Look Out Goop: The FDA Cracks Down on Homeopathy!

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I’ve talked about homeopathy loads on this channel but here’s the quick rundown for those who are new: homeopathy is based on the idea that water has a memory, so if you put something in some water and then take it out completely, the water “remembers” that substance and when you drink the water you are drinking the substance. The substance that isn’t in it. So in a perfect world, there is absolutely no active ingredient in any homeopathic “remedy.”

Maybe for that reason, or because “Big Pharma” has a lot of lobbyists and a lot of interest in selling expensive sugar water to ignorant people, the Food and Drug Administration doesn’t do anything to make sure homeopathic products do anything at all. Technically they should be subject to the same rules and regulations as real medicine like Advil or Nyquil, but since the late 1980s the FDA has made it their policy to not enforce the law on homeopathic products.

The problem with that is twofold: for one, even if plain water can’t really hurt you, it can hurt you if you think it will cure your cancer so you stop chemotherapy. Sure, that’s an extreme example but it has happened. The other problem is that by ignoring the manufacturing quality of the homeopathic remedies, sometimes active ingredients actually do sneak in there, like when the “homeopathic” Zicam nose spray contained actual zinc and caused several people to lose their sense of smell — permanently.

Finally, the FDA has announced that they are reversing 30 years of bad policy by actually holding homeopathic product purveyors accountable. They’re starting by focusing on the most dangerous possibilities, like products that have gotten complaints about safety, products you ingest (as opposed to a lotion), products that claim to treat serious diseases, products that target vulnerable people, and my favorite: products that “contain or claim to contain ingredients associated with potentially significant safety concerns.” That “claim to contain” is so important, because it shows that maybe the FDA understands that homeopathic products, by definition, don’t actually contain the ingredients they list on their boxes.

This is awesome news for the general public, and bad news for Gwyneth Paltrow, who may have to go back to the film industry to remain ridiculously wealthy, poor thing. Her bullshit peddling website, Goop, thrives on products like homeopathic “remedies” that at best do nothing and at worst royally fuck you up with random ingredients. And since it sounds like the FDA is targeting the most dangerous products first, maybe they will also focus on high-profile cases that might set an example. And what better example to set than stringing up Gwyneth Paltrow?

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca is a writer, speaker, YouTube personality, and unrepentant science nerd. In addition to founding and continuing to run Skepchick, she hosts Quiz-o-Tron, a monthly science-themed quiz show and podcast that pits comedians against nerds. There is an asteroid named in her honor. Twitter @rebeccawatson Mastodon Instagram @actuallyrebeccawatson TikTok @actuallyrebeccawatson YouTube @rebeccawatson BlueSky

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