Homeopathic medicine is founded on the basic principle that “like cures like.” Thus, a homeopathic treatment typically uses drugs in tiny amounts that cause similar symptoms to the illness they supposedly treat. These drugs can come in the form of a tablet, liquid, cream or injection. Traditionally, homeopathy has been used to treat chronic ailments such as asthma or arthritis, but some cancer centers and a growing number of health care providers are suggesting homeopathy as a complementary therapy for cancer, including malignant mesothelioma, who are already receiving traditional treatments such as chemotherapy.
Homeopathic therapies have been reported to help reduce the pain and adverse symptoms such as cough, malaise, weakness, fever, caused by the cancer or the traditional treatments (surgery, chemotherapy or radiation). Some homeopathic remedies are also aimed at reducing a patient’s fear, anxiety, stress or depression that is often experienced by cancer patients confronting death.
The efficacy, however, of homeopathic therapy for mesothelioma patients, as well as other cancer patients, has not been clearly established.
An example of a homeopathic therapy that has been studied as a complementary and alternative medicine therapy for cancer is mistletoe extract. Mistletoe is a type of “semiparasitic plant” that grows on a variety of trees, including apple, oak, elm and pine. The chemical composition of the mistletoe products varies depending on multiple factors including the type of host tree, the species of mistletoe, the time of year the plant is harvested, the technique used to prepare the extract and the company making the product.
While certain mistletoe extract has been shown in laboratory studies to have effects on the immune system, kill mouse, rat and human cancer cells, and protect the DNA in white blood cells exposed to chemotherapy agents, according to the United States National Cancer Institute “there is not enough evidence to recommend the use of mistletoe as a treatment for cancer except in carefully designed clinical trials.”
In Europe, products made from European mistletoe are among the most prescribed therapies for cancer patients. Some of the brand names for mistletoe therapy are: Iscador, Eurixor, and Helixor. However, in the United States, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved the use of mistletoe as a treatment for cancer or any other medical condition.