Can homeopathy and acupuncture help patients with Parkinson’s disease? | science and technology

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A man receives an acupuncture session.

First of all, there is no single answer to the question, as acupuncture and homeopathy are two very different fields. Regarding homeopathy, the answer is a resounding no. People call homeopathy pseudomedicine (false medicine) or pseudoscience, but in my opinion, the terms “medicine” or “science” should not even be part of the definition. What homeopathy does is deceive people. Homeopathic compounds contain – if after all the dilutions there is still a molecule – an infinitesimal amount of the active ingredient. We speak of dilution of a dilution of a dilution of an active principle. Homeopathy is based on three presumed scientific assumptions, but there’s really no science to it: like cures like – in other words, in minute doses, a substance that causes disease-like symptoms in healthy people will be an effective therapeutic agent in sick people. The second principle is that of dilutions and dynamization.

In homeopathic products, terms like 3C, 10C, etc. refer to the degree of dilution. After countless dilutions, there is practically nothing left of the alleged active ingredient. This is where the third principle comes in: the memory of water. Homeopaths maintain that the water in the initial tincture (called the mother tincture) in which these solutions are made remembers the active ingredient, i.e. the water can physically recall the chemical properties of substances that were diluted there, seemingly forever. . The experiments that were done and published to prove the memory of water were later found to be flawed and careless.

In conclusion, homeopathic compounds do not cure diseases such as Parkinson’s disease. They rely on the placebo effect and, very often, on the distress of sick people and their urgency to find something that will cure them.

Acupuncture is an entirely different matter. There are clinical trials – that is, scientific evidence – that show that, along with the various treatments used for Parkinson’s disease, acupuncture may in fact produce some improvement. However, the meta-studies carried out for these clinical trials are insufficient. Much more rigorous analyzes are needed, such as the double-blind method, a system used to ensure that clinical trials produce real results. In it, neither those conducting the research nor those participating in the trial know whether what the patients are receiving is the drug or the placebo. It’s a way to avoid bias in the interpretation of results, and it’s easy if the treatment to be tested looks like a pill, but if we’re talking about acupuncture, it’s much more complicated. There have been attempts where the acupuncturist performs fake acupuncture to some of the participants, but the acupuncturist knows if they are using real or fake acupuncture.

Additionally, another aspect to consider is that Parkinson’s disease is a chronic condition, and what the trials have determined is the immediate relief produced by acupuncture. Whether it works in the medium and long term has not been studied. This is why meta-analyses of these clinical trials need to be more rigorous and include more people. But they found that acupuncture, along with current treatments, seems to help relieve some of the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. Nevertheless, it is very important to be aware that acupuncture can in no way replace treatment.

Parkinson’s disease is a neurodegenerative disease. It occurs when neurons do not produce enough of a neurotransmitter called dopamine. It mainly affects movement; its symptoms are tremors, stiffness, slowness of movement and some balance problems. It is estimated to affect between 1% and 2% of the population over 60, and up to 5% of the population over 65. There are treatments to relieve the symptoms, but we don’t have a definitive cure.

Nuria E. Campillo is a senior researcher at the Margarita Salas Center for Biological Research of the Spanish National Research Council and works on the development of neuropharmaceuticals for diseases such as Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease or ALS.

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