One can’t help but be perplexed by the bizarre world of #homeopathy . From miracle cures to snake oil peddling, from deceptive advertising to FDA warnings, from questionable medical claims to rigorous scientific testing, it’s an uncanny circle of health declarations and assertions. Here is hopefully a comprehensive overview of the evidence in 17 concise reasons……
1) The active ingredient of a homeopathic remedy is diluted to a ratio of: 1 : 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000. Or to look it another way, combine all the world’s oceans, let one drop of the active ingredient plunge into the middle, stir, and the result is a genuine homeopathic cure. The world’s most powerful microscope would be needed to locate even a single molecule in the average pill or tablet. When two completely different homeopathic remedies with two completely different “healing” agents are compared under a microscope, they are INDISTINGUISHABLE from each other!
2) Homeopaths claim their pills work because “the water remembers” – the active ingredient has made “contact” with it. This has never been proven in any field of science – chemistry, physics, and molecular biology. Furthermore, many homeopathic remedies are dry tablets or pills. There is no water to remember.
3) The FDA does not require manufacturers of homeopathic products to prove their efficacy or safety. They are under no obligation to test their products. You have to take their word for it.
4) Homeopaths advocate the “Principle of Similars”. They assert if you take the substance that made you sick in the first place, and dilute it to almost total invisibility, then ingest it, you will be cured. With a couple of rare exceptions (anti-venom is derived from venom, but contains numerous other elements), this has never been proven scientifically. A comparable is the homeopathic remedy that is supposed to help you fall asleep – the sleeping pill. What is the miniscule active ingredient? Caffeine! Time and again skeptics have publicly ingested several full bottles of “sleeping pills” without exuding even a yawn.http://www.1023.org.uk/the-1023-overdose-event.php
5) Many homeopathic manufacturers lie when they claim on their product labels that the remedy is FDA approved. Most consumers assume this refers to its efficacy. In fact the FDA has only ratified its safety. These are the exceptions, as most homeopathic products are not sent for any testing to the FDA.
6) In recent years the FDA has successfully sued several homeopathic companies for making unsubstantiated claims to cure a variety of diseases. However, many companies have found a legal loophole by claiming cures for general illnesses, not specifics. For example, the product will help your “liver problems”, with no mention whatsoever of hepatitis. Also, many homeopaths will make these claims verbally in one-on-one sessions with the patient, where there is no legal liability.
7) Homeopaths deceive the public when they sell a homeopathic product, usually a tablet or cream, that actually contains a medicinal substance. For example, a homeopathic cream for acne will contain both homeopathic water and tea tree oil, a common conventional aid to fight acne, produced and sold by non-homeopathic manufacturers. The consumer is given the impression that a homeopathic product has helped, when in fact it is the widely used and non-homeopathic tea tree oil.
8) Most of the apparent success of homeopathy is due to the time and attention given to patients – a holistic approach. A 7 minute doctor visit with a prescription can’t compete with a homeopath’s sixty minute caring and nurturing environment. This is the placebo effect and works frequently for some basic health problems, but not for serious illnesses like cancer.
Anthony Campbell is the former editor of the British Homeopathic Journal. In a recent book on the subject he wrote: “Most homeopaths like to allow at least 45 minutes for a first consultation and many prefer an hour or more. Second, patients feel that they are being treated ‘as an individual’. They are asked a lot of questions about their lives and their likes and dislikes in food, weather, and so on, much of which has no obvious connection with the problem that has led to the consultation. Then the homeopath will quite probably refer to an impressively large and imposing source of information to help with choosing the right ‘remedy’.”
Homeopaths claim it is more than the placebo effect and their remedies actually contain healing properties. Not only has this claim never been proven, but rigorous scientific testing has proven over and over that “there is nothing there”. Essentially, the deception is the cure.
9) The Mayo Clinic Book of Alternative Medicine (Second Edition) is very fair in crediting the few alternative medicine treatments that have been proven to work. On this subject:
“Homeopathic medicine is popular. However, it lacks good studies to prove its effectiveness. Studies that have been done have generally been small and have produced conflicting results. In general, the scientific community also finds the theories on which homeopathic medicine is based questionable and difficult to accept. These factors have kept it from being widely accepted into mainstream medicine.
“Because homeopathic medicine mainly involves diluted substances containing little, if any, of their original formulas, the risk they pose is likely minimal. The risks you may be taking are spending money on something that may not work and forgoing proven conventional treatments for homeopathic therapies.”
10) Most homeopaths and users follow a New Age, mystical, philosophical world view. When solid evidence is presented that a treatment or pill is no better than a placebo, they insist the science is wrong, because their religious views cannot be. When irrefutable evidence is presented, advocates claim persecution and fabricate conspiracy theories.
The Journal of the American Medical Association did an exhaustive study on people’s motivation for using alternative medicines like homeopathy. The overwhelming majority did so because “they find these health-care alternatives to be more congruent with their own values, beliefs and philosophical orientations toward health and life.”
11) In 2005 the British medical journal The Lancet conducted a meta-analysis of 110 controlled studies of homeopathy and 110 studies of comparable conventional medicine studies. The result was “there was no effect beyond that of a placebo for homeopathy. When account was taken for these biases in the analysis, there was weak evidence for a specific effect of homeopathic remedies, but strong evidence for specific effects of conventional interventions. This finding is compatible with the notion that the clinical effects of homoeopathy are placebo effects.” (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed?cmd=Retrieve&list_uids=16125589)
12) In 2006 the European Journal of Cancer conducted a meta-analysis of 6 studies. The conclusion: “Our analysis of published literature on homeopathy found insufficient evidence to support clinical efficacy of homeopathic therapy in cancer care.” (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16376071)
The American College of Medical Toxicology (ACMT) and American Academy of Clinical Toxicology (AACT) have jointly released a public statement: “Don’t use homeopathic medications, non-vitamin dietary supplements, or herbal supplements as treatments for disease or preventive health measures.”
13) What’s the harm in homeopathy? A group of British doctors working among the rural poor across Africa wrote a letter to the World Health Organization. Part of the letter read: “We are calling on the WHO to condemn the promotion of homeopathy for treating TB, infant diarrhea, influenza, malaria and HIV. Homeopathy does not protect people from, or treat, these diseases. Those of us working with the most rural and impoverished people of the world already struggle to deliver the medical help that is needed. When homeopathy stands in place of effective treatment, lives are lost.”
14) In Canada a homeopathic product called Mozi-Q is marketed. The claim for this pill is not only that it will keep mosquitoes away, but if you are bitten, itching will be lessened. Chemist Dr. Joe Schwarcz writes:
“What evidence is provided? There’s talk of how mosquitoes avoid delphinium flowers, which may or may not be true. But what does that have to do with swallowing pills sprayed with an extremely dilute extract of the plant? Are the nonexistent delphinium molecules exuding through the skin? And itching is supposedly relieved because a pill contains a trace of stinging-nettle extract? According to the perverse theory of homeopathy, nettle causes stinging on contact with skin and therefore when diluted is a simple remedy for the same sensation. Simply asinine.”
15) Further proof that homeopathy is merely a placebo is found in the words of practicing homeopaths themselves. Prominent Canadian homeopath Anna Sienicka writes in her web site:
“It really comes down to what you choose to believe. Whether the example is morphine or Homeopathy, if you believe it is not going to work, it is simply not going to work. By listening to people with negative opinions about Homeopathy and accepting them as true, you are buying into their beliefs and accepting them as your own. Please remember that only you are the one to decide what your experience will be.” http://www.homeopathiccare.ca/IsHomeopathyaScam2.php
16) For a good bird’s eye perspective on the world of homeopathy, and the authentic amazing power of the placebo, consider this illustration. You’re sitting in your basement formulating hundreds of bottles full of 100% fake sugar pills. When finished, you do some research on what’s ailing people the most. Look, a lot of people are suffering from arthritis. You then label each bottle: “Homeopathic remedy to help alleviate arthritis”. There’s more.
You have a lot of money to spend on advertising, so you hire professionals to create a slick internet campaign to promote your product. You sell hundreds of bottles! What’s the result? At least 25% and possibly as much as 50% of buyers will send you an unsolicited email telling you: “Thanks, your product helped alleviate my pain.” Welcome to the world of homeopathy!
17) Some marketers actually sell Homeopathy First Aid Kits. It could be very unhealthy to use a non-existent remedy in an emergency situation. Who knew that certain homeopathic remedies could counteract the “effects of fear”? Just three of the mixtures out of a total of 18 for only $54.99 are:
Aconite (the “queen of poisons”): for colds, flu, sore throats, effects of fear, fright, chicken pox and croup.
Arnica: after injury, mental and physical shock, before and after operations or visits to the dentist. Stops bleeding, aids in the healing of wounds and reduces bruising and swelling.
Arsen alb (arsenic): stomach upsets from food poisoning, diarrhea, vomiting and acute hayfever. Good for some dry skin conditions.
Paul A. Offit, M.D., Do you Believe in Magic: The Sense and Nonsense of Alternative Medicine, Harper Collins, 2013