Classical homeopathy

Homeopathy cures “like with like” by imitating nature, using medicines able to produce a similar artificial disease. It was invented by German physician Samuel Hahnemann (1755-1843) who published The Organon of the Rational Art of Healing in 1810, elaborating the methods and principles of a medical system to which he gave the name ‘homeopathy’ [1]. Homeopathic drugs are ‘proved’ by testing for symptoms produced in healthy subjects and applied to patients exhibiting similar symptoms in their diseases. The medicines are made from extracts of various plants, salts, animal products, or minerals and other natural sources, and by diluting the extracted mother tincture or the crude materials. Solutions are serially diluted and succussed (shaken vigorously) until the desired ‘potency’ is reached; the greater the dilution, the greater the potency. The crude or slightly diluted extract when ingested by healthy volunteers produces symptoms that mimic various diseases. Another tenet of homeopathy is that it treats the whole person, and individualizes the treatment for each patient.

Individualizing treatments to patients mean long consultations (and high fees), and no two homeopaths can agree on the course of treatment for the same patient. Not surprisingly, therefore, classical homeopathy has no specific treatment for any disease by name.

The Banerji Protocols

Prasanta Banerji and Pratip Banerji are a father and son team of doctors in charge of a large homeopathic practice in Kolkata (formerly Calcutta) India [2]. I met them at a recent conference in Dreibergen, The Netherlands, where we were invited speakers.

Instead of adhering to the classical doctrine of individualized treatments, this family of doctors have rationalized and standardized the treatments based on four generations of experience with homeopathy, starting with the great grandfather who began studying homeopathy more than 150 years ago, when the subject was just 50 years old. As a result, the treatment is now much more affordable to the millions who need it, especially in the developing world.

The Banerjis are in no doubt that homeopathy is ideal as “the people’s medicine”. But it has been held back because proper clinical trials using standardized treatment protocols cannot be carried out, with the result that the efficacy of homeopathy is repeatedly challenged and denied by mainstream medicine; and worse, homeopathy is at risk of being relegated to the archives of history.

In a radical departure from classical homeopathy, the ‘Banerji Protocols’ prescribe specific medicines for specific diseases. Diseases are diagnosed using modern state-of-the-art scientific methods. With the availability of new techniques such as ultrasonography, CT scans, magnetic resonance imaging, cancer biomarkers and other tests, the Banerjis have been able to further streamline the treatment protocols.

Homeopathy is very popular in Asia, especially in India, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. In India today, there are 162 degree colleges teaching homeopathy and over 200 000 practitioners, the largest pool of homeopaths in the world. A conservative estimate is that 100 million people use homeopathy [3]. The true number is much larger as many school teachers and scholars have educated themselves in this affordable and easy to administer treatment and 70 % of population in India live in villages and rural areas with limited access to expensive conventional medical facilities.