Jun 15 2009

Homeopathy Awareness Week

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 led, 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 led 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.

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64 responses so far

64 Responses to “Homeopathy Awareness Week”

  1. DannyBloeon 15 Jun 2009 at 9:27 am

    So, one thing that keeps me wondering. If water has a memory then how can the homeopath be certain that the water itself isn’t contaminated up front with a million other ‘memories’ of previous dillutions? Or can they reset the water and remove whatever memory is there? After all, all the water out there is shared and billions of years old. It must be crowded with billions of memories in there.

  2. revmatton 15 Jun 2009 at 9:45 am

    The Ernst point is one that is often presented in a way that is misleading and annoys me to no end in discussions of homeopathy, and I’d advise others to hew to the way it’s presented by Ernst. Saying it is no more effective as a sugar pill is not the same as having the same effect as a sugar pill (or worse, ‘identical to a placebo’), which is how I often see it presented. Yes I’m being horrendously pedantic, but that’s what the internet is for.

    I would argue that a sugar pill has greater potential for effect in that there’s sugar in it and that can have a physiological effect, whereas plain water does not have that same potential.

    I’m more amused by products that label themselves homeopathic but then contain actual active ingredients. I’m not sure whether to be concerned that when they then work that people will start to believe in homeopathy or to be amused at how cynical the companies are.

  3. Steven Novellaon 15 Jun 2009 at 9:49 am

    revmatt – however, homeopathic preparations are often placed on a sugar pill, and that is how it is taken. So many homeopathic products are sugar pills with a drop of water on them.

  4. superdaveon 15 Jun 2009 at 10:11 am

    where homeopathy really won was in the name game. The word just sounds so benign, rolls off the tongue well, has the word home in it. It just sounds safe warm and friendly.

  5. Diane Henryon 15 Jun 2009 at 11:16 am

    *snark* what I “love” about homeopathy is that after all the arguing about how “water has memory”, the water itself evaporates off the sugar pill. So, not only does water have memory, but it transfers the memory to the sugar. So, I guess sugar has memory too.

  6. DevilsAdvocateon 15 Jun 2009 at 11:28 am

    Homeopathy = Water has memory.
    Human body = High water content.
    Human Brain = Has memory.
    Ergo, homeopathy WORKS.

    This was an actual argument presented to support the efficacy and reality of homeopathy by a registered nurse in a university hospital in Chael Hill NC who works part time for a local homeopath.

    She was opining during a backyard cookout, explaining the medical science behind homeopathy to the uninitiated among us. I about came out of my skin and stood to refute, but was cowed by my wife’s ‘not here, not now’ glare.

  7. llewellyon 15 Jun 2009 at 11:31 am

    After all, all the water out there is shared and billions of years old. It must be crowded with billions of memories in there.

    Hey. It cured me of Ammonite herpes. Don’t knock it ’till you try it.

  8. llewellyon 15 Jun 2009 at 11:47 am

    I would argue that a sugar pill has greater potential for effect in that there’s sugar in it and that can have a physiological effect, whereas plain water does not have that same potential.

    You can go without sugar a lot longer than you can go without water. The fact that homeopathy doesn’t work does not mean water has little or no physiological effect.

  9. Articannyon 15 Jun 2009 at 1:20 pm

    My sister’s mother in law was just diagnosed with terminal breast cancer. This is thanks to her homeopath. Who assured her the lump on her breast was nothing to worry about, and could be cured with homeopathic remedies. By the time she fell seriously ill and went to see a real doctor the cancer had become terminal.

    I wonder how these vampires are able to live with themselves lying and stealing from people who need real medical treatment?

  10. superdaveon 15 Jun 2009 at 2:40 pm

    Arti, you have my sympathies. I hope that you are not shy about sharing this story.

  11. Scotty Bon 15 Jun 2009 at 2:41 pm

    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.

    Weird, that’s exactly what CAM practitioners are saying today. Only it was true then. Have they not learned anything in the last 200 years?

  12. Karl Withakayon 15 Jun 2009 at 3:21 pm

    To maximize the potency of of Homeopathy awareness, instead of a whole week, shouldn’t we allocate a Planck Time (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Planck_Time) to Homeopathic awareness?

    On second though, a Planck Time is still a meaningful measure of time, so it’s probably not potent enough.

  13. HHCon 15 Jun 2009 at 4:21 pm

    Thank you for your article, Dr. Novella. I’m glad that you decided to publish this on your U.S. blog. God help you if you had published this in the “Guardian” under the Comments section. :-)

  14. DevoutCatalyston 15 Jun 2009 at 4:40 pm

    “I wonder how these vampires are able to live with themselves lying and stealing from people who need real medical treatment?”

    Quite well, apparently,

    http://www.cancure.org/homeopathy.htm

    The word “vampires” is too kind.

  15. DanaUllmanon 15 Jun 2009 at 5:01 pm

    Steve,

    You’ve got to show at least a tad more academic accuracy here. There is no researcher who worked with Benveniste by the name of “Davenport.”

    While you are criticizing “junk science,” I am still waiting for your and anyone’s critique of the BBC’s study that said that they were replication Professor Ennis’ trial, though that fact has been thorough debunked:
    http://www.homeopathic.com/articles/view,55

    More critique of these studies are here:
    http://www.homeopathic.com/articles/by_category.jsp?id=37

    In your efforts to evaluate research, I wonder why you don’t provide any critique of the studies that seem to suggest that homeopathic medicines don’t work.

    As for your reference to Wim Betz as a “former homeopathic doctor.” Yeah, right. He has been a long-time skeptic of everything to do with alternative medicine. If, however, you are going to refer to him as a “homeopathic doctor,” where did he get his training, how long did he practice, and what certification in homeopathy did he receive? When you make outrageous statements, you should make some type of effort to verify them. That’s reasonable, isn’t it?

    I realize that most of the people reading this blog question the possibility of homeopathic medicines, but check out this highly controlled basic science trial:

    http://ecam.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/abstract/nep036

  16. Steven Novellaon 15 Jun 2009 at 6:09 pm

    I didn’t think it would take long for Dana Ullman to show up.

    Regarding Elizabeth “Davenport” – you are correct, I got the name wrong. Her name was Elizabeth Davenas. I made the correction in the original and provided a reference.

    Of course, that detail changes nothing about the story and its implications.

    Regarding Betz -I based my statement on a personal communication. Unfortunately, most of the info I can find about his is in Dutch (I think its Dutch). I will contact him for more info. But I hardly think that’s an “outrageous” claim, nor does it affect any of my points.

    It’s nice that you found some nits to pick, without addressing any of my real points.

    As for scholarship – this is a blog. I make no pretense otherwise. I wrote that entry prior to work, based upon older writings of mine, and plan to add more references when I have time.

    And I know I have said to you before – I do not find individual studies of homeopathy compelling – either positive or negative. I am interested in systematic reviews, which are very negative and consistent with the hypothesis that homeopathic remedies have no effect. Certainly there is insufficient evidence to reject the null hypothesis for any homeopathic remedy, combined with extreme scientific implausibility. In science-based medicine, that equals fail.

  17. dreamking00on 15 Jun 2009 at 6:09 pm

    Well, DanaUllman, how about you cite sources that are, perhaps, reputable? Your first two citations are to a website that’s clearly an advocacy website and therefore worthless, and your third citation is merely an excercise in how DETECTABLE the chemicals were at levels around one hundred parts per BILLION. The question of efficacy was NOT addressed.

  18. cityqaton 15 Jun 2009 at 6:34 pm

    I have a Homeopath. She knows far more than my doctor, though understands that her remedies must work with his prescriptions. She is careful and watchful of my health. The remedies that she has given me have WORKED.

    Before getting on board with Homeopathy, or any alternative medicine, I was as outspoken and concise as Novella. When I look back on my last 5 years, I can now see that this argument was ignorant and ridiculous. Homeopathy has been around for centuries. Western Medicine has not. Homeopathy is still practiced through the majority of the world including China, Japan, India, South America, Europe and Canada. Western Medicine is practiced in a select few of those countries.

    If this article was researched in medical databases such as Medline, as I have done, it would be mentioned that it is found that there is an abundant amount of articles supporting the use of alternative therapies – one of which is Homeopathy. These are not articles sponsored by a pharmaceutical company; they are articles that are peer reviewed and published in medical journals.

  19. DanaUllmanon 15 Jun 2009 at 6:49 pm

    eCAM (!) is an “advocacy website”!? In that case, you’ll have to alerg Oxford University Press, and you’ll have to tell ISI that their impact factor of 2.535 may be wrong.

    By the way, this journal does not just publish pro-homeopathy or pro-CAM research. See for yourselves.

    Speaking of this journal, see this study:
    Khuda-Bukhsh, AR, Pathak, S, Guha, B. Can Homeopathic Arsenic Remedy Combat Arsenic Poisoning in Humans Exposed to Groundwater Arsenic Contamination?: A Preliminary Report on First Human Trial, eCAM, doi:10.1093/ecam/neh124 (Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, October 27, 2005.) Besides the clinical observations, this double-blind trial also found liver function tests that was significant too:

    Belon P, Banerjee A, Karmakar SR, Biswas SJ, Choudhury SC, Banerjee P, Das JK, Pathak S, Guha B, Paul S, Bhattacharjee N, Khuda-Bukhsh AR. Homeopathic remedy for arsenic toxicity?: Evidence-based findings from a randomized placebo-controlled double blind human trial. Sci Total Environ. 2007 Jul 10.
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/sites/entrez?Db=pubmed&Cmd=ShowDetailView&TermToSearch=17628642&ordinalpos=1&itool=EntrezSystem2.PEntrez.Pubmed.Pubmed_ResultsPanel.Pubmed_RVDocSum

    That said, I’m still trying to figure out how UV-spectroscopy data can consistently show effects from a homeopathic medicine and yet nothing from the control…

    Anomalous data are critical to understanding phenomena in a scientific manner.

  20. Joeon 15 Jun 2009 at 7:18 pm

    @DanaUllman on 15 Jun 2009 at 6:49 pm “That said, I’m still trying to figure out how UV-spectroscopy data can consistently show effects from a homeopathic medicine and yet nothing from the control…”

    Of course you are, if you are referring to Rustum Roy’s incompetent experiment- you are as ignorant of UV-Vis spectroscopy as he is. His “control” was not pure solvent. His homeopathic preps merely showed batch-to-batch variation in the solvent. This was clearly explained:

    Homeopathy, Volume 97, Issue 1, January 2008, Pages 44-45
    Morag Kerr, Joseph Magrath, Paul Wilson and Christopher Hebbern

    Roy’s group was not only incompetent at interpreting spectra, they were incompetent at obtaining spectra. I can teach high-school students to do better. Their data suggest they don’t know how to control for differences in hardware or, at least, not eat cheeseburgers while handling critical materials.

  21. superdaveon 15 Jun 2009 at 7:46 pm

    Dana, homeopathy is so far and away outside the realm of theoretical possibility that there is no justification for even addressing any of the points you make.
    How about you actually address something that was in Steve’s post other than inane nitpicking?

  22. HHCon 15 Jun 2009 at 8:02 pm

    If homeopathy proponents say their preparations work, then I would question what’s in their British Isles water. The Associated Press investigations showed pharmaceutical traces in drinking water. Antibiotics, psychiatric drugs, and endocrine-disrupting sex hormones were reported. Recently, the U.S. Congress has had witnesses before the Insular Affairs, Oceans, and Wildlife House Natural Resources Committee. One witness, an Omaha pharmacist from Methodist Hospital quiped, if he needed pain medication, he would just drink his bottled water.

  23. artfulDon 15 Jun 2009 at 8:14 pm

    HHC, I think the point was that these preparations don’t work regardless of what either the homeopaths allegedly put or someone else has unintentionally put in those expensive little snake oil containers.

  24. Michael Kingsford Grayon 15 Jun 2009 at 8:32 pm

    If anyone is able to distinguish homeopathic water from non-homeopathic water reliably above chance levels under test conditions, $1m awaits you…

    $1m for a few minutes work!
    What are you waiting for?

    (Wait for the special pleading to begin)

  25. CKavaon 15 Jun 2009 at 8:33 pm

    Dana Ullman really needs to work on his reading skills.

    - Dreamking says “Well, DanaUllman, how about you cite sources that are, perhaps, reputable? Your first two citations are to a website that’s clearly an advocacy website and therefore worthless, and your third citation is merely an excercise in how DETECTABLE the chemicals were at levels around one hundred parts per BILLION. The question of efficacy was NOT addressed.”

    And Dana Ullman responds:

    eCAM (!) is an “advocacy website”!? In that case, you’ll have to alerg Oxford University Press, and you’ll have to tell ISI that their impact factor of 2.535 may be wrong.

    >> Please note Dana the eCAM journal was the THIRD LINK YOU POSTED and dreamking commented that “your first two citations are to … an advocacy website” and then went on to discuss the other problems with your third link. So your entire response/rant was based on you failing to actually read a one paragraph response properly.

    As for eCAM… being published by Cambridge and having papers which are cited doesn’t mean it’s not a pro CAM journal and indeed it is. The fact that it has a few negative studies published in it does not detract from the fact that it is generally a home for CAM advocates and the usual less than impressive CAM papers.

  26. Mueroon 15 Jun 2009 at 8:40 pm

    I submitted this to Digg:

    http://digg.com/health/Homeopathy_Is_Bunk_Awareness_Week

    Please digg it if you think others should see this.

  27. superdaveon 15 Jun 2009 at 8:51 pm

    I read that paper on the UV spectroscopy, and I admit I do not have a lot of expertise in spectroscopy. The data is interesting but not entirely convincing. There were some red flags for me which were this.

    1) The data was taken in two different labs, which is hard to account for. The paper explained they attempted to do this by subtracting and then dividing by the mean. I think this is wrong.

    2) The paper said that the water with the homeopathic dilutions absorbed more light, but the graphs seemed to indicate the opposite.

    3) They did not show a plot of the UV absorbance at more traditional dilutions.

    4) the substances in question were not homeopathic remedies.

    5) Of the three substances tested, there was no significant effect on two of them.

  28. dreamking00on 15 Jun 2009 at 9:23 pm

    I said the “first two” are advocacy websites, both from homeopathic.com.

    Secondly, the spectroscopy did NOT show effects. It showed detectable levels on the order of 100 ppb, with no regard to the effects or efficacy WHATSOEVER.

  29. criticaliston 15 Jun 2009 at 9:31 pm

    Hurray, I thought to myself! Another randomised clinical trial from Dana proving the efficacy of homeopathy! Will it be as well carried out as the previous offerings on arnica? I could hardly wait to find out, and after the happy discovery that my university does subscribe to the journal “Science of the Total Environment”, I downloaded the full article, and began to read.

    Generally speaking, one does not usually find oneself bursting into laughter upon reading the “methods” section of clinical trial reports. However, this trial proves a joyous exception. Thanks Dana! Let me share my happiness.

    So, our researchers have decided to investigate the effect of homeopathic Arsenicum Album-30 on arsenic toxicity in a randomised clinical trial. They recruited subjects from a village in West Bengal, apparently known to be arsenic contaminated. There does not seem to have been any attempt to define inclusion or exclusion criteria for the study; all that is noted is the subjects appeared to be showing initial signs/symptoms of arsenic poisoning, in terms of non specific symptoms such as liver or alimentary problems. Thirty nine patients “agreed to act as volunteers (by signing “informed consent”) for our study although initially some of them were reluctant.”
    The authors also note they “were in general a frustrated lot who were almost resigned
    to fate.”

    So, onto randomisation. Fifty similar bottles, containing either verum or control, were put on a tray, and the subjects asked to pick one. At that point, blood and urine samples were taken, and the subjects were left to their own devices for 2 months, after which they were to return to the collection camp for follow up. However, only 25 patients actually turned up, of whom 20 had taken the verum. Realistically, at this point the trial was dead, but sadly our researchers attempt to resuscitate it with predictable results. Firstly, seeing as they have only 5 patients who have taken placebo, they suddenly decide that they will use subjects from a completely different village, an arsenic free one, will serve as controls. They then spend a lot of time comparing the initial blood results of their trial subjects with those of the new control villagers. Comparing a number of non specific tests; full blood count, creatinine and liver function tests they find their subjects from the outset have more abnormal results, and higher levels or arsenic in their blood and urine. What this is meant to show I don’t know – how these other villagers can be referred to as “controls” is beyond me, as they didn’t take part in the experiment. All they show is that their original subject villagers have some non specific abnormalities in their test results that may or may not be related to arsenic toxicity.

    Now they seriously lose it. Comparing the post drug results between the verum group and placebo group (remember the placebo group just contains 5 patients, with no attempt to control or discuss baseline matching) they decide the results are significant, by using a p value of (wait for it) 0.5, rather than the more usually accepted 0.05. The only tests which might have been relevant would be to compare the arsenic levels in villagers before and after they had been treated; and see if there was a difference between verum and control groups; and this of course they did not do. In fact there is no comparison at all of before and after test results for any of the subjects, using any of the parameters.

    So, in summary, we have a trial with no real inclusion criteria, poor randomisation, enormous drop out rate, that changes its protocol halfway to include meaningless controls, then utilises incorrect statistical techniques to analyse the wrong parameters.

    At this point is seems somewhat churlish to point out that I thought homeopathic techniques are meant to be carefully individualised or they don’t work – but I forget, homeopaths are allowed to decide if individualisation is required after they have seen results of trials testing those treatments, not before.

    Dana, have you actually read this nonsense?

  30. daedalus2uon 15 Jun 2009 at 9:32 pm

    There is a plausible mechanism for homeopathic preparations to reduce arsenic exposure in a chronically exposed population. Homeopathic preparations are made with distilled water, which contains no arsenic. To the extent that local drinking water is replaced by homeopathic preparations made with distilled water, there will be lower arsenic exposure.

  31. Doctor Evidenceon 16 Jun 2009 at 12:55 am

    wild.
    http://www.homeopathic.com/articles/view,26

  32. Michael Kingsford Grayon 16 Jun 2009 at 5:43 am

    As I have alluded to previously, Homeopathy is certainly a potential outright CURE for the following ailments:

    1) Mild thirst.
    2) Acutely distended wallet.
    3) Skepticism of any sort.

    But more research needs to be done to determine whether-or-not homeopathy is able to cure sanity.
    The preliminary data show a positive correlation.

  33. Crispianon 16 Jun 2009 at 5:57 am

    Hear Hear Steven, this is the ideal time to raise awareness of the effeciacy of homeopathy based on science based medical trials.

    Here’s my effort to raise awareness:
    http://crispian-jago.blogspot.com/2009/06/homeopathy-sketch.html

  34. popurls.com // popular todayon 16 Jun 2009 at 6:40 am

    [...] 5 Twitter Related Trends to Watch26 Examples of Online T-Shirt Shops | Webdesigner Depotreddit I am all in favor of homeopathic awareness week. We should use it to make the public aware of the fa… A pizza with the radius z and thickness a has the volume pi*z*z*a – What’s your favorite [...]

  35. hughcumberon 16 Jun 2009 at 9:10 am

    I’ve already had 2 homeopathy/CAM sites follow me on Twitter this morning from mentioning Homeopathy in a tweet. I guess they’re taking this awareness thing seriously…

    I’ve written a song (well, lyrics) for homeopathy awareness week
    http://derivationprobability.blogspot.com/2009/06/im-diluting.html

  36. [...] post a humiliating retraction. I weep non-diluted tears for them. Dr. Rachie has more info. Also, Steve Novella has written a lengthy and complete destruction of homeopathy on his NeuroLogica blog. If you are a homeopathic believer and feel you must spout your undiluted nonsense in the comments [...]

  37. filberton 16 Jun 2009 at 12:57 pm

    Steven,
    Thanks for the article. Although I appreciate your effort to point out the lack of scientific evidence and conclusive experiments validating claims of homeopathy, I find the derogatory use of the phrase “magical thinking” shortsighted. Magical thinking may be an evolutionary development that helps humans search for patterns and find meaning in events. Here is an article from Psychology Today that summarizes nicely the relevance and usefulness of this thinking.

    http://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/200802/magical-thinking?page=4

    “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” –Arthur C. Clarke
    Much of what seemed to be magic in earlier times is now scientifically understood (think: germs, electricity, radio waves, etc). Chances are, things that seem like “magic” today will be understood in later times. One must be careful not to get stuck in the “earth is flat” “earth is the center of the universe” mentality just because we haven’t yet developed the means to measure and “see” everything we don’t understand.

  38. moimemeon 16 Jun 2009 at 1:17 pm

    Greatly enjoyed your article, and I will pass it along. If I may point out one small annoying detail, the past tense of “lead” is “led”.

  39. killbillon 16 Jun 2009 at 6:26 pm

    There is something interesting that you all seem to miss here.

    While I am not personally an advocate of any particular form of medicine, it should be noted that the number one cause of death in the United States today is medical malpractice.

    Modern western medicine kills people.

    While you can write off things like homeopathy as hogwash, it generally doesn’t kill people, and it should be considered in the “argument”.

    Another thing to consider is this… when was the last time modern western medicine cured any sort of disease. Pretty much never.

    Why?

    Modern western medicine is driven by two things. Dollars and greed. There just is no money in a cure, but there sure is a lot of money in providing some drug that you need to take indefinitely.

    Big business is doing nothing for the health of humanity, and while I won’t really argue either way for homeopathy, I will say that I have never heard of anyone being killed by homeopathic malpractice.

    Over and out.

  40. DanaUllmanon 16 Jun 2009 at 11:32 pm

    People here asked that I comment on the crux of what Steve said. Ok…but it is hard to know where to begin because there is so much misinformation here…

    His assertion that “Hahnemann based this rule on a single observation” is either based on extremely limited knowledge of Hahnemann and homeopathy, or you are purposefully providing mis-information. You’re seeming a smart guy. I assume that you’re doing the latter.

    For the record, Time magazine reported that before Osler’s death in 1919, he expressed even greater support for homeopathy and its founder, asserting that, “No individual has done more good to the medical profession than Samuel Hahnemann.”

    Many of homeopathy’s most severe critics have actually had kind words for Samuel Hahnemann. Morris Fishbein, executive director of the American Medical Association, wrote: “The influence of Hahnemann was, on the whole, certainly for the good. He emphasized the individualization of the patient in the handling of disease … and he demonstrated the value of testing the actual virtues of a drug by trial” (Fishbein, 1925, 37).

    You ask:
    “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.”
    The answer: A homeopath may use Allium cepa (onion) for those symptoms that it is known to cause in overdose. By using a drug that mimics the symptoms of the body’s efforts to fight infection, Allium cepa helps resolve the viral infection faster. Homeopathy gained its greatest popularity in the 19th century in the US and Europe due to its impressive success in treating infectious disease epidemics of that era, including cholera, scarlet fever, typhoid, pneumonia, and influenza.

    Homeopaths determine what a medicine is effective in treating based on experiments in toxicology called “drug provings.” People here might benefit from learning about drug provings: http://jop.sagepub.com/cgi/content/abstract/22/5/543

    Steve asserts that homeopaths ask for “special pleading” for our clinical trials. No, homeopaths simply assert that homeopathic principles need to be considered in order for external validity. That said, there are rare occasions in which a single medicine has been shown to have broad benefits to people, such as Kali bichromicum for people with COPD or Oscillococcinum in the treatment of influenza.

    Ckava: The 2 references to my own website was in regards to the “junk science” study that the BBC and ABC-TV conducted, both of whom tried to replicate the Ennis study, but they hired a lab tech to create and conduct it. Why oh why have NO skeptics provided ANY analysis of this junk science. WHY? Oh…of course, because you’d have to admit that this “debunking” of homeopathy was junk science…and James Randi’s participation in it and his silence on its invalidity is LOUD…and ultimately embarrassing.

    JOE: You didn’t do your homework (again). You mistakenly assumed that the link I gave was to Rustum Roy’s work…even though a simple click would have told you something else: try this one– http://ecam.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/abstract/nep036

    Superdave: The fact that two labs conducted two similar but different experiments is not a problem. This is the way that science works. Both were extremely well controlled, both were conducted in the US by independent researchers. Why you would say or even suggest that the elements tested are not homeopathic medicines is very curious.

    Dreamking: These studies were not meant to test “efficacy” (which is a term appropriate for clinical treatment). These studies showed that homeopathically potentized substances had a different effect than control substances. Despite all of your diatribes that insist that there is no difference between homeopathic water and water, you’ve been shown to be wrong (again).

  41. criticaliston 17 Jun 2009 at 1:30 am

    Well Dana, I have to admit that I am a bit disappointed you didn’t reply to my critique of the arsenic study you mentioned. May I assume you read the study yourself, took all the criticisms on board, had a jolt of self awareness, and confidently resolved never to cite such poorly carried out studies again?

    Maybe not.

    Anyway, lets take a look at this spectrophotometry study, as you seem fond of it. The main thing that strikes me, is the actual data.
    Here are the results for the copper studies (the ones they claim significance)

    Control (4) 86.5742 +/- 0.0472
    Preparation (25) 86.4944 +/- 0.0898

    This one was non significant.
    The next two are claimed to show significant differences:

    Control 86.4850 +/- 0.0459 p= 0.0196
    Prep 86.3895 +/- 0.1420

    Control 97.2199 +/- 0.05 p = 0.04.
    Prep 97.1703 +/- 0.07

    Now just eyeballing this data it seems highly unlikely to be significantly different. The results look almost identical, especially given there were only 4 controls. So I checked the stats. This is easy to do online if you want to do so yourself: http://www.dimensionresearch.com/resources/calculators/ttest.html

    Will give you the T value, and the degrees of freedom;

    http://www.danielsoper.com/statcalc/calc08.aspx

    will calculate the p value from that. Plugging the data from the paper in we get for the two measurements of claimed significance:
    p = 0.1969 – - Not Significant.
    p = 0.08 – - Not Significant.

    Im happy for anyone to point out any errors I may have made, but I rather think eCAM need to check the statistical robustness of their peer review process.

  42. superdaveon 17 Jun 2009 at 3:00 am

    From the paper itself
    “There were no significant correlations between the three
    CuSO4 series, which indicates that there is no specific
    pattern of higher or lower transmission for different
    potency levels.”

    Doesn’t this actually disprove your claim? And how can you glean any knowledge at given this fact?

  43. AMZon 17 Jun 2009 at 3:10 am

    This should answer DannyBloe’s question:

    http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_sRDhbC46aKs/SdqTq9ZM–I/AAAAAAAAAIs/iBlLxTBOcO4/s1600-h/HN09poster1A.jpg

  44. DanaUllmanon 17 Jun 2009 at 5:49 pm

    Criticalist’s critique of arsenic study is partially valid and partially not. He did note that 20 of the 25 people who were given Arsenicum album 30C (verum) showed up after two months of treatment, while only 5 of the 25 people given the placebo showed up. This observation alone is interesting, and yet, Criticalist conveniently did not acknowledge this observation as unique in any way (4 times as many people given verum came back after 2 months as did those given a placebo!).

    The researchers properly separated out the lab values before treatment and after treatment, and separately analyzed the people from the other village as an additional “control.” Although the placebo group was small (5 subjects), the lab values of various measures showed significant changes in those people given verum.

    By the way, I am STILL waiting for someone to DEFEND the BBC or ABC-TV’s “replication” trial of Professor Ennis’ basophil study. You folks seem so able to provide critique of any study that may show some positive results for homeopathy, and yet, all of a sudden, everyone gets silent on the negative results.

    As for the UV-spectroscopy, the results clearly show “significantly higher variability compared to controls.” Further, “Lower transmission of UV light may indicate that homeopathic preparations are less structured or more dynamic than their succussed pure solvent.”

    The bottomline here is that there is definitely a difference between homeopathic medicines and plain water. Whenever anyone says that they are the “same thing,” they are not basing such statements on controlled trials but are just doing that arm-chair theorizing.

  45. superdaveon 17 Jun 2009 at 6:05 pm

    Dana, are you fluent in English?

  46. criticaliston 17 Jun 2009 at 9:54 pm

    Dana,

    Many thanks for your reply.
    I am interested to see you continue to defend the arsenic study.

    If you really and truly think that this is a well carried out investigation with valid results, please could you:

    1. From the data presented in the study give me the concentrations (mean and SD) of arsenic in the blood and urine of the subjects at the beginning and end of the test period, in the placebo and verum group.

    2. Explain how you justify that a “p” value of 0.5 or lower represents statistical significance in a clinical trial, given that 0.05 is the more accepted number. In addition to that, the researchers statistical analysis has produced several p values of 0.000. Perhaps you could comment on how p values of zero are arrived at?

    If you like, I can save you the time. There is no presentation of before and after values for arsenic levels (or anything else) other than in a graph form, which has unclear and incomplete legends making it impossible to intepret. No numerical values are provided, which is simply unacceptable.

    The statistical analysis is not just flawed, its laughable. p values of 0.5 = significant? p values of 0.00? Again, in this table, the actual values of the data are not provided, just the p values. This either represents incompetence in understanding how to present data, or a reluctance to have it independantly anlaysed. Either way, its worthless.

    And, as I pointed out the spectrophotometry study is negative. The authors have anlaysed their data incorrectly. At least they have provided the data, and if you care to perform the analysis yourself, you will see there are no significant differences observable.

  47. Michael Kingsford Grayon 18 Jun 2009 at 3:26 am

    I have a simple question for Dana:
    Why have you not yet claimed the JREF $1m?

  48. DanaUllmanon 18 Jun 2009 at 10:57 pm

    Why haven’t I tried to claim Randi’s $1m? It is quite simple: Randi’s participation in the BBC’s and ABC-TV’s efforts to “replicate” Professor Ennis’ histamine/basophil study was clearly shown to be a false replication effort. Randi has been informed of these problems…and my first contribution above provides a link to Professor Ennis statement about this.

    It isn’t hard to see the questionably ethical nature of this prize and the person behind it. It is time for Randi and everyone else who was involved in these “junk science” and “junk journalism” enterprises to apologize and to seek to do the study correctly.

    Thanx for asking…

  49. HCNon 19 Jun 2009 at 12:15 am

    And Brave Sir Dana shows the true strength of his homeopathic convictions.

    Brave Sir Dana ran away from the one million dollar challenge.

    Brave Sir Dana ran away.
    (“No!” … said at 10C potency)
    Bravely ran away away.
    (“I didn’t!” said at 30C potency)
    When danger reared it’s ugly head,
    He bravely turned his tail and fled.
    (“no!”… again at 10C potency)
    Yes, brave Sir Dana turned about
    (“I didn’t!”… again at 30C potency)
    And gallantly he chickened out.

    ****Bravely**** taking (“I never did!”) to his feet,
    He beat a very brave retreat.
    (“all lies!”… at 100C potency)
    Bravest of the braaaave, Sir Dana!
    (“I never!”… at the ever so duckalicious 200C potency of oscillococcinum, guarantee of no duck liver atoms!)

  50. Joeon 19 Jun 2009 at 6:48 am

    @ DanaUllmanon 16 Jun 2009 at 11:32 pm “JOE: You didn’t do your homework (again). You mistakenly assumed that the link I gave was to Rustum Roy’s work…even though a simple click would have told you something else: try this one– http://ecam.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/abstract/nep036

    DUllman (MPH!!)- you ass. You did not provide that link in your original post. DanaUllmanon 15 Jun 2009 at 6:49 pm

  51. Joeon 19 Jun 2009 at 7:15 am

    DanaUllman on 15 Jun 2009 at 6:49 pm “… That said, I’m still trying to figure out how UV-spectroscopy data can consistently show effects from a homeopathic medicine and yet nothing from the control…”

    Fret no more, UV spectroscopy shows no such difference. This article http://ecam.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/abstract/nep036 only shows the authors’ incompetence in research, just like Nostrum Roy’s publication. Well, okay, incompetence is a consistent feature of homeopaths. They even cite (ref. 33) Roy’s paper as if it had not been discredited. More than that, they failed to see the problems with Roy’s work themselves.

  52. weingon 19 Jun 2009 at 11:06 am

    I read of a recent survey showing 2-14% of scientists admit to or know of others fudging data. If that’s true, what makes anyone think the sCAM artists are better. I propose they are worse.

  53. Joeon 19 Jun 2009 at 12:06 pm

    @weing on 19 Jun 2009 at 11:06 am “I read of a recent survey showing 2-14% of scientists admit to or know of others fudging data. If that’s true, what makes anyone think the sCAM artists are better. I propose they are worse.”

    I think you are right; but I think the number for scientists should be 100% since there are occasional, high-profile debacles. Then you have the sCAM artists who are usually too ignorant to recognize nonsense. They don’t fudge results because they don’t see the need to do so.

    Then, there is a gray area- overstating confidence. For example, in my field (chemistry) one encounters “this reaction works really well” when they should say “this reaction works if you are desperately in need of small amounts of the chemical product.” Sometimes, a small amount of a chemical is valuable.

  54. mindmeon 19 Jun 2009 at 3:33 pm

    I think you just need to do the test Dana. Stop with the excuses. Should be easy for you. Anything else is just special pleading.

  55. CKavaon 19 Jun 2009 at 7:50 pm

    “By the way, I am STILL waiting for someone to DEFEND the BBC or ABC-TV’s “replication” trial of Professor Ennis’ basophil study. You folks seem so able to provide critique of any study that may show some positive results for homeopathy, and yet, all of a sudden, everyone gets silent on the negative results.”

    I think Wayne Turnbull’s e-mail response is a good enough defence i.e. he didn’t replicate every aspect precisely but the differences he made are not substantial enough to invalidate the test and indeed steps were taken to make sure that folks agreed with the procedure.

    You disagree with his perspective and Prof. Ennis is defensive of her results being challenged. No big surprises and no big mystery. Any negative result from any study and you would have found reason to dismiss it.

    I mean let’s face it you are still promoting Benveniste’s research so it’s clear that your bias prevents you from ever recognising a failed replication as valid.

  56. trulyorganicon 20 Jun 2009 at 1:04 am

    Homeopathy:
    1) Is based on ideas developed 200 years ago, which have not changed since. Are there any other 200 year old concepts in medicine that are still valid?
    2) Has no scientific explanation for how it works. Water “memory” is not sufficient as it conflicts with what is known about the physical and chemical properties of water.
    3) Positive results for homeopathic remedies tend to very minor, within error or due to a placebo effect. Drugs on the other hand typically demonstrate success from 50 to 100% depending on the category of drug. (though one must admit that a minority of drugs have been demonstrated to have had their effects overstated by drug companies).
    4) Is only ever applied to minor ailments. I’ve never seen a homeopathic remedy for an infected wound or a severe asthma attack. If it is so effective why are there not remedies for more serious ailments? Because dead patients would draw too much attention to this quackery?
    Given all of this, how can anyone take it seriously? In particular I have never seen a homeopath give a convincing answer to point 4 above

  57. JustThinkon 25 Jun 2009 at 3:12 pm

    I really have to say something about trulyorganic’s post.

    “4) Is only ever applied to minor ailments. I’ve never seen a homeopathic remedy for an infected wound or a severe asthma attack. If it is so effective why are there not remedies for more serious ailments? Because dead patients would draw too much attention to this quackery?”

    You should give some thought to your questions before you ask them. An infected wound or severe asthma attack would require immediate medical attention that can deliver a swift response to ensure that the condition does not worsen. These conditions indeed do lie outside the realm of homeopathy, but keep in mind that homeopathy does not claim to be a panacea for all our illnesses and ailments. It’s like asking if homeopathy can fix a broken bone. You can’t dismiss homeopathy simply because it doesn’t treat these acute conditions as well as conventional medicine can. Homeopathy may be effective towards other chronic diseases that conventional medicine may not be as potent towards.

  58. HCNon 25 Jun 2009 at 5:26 pm

    JustThink said “Homeopathy may be effective towards other chronic diseases that conventional medicine may not be as potent towards.”

    Except there is no proof of any of that. An example of a “chronic” disease would be Type 1 Diabetes. Where is the evidence that homeopathy has allowed someone with Type 1 Diabetes to permanently be taken off daily insulin treatment?

    In reality, there is no reason for homeopathy to affect any biological system in dilutions greater than 12C (look up Avogradro’s number). The problem with your magical hand waving statements like “may be effective towards other chronic diseases” is that people have substituted real medicine for their chronic conditions like asthma, epilepsy, eczema and even cancer and have suffered greatly:
    http://whatstheharm.net/homeopathy.html

  59. Mojoon 26 Jun 2009 at 3:45 am

    You ask:
    “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.”
    The answer: A homeopath may use Allium cepa (onion) for those symptoms that it is known to cause in overdose. By using a drug that mimics the symptoms of the body’s efforts to fight infection, Allium cepa helps resolve the viral infection faster.

    This perpetuates one of the commonest canards about homoeopathy: that dilute remedies are used to treat the symptoms caused by the crude substance (giving the impression that the dilution somehow leads to the remedies having the opposite effect to that expected). In fact, while Hahnemann’s early provings were of undiluted substances, he initially also used the undiluted substances to treat patients. After finding that this caused “aggravations that amounted, in some cases, to dangerous toxic reactions” he decided that diluting the remedies (and banging them on a Bible, of course) would remove the toxic effects while preserving the therapeutic ones. He also switched to proving remedies at 30C, and most modern provings are carried out using diluted remedies, with the remedies then used to treat the symptoms that they are alleged to cause. See for example Kayne and Caldwell (2006): Homeopathic pharmacy: theory and practice, 2nd ed. pp. 52-53.

    Homeopathy gained its greatest popularity in the 19th century in the US and Europe due to its impressive success in treating infectious disease epidemics of that era, including cholera, scarlet fever, typhoid, pneumonia, and influenza.

    Homoeopathy gained its popularity in the 19th century because the orthodox medicine of the time was largely ineffective, and often actually harmful. Since homoeopathy involves doing nothing it tended to be less harmful. Additionally, you are almost certainly not comparing like groups. Homoeopathy was popular among the middle and upper classes, so those treated with homoeopathy will inevitably have been better nourished and generally in better health, and thus better able to recover from these diseases. In one example that I have seen used, patients treated at home by a homoeopath were compared to those admitted to hospital for orthodox treatment: surely you can see that there is a potential difference between these groups?

    Homeopaths determine what a medicine is effective in treating based on experiments in toxicology called “drug provings.” People here might benefit from learning about drug provings: http://jop.sagepub.com/cgi/content/abstract/22/5/543

    I notice that in that one they didn’t ask their “materia medica experts” to try to identify the remedies from their allegedly distinctive “proving symptoms”, unlike their 2004 paper which found that “the materia medica expert was not able to determine the correct medicine” (see Homeopathy (2004) 93, 179-185 at 182).

  60. daijiyobuon 27 Jun 2009 at 11:35 am

    Dr. N., I’ve cited your [great] post in

    “NDs Coward & Lewis Absurdly Defend Homeopathy as ‘Medicinal Science’ – Citizen-Times, 2009-06-25″ [ISYN]

    (see http://naturocrit.blogspot.com/2009/06/nds-coward-lewis-absurdly-defend.html ) [NDs posing as scientists].

    What an interesting week or so in the homeo. news cycle:

    homeo. awareness week, Zicam, NDs defending homeo. as “science” in a local newspaper in an article categorized as “local news” [NDs posing as journalists].

    It’s unfortunate that that newspaper doesn’t apparently label such a fringe opinion piece for what it is, and the public ends up assuming the content of such an article as accurate and competent.

    What’s really interesting is that when you search per “homeopathy” in that newspaper online, the results are categorized in a single page, and right under the “local news” citation / link for that article I wrote about, are advertisements / listings for those NDs’ practices who authored the “news” article.

    Conflict of interest, maybe? Pseudoscience & commercialism under the guise of medical science journalism, maybe?

    “You make the call.”

    -r.c.

  61. alcareruon 14 Aug 2009 at 11:15 am

    I live in France, where homepathic remedies are reimbursed by social security. I never really looked into what it meant until I got curious recently. So I looked up the British soh’s website and found this:

    http://www.homeopathy-soh.org/about-homeopathy/what-is-homeopathy/

    This is complete quackery. The granules are nothing but sugar pills with a tiny drop of ultra diluted water on them; so diluted, in fact, that there are effectively no molecules of the active ingredient. It’s plain ol’water.

    WTF???

    They tell us that the water remembers the properties of the active ingredient. Bollox. There is no known mechanism that can do this. If there’s no active ingredient, then there’s no pharmacological interaction with the patient’s body. This is wholesale fraud, especially given that the State reimburses this nonsense. It’s used for minor ailments that will eventually go away themselves, so the logical fallacy of posthoc ergo propter hoc comes into play. At best it’s a placebo, at worst it has no effect whatsoever.

    Pure charlatanism. And shame on the French government for funding it!

  62. [...] more information on why homeopathy is nonsense here are a few posts I have written about it – here, here, and [...]

  63. [...] brings me to homeopathy and vaccines. Homeopathy, as I have written many times before, is about as close to pure pseudoscience as you get. They have their own pre-scientific magical [...]

  64. anonitrolon 06 Jan 2014 at 6:47 pm

    Hello,

    Is it possible to have a source for the recount incident by Davenas, the 40/18 correction?

    Thank you.

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