The Weekly Woo: Homeopathy, or… there’s no medicine in my medicine?

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Time for the Weekly Woo, and this week, we’re exploring some memorable bullshit… homeopathy!

For starters, what is homeopathy? From CVS Pharmacy’s website, “The term homeopathy is formed from the combination of two Greek words: omio meaning “same” and pathosmeaning suffering. This etymology reflects the homeopathic belief that a substance that causes certain symptoms in a healthy person can cure an ailing person of similar symptoms.”

If you’re not steeped in the scientific process or how, um, real medicine works? This sounds like it may have some credibility, right? This is on a pharmacy’s website, they sell real medicine, they used words in Greek, well of course it’s real! Continuing on CVS’ website…

“The first law is known as the Law of Similars, or “like cures like.” This law states that “a substance that produces a certain set of symptoms in a healthy person has the power to cure a sick person manifesting those same symptoms.” The second law, or Law of Infinitesimals, states that diluting a remedy makes it more powerful.(…) Hahnemann’s third law, the Law of Chronic Disease, states that “when disease persists despite treatment, it is the result of one or more conditions that affect many people and have been driven deep inside the body by earlier allopathic therapy.”

First, the Law of Similars may sound familiar. That was the first argument I heard of homeopathy. After all, in somebody with typical brain chemistry, caffeine or other stimulants cause hyperactivity. In somebody with ADHD however, stimulants have a calming effect. Like cures like. This is the example from real medicine that proponents of homeopathy allege gives their version of medicine credence.

But that’s, give or take, where their three laws seem to stop having any level of basis in reality.

Their second law states that diluting a substance makes it more powerful. By this line of thinking, the dilutions continue in succession several times. In the homeopathic remedies that are sold over the counter, they dilute the medications to the point where there is no measurable dose of the alleged active ingredient.

Allow me to rephrase: THERE’S NO FUCKING MEDICINE.

Apply the maxim of homeopathy to someone who needs an injection of epinephrine when they’ve had a severe allergic reaction.

Don’t worry, little Timmy, we’re giving you the homeopathic dose. Breathe deeply, son.

When first being presented with any piece of allegedly scientific information about a medication, ask yourself what the active ingredients are and what the studies are behind it. First, we’ve established that there is no active ingredient. But what about the studies? To CVS website again…

“Thus, on the face of it, homeopathy seems to be a method that should not have a ghost of a chance of being true. However, some studies have found evidence that homeopathic remedies do, in fact, relieve symptoms of illness. Many of these were double-blind, placebo-controlled studies, the most meaningful kind of study. This presents a conundrum to impartial scientists.”

Oh really?

http://journals.lww.com/clinicalpain/Abstract/1998/09000/Homeopathic_Arnica_30x_Is_Ineffective_for_Muscle.9.aspx

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9828870

http://edzardernst.com/2013/02/a-new-and-refreshingly-rigorous-trial-of-homeopathy/

Those are the first three peer reviewed, double-blind studies I could find. All of which said the same thing:

http://www.howdoeshomeopathywork.com/

Where the hell did CVS get their information? From their stock holders who saw how well the homeopathic remedies sold during flu season from people who should have gotten flu shots instead?

The third Law states that allopathic medicine drives disease further into the body. ‘Allopathic medicine’ is what charlatans call real medicine. This is quite the odd thing for CVS to put on their website given that they do purvey things like dextromethorphan, tylenol, and flu shots, all of which actually goddamn work.

Conversely, this is the problem with homeopathy. There isn’t a shred of evidence that it works. None. Proponents claim that real medicine, the stuff with the peer reviewed papers and the evidence? Doesn’t work. And this is the danger of homeopathy; there are real medications that work for your ailments; from the symptoms of the cold to all the way up to cancer, and they don’t involve telling you that water has a memory. Besides, if water has a memory, think about your tall glass of tap water that was cleaned from a reservoir. It’s as full of bullshit as the homeopathic remedies that your local pharmacy sells.

Speaking of which, maybe we should do something about this.

https://www.change.org/p/cvs-and-walgreens-and-rite-aid-stop-selling-homeopathic-remedies

Sign the petition, tell CVS, Walgreens, and Rite-Aid that they should only sell medications that contain… medication. Their customers deserve better than bullshit.

-Science Babe.

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10 Comments

  1. Have you watched the homeopathy debates online that are available? I suggest watching these before totally debunking homeopathy. I have a bs in psychology and biology. Now, i am 4th year medcial student.

    I am a proponent of blending ancient wisdom that is confirmed with recent research and have a trust in medicine that has been used for thousands of years.

    Modern science changes every 5 years, whereas ancient medicine has been stable. I prefer to use both in developing my opinions and treatment plans.

    • If you’re a medical student, please let me know where you will be practicing so that I know never to go there if you don’t change your thinking on homeopathy. I don’t want a doctor who prescribes sugar pills. A lot of scientists worked really hard to research real medicine. They didn’t do that so that you would prescribe placebos.

      This isn’t ancient. Please look into the history of it. Some guy just thought it up about two-hundred years ago. These are sugar pills conjured up with fancy terms by a snake oil salesman. No more, no less.

      Every meta study has shown that it has no efficacy than the placebo affect. James Randi has offered a million dollars for any homeopathic remedy that has been proven effective. He still has his million dollars.

      And besides, I already went for debunking in this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0Rd3Saoktc0

  2. A pity that the first law of homeopathy says that the ‘medicine’ will make a healthy person sick, otherwise – according to the second law – they could cure the whole world of every disease simply by dropping a single molecule of each type of .. well let’s call it snake oil .. that these people peddle into the ocean and letting evaporation and rain do all the work.

    😉

  3. In Europe it’s everywhere and even doctors prescribe some remedies for minor things like headaches. Why is it so hated here? It isn’t used as a replacement for medicine, just for minor things. I take the little round pills and it’s the only thing that helped my car-sickness. Herbal remedies, traditional Chinese medicine, myofascial therapies, chiropractic, massage, and homeopathy are acceptable therapies there and even covered by insurance. I don’t get why it’s so ridiculed in America. odd.

    • “In Europe it’s everywhere…” Argumentum ad populum. You might as well say that ‘in Haiti voodoo is everywhere’ as proof that magic spells are real and zombies can be raised from the dead.

      You confuse tolerance due to political and economic influence with scientific validity, report an anecdote that’s likely a placebo effect at most, and ignore the official findings of studies in Britain and other parts of Europe that show homeopathy to be utter nonsense.

    • The problem lies when people stop taking their medication for serious real life illnesses and rely on the recommendation of a ‘natural therapist’ to treat their illness. I have asthma and have suffered from it my whole life. (diagnosed at 6 months now in my 40’s) I have nearly died twice with my illness and take several medications each day. I saw a ‘NT’ several years ago who insisted I needed to rid myself of the toxins of my medication and follow a strict diet as well as a natural therapy. End result a severe attack 3 weeks later that landed me in intensive care. I had a long discussion with my Dr about how stupid (and nearly fatal) that course of action was. I have no time for charlatans

  4. I am also a fourth year medical student at ETSU. I am appalled that any fourth year medical student at any institution would buy into homeopathy. Of all the alternative modalities, it is the one that has absolutely NO basis in reality. I hope you are not going into primary care. We need physicians who are able to appropriately educate their patient population regarding these issues, and you definitely should not be one doing it.

  5. Apparantly, red wine, in moderation, can be beneficial for your health, so making your own homeopatic tipple by using one drop from an expensive bottle and some water would create the kind of medicine many people would just love.

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