Objectives: The objective was to evaluate homeopathic basic research studies that use plant-based bioassays. With this in view, a compilation was made of the findings of three systematic literature reviews covering plant-based bioassays in the three fields of healthy, abiotically, or biotically stressed plants. This compilation focused on investigations using advanced experimental methods and detailed descriptions, also with the aim of supporting the design of future experiments.
Methods: Publications included had to report on studies into the effects of homeopathic preparations on whole plants, seeds, plant parts and cells. Outcomes had to be measured by established procedures and statistically evaluated. A Manuscript Information Score (MIS) was applied using predefined criteria to identify publications with sufficient information for adequate interpretation (MIS ≥ 5). Additional evaluation focused on the use of adequate controls to investigate specific effects of homeopathic preparations, and on the use of systematic negative control (SNC) experiments to ensure the stability of the bioassay. Only a fraction of the studies reported here were performed with 'ultra high' dilutions, whereas other studies were performed with moderate or high dilutions.
Results: A total of 157 publications were identified, describing a total of 167 experimental studies. 84 studies included statistics and 48 had a MIS ≥ 5, thus allowing adequate interpretation. 29 studies had adequate controls to identify specific effects of homeopathic preparations, and reported significant effects of decimal and centesimal homeopathic potencies, including dilution levels beyond Avogadro's number. 10 studies reported use of SNC experiments, yielding evidence for the stability of the experimental set-up.
Conclusion: Plant models appear to be a useful approach for investigating basic research questions relating to homeopathic preparations, but more independent replication trials are needed in order to verify the results found in single experiments. Adequate controls and SNC experiments should be implemented on a routine basis to exclude false-positive results.
Keywords: Agriculture; Basic research; Field trials; Homeopathy; Impaired plants; Noxa; Phytopathological models; Potentisation; Review.
Copyright © 2015 The Faculty of Homeopathy. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.