Anti-Science

Celebrating World Homeopathy Awareness Week – Day 1

Today, April 10, marks the first day of World Homeopathy Awareness Week (who the hell starts the week on a Thursday?). Originally, my plan was to bring you a series of posts, written from my bathroom called “Crap while I Crap”. However, in the interest of sparing you the visual, I have chosen to blog from the couch while I watch TV. Unfortunately “Crap while I watch TV from the Couch” isn’t catchy, fails to convey my feelings about homeopathy, and might lead people to think they should avoid sitting on my couch. Maybe I’ll come up with something clever later in the week.

To get the ball rolling on day one of Homeopathy Awareness Week, I thought I would bring you some information from the site WorldHomeopathy.org. (This is sort of their FAQ, but without the “questions” or “asking” parts. Fortunately, they don’t call actually call it a FAQ, so that’s one thing on the page that’s not misleading or utterly false. They get one fact-based point for that.) Today I bring you their “Top 10 Reasons to Use Homeopathy”

(1) No harmful side effects
A special preparation process called potentisation refines the medicines to remove any toxic side-effects. It is suitable for babies and octogenarians alike and during pregnancy and menopause. However you should only take homeopathic medicines under the guidance of a qualified homeopathic practitioner if you are pregnant.

Not only do you not have to worry about any effects it will have on your sides, but it will have no effect on your front, back, top, bottom, inners or outers either! So unless you consider “not actually doing anything to ease, cure or treat your disease or symptoms” to be a harmful side effect of homeopathic medicine, it is totally 100% safe.

(2) Gentle
Homeopathy works by stimulating the body’s own natural defense mechanism. Although gentle the results may be powerful and long lasting.

Let me break down this one point by point, wrong information struck out and my comments in bold

Homeopathy worksnopeby stimulatingdoesn’t stimulate crapthe body’s own natural defense mechanism.” I’ll give this one back to you plus $10 if you can tell me what that “mechanism” is. “Although gentle the results may be powerful and long lasting.Gentle, yes, but the only “result” will be that you’ll eventually have to pee. Hopefully that effect would not be long lasting.

(3) Easy to take
Homeopathic medicines are given either as small pleasant tasting tablets which dissolve in the mouth, or in liquid form. Granules, powders or drops are available for babies and children.

Just as easy (and effective) as sucking a Tic-Tac or drinking water.

(4) Inexpensive
Homeopathic medicines cost surprisingly less than allopathic prescription medication.

I don’t know much about this one since I don’t purchase anything that says “homeopathic” on it. But to compare the cost of prescription drugs that have to undergo pricey processes of research, development and testing to the cost of homeopathic “drugs” that only have to be put into water then declared effective is a little unfair. Also, “natural alternatives” that I’ve seen at my local drug stores often times cost more than their evil western medicine “equivalents”.

(5) Not tested on animals
Humans respond differently to medication than animals do. All homeopathic medication is tested on healthy humans. The symptoms that a substance taken over time elicits in a healthy person, are shown to be exactly those that can be cured in a sick person suffering from those symptoms.

Maybe the no animal testing point has more to do with the fact that your gerbil is immune to the placebo effect?

(6) Preventative treatment
By boosting the body’s immune system, homeopathy can help improve a person’s resistance to illness and infections.

I cannot address this particular point better than it was addressed on the Quackcast Podcast episode 22 , “Boost Your Immune System and Die”

I like to avoid dying from my medicine… especially if it’s not going to do anything else to help me feel better.

(7) Patient involvement
Homeopathy takes into account the whole person i.e. it is Holistic. The homeopath will ask many questions, not only about the symptoms which are bothering an individual, but how they react to the condition, as well as wanting to know about general health and lifestyle. Like a practitioner and psychologist in one.

Yeah just like practitioners and psychologists except without having their brains bogged down with all that pesky information from all those years of school.

(8) Value for money
Homeopathic medicines are generally less expensive than conventional medicines. The homeopath will spend a great deal of time getting to the root of your problem. The homeopathic medicines are intended to boost the immune system, making you stronger and less likely to get sick.

Wait, isn’t this just #4 and #6 combined? This is a Top 10 list, no flashback episodes allowed!

(9) Invaluable for first aid
Homeopathic medicines can be safely used the home or workplace to treat simple problems-such as bruises, minor burns, sprains, insect bites and gastric upsets. However more serious or chronic complaints should be treated by a qualified practitioner.

Straight from the horses mouth – don’t use homeopathic remedies for anything that won’t naturally remedy itself!

(10) The medicine of the future
With over 6000 homeopathic medicines in existence and new homeopathic medicines being discovered all the time, Homeopathy is a growing art. However unlike allopathic medicine that takes drugs off the market every year as new side-effects are discovered, homeopaths still use the same medicines they were using 200 years ago with new medicines to broaden their scope. Scientists are only now discovering breakthroughs in quantum physics that helps us to develop a deeper understanding of homeopathy, as it was used 200 years ago.

Yeah remember the good ol’ days of 1808 back when medicine was really effective? Whatever happened to bloodletting or using whiskey as anesthesia? These kids today with their electricity and indoor plumbing have no appreciation for what real medicine was like in its heyday.

If medicine was so good then, why did my family always die of cholera when I played Oregon Trail?

That’s all for today, kids!  Join me here tomorrow to celebrate World Homeopathy Awareness Week Day 2!

Elyse

Elyse MoFo Anders is the bad ass behind forming the Women Thinking, inc and the superhero who launched the Hug Me! I'm Vaccinated campaign as well as podcaster emeritus, writer, slacktivist extraordinaire, cancer survivor and sometimes runs marathons for charity. You probably think she's awesome so you follow her on twitter.

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40 Comments

  1. On the body’s own natural defence mechanism

    First: a human consist only of its body (no soul, spirit whatever….)
    If somebody attacked me, i would fight or run depending on my estimation of possible outcomes. That is clearly a natural defence mechanism. :)

  2. The symptoms that a substance taken over time elicits in a healthy person, are shown to be exactly those that can be cured in a sick person suffering from those symptoms.

    Wait… so, because this medicine makes healthy people sick in a given way, we should give some of it to people already sick in that way?

    Are they completely bonkers here, or are they trying to tenuously link back to “low-level exposure to allergen” methods of treating allergies? Either way, wow.

  3. No, no, it’s true. I was having a rough time with ninja attacks and drank homeopathic ninja flash poison. Soon I was able to defeat the ninja army and my allergies cleared up too, thanks to the quantum entanglement between ninjas and cedar pollen.

  4. I’m wondering how the medicine is supposed to know you’re healthy (so it can induce symptoms) or diseased (so it can cure them)?

    If some substance is alleged to be a cure for some symptom, and that’s been ‘proven’ by it supposedly causing the symptom in a healthy person, surely as soon as the symptom started to appear, the person wouldn’t be healthy any more, so the substance should switch to curing them, cancelling out the symptoms it had started to cause?

    How could symptoms ever get to the point of being noticeable?
    Especially if homeopathy is supposed to be preventative as well as curative?

    >>”Homeopathic *medicines* are generally less expensive than conventional medicines. The homeopath will *spend a great deal of time* getting to the root of your problem.”

    Is it just the nasty old cynic in me, or are other people wondering what ‘a great deal of time’ costs?

  5. Originally, my plan was to bring you a series of posts, written from my bathroom called “Crap while I Crap”. However, in the interest of sparing you the visual,…

    Oops, to late. Someone take out my eyes please. No that won’t work, it’s a mental image. Kill me please.

  6. I’m confused by the tail end of number 5:

    The symptoms that a substance taken over time elicits in a healthy person, are shown to be exactly those that can be cured in a sick person suffering from those symptoms.

    Does that mean when they give their “substance” to a healthy person, it makes them sick?

  7. Does that mean when they give their “substance” to a healthy person, it makes them sick?

    Yes, that is exactly what that means. Homeopaths believe that like cures like. If you can’t sleep, you take caffeine. If you are itchy, you put poison itchy on your itchy parts. If you are drunk, you drink more beer.

    I shit you not.

    The only catch is that you dilute the substance. So you don’t just drink a cup of coffee to go to sleep, you dilute it 10 times, then 10 more, then 10 more… at least 6, usually 22-35 or so, times.

    But it gets better.

    Each time you dilute the solution by 10, it gets stronger and more effective.

    Yep. Crazy shit.

  8. Heh. I guess I should read the previous comments before posting. Thats… that’s just beyond weird. So by that logic, if I drink a glass of distilled/de-ionized water, it should cure pretty much anything.

    Homeopathic medicines can be safely used the home or workplace to treat simple problems-such as bruises, minor burns, sprains, insect bites and gastric upsets

    Wait, what do they prescribe for burns, bruises and sprains?

  9. There was a post on publication of a trial of homeopathy over at Science Based Medicine where they used homeopathy to treat childhood diarrhea in a third world country using a placebo control, not the recognized best treatment as required for any ethical experimentation on humans by the Helsinki Declaration. ( http://www.wma.net/e/policy/b3.htm )

    29. The benefits, risks, burdens and effectiveness of a new method should be tested against those of the best current prophylactic, diagnostic, and therapeutic methods. This does not exclude the use of placebo, or no treatment, in studies where no proven prophylactic, diagnostic or therapeutic method exists. See footnote

    http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/?p=82

    The result of the trial was negative, that is the homeopathic treatment was no better than placebo (not a surprise).

    The authors of the paper tried to rationalize why the treatment didn’t work, and one of their explanations was that this trial used a combination of 5 homeopathic agents which are often used singly to treat diarrhea, and the speculation was that the combination of homeopathic agents interfered with each other.

    I concluded that the failure of this combination therapy trial demonstrates that the homeopathic preparations tested either do not work to prevent diarrhea, or that 1 or more of the preparations caused sufficiently severe adverse effects that the beneficial effects of the curative agent(s) were neutralized.

    They either don’t work, or some have adverse effects that neutralize any therapeutic effects.

    If you accept the premise that at least one of the agents was effective, then the other agents were worse than nothing. They were actually harmful.

    I think this study very much calls into question the conclusion that homeopathic agents “can’t do any harm”.

  10. “I don’t know much about this one since I don’t purchase anything that says ‘homeopathic’ on it. ”

    I actually do. I frequently get poison ivy when working in my yard, and the most effective over-the-counter poison ivy treatment for me has the word “Homeopathic” on the tube.

    Now, before everyone thinks I’m all hopped up on the placebo effect, I’d like to point out that this product has actual ingredients in it….a “3X” solution. I suspect they labeled it this way to capture the (unfortunately) large market for homeopathic nonsense.

    I hate to encourage this sort of cynical pandering by purchasing it, but it is the only thing that has worked for me thus far.

  11. All homeopathic medication is tested on healthy humans.

    People with sense realize that there’s no danger of these “trials” harming people because there’s nothing harmful about water (assuming you aren’t drowning your test subject). But homeopathy advocates believe their substances do have effects. So they’re advocating testing on healthy people… how incredibly unethical.

    But at least the lab rats are safe.

  12. The funny part is that here in Brazil, well in Rio de Janeiro at least, is quite common to find homeopatic veterinaries. My wife believes that she can convince me that “it does work” and keep saying that “science don’t know everything and in a 100 years people will laugh at what we believe”.

    I tell her that a single success history is not a good statistic base for believing and that even if Ramsés (our cat) get better with the water pills it don’t mean anything.

  13. If homeopathic less is more philosophy really worked, shouldn’t they have a Homeopathic Awareness Nano-second?

    My father had to fight this nonsense throughout his career as a radiation oncologist and more than one patient of his with a perhaps curable cancer would fall into the clutches of these “healers” and other quacks. By the time they realized that they weren’t getting better and returned for evidence based medicine, their cancers had progressed and the odds of a cure had diminished or vanished. They kill people with their delusions.

    If we can’t charge them with murder, let’s license them all as physicians so they could be hounded into nonexistence with malpractice lawsuits.

    (Pardon the rant, but I worked in my father’s practice one summer – a nice, but misguided woman comes in with a treatable and perhaps curable cancer. She comes back a few months later having sought alternative treatment instead with an herbal poultice on an open wound and a life expectancy drastically shortened. So yes, let’s make people aware of homeopathy this week. No Quarter for Quacks.)

  14. “Is this the most expensive water on the planet?”

    Actually, a lot of homeopathic remedies don’t have any water in them. They dilute the ingredients in water and then spray the water onto sugar pills. The water, naturally, then evaporates, and you get a dry sugar pill.

    So their water cures can’t even cure thirst!

  15. Mark –

    I know we poke fun at the ridiculousness of it all, but you are 100% correct. Alt meds are dangerous and are a serious issue. This is why I intend to fully participate in World Homeopathy Awareness Week.

    I urge everyone reading this to participate.

  16. Wait, wait, wait — are you telling me that a Jack & Coke mixed at one part whiskey to twenty parts soda (instead of my usual one to two ratio) will keep me from having a hangover? Because it sure sounds like it.

    And, if I eat 50 dark-chocolate-covered almonds (which is what ACTUALLY grew on the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil) while I’m enjoying my whiskey, since chocolate and Jack Daniels go together so nicely, will the calories be negated if I eat 5 more of them?

    I kind of like this philosophy. And it’s supported by quantum physics!

  17. Once,

    In the 1900’s, when I was young, someone told me that science and medicine were nothing but “Chew on this bolt, do you feel better? Here, try a nail?”

    I patiently reminded him that science takes a much narrower group of trials to decide on effectiveness and he reminded me that “Edison tried EVERYTHING in light bulbs to make them work”.

    I asked, “So he poured milk in there? Pine pitch? I though he was, more or less, focusing on Tungsten or a group of metals thereof”

    Well, it did no good.

    Maybe this week will be different.

    I’ll participate,

    rod

  18. As someone who works for a real drug company, homeopathy angers me to no end. To meet FDA requirements, we have to prove that each and every batch of product meets certain potency, identity, and efficacy standards.

    For some reason, these frauds and their unchemistry get a free pass.

    Scumbags.

  19. Elyse –

    I like poking fun at some of the stupidity too (I had an entire standup bit about psychics etc.), but I think we occasionally run the danger of coming off as merely dismissive of the silliness when talking to non-skeptics.

    I think it is important when talking to fence sitters to highlight the ugly underside of this stuff – alt med kills, astrology and graphology are discrimination based on birthdays and pensmanship, traditional Chinese med traffics in endangered species, etc.

    The trump card I like to pull out when people shrug and think it doesn’t do much harm is an alt therapy my father looked into during his quack busting days. Some whackos in the Carribean believed that the blood from seriously ill people would help stimulate immune response when injected in other ill patients. If I remember correctly, the FDA seized a shipment of their blood product on the way into the US and tested it. As I recall (this was 15-20 years ago), something like half of the “treatments” were hepatitis positive and a quarter were HIV positive. If you weren’t sick before the treatment, you could be very sick after. (I’m working off memory here so if someone remembers the case differently, apologies).

    Sorry, I’m ranting again. Next post, I will try to be funny. Cheers.

  20. Here’s the question I have, and I have done some searching with little success, but I might be searching poorly. Are there any vitamin supplements that are good for us?

    I do think the multivitamin I give my child is good, because children tend to avoid veggies. I get plenty of veggies, so I might not even need my multi. But am I sticking to something out of habit and stupidity? Should I just junk the vitamin now that I am eating healthy?

    The other one, I do wonder about is the Fish Oil. Being as I don’t like fish, and toxins in fish worry me a little (although I have probably just bought into another fear mongering on that one), perhaps this one wouldn’t be so bad. Or perhaps the same toxins are in the fish oil and while fish oil is good, eating a capsule isn’t going to do sweet fa for me.

    Not sure, but thought this might be the best place to ask.

    In the long run, I feel that the harm of this industry is that it delays proper investigation of potential plants. Perhaps some of these roots they dig up have potential medical value, but the minute they get their hands on it, it becomes a joke. What’s the latest craze? Hoodia maybe? While I doubt it, maybe Hoodia does have potential to curb the appetite. But now that the circus has gotten hold of it, it’s a joke and the only people that would waste time investigating it are the hucksters. So we won’t know until our Robot-overlords decide to test it sometime in the future.

  21. “I do think the multivitamin I give my child is good, because children tend to avoid veggies. I get plenty of veggies, so I might not even need my multi. But am I sticking to something out of habit and stupidity? Should I just junk the vitamin now that I am eating healthy?”

    I’m no doctor or nutritionist, but I tend to take the simple view that if you don’t have a vitamin deficiency, then you don’t need vitamins.

  22. TheCzech is in line with everything I’ve seen on it. There are a few cases where vitamin supplementation makes sense. Like I believe it’s shown that folate during pregnancy is a good thing. And also women who menstruate heavily could benefit from iron. (IANADoctor)

    Personally, the only time I regularly took multi-vitamins was when I was unemployed and subsisting entirely on ramen. I knew there was no way I was getting as much as needed from it, so I supplemented. But for most people, the trace amounts in food are good enough.

  23. Each time you dilute the solution by 10, it gets stronger and more effective.

    It’s worse than that, even. From what I understand, they’re not diluting by 10 times its volume, they’re “halving” 10 times.

    Take that beer, pour half out and replace with water. Mix, then repeat 9 more times.

    When complete, your Guinness will taste like water (or worse; Bud Lite).

    Dilute 1,000,000 units 10 times, you have 100,000 units. Halve it 10 times and you have about 977.

    10 times is the minimum, too. The “quality” stuff often claims 100 times or more. You’re not likely to even have a single molecule of beer left. No *THAT* is potent. Watch yourself.

  24. If you’re not showing signs of vitamin deficiency, and not eating a diet that leaves you at risk of the same, supplements aren’t needed.

    I’m vegetarian (maybe a little drinking of the kool-aid in some people’s views); I still eat cheese & eggs but if I ever chose to stop those I would probably make sure to supplement omega-3’s and B12 because non-animal sources of them are scarce.

    I’d make sure that whatever I use to supplement them has been medically tested for effectiveness rather than just buying any vitamin supplement since many of them have absorption problems – my favorite recent example is that vitamin C has been proven to inhibit calcium uptake but a lot of supplements had, for years, dosed both at the same time.

    Even better is all those orange juice containers that proudly advertise “with Calcium.”

  25. I too am vegetarian, but I don’t know much about vitamins except that a daily multivitamin is considered pretty much useless for most people. I took a prescription vitamin while pregnant, and I’m supposed to still take one since I’m still breastfeeding. At $50 a month for my co-pay, I’ve decided to forgo the vitamins and just eat a good diet. As long as my son is developing properly (and goodness is he!) I’m not too worried about it.

    For more on vitamins and supplements check out today’s quickies.

  26. WOW! I guess I celebrated a little early a few weeks ago in Paris. This is the grave of the doctor that made up Homeopathy.

    [URL=http://imageshack.us][IMG]http://img166.imageshack.us/img166/2903/fingerhs7.jpg[/IMG][/URL]

    I also did a very very bad youtube of my visit to his grave (and other famous dead in Paris) where I play a psychic. What can I say it was a holiday and everything else was closed. I was bored.

  27. >>”Astrology and graphology are discrimination based on birthdays and pensmanship.”

    Actually, where they are used in employment decisions, I do rather wonder how often astrology and graphology are actually used as a woo-based smokescreen for *other* kinds of discrimination.

  28. Improbable Bee wrote, “Wait, wait, wait — are you telling me that a Jack & Coke mixed at one part whiskey to twenty parts soda (instead of my usual one to two ratio) will keep me from having a hangover? Because it sure sounds like it.”

    Now Mr. Bee we all know that Mr. jack is an alternative form of whiskey while single malt scotch is real whisky and a homeopathic cure would require some trace of real whisky to provide the curative benefit! And would more salt water help if dying from the first few glugs while stranded on a life raft???

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