The Effect of Homeopathic Coca on High Altitude Mountain Sickness: Mt. Everest Base Camp

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Homeopathic coca was tested among high altitude trekkers en route to the Mt. Everest base camp to determine its effect on mountain sickness symptoms. Study participants (n = 24) took homeopathic coca while ascending from 8,000 ft. to 17,600 ft. Measurements included: heart rate, oxygen saturation, and a question naire detailing the occurrence and severity of symptoms. Questionnaire items regarding nausea, headaches, difficulty breathing while asleep all demonstrated statistical significance in the experimental group. Oxygen saturation in the exper imental group was significantly higher. In this placebo-controlled, single-blinded, non-randomized study, homeopathic coca significantly reduced the effects of altitude on trekkers in the experimental group when compared with placebo.

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... The study listed a number of limitations correctly but was not able to add to the current limited knowledge. Finally, a 'placebo-controlled, single-blinded, non-randomized' study of homoeopathic coca use at Everest Base Camp described a significant reduction of the effects of altitude on a small sample of trekkers [27]. The study's weak methodology is acknowledged but the paper omits one crucial part completely, the used homoeopathic preparation. ...
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Few travel health measures are as controversial as the use of coca leaves at high altitude; yet, there appears widespread ignorance among health professionals and the general public about coca, its origins as well as its interesting and often flamboyant history. Equally, the cultural and traditional significance to Andean people is not recognised. The coca leaves contain many alkaloids, one of which, cocaine, has gained notoriety as a narcotic, leading to the mistaken idea that coca equals cocaine. This article contrasts coca with cocaine in an attempt to explain the differences but also the reasons for this widespread misconception. By its very nature, there may never be scientific ‘proof’ that coca leaves do or do not work for travellers at altitude, but at least a solid knowledge of coca, and how it differs from cocaine, provides a platform for informed opinions and appropriate critical views on the current confusing and contradictory legal situation.
... The sample contained nonhabitual coca users and found significantly lower reports of nausea, headache, and nocturnal dyspnea and significantly higher oxygen saturations when taking coca. 7 Much like our study, the conclusions drawn are limited by the subjective nature of the findings and small nonrandomized sample group. Another hypothesis is that the central acting stimulating effects of one of the constituents, cocaine, may also lead to a reduction in symptoms by reducing any perceived effects of altitude sickness. ...
The use of coca leaf for medicinal purposes is a centuries-old tradition of the native peoples of South America. Coca products are thought by many laypersons to provide risk-free benefits to users participating in strenuous activities at high altitude. Physiologic studies of coca have increased understanding of its possible mechanism of action as well as its potential impact on high altitude activities. This present work explores the role of coca throughout the history of the Andean peoples and explores whether this ancient remedy has a place in modern medicine. A focused summary of research articles with particular relevance to the field of wilderness medicine is also included to better provide the reader with lessons not only from history but also from another culture.
Background on the philosophy of naturopathic medicine and the six principles basic to its practice are presented. Naturopathic medical education is discussed with examples of the didactic and clinical curriculum at Southwest College of Naturo pathic Medicine and Health Sciences, located in Tempe, Arizona. The range of therapeutic modalities included in naturopathic medicine and integrative clinical training are discussed.
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Australian health workforce regulation is premised on the need to protect public health and safety. Specific criteria are set out by governments to ascertain the degree of risk and the need for government intervention. A study was undertaken to understand the current state of usage and the practice of naturopathy and western herbal medicine, and to ascertain whether statutory regulation was warranted. We found increased use of these complementary therapies in the community, with risks arising from both the specific practices as well as consumers negotiating a parallel primary health care system. We also found highly variable standards of training, a myriad of professional associations, and a general failure of current systems of self-regulation to protect public health and safety. Statutory regulation was the preferred policy response for consumers, insurers, general practitioners, and most of the complementary therapists. While we found a case for statutory registration, we also argue that a minimalist regulatory response needs to be accompanied by other measures to educate the public, to improve the standards of practice, and to enhance our understanding of the interaction between complementary and mainstream health care.
The purpose of this article is to review the use of the natural mild stimulant coca, which is a story that originates with the prehistory of coca, evolves through its following historical uses, and leads up to the eventual development of cocaine. This discussion will begin with the botanical background of the coca plant, followed by a review of some of the prehistoric, historic and ethnographic evidence of coca use, which indicates the extensive antiquity and pervasiveness of coca use in South and Central America. The diverse roles that coca played among the Inca and other indigenous peoples led to the early adoption of coca in the West and, in turn, to the resultant discovery of cocaine and its assorted early applications, particularly for medicinal purposes.
As increasing numbers of people live, work, and play at high altitudes, awareness of the neurological consequences of hypobaric hypoxic environments becomes paramount. Despite volumes of studies examining the pathophysiology of altitude sickness, the underlying mechanisms of the spectrum of altitude related illnesses is still elusive. High altitude headache, acute mountain sickness, high altitude cerebral edema and other neurological presentations including sleep disturbances and seizures at high altitude are reviewed. As our knowledge advances in the field of altitude physiology, the clinical and research techniques developed may help our understanding of hypoxic brain injury in general.
Homoeopathy is a controversial form of medicine that is governed by the premise that highly diluted substances that can a defined set of symptoms in a healthy person can cure a similar set of symptoms in a non-healthy person. The use of highly diluted homoeopathic substances that may no longer be expected to contain any trace of the original substance is contrary to accepted pharmacological theory. In addition to serial dilution, homoeopathic “potentisation” of substances also includes violent agitation of the substance at each dilution step, a process known as “succussion”. The role of this process is not understood. The fact that the mechanism of action of homoeopathic substances is unknown adds to the controversial nature of this therapy.A review of the literature demonstrated that a more rigorous approach to the research of homoeopathy was needed in order to investigate whether homoeopathy could be investigated within a scientifically appropriate context. It was initially proposed that, through the successful replication of an existing trial, a series of clinical trials based on this replication could be conducted to test fundamental questions of homoeopathy. For pragmatic reasons, this initial approach was abandoned. A novel protocol that was subsequently designed to scientifically evaluate the effects of homoeopathy, in particular, the homoeopathic treatment of osteoarthritis of the knee and hip, was subsequently developed.A description of homoeopathy, its development, its placement within the scientific paradigm and its role in the treatment of various clinical conditions is reviewed in Chapter 1. From this literature review, hypotheses were generated to test the effect of the homoeopathic treatment of osteoarthritis. Chapter 2 describes the selection process and proposed replication of a prior clinical trial with a successful outcome upon which to base a further series of clinical trials to test fundamental questions in homoeopathy. The selected study was a randomised, double-blind clinical trial designed to compare the effects of a complex homoeopathic preparation with the effects of paracetamol in the treatment of osteoarthritic knee pain. The study was prematurely terminated when another study presented evidence that the analgesic effect of paracetamol was no better than placebo. The uncertainty that paracetamol was no better than placebo raised doubts as to the validity of any outcome had the trial proceeded. The proposal to develop a series of clinical trials replicating the protocol of this study was postponed as a consequence.Chapter 3 describes the subsequent formation of a ‘think tank’ consisting of epidemiologists, biostatisticians, clinical researchers in complementary medicine and homoeopaths and the subsequent development of a rigorous research protocol for the investigation of homoeopathy within the scientific paradigm. This homoeopathic research model and is described in detail.Chapter 4 describes a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial with five arms designed to evaluate both the research model and the homoeopathic treatment of osteoarthritis of the hip and knee.Chapter 5 details the results of this clinical trial. No significant difference was demonstrated between individualised homoeopathic treatment, generic complex homoeopathic treatments or placebo. Furthermore, no positive effect on treatments was demonstrated by the inclusion of a full homoeopathic consultation.Chapter 6 provides a discussion of the clinical trial. Possible reasons for the discrepancy between the hypothesised outcomes and the results of the clinical trial are explored and directions for future research are suggested.
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Homeopathy seems scientifically implausible, but has widespread use. We aimed to assess whether the clinical effect reported in randomised controlled trials of homeopathic remedies is equivalent to that reported for placebo. We sought studies from computerised bibliographies and contracts with researchers, institutions, manufacturers, individual collectors, homeopathic conference proceedings, and books. We included all languages. Double-blind and/or randomised placebo-controlled trials of clinical conditions were considered. Our review of 185 trials identified 119 that met the inclusion criteria. 89 had adequate data for meta-analysis, and two sets of trial were used to assess reproducibility. Two reviewers assessed study quality with two scales and extracted data for information on clinical condition, homeopathy type, dilution, "remedy", population, and outcomes. The combined odds ratio for the 89 studies entered into the main meta-analysis was 2.45 (95% CI 2.05, 2.93) in favour of homeopathy. The odds ratio for the 26 good-quality studies was 1.66 (1.33, 2.08), and that corrected for publication bias was 1.78 (1.03, 3.10). Four studies on the effects of a single remedy on seasonal allergies had a pooled odds ratio for ocular symptoms at 4 weeks of 2.03 (1.51, 2.74). Five studies on postoperative ileus had a pooled mean effect-size-difference of -0.22 standard deviations (95% CI -0.36, -0.09) for flatus, and -0.18 SDs (-0.33, -0.03) for stool (both p < 0.05). The results of our meta-analysis are not compatible with the hypothesis that the clinical effects of homeopathy are completely due to placebo. However, we found insufficient evidence from these studies that homeopathy is clearly efficacious for any single clinical condition. Further research on homeopathy is warranted provided it is rigorous and systematic.
The effect of treatment with bed rest alone was evaluated in 16 patients with high altitude pulmonary edema of mild to moderate severity at an altitude of 3,750 meters in the central Peruvian Andes. The results were compared with those in 20 patients who received conventional therapy including the continuous administration of oxygen and bed rest. A system of grading the severity of high altitude pulmonary edema based on clinical symptoms and signs, radiologic findings and heart rate and respiratory rate was developed. The severity of pulmonary edema as evaluated with the grading system was similar in the two groups of patients. Treatment with bed rest alone resulted in complete recovery in all patients over a mean period of 60 hours. No treatment failure occurred. Similar results were obtained with oxygen therapy combined with bed rest, except that the relief of symptoms was more rapid, the decrease in heart rate and respiratory rate was greater and the recovery period was slightly shorter. High altitude pulmonary edema of mild to moderate severity can be treated successfully with bed rest alone without the administration of oxygen and without moving the patient to a lower altitude. Oxygen therapy is more effective and when available should be used in all cases of high altitude pulmonary edema.
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