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Homeopathy Awareness Week

by Steven Novella, Jun 15 2009

According to the British Homeopathic Association (does that mean the fewer members they have the more powerful the group?) June 14-21 is Homeopathy Awareness Week. I would like to do my part to increase awareness of homeopathy.

I would like people to be aware of the fact that homeopathy is a pre-scientific philosophy, that it is based entirely on magical thinking and is out of step with the last 200 years of science. People should know that typical homeopathic remedies are diluted to the point that no active ingredient remains, and that homeopaths invoke mysterious vibrations or implausible and highly fanciful water chemistry.  I would further like people to know that clinical research with homeopathic remedies, when taken as a whole, show no effect for any such remedy.

In short, homeopathy is bunk. But here is a somewhat longer description of its history.Homeopathy was founded by Samuel Christian Hahnemann (1755-1843), a German physician who had become dissatisfied with the medicine of his day. Hahnemann lived in a time before the rudiments of modern medicine had been developed, before the germ theory of infectious disease, before the first antibiotic, before systematic testing of drugs for safety and efficacy, before surgical procedures were performed with anesthesia or sterile technique. In his century, it is fairly safe to say, conventional medicine was more likely to do harm than good, and hospitals were a place people went to die, rather than get well. It is no surprise, therefore, that Hahnemann sought for an alternative to the classical approach of his day.

For many years Hahnemann’s search was unsuccessful, until he stumbled upon what he thought was an amazing observation. He took a small amount of cinchona bark, which contains quinine, the drug used to treat malaria, and developed the symptoms of malaria. From this observation he developed homeopathy’s first law, similia similibus curentur, or let likes be cured by likes. In other words, drugs which cause specific symptoms can be used to cure diseases which cause the same symptoms.

As homeopathy evolved, other laws were also discovered. The law of infinitesimal doses was actually a late development by Hahnemann, but today is often thought of as the primary characteristic of homeopathy. This law states that when drugs are diluted in either water or alcohol, they actually increase in potency. Today, serial dilutions of 1:100 repeated 6 or 30 times are commonly used. Between each dilution the substance is violently shaken, which is thought to be necessary to activate the properties of the drug.

Hahnemann also developed, as the underpinning of homeopathy, his own theory of disease, called the miasm theory. According to this theory there are three miasms which are responsible for all human disease, and homeopathic remedies are directed towards treating these offending miasms.

Homeopathy enjoyed a great deal of success in Europe and later in the U.S. in the 19th century. In the year 1900, there were 22 homeopathic colleges and 56 purely homeopathic hospitals in the U.S. During this century, however, as modern medicine came into its own, as life expectancy rose from about 40 years to 80 years, and as the modern approach to disease continuously improved the quality of life, producing a stunning revolution that homeopathy had failed to provide in the previous century, homeopathy declined steadily until it was all but gone.

It is an amazing fact of history, however, that pseudosciences rarely, if ever, die completely. Belief systems such as astrology, phrenology, and homeopathy itself survive long after their usefulness or the primitive scientific environment in which they were developed. Today, homeopathy is experiencing a resurgence, initially in Europe, but it is quickly spreading to the U.S. Homeopathic hospitals have been incorporated into the National Health Service in Britain, and early on in its history the FDA granted approval to the entire homeopathic pharmacopoeia because the remedies had already been in use for so many years.

Today, although there are several different traditions of homeopathy, the basic principles as outlined above remain unchanged. Homeopaths offer as a point of superiority of their method of treatment, that they treat the whole person, taking a “holistic” approach. They denigrate conventional physicians for “focusing narrowly on the disease.” But what does their holistic approach actually entail?

The goal of a homeopathic consultation is to “find the totality of symptoms,” physical, mental, and spiritual. They accomplish this goal by taking a “homeopathic history” which includes questions such as: do you feel sad when you hear piano music, are you excessively tidy or do you have a chilly personality. This information is combined with the patient’s symptoms and their physical “constitution,” which may depend on such facts as hair color. The homeopath then decides on what single remedy will treat the patient’s “totality.” The remedy is then prescribed, and is usually given in either a single dose or only a few doses.

There are many appealing aspects to homeopathy as it is practiced. Patients are made to feel that they are being given a remedy which is specifically designed for them personally, that the goal of treatment is complete cure, rather than just managing symptoms, and that the remedies have no side effects, toxicity, or interaction with conventional drugs. There is, however, no scientific or rational basis to the claims of homeopathy, for it falls cleanly into the realm of pseudoscience rather than true science.

Modern medicine is science-based to the extent that its treatments are based on a working model of disease which in turn is based on human physiology, anatomy, genetics, and biochemistry. All of the principles are subject to experimental scrutiny, and therefore change. They can be proven or disproved by new information. New ideas are subjected to harsh criticism by experts in the field, and must stand the test of such critical examination before they are incorporated into clinical practice. The rapid rate with which medical knowledge changes is not a weakness but a testimony to its scientific basis.

Homeopathy, on the other hand, is a pseudoscience because its underlying principles are not founded in basic research and have remained largely unchanged for almost two centuries. It shrouds itself in the trappings of science, but is devoid of the real substance. Although today there are many efforts to subject homeopathic remedies to double blind clinical trials, homeopaths do not alter their treatments based on the results of such research, they have often been shown to lack carefully controlled techniques, and their interpretation of experimental results reeks of magical thinking.

For homeopaths, the only purpose of clinical research is to validate what they already “know” – it is a statistical crap shoot of placebo vs placebo.

Let us examine homeopathy’s most basic principle, that of infinitesimal doses. Homeopaths today use dilutions of substances which essentially remove all traces of the substance from the final dilution. There is not likely to be even a single molecule of the original drug in the final remedy which is given to the patient. Homeopaths conclude from this fact that the substance is transferring its essence to the water into which it is diluted. The more it is diluted, the more potent is the water. They offer, however, no plausible explanation for how simple water molecules can contain the essence of far more complex substances. They simply call it “water memory”, but labeling is not explaining. They further have no model for how such implausible “water memory” could survive as the water is placed on a sugar pill, digested in the stomach, absorbed in the blood, and then carried to wherever it has its alleged action.

Their model of illness is similarly constructed. Hahnemann developed his ideas before the disease theory of illness was fully developed. In other words, during his time physicians did not yet understand that illnesses were caused by specific diseases; that a given disease, such as diabetes, has a common underlying pathophysiology – a specific malfunction of a specific tissue, organ, or organ system leading to a specific disorder with recognizable signs and symptoms. This modern theory of illness has lead, for instance, to the treatment of diabetes with insulin replacement, vastly improving the quality and duration of life of patients suffering from this disease.

Hahnemann, and modern homeopaths, must reject this concept of medicine. Their goal is not to identify which disease afflicts a patient, in fact they criticize this approach. Rather they believe, regressively, that every patient is experiencing a unique illness, which is affected by such factors as whether or not the patient has a weepy personality, and that one remedy will treat all of the patient’s ills, curing the single cause which has displaced them from being well. They admit that the same symptoms often require different treatments in different patients. They dramatically lack any biological model underlying their concepts of illness.

Finally, there is the rule of likes treating likes. Hahnemann based this rule on a single observation. All subsequent investigation was designed to decide what substances should be used to treat which illnesses (summarized in their primary reference, the Materia Medica), but they were all based on the assumption of the rule of likes. No basic research was ever conducted to test the assumption itself, nor are there any biological models which explain why likes should treat likes. Why is it, as homeopaths claim, that and extract of onion should treat colds, which are caused by a viral infection, simply because onions irritate mucous membranes and cause tearing and secretions similar to the common cold. Hahnemann’s theories, unlike modern medicine, did not lead to or stem from any deeper understanding of human biology.
Like cures like is, in fact, an example of sympathetic magic – the primitive notion that substances have properties or mystical connections to things that they resemble. Therefore in some traditions rhino horns are thought to treat impotence, because of their physical appearance resembles an erect penis (more or less).

At this point many defenders of homeopathy would argue, “Who cares how it works, as long as it works.” This defense is used for all alternative medicines which cannot produce a rational explanation for how they work. There is a kernel of legitimacy to this argument, although it does not save homeopathy from being a pseudoscience, in that even in conventional medicine treatments are used before their mechanism of action is fully understood. In such cases, however, it is necessary to demonstrate using carefully controlled clinical trials that such treatments do in fact work.

Further, the lack of a precisely known mechanism of action is not equivalent to extreme scientific implausibility – which is the case with homeopathy.

With regard to clinical trials modern homeopaths have been somewhat self-contradictory. Many homeopaths have argued that homeopathy cannot be subjected to the same type of studies as are conventional drugs. This is because each patient, from a homeopathic perspective, is unique, and cannot be lumped into a single category. Whereas conventional medicine can compare treatments of 1000 diabetics with two different medications, homeopaths cannot produce large numbers of patients with the same totality of illness requiring the exact same treatment. In making this argument, that of untestability, such homeopaths are securing their position in the halls of pseudoscience, for if their is one single quality which separates scientific theories from nonscientific ones, it is falsifiability. If homeopathic remedies cannot be tested, then they can never be grounded in science.

However, this has lead to homeopathic studies with individualized treatments – which should address this concern of homeopaths. These studies have been largely negative (when well-controlled and blinded). This lead homeopaths to complains that even these trials were not good enough. Homeopath Weatherley-Jones writes:

For clinical trials of homeopathy to be accurate representations of practice, we need modified designs that take into account the complexity of the homeopathic intervention.

This is a clear case of special pleading -finding a special excuse for negative results, but only after they are negative.

Despite this defense by some homeopaths, modern homeopathic research has focused on these very types of studies. There has been mixed results from these studies and, in conflict with the defense of untestability, homeopathic organizations are quick to site positive studies as evidence for homeopathy’s legitimacy, while simultaneously ignoring the results of negative studies.

Also important is the question of the quality of the research that is being done. Research which is not carefully constructed to eliminate any possibility of bias or fraud, or which is not large enough to produce statistical significance, or which is not reproducible by independent centers, is of little scientific value. In fact such research is harmful because it creates confusion and leads to false conclusions.

Nature magazine famously lead an investigation of the positive research coming out of the lab of Jaque Benveniste. This team, which included James Randi, learned that all the positive research created by the lab were performed by Benveniste’s assistant, Elizabeth Davenas. Benveniste had claimed that all the research was double blind, but Randi soon discovered that this was not the case. Davenas was studying the results of a homeopathic drug on the growth of cells in culture. While Randi observed, she counted the number of cells under a microscope on what she believed to be a test slide, getting a result of 40, which she dutifully recorded in her lab notebook. While removing the slide, however, she noticed that it was labeled as a control. She therefore recounted the slide, arriving this time at a result of 18, which she then corrected in the notebook. It is difficult to conceive of a more blatant breach of basic research protocol.

In short, when the Nature team next subjected Davenas to truly double blind conditions, her positive results disappeared. Benveniste insisted, however, that his lab’s results had been duplicated by four independent labs throughout the world. On investigation, however, it was learned that Elizabeth Davenas had visited each of these four labs and had performed the research herself.

Wim Betz, a physician and former homeopathic doctor who now is an outspoken critic of homeopathy, has similar criticisms of homeopathic research. He reports on one study in which a hormone prepared in homeopathic dilutions was added to a tank of tadpoles and was observed to increase the rate at which the tadpoles developed into frogs. When the hormone, however, was placed inside the tank while inside of a sealed test tube, the same results were observed. The homeopathic researchers, instead of concluding that this control revealed shortcoming of their research, concluded that the homeopathic hormone was transmitting its effect to the tadpoles via some type of rays. They later conducted research to see if such remedies can emit their healing rays over telephone lines.

Another researcher, reports Betz, was confused when the placebo control he used in his clinical trial had the same effect as the homeopathic remedy being tested. Instead of concluding that his study was negative, he instead concluded that since the placebo was stored in the same refrigerator as the remedy, that the homeopathic drug was radiating it effective quality to the placebo. Despite sealing the placebos in aluminum foil and separating them from the homeopathic remedy in different refrigerators, this homeopathic researcher could still not keep the effect of the drug from leaking over into the placebo.

Professor of complementary and alternative medicine, Edzard Ernst, reviewed the homeopathic literature and concluded that homeopathic remedies “contain no biologically active agents and are no more effective than sugar pills.”

Published systematic reviews (examples here,  and here) of the literature either conclude that the evidence is equivocal or negative.  There is not a single homeopathic remedy for a single condition or illness that has been clearly shown to be effective, despite decades of research. And the overall pattern in the literature is that the better designed the trial, the more likely it is to be negative – a pattern most compatible with a null effect.

Poor scientific technique, magical thinking in the interpretation of negative results, the lack of falsifiability, the absence of a cohesive biological model, and the adherence to unchanging and untested principles has marked homeopathy as a pseudoscience. And yet, it flourishes in Great Britain in particular and Europe as a whole. Also, homeopathic entrepreneurs are spreading homeopathic nonsense to the US.

I am all in favor of homeopathic awareness. The scientific community should use this week to make the public acutely aware of the fact that homeopathy is, put simply, utter rubbish. It is a classic pseudoscience and has no place in a 21st century science-based health care system.

36 Responses to “Homeopathy Awareness Week”

  1. Ranson says:

    Excellent article, Dr. Novella. You’ve left few relevant stones unturned here.

  2. Jan Ignatius says:

    Great article, thank you for your ongoing efforts to “out” various pseudosciences.

    One small request, though: could you include all the references to the studies discussed in the article (e.g. the Nature’s tests)? If anyone is to use the article as a talking point in a debate with a homeopathy enthusiast, one will eventually need to be able to point to these tests and studies. Thanks!

  3. SeanJJordan says:

    Great article, as usual!

    Every time I hear about homeopathy, I wonder how ANYONE could be suckered by it. It doesn’t seem to be too big here in the Midwest. But I understand it’s HUGE in other parts of the US, and elsewhere in the world. That’s a frightening thought.

  4. Joe Jordan says:

    One of the most fascinating things about homeopathy is how it gets up the nose of so many recognized names in promoting science, critical thinking, and skepticism and that they spend hours of their intellectual time thinking and writing about it. Deep down they know there is something going on but can’t quite grasp it – so they ridicule it. This is one of the better articles though, much of it is accurate. Keep up the good work – you will get there eventually.

    As Ghandi once said ‘ First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they attack you and then you know you have won.’

    • Richard Smith says:

      While nobody attacked him, a lot of people laughed at Bozo the Clown, too.

    • Rob says:

      Skeptics and scientists ridicule homeopathy because it is ridiculous, i.e. deserving of ridicule. If nobody bought into this particular brand of nonsense, it might not be worth our time to ridicule it. It is, however, our duty as concerned citizens to step in when it is being used in place of real medicine and real people are suffering real consequences by taking a sugar pill when they need, say, chemotherapy instead.

      Homeopathy was great for its time. It offered people the benefit of the placebo effect, and, in contrast with many other treatments of the time, would at the very least not make you worse. But homeopathy failed to ever produce real results. As is mentioned in Dr. Novella’s article, the dawn of modern medicine resulted in real changes in humanity, it produced REAL results very quickly. When homeopathy was created, it was because we had nothing better and had little more than speculation to go on. It has since become obsolete as we have discovered a thing or two about our biology and have used this knowledge to craft provably, unquestionably effective remedies. I am sure that in 150 years our modern medicine will look as barbaric and silly as homeopathy, but it is the best that we have right now, and we as citizens of the free world would be foolish to not want the best for ourselves and our fellow citizens.

      So in short, we ridicule homeopath not because we fail to understand it or fear it, we ridicule homeopathy because we DO understand it, and it is absolutely worthy of ridicule.

    • Michael Kingsford Gray says:

      It is because Homeopathy is an outright fraud.

    • Merrick says:

      As Ghandi once said ‘ First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they attack you and then you know you have won.’

      Let me see, are there perhaps any examples of people who were ignored, laughed at and attacked who didn’t win?

      Could anything ever have been ignored because it was stupid until it was noticeable, then deservedly ridiculed until it was actually taken seriously and having harmful effect, then attacked until it was seen off?

      Or is everything laughed at and attacked always bound to win? (And by win, do we mean become popular or actually be right?)

      Does crystal healing, magic words and creative visualisation also share this unwavering destiny of eventual approval?

      I’m just asking.

  5. Richard Smith says:

    [i]does that mean the fewer members they have the more powerful the group?[/i]

    It does, according to the lesser-known practice of homopathy, the social-sciences application of homeopathy. Before the small group can become powerful, however, it must be succussed. Because people are larger than molecules, a much larger and heavier book must be used, and “applied” to each individual in the group. Some have renamed this altered methodology “concussion.”

  6. Joe – Arguing that criticism is a sign that something is correct is a classic “heads I win, tales you lose” mechanism of confirmation bias. If they ignore you, it’s because they have no criticism, i.e. tacit approval. If they criticize you, they must really be worried.

    Homeopathy “get’s up our noses” because skeptics tackle pseudoscience. It’s what we do. And homeopathy is a classic pseudoscience, has the potential to do great harm, and is widely misunderstood by the public. That is right at the core of our mission statement. Deal with it.

  7. BillDarryl says:

    “Homeopathy Awareness Week” to spread the bogus-ness (that’s right, I said “bogus!” Go ahead, UK, sue me!) that is homeopathy reminds me of Jenny McCarthy’s book being featured in bookstores in honor of “Autism Awareness Month.”

    Who do we have to lobby to get a “Quackery Awareness Month” going?

  8. Brian M says:

    This blog should have a weekly feature of ‘pseudoscience of the week’. Something we can all campaign against…

    In any case, great article! You left no stone unturned, it seems. I particularly like the Elizabeth Davenport part. Very amusing!

  9. Eddy says:

    Steve, you mention that Hahnemann did his work in a time that people went to hospitals to die rather then being treated to get well. Could it be that doing nothing (what homeopathy basically comes down to) offered a better change of survival and that this was enough to go by in those times?

    Ironic, isn’t it, that if this was the case that we now have the reverse situation.

    Still, people should understand by now that we need a measurable output first so we can collect data and improve experiments instead of foolhardily sticking to preconceived notions.

  10. Larry says:

    Just read the article, very interesting.
    Now, don’t bash me for this, but since my young age I’ve always been “cured” (note the quotes) through omeopathy.
    I’ve seen several documentaries on the subject and all I can conclude is the exact same as what you posted, there are no scientifical evidences to back up omeopathy as working medicine, because of the way things have been tested and because of the huge product dilution leaving absolutely zero molecule of the original product into the final solution.
    However, I don’t think things can be completely refuted and if people on quite a large scale still decide to continue with it, then I guess there must be a reason.
    I’m a very skeptical person myself and tend to never believe anything unless scientifically measured and proved. But on the other hand I must say I’ve never been badly ill, I’m 33 years old now and still part of the livings as you can read.
    So, my reasonning would rather tell me that indeed omeopathy does perhaps not do any good, but it doesn’t do any harm either, and I believe that if you can cure yourself with either that or a placebo, then to me it’s much more beneficial than going through allopathy. And this for the simple reason that I believe your body is often strong enough to face a lot of diseases on its own. Plus it will learn from that, your body might create antibodies that will prevent you from being ill again in a short period of time. These are just observations around me, when I see friends of mine having cured themselves only through the means of classical medecine, I can clearly notice they are more often ill than I am myself (I am basically pretty much never ill, I have close to zero days of illness per year, perhaps a week every 4 years, and I don’t think that’s a lot). Now obviously I’m not trying to convince anyone, but if we’d all be on the same page then what would be the point of discussing this, right?

    By the way, I’m totally against curing diseases such as Diabetes/Cancer/etc…. (even a headache) through the use of Omeopahy, I think that would be pure nonsense, but I truly believe that to a certain extend your body can cope with the most “basic” illnesses and doesn’t need these extra pills to get you well.
    Somehow it could be related to Darwin’s theory of evolution, your body adapts to things and to changes, and makes your fitter where necessary, that’s basically a natural process that none can deny. Whether Omeopathy could influence that goes completely beyond my knowledge, but I’m definitely interested in whether or not a human body can learn by itself or not; I personnaly believe it can.
    Could be I’m lucky for not often being ill, it’s hard to say, but so far I would not regret the decision of having cured most of my illnesses (again, I insist on the fact I have not had cancer nor diabetes) through that means.
    I think that too often people take pills whenever they feel down or slighly ill and to me this can’t help them much, as the pill will indeed make them feel better but the body won’t always have the time to adjust in order to fight the disease on its own in the future.

    (sorry if weird english at times, not my mothertongue ^^)

    all the best

  11. If I may be so bold….. on Dr. Novella’s NeuroLogica blog, he has posted a couple minor corrections, neither of which altered salient points. ‘Elizabeth Davenport’ should have read Elizabeth Davenas.

    I mention this only in hopes that a reader doesn’t waste time unknowingly googling the wrong name. I hate that, lol.

  12. “So, my reasonning would rather tell me that indeed omeopathy does perhaps not do any good, but it doesn’t do any harm either…”

    Larry, please review this website before you realize the potential harm:

    • Michael Kingsford Gray says:

      As well as the recent case of an Australian Homeopath sentenced with the manslaughter of his daughter THROUGH THE HOMEOPATHIC RELIGION.

  13. Kitapsiz says:

    Dr. Novella,

    From my own site, a few excerpts, obviously only usable as anecdotal reference, as to why “information” of this nature pervades:

    My experience of academic science, including peer review, suggests that things aren’t as straightforward as you seem to be suggesting, Mas – there are a whole host of what we might as well call “political” factors at work.

    My point is that peer review itself is a “political” process and that scientific practice comes with plenty of its own baggage. Just look at the way most labs are organised for a start.

    How does one tell whether the scientific research is pure science, or is influenced by the need to publish, for grants, a race for the Nobel, or a patent on a new discovery? No one here misunderstands the theory of scientific method, but some of us are mindful that what is theory and what is practice relies on fallible humans. A scientific “fact” is worthless until meaning is assigned, and meaning implies perspective. To offer “indisputable” scientific information is a red flag for those who DO understand the controllers and don’t like the taste of grass.

    All facts, frankly, are, in your charming idiom, “cerebral toys”. Shit happens.

    Regardless of how many times I point out the difference between certain people’s perceptions, and the provisional conclusions provided by empirical discipline/discovery; it is always these types of retorts ….

    There is no winning over the minds of believers … of any ilk.

    Perhaps capitulation is the only avenue. Equivocate and walk away, I see no other recourse.

  14. Becca Stareyes says:

    I remember when I was hit by a car a couple of years ago and my nurse at the hospital suggested homeopathic remedies. I nearly fainted from shock. Probably should have told him off, but by that time I just wanted to go home. I was in a university town, too, though one that has a reputation for being a bit crunchy-granola.

    Granted, I was in a state where I wasn’t seriously hurt*, and most of what I needed was pain management and keeping my scrapes clean until my body healed. The doctor herself had just recommended OTC painkillers, but gave me a scrip for something stronger if the milder painkillers didn’t help enough. But, still…

    * Contusions, bruises, scrapes from the pavement. Took a month for the pain to go away, but didn’t require anything more than OTC medicine.

  15. The Blind Watchmaker says:

    “So, my reasonning would rather tell me that indeed omeopathy does perhaps not do any good, but it doesn’t do any harm either, and I believe that if you can cure yourself with either that or a placebo, then to me it’s much more beneficial than going through allopathy.”

    The major harm comes from “opportunity cost”. People persue placebo treatments when they should be getting real treatments.

    For example, a person with leukemia decides to spend her time drinking magic water from a homeopath. In the meantime, her leukemia advances. By the time she gets real treatment, it could be too late. The opportunity for treating the disease at a potentially curable stage is lost. This is what is meant by opportunity cost. As a physician, I have seen this happen. It is a tragedy.

    By the way, don’t call real doctors “allopaths”. This term is meaningless and is really only used by quack “doctors” to differentiate themselves from science and evidence based doctors.

    • BillDarryl says:

      MSNBC did a great article on exactly this topic (click here). Just read the first few paragraphs and tell me it doesn’t feel like a punch in the chest.

      Larry, there’s your harm.

  16. Miranda Hale says:

    Excellent post! It’s very important to bring this stuff to light, as, unfortunately enough, so many people still fall for it and for other forms of pseudo-science.

  17. Larry says:

    Devil’s Advocate & The Blind Watchmaker, I agree totally with you, did you read what I posted above before replying with these links or did you just both focus on the part where I say “it does perhaps not do any good, but it doesn’t do any harm either”. Looks like it, since you both quoted it.
    I have explicitely said that omeopathy can to me never cure anything like all the diseases I find in the links you provided, naming: cancer, leucemia, penumonia, malaria, brain injury, meningitis…
    Sorry if that wasn’t clear enough, my mistake maybe, although I believe I specifically said that. That’s pure nonsense, of course you need proper medecine to deal with things like that, it would be totally absurd to rely on ompeopathy only.
    Unfortunately, there are always people that think they can do voodoo and cure any disease through that means, with the devastating results we seen, and these people to me are the real danger, not the so-called ‘therapy’ in itself.
    But now, let’s take this this with a grain of salt too, because I’m 100% sure I can find the same sort of stats with classical medecine. How many people die everyday of cancer/asthma/diabetes despites being threated with classical medecine? This is not demonstrated in any of these testimonies since the only aim here is to reject omeopathy as a whole, and this in favor of classical medecine.
    BTW, sorry for using allopathy is that is incorrect, not too sure wat term was more appropriate here.

    Anyway, I’m not really a believer of omeopathy, but like I said before, I believe the body can adjust by itself to illnesses and become stronger, but that only when we’re talking mainly about colds and diseases to a certain degree.
    I’m totally in favor of bringing awareness to the world so that they understand that for serious illnesses, only classical medecine can help. The danger lies in people’s hands, not in the medecine itself, and this is true for every sort of therapy in the world.

  18. Larry says:

    care to expand?

    • BillDarryl says:

      I will for him!

      The “cause and effect” comment I think has to do with your attributing your overall health to the fact you took homeopathic remedies. Logical fallacy. Just because A happened, then B happened, does not mean A caused B.

      When studies are done to isolate homeopathic remedies and observe their specific effects, they come up negative. So, with that evidence (or lack of, rather) under our belts, it’s safe to say here that B (your good health) was NOT caused by A (the remedies).

      (There’s an old joke, “If you have a cold, it will go away in seven days, but with this homeopathic remedy, it will be gone in a week!”)

      Now, you ask, what’s the harm in peddling it if there’s at least a placebo effect? Two problems come to mind immediately.

      One, it’s completely unethical (and illegal!) to sell a product and claim it treats a disease when you know full well it doesn’t.

      Two, once the perception of “homeopathy is effective in treating certain diseases” is out there, the door is open. And merchants looking to make a buck will push on that door to open it more and more. And very soon, we’re at the situations detailed above, where people are doing themselves real harm by buying into quackery.

      The unvarnished truth is this: Homeopathy has not been shown to be effective in treating any illness. Any.

      • Larry says:

        Thanks for your answer.
        Totally agree with you, very honestly.
        But I believe I mentionned that before as well, that my good health could be due to the fact I’m just lucky on that side, but also because I’ve never immediatly cured the most simple cold with antibiotics. Most probably having taken omeopathy hasn’t helped either (from what I can read from the surveys and I was aware of these facts too), and then having taken nothing would have had the same effects, but I’m still glad it worked without swallowing pills. Doing it this way might have made my body stronger against common viruses. Nothing can prove that, nothing can disprove that either, yet. So, I don’t really feel I went from B to A like that, I tried to say that with some precautions, perhaps wrongly interpreted at first sight.
        Let’s be totally honest, I’m a very skeptical person and a man of science and would be first to dismiss pseudoscience, but in the benefit of the doubt, I still won’t fight the most common diseases such as colds with classical pills, unless it gets to a point where it feels necessary.
        I’d totally lie if I’d say I’ve never had antibiotics, I just try to limit that and take only whenever needed, which is on very rare occasions. And I don’t go to omeopathy doctors either, neither to classical doctors tbh, but it happened I went to classical medecine at times a strong flu was kicking in (who’s never had a flu), because I don’t think I’m nuts to the point of playing the guinea pig with myself and because if you’re sane enough you would do everything to get yourself better.
        Just want to insist I’ve never tried to dismiss anything, certainly not, but I believe we need to remain open minded, we just don’t know everything.

  19. D J Graham says:

    I love Tim Minchin’s line(from “Storm”) that water remembers the vibrations of a substance but “…mysteriously forgets all the poo it’s had in it.”

  20. Mike says:

    Dr. Novella said:

    Patients are made to feel that they are being given a remedy which is specifically designed for them personally

    I know that there are studies comparing placebo effects of large vs small pills, white vs colored pills, etc. Are there any studies comparing placebo effect of “mass market” vs “personalized” treatments?

  21. Abber says:

    Steve, thanks for such a comprehensive explanation of homoeopathy and its origins. I shall bookmark the URL for the next time I need to whack someone over the head with the facts about the magic beans they just bought from the homoeopathic drug store.

    There is a real need for people to be made aware of what this pseudo-science is all about, so they can educate themselves and seek out the real medicines when they need them. Now if only we had a drug to treat gullibility disorders…

  22. gwen says:

    NOT ALL HOMEOPATHY IS BOGUS!!! Zicam has real zinc and has been destroying the sense of smell in their customers for YEARS!! The nasal gel has just been pulled off the market! (and it’s about time) the parent company has said that there is no proven link between their product and loss of smell claims, but that high levels of zinc can cause the loss of smell has been known by science for years! When the lozenges first came out, I warned friends and family members away for just that reason, although they probably had too little zinc to affect smell, who knows when they would change their concentration.

    • Randall says:

      Zicam, as you noted, contains high levels of zinc. Thus, by definition, it is not a homeopathic remedy. They may have marketed it as such, due to the cachet of homeopathy, but if so they were lying.

  23. gwen says:

    I should have replaced bogus with ineffective, because the idea that zinc can cure a cold IS still bogus ‘science’, however the zinc has the effect of possibly harming your sense of smell–potentially permanently!

  24. bj says:

    well done people. you all seemed to manage a discussion about a subject ..’any subject;..and not end up down the socialism and europe are evil ‘crap that you all usually bore me to tears with.

  25. Sara says:

    If homeopathy is bunk, then how did it dissolve a breast tumor I had last year using only homeopathy. The tumor was real as a GYN, biopsy, and mammogram confirmed it. Still after a few weeks of treatment, that same tumor was gone with no traces.

    How do you explain a person having surgery which which required a week recovery time be fully back to normal in 2 days after taking a homeopathic preparation. No bleeding, no pain, nada.

    If it is bunk then how are vaccines which are based on the same principles effective.

  26. dfsdfg says:

    The cancer will return