Monday, July 19, 2010

Washing Out Homeopathy

An article I wrote on Homeopathy for Henry the Health Hound

There is often a great deal of confusion about homeopathy when I talk to people on this subject. Some say it’s a herbal medicine, while others comment that it’s all natural. Most often I find that people really have no idea what homeopathy is at all. This article will help you have a better understanding of what it is, what it proposes to do, and why it should be avoided.

So what exactly is homeopathy? Homeopathy is a pseudo-science, or as Robert Park in his book calls it, Voodoo Science. This means that it is unsupported by any verifiable and quantifiable evidence. In other words, somebody just made it up. Homeopathy was first proposed by Samuel Hahnemann in 1796. If you consider the other choices of medical treatments with bloodletting and the use of arsenous sulphide (yes arsenic), then you can start to understand why Homeopathy was much more desirable.

So what does homeopathy claim it is? Homeopathy claims that it is a tried and tested form of medicine with scientific reasoning and evidence behind it. We now refer to it as an alternative medicine. Personally, I dislike using that term because it is the furthest thing from a medicine. Homeopathy has 4 basic principles guiding it. A proving, the law of similars, dilution potency, and the memory of water.

A proving is how homeopaths find out what causes a certain set of symptoms. This principle greatly overlaps the law of similars which you’ll see in a bit. The homeopath would see if, for example, ground pepper would make healthy people sneeze (it was never established by Hahnemann what the exact criteria for healthy was and is also one of the problems with homeopathy). Hahnemann and other homeopaths after him used this method with many substances to build a library of symptoms and a causing agent. The problem with this (although the compilation of substances and what they cause is a relatively good thing) was that it failed to actually diagnose the actual cause of a patient’s symptoms when one was sick. Now enters the law of similars.

The law of similars basically states that “like cures like”. This on the surface seems reasonable since people build immunities to substances by coming in contact with them in small doses (like the similar idea with vaccines). If you look at the proving principles above though, you’ll see that the law of similars and “like cures like” is not about coming in contact with the actual substance but something “similar.” For example: If one is having the symptoms of sneezing, red splotches on the skin, shortness of breath every time they are outside, a rational person might think the person is allergic to pollen. The homeopath in the early provings of Hahnemann found that these symptoms are caused also by feline saliva. Since feline saliva can cause the same symptoms, the law of similars says it can be used to cure the pollen allergy. It doesn’t quite make sense now does it? Well, it gets better though.

Next, the law of dilution potency comes into play. This simply states that the more the solution is diluted, the more stronger, or potent, it becomes. Now it’s really not making sense at all. Homeopaths create these “medicines” this basic way: They take a drop of (let’s use the example above) of feline saliva and mixes it with 10 drops of water. This is a 10/1 solution. This solution is not diluted enough and in the eyes of a homeopath is far too weak. So they take this 10/1 solution and take one drop of that and mix that with another 10 drops of water. This is a 10/2 solution (1 in 100. The 2 represents the number of zeros or commonly referred to 10 to the power of 2). This continues on further diluting the homeopathic solution. Homeopaths prefer a dilution no less then 10 to the power of 20 (that’s 20 zeros behind it). Now there comes a point where, mathematically, there can no longer be a molecule of the substance left in the solution. This fact was discovered by Amedeo Avogadro. The limit of dilution for the molecule to still be present in the solution is 10 to the power of 23. You’ll find most homeopathic solutions are above 10/30 (it may say 30x as the concentration). So therefore there is a greater chance that you are just getting water and not any actual “medicine” ingredient. Homeopaths have an answer for this and that brings me to the next principle.

Homeopaths claim water has a memory. Through the mixing, or cessation process, the water molecules come in contact with the substance and they retain that information. If this is true (and it isn’t) water then has a selective and short-term memory because those water molecules in their existence (over all time) have come in contact with everything. If water has a memory then drinking toilet water would be just as good (and cheaper).

There have been many attempts to prove homeopathy scientifically through experiments and studies. These, like the BBC’s Horizon test, clearly show it has no basis what-so-ever (see reference below). Homeopathy simple does not work. It’s only success is due in part to the placebo effect (believing you will get better and thus feeling better…for a short time), confusion of correlation and causation (A + B does not always equal C. Patient has a symptom. Person does something and the symptom is gone. Concludes that the action B cured the symptom A without regard of other factors such as the body’s natural ability to heal itself and other medicines/treatment taken as well), and just plain denial of science and facts.

Although homeopathy in itself is not dangerous (it’s just water, or water dripped onto sugar pills), it’s the belief that it works and the stopping of other treatments (because of side-effects and other factors) which can lead to serious harm and death. Visit to see just a small sampling of the harm.
In conclusion, I urge you to pass this information onto others, so that they will not be scammed into taking homeopathic solutions. Find Scambusting! on Facebook or for more information and links to other scams, hoaxes, quackery and questionable practices.

 Voodoo Science—Robert Park
 Demon Haunted World—Carl Sagan

1 comment:

  1. Congratulations babe on your first publication!

    You did a excellent job on researching and writing this article on Homeopathy.