Homeopathy: can we really trust it?

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Should we ban these white granules from our medicine cabinets, knowing that the High Authority for Health (HAS) recommended on June 26 the delisting of homeopathy by Health Insurance, due to insufficient efficiency? An opinion followed by the Minister of Solidarity and Health, Agnès Buzyn, on July 10. As a result, homeopathy will no longer be reimbursed on January 1, 2021 (with a transitional year at 15% in 2020). Does this mean that we must give up treating ourselves in this way, when one in four general practitioners prescribes homeopathy? According to the many detractors of this alternative medicine, the treatments would be nothing other than pseudo-drugs whose action would follow from our conviction. The more you believe in it, the more it works! However, studies conclude that it is more effective than a simple placebo. But their authors worked for short periods of time, with too few patients, or with doctors who knew what they were administering, etc. “These studies present methodological problems,” explains Prof. Christian Thuilier, president of the HAS Transparency Commission, which has conducted the evaluation of homeopathic medicines. And those who respect scientific protocols conclude that there is no better curative effect than that obtained with a placebo. “

An ancestral prince

Since its invention at the end of the 18th century by a German doctor, Samuel Hahnemann, homeopathy has never ceased to be talked about. It is based on three principles:

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• the similitude: one cures the evil by the evil, by means of the substance which causes the symptoms which one wants to treat.

• infinitesimal: the treatment is administered in minute doses to increase its effectiveness tenfold. This “potentiation” is obtained by a very large number of dilutions, so that no molecule of the active principle remains in the preparation. At each dilution, the mixture is stirred in order to “energize” it. Then it is sprayed on small spheres of sucrose and lactose. The granules are ready.

• the whole: beyond the symptoms, homeopathy takes into account the constitution of the patient, his lifestyle, his predispositions, his mental state, his homeotype … So when you catch the flu and pass it on to a loved one, a homeopath does not prescribe the same treatment for both.

In its early days, homeopathy grew rapidly despite immediate opposition from medical authorities. In the 19th century, in Italy, France, and Brazil, some dispensaries even acquired a certain notoriety thanks to it, in particular by treating dysentery and cholera. But in the twentieth century, the development of modern medicine and the appearance of drugs with an active substance brutally slowed down its expansion, even if its popularity remained in several regions of the world, particularly in France.

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Small ailments and great ailments

Today, many patients still use it. “Particularly when they reach their fifties and chronic osteo-articular pathologies accompanied by inflammatory attacks, such as osteoarthritis,” recalls Dr. Dominique Jeulin-Flamme. They use it to treat hypertension or viral attacks associated with winter, to treat anxiety-depressive disorders, insomnia, allergies, type 2 diabetes. “And they are satisfied with it: 68% of those over 70 who consult a homeopath chose him as attending physician. Among the benefits highlighted: a reduced consumption (or even a total absence) of risky drugs such as sleeping pills and conventional antidepressants. And no side effects. A great advantage, for example, for people who are anxious, hypochondriac or suffering from psychosomatic ailments, who are thus not exposed to the inconveniences that chemical molecules can generate. In the hospital, homeopathy also has its entrances. Oncologists use it to counter certain side effects of chemotherapy.

So are all these tube health enthusiasts being too gullible? And would practitioners be wrong in attributing so much power to the little sweet granules? It is not that simple. Anti-homeopathy points to the risk that its use will differ or replace the administration of appropriate conventional care, at the risk of causing dramatic consequences. But on a daily basis, many patients use it in addition to other treatments. And if homeopathy is reduced to a simple placebo, this effect probably alone justifies that we are interested in it.

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