kidney (MDCK) cells. After 30 days, a significant increase (p < 0.05) in mitosis rate was detected compared to control.
MDCK mitochondrial activity was changed after treatment for 10 and 30 days. Treatment significantly diminished (p < 0.05) PFK-1 activity. TNF-α in biotherapy-stimulated J774.G8 macrophages indicated a significant (p < 0.05) increase in this cytokine when the cell supernatant was analyzed. The researchers concluded that Influenzinum 30C altered cellular and biochemical features of MDCK and J774G8 cells.
Other Homeopathic Medicines for Influenza
The above homeopathic medicines are commonly used in the 6X, 6C, 12X, 12C or 30X, 30C potencies.
Sources and References
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