Diluting homeopathy

By Phil Plait | December 29, 2008 7:00 am

My friend Joel Parker sent me a link to a wonderfully satirical article by a man who was (also satirically) running for President. It consists of many short slices of ideas, including this one about homeopathy:

ONE OF THE PRINCIPLES of homeopathic medicine is that a smaller dose is considered more effective than a larger dose. This has profound implications for U.S. foreign policy. At the moment, we have 158,000 troops in Iraq. Imagine if we had only six! According to homeopathic logic, this presence would be much more successful.

Glass of water from blmurch’s Flickr stream

This sentiment is certainly no more silly than any others that meet the standards, such as they are, of homeopathology. Homeopathy is perhaps the most ridiculous of all quackery, since it says that the best medicine is medicine that is entirely gone. In theory it hardly needs debunking; it’s a cul-de-sac of reason, Poe’s Law incarnate. It’s the solipsism of medicine.

Still, many people believe in it, so in practice it does need debunking. In a typical essay showing all the myriad ways homeopathy goes wrong, the usual suspects are displayed: the theory behind it doesn’t make sense, water doesn’t have memory, diluting medicine actually makes it weaker, and all that. But you don’t need to go into all that detail. Why not? Because homeopathy is self-denying! Just look at it this way:

If homeopathy works, then obviously the less you use it, the stronger it gets. So the best way to apply homeopathy is to not use it at all.

Quod erat demonstrandum.

Still, homeopaths tend to be immune to logic and reason (ironically, proving homeopathy at least in principle: the less likely you are to ask for scientific evidence to support it, the stronger homeopathological evidence gets).

So we need a practical application, a way to stop homeopathy practitioners cold. And I think I have it.

The next time you meet one, ask them what they do when they get thirsty.

If they really believe homeopathy, then within days all the homeopaths will be gone, deceased due to diligently dogmatic dehydration. And the beauty of it? According to their own logic, once all the homeopaths are gone, they will have reached maximum strength.

They win, we win, medicine wins, logic wins. Everyone wins. Well, technically, they don’t win, being dead and all. But they made their point! I think.

Anyway, spread the word! And if you’re a homeopath, then it’s your duty to link to this very blog post: according to your own tenets, the more it gets out there, the weaker it is! So submit it to Digg, submit it to Fark, put it on Slashdot, and Boing Boing, and Neatorama. Get millions of people to visit this page. It’s the only way to stop skepticism!


Photo courtesy blmurch’s Flickr stream.

Comments (86)

  1. One of the ads that showed up on the RSS feed of this article was for some “Reklight” place that promised to “raise your vibration”.

    Just something of note, especially considering the skeptical tone of this blog. Personally, I think it’s hilarious that they’re wasting money on ads that they won’t benefit from (unless it’s cost per click).

  2. That argument isn’t effective, because homeopaths say you don’t have to merely dilute the mix, you also have to bang it a certain way and/or number of times make the chemical molecules impart their information to the water molecules (or something like that).

    Mere dilution isn’t enough – that’s their logical release valve.

  3. Thanks for the laugh! Great post. Sadly, sarcasm is a fine art that seems lost on the witless.

  4. hmmm

    >>First, stripped of its current scientific scaffolding, Darwinism is a 19th century social theory that has been turned into a ‘general unified theory of everything’, and as such belongs in the same category as Marxism and Freudianism. The big difference is that Marxism and Freudianism – throughout their existence – have been contested (many would say decisively) by several alternative ways of organizing and interpreting the same body of data. In the case of Darwinism, this largely ended by 1950. However, it doesn’t mean that Darwinism has somehow turned into something other than a 19th century social theory. No, it’s simply a 19th century social theory with unusual clout. Indeed, Darwinism is really no different from Marxism and Freudianism in using its concepts as rhetorical devices for associating intuitively clear phenomena with rather deep and mysterious causes. I hope to draw your attention to examples of this in the coming weeks.<<

    http://www.uncommondescent.com/evolution/a-resolution-for-darwin-year/

  5. Be prepared for legions of outraged homeopaths to descend on you…

    Our local health food store has a couple of folk working there who are so convinced of homeopathy that they shove it on their customers for everything (whether it’s warranted or not).

    I was in there with a friend and we were chattin as she got her veggies and fruit. She asked me how I was doing after some surgery I’d had. We were chatting about it when we got up to the counter and the “practitioner” who was working the register more or less butted in and told me that the condition I’d had treated for would not have required surgery if I’d used some homeopathic tincture she was hawking. I asked if she was a doctor and she said no, that she felt the medical establishment was flawed and corrupt and preyed on women, the elderly, children, innocent pets, etc. and that this tincture (a mixture of dried herbs and water) had recently come out and was what everybody was using. I asked if it had been tested and she said that natural herbs don’t need to be tested. OH yeah?

    Epic fail there on three counts: first for being rude and butting into a private conversation and the second for unauthorized diagnosis of a problem without having any training in that particular specialty. I’ve had trained doctors tell me they don’t tread on other specialties’ toes, yet here was Trained Herbalist telling me that she knew all about the condition I’d had treated because she’d read about it in her herbal books… and, well, the third fail for implying that anything natural didn’t need to be tested…

    sorreeee…. my insurance company doesn’t pay for uneducated guesses and unsupported potions, no matter how pretty the labels are.

  6. I hope you told your health-food nutter where to get off. I would have been extremely rude, then reported here to the manager.

    Of course, I wouldn’t be shopping in a health-food store in the first place, as the “standard” food I get in my supermarket works pretty well. ;-)

  7. Stephen

    When faced by someone asserting that “homeopathy works”, be sure to ask them which homeopathy. You see the so-called classical homeopaths insist that it is absolutely essential that every patient be individually examined by a trained homeopath and given an individually-tailored prescription. (This is their excuse for not applying double-blind testing.) While the mass-market homeopaths claim that one size fits all. Obviously one group must necessarily be wrong. Don’t let a supporter of homeopathy go until he/she has stated (a) which group is wrong and (b) how he/she knows.

  8. As much as I think homeopathy is bunk, this post isn’t really going to do any good* . It is like people saying “If evolution is true, why aren’t mice evolving into humans RIGHT NOW!”; making witty observations that don’t have much to do with what they believe is only going to make people think you haven’t bothered to think seriously about their arguments. Homeopathy says that the a compound that induces negative symptoms in high concentrations will have curative effects for those symptoms at (crazily) low concentrations: there is no reason to deduce that they would think that the effect of water would get stronger with dilution, or any such things.

    And ultimately, that their mechanism is completely aphysical is not the main problem with homeopathy – the biggest problem with homeopathy is that it fails to perform better than placebo. If it worked, if homeopathic medicine outperformed placebo despite having no physical difference, their mechanism sounding stupid wouldn’t matter.

    *not that a post HAS to do good, of course. If you just wanted to be amusing and nothing more, then disregard this comment

  9. IVAN3MAN

    ccpetersen: “Be prepared for legions of outraged homeopaths to descend on you…”

    Well, I’ve just submitted this article to Digg in the “Health” category. Expect trouble, Phil!

  10. DGKnipfer

    Got to remember that one for my sister. She keeps falling for all that crap.

  11. tacitus

    I spent a week in Glasgow’s Homeopathic Hospital when I was a child (about 35 years ago now). Of course, I was having a minor surgical procedure on the National Health Service, so I assume that was where there was a free bed and surgical facilities at the time, rather than anything to do with homeopathy.

    Still, it’s a little odd, knowing what I know now, that I spent some time in such a place all those years ago.

  12. kraut

    Unfortunately, the assumption is wrong, and the homeopters will not be discouraged by their dilutional fallacies.

    The crux of the matter is not only in the dilution of the herbal substances involved, but in the shaking of the mixtures all the way down that somehow gets water to retain a memory and establishes a “bond” between “healer” and patient.
    Without this vigourous and shaking governed by rules no go.

    They always have a way out.

  13. PJE

    @tacitus

    I thought homeopathy was more recent than 35 years. How long have these shenanigans been going on?

    Pete

  14. Orihara

    Even better: Oxygen! Takes only a couple minutes as opposed to days!

  15. JJA

    I am tempted to buy a homeopathic remedy, just so that when the seller extends a hand to receive payment for the bottle of water, I can take out my wallet, extract a penny, rub it firmly on the seller’s palm, put it back in my wallet, and walk away.

    Excess money in the hands of the gullible or misinformed supports many societal ills such as quackery and pseudoscience. Perhaps homeopathy could itself be cured by a homeopathic remedy of micropayments?

  16. Levi in NY

    Ah yes, homeopathy, or as I like to call it, the dilution delusion.

  17. David D

    @CCP–
    Vote with your feet. What the hell were you doing in a store like that anyways?

  18. Levi in NY

    @PJE: Since the late 18th century, well before the invention of modern science-based medicine.

  19. Stephen

    @PJE: Homeopathy is much older: it was invented by Samuel Hahnemann in the last few years of the 18th century and further developed by him in the early 19th. But there are more recent versions which, as I indicated in my first comment, are incompatible with the original version.

    At least Hahnemann had the excuse that a treatment which did nothing was an improvement on many of the medical treatments of the time.

  20. The Mad LOLScientist

    Does this mean that if I’d skipped school all the times I wanted to, I’d know everything in the universe?

  21. Brian Gefrich

    I suppose this is what Obi-Wan really meant when he said to Vader that striking him down would make him more powerful than he could ever imagine.

  22. JD

    I’m all for debunking when these types of things lead to physical harm of the general populace. What I think we need to remember, however, is the power of the mind and the placebo effect. As far as I’m concerned, as far as people aren’t being turned away from actual medicine and aren’t endangering themselves or others, these types of “treatments” can be useful in inducing the placebo effect, which is real and can certainly bring about positive effects for the patient. Antidepressants only work a fraction more than the placebo effect and we still accept them as “medicine.”

    Thanks for writing – I love your blog!

  23. Cornbread

    While I agree homeopathy isn’t much better than placebo, if at all, I’m afraid you’re mistaken about its central premise. The only places I’m seeing that particular definition of Homeopathy (that a small dose works better than a large dose) is in sites that debunk it.

    My understanding (and Wikipedia agrees) of Homeopathy is that a substance which induces certain symptoms can be used to treat the same symptoms. Hence the name (homeo = same). For instance, a friend of mine suggested I take arnica, which causes bruising, to treat the bruises and soreness I got from playing sports. While I noticed new (painless) bruises appearing while I was taking arnica, I had no idea whether my symptoms were going away any faster than if I was taking nothing at all, so I must reserve judgment on that particular remedy, but I find it hard to believe that the principle can be generalized to all symptoms and substances.

    Interestingly, if you reverse the chronology of the plan, and use homeopathic medicines as a prevention rather than a cure, then it looks a lot like a vaccination: a small, weakened dose of a poison creates immunity for the future. That doesn’t prove anything, but it’s interesting to think about.

    In any case, you’ve got the right opinion for the wrong reasons.

  24. Gary Ansorge

    Levi:
    Dilution Delusion? Pithy, Dude!

    So, I guess in order to get MORE energy out of the Tokamak, we just need to put in LESS fuel? How cool is that? Then, in order to go faster, all we need do is apply the brakes??? Could that be the answer to why we’ve seen no ETs? Like, they put on the brakes to stop and say hi, but ended up zipping right past us,,,or in order to solve global warming, we just need to burn more coal(inverted logic here:hey, if it works in one direction, wouldn’t the commutative rule apply?),,,erk!!!

    I’m sorry, now I have to go wash my brain out with soap,,,

    GAry 7

  25. madge

    HELLO AGAIN!
    Remember me? Finally back from a battle with health issues (none of which were mine) Just in time to say that
    HOMEOPATHY NEARLY RUINED MY CHRISTMAS!
    Over family dinner I met a devout homeopathist who I firmly but very politely, scientifically and with great good humour, DEBUNKED! My extended family have split down the middle between thise that thought I was out of order and those that applauded my attempts. Believe me when your husband has been written off as having M.E. and told to go cure himself you clutch at straws and will try everything….we have done crystals, aromatherapy, acupuncture, and every diet unfer the sun AND homeopathy. After giving each and every one a fair go I can declare that NONE of them work except meditation for the panic attacks.
    Happy new Year everyone

  26. ND

    Cornbread,

    But if you’re already bruised, your body is already reacting to heal it. How does taking something that also creates bruising help? Your body is already dealing with it.

    You also hit the nail on the head when you say you don’t know if arnica made the healing process faster. There was no reference to compare to in that situation. This is why experiments usually have a control group to compare to.

    According to wikipedia, arnica is used topically but not orally since it’s toxic in high doses.

  27. AcesHigh

    although homeopathy is nonsense, this article against it was very badly written. Too many superficial remarks that show the author didnt even bother to really check what homeopaths think.

  28. Deepsix

    The only evidence that supporters of homeopathy can offer is anecdotal.

    And for those critical of Phil’s article- don’t take it so serious. I’m pretty sure most of it was tongue in cheek. Except the part about homeopathy being pure crap.

  29. Old Geezer

    For the record going in, I think that homeopathy is bunk. I think so because I cannot fathom how it could possibly work. That said, I don’t understand how vaccination could work, because it uses the same principles with only a different delivery system. I mean, come on, dilute the Smallpox thingies and shoot them into you and it will save you? Can’t be. Phil’s got me pretty convinced that diluting stuff can’t make it useful as a cure!

    And while we’re at it, I don’t understand gravity. The moon, way out there, pulls on the earth? How can that be? I don’t understand the mechanism, so it must be BS. Gravity DEBUNKED!

    Perhaps we should go back to a less snarky form of criticism. It doesn’t work because it doesn’t work. Our understanding of the process, our willingness to embrace the process in some areas but not others, our general skepticism are not reasons to snicker and guffaw. The focus should be on, “Show me why this works and until them I will remain a skeptic.”

  30. Julian

    “although homeopathy is nonsense, this article against it was very badly written.”

    agreed but not for the same reason. To me it just came off as ‘twatish’ which is only ok if you’re exceptionally clever in your derision.

    I don’t mind a strawman so long as there’s somehting insightful in there.

  31. Greg in Austin

    @AcesHigh,

    So, if I were to write an article about how the earth is round, I should check with “Flat-Earth Believers” to see what they think first?

    8)

  32. Old Geezer

    @Greg in Austin:

    No, but it might help to know whether Flat-Earthers really believe it or are just pulling your leg. Would you mount a serious protest against someone else’s silly joke? Would you vehemently protest their belief that there are no mountains only to find they believe there are mountains on an otherwise flat plane? Best to know your enemy before you deride his beliefs.

  33. What I find maddening about natural medicine (or whatever you want to call it) is that there may well be some useful, workable cures in those herbs but you’ll never know for certain, what for all the quacks trying to push the cure-all the herb-of-the-week.

    Herbalist says that his tincture can help with, say, anxiety. Fine. Do a study. If you really believe that your tincture works, then you should have no problem putting your tincture up head to head against a placebo and diazepam in a controlled trial. If you beat the placebo but not the Valium, at least you can still say you’ve got something.

    But they never seem to want to do this. If I were feeling charitable, I would say that it is because they don’t know how to manage a clinical trial. But after having talked to number of homeopaths, I have concluded they are more than smart enough, they just don’t want to know. And that’s uncool, because it implies that deep down they’re not really sure of the efficiency of the ‘cures’ they peddle but they sell them anyway to make a buck.

  34. Stephen

    Cornbread: “While I agree homeopathy isn’t much better than placebo, if at all, I’m afraid you’re mistaken about its central premise. The only places I’m seeing that particular definition of Homeopathy (that a small dose works better than a large dose) is in sites that debunk it.”

    Perhaps you should then consult Samuel Hahnemann’s ‘Organon der rationellen Heilkunde’, first published in 1810, which is effectively the homeopathic bible. He lays out the principle of ‘potentiation’ and recommends usage of C30 – 30 successive dilutions, each with a factor of 100.

    There are probably two reasons why you are not finding this sort of information on pro-homeopathic sites.

    1) If they are anything like the sites and books I looked at a few years ago when I was reading up on all this, they are as vague as hell on practically everything. This of course isn’t surprising, given that they have neither solid clinical evidence nor a plausible theoretical model, nor in many cases even a modicum of medical knowledge.

    2) Many substances sold under the flag of homeopathy are not homeopathic at all (at least in the sense that would have been recognised for 75% or so of the time that homeopathy has existed). They are herbal or otherwise dubious potions that have crept in because various legislations permit homeopathic medicine without defining properly what that is. It is important to understand that just because a potion is sold under the flag of homeopathy doesn’t mean that it is harmless.

  35. Jon Blumenfeld

    The thing about the placebo effect is this:

    In a medical trial, treatment is compared to a placebo. If the treatment only does what the placebo does, it is considered to do NOTHING.

    Medicine is only real if it does something MORE than the placebo – otherwise it is considered unproven, and selling it as medicine is fraud.

    It’s time to stop considering the placebo effect some kind of treatment – take a closer look at it and you’ll find it only works for subjectively measured conditions – like pain – anyway. It doesn’t do anything for, say, CANCER. Just like homeopathy.

  36. eyesoars

    I love the Levi in NY’s moniker for homeopathy, “The dilution delusion”.

    My favorite (and only funny) homeopathy joke:

    Q: Did you hear about the homeopath who forgot to take his medicine?

    A: Yes. He nearly died of an overdose.

    /es

  37. “At the moment, we have 158,000 troops in Iraq. Imagine if we had only six! According to homeopathic logic, this presence would be much more successful.”

    But Phil, this is a straw man! In order for this to truly work, you would have to shake those troops vigorously at every step of the dilution. I am shocked at your willingness to misrepresent homeopathy.

  38. Mick

    Sending only six to Iraq would have been great.

    It’d have been either a failed invasion, not getting the world into THAT mess.

    Or it’d have been a succesful assassination squad, only killing Saddam and his cronies, sparing the rest of the people. And also not getting anyone in the mess of having to maintain the conquered country.

    Either way, profit.

  39. Eric TF Bat

    @eyesoars: Here’s another, courtesy of my friend Arthwollipot:

    Q. How many homeopaths does it take to change a light bulb?
    A. 0.000000000000000000001

  40. ND

    Eric TF,

    Shouldn’t that be none? Given how some dilutions actually have none of the active ingredient in them.

  41. Phil, I’m torn [wink-wink]:

    you say “homeopathy is perhaps the most ridiculous of all quackery”.

    Yet, “science based natural medicine” [e.g. http://www.wellspringwholehealth.com/about.php , http://www.oregon.gov/OBNE/Aboutnaturopathy.shtml ] states that homeopathy is a “clinical science” [e.g. http://www.nabne.org/nabne_page_23.php ; http://www.nesh.com/main/nhc/info.html ].

    Doctors are obligated to the professional ethical standard of “credat emptor”.

    Look, I like you and all — as a JREF member, and recent TAM attendee [and I KNOW you’re a Skeptologist and all] — but, DOCTORS wouldn’t lie so blatantly, couldn’t lie so crudely.

    Help me out here.

    -r.c.

  42. daijiyobu: Note that those aren’t AMA approved boards. The one government site (oregon.gov) means nothing:” just that naturopaths lobbied to get recognized by the Oregon government. That doesn’t mean what they do is science.

    I know you winked, but the point you bring up is similar to what people arguing seriously say. It cracks me up: are Big Pharma and the AMA out to kill us to make money, or not? I get confused.

  43. Reading comprehension: it works. I stated that I was in the store with a friend who was shopping for veggies. It wouldn’t have been polite for me to say “You go on, I’ll stay out here and keep myself away from the evil homeopathists…” No, I went in with her so she could get some vegetables that were available there that weren’t available at our local grocery store.

    So for those of you who felt it necessary to berate me for being in the store, read what I wrote again.

  44. Sham

    Just noticed a small, irrelevant, but amusing thing about the spoof presidential campaign this topic started off from: The “correct” homeopathic reduction of 158,000 soldiers is not 6 soldiers, if we’re relying on Hahnemann’s 30C, but something closer to one stray electron from the soldier of your choice.

  45. James Pannozzi

    Ah! Yet more hilarious innuendo against Homeopathy.

    I was all set to join many of you and dismiss it as nonsense when, whoops,
    I unfortunately read of the M. Ennis experiment clearly showing biological effects stimulated by a high dilution solution in which all the atoms of the stimulant had been diluted away – she got unexpected positive results and had the courage to publish it, in the journal Inflammation Research, vol 53, p. 181.

    But wait! There’s more. A bit farther in the search, I discovered that
    there was a BBC Horizon documentary on Homeopathy which “repeated” her experiment with totally “negative” results! (Thank goodness, I thought, it really was nonsense…there could be no such stimulation of biological effects by a solution which had no atoms of the stimulant) And, reassuringly,
    the wikipedia article about Ennis clearly mentions the “documentary” and that it got “negative” results repeating her experiement in question. I’m told the announcer in the documentary also actually says taht they are repeating her experiment… But… READ ON, for MORE WHOOPSIES….

    Ennis, being the curious researcher that she is, tried contacting the BBC Horizon producers regarding the “repetition” of her experiment and, at the very least the name of the unknown researcher who
    did the “repetition”. Contacting the producers turned out to be VERY difficult. (As you can imagine, a number of angry Homeopaths were also trying to contact them).
    After some MONTHS of this, they finally responded to her and sheeishly admitted that,
    gee whiz, they had never ever intended to repeat her experiment and in fact, the nice
    researcher let her know that he had used a chemical which killed the cells involved in the
    experiment thus ruining it from the outset either by design, error or complete incompetence.

    So WHOOPS AGAIN, the experiment stands and for the FINAL WHOOPSIE, it has been confirmed by a resarcher names St. Laudy. About 20 minutes of googling will confirm all of these whoopsies
    and so once again, I am prevented from dismissing any of it as nonsense
    because the only nonsense here is the innuendo, lies, selective misrepresentation
    and unscientific bigotry against something for which the key research has barely begun.
    I think this whoopsie is far funnier than this idiotic joke article, ridiculing the scientists who are probably risking their careers trying to find out how and why the bloody thing works.

    About the only dilution I’ve seen here is in the intelligence of the author
    of this article, and it is a pretty high dilution, so among those that prize ridicule
    and innuendo, there most certainly is high power.

    Whoops.

    1: Lorenz I, Schneider EM, Stolz P, Brack A, Strube J.
    Influence of the diluent on the effect of highly diluted histamine
    on
    basophil
    activation.
    Homeopathy. 2003 Jan;92(1):11-8.
    PMID: 12587990 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]

    2: Sainte-Laudy J, Belon P.
    Use of four different flow cytometric protocols for the analysis of
    human
    basophil activation. Application to the study of the biological
    activity of high
    dilutions of histamine.
    Inflamm Res. 2006 Apr;55 Suppl 1:S23-4. No abstract available.
    PMID: 16705375 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]

    3: Sainte-Laudy J, Boujenaini N, Belon P.
    Confirmation of biological effects of high dilutions. Effects of
    submolecular
    concentrations of histamine and 1-, 3- and 4-methylhistamines on
    human
    basophil
    activation.
    Inflamm Res. 2008;57 Suppl 1:S27-8. No abstract available.
    PMID: 18345504 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]

    4: Sainte-Laudy J, Belon P.
    Improvement of flow cytometric analysis of basophil activation
    inhibition by high
    histamine dilutions. A novel basophil specific marker: CD 203c.
    Homeopathy. 2006 Jan;95(1):3-8.
    PMID: 16399248 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]

  46. lc

    @David D Says:
    homeopathy may be completely bunk (don’t know much about it), but there is nothing wrong with health food stores. Certain supplements can be beneficial, and these places sell high quality food.

    @JD
    It depends on the type of antidepressant and the given study, but most of the time they are found to work more than just “a fraction” better than placebo — although I will acknowledge that a recent controbersial study in PLoS found no benefit. Can’t remember which particular drugs were looked at..

  47. No, no, no, no, no! Diluting the US force in Iraq to 6 is not even a 5C solution, you need to be much more dilute than that! In order to get a really strong (homeopathic) presence in Iraq, you need to dilute the force down past the point where there are actually *any* troops remaining in the country.

  48. Oh, and there’s that satire I wrote of homeopathy…[warning, explicit lyrics!!!]…

    http://satirizinghomeopathy.blogspot.com/

    This was after attending ND school and leaving primarily because I was appalled at the pseudoscience — like the fact that NOTHING was being given to patients in homeo. sugar pills, yet it was being called and sold as MEDICINAL.

    The satire is soon to be assembled as an mp3.

    -r.c.

  49. Peter B

    Perhaps those who support homeopathy might like to explain why the doses for children are smaller than those for adults, if smaller doses are more potent.

  50. Lao Tzu

    @James Pannozzi: Thanks, James. As someone who is still looking for unbiased information about homeopathy I found your contribution far more valuable than Phil’s usual rant about this topic.

  51. Pauline

    My preferred remedy for the problem of homeopaths, is to put them all up against a wall and shoot them. I was raised in Bristol, UK, in the southern part of the city, and my family doctor was (at first) a closet homeopath – this was the 1960s. He inflicted terrible suffering on my parents, and especially my mother after my father died. My father’s health was fragile all his life through war injuries, and this fraud issued prescriptions which had to be filled at one particular pharmacy three miles from our home, and we never knew why. My parents were of a generation that accepted professional authority without question, in a way that’s difficult to contemplate now.
    After my father died, my mother (a lifelong smoker) started coughing up blood and lost 42lb in weight in six months. I was living abroad at the time but neither my mother, my sister or brother ever revealed anything wrong in phone calls. I came home to find my mother slumped in a chair, covered in blood. She had called this quack doctor several times, and been given prescriptions for ‘nerves’. I got Mum to the emergency room where the tentative diagnosis was TB, eventually turning out to be terminal lung cancer.
    I, and several other people whose relatives had suffered at the hands of this hyphenated-named fraud, tried to get him struck off, but he had too many friends in high places, and we failed. When he died of leukaemia in 2004 he rejected all his homeopathic fantasies and took the best the UK National Health Services could offer.

  52. @Lao Tzu

    Rather than rely on a homeopusher for ‘unbiased information’, try reading reports of large double-blinded, randomised and placebo-controlled clinical trials and see for yourself that homeopathy is, at best, effective only as a placebo.

  53. Deepsix

    @Lao Tzu

    LOL! Good one! I love good sarcasm. Oh, wait, you weren’t being serious, were you?

    All I learned from James’ long post was that he really really likes to use variations of the word “whoops”. And CAPS.

  54. James Pannozzi

    @Deepsix
    “All I learned from James’ long post was that he really likes to use variations
    of the word “whoops”. And CAPS.

    That’s all you learned??

    WHOOPSY DAISY!!!!

  55. Todd W.

    @James Pannozzi

    A couple flaws I noted in what you put forth as evidence supporting homeopathy, apart from three of the studies being by the same authors and thus not supporting a replicability argument:

    1) The Lorenz study looks only at the effect of the diluent (e.g., water, ethanol, brandy, etc.) on the effectiveness of high dilutions. In other words, it compared different homeopathic preparations using different diluents against one another, not against non-homeopathic preparations or placebos. So, this study says absolutely nothing about the efficacy of homeopathic preparations, only that the medium used to dilute the preparation affects the effects of the preparation.

    2) PubMed didn’t have abstracts for the first two Sainte-Laudy papers, but did for the third one. The study appears to have not had any placebo controls, like the Lorenz study, and simply compared against another homeopathic preparation. Unfortunately, the abstract does not explain what substances were used to make the preparations, which, as shown by the Lorenz study, can alter the results. The goal of this study was to find a method that was more sensitive to any possible effects from different dilutions. In other words, methods of measuring that were previously used did not show a measurable effect, so the researchers set out to find something that supported their belief that something was happening. Again, this does not show that homeopathy actually does anything clinically significant, as there was apparently no control used.

    Now, my observations are based on the abstracts, as I don’t currently have access to the full text of the studies cited, so my comments might be off. But your citations as I read them fall rather short of your assertion that homeopathy actually has evidence to support its effectiveness.

    Also, I am curious about your source regarding the statement that Ennis found out that the BBC fudged the results for their Horizon documentary. Could you please provide a link (without the www so it doesn’t get caught int he spam filter) supporting your claim?

    Thank you.

  56. Bob

    Phil,

    while I completely agree that homeopathy is a piece of crap, your argument “then obviously the less you use it, the stronger it gets” is incorrect. Homeopathy states something along the lines that you first imprint the active ingredient in the water, then dilute it and the more diluted it is, the stronger it gets. Their point is that the thing that heals you is not the molecule of the active ingredient, but it’s imprint that is present even after all the molecules were diluted away. So, it’s not “the less you use it”, but “the more diluted it is”. Again, it is still a nonsense, but I think we should use correct arguments when dealing with nonsenses 8)

  57. John Phillips, FCD

    Old geezer, if you weren’t having fun, FYI, vaccines are usually one of two forms. One, an inactivated virus which has either been killed or weakened but retains its 3D physical chemical structure. This physical structure is what your immune system recognises as alien thus creates antibodies for that structure. Two, a portion of a virus that is enough for your immune system to recognise as alien and create antibodies against but which doesn’t contain the dangerous part of the virus. With both types, when you get infected the antibodies recognise the structure of the live virus and respond accordingly.

    Nothing at all like homeopathy for the simple reason that a vaccine actually has an ‘active’ ingredient while a homoeopathic one doesn’t contain any active ingredient. In fact, if you diluted your vaccine too much it would lose its effectiveness, the opposite of homeopathy. Every properly controlled trial of homoeopathic medicine has, at best, only found equivalence with placebo, never better.

  58. John Phillips, FCD

    Bob and others, read this post’s tags, you can see them at the bottom of the post, one of them is humour :)

  59. James Pannozzi

    @Todd W.
    Regarding your last question first:

    For a good overview of the Ennis experiment and the supposed BBC repetition, type the following into google and it will take you to the New Zealand Homeopathic Society web site :

    “Ultra-dilute solutions, lies and videotape – now truths”

    They have several other good articles on Homeopathy research and testing, do stop and read some of them.

    Also, for the exact emails sent to the BBC producers, and comments from their researcher, type the following into google which will take you to Dana Ullman’s Homeopathic Educational Services web site (no I have no connection with either of them)

    “Two e-mails to the BBC’s Producer detailing the serious errors of fact in their program”

    Regarding the Lorentz study, its purpose was not to show efficacy but to indicate the possibility of biological activity being stimulated by highly dilute substances. My point was that sufficient evidence, exists to warrant continued research regarding a key issue – the possibility that high dilution solutions do indeed somehow stimulate biological activity even though all molecules of the stimulant were diluted away.
    Likewise with the other studies by St. Laudy, they are there to show the possibility of biological stimulation by high dilution solutions, not to show efficacy!
    This might (just might!) form the basis of a theory of Homeopathic mechanism.

    Ennis herself, as far as I know, remains a skeptic of Homeopathy.

    She originally did the experiment because she did not accept St. Laudy’s earlier results and repeated them, with improved controls, expecting negative results. The outcome she got was unexpectedly positive, and I’ve read that 3 out of 4 international labs that repeated her experiment at the time also got positive results.

    What this means is that junk journalism, such as this article represents – this unscientific attempt, through ridicule, to discredit a field of research that has barely begun, with modern scientific instrumentation to find out what’s what, represents a threat to all scientists. Can there be a scientific basis for Homeopathy? Research, not innuendo, will tell us one way or the other.

    For several years, I’ve heard nothing other than that the Lancet 2005 meta analysis completely disproved Homeopathy efficacy by “establishing” through its meta analysis of 110 trials, that Homeopathy did no better than placebo. That was the advertisement that has been repeated far and wide, even at, of all the damn places,
    the IHEU (International “Humanist” and “Ethical” Union) website. But reading the meta analysis we find that, after various data “manipulations” the tests upon which their spurious conclusions was based amount to 8 (EIGHT!!) trials.

    The Lancet concluded from this study with an editorial proclaiming the “end” of Homeopathy. (Whoopsie again!)

    Many at the time objected to this “scientific” analysis including even some anti-Homeopathists. But it comes as no surprise that the laborious reconstruction of that meta analysis was recently analyzed and found completely worthless in a Journal of Clinical Epidemiology article and elsewhere:

    Lüdtke R, Rutten ALB. The conclusion on the effectiveness of
    homeopathy highly depend on the set of analysed trials. Journal of
    Clinical Epidemiology, 2008. doi: 10.1016/j.jclinepi.2008.06.015

    Rutten ALB, Stolper CF. The 2005 meta-analysis of homeopathy: analysis
    of postpublication data. Homeopathy, 2008. doi:10.1016/j.homp.

    The fact that the mere mention of the word “Homeopathy” scares the crap out of certain special interests is not my concern. I continue to support genuine scientific research, and researchers such as Ennis, or Dr. Iris Bell MD, PhD no matter where their research leads. (More whoops!) I repeat, no matter where it leads, and I don’t care whose theories get trashed in the process.

  60. Todd W.

    @James Pannozzi

    Thank you for the added information. I noted that in the Ennis-related material, it was mentioned that the studies did not look at homeopathy at all, but examined high dilutions of histamine, according to Ennis. Although I’m loathe to simply accept the accounts on the two web sites you directed me to, as they are pro-homeopathy sites rather than neutral third parties, there’s nothing that screams that the accounts were made up. At best, the BBC program’s experiment failed to replicate the methods used in the Ennis study. This does not, however, validate Ennis’ study.

    The Lorenz study was not about whether or not there was a biological stimulation in response to highly dilute substances. It started with the assumption that there would be stimulation. The question, rather, was what differences there would be with different dilutions. So, yes, it did not look at whether or not homeopathy was effective, but it seemed from your original post that you were providing it as evidence that homeopathy actually works. Regardless, the abstract of the study made no mention of any controls (e.g., diluent without any histamine from the beginning), nor whether the same batch of diluent was used to make all of the different preparations used, or whether there was some variation in source materials that could introduce contaminants.

    Likewise, the Sainte-Laudy studies had similar failings. I will agree that it is not a study showing that homeopathy actually works, so it can’t be used in any arguments that homeopathy is a valid treatment. Like the Lorenz study, no mention is made of any controls, so again, the study is flawed in that it cannot demonstrate that the preparations used differ in any meaningful way from a placebo or other non-homeopathic preparation.

    Though you appear to be very supportive of the idea that homeopathy actually works, you have yet to provide any evidence supporting an efficacy claim. Instead, you have shared studies that have flawed suppositions and lack of controls that look at one purported aspect of homeopathy, but not at the effectiveness of homeopathy itself, and critiques of studies that question the efficacy of homeopathy.

    I haven’t had time yet to look at the Lancet issues, but if I can, I’ll take a look at it.

  61. Old Geezer

    @John Phillips, FCD

    Thank you for your statement of the obvious. My point wasn’t in regards to some identicality between vaccination and homeopathy. It was that broad-brush dismissal of one for having some of the same broad-brush characteristics of another (that deserves unbridled support) is deleterious to both arguments. It is sort of like hating peas because they are green, while supporting the greeness of lima beans. Now it is your turn to exhaustively explain that peas and lima beans come from different plants.

    Old Geezer, JPP

  62. I think most people are unaware of what homeopathy really is. Most people I talk to have it confused with herbal remedies. I think most reasonable people would doubt its effectiveness if they knew what it really is.

  63. Chris A.

    Homeopathy is bunk, no doubt. But the “reducing the number of soldiers in Iraq to increase their effectiveness” is a flawed analogy. Homeopaths claim that the substance being diluted must be one that causes similar symptoms to the disease being treated. For example, if you have a rash, the substance being diluted should be something like urushiol (the irritant in poison ivy).

    It is, perhaps, a fine point. But just the sort of thing a homeopath will cite to bolster their case that mainstream science doesn’t understand what they’re doing, and thus has no right to criticize. A bit like astronomers who argue that astrologers should include Ophiuchus as a zodiac sign, failing to realize that the astrologers’ definition of constellations is different than theirs.

  64. Todd W.

    @Chris A.

    Well, we’ve got a war. Soldiers cause wars. Repeatedly dilute and shake and tap the soldiers. Result: solution to cure war.

  65. “At the moment, we have 158,000 troops in Iraq. Imagine if we had only six! According to homeopathic logic, this presence would be much more successful.”

    But Phil, as a science fiction fan, you should know that it works exactly like that! Ever notice how large groups of soldiers and whatnot get wiped out immediately, while it’s the teeny-weeny crack team – or lone Time Lord – that saves the universe?

    Heheheheheheh. ;)

  66. James Pannozzi

    @ Chris A. Says

    On the contrary, Chris, people who say that Homeopathy is bunk are spouting bunk.

    When certain groups including a major news organization manage to get it wrong about Ennis’ experiment – an experiment which clearly shows biological activity being stimulated by high dilution solutions with no molecules left of the stimulant – and when researchers are recently clearly confirming this fact, then that is not bunk.

    I don’t really care if you chose to ignore the science which currently only offers the possibility of an explanation, or if you care to deny it but these kinds of sweeping statements that it is all bunk or all a fraud will NOT go unchallenged by me and other – particularly when dedicated people, real scientists, real MD Homeopaths and real Homeopathic physicians are working, researching and curing people every day.

    You are welcome to your opinion but I urge you to become more informed.

    If you still feel compelled to attack science, try ridicule against the EPR experiment in Quantum Mechanics, or the many worlds theory – far crazier than Homeopathy if that is your measure of things, but supported by many respected scientists.

  67. Todd W.

    @James Pannozzi

    an experiment which clearly shows biological activity being stimulated by high dilution solutions with no molecules left of the stimulant

    What this experiment suggests to me is that the diluent is probably responsible for the stimulation. Again, the experiment was flawed from the start because it lacked proper controls.

  68. SEO

    Homeopathy is based on energy and not the product concentration………I’m still not sure if I can buy into this healing treatment.

  69. Torbjörn Larsson, OM

    people who say that Homeopathy is bunk are spouting bunk.

    This is so much … bunk. Homeopathy is shown to be bunk. The expected effect of ingesting vanishingly diluted water solutions is to work as a placebo. According to commenters here it does, so already known chemistry is tested as explaining the effect.

    To push everyday trusted chemistry end-over-end, homeopaths have to come up with a predictive theory and better than placebo results. After decades of “work”, they can’t.

    [As a note to those arguing for accepting constraints for test, I would argue that it isn’t how science usually work this. It is enough to show that the general mechanism doesn’t work in any case, as BA does.

    I’m quite sure that I have seen debunking papers also treating “tap and shake” procedures, diverse chemicals used, et cetera. But as there AFAIU aren’t any proposed mechanisms to test there, that is so much harder to work with, with no gain in understanding.]

    […] the science […] researching […]

    If there isn’t any peer reviewed work or theories presented among chemistry and medicine research, there isn’t any research nor science here. I’m afraid your pretensions must be dismissed as spouted bunk.

    try ridicule against the EPR experiment in Quantum Mechanics, or the many worlds theory – far crazier

    I’m not sure how “craziness” is a measure of research, but FWIW this shows your utter unfamiliarity with it. Modern EPR experiments happens AFAIK to be among the best substantiated of all empirical science due to their exceptional nature – I believe some potential non-quantum explanations have been refuted with over 20 sigma significance. (Ordinarily one may be happy with testing theories at 3-10 sigma or so.)

    And MW “theory”? Please, it is claimed to be the preferred QM interpretation among theoretical physicists working in cosmology nowadays, close to BA interests btw. Look at the papers, reviews and interviews of physicists Sean Carroll and Max Tegmark for some substantiation of that.

    Btw, QM interpretations are currently not “theories” in any shape or forms, as they don’t make distinguishing predictions. Which is why you can choose freely among them, they are empirically equivalent, no one “crazier” than the others. (Well, some add extra assumptions, which is “crazy” from a parsimony view. But then MW is making fewest assumptions, fewer than instrumentalist “shut-up-and-calculate” independent axiom usage even as is easily checked by axiomatizing them, so by that standard it is least “crazy”.)

    Science is the observation of testable non-contingent facts triumphing over so called learned or imagined contingent “common sense” or “craziness” values. What would be crazy for a scientist is to entertain the later concepts or debunked antiscience such as homeopathy.

  70. Sili

    Well, the homs ‘out’ for pure water is that the ‘special, magical shaking’ is an integral part of what makes homoeopathy ‘work’.

    Secondly, “like cures like” so in order to apply hom to Iraq we’d need to send in a homoeopathically diluted amount of insurgents while getting rid of the ‘allopathic’ troops that are already there.

  71. Torbjörn Larsson, OM

    This is OT and tenuous (but fun!) – but I have to thank BA’s commenters for realizing a putative coincidental support for MW from a recent proposal of Sean Carroll.

    Carroll shows that a fundamental way (there are others) to avoid Boltzmann Brains in cosmology is to have the QM Hilbert space infinite dimensional. (If I understand Carroll correctly we know BB’s can’t occur as often as the thermal equilibrium scenario suggests, as the rest of the local universe isn’t in such an equilibrium. So we have to understand why that is so.)

    Among other things Carroll’s proposal nicely implies that time is real, QM ambiguities when combined with gravity notwithstanding. But it dawned on me when pondering the thread now, that as it also supports using the universal wavefunction it is supporting an MW tool if I’m not mistaken. And I assume there is sufficient (but perhaps not necessary) self-consistency in MW endlessly branching on an infinite-dimensional Hilbert space without running into local repetitions now and then. Nice, I guess.

  72. James Pannozzi

    @Larsson

    “I’m not sure how “craziness” is a measure of research, but FWIW this shows your utter unfamiliarity with it. Modern EPR experiments happens AFAIK to be among the best substantiated of all empirical science due to their exceptional nature – I believe some potential non-quantum explanations have been refuted with over 20 sigma significance. (Ordinarily one may be happy with testing theories at 3-10 sigma or so.)”

    I quite agree but… didn’t you know that was all due to quantum “placebo” effect?

    See, the same utter nonsense used against Homeopathy can be used against any other scientific field with equal facility.

    “Science is the observation of testable non-contingent facts triumphing over so called learned or imagined contingent “common sense” or “craziness” values.”

    I quite agree!

    “What would be crazy for a scientist is to entertain the later concepts or debunked antiscience such as homeopathy.”

    WHOOPS!! But to this I disagree. You just said that science utilizes observation of testable non-contingent fact triumphing over … “common sense” or “craziness”.

    Don’t you see the circular fallacy of your position? You’re PRESUPPOSING Homeopathy to be anti-science and debunked and THEN discarding any attempt to entertain any theories about it. You’re discarding the observational part AND the attempt to formulate theories of it based on those observational curative effects which are dismissed as “placebo” by some, despite the fact that the scientific research supports, for at least some conditions, its efficacy above placebo. Denying that, you ignore the refutation which trashed the “no better than placebo” conclusion of the meta analysis of the Lancet 2005 article as worthless that I cited.

    You’re allowing the craziness of the damned thing to trump your reason, short circuit your thinking and ZAP shut down all consideration of attempted research.

    Worse, you allow you already subverted thinking on this issue to be
    hijacked by others via ridicule and innuendo. Tsk tsk, very unscientific.

    I rest my case.

    Thanks everyone for hearing my opinion!

  73. Torbjörn Larsson, OM

    I see what you are saying Sili, but following science we can say that diluted troops doesn’t work (except in Hollywood, where no science applies ;-)) and that is plenty tested.

    I assume that if you want to make that argument, diluted amounts of insurgents have already been invading war theaters before, surely even Iraq. And supposedly the existing background amounts of troops, diluted or not, isn’t a problem for war homeopathy, or it wouldn’t “work” at all.

    But I’m curious – exactly what is the ‘special, magical shaking’ in war homeopathy? Civilian protests? Friendly fire? Or having Bush as commander-in-chief?

  74. Todd W.

    @James Pannozzi

    Your case, thus far, has fallen rather short of demonstrating that there is anything to homeopathy.

    Perhaps you can share some well-designed, placebo-controlled, double-blind research that shows that any particular homeopathic preparation does, indeed, have a clinically significant effect on the disease for which it is prepared. What you have provided, thus far, has not held any scientific validity for refuting the idea that homeopathy is bunk.

    As I have already pointed out, the studies you shared which purport to validate some mechanism of homeopathy, only show a biological response, which may, in fact, be due to the substances used as the diluent, rather than the “active” substance. I would also ask you to provide a link to a study that confirms that the “active” substance really does “imprint” on the diluent. If this is true, then there must surely be a way to measure it, no?

  75. Torbjörn Larsson, OM

    didn’t you know that was all due to quantum “placebo” effect?

    There isn’t any amount of quantum effects in a classical universe (but the reverse is obviously true) – so no, no underlying “placebo”.

    I rather suspect from this that you don’t know what a placebo effect is, it is just a rhetorical tool for you, so you don’t have any tools what so ever to judge medicine (or homeopathy) with. But feel free to demonstrate otherwise.

    You’re PRESUPPOSING Homeopathy to be anti-science

    Nice try with sophistry, but I both started out with clarifying why homeopathy is demonstrable bunk and specified debunked antiscience.

    you ignore the refutation which trashed the “no better than placebo” conclusion of the meta analysis of the Lancet 2005 article as worthless that I cited.

    I didn’t ignore it at all, I specifically mentioned other commenters showing such studies to be bunk. Specifically Todd, who left off after doing so with 3 out of 4 suggested “refutations” with hoping to have time to look at the last one.

    But as for me, that is enough to establish the pattern – that 3 out of 4 “works” on the same subject are wrong is unlikely to about two sigma (one-sided interval) if I’m not mistaken, against even chance of failure.

    ridicule and innuendo

    I surely hope so, as harmful antiscience can either be met by sadness, ridicule or humor to deflate it. I know what response I prefer to leave out.

  76. Torbjörn Larsson, OM

    D’oh, I should have updated. Just for the record, as already noted I’m plenty satisfied with the excellent effort of Todd, I wasn’t trying to suggest more of the same would make a difference.

  77. Julian

    “I quite agree but… didn’t you know that was all due to quantum “placebo” effect?

    See, the same utter nonsense used against Homeopathy can be used against any other scientific field with equal facility.”

    My familiarity with the arguments of homeopaths is very low but I take when one of them starts invoking quantum mechanics it usually signals they have no idea what they’re taking about, right?

    “Don’t you see the circular fallacy of your position? You’re PRESUPPOSING Homeopathy to be anti-science and debunked and THEN discarding any attempt to entertain any theories about it.”

    There’s no circular reasoning involved. Experiments trying to validate Homeopathy as a form of treatment have failed, been poorly performed ect so the obvious position to take is there’s nothing there.

    “You’re discarding the observational part AND the attempt to formulate theories of it based on those observational curative effects which are dismissed as “placebo” by some, despite the fact that the scientific research supports, for at least some conditions, its efficacy above placebo.”

    and these instances would be?

    “I rest my case.”

    but you haven’t said anything…

  78. James Pannozzi

    @Todd
    “Your case, thus far, has fallen rather short of demonstrating that there is anything to homeopathy”

    Glad I glanced back here one last time. Todd, perhaps I did not make myself
    clear – my comments were directed at the irrationality of the attacks against Homeopathy, nothing more. I provided directions to some web sites which you acknowledge that you visited that clearly indicate the BBC documentary did not replicate her experiment despite understandably widespread belief to the contrary.
    I believe you indicated agreement with their objections against the documentary though you wished that there was independent confirmation from non Homeopathy related sites.

    I also provided reference to two journal articles, one of them from the Journal of Clinical Epidemiology which completely refuted, I believe, a Lancet 2005 meta analysis widely disseminated and accepted that claimed to show that Homeopathy operated no better than placebo.

    Finally, I offered cites to current research which seems to show confirmation of Ennis’ (and others) experiment demonstrating biological effect from highly dilute solutions. These effects have been repeated and other researchers continue to get these unexplained results. NONE of these points proves Homeopathy and they are offered only as justification for continued research towards the possibility of a theory.

    It is neither my intent nor mission to “prove” Homeopathy to you or anyone else.
    That is the job for the researchers and as far as I can see, there is just enough evidence in their double blinded placebo controlled testing to allow them to continue, and, hopefully, make larger and better tests which will either confirm the Homeopathy curative effect, or else show that there never was one.

    My only gripe was with people irrationally claiming it is all bunk at a time when the research has barely gotten off the ground, and the research instrumentation is just starting to be precise and powerful enough to give us a chance at getting at the mechanism of it. I then criticized those dismissing it as bunk who, it seemed to me, were adapting that as their premise and then drawing sweeping conclusions from it – not a good way to proceed.

    Sweeping uninformed statements such as Julian makes, that “experiments trying to validate Homeopathy as a form of treatment have failed…. are refuted by a quick trip to google, even though his observation that those tests were poorly performed is partially correct in some cases.

    Likewise Julian should make note that it was not I that invoked quantum mechanics.

    Thanks
    JP

  79. Laurie

    Well this is interesting. Most who turn to any sort of alternative medicine are usually doing so I find out of desperation. They or someone they love has something which modern medicine shakes its head at and turns them away with little or no hope. They may try the 50,000 vitamins and herbs being peddled or psychics or whatever.

    I went down that road with my severely autistic son. Medicine has offered me crap. Put him in school, have no hope, blah, blah. I put him in school- what a joke. The teachers didn’t appreciate his outbursts when they couldn’t anticipate his needs (he doesn’t speak at almost 6 years old). She began asking me what to do and couldn’t handle him. I pulled him out of school (the end of the meltdowns) and he now goes to the school just for his therapies. Still, 2 years of school and no progress.

    We tried some vitamins/herbs. Talk about expensive! Ridiculous expense and again- for us no progress. Out of desperation I turned to homeopathy. I read a lot about it before beginning. I found that homeopathy is widely accepted overseas and has been for a couple of hundred years, yet somehow it really didn’t make the trip across the ocean. There are still tons of homeopathic hospitals overseas and it is taught widely to medical doctors in many countries.

    I learned there is a lot of quackery and “changing” of homeopathy in this country. It is sad, as people who try it often have little or no results because they are just taking it themselves or have a practitioner with a poor understanding of the principles. Remedies sold in combinations of many remedies are crap and not something based on homeopathic principles. You never take more than one at a time!

    Classically trained homeopaths are the ones who should be following the principles laid out by Hahnemann, however many do not. The truest are those trained by Luc Schepper, David Little, or Robin Murphy. They all follow sixth edition organon principles.

    I feel sorry for Madge above- panic attacks can be treated by homeopathy and I have treated them in my daughter. You need a good practitioner!

    If arnica is CAUSING bruises, then it is being taken too often and proven. Did you just take it dry the same dose over and over? Never do that. Take one dose dry, if it helps then put it in half a bottle of water, shake and take a dose, if you need more it must be succussed before each dose- that is the banging on the hand you all spoke of. It should never cause bruises. Don’t take the herbal tincture- that is crazy!

    Also there is potency. A low potency remedy for something acute will do little. Having a bad fall and taking arnica in anything lower than a 200C is going to do little or nothing. Health food stores generally sell only the 30C and it can be helpful, but again is a medium range strength. For a panic attack one would take a high strength.

    One should only take a remedy again if the benefit has worn off. It is not like a pill you pop every few hours.

    Yes, vaccinations are homeopathic. So is your stimulants treating hyperactivity in ADD patients- (Ritalin, Adderall). Those are the same principles. Like cures like.

    For those who care, few of you I am sure, my son has greatly improved. He is now potty trained and using words. This is with therapy only once a week (we can’t afford further private therapy) and ongoing homeopathic treatment. (By the way, how can a placebo work with someone who doesn’t speak and has no idea what he is taking?).

    I did not write this for you skeptics. No one can force anyone to believe anything, however if someone who is open to it and interested should stumble upon this blog I hope they will read this entry and consider it.

    I do obviously believe in homeopathy and it has greatly improved my life and that of my family.

  80. James Pannozzi

    @Laurie

    Well said!

    There is a great book on Homeopathy by a woman who had an autistic child and found great assistance from Homeopathy doctors – see “Impossible Cure the Promise of Homeopathy” by Lansky. I believe she has a web site (I do not have the link handy) which has some additional interesting material including some mp3 audio presentations by Homeopathic doctors.

    Thank goodness that we still have freedom of medical choice which allows you to chose treatments best for you and the available resources that you have.

  81. Todd W.

    @Laurie

    I’m glad to hear that your son is doing better. Are you using ABA with him?

    As far as homeopathy goes, first I need to correct you regarding vaccines – they are not homeopathic. The only thing that vaccines share with homeopathy is the idea that like treats like. As was already noted by someone else above, vaccines work by using small amounts that are always present in every dose which trigger the body to create antibodies which match the physical shape of the virus. Homeopathic preparations, from what I have read, often do not have any of the original active ingredient in the final dose form, particularly at the higher potencies, such as 200C.

    There are a couple other difference between vaccines and homeopathic solutions. First, with vaccines, it is possible to measure and see the actual method of action which leads to the therapeutic result. Homeopathic solutions, as yet, have no studies showing a clinical response that can be definitively linked to the active ingredient. Second, vaccines, which have been around for about the same amount of time as homeopathy, have an abundance of research supporting their efficacy and identifying just how they work. Vaccines are supported by a robust amount of research. Homeopathy lacks such quality research. Given that it has been around since the late 1700s, there should be some decent studies that identify how it supposedly works, identifying the method of action and establishing a clinically significant effect compared to placebo. A final difference is that vaccines must establish that they are safe and effective for their indication. This means that for any new vaccine, new vaccine formula or new dose form of a vaccine, the product must undergo years of testing to ensure that it is not going to harm the patient and that the product actually improves the patient’s condition. Homeopathic solutions are under no such regulation.

    You also question how the placebo effect can occur with someone who cannot speak and does not know what they are taking. In these situations, the observer can skew the interpretation of any observations made. It is a different sort of bias that can creep into these kinds of tests and is why quality studies are double-blind. In other words, to get accurate results, neither the person taking the solution nor the person making the observations knows whether the patient is receiving the actual medicine or a placebo. In circumstances where the administrator of the medicine knows what is being given, their expectations can influence what they take notice of and what they ignore. For example, in the case of you and your son, you are aware that he is receiving a homeopathic preparation, which you expect will help him. This expectation is strengthened by your desire to find something that will work, combined with the research you have done that supports that desire. Due to this expectation, you may perceive an improvement, when in reality, nothing has changed. If you really wanted to find out if a homeopathic solution was working for your child, you would need to be unaware of the true identity of the solution you are giving him; it may be the “real” one, it may be a placebo, or it may be a completely different preparation. Someone else not involved in the preparation or administration of the solutions would have the key to unblind the study to find out what has been observed to make a difference, and what has been observed to have no effect. If you were to undertake such an endeavor, I suspect you will be surprised by the results.

    @James Pannozzi

    The reason that I mentioned that you have not done very well to demonstrate that there is anything to homeopathy is that all of your posts have suggested that you do, in fact, believe that there is something to it, and that you have been trying to convince us of this. However, with all of the research that is out there already, there has yet to be anything of quality that even suggests that homeopathy works. It has had over 200 years to gather some evidence. With the lack of quality research, the subject has reached and passed the point where it is reasonable to continue investigating it. Put plainly, at this point any further research into homeopathy is almost guaranteed to be a fruitless endeavor.

    While there may be some flaws in studies that are critical of homeopathy, the onus is still on the proponents to provide evidence that it really works. Just because person A is wrong does not mean that person B is right.

    So, again, if you think that there really is something worth investigating, here, by all means point us to some quality research. What you have provided so far does not suggest that there is anything going on.

  82. Julian

    “Yes, vaccinations are homeopathic. So is your stimulants treating hyperactivity in ADD patients- (Ritalin, Adderall). Those are the same principles. Like cures like. ”

    I don’t think you understand how vaccines work. You may want to consider talking to a microbiologist or other about them. ‘Like cures like’ is probably just an analogy used to explain how they work to the layman or a layman’s rationalization after noticing their effects.

    A lot of science ends up being butchered that way and, of course homeopaths, and the like have no problem doing the butchering.

  83. Olavius

    Most of you miss the point here – homeopathic remedies doesn’t have to be in ultra high potencies.

    Where is the “placebo” in for instance arsenicum 1x or 2x (1 to 10) or digitalis 3x?

    Many wise men and women have turned to homeopahty over the past 200 years and they will continue to do so.

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