What is it?
Homeopathy is a system of medicine based on the philosophy of ‘like cures like.’ That is, a substance that will cause problems when given to a healthy person will help a person who is suffering from the same symptoms, an idea that can be traced back to Hippocrates. Homeopathy as we know it today was developed by Samuel Hahnemann, a German physician, more than 200 years ago and has been used since.
Homeopathic remedies are very dilute so the amount of active substance seems imperceptible. Homeopathic practitioners believe that the greater dilution, the greater the effect of the homeopathic remedy. Critics, however, wonder how the treatment can be effective if there is essentially nothing there. Recently, scientists from India found nano-sized particles in homeopathic solutions, confirming that there is an active substance in very dilute homeopathic remedies (Iyer 2010, Chikramane 2010).
Homeopathic treatments can be used in different ways. In classical homeopathy, a homeopathic physician takes into account the person’s health history, body type and their physical, emotional, and mental status before prescribing a specific remedy. In another approach, a physician may suggest a single remedy or combination remedies based on a person's physical symptoms. Homeopathic remedies for specific conditions are also available over-the-counter.
Homeopathic remedies are inexpensive, do not interact with other medications or supplements, are safe for children, including infants, and either work or don't. In the US, an estimated 3.9 million adults and close to a million children used homeopathic remedies in 2006 (Nahin 2009). Homeopathy use is more prevalent in other countries.
How can this help?
Homeopathic treatments for the same disease can be different since they are based on individual characteristics. Since ITP can vary significantly between people (Provan 2010), an individual approach may be beneficial. Depending on the circumstances, homeopathic remedies can be combined and taken in different concentrations.
The varying disease characteristics, patient personalities, remedy combinations and dosages make it difficult to standardize the treatment required for the type of clinical trials used in conventional medicine. Despite the challenges in homeopathic clinical trials, there have been studies that demonstrate positive results in treating allergies, migraines, asthma, and other diseases. However, there have been no clinical trials using homeopathic treatments for ITP that we are aware of.
PDSA has heard from a number of people who feel they had success using homeopathy. Several people mentioned their homeopathic provider suggested the remedy lachesis. Lachesis is based on snake venom. Since some snake venom has anti-coagulant properties and causes bleeding, lachesis is consistent with the ‘like cures like’ philosophy.
Homeopathy is generally considered safe (Dantas F, Rampes H 2000). Some homeopathic remedies are alcohol based, although no adverse events from the alcohol have been reported to the FDA . (Note: the alcohol can be diluted with water and many homeopathic remedies come in pill form) People taking homeopathic remedies may experience a short-term aggravation of their problem, but this has not been recorded in the clinical trials.
“The homeopathic process can be slow or fast. The key is to give the sufferer of a specific condition one and only one remedy at a time and repeat the dose only if the symptoms present themselves again. If the symptoms change during the course of an illness a new remedy is introduced and the other left behind.….All I can say is [Nico] is living proof that this horrible condition can be cured if only we dare say we will try something else. Nico has FULLY recovered.” Gabriela, Canada
“The rise in [Peeru’s] platelet count was related to the intake of Lachesis-10M… In the mean time, many of Peeru's mental symptoms had improved. She was more cheerful, less prone to taking offence, getting good sleep at night etc. I concluded that there was a clear need of a complementary medicine….I selected Crotalus Horridus-30…The next (single) dose was required to be given only in January 2003. Her platelet count rose to 140K but a minor rash in mid-February called for another dose. Her platelet count rose to 276K after three weeks and now at the end of March, she has 340K. Without any further dose, her platelet count is 240K in the third week of April. We are all thrilled. By the grace of God, we have succeeded in finding an inexpensive cure of ITP.” R. Jha, India
Chikramane PS et al, “Extreme homeopathic dilutions retain starting materials: A nanoparticulate perspective.” Homeopathy. 2010 Oct;99(4):231-42. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1475491610000548, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20970092
Dantas F, Rampes H. “Do homeopathic medicines provoke adverse effects? A systematic review.“ Br Homeopath J. 2000 Jul;89 Suppl 1:S35-8. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10939781
Iyer M. “IIT-B team shows how homeopathy works.” Times of India, Dec. 16, 2010. http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2010-12-16/mumbai/28261112_1_iit-scientists-sweet-white-pills-work-homeopathy-paper
Nahin RL et al. “Costs of Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) and Frequency of Visits to CAM Practitioners: United States, 2007.” National Health Statistics Report. Number 18, July 30, 2009. http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nhsr/nhsr018.pdf
Provan D et al. “International consensus report on the investigation and management of primary immune thrombocytopenia” Blood, 14 January 2010, Vol. 115, No. 2, pp. 168-186.http://bloodjournal.hematologylibrary.org/cgi/content/full/115/2/168
PDSA thanks Dr. Veronica Hayduk for reviewing this page.