Homeopathy may combat arsenic poisoning
By Natasha McDowell
Indian scientists have found that a homeopathic remedy based on arsenic oxide can reduce liver damage in mice poisoned by arsenic. They hope the research will lead to an inexpensive treatment to alleviate the suffering of millions of people worldwide poisoned by arsenic-contaminated groundwater. >br>
AR Khuda-Bukhsh and his team from the University of Kaylani, West Bengal found that the homeopathic remedy Arsenicum album could remove arsenic from mice as well as reduce ill effects. The research was published this week in BioMed Central?s journal Complementary and Alternative Medicine .
Arsenic contamination of groundwater, largely a result of drilling boreholes over the past 20 years, is a major health problem in Bangladesh and India as well as in 15 other countries, including Chile and China. The symptoms include skin disease and liver damage.
The scientists are keen to see whether the drug has the same effect on human volunteers living in arsenic-contaminated areas. Such a trial would be exciting, says George Lewith from the University of Southampton, the UK and a member of the UK government`s advisory board to the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency for the registration of homeopathic products.
He adds that similar work with arsenic has been done in animals in the past. ?Animal models are one of the very few reproducible observations in homeopathy, but they are generally ignored by sceptics due to a lack of clinical trials. You can?t intentionally poison people with arsenic,? he says. ?A trial using volunteers from such areas would be extremely interesting.?
Although chemical treatment can remove arsenic contamination yet efforts to provide safe drinking water have not been widely implemented. Khuda-Bukhsh and his colleagues were therefore searching for a cheap and easy-to-use treatment that is effective even in low doses.
The scientists monitored the activity of two enzymes in mice poisoned with arsenic after feeding them drops of the homeopathic remedy.
These enzymes are more active in mice with arsenic poisoning, and can therefore be used to indicate levels of toxicity. The researchers found that the homeopathic remedy reduced the activity of the enzymes within 72 hours and was effective for up to 30 days. Water had no effect on either enzyme, and alcohol increased the activity of one of the enzymes.
?It is quite amazing that such microdoses [of the homeopathic drug] were capable of bringing about such spectacular enzymatic alterations in mice treated with a toxic dose of arsenic,? the researchers write. ?This is more fascinating because the dilution at which the drug appeared to be effective was so high that the chances of even a single original molecule being in them was theoretically almost impossible.