What the Hell is Homeopathy?

As we discovered yesterday, I’m pretty open to the idea of alternative or complementary healing techniques and medicines. In fact, I got my Chartered Herbalist designation years ago because I’ve always had a lot of faith in the healing power of herbs and plants and foods. I grew up with Maria Treben’s Gesundheit aus der Apotheke Gottes. The book, as well as old Maria, are both more than a little creepy, but the remedies always worked.

Afterall, Hippocriates himself said, “Let your food be your medicine, and your medicine be your food.”

Most of the drugs we use today started life as herbal remedies. Pharmaceuticals just extracted what they believed to be the essentials of herbs and reproduced or reprocessed them in the lab. Opium, aspirin, digitalis, and quinine, for instance are all plant-based. According to the World Health Organization, approximately 80% of the world’s population primarily uses herbal medicine over any other type of remedy for their health care.

So, in summary, I believe herbal medicine, when produced, prescribed and used responsibly, properly and ethically is a very valid alternative or complement to pharmaceuticals.

What I can’t wrap my head around, however, is homeopathy. What the hell is this?

There are thousands of homeopaths all over the world that spend big money and many years in school to get their designation. The homeopathic drug market is a multi-billion dollar industry.

In the US, homeopathic remedies are recognized and regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and are manufactured by established pharmaceutical companies.

In the UK, homeopathy is provided and funded under the National Health Service (NHS).

In Canada, Health Canada’s new Natural Health Products Regulations uses “evidence submitted by applicants to critically assess the safety, efficacy and quality of all natural health products”  including homeopathic remedies. I don’t know what kind of “evidence” these companies are producing about their “efficacy”, but they seem to be passing muster. How?

Homeopathy was invented, out of the clear blue sky, 200 years ago by a German doctor named Samuel Hahnemann. He wasn’t down with the medicine of the day which involved stuff like bloodletting, leeches and purging. He reckoned that instead of “balancing the body’s system by draining the bad stuff out of it, he would do the opposite and put more of the bad stuff in, but in tiny amounts.  

Now you’re saying, “Oh ya, like vaccinations.”

But no, vaccinations are preventative, given to healthy people to help their immune systems build defenses. Homeopathy is, theoretically, just giving sick people you more of the crap they already have. Hahnemann was obviously on crack.

Aside from everything else, with a vaccination you’re getting a good shot of the virus. But homeopathic remedies take whatever “poison” and dilute the crap out of it.

On any homeopathic remedy and you’ll find a number like 6, 12, 30 or 200 and a letter, usually X or C (so you’ll see 6X or 200C, or some other combination). The number tells you how many times the original ingredient was diluted and the letter tells you whether each successive dilution was either 10-fold (X) or 100-fold (C).

So a 6X product will star with one part of the “poison” mixed with nine parts water. Then one part of that is mixed with nine more parts of water. Then one part of that is mixed with nine parts water again. And so on and so on until that’s been done six times and the original “poison” is one part to one million parts of water. At which point there is nothing left of the original “poison”, is there?

As rabble.ca puts it,

 The idea is that the effect of substance that has been diluted out is retained somehow and that this non-existent but “remembered” molecule of substance “treats” the patient. The central belief of homeopathy is that like cures like; so an insomniac might be “cured” with a remembered molecule of coffee.

I’ve tried homeopathic remedies a few times in various forms and they’ve never done anything except lighten my wallet. There has never been any scientific proof that any homeopathic remedies work – nor even any convincing anecdotal evidence. So, I don’t get why this stuff is being endorsed and/or funded by governments.

Do you? Have you ever had success with homeopathics?

For your entertainment — in a perfect storm of blog post synchronicity — here’s a video of a guy explaining homeopathy by drinking his own pee. (Or does he?)

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40 responses to “What the Hell is Homeopathy?

  1. I’m sure I’ll be lambasted by some of your readers but I think all that alternative stuff is bullshit. I think chiropractors are at best overpaid masseuses and at worst quacks. I have good friends that tell me about being “adjusted” and I am so glad we are on the phone and they can’t see me rolling my eyes. Another stupid one has to do with massaging certain parts of your body (your feet or your skull nodes or whatever) to cure other parts of your body. Uhm, no, it was a pleasant massage and so you feel better. Homeopathy sounds even more retarded than those. Way more retarded – you don’t even get a massage.
    (As a disclaimer, I do think there may be something to acupuncture, but I’m not sure what exactly. Probably disrupting nerve patterns or something.)

  2. Homeopathy sounds pretty much like a total farce to me. As someone that has a chronic illness, I’m glad that there are pharmaceuticals that can help me feel better and lead a more normal life. I don’t have a lot of experience with other alternative medical treatments, there may be something to some of them. But the scientist in me wants proof that they work, actual numbers and studies and tests. Not just a few people that have a good dose of the placebo effect.

    I think that reflexology and acupuncture are probably the two treatments that seem like they have the most possibility of working because they involve actual body physiology in the form of nerve pathways, and that makes sense to me. But why don’t these practitioners of alternative therapies do some like actual scientific studies to prove the effectiveness of these treatments. I do believe that I’ve read a few small studies about acupuncture but none of the other things.

  3. Notice how most of these artsy-fartsy new-age concepts like homeopathy, aromatherapy, crystals etc…never seem to withstand rigorous scientific testing?

    I mean…if there was really some fact behind all this, scientists everywhere would be clamoring to get research funding to investigate this. This could change chemistry as we know it…there might even a Nobel Prize.

    Howcum you never seen any results substantiated, from double-blind tests, proven to be statistically significant, and published in a respected refereed journal like Nature?

    Okay…let me guess. ( I can already predict the answer).

    Because it’s a “big conspiracy” by the drug companies, and large corporations. They want to discourage people from finding out the truth about alternative medicines, so we continue to buy their expensive drugs.

    Right? 😉

  4. What about immunotherapy in the form of allergy shots? It’s really just homeopathy. I have suffered from severe allergies (hives, asthma, etc.) since I was a little girl. Grass, dust, and pollen were the worst for huge welts all over my back. The allergist put some of those substances into a syringe and gave me low dose shots of them so my immune system would begin to tolerate them. Have you heard of the new peanut allergy therapy where children are given tiny doses of peanuts every day until they no longer have dangerous reactions to them? Here is more info about “like cures like” if you are interested…
    http://biovedawellness.com/holistic-services/homeopathy/

  5. Geewits, the British journalist Simon Singh won a court battle against some major association of chiropractors because he said it was bunk, the association sued him for defamation, and Singh was deemed by the court to have spoken truthfully and responsibly.

    The problem may be in the science more than the method, however – and the claims they make. What I mean is, there are already different schools of massage; they may be beneficial, but when they make pseudoscientific claims then it’s a problem.

    @XUP: Ages ago there was a guy doing the TV rounds who had a rat’s heart sustained in a beaker; he would show how adrenaline would cause a short-term heartrate increase, then how pure water did nothing, then he connected the adrenaline and the water via this mysterious box of electronics, then after this treatment the ‘water’ seemed to have the same effect on the heart as the adrenaline. Using an isolated heart obviously removed the possibility of placebo and some other false positives.

    Homeopathy seems unlikely to me, and I tend to think that even if there’s some kernel in it, the science/industry of homeopathy probably has to pretend to be more confident and adept than it actually is in order to counter the natural doubtfulness people will bring to it. I would think that at best a homeopath should think of himself as a pioneer whose experiments might amount to nothing.

  6. In an effort to get rid of migraine headaches I’ve tried all kinds of different remedies from the wacky to the not-so wacky. The thing that seems to have worked the best is taking magnesium every day which is not necessarily a “natural” remedy, but its not a drug either. My naturopath also recommended a homeopathic remedy which I take when I’m worried I’m going to get a migraine. I can’t say if it works or not, but I’ve never gotten a migraine after I’ve taken it. And, prior to the homeopathic remedy, I used to panic and take Advil when I worried about getting a migraine (which was often) and I started to get heart palpitations and high blood pressure from too much of that. So, you know, homeopathy seems like the lesser evil here. Can’t say I’m convinced it’s a miracle drug, though.

  7. The whole concept of this constant dilution is to me silly. Its like saying that the memory of aspirin is more effective at dealing with your headache then the aspirin itself.
    I have to confess though that I have seen a chiropractor for the better part of 30 years. It has never cured me of anything but it has given me relief from chronic back pain (Yes I am a moron because I re-injure myself on a regular basis.) and yes I have seen a reflexologist. She was very cute and my feet never felt better 🙂

  8. I started seeing a naturopath recently. I’ve been told she practices homeopathy (?) no clue what that means. I was a total sceptic but I did not like my doctor’s solution of long course of questionable antibiotics – so I thought I would give it a whirl. I have a new diet, avoid stuff and take a whack of “interesting” supplements and herbs. You know, I feel great. 15 yrs and western medicine did nothing…six months with this alternative Dr. and I have results. I still don’t know if I totally believe in homeopathy…but it is working for me.

  9. I don’t know if I’d put chiropractors in the same category.

    First of all, it’s a certified degree and the practice is regulated.

    Furthermore, they’re not claiming outrageous things that violate the laws of science. Like raising false hopes about curing diseases with water that “remembers” molecules. Or using the “energy” from shiny rocks to heal your body.

    What you see is what you get. Chiros physically manipulate your joints and muscles…which obviously will have physiologicial effects on your body. And it can reduce pain.

    Whether it’s no better or worse than a massage, I can’t say. But I do know my chiropractor gives me pain relief.

    And I only come when I need to. He doesn’t give me a sales pitch that I need to be “adjusted” several times a week, for the next 6 months.

    And whether he’s overpaid? Well, it costs $40 a visit. How much would it cost for a professional masseuse?

  10. I have trouble believing in homeopathy too. On the other hand, a friend of ours has cat allergies and lives with three cats because his homeopath gives him stuff to kill the allergies. I can’t help but think there’s a whole lot of the placebo effect involved.

  11. I agree with the commenters who say, if it can’t survive the scientific process, I’m not interested in it. Relying on anecdotal evidence leads us back into the dark ages. I also do not believe there is a super-natural. Just because we don’t understand something, doesn’t mean we can’t ever understand it. Just because we don’t understand something, doesn’t mean it is automatically super-natural and beyond scientific investigation. Even with the energy discussion previously, I don’t think it is super-natural. It’s perfectly natural – we just don’t know how it works, yet.

    As for herbal medicine, of course it works. That’s where ideas come from for Big Pharma to make drugs. What I have against some iterations of herbology is the lack of control over dosage. That said, I am currently trying some grape seed oil capsules for bursitis and they seem to be helping. “Seem” of course, is a very unscientific term.

  12. Well… I knew that there was something called homeopathy but never knew for real what it really was. I’ve just learned what homeopathy is about… You can guess I’ve never tried it so, no comments.

    Bah, or a comment for no comments.

    Great post as usual XUP!

    Thanks!

  13. I love homeopathy, fits right in with my superstitious catholic upbringing. I think we should adopt the eastern way of medical treatment. Paying your doctor to keep you healthy has incentives for both parties instead of only paying when your sick.

    My sister who is 11 years older swears by homeo, she forgets that our family are all long lifers on both sides (most worked to their 70s and some 80s). Besides eating healthy and exercise, genetics is all we got.

    I know XUP has all the right stuff, healthy life style and the genes. I will not be the least surprised to still be reading her amazing blog June 28, 2058 when I will turn 100. LOL

  14. Jenstate – a vaccine is not homeopathic. It contains small amounts of the substance. Homeopathic remedies dilute the substance to the point that if you had a sphere of water the size of the Earth, you might have one MOLECULE of the substance. Then they dilute it even further. Health Canada’s regulations require substances advertised as Homeopathic to be at least this dilute (i.e. to effectively guarantee there is no trace of the substance). They do not regulate the claimed effectiveness.

    Naturopathy is not the same as Homeopathy. Naturopathy at least uses real substances, like herbs and tea and shit. Whether these substances are effective at treating the ailment varies by the ailment and substance.

    Naturopathy and Homeopathy can be alike in that the placebo effect is often the source of symptomatic relief, especially for those people who have ‘lost faith in’ modern medicine.

    Jennifer – you talk about get getting side effects from Advil, but did it cure the migraines? Perhaps if you are getting relief from the Homeopathic pills, it’s from the placebo effect, and you’d get the same (placebo or real) effect from a weaker painkiller. At least with Homepoathic pills you’re guaranteed not to get side effects!

    Lastly, as XUP mentioned, homeopathy was invented in the 1700s, when modern medicine primarily involved doing things that made you worse. By comparison, doing nothing (i.e. giving Homeopathic treatments) was a less harmful intervention. The stick is that modern medicine has advanced in the last 300 years, but Homeopaths are doing the same thing–even touting that it’s been used for hundreds of years! That’s right up there with the Caveman diet, which claims health and longevity from a diet used by people who had a much shorter life expectancy than we enjoy today!

    – RG>

  15. Science journalist Simon Singh wrote an excellent book which looked at all the clinical trials that have been run on various sorts of alternative medicine. Unsurprisingly, there is no evidence that homeopathy is any better than a placebo.

    Unlike chiropractic – which does seriously injure people when the neck and spine are inappropriately manipulated – homeopathy doesn’t cause harm in and of itself. Of course, it causes harm because people waste money on it, and perhaps avoid seeking more effective treatments. It also causes harm when homeopaths promote their ‘products’ as protection against malaria, or counsel parents not to vaccinate their children (as many of them do).

  16. I always thought that naturopathy and homeopathy were the same thing. I don’t think I even noticed they were two different words before(which is weird for me because I love words). So thanks for educating me once again.

    I do believe in natural remedies, but I also believe in pharmaceuticals. As you and others have mentioned, many pharmaceuticals were developed from plants. Some people assume that the “natural” product is healthier, but it may be just the same active ingredient with fewer pesky regulatory requirements that need to be followed to be sold.

  17. Some people assume that the “natural” product is healthier, but it may be just the same active ingredient with fewer pesky regulatory requirements that need to be followed to be sold.

    Indeed.

    And, at least sometimes, supposedly herbal remedies have been found to be doped with phamaceuticals, particularly expensive remedies. Turns out you can sell a lot more of your (useless) tiger penis impotence tea if you mix in some Viagra.

  18. Like jenstate, I think the idea of “like treats like” is interesting for allergies. I think you can possibly reduce allergic reactions by giving small amounts of the allergen over time, but it has to be done very carefully and I wouldn’t mess around with that with food allergies that are possibly anaphylactic (giving up after 10 tries at spelling that word). And it’s just in this one specific case — an allergy — where the logic works for me.

    That said, I think homepathic doctors are sham artists. The dilution is so great that it’s nothing at all…and I don’t get that. I love RealGrouchy’s posts on this topic – have you read them? They’re a scream and oh-so-true.

  19. Be careful treating peanut allergies with peanuts. Anaphylactic reactions tend to get significantly more severe with each instance. Where the first one might be uncomfortable, the next one might require a trip to the ER.

    Lynn – glad to see I have a reputation!

    – RG>

  20. Dr. Monkey – Unfortunately it’s no longer even really herbal. The days when your buddies grew some in the backyard and toasted it in your mamma’s oven are long gone.

    Geewits – Such a skeptic! I wouldn’t say all alternates are bullshit. I will agree that many of them are and that even of those that are not, there are a lot of bullshit practitioners who don’t know what they’re doing. I would hate to throw out things that have worked and have been proved to work for centuries, just they’re being tarred with the same brush as the bullshit. I agree with you about chiropracters though. I don’t know how they’ve managed to worm their way into legitimate medical circles. I don’t think the world of alternative/complementary therapy wanted them in their circle even. I think any sort of touch, whether it’s massage or reflexology or shiatsu or accupressure or even acupuncture has basis in science and makes common sense. None of it is going to cure you of anything major, but it will relax your body and help it to be in a better frame to heal itself or to work with whatever allopathic treatments you’re getting.

    Kimberly – I’m no the fence on acupuncture. I understand there is some science behind it and regular doctors are taking courses in acupuncture to help their patients with things like pain management and addiction. Touch therapy – reflexology, massage, etc, I think work on many of the same principles — pressure points, energy work, etc.. It’s too bad that a few bizarre practices in the field of alternative/complementary medicine and therapy can give them all a bad name. I don’t think drugs and surgery always need to be our first recourse when we’re not well. I think first of all, that many of these so-called alternate therapies (many of which are just ancient wisdom) can keep us healthier and they can be useful in treating some issues and can be useful to complement allopathic treatment to help speed healing and/or to help tolerate the allopathic treatments.

    Frira – Ya, so given all this, let’s get back to my question on why pharma companies are making and distributing this stuff and why government has endorsed and, in some cases, is funding it? This is befuddling me.

    Jenstate – Interesting. As I understand it, with immunotherapy the patient is given increasingly larger doses of the allergen to build up a tolerance. That immunotherapy works has been proven in clinical studies. Building up/strengthening the immune system in this way makes sense. You can’t apply the same principle to the flu or menstrual cramps or insomnia. And, as with vaccinations in immunotherapy you’re actually getting some of the allergen — with homeopathy you’re getting water.

    G – That’s a creepy rat heart experiment. Which just goes to prove once again that scientists are creepy and shouldn’t be trusted

    Jennifer – As long as you feel it’s working, why not? It obviously can’t do any harm. And those No Jet Lag tablets they sell in drug stores and at airports seem to work for a lot of people, too. I’ve had some bad jet lag when travelling before and I tried them a couple of times and had no jet lag even though I was completely convinced that they wouldn’t work. So, that couldn’t be a placebo effect, could it?

    Lebowski – I’m not sure about a treatment you have to keep doing for 30 years. How good could it be? Wouldn’t physiotherapy be a more sensible solution? It takes years of some activity on your part to get your back into bad shape, it would only make sense that it wouldl require some other activity on your part to make your back better — e.g. exercises and stretches — not having some guy twist and crack your bones to mask your symptoms for a while.

    Laura – Your new diet alone could be making a world of difference. People really, really underestimate the effects of the foods and drinks they consume on their body. And I’m really suspicious of naturopaths that sell you a “whack of supplements”. Those shouldn’t be necessary. And nothing you mention suggests homeopathics. Those are usually tiny little white tablets you place under your tongue — not a whack of supplements.

    Friar – I’m glad you’re happy with your chiropractor, but there are plenty of chiro quacks out there, too. They’ve invented a whole bunch of chiropractic gadgets that are supposed to align your bones and rechannel your bloodflow or something. Chiropractors also claim to be able to “cure” all sorts of things they have no business claiming to being able to cure – such as diabetes, asthma, heart disease. They’ve also gotten into a lot of hot water with their neck manipulation treatments that have left patients paralyzed. Soooo, like anything else you have to be careful who you trust. Just because you got a good guy who seems to be helping you, doesn’t automatically make the whole business of chiropractice legitimate or good. (And they’re called massage therapists. A masseuse is an entirely different thing and will charge you considerably more than $40 an hour)

    Jazz – Who knows? Just because it doesn’t make sense, doesn’t necessarily mean it isn’t possible, I guess. As long as the person thinks it’s working, it at least can’t do any harm — unlike a lot of other alternative treatments.

    Julia – Hmm, I don’t necessarily think everything has to be able to be replicated in a clinical setting in order for it to be legitimate. Sometimes anecdotal evidence is more legitimate. Take Crohn’s Disease for instance. Everyone who has it has different symptoms, different pathology, different triggers, different reactions to drugs, different cycles of the disease — in short, it’s an almost completely different disease for each person who has it. How on earth are they going to come up with a treatment or even a cure for something like that? The best thing in this case is to talk to as many different people as possible and see what works and doesn’t work for them and then using that information do trial and error until you hit on something that works for you. There will be commonalities, of course, but never enough for clinical use. There are plenty of diseases like this and if you have one you are not going to get better by following only what the mainstream medical community tells you to do. I guarantee it. In fact, you could very well get worse.

    Mr G. — Ah yes, herbal remedies are the best. That’s why I got myself some training in that area. And the good news is that herbals include food and drink.

    Maurice – Don’t jinx our good fortune so far, sir. Just be quietly grateful.

    Grouchy – As far as I know, naturopaths never use “shit” in any of their treatments. If you’ve experienced that, I would report it. Also, I hope Brett reads this and treats you to one of his long tirades about the wonders of the cave man diet. And finally, just because something was used ages ago before the miraculous wonders of modern medicine, doesn’t automatically make it bad. Some things like accupunture, herbs, massage can help where all our big-headed modern medicine can’t.

    Finola – The only thing that I would add to that is that sometimes when they extract the essential ingredient from a herb to create a pharmaceutical, it doesn’t work in quite the same way. There are many other ingredients in the herb that may increase the efficacy of the primary ingredient or help to process it in your system without the nasty side-effects that are often experienced in pharmaceuticals.

    Milan – As people have gotten more interested in alternative/complementary therapies and medicines more and more unscrupulous people have gotten involved in the manufacture and distribution. So, we end up with stuff like you mention. I think it’s very wrong to be selling herbal remedies over the internet or even openly in a natural food store with only a semi-experienced clerk to assist people. This stuff can be very dangerous if not properly regulated and prescribed. Even the purest herbal remedy is a “drug” and needs to be treated with the same respect and consideration as pharmaceutical drugs. Herbs can have bad interactions with other herbs or drugs; they can exacerbate an underlying condition or cause an unexpected reaction. People should not be self-medicating with these things for sure.

    Lynn – Yes! See my comment to Jenstate. I haven’t seen Grouchy’s posts on this. I don’t know why. I’ll have to go find them.

    Lebanowski1728 – And yet you continue type.

  21. I once tried Chinese herbal medicine that gave me and my friend who went with me conditions that we never suffered from before without healing what we went in for. This indicated to me that they were dealing with potent forces (chemical ‘chi’, whatever) of some sort but ineptly. And cynically – when we complained they tried to turn the blame around on us. Big business, easy money. Place eventually disappeared – maybe word of mouth eventually got rid of them.

  22. @XUP]

    Beats me why pharma companies and the govt. is endorsing this.

    Maybe they realize people are stupid, and are gonna buy into quack-medicine no matter what. So if you can’t beat ’em…join ’em.

    And I agree that there are quack chiros out there. If mine pulled the kind of crap like you described, I wouldn’t be still going to him.

    But he doesn’t. He’s good and I trust him. Caveat Emptor and all that…

  23. Herbs can have bad interactions with other herbs or drugs

    Definitely. For instance, St. John’s Wart can make birth control pills ineffective – which could be quite a surprise for someone who is taking it as a ‘benign’ alternative to antidepressants.

  24. G – This place you and your friend went…was it an opium den by any chance? I understand one can acquire some peculiar “conditions”

    Friar – Indeed. I would really like to know why homeopathy of all things is okay with governments. I mean, they’re actually funding it in the UK!

    Milan – There seem to be a lot of surprising things that render birth control pills ineffective. And yet, women aren’t told about it when they get a prescription.

  25. My mum is really into homeopathy and has been for a couple of decades now. She has experienced extremely good health and managed to prolong my dad’s life by her use of the same for many years. I have used it, too, on occasion, and although I cannot definitively say that it fixed whatever condition I was using it for, I certainly will not dismiss it out of hand.

    Chiropracty seems to be another comment theme. About three years back I had a severe pain in my neck for months that was not eased by allopathic medicine; drugs and physio weren’t making it better. Not seeing any other alternatives, I went to a chiropractor.

    Within two months of intensive treatment, the pain had noticeably eased; within another couple of months it had gone. Chiro has eased chronic pain in my knee, carpal tunnel syndrome in my wrist, and has actually reduced the pain and duration of my menstrual cramps. I still go once every two weeks and intend to for the rest of my life. I slide off that table and I feel two inches taller, and if I miss an appointment I start to feel vaguely amiss. All in my head? I don’t think so.

  26. I have baggage with all this mainly because The Man’s mom was into and she’s a total whackjob. (To put it politely.) Hence, I am pretty skeptical about all of this. (Except for massage (deep muscle) and maybe chiropractors…)

    I liked this TED clip: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c0Z7KeNCi7g
    with James Randi who takes a bottle of homeopathic sleeping pills and nothing happens. I just don’t see how it works. Sort of last hope for the desperate or disillusioned. Dunno.

    Verdict still out on herbal remedies. (Don’t get me started on the birth control pill thing.)

  27. As far as I’ve heard, studies of acupuncture have found them to work, but only insofar as the puncturing. All that hoowah about placing the needles in specific “meridians” to treat specific ailments doesn’t hold up to muster.

    XUP, regarding your question of why the government endorses it, it’s because the Homeopaths/Naturopaths are a big lobby (they can afford to be, with such inexpensive ingredients on their pricey products!). Just because the government endorses it doesn’t make it effective (see, for example, the prison policies). They regulate Homeopathic treatments so that, at the very least, you know that it doesn’t have anything dangerous in it. Health Canada regulates tobacco, too, but that doesn’t mean they endorse it.

    I did not state that just because it’s been used for hundreds of years it must be bad. In fact, I stated the reverse–its effectiveness is wholly independent from how long it’s been in use. It’s the homeopaths (some of them) who say that it is effective because it’s been used for a long time, and I was disputing that.

    – RG>

  28. Seeing the other comments after XUP’s mega-comment: the UK government endorses it because Prince Charles is an ardent supporter of it.

    Nat – hah, finally someone pulled out a Randi reference. He does a good tearing up of Homeopathy (and Uri Geller, etc.), but sometimes he’s just a bit too over the top and aggressive.

    – RG>

  29. I agree there are some ailments that are nebulous and don’t respond well to only one treatment. So you are right that strict clinical type trials would not show any benefit to the sufferer. But we always have to be on our guard against the charlatans. Like, there is an Italian medical doctor who claims that if you flush a cancer tumour with a baking soda solution, it will disappear. I don’t think he is gaining anything (at least financially) from this claim – he is not selling anyone anything expensive. But he has certainly not done enough controlled studies to show that it works well enough to recommend it as treatment. It is the same for the new surgery to open jugular veins in MS patients. It has got some good anecdotal press but is that enough to start opening up the veins of everybody with MS? You have to start somewhere but I think you need a whole lot of data to be able to make certain assertions. So it depends on the ailment and how lethal it is (or how lethal the treatments) and whether it is actually okay to end up with a placebo effect because the relief is just as good as with treatment.

    I actually looked into the baking soda cancer tumour thing because chemo is so nasty.

  30. I use herbs a lot.

    I see an osteopath and I’d much rather see her during a bad asthma season than end up in the hospital! She works on my diaphragm and it makes a huge difference in my ability to breathe deeply and exhale completely.

    I also use homeopathy – with my pets and with my kids and myself. I slip them to all of them and really, I don’t get it. I think it’s bizarre that it works. But it does. I consult with a naturopath. She’s helped my anxious kid caln down, helped my anorexic kid eat, helped my kids recover from the pain of bee and wasp stings immediately, made my smelly dog smell good again. The most magical experience I have with it is with the use of arnica. My daughter broke her arm – badly – in two places. I gave her arnica immeadiately and we went to the hospital. They were shocked to see how bad the break was because of how minimal the swelling was and how there wasn’t any sign of bruising. I forgot to keep giving it over the next day every 4 to 6 hours or so, as I usually would for a really bad fall (I have one kid who used to give himself black eyes with his knees and figured out it took about 6 doses to keep the swelling and bruising really minimal) . When we went in for the permanent cast the bruising was PHENOMENAL. She was blue black and green from fingers to shoulder. But it hadn’t even started 4 hours after the break.

    While it *seems* like crack remedies to me…I personally can’t argue with how it seems to work for my family.

  31. Susan – Really? That’s interesting that it’s worked for you and your family in so many ways. You’re actually the first person I know who has had this much success with it (and that includes the friend I once had who was a homeopath)

    Nat – Deep muscle massage…now I want me one of them. Sounds perfect right about now. And ya…the birth control pill thing…

    Grouchy – Really? Homeopaths and Naturopaths are a big lobby? Why have they sucked so miserably at getting their services approved for provincial health insurance? But hey, if Prince Charles is all for it, then I guess it’s good…. Because Prince Charles is a very influential man.

    Julia – I think when you’re desperate and the regular medical community isn’t offering much hope or if their treatments are worse than the disease, you’ll try anything. Aside from the charlatans just out to make a fast buck, I don’t think we should discourage anyone from trying to come up with solutions – especially for something like cancer. You never know when some crazy thing is going to work.

    Mudmama – Arnica is a herbal and generally used as a decoction or ointment. Were you using the homeopathic version in tablet form? I know it works wonders used externally. And ya, if it works for you, go for it. My homeopath friend did tell me once, that homeopathic remedies don’t work for some people. I wonder why that would be?

  32. I use the homeopathic pellets of Arnica if I can get it into the person *right away* after a fall or bad blow. I use a homeopathic external preparation on bruising that involves open wounds instead of my herbal arnica ointment (Arnica isn’t good in open wounds it stops normal scab preparation and the homeopathic doesn’t have that drawback.)

  33. No, jenstate, allergy shots are NOTHING AT ALL like homeopathy.

    For starters, in allergy shots, there is actual ingredient, in measure doses. Your body reacts to the actual proteins and (hopefully desensitizes). It’s not “like cures like”. It’s a reaction based on scientific research that uses real ingredients.

    Homeopathy, on the other hand, is based on wild-assed guesses from someone who was considered a quack when he thought the stuff up. It has no scientific basis, fails every test, and most importantly, has no mechanism: no ingredients and no way to make it work.

    Homeopathy is no better than the placebo effect. Diluting anything to 10^26 or more (that’s a 13C homeopathic dilution or a 26X) means there’s nothing of the original ingredient left. Homeopathic dilutions are usually greater than that.

    Homeopathy is a lie. People who practice homeopathy are liars and cheats. People who believe in it are suckers who risk their health for magic instead of real medicine.

    And you should be thankful homeopathy is a lie, given that every septic system on the planet eventually empties into water, and that means, according to homeopathy, that you’re drinking homeopathic feces from the Ganges and homeopathic urine from the elephants of Africa.

    Bottoms up!

  34. Mudmama – I will never argue with something that works for people. I haven’t had much luck with homeopathics myself, but apparently that happens sometimes, they tell me.

    Pearl – Cute comic. Also, I’m wondering how you can tell when your cat is mentally ill? Aren’t the all?

    Squid – In defense (sort of) of the quack who thought up homeopathy, he was a quack in a pond of blood-letters and leach-gatherers. And so you’re saying that homeopathy is just us being one with the universe? I’m wondering where your strong antipathy to all this comes from?

  35. I do not believe in homeopathy although there are thousands of people that disagree with me. I have memories from far far away when I was a child… one of the acquaintance of one of my relatives practiced that homeop…athetic trade… … I and other kids have access to the lab where the medicaments were prepared and sometimes we were treated with needles… one of those let a tiny bloody-spot mark in my hand that disappeared like 30 years after… also I witnessed so many times small sugar-spheres were putting inside small medicine containers labelled with specific homeophatic formula given to different customers… I mean, the same sugar-spheres where given to all the customers, indicating them that they were customised for their own maladies… worse than that… since there were tiny sugar-balls we were allowed to eat them, since we didn’t in public…
    Thanks that my relative didn’t continue with that homeoph…ake relationship, that makes me feel that we were surrounded for a homeophatic lyar…

  36. Nat – Thank you for that interesting up close and personal account. I wonder if all homeopathics are made like this? How awful.