One of the cardinal principles of homeopathy is the "law of similarities", according to which patients can be treated by administering substances which, when tested in healthy subjects, cause symptoms that are similar to those presented by the patients themselves. Over the last few years, there has been an increase in the number of pre-clinical (in vitro and animal) studies aimed at evaluating the pharmacological activity or efficacy of some homeopathic remedies under potentially reproducible conditions. However, in addition to some contradictory results, these studies have also highlighted a series of methodological difficulties.
The present study was designed to explore the possibility to test in a controlled way the effects of homeopathic remedies on two known experimental models of acute inflammation in the rat. To this aim, the study considered six different remedies indicated by homeopathic practice for this type of symptom in two experimental edema models (carrageenan- and autologous blood-induced edema), using two treatment administration routes (sub-plantar injection and oral administration).
In a first phase, the different remedies were tested in the four experimental conditions, following a single-blind (measurement) procedure. In a second phase, some of the remedies (in the same and in different dilutions) were tested by oral administration in the carrageenan-induced edema, under double-blind (treatment administration and measurement) and fully randomized conditions. Seven-hundred-twenty male Sprague Dawley rats weighing 170–180 g were used. Six homeopathic remedies (Arnica montana D4, Apis mellifica D4, D30, Atropa belladonna D4, Hamamelis virginiana D4, Lachesis D6, D30, Phosphorus D6, D30), saline and indomethacin were tested. Edema was measured using a water-based plethysmometer, before and at different times after edema induction. Data were analyzed by ANOVA and Student t test.
In the first phase of experiments, some statistically significant effects of homeopathic remedies (Apis, Lachesis and Phosporus) were observed (the reduction in paw volume increase ranging from 10% to 28% at different times since edema induction). In the second phase of experiments, the effects of homeopathic remedies were not confirmed. On the contrary, the unblinded standard allopathic drug indomethacin exhibited its anti-inflammatory effect in both experimental phases (the reduction in paw volume increase ranging from 14% to 40% in the first phase, and from 18% to 38% in the second phase of experiments).
The discrepancies between single-blind and double-blind methods in animal pharmacological research are noteworthy and should be better investigated, also in non-homeopathic research.