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Thursday, 17 August, 2000, 23:44 GMT 00:44 UK
Allergies 'helped by homeopathy'
Homeopaths offer remedies to allergies such as house dust
A trial of homeopathic remedies has found that they appear to work against some allergies - but experts can not work out why.

Homeopathy has traditionally been pooh-poohed by most mainstream doctors, but a series of intriguing research results suggests they may have some positive effect in some conditions.

In the latest study, conducted by doctors at Glasgow University, patients with allergic "hayfever-like" symptoms were tested.

Half were given a homeopathic remedy, based on extracts from various allergy-causing substances.

It's getting very difficult to argue that homeopathy has no effect

Dr Peter Fisher
Royal London Homeopathic Hospital

These had been heavily diluted in water 30 times - meaning, on mathematical probability, there was virtually no chance that even a single molecule of the allergens remained in the liquid.

The other half were given simply a placebo - although, because of the dilution, the chemical formula of the two liquids appeared to be identical.

However, the patients given the homeopathy experienced a significant improvement in their nasal symptoms - their noses were far clearer.

On average, the homeopathy patients were 22% better, the placebo group 2.5% better.

Better than steriods

The results with the homepathy are roughly similar to those a doctor might expect to achieve with a steroid nasal spray.

However, homeopathy appears to have no side-effects whatsoever.

Interestingly, more patients in the homeopathy group found their symptoms got worse when they initially started treatment.

Dr Peter Fisher, clinical director of the Royal London Homeopathic Hospital, said: "It's getting very difficult to argue that homeopathy has no effect.

"There are now quite a few studies which have suggested this. There is no doubt that there has been a lot of progress.

"We think that large studies now need to be done, but it is hard to attract funding because few people take it seriously."

Although he concedes that there is little evidence to back any theories of how homeopathy works, he said that medicine had often benefited from effects that were significant, but could not be fully explained.

Normal medical thinking needs medicines to have a detectable active ingredient causing an effect in the body.

However, the huge dilution of homepathic remedies means that the possibility of a molecule of any sort forming this ingredient is virtually impossible.

Homeopaths theorise that the earlier presence of the molecules - prior to dilution, somehow change the physical properties of the liquid. This, however, has not been proven.

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