At a time when the COVID19 is spreading like a wildfire to gain the title of one of the most dreaded pandemics, we happened to see some interesting development from the AYUSH department in our country. In that, the most noted one was the announcement of a highly diluted homeopathic drug called Arsenic Album 30C getting announced and promoted as a purported prophylactic to COVID19.
But days after its announcement, it was the public outcry what we saw, in using an unproven homeopathic medicine as a prophylactic for a dreaded disease. Eventually, the AYUSH ministry had to withdraw its stance and resettle with a new title for it. The new avatar of Ars Alb 30 was in the guise of an IMMUNE BOOSTER this time. So, now the question arises. What if the flak was not faced and if people were forced to take the Ars Alb 30 as a prophylactic instead of as an IMMUNE BOOSTER? What is the expected change in the effect of medicine brought just by changing its title or class of action?
More precisely, will there be a change in the effect of a drug, if I ‘name calls’ an antihypertensive drug as an antacid or as an anti-inflammatory drug? We need to get some clear answers…!
What is Arsenic?
It is worth noting that, it was not just this drug that came into limelight during the COVID19. There are few other drugs, getting offhandedly ‘recommended’ as ‘Prophylactic’ and ‘Immune Boosters’. But, since this drug was the ‘official’ one, let us go a little behind this.
Arsenic is a metalloid compound, which is classified as a Class A Carcinogen. In homeopathy, it is used in the form of Arsenic Trioxide (As2O3).
Arsenic is one of the deadliest causes of heavy metal poisonings since history unknown. People died of it while inhaling the fumes in realgar and orpiment mines. Today, groundwater contamination with arsenic is a global health hazard in many developing and underdeveloped countries. Owing to its toxicity and the detrimental chronic health effects, its use in medicine is stopped, in agriculture it is either discontinued or widely discouraged. It is still used in metallurgy, electronics, military, and pyrotechnic industries.
What are the effects of Arsenic Poisoning?
Arsenic poisoning is well known for its chronic health effects rather than for its acute signs and symptoms. It typically affects the lungs, liver, kidneys, and skin. The acute symptoms include vomiting, severe diarrhea, weakness, dizziness, headache, confusion, excessive salivation, hematuria, hyperhidrosis, convulsions, etc. The final stage is severe complications, cancer, organ failure, seizure, coma, and death. The toxic effects of heavy metals are brought in mainly due to its bioaccumulation in the body. Its effects are more severe and chronic if it occurs to the fetuses and in young children. The other major counterparts to Arsenic are Mercury, Lead, Cadmium, Chromium, Zinc, Copper, etc.
As per the Homeopathic Materia Medica, the information on Arsenic is this:
“A profoundly acting remedy on every organ and tissue. Its clear-cut characteristic symptoms and correspondence to many severe types of disease make its homeopathic employment constant and certain. Its general symptoms often alone lead to its successful application. Among these, the all-prevailing debility, exhaustion, and restlessness, with nightly aggravation, are most important. Great exhaustion after the slightest exertion. This, with the peculiar irritability of fiber, gives the characteristic irritable weakness. Burning pains. Unquenchable thirst. Burning relieved by heat. Seaside complaints (Nat mur; Aqua Marina). Injurious effects of fruits, especially more watery ones.”
– HOMŚOPATHIC MATERIA MEDICA, by William BOERICKE, M.D.
And regarding the dosage, it is mentioned this way:
“Third to thirtieth potency. The very highest potencies often yield brilliant results. Low attenuations in gastric, intestinal, and kidney diseases; higher in neuralgias, nervous diseases, and skin. But if only surface conditions call for it, give the lowest potencies, 2x to 3x trit. Repeated doses advisable.”
– HOMŚOPATHIC MATERIA MEDICA, by William BOERICKE, M.D.
At this juncture, the very first question that comes to any learned mind is, what is the difference between the symptomatology of arsenic mentioned in the homeopathic Materia medica and in the toxicological data…?! Yes, it’s hard to find, it is impossible to find. Now, if you go to the dosage and strength (Potency), it is mentioned as 3rd to 30th potency. And in surface conditions, the lowest strength, with more repetition is what is recommended.
Here, when we say that, the lowest is the best, it means, the quantity of Arsenic is higher. As per homeopathic methodology of drug preparation, the higher the attenuation, the lesser will be the material content and vice versa.
Now, if you go back to the AYUSH recommendation, the potency or strength suggested is, 30C. That is, that medicine is serially attenuated 30 times using a dilution factor of 1/100. in every step. Alcohol is usually used as a solvent. In this process, at about the 12th step, the resultant solution will contain only less than one molecule/atom of the starting substance as per Avogadro’s Number calculation. This is an unreal situation, because such an existence is not possible. But the attenuation process is again continued 18 more times to reach the 30th attenuation, called 30C, by when the resultant solution is scientifically non-therapeutic due to nonexistence of the starting substance.
Now comes the real questions. What is a prophylactic drug? What is an immune booster?
What are Prophylactic drugs?
Any medicine or procedure or device could be called a prophylactic or preventive if it is able to provide a therapeutic benefit to prevent a condition or disease. For example, a condom is a prophylactic against STD’s. The drug Doxycycline was a prophylactic against leptospirosis. A polio vaccine is a prophylactic vaccine or preventive vaccine. The pharmacological or therapeutic benefits of each in this category is directly related to its nature or constituents. It is well established with the prior measurable and documented outcomes as per the modern evidence-based medicine protocols. And, lastly, these outcomes are reproducible and repeatable in any part of the world. This makes the prophylactic or preventive medicine/procedure/device a much sought-after intervention at times of epidemics and pandemic like global emergencies.
Now, the homeopathic Arsenic at 30C attenuation was never a verified drug in this manner, and it was always an unproven yet drug of choice for the homeopaths world over for the last few decades. Despite this reality, when the Authorities like AYUSH ministry came up with the idea of presenting Homeopathic Arsenic 30C as a prophylactic, it naturally drew much criticism and backlash. The existence and the credibility of this national body itself were at stake. Since all the criticism was on scientific grounds, the ministry had to withdraw its notification and then it came up with the idea of presenting it as an immune booster…!
what is an immune booster?
Immunity is a mechanism in a vertebrate living body to fight off pathogens and harmful intruders, be it a parasite like bacteria, viruses or fungi, but also allergens and other toxic substances. Immunity functions 24×7 to maintain the optimal level called homeostasis. It could be broadly classified as Innate and adaptive immunity. The first and second line of defense, i.e., the innate immunity, which comprises of our skin, mucous membrane, acid balance, sweat glands, tear glands, intestine, the urine outflow, cilia, etc. performs a nonspecific defense against the pathogens. The innate immunity is present by birth, and it functions by utilizing several components and raw materials. Any shortage of these could lead to an impaired innate immunity level, thereby making the body prone to intruders.
Here, Arsenic, even in its material doses is an intruder and the body always try to oust it on its first exposure itself. This is often manifested as the acute toxic symptoms in arsenic poisoning, as we mentioned before and is texted in the homeopathic Materia medica itself…! Now, it is the bounden duty of the homeopaths who claim that they boost the immunity to explain how the Arsenic attenuated 30 times is boosting this innate immunity. Here we must assume that the signs of acute toxicity while taking material doses of arsenic was mistaken for the ‘signs’ of a ‘Boosted Immunity’…!
Now when the innate immunity fails to ward off an intruder, the third line of immunity kicks in. It functions mainly in cell-mediated and humoral pathways. This belongs to the category of adaptive immunity. Here, the natural passive adaptive immunity inherited from the mother is often so weak and the natural adaptive active immune responses will initiate its functions. It is a cascading process with numerous steps and involves much time and raw materials. The result is the containment of the intruder, with a memory retained to reproduce the responses in less time in the event of a future similar attack. The natural adaptive immunity is a time consuming and resource-dependent mechanism. So, situations that warrant quick outcomes like in a deadly infection or a pandemic like COVID19 often makes our body vulnerable to infections and death or impairment. There comes the role of Artificial adaptive immunity using vaccines and prophylactic drugs.
So, let us sum it up:-
Immunomodulation is an interventional technique done to attain the desired immune response. This intended response is at times, ‘immunosuppression’ using therapeutic Immunosuppressants to avoid argan rejection of graft rejection. In some other times, it is done to enhance an antigenic immune response as in vaccination using immune adjuvants. They could be organic or inorganic compounds. Aluminum compounds are the most used Immune adjuvant to enhance dendritic cell response and to help in antibody production. In both these cases, it is well understood that immunity is modulated ‘specifically’ to its desired level. The specificity is the key object to be noted here.
Now comes the Immune stimulation or boosters. It is a very nonspecific technique in which agents that activate or induce the mediators or components of the immune system are supplemented. They include enzymes, proteins, cofactors like vitamin C, etc. They are non-antigen dependent and non-specific, and so their efficacy and utility are difficult to be assessed. Moreover, an increased immunity at times can land you up in problems like hypersensitivity and autoimmunity. So, it is better to classify these factors and components as non-specific immune potentiators in healthy bodies, while for impaired immunity seen as in those starving or are debilitated due to pre-existing morbid conditions, it could be accomplished either by supplying the raw materials or by certain therapeutic agents.
In all these scenarios, a single metalloid element, which is presented in a highly attenuated dilution beyond the Avogadro limit is incapable of even theorizing a positive effect. This proves that the homeopathic 30c preparation of Arsenic could neither become a prophylactic nor could pose as an ‘immune stimulator’. There is no existing evidence to support the claim made by the homeopaths and the AYUSH ministry.
However, the available evidence effortlessly disproves the idea of homeopathy itself. The ineffectiveness of arsenic as a therapeutic agent owing to its acute and chronic toxicity is well documented and presented. Considering all these facts and information, it is high time to revisit the homeopathic recommendations, including those done for infectious diseases and all other non-communicable disease conditions.
The ‘COVID-Arsenic30C’ gate is indeed an allusion to a bigger problem. The false guarantee and hope given to the masses by baselessly claiming to ‘boost’ their immunity to protect against a dreaded disease, is far more dangerous than the dreaded virus itself.