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Trial shows that homoeopathic arnica is no better than placebo

BMJ 2003; 326 doi: (Published 08 February 2003) Cite this as: BMJ 2003;326:303

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Flawed trial?

This is with reference to the news item “Trial shows that
homoeopathic arnica is no better than placebo”. One of the important
principles of homoeopathic prescribing is Individualisation- the response
of an individual to any stimulus is unique and different from another who
is exposed to the same stimulus. This has been completely ignored in the
clinical trial conducted with Arnica on patients who had surgery for
carpal tunnel syndrome. It appears that the researchers did not consult a
homoeopath while conducting the trial. It is a misconception amongst
laypersons and non-homoeopathic health practitioners that arnica is a
panacea for the sequelae of all types of injuries. I wish to stress that
Arnica is useful mainly in injuries that cause contusions.

It is usually
not indicated in injuries where the skin has been broken open- like
lacerations and surgical incisions. There are many other homoeopathic
drugs for injuries, namely Calendula for lacerations and incised wounds
(it was used extensively as a local application in World War II),
Hypericum for injuries to nerves, Symphytum for fractures, Bellis perennis
for injuries to internal organs e.g. vehicular accidents with airbag
injuries, Ruta for injuries to the periosteum and the cartilages, etc.

Arnica is not the remedy that a homoeopath would prescribe for patients
who have undergone any surgical procedure for the carpal tunnel syndrome
mainly because the type of injury for which it is used is different from
the type of injury the patient has had as a result of surgery. This was
possibly the reason that the trial “showed no differences between the
three groups in the primary outcome of pain and bruising”. This trial was
not properly conceived and is a good example of a waste of funds and

Many other aspects of patient management, like the knowledge of the
susceptibility of the patient and potency selection were ‘standarised’
during the trial, which is another flaw in any trial on homoeopathic drugs
using allopathic guidelines.

I can agree with only one statement in the news item attributed to
Edzard Ernst, Professor of Complementary Medicine at the University of
Exeter …. “ (the results) suggested that they did not support the routine
use of homoeopathic arnica for preventing or reducing postoperative
complications as bruising, swelling, or pain.” There are many other drugs
equally useful for trauma. At our hospital (Mumbadevi Homoeopathic
Hospital) in Mumbai, India, homoeopathic drugs are given to patients
postoperatively with very good results- probably because Arnica is not the
‘routine’ remedy.

Dr. Vijay H. Vaishnav

Asst. Professor, Dept. of Materia Medica

Smt. C M P Homoeopathic Medical College &
Shree Mumbadevi Homoeopathic Hospital,
Mumbai (Bombay),

Competing interests:  
None declared

Competing interests: No competing interests

18 July 2003
Dr. Vijay H. Vaishnav
Asst. Professor
Smt. CMP Homoeopathic Medical College, Vileparle (W), Mumbai 400056, India