Hormesis: Homeopathy by the Back Door?

They define Hormesis as ‘providing stimulus by non toxic amounts of a toxic agent’.

Is it just me, or is biology appropriating a chunk of homeopathy? haha I suppose we should be flattered. I’m reminded of how physiotherapy has appropriated many of the manipulation techniques of osteopathy & chiropractic, all the while claiming their practitioners were quacks!

Here’s a great introductory link:


“Hormesis is a term used by toxicologists to refer to a biphasic dose response to an environmental agent characterized by a low dose stimulation or beneficial effect and a high dose inhibitory or toxic effect”

It’s a very pleasing idea that biology is finally waking up to this principle that homeopathy makes full use of.  Of course they haven’t made the leap to ultra-dilute yet (I’d guess they would be investigating in the X range of potencies at the moment), but I’m sure they will get there.

Now…this isn’t ‘true’ homeopathy…but bless them, it’s a start.



7 Responses to Hormesis: Homeopathy by the Back Door?

  1. kevin morris January 5, 2010 at 4:17 pm #

    The late great Harris Coulter said that homoeopathy would continue to grow in strength until around 2020, when pharmaceutical medicine would increasingly steal its ideas. I think this might be an example of that process. The problem is, they don’t have the philosophical tools to understand what health is and their concept of disease is so cack-handed that you can guarantee that they’ll bugger it up!

  2. homeopathyuk January 5, 2010 at 5:47 pm #

    I agree Kevin,

    And they’ll always be thinking from the ‘so how can we make money from this’ angle.


  3. Lea January 5, 2010 at 6:15 pm #

    I find Kevin’s point very interesting. Thanks Kevin. I have never thought of it like that. Uhmmm


  4. Steve Scrutton January 6, 2010 at 4:15 pm #

    Addenbrooks Hospital, in Cambridge, is pioneering a ‘new’ method of dealing with nut allergy. They do it by giving very small amounts of nut to the patients, then building it up!

    I suggested to them at the time that this was ‘homeopathic’ – but never heard from them!

  5. homeopathyuk January 6, 2010 at 4:56 pm #

    No Steve,

    It’s totally different..it has a different name & everything. What gets me is the fanfare this nut allergy therapy has received in the press, it’s as if it is some sort of breakthrough. The average full time homeopath probably deals with a few allergies a week, but I don’t see a TV crew parked outside any clinics!

    Oh well I suppose us evil unscrupulous lot will get our just desserts some time.



  6. Iain January 7, 2010 at 2:16 pm #

    Doesn’t the definition of homoeopathy include the extremely high dilution factors? Factors which are sufficiently high that none of the original substance remains, and hence couldn’t not possibly cause a negative effect on the patient?

    My reading of the link suggests that hormesis is dealing with massively higher (though still very small) dosages of the actual substance; dosages actually designed to cause negative (if very minor) effects, which the patient can then build up a tolerance to.

  7. homeopathyuk January 7, 2010 at 3:29 pm #

    Hi Iain,

    Nice to hear a fresh voice.

    ‘Homeopathy’ is from the Greek words homoios (similar) and pathos (suffering)
    or ‘like cures like.’ Use of highly dilute substances is not implicit.

    Hormesis is similar in so much as the early homeopaths used large doses of substances to heal, but found that they often caused severe aggravations of their patient’s symptoms before they got better. So being good inductive scientists they started reducing the amount of homeopathic remedy, and they found that they were still healing but caused less aggravation. This experimenting with lower & lower amounts of remedy continued for decades, eventually reaching fantastical levels of dilution. All the while checking & rechecking the affect they were having on their patients. One famous homeopath (Baron von Bœnninghausen 1785-1864) experimented with very high dilutions on animal cases for many years before satisfying himself that they were effective.

    So, to conclude, I mention hormesis as an indication that con-med is perhaps at the point homeopaths were 200 years ago with regards to size of therapeutic dose, and not as evidence for the efficacy of ultra-dilutions.


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