“Malaria risk for tourists who trust alternative practitioners” spoke the headlines in The Times (July 14th 2006)
In the investigation, Simon Singh, a science writer and scourge of complementary medicine, sent Alice Tuff, a 23 year old, posing as a backpacker, to around ten London homoeopathic pharmacies. She told each “homoeopath” that she was off to Africa, and the anti-malarial drugs prescribed by her doctor were making her feel unwell then asked whether they could provide an alternative. In every case, a homoeopathic remedy was recommended as opposed to conventional anti malarial medication. I have put the word “homoeopath” in italics because it is far from certain to me if it was indeed a homoeopath who was approached on each occasion.
Prevention or treatment?
Although there are certainly homoeopathic remedies which are useful in treating malaria (over 14 in my Repertory are mentioned), I am not aware of any serious evidence or trials which can be quoted that justify giving preventative advice of this nature. It would be a brave person indeed who travels to Sub Saharan Africa without taking conventional anti –malarials.
This whole episode is all the more ironic because it was malaria (intermittent fever) which Samuel Hahnemann experimented with when he discovered Homoeopathy in 1790. Allopathic China (Cinchona bark) went on to form the basis of the first conventional drugs for treating malaria (based on Quinine) whilst China is often taken homoeopathically to treat the same, if the symptoms indicate.
Unfortunately, amongst all the hype, The Times goes on to say that “there is no evidence that any homoeopathic preparation is effective against malaria”. It does not make clear if this refers to prevention as opposed to treatment, but if it refers to the latter, the statement is incorrect.
Effectively reducing mortality rates
One of the most dramatic arguments for Homoeopathy over the last two centuries has been its effectiveness at significantly reducing the morbidity and mortality rates during major epidemic diseases (referred to as “pandemics” when global in nature). Examples have been the cholera epidemic when Hahnemann’s suggestion of Cuprum (copper), Camphor or Veratrum (White Hellebore), (depending on the specificity of symptoms) turned out to be well founded and many lives were saved. Interestingly, people who worked in copper mines were found to have a natural immunity to the condition. In similar major outbreaks of infectious disease, such as influenza, careful observation has found that one homoeopathic remedy (such as Gelsemium or Bryonia) can significantly improve or shorten over 80% of cases when the symptoms were indicated, and this remedy was known as the Genus Epidemicus.
(Samuel Hahnemann also discovered that the Genus Epidemicus, taken when healthy, appeared to confer an immunity – a natural protection – against the illness. Alas, since malaria occurs in several forms in different parts of the world, all with their own distinct subsets of symptoms, this same approach is not generally a practical proposition as a means of protection).
Finally – to go full circle.
A colleague of mine called Linda has just returned from Ghana (a highly malarial area), where she has introduced Homoeopathy to a group of interested people in Accra, the capital, and in 2 primary care centres located in villages. The interest which Homoeopathy has stimulated has been simply phenomenal, and I hope to go out myself before too long to support this worthwhile project.
I intend to go out well armed!
Lawrence Collin, M.R.Pharm.S, L.C.Hom, Pharmacist and Homoeopath.