Surgery, at best, is an unpleasant process. Not only does the surgical wound cause pain, but general anesthesia causes its own side effects.
Homeopathic treatments have been studied for possible benefits in the period around surgery, with some promising results. Even though they have not been proved effective, there is one thing that can be offered in their favor: unlike herbs, which might be dangerous during or after surgery, homeopathic tablets should be entirely safe under all circumstances. (See A Note about Safety for more information.)
Preliminary, double-blind trials suggest that homeopathic remedies may help the digestive tract to recover after surgery. Weaker evidence suggests benefits for surgical pain and anxiety. However, a study of homeopathy for reducing bruising after surgery found no benefit.
If you have major surgery, especially to the abdomen, your digestive tract will shut down for several days. Until it starts working again, you cannot eat or drink, and certainly cannot go home from the hospital. Passing gas is the first sign of recovery; once it occurs, the return of digestive function is imminent.
The results of several double-blind studies suggest that homeopathic remedies may reduce the time it takes for the digestive tract to recover.
For example, a double-blind, placebo-controlled study of 200 people who had undergone abdominal or chest surgery evaluated the effectiveness of the three homeopathic remedies Opium, Arnica, and Raphanus given in succession every 2 hours.1 Bowel function returned more rapidly in the active treatment group than in the placebo group.
Another double-blind, placebo-controlled study of 80 people undergoing abdominal surgery evaluated the effects on bowel function of a homeopathic remedy containing China regia, Raphanus sativus niger, and Arnica.2 Again, benefits were seen in the homeopathy group as compared to the placebo group.
Similar results were seen in several other studies as well.3,4
A meta-analysis mathematically combined the results of six published trials on homeopathy for speeding the return of bowel function.4 A total of about 750 people were enrolled in these trials. The combined results indicate that the time to first signs of bowel recovery among those taking the homeopathic treatment was on average 7.4 hours less than their placebo counterparts. This difference was statistically significant.
Pain following surgery is a common, if not nearly universal, experience. The homeopathic remedy Arnica is traditionally used as a treatment for trauma, and therefore has been proposed for reducing surgical pain. The results from preliminary studies have been somewhat promising, but far from definitive.13
A study of 190 people undergoing tonsillectomy compared Arnica 30c (two tablets six times daily the first day after surgery, then two tablets twice a day for the next seven days) against placebo.15 The results showed a mathematically significant but clinically exceedingly slight benefit in favor of Arnica.
Another double-blind, placebo-controlled study involved 59 participants undergoing oral surgery.5 The group that received homeopathic Arnica at 30c potency experienced significantly less pain than the control group.
In yet another double-blind, placebo-controlled trial, use of homeopathic Arnica D6 tablets for 2 weeks following carpal tunnel surgery led to decreased pain as compared to placebo treatment.6
However, other double-blind, studies failed to find benefit. In a study comparing Arnica D4 and diclofenac sodium, 50 mg, a common analgesic medication, Arnica was less effective for postoperative pain following bunion surgery among 88 patients. Nevertheless, Arnica was equivalent to diclofenac for postoperative irritation, toe mobility, and the use of other analgesics. Since no control group was included in the study, it is unknown whether either treatment was better than placebo.16
In a placebo-controlled trial, researchers tested Arnica 30c in the postoperative recovery of 93 women who had undergone total abdominal hysterectomy. In terms of pain and its relief, infection, and medication use, no statistical difference was observed between the two groups.
In another double-blind, placebo-controlled crossover study also failed to find benefit.9 In this trial, homeopathic practitioners selected one of six different remedies to be administered to each participant, according to classical homeopathic principles: Arnica, Hypericum, Ledum, Phosphorus, Plantago, or Staphysagria, all at D30 potency. No significant benefits were seen.
In yet another controlled trial, patients recovering from knee surgery who were given the a homeopathic complex ( Arnica montana 5 CH, Bryonia alba 5 CH, Hypericum perforatum 5 CH, and Ruta graveolens 3 DH) were no more or less likely to adjust their morphine dose 1 to 3 days postoperatively compared to patients given a placebo.17
Besides pain, many people experience restlessness and agitation after surgery, perhaps due in part to the effects of general anesthesia.
One double-blind, placebo-controlled study evaluated the potential benefits of homeopathic Aconite for children who had undergone various surgeries.9 A total of 50 children who had recently undergone surgery were included. Either Aconite (potency not described) or placebo was administered to the children in the recovery room. The homeopathic treatment was reported to provide a statistically significant benefit as compared to placebo.
Because homeopathic Arnica is a popular home remedy for bruising, investigators have studied it as a possible treatment for reducing bruising after surgery. However, overall, the evidence for benefit with Arnica is inconclusive.13
For example, in a double-blind trial of 130 people undergoing surgery for varicose veins, researchers found no benefit with homeopathic Arnica at 5x potency as compared to placebo.10 A second study of Arnica for varicose vein surgery also failed to find statistically significant benefits.12 Yet another double-blind trial, this one with 64 participants, failed to find Arnica helpful for reducing pain and bruising after hand surgery.11 The most recent study, involving face-lift surgery, found equivocal benefits at best.14
In classical homeopathy, there are many possible homeopathic treatments for surgery support, to be chosen based on various specific details of the person seeking treatment.
If you experience fear and a feeling of panic before surgery, you might fit the symptom picture of homeopathic Aconitum napellus. This remedy is said to be especially indicated for people who are afraid that they will die, and who are easily startled by light and noise. Other aspects of the classic symptom picture include dry mouth and excessive thirst.
If after surgery you experience bruising, swelling, or soreness, you may fit the classical symptom picture for Arnica.
Depending on the type of surgery, the homeopath might recommend other remedies believed to have particular affinities for different organs or circumstances, such as Bellis perennis for breast and abdominal surgeries; Calendula, Hypericum, Arnica, or Staphisagria for dental surgeries; and Carbo vegetabilis when there is great weakness and loss of fluids. Homeopathic Acetic acid might be used to help effect a quick recovery from the after-effects of general anesthesia (nausea and wooziness).
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13. Ludtke R, Hacke D. On the effectiveness of the homeopathic remedy Arnica montana. Wien Med Wochenschr. 2006;155:482-90.
14. Seeley BM, Denton AB, Ahn MS et al. Effect of Homeopathic Arnica montana on Bruising in Face-lifts: Results of a Randomized, Double-blind, Placebo-Controlled Clinical Trial. Arch Facial Plast Surg. 2006;8:54-9.
15. Robertson A, Suryanarayanan R, Banerjee A. Homeopathic Arnica montana for post-tonsillectomy analgesia: a randomised placebo control trial. Homeopathy. 2007;96:17-21.
16. Karow JH, Abt HP, Frohling M, et al. Efficacy of Arnica montana D4 for healing of wounds after hallux valgus surgery compared to diclofenac. J Altern Complement Med. 2008 Jan 16.
17. Paris A, Gonnet N, Chaussard C, et al. Effect of homeopathy on analgesic intake following knee ligament reconstruction: a phase III monocentre randomized placebo controlled study. Br J Clin Pharmacol. 2008;65:180-187.
Last reviewed September 2014 by EBSCO CAM Review Board Last Updated: 9/18/2014