The Expansion of Homeopathy and how Quebec is Joining The Political Movement

A Pro-Homeopathy Conference in Quebec Ruffles Feathers as Thomas Muclair Supports the Practice

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The use of natural medicines and herbal remedies dates back thousands of years to Chinese, Indian and European Empires. While in southern Africa, traditional healers are known as Sangomas and in Latin America herbal remedies were widely used by Aztec and Incan cultures.

Records indicate healers and medicine men were present in ancient empires and at European court as well as in all manners of society; and if you were called to heal a noble figure, your very life might depend on your ability to do so.

The famous Russian mystic and healer Grigori Rasputin (a simple, uneducated Siberian peasant) made it so far as to become the trusted healer to the last reigning Monarch of Russia, Tsar Nicholas II, gaining considerable influence in late imperial Russia as word spread about his abilities. His influence was so great that on December 17, 1916, he was assassinated by a group of conservative noblemen who opposed his influence over the Tsar and his wife Alexandra.

One of the most impressive qualities of unorthodox medicine, also known as complementary and alternative medicine (CAM)- has been its ability to survive for centuries in a broad range of forms, giving birth to the official study and practice of Homeopathy 200 years ago.

Developed in the late 18th century by a respected German doctor, Samuel Hahnemann. Dr. Hahnemann’s research pointed to a discovery that “like cures like” and that administering micro concentrations of a particular toxin could cure the symptoms it would cause in larger doses- imagine using poison ivy to treat rashes.

Today, Homeopathy is used by nearly 4.9 Million Canadians and over 200 Million people worldwide. However, it is still not widely recognized in medical and scientific communities or by a large percentage of government bodies; and although studies exist that back up the many benefits and cures that Homeopathy offers, without government regulation Homeopathy remains on the outskirts of traditional medicine and science.

“It now gives the homeopaths an appearance that they are now a health professional-just like doctors and nurses. Nothing in homeopathy makes any sense based on science. So that’s a problem,” said Dr. Matthew Stanbrook, a deputy editor with the Canadian Medical Association Journal, who is also an assistant professor at the University of Toronto.

“On the other hand, it does now pose a regulatory framework and a mechanism for regulation on a group of people who are treating people with medical conditions.”

Although Homeopathy continues to draw scorn, now Quebec is looking to follow suit. Former NDP leader, Thomas Muclair, appeared at a pro-homeopathy conference in Montreal, Quebec, in support of legitimizing the practice.

Mr. Muclair, “Homeopathic remedies have been around for 200 years and are used, according to the World Health Organization, by some 200 million people. So you think it wouldn’t be that controversial but in the last year, a pseudo study from Australia was often used to discredit homeopathy. What was interesting at our event today is we had experts who explained why the first version that was put out was held in Australia, a second version that was unfavourable was published; and now we know that there is indeed interesting scientific evidence that homeopathy works, science is starting to back it up.”

“There was a recent Supreme Court decision concerning the practice of a naturopathy here in Quebec, which doesn’t recognize Naturopathy. So Quebecers are being left without a choice if they want to have a guarantee that they’re dealing with a competent Naturopath or homeopath, they’ve got to go to Ontario, which regulates both; that doesn’t really make sense. In light of the Supreme Court decision, Quebec is going to be called upon to regulate. That’s a good thing because Quebecers will now have the ability to know about the competence of the people they’re dealing with and to have some guarantee in case of a problem.”

Today, Homeopathy is used by millions of people worldwide and is considered a safe and effective treatment method for a large array of medical conditions, from cold, pain and bruising, sleep disorders and even baby teething.

Mr. Muclair continues, “Beyond that, the simple fact that it is in such widespread use and is innocuous in terms of any potential side effects, basically comes down to a question of the patients’ choice. We believe that patients in Canada should be given a choice about what remedies and what treatments they’re going to receive, as long as they’re being protected from people who don’t have enough training. So the government has to do two things, recognize and regulate practitioners and respect people’s right to choose.”

“The pharmaceutical companies, of course, are held to certain standards as well. But most pharmacies in Canada sell homeopathic remedies as medicines, which is what they are, and the fact that over the past year or so there have been rather consistent attacks against Homeopathy has shaken some of that part. But fear not because if you look at it from a patient’s interest angle and from a public protection angle there’s no reason not to continue to regulate practitioners and to make sure that these medicines are available, especially through the pharmacists that currently sell them.

The resistance to Homeopathy has been particularly acute this year with a strong push against it following the release of the Australian study; publishing two reports, one that went public completely disregarding Homeopathy as an effective treatment, “Based on the assessment of the evidence of the effectiveness of homeopathy, NHMRC concludes that there are no health conditions for which there is reliable evidence that homeopathy is effective.” The study concluded.

Mr. Muclair reputes “But what we learned here today is that there was a first Australian study that they kept under wraps, only to come out with a modified version that was unfavourable to Homoeopathy. Finally, under Access to Information requests, the government released the full study, which tended to prove that for several conditions, homeopathy was effective. The people who claim that Homeopathy doesn’t have science behind it was being backed up by a study that had been fiddled with. So it’s a good thing for everyone that the true study has come out and it tends to reinforce what we’ve known for some time, that homeopathy can indeed be effective. Ontario regulates homeopathy right now and I think that’s a model for the rest of Canada that they should be following.”

Regulation would allow for the legitimization of Homeopathy while providing Canadians with an alternative OR partner to traditional medicine. In Ontario, the government made the move to regulate back in 2015 (the first province to do so). Regulation of Homeopathy in Ontario is similar to the way doctors and nurses are regulated in the province. The province’s Homeopathy Act and new legislation also established the College of Homeopaths of Ontario as the governing body for the profession but the move has drawn continued concern and skepticism from medical professionals.

Nevertheless, for retailers and businesses the existence of a coalition of manufacturers, practitioners and scientists coming together in union to support homeopathy as a remedy that works and that should be accessible to people seems to be leading the public interest debate. The Pro-Homeopathy Conference drew people from Germany, Great Britain and the United States. The panel consisted of strong, credible, scientific voices on homeopathy along with discussions from people who found effective treatment options through homeopathy.

Mr. Muclair stands strong on the public’s right to chose,  “Is this about allowing one industry to tell another industry what they can do? Or is this about the public saying as a patient, I’m allowed to have a choice. As long as I’m protected and I’m allowed to have access to people with good, credible training then I should have access to treatments that in and of themselves cannot be dangerous.”

What I’m excited most coming out of the meeting today is that people who practice here in Quebec are not feeling alone.

They’ve been taking care of patients for years but with the attacks that they’ve been under for the past year, they’ve been feeling the weight. Now they realize a structure is appearing in the landscape that will be very helpful.”

As Homeopathy continues to work its way into the Canadian vernacular and integrating into the health system, no doubt the transition will present challenges and illicit scorn from the medical and scientific communities. However, regulatory bodies will continue to set standards; improving the creation and access to data and scientific research, setting an important precedent, legitimizing the practice and opening up opportunities for research offering a growing number of people options outside of the traditional medical system.

by Diana Berdichevsky

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