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?)