Toxin Busters?

One of the world’s most widely used alternative healing
practices may hold the key to treating people exposed to
environmental poisons.

That’s the news out of the University of Kalyani in West Bengal,
India, where researchers recently reported ‘highly promising
results’ from homeopathic treatment of arsenic poisoning — a
common problem in the region. As reported at (Oct. 22, 2003), the Web site of
the British magazine New Scientist, researchers treated
five infected mice with a remedy derived from highly diluted form
of arsenic called arsenicum album. The homeopathic treatment
reduced toxicity in the livers of the mice, as measured by, among
other indicators, reduced levels of the liver enzymes ALT and AST.
(Skin disease and liver damage commonly occur in humans who are
poisoned by arsenic.)

According to a coauthor of the study, Anisur Khuda-Bukhsh, the
remedy ‘can very well ameliorate the toxicity produced by arsenic
oxide in mice.’ If these results could be reproduced in humans, he
added, it would provide a cheap and accessible treatment for
millions plagued by arsenic-tainted groundwater in Bangladesh,
India, and other countries. Their study is available on the Web at
BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine

The results should not be surprising, says Dana Ullman, author
of The Consumer’s Guide to Homeopathy and founder of the
Berkeley-based Homeopathic Educational Services. He argues that
homeopathic treatments could be an important tool in the battle
against many environmental toxins. Conventional medical treatments
are often limited to alleviating symptoms, Ullman says, while
‘homeopathic medicine offers some potentially valuable and even
potentially vital therapeutic benefits.’

Ullman points to a 1994 study by Klaus Linde and Wayne Jonas,
who later became head of the Office of Alternative Medicine at the
U. S. National Institutes of Health. (It’s now called the National
Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine.) Jonas and Linde
analyzed more than 100 previous studies of how well homeopathic
remedies worked for animals affected by various environmental
poisons. According to Ullman, of the 40 studies researchers rated
as ‘high-quality,’ 27 showed positive results from homeopathic
treatment. ‘The research [in these studies] showed that animals who
were pretreated with homeopathic doses of these substances and then
given repeated homeopathic doses after exposure to the crude
substance excreted more of these toxic substances through urine,
feces, and sweat than did those animals given a placebo,’ Ullman

Based on the premise that ‘like cures like,’ homeopathy treats
illnesses with minute doses of the substance believed to be causing
the disease, with the idea of stimulating the body’s own defenses.
Despite 200 years of practice throughout the world, the mechanics
of homeopathy remain a mystery to scientists.

Andreas Gescher, a toxicologist at Leicester University, told
New Scientist that the recent findings from India were
interesting, though he remains skeptical, largely because the
‘curative’ doses are so small. ‘It comes down to the same old
dilemma,’ he concludes. ‘This kind of study uses a dilution so high
there is hardly anything there. . . . Is it really possible?’

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