What actually is homeopathy?
In order to clarify the concept of homeopathy, it is necessary to understand the principle of this type of treatment, the so-called potentization. Here, the active ingredients are stretched in a certain way and thereby diluted with a solvent (water, alcohol or lactose). These active ingredients, also called mother tincture, form the basis for a homeopathic remedy, which is "shaken" after each dilution step. In the process, this liquid is struck on an elastic base in the direction of the earth's centre with varying frequency, depending on the potency density. Starting materials are usually fresh plantae (i.e. plants), metazoa (i.e. animals) or mineral substances.
Depending on the mixing ratio, certain variations of potencies result:
- D potency: in the ratio 1:10 (i.e. 1 part mother tincture and 9 parts solvent),
- C-potency: in the ratio 1:100 (i.e. 1 part mother tincture and 99 parts solvent),
- or LM or Q potencies: in the ratio 1:50,000 (1 part mother tincture and 49,999 parts solvent).
The letter code is always followed by a number indicating the number of dilutions. Example: for the potency D12, the mother tincture must be diluted 12 times in a ratio of 1:10.
Mathematically, the highly diluted remedies have hardly any molecules of the mother tincture left, which is why the effect may not be based on this very molecular active ingredient. Thus, the information of the original active ingredient is supposed to be transferred to the whole dilution liquid on a non-molecular level by the process of potentization. This has not yet been scientifically proven. Homeopathy is recognized throughout the DACH region as an alternative healing method.
According to the 2019 study published in the scientific journal Complementary Therapies in Medicine, insomnia, as one of the eight major groups of sleep disorders, is the most common sleep-related complaint associated with daytime dysfunction, decreased quality of life, increased morbidity (ie.i.e., incidence of disease in relation to a specific population group), and substantial societal costs.
Insomnia includes difficulty falling asleep and/or staying asleep, early morning awakenings, and chronic non-restorative sleep. Symptoms may also include fatigue, problems with attention, and impairment of one's mood.
The aforementioned study investigated whether individualized homeopathy (IH) could produce a more significant effect than placebo in treating abstinence from sleep.
Homeopathy better than placebo?
In this double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled, parallel-group study, 60 patients were given either an individualized homeopathic remedy or placebo. Female and male study participants ranged in age from 23 to 53 years. A patient-logged sleep diary with six items (time asleep, minutes awake at night, minutes awake in the morning, hours spent in bed, total sleep time in hours, and sleep efficiency) and a clinically recognized Insomnia Severity Index (i.e., severity index for insomnia, or ISI) were used for primary and secondary outcomes, respectively. These outcomes were measured at baseline and after three months.
In the study group, all outcomes, with the exception of the evaluation category in the sleep diary "minutes awake in the morning", i.e. waking too early, improved significantly. The study of the placebo group found an improvement in "sleep efficiency" and ISI score. According to the study, there was a statistically significant difference in sleep efficiency, total sleep time, time in bed, and ISI score when comparing the two groups.
According to the study authors, individualized homeopathy appears to have a significantly better effect than the placebo. However, further independent replications and rigorous trials need to be undertaken to strengthen the findings.
Since the medical effects of homeopathy are still controversial due to the paucity of research, further double-blind, randomized, and placebo-controlled studies are particularly important to clarify the remaining concerns of the (non)effects, some of which are already evident.