Are Homeopathic Treatments Based on Nanotechnology – A Review
German physician Samuel Hahnemann proposed Homeopathy in 1796. It is an alternative medicine involving highly diluted preparations. Homeopathic treatments are based upon the law of similars. If a diluted preparation is given to a healthy individual, certain symptoms will be observed.
Homeopathy works on the contrary. It gives the same diluted preparation to a patient with these specific symptoms to cure the condition. For instance, if some homeopathic pills cause fever symptoms in a healthy individual, these same pills can cure fever in a patient according to this medicinal discipline.
The Present Status of Homeopathic Treatments: According to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine of the NIH in the United States, “Homeopathy is a controversial area of alternative medicine as its concepts are not consistent with well-known laws of science“. The laws of Chemistry state that there is a limit to the extent to which a solution can be diluted without losing the original substance completely. Owing to this fact, Homeopathy has remained disputed right from its inception.
The efficacy of homeopathic treatments are believed to be in successively diluting the preparations. The process is technically known as potentization. But, this very basic process has been challenged by other established fields of medicine questioning the very existence of Homeopathy in modern times. Practising homeopaths also could not explain the mechanism behind the efficacy of these pills in a convincing manner.
A theory was proposed a few years back which stated that the original substance, the solute, “imprinted its memory” on the solvent, water molecules, forming the prepared solution. However, in scientific tests carried out in the BBC’s Horizon and ABC’s 20/20 programs, it was not possible to separate homeopathic dilutions from water, even when the directions were given by the homeopaths themselves.
The Puzzle of Homeopathic Medicine: Critics even say that it is not worthwhile to continue the scientific study of homeopathy. But, the supporters of homeopathic treatments have been arguing that since there is no scientific explanation against it from the modern science as well, their discipline cannot be rejected. The homeopathic pills have managed to cure tough medical conditions and the discipline is recognized in developing countries like India by the government as one of the national systems of medicine.
In a recent development, researchers from the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay, have discovered that it is nanotechnology which is at the very basis of homeopathic treatments. The results of their study are published in the December 2010 issue of Homeopathy, a journal owned by the reputed publishing firm Elsevier.
The Study on Homeopathic Remedies: It was carried out under the supervision of Dr. Jayesh Bellare from the chemical engineering department of the IIT-B, by his student, Prashant Chikramane. The details of the study were presented as doctoral thesis by the latter under the title “Extreme Homeopathic Dilutions Retain Starting Materials – A Nanoparticulate Perspective“.
Knowledge Gained from the Research Study on Homeopathic Treatments are:
- The researchers found nanoparticles in the complementary medicinal substances ayurvedic bhasmas a few years ago. This is how, their quest to solve the mystery of Homeopathy began.
- Homeopathic pills were bought from the neighbouring shops and highly diluted solutions were prepared from them.
- These preparations were then placed under powerful electron microscopes to look for the original molecule at nano scale.
- Equipments like transmission electron microscope, emission spectroscopy and electron diffraction were used in the study.
- These very powerful devices found naturally occurring metal molecules of gold, copper and iron.
How Homeopathic Treatments Have Nanotechnology Basis: The study found that even when the presence of these molecules was one-billionth of a metre, their potency was retained. Gold and copper molecules as nanoparticles were believed to be the original metals behind the efficacy of this medicine.
The researchers proposed an explanation for the mechanism behind Homeopathy based on their experimental findings. Their hypothesis is that the original metals formed nanobubbles and floated on the surface of the highly diluted mixtures. This is how they retained their original potency.
Expert Reviews of the Research Study on Homeopathic Remedies: The scientific world is of the opinion that further research is to be carried out to replicate the work done at IIT, Bombay. Only then the proposed hypothesis can attain the status of an accepted theory. American homeopathic experts from the Centre of Integrative Medicine, University of Maryland have termed the research discovery as “fascinating”.
They said that there are known arithmetic calculations in place which allow the possibility of preparations which contain the original substance in extremely less proportion by carrying out a series of 1:99 dilutions in sequence. The theory however loses its ground with every successive dilution. The work of Chikramane and his team has shown that the original molecules in nanogram quantities are present in their most potent state contrary to the arithmetic.
Reactions of the Indian Homeopathic Doctors on the Study: They are however not surprised by the results of the research. Famous Homeopath Dr. Farokh.J. Master said that the discovery of the IIT Bombay researchers is a known fact for every practising professional in this field. An exercise proposed by him to all his patients presents the significance dilution receives in Homeopathy.
- He instructs his patients to mix the homeopathic pills in a cup of water and stir for 10 times with a spoon.
- Then the spoon is to be removed vertically and immersed in another cup of pure water and stirred for 10 times.
- The procedure is to be carried for five times using different cups of water each time.
- The previous four cups of water should be discarded and the preparation of the fifth should be consumed in the form of two equal doses.
Dr. Master strongly believes that Homeopathic treatments are effective enough to cure all including cats and dogs. The British House of Commons Science and Technology Committee six months ago stated that this medicine is a placebo treatment and its prescription is an example of bad medicine. Now that a full fledged hypothesis based on experimental results is proposed and the presence of active ingredients has been proved, it will be interesting to watch the course of the fate of Homeopathy in near future.
Impact of the Research on Homeopathic Treatments on Common Man: Of late, there has been a rise in the curiosity of western medicinal practitioners to explore the possibilities of less known and obscure medicinal practices, especially from the east. These disciplines, like Ayurveda, Unani and Traditional Chinese Medicine to name a few, are quite popular in their regions of practice, even possessing official recognition from the federal governments.
They lacked scientific evidences to be well received by the Western world. People relied on faith and their experience with these medicines to continue following them. The medicines are available cheaply and have less side effects. Over a period of time, they have emerged as time tested medicinal practices and have succeeded to generate enough curiosity about them in the logic-minded westerners. Impressed by the benefits of these medicines, Americans have also started to follow the homeopathic treatments to complement the most popular and trusted evidence-based contemporary medicine.
Slowly, they are exploring the benefits of these medicines and promoting them after being convinced of their healing effects. The present research can only heighten the confidence of the common man on the efforts placed to get benefited from other less tried treatment options like homeopathic treatments.
Conclusion: With the advancement of nanotechnology, has the recent development in the case of Homeopathic treatments opened up the possibility of providing scientific explanation to other age-old medicinal practices too? It is up to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine to answer such a pertinent query.