Arsenicum album

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In homeopathy, arsenicum album (Arsen. alb.) is a solution prepared by diluting aqueous arsenic trioxide generally until there is little or no arsenic remaining in the solution.[1] It is used by homeopaths to treat a range of symptoms that include digestive disorders and, as an application of the homeopathic Law of Similars has been suggested by homeopaths as a treatment for arsenic poisoning.[2] Since the arsenic oxide in a homeopathic preparation is normally non-existent, it is considered generally safe, although cases of arsenic poisoning from poorly prepared homeopathic treatments sold in India have been reported.[3] When properly prepared, however, the extreme dilutions, typically to at least 1 in 1024, or 12C in homeopathic notation, mean that it is extremely statistically unlikely that any pill contains even a molecule of the original arsenic used.[4] While some small, unblinded studies have claimed an effect on reducing arsenic toxicity, they do not recommend its large-scale use,[5][6] and studies of homeopathic remedies have been shown to generally have problems that prevent them from being considered unambiguous evidence.[7][8][9] There is no known mechanism for how arsenicum album could remove arsenic from a body, and there is insufficient evidence for it to be considered effective medicine (for any condition) by the scientific community.[4][10][11]

Use in homeopathy[edit]

According to a popular homeopathy guide, arsenicum album is one of the fifteen most important remedies in homeopathy. In classical homeopathy, people are grouped by "constitutional type" named after the homeopathic remedy applied, on the argument that people with similar "body shapes and personalities" suffer from the same type of diseases.[12] "Arsen. alb." types are "tense, restless ambitious individuals" with a tendency toward hypochondriasis, pessimism, need for reassurance, and a meticulous attention to neatness and detail.[2]

For homeopathic use, arsenicum album is prepared by separating arsenic from iron (as in arsenopyrite), cobalt, or nickel by baking at high temperatures. The powder is then ground and diluted with lactose. In the final dilution, statistically most pills will contain zero molecules of the original arsenic used, some might contain a single molecule. The final product is sold as tinctures (liquid), tablets, pellets, or powder.

Key homeopathic uses include treating anxiety and "fear caused by insecurity", digestive disorders and mucosal inflammation, and ailments characterized symptomatically by burning pain. It was also used once for treatment of syphilis.[2]

Research studies[edit]

Several studies have been done into Arsenicum album, however, homeopathic studies are known to have problems, such as evidence of bias, lack of rigour, and failure to blind the experimenters or subjects to which group is being analysed that prevent them from being considered definitive evidence for any effect.[7][8][13] In addition, the ideas behind homeopathy are scientifically implausible and directly opposed to fundamental principles of natural science and modern medicine, which means that poorly conducted, small, or unblinded studies are not considered scientific proof of efficacy.[4][10][11]

The authors of one unblinded study of mice poisoned with arsenic and then given Arsenicum album claimed statistically significant reductions were reported in biochemical markers of liver damage.[6] "However, other scientists remain sceptical",[14] and Andreas Gescher, a biochemical toxicologist interviewed by New Scientist, said "This kind of study uses a dilution so high there is hardly anything there... Is it really possible?" and went on to say that he was "extremely skeptical".[14]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Arsenikum album
  2. ^ a b c Lockie, Andrew and Geddes, Nicola (1995). Homeopathy: The Principles and Practice of Treatment. Dorling Kindersley Publishing. pp. 52–53. ISBN 0-7894-0148-7. 
  3. ^ Chakraborti, D; Mukherjee, SC; Saha, KC; Chowdhury, UK, et al. (2003). "Arsenic Toxicity from Homeopathic Treatment". Clinical Toxicology 41 (7): 963–967. doi:10.1081/CLT-120026518. PMID 14705842. 
  4. ^ a b c Ernst E (2005). "Is homeopathy a clinically valuable approach?". Trends Pharmacol. Sci. 26 (11): 547–8. doi:10.1016/j.tips.2005.09.003. PMID 16165225. 
  5. ^ Khuda-Bukhsh, Anisur Rahman; Pathak, Surajit; Guha, Bibhas; Karmakar, Susanta Roy; Das, Jayanta Kumar; Banerjee, Pathikrit; Biswas, Surjyo Jyoti; Mukherjee, Partha et al. (2005). "Can Homeopathic Arsenic Remedy Combat Arsenic Poisoning in Humans Exposed to Groundwater Arsenic Contamination?: A Preliminary Report on First Human Trial". Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine 2 (4): 537–48. doi:10.1093/ecam/neh124. PMC 1297497. PMID 16322812. 
  6. ^ a b Mallick, P; Chakrabarti Mallick, J; Guha, B; Khuda-Bukhsh, AR (2003). "Ameliorating effect of microdoses of a potentized homeopathic drug, Arsenicum Album, on arsenic-induced toxicity in mice". BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine 3: 7. doi:10.1186/1472-6882-3-7. PMC 521186. PMID 14570596. 
  7. ^ a b "The evidence of bias weakens the findings of our original meta-analysis. Since we completed our literature search in 1995, a considerable number of new homeopathy trials have been published. The fact that a number of the new high-quality trials (e.g. [14,15]) have negative results, and a recent update of our review for the most “original” subtype of homeopathy (classical or individualized homeopathy), seem to confirm the finding that more rigorous trials have less-promising results. It seems, therefore, likely that our meta-analysis at least overestimated the effects of homeopathic treatments." Linde et al., Impact of Study Quality on Outcome in Placebo-Controlled Trials of Homeopathy, J Clin Epidemiol Vol. 52, No. 7, pp. 631–636, 1999, doi:10.1016/S0895-4356(99)00048-7.
  8. ^ a b Ernst E (2002). "A systematic review of systematic reviews of homeopathy". Br J Clin Pharmacol 54 (6): 577–82. doi:10.1046/j.1365-2125.2002.01699.x. PMC 1874503. PMID 12492603. [dead link]
  9. ^ Report 12 of the Council on Scientific Affairs (A–97), American Medical Association, retrieved 2007-07-25 
    Linde K, Jonas WB, Melchart D, Willich S (2001). "The methodological quality of randomized controlled trials of homeopathy, herbal medicines and acupuncture". International Journal of Epidemiology 30 (3): 526–531. doi:10.1093/ije/30.3.526. PMID 11416076. 
    Altunç U, Pittler MH, Ernst E (2007). "Homeopathy for childhood and adolescence ailments: systematic review of randomized clinical trials". Mayo Clin Proc. 82 (1): 69–75. doi:10.4065/82.1.69. PMID 17285788. 
  10. ^ a b Johnson T, Boon H; Boon, Heather (1 January 2007). "Where Does Homeopathy Fit in Pharmacy Practice?". American journal of pharmaceutical education 71 (1): 7. doi:10.5688/aj710107. PMC 1847554. PMID 17429507. 
  11. ^ a b Shang A, Huwiler-Müntener K, Nartey L, et al. (2005). "Are the clinical effects of homoeopathy placebo effects? Comparative study of placebo-controlled trials of homoeopathy and allopathy". Lancet 366 (9487): 726–732. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(05)67177-2. PMID 16125589. 
  12. ^ Lockie, Andrew and Geddes, Nicola (1995). "The development of Homeopathy, The influence of Hering and Kent". Homeopathy: The Principles and Practice of Treatment. Dorling Kindersley Publishing. p. 17. ISBN 0-7894-0148-7. 
  13. ^ Report 12 of the Council on Scientific Affairs (A–97), American Medical Association, retrieved 2007-07-25 
    Linde K, Jonas WB, Melchart D, Willich S (2001). "The methodological quality of randomized controlled trials of homeopathy, herbal medicines and acupuncture". International Journal of Epidemiology 30 (3): 526–531. doi:10.1093/ije/30.3.526. PMID 11416076. 
    Altunç U, Pittler MH, Ernst E (2007). "Homeopathy for childhood and adolescence ailments: systematic review of randomized clinical trials". Mayo Clin Proc. 82 (1): 69–75. doi:10.4065/82.1.69. PMID 17285788. 
  14. ^ a b Bhattacharya, Shaoni (22 October 2003), "Homeopathy reduces arsenic poisoning in mice", New Scientist News Service