A recent blog talked about how easy it was to poke holes in research so with this one I will look at some of the challenges when you are researching natural medicine interventions, such as homeopathy.
First up most clinical trials are set up on the basis of giving a patient one treatment and seeing how it compares to another or to placebo. Most of the time in natural medicine we don’t just give one thing so that does make it difficult to see how a more complex treatment works.
The first part of a consultation is really listening to your client for 45 minutes to an hour, depending on how long that initial consultation takes. Think about the value of really being heard for up to an hour. This process gives the practitioner time to think about how the whole person is affected by what is happening to them and what may need treatment. Sometimes I find in that time the solutions become clear to the patient and just that process alone can be invaluable in helping them heal.
How do we measure this? There are tools in which natural medicines such as homeopathy perform quite well . Valid forms of evidence including case studies, patient reports of satisfaction , quality of life and observational studies. Here, homeopathy does much better than in Randomised Controlled Trials.
One of the largest observational studies was undertaken by the National Health Service in the UK. It involved a total of 6544 consecutive follow-up patients who were given outcome scores. The patients were all using homeopathic treatment for chronic diseases. Of the patients 70.7% reported positive health changes, with 50.7% recording their improvement as better or much better (1). A similar study undertaken at an Italian hospital in Lucca also showed 74% of patients reporting improvement with the most common conditions being respiratory, dermatological and gastrointestinal.
Isn’t this a better way to assess the value of a treatment like homeopathy? A research tool which looks at the outcomes for the patient in terms of quality of life and improvement in their health.
(1) Spence DS1, Thompson EA, Barron SJ., J Altern Complement Med. 2005 Oct;11(5):793-8., Homeopathic treatment for chronic disease : a 6 year University- Hospital outpatient observational study.