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’1.
Watch a video: Geoff Johnson, vet and homeopath as well as Principal of Wiveliscombe Homeopathic Surgery talks about homeopathy with animals, antibiotics and homeopathy beyond the placebo effect. Youtube link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xP09_3lbRvQ
Homeopathic treatment of disease is an essential element of organic farming and practitioners report good results when treating conditions such as mastitis in cows2. 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, particularly in organic farms where the use of antibiotics is limited.
Further research looking at the homeopathic treatment of animals is therefore essential for informing this growing area of homeopathic practice. The use of animals in homeopathy research therefore extends beyond laboratory-based in vivo studies and into the field of veterinary medicine. 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 standard3.
To date, clinical research studies have not necessarily reflected ‘best practice’ for the homeopathic treatment of people or animals. Good clinical results in homeopathy usually depend on individualised prescribing following homeopathic philosophy, i.e. selection of a specific homeopathic medicine for each participant, according to their individual symptoms. In most veterinary research studies the same homeopathic medicine is given to all the animals involved in veterinary clinical trials. 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. As with clinical trials in people, the lack of accommodation of homeopathic principles needs to be addressed in future research endeavours. However, randomised control trials (RCTs), considered by some to be the ‘gold standard’ of research methods for determining whether a treatment is effective, have demonstrated the efficacy of non-individualised homeopathic prescribing under controlled experimental conditions4. For example:
The homeopathic medicine Coli 30K can be an effective alternative to antibiotics for diarrhoea in piglets5
A rigorous research study by theBiological Farming Systems Group at Wageningen University in the Netherlands suggests that the homeopathic medicine Coli 30K can be effective in preventing diarrhoea caused by the bacterium Escherichia coli in piglets5. 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 chain8, 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 ECH synopsis of diarrhoea in piglets.
The homeopathic medicine Sepia 200c can reduce the rate of ovarian cysts and postpartumcomplications in dairy cows6
In this scientifically rigorous study, cows were randomly given either Sepia 200c or placebo on days 14 or 21 after delivering their calves (i.e. in the postpartum period). 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)6.
A combination homeopathic medicine was found to be as effective as antibiotic treatment for infectious diseases in pigs7
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 as a preventative treatment when the individual is already exposed to risk of disease in an attempt to reduce the incidence of disease. In this study7 which involved 1440 piglets, homeopathic metaphylaxis (using a combination of five low potency remedies) 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 led to increasing problems of antibiotic resistance, side-effects in the animals and antibiotic residues in the food chain, which have been recognised as significant threats to the future of all anti-microbial treatment options in both animals and humans8.
- British Association of Homeopathic Veterinary surgeons: http://www.bahvs.com/about-us/the-association/
- 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
- Mathie RT et al., Outcomes from homeopathic prescribing in veterinary practice: a prospective, research-targeted pilot study. Homeopathy, 2007; 96: 27-34
- British Homeopathic Association, Veterinary Research.http://www.britishhomeopathic.org/veterinary-research/
- Camerlink I, et al. 2010. Homeopathy as replacement to antibiotics in the case of Escherichia coli diarrhoea in neonatal piglets. Homeopathy, 99; 57–62.
- 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
- 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
- Prof Dame Sally Davies, The Drugs Don’t Work, Penguin Specials, 2013