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Effects of homeopathic high dilutions on plants: literature review (Special Dossier: "Scientific Evidence for Homeopathy" - Revista de Homeopatia, São Paulo Homeopathic Medical Association, APH - Online Edition)

Authors:

Abstract

Introduction: Among the non-conventional grounds of homeopathy, the use of medicines in high dilutions is a cause for objections and skepticism among the scientific community, trained within the dose-dependency paradigm of classic pharmacology. Research aiming at evidencing the effects of homeopathic high dilutions has resource to several experimental models (in vitro, in plants and in animals). Aim: To describe the results of studies with high methodological quality that demonstrated positive effects of homeopathic high dilutions on plants. Methods: Taking reviews published until 2015 as reference source, we updated the information through the addition of data in recent studies included in database PubMed. Results: From 167 experimental studies analyzed in the main reviews, 48 met the minimum criteria of methodological quality, from which 29 detected specific effects of homeopathic high dilutions on plants through comparison with adequate controls. Conclusions: Despite the substandard methodological quality of most experiments, studies with systematic use of negative controls and reproducibility demonstrated significant undeniable effects of homeopathic high dilutions on plants.
Effects of homeopathic high dilutions on plants: literature review
Marcus Zulian Teixeira¹; Solange M.T.P.G. Carneiro²
Abstract
Background: Among the non-conventional assumptions of homeopathy, the use of
medicines in high dilutions (HD) is a cause for objections and skepticism among the
scientific community, trained within the dose-dependency paradigm of classic
pharmacology. Research aiming at evidencing the effects of homeopathic HD has
resource to several experimental models (in vitro, plants and animals). Aim: To describe
the results of studies with high methodological quality that demonstrated positive
effects of homeopathic HD on plants. Methods: Taking reviews published until 2015 as
reference source, we updated the information through addition of data from recent
studies included in database PubMed. Results: From 167 experimental studies
analyzed, 48 met the minimum criteria of methodological quality, from which 29
detected specific effects of homeopathic high dilutions on plants through comparison
to adequate controls. Conclusions: Despite the substandard methodological quality of
most experiments, studies with systematic use of negative controls and reproducibility
demonstrated significant indisputable effects of homeopathic HD on plants.
Keywords
Homeopathy; High dilutions; Agriculture; Plants; Phytopathological models; Review

1 Agronomic engineer (ESALQ-USP); MD, BC Homeopathy; Chair and investigator, discipline
Fundamentals of Homeopathy, School of Medicine, University of São Paulo (FMUSP); Member, Technical
Chamber for Homeopathy, Regional Medical Council of the State of São Paulo (CREMESP). 2 Agronomic
engineer (ESALQ-USP), PhD; Researcher, Plant Protection, Agronomic Institute of Paraná (IAPAR, Brazil.
solange_carneiro@iapar.br
104 REVISTA DE HOMEOPATIA 2017;80(3/4): 104-120
Introduction
Since homeopathic treatment is grounded on non-conventional assumptions
(therapeutic similitude, pathogenetic investigation of medicines on healthy individuals
and use of highly diluted and agitated medicines selected according to the full set of
characteristic symptoms and signs of patients) its acceptance is resisted by the medical
and scientific community, which ignores its specificities and the evidences that support
it [1,2]. Used to large and increasing doses that have contrary and palliative action
relative to the manifestations of disease, doctors and investigators do not consider the
application of a treatment based on infinitesimal or minimal doses of medicines that
cause similar disorders to the ones to be cured. This even though they do consider the
advances of research in immunotherapy and nanotherapy, based on grounds similars to
the ones of homeopathy.
Among the homeopathic assumptions, use of serially diluted and agitated medicines
(potencies, high dilutions – HD) with concentration less than 1 gram-molecule (above
Avogadro’s number, 6.02 x 10-23) is the reason for the greatest criticism among skeptics,
who adhere to the dose-dependent model of modern pharmacology. Denying any
plausible effect to homeopathic HD in living beings [3,4], critics attribute the patent
improvements induced by homeopathic treatment to the patient-doctor relationship
and placebo effect.
To evidence the efficacy of homeopathic medicines in the treatment of diseases and the
effectiveness of HD in biological systems, clinical and experimental studies are
conducted with human beings, animals, plants, cell cultures, etc. In the present review
we describe scientific evidences for the effect of homeopathic HD on plants found in
the past decades.
By comparison to other types of studies, research on plants has countless advantages
such as: large sample size; large datasets; short duration; low cost; absence of placebo
effect; and absence of the ethical issues that apply to animal and human research.
However, there are some disadvantages too: systematic pathogenetic trials of
medicines have not been conducted with plants that would result in a homeopathic
materia medica specific for plants, necessary for the selection of individualized
medicines for each plant species and disease type, as we have asserted all along the
past decade [5-8]. Then, some relevant parameters or artifact cannot be controlled,
which interfere with the development and health of plants and hinder the
reproducibility of experiments.
Studies assessing the effect of homeopathic HD on plants are known since 1926 [9];
the first literature review was published in 1984 [10]. Several reviews described the
effects of homeopathic medicines on plants [11-16] and analyzed the factors related
with improvement of the methodological quality of experiments and corresponding
publications (detailed description of experiments, randomization, blinding, control
group, statistical analysis of results, systematic use of negative controls and
reproducibility, among others).
It should be noticed that systematic use of negative controls (placebo group not
subjected to any other intervention) is the ideal method to ensure the stability of a
system, exclude false-positive results and assess the specific effect of HD [16].
Reproducibility excludes false-positive results, thus ensuring the scientific quality of
experiments [14-17]. As a result of the efforts to improve the methodological quality of
105Marcus Z. Teixeira, Solange MTPG Carneiro
studies, the number of articles on homeopathic fundamental research in peer-reviewed
journals considerably increased in the past 2 decades [18], being an indirect indicator
of improvement in the experiments.
In the 3 main reviews that analyzed the use of homeopathic medicines in plants [11-
13] the experimental results were clustered into 3 groups: a) models using healthy
plants [11] useful to investigate issues related with homeopathic potencies and to
perform homeopathic pathogenetic trials; b) phytopathological models [12] which are
ideal to study the use of homeopathy for management of plant diseases and pests,
which is allowed for and used in organic agriculture (agrohomeopathy) [12]; and c)
models using plants subjected to abiotic stress (mineral toxicity, salinity, pH, etc.) [13]
in which HD of the same stressors are used to re-establish the plants’ health.
As mentioned above, the lack of a homeopathic materia medica specific for plants
including a large number of signs and symptoms in different species does not allow for
the application of the therapeutic similitude principle, and consequently for
individualized treatment of diseases and other disorders of plants. In addition to
empirical application of homeopathic medicines to various plant disorders, studies
evidence the efficacy of biotherapy or isotherapy (therapeutic identity principle) for
management of diseases and mineral and chemical imbalance through administration
of HD of the biotic (viruses, fungi, bacteria, insects, pests, etc.) and abiotic (toxic
agents, NaCl, etc.) stressors that cause such disorders to neutralize them [16-20].
The main aim of the present review was to describe studies that evidenced effects of
homeopathic HD on plants, which were clustered in tables according to the 3-group
classification mentioned above. Then, based on criteria for methodological quality, we
described the most significant experiments and lines of research, including some
pursued in Brazil.
Materials and methods
The sources for information on the studies included in the present review were the
aforementioned reviews [11-16]. The experiments with the highest methodological
quality (Manuscript Information Score – MIS 5) published from 1979 onward were
selected. Since the 3 previous reviews analyzed articles published from 1920 to 2015,
to update the dataset we added studies published from 2015 to 2017 located through a
search in database PubMed using keywords “homeopathy” AND “plant”;
“homeopathy” and “agriculture”. We also described some Brazilian initiatives for
homeopathic research on plants.
Results
The articles that met the inclusion criterion (MIS 5) were clustered into 3 main groups
(healthy plants, phytopathological and abiotic stress). The corresponding data were
synthesized and described in individual tables.
106 REVISTA DE HOMEOPATIA 2017;80(3/4): 104-120
Table 1. Main studies on the effect of homeopathic high dilutions on healthy plants
Author;
year
Species Aim Parameters Treatment Control Frequency
and mode of
application
Effects
Endler et
al., 2015
[21]
Wheat Effect of
gibberellic acid
in HD on
seedling
growth in
autumn vs.
winter-spring
Stalk length Gibberellic
acid 30x
Water;
potentized
water
Treatments
applied to
Petri dishes
containing
seeds
In all autumn
experiments
gibberellic
acid 30x
reduced**
seedling
growth.
Results for
winter-spring
were
inconsistent
Majewsky
et al.,
2014
[22]
Gibb-
ous
duck-
weed
(Lemna
gibba)
Effect of
gibberellic acid
in HD on
seedling
growth
Growth rate Gibberellic
acid 14x to
30x
Water;
potentized
water
Seedlings
were kept in
Becker glass
with
nutritive
solution and
1 treatment
Increase** of
the growth
rate with
some HD; the
plant
development-
al stage seems
to influence
response to
treatment
Hribar-
Marko et
al., 2013
[23]
Wheat Whether seed
pre-treatment
with gibberellic
acid in
molecular dose
increases the
effect of
gibberellic acid
in HD on
seedling
growth
Seedling
length
Seeds were
pre-treated
with
gibberellic
acid in
molecular
dose
(10-5, 10-4,
10-3);
treatment
with
gibberellic
acid 30x
Water;
potentized
water
Application
of 2 ml of
pre-
treatment in
Petri dishes
containing
seed; 4 h
later,
application
of 4 ml of
treatments
In the group
pre-treated
with water
gibberellic
acid 30x
reduced**
seedling
growth. In the
groups given
gibberellic
acid in
molecular
dose, the
lower the
concentration
the greater the
effect of HD
to reduce
seedling
growth
Kiefer et
al., 2012
[24]
Wheat Effect of
gibberellic acid
in HD on seed
germination
Winter
wheat
seeds
Gibberellic
acid 30x
Water;
potentized
water
Treatments
applied to
Petri dishes
containing
seeds
Gibberellic
acid 30x
reduced** the
germination
rate in the
2009-2010
experiments;
no difference
in 2011. This
divergence
might be due
to poorer seed
viability and
season of the
year
Endler et
al., 2011
[25]
Wheat Effect of
gibberellic acid
in HD on
seedling
growth in
different
seasons of the
year
Seedling
length
Gibberellic
acid 30x
Water;
potentized
water
Treatments
were
applied to
Petri dishes
containing
seeds
Gibberellic
acid 30x
reduced**
seedling
growth. Best
effect in
autumn.
Causes for
difference
107Marcus Z. Teixeira, Solange MTPG Carneiro
might be
poorer seed
viability,
season of the
year and
temperature
Pfleger et
al., 2011
[26]
Wheat Effect of
gibberellic acid
in HD on
seedling
growth
Seedling
length
Gibberellic
acid 30x
Water;
potentized
water
Treatments
were
applied to
Petri dishes
containing
seeds
Gibberellic
acid
reduced**
seedling
growth
Santos et
al., 2011
[27]
Verbe-
na
gratis-
sima
Effect of
Phosphorus on
plant growth
and essential
oil
concentration
Growth
parameters
and
essential oil
content
Phosphorus
5cH, 6cH,
9cH, 12cH,
15cH, 18cH,
21cH, 24cH,
27cH, 30cH
Water;
hydroalco-
holic
solution
Treatments
applied 3
times per
week, 100
ml per vase,
along 3
months
Some HD,
especially
9cH,
increased**
plant height
and branch
and leave dry
mass;
increased
essential oil
production
Scherr et
al., 2009
[28]
Gibb-
ous
duck-
weed
(Lemna
gibba)
Influence of
HD
Growth rate Gibberellic
acid,
Argentum
nitricum,
kinetin and
Lemna minor
Water;
potentized
water
Plants
selected per
similar
number of
leaves and
size; kept in
Becker glass
with
treatments
Gibberellic
acid 15d, 17x,
18x, 23x and
24x
reduced**
growth rate
Sukul et
al., 2009
[29]
Lady’s
finger
Influence of
plant regulators
(CCC,
chlorocholine
chloride; MH,
maleic
hydrazide) on
plant
development
Growth and
physiologic
-al
variables
CCC 30c,
CCC 200c,
CCC (with
copper
nanoparti-
cles) 30c and
MH 30
Potentized
hydroalco-
holic
solution
Leave
spraying of
treatment
diluted
1:550, twice
per day, 2
days
All treatments
increased**
plant growth,
chlorophyll
content,
protein and
water amount
in leaves;
CCC30c with
copper
nanoparticles
was more
effective than
CCC30c
Baumgart
ner et al.,
2008
[30]
Dwarf
pea
Effect of
gibberellic acid
in HD on
seedling
growth
Shoot
length
Gibberellic
acid 17x and
18x
Water;
potentized
water
Seeds
immersed
into
treatments
24 h
Gibberellic
acid 17x
enhanced**
growth of
seeds
harvested in
1997
Sukul et
al., 2008
[31]
Pigeon
pea
Effects on plant
growth
Growth and
physiologi-
cal
variables
CCC 30c,
CCC 200c,
CCC (with
copper
nanoparti-
cles) 30c and
MH 30
Potentized
hydroalco-
holic
solution
Leave
spraying of
treatment
diluted
1:550, 8
days
All treatments
increased**
plant growth,
chlorophyll,
protein and
sugar content
108 REVISTA DE HOMEOPATIA 2017;80(3/4): 104-120
Scherr et
al., 2007
[32]
Gibb-
ous
duck-
weed
(Lemna
gibba)
Effects of HD
on growth rate
Growth rate Argentum
nitricum,
copper
sulfate,
gibberellic
acid, 3-indol
acetic acid,
kinetin,
lactose,
Lemma
minor,
methyl
jasmonate,
metoxuron,
Phosphorus,
potassium
nitrate and
Sulphur 14x-
30x
Water;
potentized
water
Homogene-
ous plants
(number of
leaves and
size) were
placed in
Becker glass
with
nutritive
solution;
then 46.2 ml
of
treatments
were added
Argentum
nitricum 24x,
28x, 29;
kinetin 14x,
16x, 20x, 26x,
27x, 30x;
Phosphorus
21x, 25x, 29d
influenced**
growth rate all
along the
assessment
period
Baumgart
ner et al.,
2004
[33]
Dwarf
pea
Effect of plant
hormones in
HD on
seedling
growth
Seedling
length
Gibberellic
acid, kinetin,
auxin,
abscisic acid
12x to 30x
Water;
potentized
water
Seeds
immersed
24 hours
into
treatments
and placed
to germinate
Gibberellic
acid 13x, 15x,
17x, 23x;
kinetin 19x
increased**
seedling
growth
Chapman
2004
[34]
Lettuce Effect of
homeopathic
medicines on
plant growth
Plant size
and weight
Sulphur and
Silicea in HD
Potentized
water
Treatments
applied with
plants on
soil
Silicea and
Sulphur 1LM
influenced**
plant
development
Andrade
et al.,
2001
[35]
Justicia
pectora
-lis Jacq
Effect of HD on
J. pectoralis
growth,
coumarin
production and
electromagnet-
ic field
Growth
variables,
coumarin
yield,
electromag-
netic field
J. pectoralis,
coumarin,
guaco,
Phosphorus,
Sulphur,
Arnica
montana,
humic acid
3cH
70%
ethanol;
70%
ethanol
3cH
Weekly
spraying (9)
of 2.65
ml/plant of
solution (10
drops/l
water)
J. pectoralis,
humic acid,
Arnica
Sulphur and
Phosphorus
3cH
increased**
coumarin
yield
Brizzi et
al., 2000
[36]
Wheat Effect of
Arsenicum
album on seed
germination
Number of
non-
germinated
seeds
Arsenicum
album
(As2O3) 23x
to 45x
Water;
potentized
water
Treatments
were
applied to
Petri dishes
containing
seeds
HD 30d, 35x,
40x, 42x, 45x
enhanced** a
seed
germination
Betti et
al., 1994
[37]
Wheat Effect of
Arsenicum
album on
germination
Germina-
tion rate
Arsenicum
album
(As2O3) 23x,
25x, 30x,
35x, 40x,
45x
Water;
water 30x
Treatments
were
applied to
Petri dishes
containing
seeds
HDs 40x and
45x
increased**
seed
germination
Pongratz
& Endler,
1994
[38]
Wheat Effect of silver
nitrate in HD
on germination
and seedling
development
Seedling
size;
germination
rate
Silver nitrate
24x
Water;
dynamized
water
Seeds
immersed in
treatments
Silver nitrate
24x enhanced
seedling
development
Endler &
Pongratz,
1991
[39]
African
violet
Effect of indole
butyric acid on
plant
development
Rooting
and new
leave
develop-
ment
Indole
butyric acid
33x
Potentized
water
Plant
immersion
Enhanced
rooting
109Marcus Z. Teixeira, Solange MTPG Carneiro
Pongratz,
1990
[40]
Wheat Effect of silver
nitrate on
germination
and seedling
development
Seedling
length;
germination
rate
Silver nitrate
24x
Potentized
water
Seed
immersion
Increased**
seedling
development
Noiret &
Claude,
1979
[41]
Wheat Effect of copper
sulfate in HD
on germination
and seedling
growth
Dry and
fresh
weight
CuSO4 5c, 7c
and 9c
Water;
potentized
water
Seed
immersion
Reduction**
of analyzed
variables
** Statistically significant difference
Table 2. Main studies on the effect of homeopathic high dilutions on phytopathological
models
Author;
year
Species Aims Parameters Treatment Controls Frequency
and mode
of
application
Effects
Shah-
Rossi et
al.,
2009
[42]
Arabido-
psis
thaliana
Effect of HD
on plants
infected with
Pseudomonas
syringae
Infection rate of
leaves
30
substances
30x
Water;
potentized
water
Plants fully
plunged
upside-
down for 30
sec into 20
ml of
treatments;
1.5 ml of
dipping
solution
dropped
onto center
of each
plant rosette
from which
leaked into
soil, the
remainder
was added
to irrigation
solution
Biplantol
reduced
infection**
Datta,
2006
[43]
Mulberry Effect of Cina
maritima on
root-knot
disease of
mulberry
Growth and
infection
variables
Cina 200c
and Cina
MT before
and after
inoculation
90%
hydroalco-
holic
solution
Plants were
sprayed 4
times, every
3 days, with
10 ml of
treatment;
Cina MT
diluted 1:40
and Cina
200c 1:20
Treatments
increased**
length and
fresh weight
of branches
and roots,
number of
leaves/plant
and foliar
area; and
reduced** gall
number/plant;
treatment
before
inoculation
was more
efficacious
110 REVISTA DE HOMEOPATIA 2017;80(3/4): 104-120
Sukul
et al.,
2006
[44]
Lady’s
finger
Effect of
homeopathic
medicines on
plants
infected with
nematode
Meloidogyne
incognita
Root gall
number and
nematode
population
Cina 30c,
Santonin
30c
Water;
hydroalco-
holic
solution 30c
Spraying for
10 days,
starting 7
days after
inoculation.
Each plant
received 5-
10 ml of
treatment
diluted in
water
1:1000
Treatments
reduced**
root gall
number and
nematode
population;
and increased
soil
population
Betti et
al.,
2003
[45]
Tobacco Effect of
As2O3 on
tobacco
plants
inoculated
tobacco
mosaic virus
Hypersensitivity
lesions
As2O3 5x,
45x, 5cH
and 45cH
Water;
potentized
water
10 disks of
the 3rd or 4th
inoculated
leave from
each plant
were placed
in Petri
dishes with
15 ml of
treatments
Decimal HD,
45x in
particular,
reduced** the
number of
hypersensiti-
vity lesions
Sukul
et al.,
2001
[46]
Tomato Effect of Cina
maritma in
HD on
Meloidogyne
incognita
Root gall
number and
nematode
population
Cina 200c
and 1000c
Globules
impregnated
with 90%
hydroalco-
holic
solution
Leave
spraying of
10 ml/plant
of
treatments
(7.2 mg
globules/ml
distilled
water), once
per day, 10
days
Cina 200c
reduced** gall
number/plant;
both HD
reduced** the
root nematode
population
Sukul
&
Sukul
1999
[47]
Cowpea Effect of Cina
maritma on
Meloidogyne
incognita
Gall number;
nematode
population
Cina
1000c
Globules
impregnated
with 90%
hydroalco-
holic
solution
Leave
spraying
Reduction of
gall number
and root and
soil nematode
population
** Statistically significant difference. MT: mother tincture
Table 3. Main studies on the effect of homeopathic high dilutions on plants subjected
to abiotic stress
Author;
year
Species Aims Parameters Treatment Controls Frequency and
mode of
application
Effects
Brizzi
et al.,
2011
[48]
Wheat Effect of
Arsenicum
album 45x on
germination
of seeds
previously
exposed to
As2O3
Germination
rate
Arsenicum
album 45x
Distilled
water;
distilled
water 45x
Seeds were
exposed to
As2O3 30 min
and rinsed (60
min) with water
before
treatments,
heated 30 min
at 20, 40, 70
and 100ºC (5
min)
Arsenicum
45x
enhanced**
seed
germination;
efficacy was
not changed
by heating up
to
40ºC, but
decreased at
100ºC
111Marcus Z. Teixeira, Solange MTPG Carneiro
Jager et
al.,
2011
[49]
Lemna
gibba
11 substances
in HD on
plant growth
following
exposure to
As2O3
Number and
foliar area;
leave color
Arsenicum
album,
nosode,
gibberellic
acid, arsenic
and other
substances
in various
dilutions
Water;
succussed
water
Exposure to
As2O3 48 h
(intoxication),
then plants
were transferred
to other
containers with
the treatments
Arsenicum
album and
nosode
increased**
the growth
rate of plants
Jager et
al.,
2010
[50]
Lemna
gibba
Effect of 3
substances in
HD on plant
growth after
exposure to
As2O3
Foliar area Arsenicum
album,
nosode and
gibberellic
acid in
various
dilutions
Water;
potentized
water
Exposure to
As2O3 48 h
(intoxication),
then plants
were transferred
to other
containers with
treatments
Arsenicum
album and
nosode
increased**
the growth
rate of plants
Lahn-
stein
et al.,
2009
[51]
Wheat Effect of
Arsenicum
album in HD
on
germination
of seeds
exposed to
As2O3 and
seedling
growth
Shoot
growth
Arsenicum
album 45x
Distilled
water;
distilled
water 45x
Seeds exposed
to
As2O3 30 min,
rinsed with
water (60 min)
and applied 3.3
ml of treatment
Reduction**
of seedling
growth
Binder
et al.,
2005
[52]
Wheat Effect of
Arsenicum
album on
seeds
exposed to
As2O3
Seedling
growth
Arsenicum
album 45x
Distilled
water;
water 45x
Seeds exposed
to 0.1%
As2O3 30 min,
rinsed with
water (60 min);
treatments were
placed in Petri
dishes
containing
seeds
Reduction**
of seedling
growth
Brizzi
et al.,
2005
[53]
Wheat Effect of
As2O3 in HD
on growth of
plants
exposed to
sublethal
dose of As2O3
Seedling
length
As2O3 5x,
15x, 25x,
35x and 45x
Distilled
water;
potentized
distilled
water;
diluted, not
agitated
As2O3
Seeds exposed
to
As2O3 30 min,
rinsed with
water (60 min)
and applied 3.2
ml of treatments
As2O3 45x
increased**
seedling
growth
Brizzi
et al.,
2000
[54]
Wheat Effect of
Arsenicum
album on
germination
of seeds
exposed to
As2O3
Germination
rate
As2O3 30x,
40x, 42x,
45x
Distilled
water;
potentized
distilled
water;
diluted, not
agitated
As2O3
Seeds exposed
to 0.1%
As2O3 30 min,
rinsed with
water (60 min);
treatments were
placed in Petri
dishes
containing
seeds
As2O340x,
42x and 45x
enhanced**
germination
of seeds
exposed or
not to As2O3;
diluted As2O3
had no effect
on
germination
Betti et
al.,
1997
[55]
Wheat Effect
Arsenicum
album 45x on
seeds
exposed to
As2O3
Shoot and
root growth
Arsenicum
album 45x
Distilled
water
Single
application of
3.2 ml of
treatments per
container
24%
increase** of
shoot growth
** Statistically significant difference
112 REVISTA DE HOMEOPATIA 2017;80(3/4): 104-120
Discussion
Recent reviews on the effect of homeopathic HD on plants [11-13] performed until
2011 analyzed 167 experimental studies described in 157 articles. These reviews were
performed by a same group of authors, who applied a specific scale (MIS) to assess the
methodological quality of studies. Scores (0 to 2) were attributed to 5 items: experiment
design; materials; measurement instruments; potentization techniques; and type of
controls.
Relative to the 167 analyzed experimental studies, global assessment [16] showed that
84 (50%) included statistical analysis and 48 (29%) attained the minimum score
required (MIS 5) for adequate interpretation of results. 29 studies (17%) used
adequate controls to detect specific effects of homeopathic HD; these studies found
significant effects with HD over Avogadro’s number. 10 studies (6%) systematically
used negative controls (placebo group).
Among 48 experimental studies with MIS 5, wheat was the species most often used
(23 studies), followed by dwarf pea and gibbous duckweed (3 studies each).
Homeopathic agents most frequently used were: silver nitrate (9 studies), arsenic (8
studies), gibberellic acid (6 studies) and Cina maritima (4 studies). Various HD were
tested; linear relationship was not found between HD level and effect size. Some
studies applied a broad range of HDs to one same experimental model; the results
showed that some HDs were active, while others were not. In healthy plants, some HD
enhanced germination, while others inhibited it, which evidences the biphasic effect of
the various concentrations [16,36].
Analysis of the reviews [16] showed that among 86 studies conducted with healthy
plants [11] 43 (50%) included statistical analysis; 29 (34%) had MIS 5; 15 (17%) used
adequate controls; and 5 (6%) systematically employed negative controls
[28,30,32,33]. Among 44 studies that tested phytopathological models [12] 19 (43%)
included statistical analysis; 6 (7%) had MIS 5; 6 (7%) used adequate controls; and 1
(2%) systematically employed negative controls [42]. Among 37 studies with plants
exposed to abiotic stress [13], 22 (68%) included statistical analysis; 13 (35%) had MIS
5; 8 (22%) used adequate controls; and 4 (11%) systematic use of negative controls
[48,50-52].
To assess the reproducibility of homeopathic experiments in plants, which might
confirm the validity of isolated results, recent reviews [14,15] clustered studies per line
of research. Among the models with healthy plants, experiments belonging to lines of
research ‘wheat seedlings & silver nitrate’ [9,38,40,56,57), ‘dwarf pea and gibberellic
acid’ [30,33], ‘wheat seedlings/stalk growth & gibberellic acid [21-23,25,26] and
‘wheat seedlings/germination & gibberellic acid’ [24,58] stand out. Among the models
with plants exposed to abiotic stress and following treatment, experiments of
‘intoxication of wheat seedlings with arsenic & Arsenicum album’ [48,53-55,59]
predominated.
In the first review of studies of HD on plants, in 1984, Scofield [10] called the attention
to methodological flaws in study design and development among the analyzed
experiments, including: inadequate sample size; no statistical analysis; no detailed
description of methods (selection and preparation of medicines, dose, mode of
application, etc.) or controls; no double-blinding; inadequate control and
reproducibility of experiments; and inadequate outcome measures, among others.
113Marcus Z. Teixeira, Solange MTPG Carneiro
In addition to the aforementioned flaws, easily corrected through rigorous observance
of the assumptions of the scientific method, aspects intrinsic to homeopathy make
systematization and improvement of experiments difficult, such as the complexity
inherent to selection of individualized medicines and application of HD. However,
analysis of the studies published in the past decades evidenced a qualitative leap in the
research conducted with homeopathic HD in plants, including suggestions for
improvement of the design, development and description of this type of experiments
[17,60-64].
Although systematic use of negative controls and reproducibility ought to be routine
components of future studies with homeopathic HD on plants to ensure the system
stability, exclude false-positive results and confirm the validity of results, some aspects
might hinder their internal or external reproducibility, such as: relevant parameters that
cannot be controlled; inadequate outcome measures; and inherent irreproducibility.
Many false-positive results might be related to artifact, be the result of contamination,
systematic deviation or random noise of the experimental design, while they are
mistakenly interpreted as effects of treatment [14,15].
According to Baumgartner [17,60,65] the reproducibility of homeopathic experiments
is a complex issue, as a function of the many factors involved, for which reason
interactive approaches are needed.
As mentioned above, we need to stress once again the need for researchers to
congregate around the production of a homeopathic materia medica specific for plants,
a project launched in Brazil in 2003 [5-8,20,66,67]. The availability of such materia
medica is an indispensable requirement for the selection of individualized medicines
for treatment of the various plant disorders and diseases. This need recently reasserted
by other authors [13,16,22], such materia medica would allow for the application of
the classic therapeutic similitude principle based on the similarity between the signs
and symptoms elicited by homeopathic medicines during homeopathic pathogenetic
trials on plants and the signs and symptoms exhibited by the plant species to be treated.
Except for isotherapy – which employs HD of pathogens to prevent and/or treat the
harmful effects they themselves cause (analogously to immunization and
immunotherapy in humans, respectively), the vast majority of medicines used for
homeopathic treatment of plants is empirically and unspecifically selected (without
description of the method of selection used), but analogically from the signs and
symptoms described in the traditionally materia medica (result of pathogenetic trials of
substances on human beings).
As a complementary suggestion and reproducing our work with modern drugs in the
past decade (with the goal to use them based on the similarity between the adverse
effects they induce and the signs and symptoms of patients, see New homeopathic
medicines: use of modern drugs according to the similitude principle,
www.newhomeopathicmedicines.com) [68-73] a homeopathic materia medica for
plants might begin by the survey, systematization and organization of the signs and
symptoms elicited in plants by the various substances commonly used in agricultural
practice (mineral, pesticides, fertilizers, etc.) to be later complemented with classical
homeopathic pathogenetic trials.
To illustrate the validity of this method, the study by Betti et al. [45] employed arsenic
trioxide (As2O3) to reduce the severity of infection with the tobacco mosaic virus
(TMV). The medicine was selected based on the classical therapeutic similitude
114 REVISTA DE HOMEOPATIA 2017;80(3/4): 104-120
principle, i.e., similarity of signs and symptoms, once the authors observed that
application of As2O3 in toxic dose to tobacco leaves caused lesions similar to the ones
of TMV-induced hypersensitivity. The results showed that homeopathic treatment with
As2O3 in HD significantly increased the plant resistance to TMV, assessed based on the
number of hypersensitivity lesions.
Betti’s group also succeeded in reducing the symptoms caused by fungus Alternaria
brassicicola to cauliflower with As2O3 35x. This medicine was selected based on a
pathogenetic trial of 1mM As2O3 on cauliflower, which resulted in symptoms similar to
the ones induced by the fungus [74].
Similar studies conducted in Brazil detected similarity between the pathogenetic signs
and symptoms of eucalyptus oil on bean plants and the ones caused by fungus
Pseudocercospora griseola, namely, the etiologic agent of angular leaf spot [66,75].
Studies on reduction of infection of bean plants with P. griseola are still incipient, but
point to possible control of angular leaf spot with potentized eucalyptus oil [76] via
activation of biochemical mechanisms of plant defense [77].
Conclusions
Effect of homeopathic HD on plants was demonstrated in various experimental models
with satisfactory methodological quality. These studies systematically employed
negative controls and exhibited reproducibility, with consequent reduction of the odds
of false-positive results; thus the validity of the results is confirmed.
In addition to the confirmation of the effect of HD on various biological systems, the
positive results of homeopathic experiments with plants lend support to the plausibility
of homeopathic treatment for human diseases, as factors doctor-patient relationship
and placebo effect – commonly mentioned by skeptics to account for the improvement
observed in homeopathic clinical practice – are absent.
The methodological flaws of the older studies notwithstanding, the advances in
homeopathic research on plants made in the past decades – as a function of the
advantages proper to this experimental model and of an increasing interest in the use of
homeopathy in agroecology - point to a promising field of research to elucidate the
particularities of the mechanism of action of homeopathic HD and to broaden the
scope of their therapeutic use.
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The homeopathic treatment is based on the principle of therapeutic similitude, employing medicines that cause certain disorders to treat similar manifestations, stimulating a reaction of the organism against its own ailments. The occurrence of this secondary reaction of the organism, opposite in nature to the primary action of the medicines, is evidenced in the study of the rebound (paradoxical) effect of several classes of modern drugs. In this work, in addition to substantiate the principle of similitude before the experimental and clinical pharmacology, we suggest a proposal to employ hundreds of conventional drugs according to homeopathic method, applying the therapeutic similitude between the adverse events of medicines and the clinical manifestations of patients. Describing existing lines of research and a specific method for the therapeutic use of the rebound effect of modern drugs (http://www.newhomeopathicmedicines.com), we hope to minimize prejudices related to the homeopathy and contribute to a broadening of the healing art.
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