Animal-based research provides a particularly important part of the evidence base for homeopathy because the issue of placebo (placebo = an inactive ‘dummy’ medicine or treatment used for comparison) is largely dealt with from the outset.
Homeopathy research on animals is in its infancy, with a relatively small number of high quality trials having been published. However, as many sceptics believe that the clinical effects of homeopathy are only due to placebo, it really is a matter of ‘quality rather than quantity’; any high quality trials showing that homeopathy is effective in animals have to be considered as important pieces of evidence, as they are perhaps the best demonstration that homeopathy is not ‘all in the mind’. For this reason, only positive studies have been included here but it should be noted that other trials have had negative outcomes.
Topics covered on this page include:
- Laboratory studies
- Veterinary homeopathy research
- Veterinary homeopathy in practice
- Improving research methods
Experiments involving whole living animals have been carried out to investigate the action of homeopathic medicines. This field of ‘in vivo’ research is always controversial, but it allows the interaction between homeopathic medicines and living bodies to be examined under highly controlled conditions. The results of such studies have shown that,
The homeopathic medicine self-nosode (self-nosode = homeopathic medicine prepared from diseased tissue from the individual being treated) is as effective as antibiotics in treating urinary infection in rats
- In this blinded* study rats were split into three treatment groups receiving antibiotics, homeopathic self-nosode or homeopathic Phosphorus; a fourth group was left untreated. The results showed that both homeopathic medicines were effective at reducing the level of infection (assessed by measuring the size of bacterial colonies). No change in bacterial levels was seen in the untreated rats, whilst the reduction in bacterial levels achieved by the treatments were: antibiotics 33%, Self-nosode 39% and Phosphorus 22%.
* which treatment each group received was concealed to minimise bias.
Homeopathic Thyroxine can slow down metamorphosis of tadpoles into frogs
- The hormone thyroxine is known to influence the rate of metamorphosis in frogs. In this study tadpoles were exposed to either conventionally prepared thyroxine, homeopathically prepared Thyroxine or an inactive control liquid. Standard thyroxine was found to stimulate metamorphosis, causing the tadpoles to turn into adult frogs faster. The homeopathic Thyroxine had a clear but opposite effect – significantly slowing down metamorphosis.
- These results were replicated by five separate laboratories in Austria and confirmed by the results of similar experiments carried out by an independent team in Brazil (Guedes JR et al, Homeopathy, 2004; 93(3): 132-7).The species of frog used was Rana temporaria and the ultramolecular thyroxine used was in a 10-30 dilution. More recently the team in Brazil found that a homeopathic preparation made from frog thyroid glands used in a similar way could also alter the rate of metamorphosis.
Homeopathic Mercury Chloride 15c can reduce mortality from mercury chloride poisoning in mice by 40%
- In nine high-quality experiments, all mice were given a lethal injection of mercury chloride; one group was also given daily injections of Mercury Chloride 15c (both before and after the toxic injection) while the other control group was left untreated. The number of rats who had died by day 10 after toxic injection was significantly lower in the group given Mercury Chloride 15c compared with the untreated group. A meta-analysis* of all nine trials by Linde et al. showed that Mercury Chloride 15c treatment reduced mortality was by 40%.
- This is an example of a toxicology study. Various types of toxicology studies have been used to investigate UHDs**, but all involve the same basic concept; an animal is given a poisonous substance in its usual form and in UHD form so that any interaction between the two can be observed e.g. a change in how the toxin affects the animal or how the animal excretes it.
* a statistical technique used to analyse the combined results of multiple studies to generate a more meaningful overall result
** ultra-high dilution such that no molecules of the original substance are left, prepared in the same way as homeopathic medicines
Veterinary homeopathy research
Randomised control trials (RCTs) ((RCTs) = Considered by some researchers to be the ‘gold standard’ of research methods for determining whether a treatment is effective. Patients are randomly allocated to receive the experimental treatment or be in a comparison group.) have demonstrated the efficacy of non-individualised homeopathic prescribing under controlled experimental conditions. For example:
The homeopathic medicine Coli 30K can be an effective alternative to antibiotics for diarrhoea in piglets
- A rigorous research study by the Biological Farming Systems Group at Wageningen University in the Netherlands suggests that the homeopathic medicine Coli 30K is effective in preventing diarrhoea caused by the bacterium Esherichia coli in piglets. This condition is of concern to commercial farmers as it leads to decreased body weight and increased mortality rates. As concern grows about the threat to human health from antibiotics in the food chain, such findings can be considered of particular importance for both animal and human welfare.*
To read a synopsis of this trial by the European Committee for Homeopathy click here.
*Camerlink I, Ellinger L, Bakker EJ, Lantinga EA (2010). Homeopathy as replacement to antibiotics in the case of Escherichia coli diarrhoea in neonatal piglets. Homeopathy, 99; 57–62.
The homeopathic medicine Sepia 200c can reduce the rate of ovarian cysts and postpartum (postpartum = after giving birth) complications in dairy cows
- In this scientifically rigorous study, cows were randomly given either Sepia 200c or placebo on days 14 or 21 after delivering their calves. It was found that the 101 cows given Sepia 200c had significantly fewer postpartum complications than the control group. The study also found that the number of ovarian cysts in the Sepia-treated group dropped from 38% to 12% over the three-year study period (an incidence rate of 10% being considered normal for dairy herds).1
- 1. Williamson AV et al. A trial of Sepia 200: Prevention of anoestrus problems in dairy cows. Br Homoeopathic J, 1995; 84 (1): 14-20
The homeopathic medicine Healwell-VT was found to be at least as effective as antibiotic treatment for mastitis in cows
- 5. Varshney JP, Naresh R. Comparative efficacy of homeopathic and allopathic systems of medicine in the management of clinical mastitis of Indian dairy cows. Homeopathy, 2005; 94: 81–5 Abstract
A combination homeopathic medicine was found to be as effective as antibiotic treatment for infectious diseases in pigs 
- A high percentage of pigs being fattened in intensive livestock farms become ill, suffering mainly from diseases of the respiratory tract. Low-dose antibiotic metaphylaxis* is routinely used in an attempt to reduce the incidence of disease. In this study which involved 1440 piglets, homeopathic metaphylaxis was found to be more effective than placebo at reducing the incidence of disease, and as effective as the low-dose antibiotics.
- The routine use of low-dose antibiotic metaphylaxis in intensive farming has lead to increasing problems of antibiotic resistance, side-effects in the animals and antibiotic residues in the food chain. If this study could be replicated to confirm the results, the combination of Cuprum met D4, Drosera D1, Ipecacuanha D3, Ferrum phosphoricum D4 and Nux vomica D4 used would offer a safer, more effective alternative.
* a preventative treatment given when the individual is already exposed to risk of disease
Outcome studies (which observe the effectiveness of treatments in a real-life setting) have demonstrated the effectiveness of homeopathy in veterinary practice. Below are a few examples of their findings:
Treatment by a homeopathic vet is effective for arthritis and epilepsy in dogs:
- A pilot outcome study involving the treatment of 767 individual patients by a team of seven UK homeopathic vets was published in 2007. Sufficient data was collected in 539 cases and showed that after homeopathic treatment 79.8% of cases improved, 6.1% deteriorated and 11.7% showed no change. Strongly positive outcomes were achieved in the homeopathic treatment of arthritis and epilepsy in dogs and (in smaller numbers) in atopic eczema, gingivitis and hyperthyroidism in cats.
- Limitations of the study: As this was a data-collection study observing usual practice, it was not randomised, blinded or placebo-controlled.
The homeopathic medicine Caulophyllum 30c can reduce stillbirth in pigs:
- In this placebo-controlled study Caulophyllum 30c significantly reduced the rate of stillbirth in a test group of 10 pigs (p value* = 0.0018). The pigs who received placebo presented 103 normal births and 27 stillbirths (20.8%) compared with 104 normal births and 12 stillbirths (10.3%) in those given Caulophyllum 30c.
- Limitations of the study: small test group and not blinded.
* A number from zero to one which describes the likelihood (or probability) that a result could have occurred by chance
For a more extensive list of peer-reviewed veterinary research visit the Faculty of Homeopathy website at: www.facultyofhomeopathy.org/research/veterinary_research.html
Veterinary homeopathy in practice
An increasing number of vets in the UK are studying and using homeopathy. The British Association of Homeopathic Veterinary Surgeons currently has around 140 members, and nearly 40 of their UK members have achieved the high standards of homeopathic training needed to gain the qualification ‘VetMFHom’
Homeopathic treatment of disease is an essential element of organic farming and practitioners report good results when treating conditions such as mastitis in cows. 10. Varshney JP, Naresh R. Comparative efficacy of homeopathic and allopathic systems of medicine in the management of clinical mastitis of Indian dairy cows. Homeopathy, 2005; 94: 81-5 However, it is not only vets who use homeopathic medicine in the farming community. Since 2001 an organisation called HAWL (Homeopathy at Wellie Level) has trained almost 300 farmers in the basics of homeopathy. This has allowed farmers to incorporate a limited amount of homeopathic prescribing into their day-to-day health management strategies.
Further research looking at the homeopathic treatment of animals is therefore essential for informing this growing area of homeopathic practice. The British Association of Homeopathic Veterinary Surgeons, in conjunction with the Faculty of Homeopathy are continuing to encourage new research in this field at the highest standard.
Improving research methods
It the past, research studies have not necessarily reflected ‘best practice’ for the homeopathic treatment of animals. As with humans, good clinical results usually depend on individualised prescribing i.e. selection of a specific homeopathic medicine for each participant, according to their symptoms. In most research studies the same homeopathic medicine is given to all the animals involved. This is appropriate when testing the effectiveness of ‘routine prescribing’ for a condition with predictable characteristics (e.g. stillbirth) or for testing treatment options where individualised prescribing is not feasible (e.g. where there is a lack of access to homeopathically trained vets) but in many situations it can be a serious flaw which makes a positive result far less likely.
A recent study investigating the use of homeopathy for treating atopic eczema in dogs has piloted an improved research design in which individualised prescribing is used. Furthermore only dogs who responded well to the homeopathic treatment were entered into a second phase of the study, which included placebo controls (placebo controls = provides a basis for comparison; a control group is given an inactive ‘dummy’ treatment and the results are compared with the results in the group given the treatment being assessed) and blinding (blinding = concealing which treatment a person is given during a trial, to minimise bias or the influence of expectation). This deals with another problematic issue in homeopathy research – was the correct remedy selected? When individual prescribing is used, the results depend primarily on how well the medicine was selected; if the wrong medicine was given this would dramatically affect the results. Once a case responds well, you know that the correct medicine was chosen and this can then be used for a true comparison between homeopathic treatment and placebo.
1. Gonçalves et al. O uso da homeopatia no tratamento da infecção urinária em ratas. Anais do VIII SINAPIH, 20-22 May 2004: 25-6
2. Endler PC, et al. The metamorphosis of amphibians and information of thyroxine. In: Schulte J, Endler PC (eds). Fundamental Research in Ultra High Dilution and Homoeopathy. Kluwer Academic Publishers,1998
3. Linde K et al. Critical review and meta-analysis of serial agitated dilutions in experimental toxicology. Hum Exp Toxicol, 1994: 13 (7): 481-92
4. Williamson AV, Mackie WL, Crawford WJ, Rennie B. A study using Sepia 200c given prophylactically postpartum to prevent anoestrus problems in the dairy cow. Br Homoeopathic J, 1991; 80: 149-156
5. Varshney JP, Naresh R. Comparative efficacy of homeopathic and allopathic systems of medicine in the management of clinical mastitis of Indian dairy cows. Homeopathy, 2005; 94: 81–5
6. Albrecht H, Schütte A. Homeopathy versus antibiotics in metaphylaxis of infectious diseases: a clinical study in pig fattening and its significance to consumers. Altern Ther Health Med, 1999; 5: 64–8
7. Mathie RT et al., Outcomes from homeopathic prescribing in veterinary practice: a prospective, research-targeted pilot study. Homeopathy, 2007; 96: 27-34
8. Day CEI. Control of stillbirths in pigs using homoeopathy. Br Homeopathic J, 1984; 73: 142–3
9. British Association of Homeopathic Veterinary surgeons: www.bahvs.com/association.htm
10. Varshney JP, Naresh R. Comparative efficacy of homeopathic and allopathic systems of medicine in the management of clinical mastitis of Indian dairy cows. Homeopathy, 2005; 94:81–5
11. Hill PB, Hoare J, Lau-Gillard P, Rybnicek J, Mathie RT. Pilot study of the effect of individualised homeopathy on the pruritus associated with atopic dermatitis in dogs. Veterinary Record, 2009; 164 (12); 365-370