THE JOURNAL OF ALTERNATIVE AND COMPLEMENTARY MEDICINEVolume 9, Number 1, 2003, pp. 113–132© Mary Ann Liebert, Inc.
Quality Assessment of Physical Research in Homeopathy
CLAUDIA BECKER-WITT, M.D.
THOROLF E.R. WEIßHUHN,
RAINER LÜDTKE, Dipl.-Stat.,
and STEFAN N. WILLICH, M.D., M.P.H.
To assess the evidence of published experiments on homeopathic preparations(potencies) that target physical properties (i.e., assumed structural changes in solvents).
A suitable instrument (the Score for Assessment of Physical Experiments on Home-opathy [SAPEH]) was developed through consensus procedure: a scale with 8 items covering10 criteria, based on the 3 constructs, methodology, presentation, and experiment standardiza-tion.
Written reports providing at least minimal details on physical ex-periments with methods to identify structural changes in solvents were collected. These reportswere scored when they concerned agitated preparations in a dilution less than 10
, with noother restrictions. We found 44 publications that included 36 experiments (the identity of 2 wasunclear). They were classified into 6 types (dielectric strength, 6; galvanic effects, 5; light ab-sorption, 4; nuclear magnetic resonance [NMR], 18; Raman spectroscopy, 7; black boxes of undis-closed design, 4).
Most publications were of low quality (SAPEH
6), only 6 were of high quality(SAPEH
7, including 2 points for adequate controls). These report 3 experiments (1 NMR, 2black boxes), of which 2 claim specific features for homeopathic remedies, as does the onlymedium-quality experiment with sufficient controls.
Most physical experiments of homeopathic preparations were performed withinadequate controls or had other serious flaws that prevented any meaningful conclusion. Ex-cept for those of high quality, all experiments should be repeated using stricter methodologyand standardization before they are accepted as indications of special features of homeopathicpotencies.
n most contexts, homeopathy is regarded asan autonomous medical system. During thetwo centuries of its practice it has not been sat-isfactorily evaluated and nor has it been inte-grated into the medical mainstream. Accordingto Anagnostatos and Viras (1992), homeopathicresearch ultimately reduces to one of three fun-damental problems:1. What properties are specific for homeo-pathic remedies?2. Through which mechanism do they affectthe organism? and3. Can therapeutic effects be demonstrated?
Institute for Social Medicine, Epidemiology and Health Economics; Charité Hospital, Humboldt University ofBerlin, D-Berlin, Germany.
Karl and Veronica Carstens-Foundation, D-Essen, Germany.