I was in a big hurry and needed to pick up a strong cold medication for sinus congestion before going to a Skeptic Society meeting. Not knowing any better, I stopped a health food chain store in Pasadena—and was stunned by what I saw. Everything was advertised as “organic” (even though studies show no clear evidence that organic is significantly healthier, or that all foods labeled “organic” are indeed grown or raised that way). Everything was WAY more expensive than conventional grocery store prices. The place was crawling with yuppie couples in Birkenstocks and expensive designer clothes from Land’s End and L.L. Bean. It was a two-story chaos, with lots of dead ends and confusing and poorly laid-out aisles. It was almost like a casino, which is designed to slow you down and make you see as much of the floor space as possible. Consequently, it took me quite a while to find the cold products. By this time, I was running late. Because the clerk recommended it, I grabbed a box off the shelf called “Umcka cold care”. When I reached the checkout, I discovered it cost $17 for just 20 tablets!
When I got back to the car, I looked closer. In tiny letters, the box said “Homeopathic”! I guess I should have expected that in a heath food store, there would be homeopathic remedies, but I didn’t realize that they would ONLY have quack medicines. Readers of this blog are probably familiar with the problem with homeopathy. Most homeopathic medicines are diluted down so much that they contain few or no molecules of the active ingredient, and so they are literally just drinking water. In the case of these pills I bought, there is a long list of inactive ingredients, and just a tiny amount of the Pelargonium sidoides plant, a South African herb that MIGHT have some effect on reducing cold symptoms—although the medical studies are inconclusive, and most colds go away as our immune systems take care of the viral infection. Continue reading…comments (65)