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ISIS Report 3/12/2014

Homeopathy for the Masses

Homeopathy can be mainstreamed as the most affordable, efficacious, and safe public health provider through a standardized and specific therapeutic approach that can deal effectively with all diseases including cancers and opens the door to controlled clinical trials and scientific investigations Dr Mae-Wan Ho

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Classical homeopathy

Homeopathy cures “like with like” by imitating nature, using medicines able to produce a similar artificial disease. It was invented by German physician Samuel Hahnemann (1755-1843) who published The Organon of the Rational Art of Healing in 1810, elaborating the methods and principles of a medical system to which he gave the name ‘homeopathy’ [1]. Homeopathic drugs are ‘proved’ by testing for symptoms produced in healthy subjects and applied to patients exhibiting similar symptoms in their diseases. The medicines are made from extracts of various plants, salts, animal products, or minerals and other natural sources, and by diluting the extracted mother tincture or the crude materials. Solutions are serially diluted and succussed (shaken vigorously) until the desired ‘potency’ is reached; the greater the dilution, the greater the potency. The crude or slightly diluted extract when ingested by healthy volunteers produces symptoms that mimic various diseases. Another tenet of homeopathy is that it treats the whole person, and individualizes the treatment for each patient.

Individualizing treatments to patients mean long consultations (and high fees), and no two homeopaths can agree on the course of treatment for the same patient. Not surprisingly, therefore, classical homeopathy has no specific treatment for any disease by name.

The Banerji Protocols

Prasanta Banerji and Pratip Banerji are a father and son team of doctors in charge of a large homeopathic practice in Kolkata (formerly Calcutta) India [2]. I met them at a recent conference in Dreibergen, The Netherlands, where we were invited speakers. 

Instead of adhering to the classical doctrine of individualized treatments, this family of doctors have rationalized and standardized the treatments based on four generations of experience with homeopathy, starting with the great grandfather who began studying homeopathy more than 150 years ago, when the subject was just 50 years old. As a result, the treatment is now much more affordable to the millions who need it, especially in the developing world.

The Banerjis are in no doubt that homeopathy is ideal as “the people’s medicine”. But it has been held back because proper clinical trials using standardized treatment protocols cannot be carried out, with the result that the efficacy of homeopathy is repeatedly challenged and denied by mainstream medicine; and worse, homeopathy is at risk of being relegated to the archives of history.

In a radical departure from classical homeopathy, the ‘Banerji Protocols’ prescribe specific medicines for specific diseases. Diseases are diagnosed using modern state-of-the-art scientific methods. With the availability of new techniques such as ultrasonography, CT scans, magnetic resonance imaging, cancer biomarkers and other tests, the Banerjis have been able to further streamline the treatment protocols.

Homeopathy is very popular in Asia, especially in India, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. In India today, there are 162 degree colleges teaching homeopathy and over 200 000 practitioners, the largest pool of homeopaths in the world. A conservative estimate is that 100 million people use homeopathy [3]. The true number is much larger as many school teachers and scholars have educated themselves in this affordable and easy to administer treatment and 70 % of population in India live in villages and rural areas with limited access to expensive conventional medical facilities.

A brief history of homeopathy in India and the Banerji Protocols

The Banerji Protocols began to develop in the family not long after homeopathy reached India. As early as 1870, some German missionaries landed in Bengal, and distributed homeopathic remedies among the poor. The elite slowly recognized their efficacy and many civil servants and military personnel became amateur homeopaths. School teachers too, took to reading the homeopathic materia medicas and started prescribing to their village communities.

During the second half of the 19th century, some homeopathic dispensaries were opened in Bengal and in the southern part of India. The pioneer in Calcutta was Rajendralal Dutta (1818-1889). Coming from a scholarly and aristocratic family in Bengal, he engaged a French doctor to be in charge of a homeopathic hospital and dispensary in Calcutta. But the venture failed and Rajen Dutta had to take on the job himself and started to practice homeopathy. He had many illustrious patients including the great social reformer Pundit Ishwarachandra Vidyasagar whom he cured of migrane, and Raja Radhakanta Dev Bahadur, the cure of whose gangrenous ulcer created a sensation at the time.

Dutta persuaded Mahendralal Sircar, a medical doctor and sceptic, to put homeopathy to the test. They found that homeopathic medicines were effective even when Sircar’s conventional medicines failed. Sircar became a convert, and a number of allopathic doctors followed his lead and started to practice homeopathy. The Calcutta Homeopathic Medical College, established in 1881, was the very first homeopathic medical college in India.

Gradually, homeopathic dispensaries opened in other cities like Benares (now Varnasi) and Allahabad, and by the beginning of the 20th century, homeopathy had spread all over India. In 1973, the Government of India recognized homeopathy by setting up the Central Council of Homeopathy to regulate its education and practice. Now, only qualified registered homeopaths can practice homeopathy in India. It is probably the most popular system of medicine in India, due to its ease of administration in the home and affordability.

Pratip’s grandfather, Preshnath Banerji, was the nephew of Pundit Ishwarchandra Vidyasagar, the social reformer whose migrane was cured by homeopathy and became an ardent follower of homeopathy thereafter. Pareshnath started his charitable clinic in 1918 at the remote village Mihijam situated at the border of the state of Bihar (now Jharkhand) and soon became a legend. He had phenomenal success in treating all kinds of diseases. Treating his patients free of charge, he had to deal with a vast number of patients every day. He found that specific homeopathic remedies could cure about 80 % of his patients suffering from common ailments; this made his clinical dispensation “as quick as lightning”. For the remaining 20 %, he paid close attention to the symptoms described by the patients themselves. He did not always adhere to Hahnemann’s dictum of “single simple and minimum”, but prescribed mixtures of medicines or frequent repetitions of the medicines when required.

The Banerji Protocols are thus the result of accumulated experience and careful observations on patient-medicine interaction, translated into a standardized system of prescriptions to simplify an extremely complex medical system using ultradilute medicines. It is the accumulated experience and standardized treatments that make the Banerjis’ approach unique.

Mass treatment for cancers

Banerji Protocols exist for all kinds of diseases, but it is in the treatment of cancers that they have gained international recognition. Practically all clinical studies on cancer treatment outcomes use homeopathy as an adjunct to conventional chemotherapy or radiotherapy, to alleviate side effects and improve the patient’s quality of life. But the Banerji Protocols have been deployed as sole treatment for cancer in the Kolkata clinics for years; and often after conventional allopathic treatments failed.

The clinics in Kolkata see an average of 1 000 to 1 200 patients a day, 15 to 20 % of whom suffering from cancer. Currently, patients from more than 120 countries use the Banerji Protocols for treating cancer through the website www.pbhrfindia.org, seeking online medical advice and treatment. Every type of cancer at every stage has been treated at their clinics. The majority of patients opt for the Banerji treatment only without conventional treatments, but there are also patients who use the Banerji medicines as adjunct therapy along with or after conventional treatments fail. Patients often come seeking relief from various side effects of conventional chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy. The Banerji Protocols are standardized for different types of cancer, and customized according to the location and tissue type.

A basic set of medicines consists of 1st line of treatment, but 2nd line and 3rd lines are available in cases that do not respond to the 1st line. In addition, palliative relief is provided by preset medicines for patient’s symptoms, to improve the quality of life.

Pratip tells me that a typical consultation fee is about €10 for Prasanta and €5 for himself. This is certainly not out of reach for people, even for the poor (the average wage in India in 2013 was €6 400 [4], and minimum wage €1 347 [5]). The clinics are privately run, with no funding from the government, whose only role is to give them the license. The remedies are completely standardized and produced by an Indian homeopathic pharmaceutical company. The Banerjis train many homeopaths who then set up practices for themselves all over India.

The PBHRF (Dr Prasanta Banerji Homeopathy Research Foundation) runs an electronic database on the treatment and response of all cancer cases and other life-threatening diseases treated at their clinics. It maintains a recently upgraded, state of the art computer network with a high-end server and five nodes. There are more than 30 000 cases on the database with over half a million visits recorded. The data consist of about 64 cancer types by site, including four cases of cancer of the heart. This is an ongoing research initiative started in 2002, but includes cases prior to 2002. PBHRF is currently collaborating with the top institutions of the US including the National Cancer Institute to mine the data and use the information to understand better the sphere of efficacy as well as to fine tune the protocols.

The overall aggregate retrospective data collected from 2004 to 2013 on 24 204 patients with all varieties of cancer treated show 50 % of cancers completely regressed or improved, and 28 % became stable, with 7 % discontinuing and 15 % aggravated or died.

Over a year from January 2013 to December 2013, 3 559 new cancer patients were treated for 55 different types of cancer, among which 19 % were brain tumour/cancer, 13 % bronchogenic carcinoma, 7 % breast cancer.

Retrospective data collected over a one-year period on patients treated for lung, brain and oesophageal cancers showed that complete regressions ranged from 22 to 32 % (Figure 1).

Figure 1   Results of treatment of 1 132 cases of lung, brain and oesophageal cancers, August 2006-August 2007

In 1997, the National Institutes of Health in the US asked PBHRF to produce records or their successes as part of the Best Case Series programme for evaluating clinical data from alternative healthcare practitioners. PBHRF submitted complete records of cured cases in 1997, and their presentation of cases was accepted after detailed scrutiny by the National Cancer Institute in 1999. They gave a 6-h presentation to a 17 member Cancer Advisory Panel that included cancer specialists from all the leading American Cancer Centers, such as the Washington Cancer Institute, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, The Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, and the Johns Hopkins Medical Center. The panel accepted the presentation unanimously, and the entire presentation of cases was published in 2008 [6].

Since then, the PBHRF have had many distinguished visitors from the US. The Banerjis have also been involved in collaborative research projects with American Institutes including the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Columbia University, the University of Kansas Medical Center and many others. The Banerjis have been invited to present their work at numerous international conferences and symposia since 1977.

In 2008, a three-member senior cancer support team from Spain visited PBHRF for a week to get first-hand knowledge on the Banerji Protocols. Two held senior positions at the University of Barcelona, while the third runs a Valencia-based web portal for cancer support, which has nearly a million visitors annually.

The response of Spanish homeopaths, pharmacists and patients to the Banerji Protocols has been very enthusiastic.

Mode of action of homeopathic remedies

The Banerjis are actively engaged in collaborative research not just in the clinical aspect, but also in basic research on the effect and action of homeopathic medicines.

For example, in collaboration with US researchers at the MD Anderson Cancer Centre, University of Texas, 15 patients diagnosed with documented intracranial tumours were treated exclusively with the homeopathic remedies Ruta graveolens 6c and Calcarea phosphorica 3X without additional chemotherapy or radiation [7]. (In homeopathy, c stands for centesimal scale of dilution, i.e., diluted by 100, so 6c means diluted in series

6 time; X stands for the decimal scale of dilution, i.e., diluted by 10, so 3X means diluted in series 3 times). Of the 15, six of seven who had glioma showed complete regression. It was also reported by the scientists from the study that the medicines stimulated induction of survival signalling pathways in normal lymphocytes and induction of death-signalling pathways in brain cancer cells.

In a more recent study,  four ultra-dilute homeopathic remedies used for treating breast cancer (Carcinosin 30c, Phytolacca 200c, Conium 3c and Thuja 30c) were tested against two human breast adenocarcinoma cell lines (MCF-7 and MDA-MB-231) and a cell line derived from immortalized normal human mammary epithelial cells (HMLE) [8]. The remedies were found to have preferential cytotoxic effects against the two breast cancer cell lines, causing cell cycle delay/arrest and apoptosis. The effects were accompanied by altered expression of cell cycle regulatory proteins, including down-regulation of phosphorylated Rb (retinoblastoma protein) and up-regulation of the CDK (cyclin-dependent kinase) inhibitor p27, which may be responsible for the cell cycle delay/arrest and induction of the apoptotic cascade involving the activation of caspase 7 and cleavage of PARP (poly ADP ribose polymerase) in the treated cells.

The therapeutic potential of homeopathic remedies is not limited to cancers, but extends to all kinds of diseases including bacterial infections. A significant finding involves Baptisia tinctoria (wild indigo) used in the treatment of typhoid, with an estimated 22 million cases annually and 200 000 deaths [9].  In a study using a standard test for Salmonella infection, Banerji’s team found that the Baptisia extract mimicked the Salmonella antigens, giving a positive test with commercially produced Salmonella antisera [10]. This suggests that Baptisia administration caused a Salmonella-like reaction in the body, which produces antibodies to Salmonella, thereby protecting it from infection. The researchers raised the possibility that Baptisia tinctoria extract could be used as a vaccine for both the prevention and treatment of typhoid. The combination of prophylactic and treatment is traditional for homeopathic remedies.

What are the active ‘substances’ in homeopathic remedies?

Despite these significant findings, one main question continues to baffle both supporters of homeopathy and critics alike. What are the active ‘substances’ in homeopathic remedies, especially those so highly diluted that very few if any of the original solute(s) could be expected to remain? Without an adequate answer to this question, there is no way of distinguishing between a remedy that is efficacious and should be used in therapy and one that is not. Indeed, the current statistics may be underestimating the true therapeutic potential because some preparations are deficient in that respect.  The recent discovery of supramolecular nanostructures in highly diluted aqueous solutions that are apparently required for biological activity (see [11] Supramolecular Nanostructures in Highly Dilute Solutions Required for Biological Activity, SiS 64) suggests that it may be possible to predict biological activity in the remedy in advance of its being applied to treatment, and thereby increase the efficacy of the remedy concerned. Clinical trials should go hand in hand with such basic biophysical investigations that are also crucial for how cell and organismic biology is understood [12].

To conclude

The therapeutic potential of homeopathy has been grossly underestimated and underappreciated. The Banerji Protocols using standardized and specific remedies for specific diseases open the door to controlled clinical trials along with basic biophysical studies that could mainstream this safe, cost-effective, and minimum interventionist approach to health for everyone.

There are 2 comments on this article so far. Add your comment
Gary Greenfield Comment left 3rd December 2014 17:05:04
What are the active ‘substances’ in homeopathic remedies, especially those so highly diluted that very few if any of the original solute(s) could be expected to remain? The active substance is not material but energetic. It's information. The material form is a carrier of information which can also be defined as light or energy which is manifest by electromagnetic forces. Consequently, the purpose of the actual substance being used as the remedy, need only be present within the communicative grid system which the cells reside in which would be the physical framework of the human body. The water within the body acts as the carrier of all information or energy necessary by which cells function. All modern communication technologies are based on this concept.
R.Santhanam Comment left 4th December 2014 13:01:32
Dr Edward Bach's Flower remedies popularly known as Bach's flower remedies are also a similar system.Only flowers are used.http://www.bachcentre.com/centre/drbach.htm In India, Dr Malti Khaitan has developed a similar system of Flower remedies using flowers found in the Indian habitat: http://www.flowercure.com/

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