The Mustard Gas Experiments of 1941-1942

             One of the first double-blind and placebo-controlled trials ever conducted for a governmental agency (England’s Ministry of Home Security) tested homeopathic treatments during World War II and was conducted in 1941-42 on volunteers whose skin was burned with mustard gas.  The Glasgow trial included 40 volunteers, and the London trial included 240 volunteers. A more recent analysis of the data further substantiated the statistical significance of this study (Owen and Ives, 1982), and even more recently, it was described in detail in the famed Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine (Dean, 2014).

In the Glasgow experiments, only Mustard Gas 30C was used, given moments before getting exposed to mustard gas.  The first experiment found that none of the first 12 patients receiving homeopathic treatment experienced deep lesions after exposure to mustard gas, while all (!) of those volunteers who received a placebo experienced deep lesions.  Of the next 28 volunteers who received the homeopathic medicine, 12 had superficial wounds and two had deep lesions after the homeopathic treatment.  In comparison, those volunteers who were given a placebo, two experienced superficial lesions and 12 had deep lesions.

In London, two experiments were conducted.  The first experiment included 139 volunteers who were assigned to take one of several homeopathic medicines known to treat burns, including Rhus tox, Kali bich, Opium, Cantharis, and Mustard Gas (all in 30C).  A second experiment was conducted with 101 volunteers, in which they were either given a placebo or a specific protocol of Variolinum 30C and Rhus tox 30C, taken after exposure, as well as Mustard Gas 30C and Rhus tox 30C given 14 days before exposure.

The results of the London experiments were sent for “independent analysis.  A report determined that “there is certainly an indication of beneficial effects of the drugs in general.”

A recent review of this study acknowledged that despite the remarkable results at two locations, the Ministry of Home Security still rejected the results on the grounds that the experimental technique must have been flawed, despite the fact that the Ministry helped in the design of the trial that included the use of placebo controls, blind outcome assessment, and independent statistical testing.  The Ministry of Home Security never provided any evidence that these studies were flawed, but considering the positive outcome of the studies, they simply assumed that something was wrong with them.

Dean, Michael Emmans. The Mustard Gas Experiments Done by the British Homoeopathic Society for the Ministry of Home Security, 1941-1942. Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, 2014 107(11)453-455.  DOI: 10.1177/0141076814521937.

Paterson, J. Report on Mustard Gas Experiments,  Journal of the American Institute of Homeopathy, 1944, 37:47-50, 88-92.

Owen, RMM, and Ives, G.  The Mustard Gas Experiments of the British Homeopathic Society: 1941-1942,  Proceedings of the 35th International Homeopathic Congress, 1982,

 

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