Homotoxicology is a model of disease and treatment based on quack medicine and pseudoscience. It was concocted by homeopathic crank Hans-Heinrich Reckeweg (1905-1985). According to this idea disease symptoms are responses of the body's attempt to expel "toxins" that have built up in the system. Homotoxicology denies the central tenets of the reality-based germ theory of disease, and is used primarily to advocate homeopathic products.
Reckeweg's corporation Heel, which still sells products, is the primary pusher of homotoxicology. They label it as a "modern form of homoeopathy" and the "bridge between allopathic and homeopathic medicine." They have also started pushing it into European colleges and universities as part of a biological medicine program, even going so far as to endow a professorship at a German university, Viadrina European University.
The evil toxins building up in our systems according to this framework are referred to by the vaguely defined term "homotoxin". Homotoxins are pretty much everything. They are defined as "all those substances (chemical/biochemical) and non-material influences (physical, psychical), which can cause ill health in humans." In practice it is used to attribute disease to whatever is the cause du jour. Examples include: fast food, unnamed chemicals in our water, evil "allopathic" prescribed medicine, vaccines, biased media, and witch doctor curses.
While some of what the practitioners of homotoxicology might label a toxin actually can cause illness, it is important to realize that the homotoxicologist is suggesting a very different means of action than established evidence-based medicine has shown. For example, both a real doctor and a homotoxicologist would agree that tetrodotoxin causes illness, but while the real doctor attributes that to the chemical actions of the toxic molecule in binding to the voltage-gated sodium channels of nerve cell membranes, the homotoxicologist attributes the symptoms to a manifestation of the body's attempt to expel the toxin.
Six phases of disease
“” According to homotoxicology all of those processes, syndromes, and manifestations, which we designate as diseases, are the expression thereof that the body is combating poisons and that it wants to neutralize and excrete these poisons. The body either wins or loses the fight thereby. Those processes, which we designate as diseases, are always biological, that is natural teleological processes, which serve poison defense and detoxification.
Homotoxicology stands against everything we know in modern biology and medicine and boldly proclaims that all disease symptoms are actually specific actions that body is taking to rid itself of evil homotoxins. It defines disease progression in six progressively worse stages:
|Excretion phase||In this phase the body's defensive system is intact and can excrete homotoxins in various ways such as through diarrhoea or rhinitis (a runny nose).|
|Inflammation phase||If excretion is not sufficient, the body has an inflammatory response (such as a fever) in an attempt to neutralize toxins.|
|Deposition phase||If homotoxins are not sufficiently excreted and continue to flow into the body, the toxic products are stored in the extracellular space. This phase often occurs without symptoms.|
|Impregnation phase||Once toxins have invaded the cell and the toxins themselves become part of the connective tissue and matrix. Increasingly severe symptoms are typical of this stage and indicate damage to organ cells.|
|Degeneration||Abundant toxins within the cells destroy large cellular groups within an organ, resulting in organ degeneration.|
|Differentiation||Illnesses in this phase are characterised by the creation of undifferentiated, non-specialised cell forms. Malignant diseases lie at the end of this phase.|
While homotoxicology treatments are very similar to homeopathic treatments there are a few key differences. In homotoxicology, disease occurs when, for whatever reason, the body is not doing its job of getting rid of homotoxins. The goal of a treatment program is to force into action the body's natural mechanisms that get rid of evil toxins. This is where the homotoxicology products come in. Supposedly they activate what Reckeweg called the "greater defense system." The water causes "symptoms" of homotoxin build-up by somehow magically activating disease symptoms in all areas of the body including the brain, the immune system, metabolism, the endocrine system, and even connective tissue.
Homotoxicology is not as concerned with the principles of "like curing like" that dominates homeopathy in general. Since all disease is caused by the same thing, whatever activates the "greater defense system" will cure any disease. Homotoxicological preparations often use various dilutions of biological material from pigs or combine different levels of dilution for the same substance into one product. This "harmony of potency" is unique to homotoxicology's approach to homeopathy.
Efficacy of homotoxicology
The primary proponent of homotoxicology and the primary manufacturer of products is the corporation Heel. Heel used to offer its products to cure serious illness, which was a major FDA violation. After millions in fines and almost being shut down completely it no longer publicly claims to have treatments for chronic and life-threatening diseases. The primary products from Heel are for pain relief, with their topical cream Traumeel being their main cash cow. Heel has sponsored several randomized controlled trials of Traumeel that it claims proves its efficacy in treatment of pain.
However, there are serious problems with this supposed research. The first is that Heel may be actively involved in peer review fraud. Several researchers have contacted Heel and discussed support for research on Traumeel; every time Heel says that the only way they will offer any level of support is if they get prior review of the data before publication and have a right to refuse publication of data they don't like. This is a blatant form of cherry picking, in the form of publication bias. The few published studies use extremely small sample sizes, and often don't even include statistical analysis of the data to see if the positive "trends" are actually significant. The studies are all sponsored by Heel and published in journals closely linked to Heel. These journals have little to no impact in the peer-review community at large.
What is clear is that homotoxicology flies in the face of everything science and medicine has told us about disease and the way the body fights disease. Products that are based on homotoxicology have shown limited to no effect, and the few studies that do show a positive effect are rife with sponsor bias, poor methodology, and are published in tightly-controlled journals that the general peer-review community ignores. The evidence is clear that homotoxicology is nothing but quack medicine and pseudoscience.
Homotoxicology in Popular Culture
In the South Park episode, Cherokee Hair Tampons, Kyle Brovlofski comes down with kidney failure, brought about by his lifelong history with diabetes. Sharon Marsh tells his mother, Sheila Brovlofski, about natural holistic medicines that she'd heard could cure diseases like what Kyle's suffering from. Sharon's son Stan Marsh sees right through it, but Sheila insists on bringing Kyle to see the newest peddler of holistic medicine, "Miss Information" (pronounced the same as "misinformation"). Among her treatments include fake potions to flush out toxins, just like the pseudoscience homotoxicology advocates. Later on in the episode, two assistants named Chief Running Pinto and Carlos Ramirez remark that Kyle, now discolored in the face and looking deathly ill, needs a doctor, in fact one based on the proven knowledge in Western medicine. In an argument against the appeal to nature, they remark that being in touch with the earth has nothing to do with dying. The two of them then confess that Miss Information lied about her holistic wares. In another jab at homotoxicology, Miss Information's last words before the shoppers beat her up is "Toxins ARE your enemy!"
- "Homotoxicology and Homeopathy." Heel. 22 Apr 2008.
- "Homotoxicology." Natural Solutions for You. 22 Apr 2008.
- Training healthcare professionals Heel (June 1, 2010 archived copy)
- Biotherapeutic Index, 5th revised English edition. Baden-Baden, Germany: Biologische Heilmittel GmbH, 2000, p 4.
- "a potent neurotoxin with no known antidote", according to Wikipedia (as of 2017)
- Reckeweg HH (1986) Homotoxikologie, Ganzschau einer Synthese der Medizin, 6th edn. Aurelia Verlag, Stuttgart
- Thiel W, Borho B (1991) Die Therapie von frischen, traumatischen Blutergu¨ ssen der Kniegelenke (Hämarthros) mit Traumeel N Injektionslo¨ sung. Biol Med 2:506–515
- Zell VJ, Connert W-D, Mau J, Feuerstake G (1988) Behandlung von akuten Sprunggelenksdistorsionen. Fortschr Med Suppl 5:62–70
- Ernst, E., & Schmidt, K. (2004). Homotoxicology—a review of randomised clinical trials. European Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, 60(5), 299-306.