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January 2004 | Volume 1 | Issue 1

 
     


HOMOEOPATHY REDUCES ARSENIC POISONING IN MICE

     A homeopathic remedy based on arsenic oxide has shown "highly promising results" in mice poisoned with arsenic, say Indian scientists.

     The homeopathic antidote reduced the liver toxicity induced by arsenic in mice, where distilled water did nothing, and alcohol actually exacerbated the poison's effects.

     Anisur Khuda-Bukhsh and his colleagues at the University of Kalyani, West Bengal, believe the remedy, called Arsenicum Album, might provide a safe, cheap and easily available remedy for the hundreds of millions of people around the world who are at risk from arsenic-poisoned water. It is a particular problem in some parts of West Bengal and neighbouring Bangladesh. Even if efforts to make drinking water arsenic-free succeed, contamination could still come from other sources, the researchers say, meaning other approaches are needed.

     Khuda-Bukhsh told New Scientist the homeopathic remedy "can very well ameliorate the toxicity produced by arsenic oxide in mice". If the success could be repeated in humans, it would be "a boon to society", he says. However, other scientists remain skeptical.

Serial dilution :

     The researchers took groups of five mice either with or without arsenic poisoning and drop fed them Arsenicum Album, distilled water, or alcohol that had been through the same preparation procedure as the homeopathic antidote.

     Two different dilutions of the homeopathic remedy cut the levels of two liver enzymes - ALT and AST - which are indicators of liver toxicity and are boosted by arsenic poisoning. This positive effect occurred within 72 hours and liver lasted for up to 30 days, they report in their journal paper.

     Distilled water had no effect on either enzyme. And alcohol actually enhanced the activity of AST.

     Homeopathic remedies are based on the serial dilution of a medication - to the extent that extremely little, if any, of the original substance remains. Khuda-Bukhsh says the preparation used was so dilute that it should not have contained even one molecule of the active ingredient.

     He says his team is striving to understand the mechanism of action of homeopathic drugs, which despite being used for over 200 years has remained elusive to science

Water mark :

     A notion central to many advocates of homeopathy is that water could retain an imprint or "memory" of substances once dissolved in it.

     This view cost one of France's top allergy researchers, Jacques Benveniste, his lab and funding after his results were discredited in 1988. Benveniste claimed in a Nature paper that a solution that had once contained antibodies still activated human white blood cells.

     But, other researchers failed to reproduce his experiments.

     "It comes down to the same old dilemma," says Andreas Gescher, a biochemical toxicologist at Leicester University, UK. "This kind of study uses a dilution so high there is hardly anything there - philosophically it's the same as the Benveniste case. Is it really possible?"

     Although Gescher told New Scientist he is "extremely skeptical", he adds that the study is interesting. Gescher is on the UK government's Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency advisory board for the registration of homeopathic products, which checks the safety - but not the efficacy - of voluntarily registered products.

     Khuda-Bukhsh's group aims to test the drug in human trials, subject to funding. "We think this would open up another avenue for others to either confirm or refute," he says.

-NewScientist.com news service