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Hay Fever Homeopathic Remedy – Cures Your Thirst

The path from unquestioned belief to skeptical thinking usually requires one to let go of a few things along the way. Sometimes, certain beliefs are so entrenched in one’s head that the belief is compartmentalized, cognitive dissonance rears its head and a sacred cow is born. Mmm.. veal.

But letting go of old things and accepting new ones is what change is about. Take SGU fan Brendon for example. Brendon writes:

I’m in a bit of a quandry…

I suffer from hayfever, and also an allergy to Anti-Histamines (as well as an allergy to stings/bites – I just freakin’ love the summer)

In previous years, I’ve taken Mixed Pollen supplements from Weleda (http://www.weleda.co.uk/products/name/mixed-pollen-30), but after discovering your podcast late last year, and listening to your diatrebes about Homeopathic medicines, now I’m concerned that these are nothing but placebo, meaning that my suffering may even be psychosomatic.

I know this might seem like a ridiculous question, but in your opinions, would I be better off taking the Mixed Pollen supplements, or attempting to train myself to ignore the symptoms?

I don’t want to lose my Good Skeptic award! ;-)

The product being taken here is a classic example of two of the three laws of homeopathy at work. The first is the law of similars. Which basically states that like cures like. Take the cause of the symptom, and give it in minute doses to the patient, and the symptom should be cured. Hay fever is caused by the pollen of certain seasonal plants. Therefore, according to the law of similars, giving a small dose of pollen to the patient should cure the symptoms.

The second law at work here is the law of infinitesimals, which basically states that the more you dilute the homeopathic remedy, the more effective it will become. Brendon’s example has a dilution factor of “30c” which means that the substance has been diluted to 1 part in 1030. In other words, a 30C solution would require a container more than 30 billion times the size of the Earth to contain even one molecule of the active ingredient. Hope you’re thirsty.

Brendon is probably right by stating that the positive effects from this preparation are placebo. Usually the treatment for hay fever is antihistamines, but Brendon states that he is allergic. Well, I’m not a doctor, nor do I play one on TV, so I’m not about to give medical advice. The best advice I can give you is this:

  1. Talk to your doctor
  2. Prevention

There are many things you can do to prevent hay fever, here’s a list from wikipedia:

Avoiding exposure to pollen is the best way to decrease allergic symptoms.

  • Remain indoors in the morning and evening when outdoor pollen levels are highest.
  • Wear face masks designed to filter out pollen if you must be outdoors.
  • Keep windows closed and use the air conditioner if possible in the house and car.
  • Do not dry clothes outdoors.
  • Avoid unnecessary exposure to other environmental irritants such as insect sprays, tobacco smoke, air pollution, and fresh tar or paint.
  • Avoid mowing the grass or doing other yard work, if possible. Avoid fields and large areas of grassland.
  • Regular hand- and face-washing removes pollen from areas where it is likely to enter the nose.
  • A small amount of petroleum jelly around the eyes and nostrils will stop some pollen from entering the areas that cause a reaction
  • Avoid bicycling or walking – instead use a method of confined transportation such as a car.
  • Wear sunglasses, which reduce the amount of pollen entering the eyes.
  • Take a shower before going to bed and change bed linen often to avoid extra exposure during the night

Brendon finally asks if he should continue to take the supplements. This is a personal choice. I think the facts about homeopathic remedies are out there and have shown that there are no benefits to them. Unless you throw a bunch of scientific disciplines out the window. And also remember, the placebo effect isn’t really an effect at all, I’ll refer you to Dr. Novella’s article “Placebo Myths Exposed“.

Brendon, the fact that you’ve been taking this “remedy” for a few years with what seem like positive results. And that, given new information, you are willing to question the validity of those results. I give you, your “Good Skeptic Award.” Congratulations, party at my place, everyone’s invited. Jay, keep the inflatable sheep at home this time.

7 comments to Hay Fever Homeopathic Remedy – Cures Your Thirst

  • Niobe

    Now I have hayfever as well, but I rock the drug combo Aerius (desloratadin), Levocabastine and emedastine and I do the sunglasses / face washing thing, but my nose just stays congested. How scientific are those nettipots that were all the rage? Saline lavage seems a decent solution but wouldn’t doing that too often harm the nasal passages / mucus membranes?

  • docfaraday

    Let me say, I am not medically trained, so verify with a doctor:

    I have been using a nasal steroid for a couple of years now, and that has been tremendously effective in treating congestion. This is a night-and-day type of difference; I can actually tell when I have a cold now. Also, since my nasal passages aren’t inflamed all the time, my other hayfever symptoms have improved vastly. Generic claritin is enough to keep a lid on it most of the time; this never worked before I started taking the nasal spray.

  • fishshtick

    While the doses offered in this homeopathic treatment are absurd and the method of delivery is useless, medical doctors (allergists) have offered allergen injection immunotherapy as a pretty standard treatment for allergies for decades (preceding the relatively recent proliferation of better antihistimines). It seems like this might be effective for some forms of allergic rhinitis based on this abstract from a systematic review.

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17253469

    I hate drawing inferences from abstracts alone, but I don’t seem to have access to the article through my home account.

    Maybe this is just medically sanctioned homeopathy, or maybe it has a clear scientific basis. I can’t tell you because I am not a professional in this area, but you might look into it given your troubles with antihistimines.

  • It’s a personal choice, but then again so is everything. I would say definitely stop wasting your money on homeopathic remedies. I take generic loratadine and it works well enough for ragweed allergy, but antihistamines aren’t the only possible medical treatment, and there are many kinds of antihistamines–you may not be allergic to all of them.

  • DLC

    I’ve seen the low-dose allergen therapy idea before. It has a parallel in folk remedies.
    When I was about 6, my grandfather gave me a piece of locally grown(?) honeycomb to eat. The manner in which he did so was not his usual self, but as if he were doing something tradition told him to do. I won’t speculate on if his ‘treatment’ was successful or not. However, I did not suffer from pollen-related allergies until after I moved to Arizona. However, I want to remind people that, regardless of the efficacy of my specific anecdote, it is not a clinical trial and so not really evidence. Further, homeopathic remedies
    do not contain anything other than water, alcohol or sugar. They’re placebos, entirely.

  • Adam L

    I’m pretty sure 30c dilution is actually 1 part in 10e60. Homeopathy uses two different scales of dilution: x = 1:10, c = 1:100.

  • esmitt

    I taught my class last week and had fun creating a 12C solution. I primed them by talking about frauds and what was the difference between a fraud and a hoax (I had already primed them in the fall with Piltdown Man).

    We mixed 1 gram of sugar with 100 grams of water and diluted until we got to 12C, carefully measuring, shaking and such until we got to the final solution. We then went to the board and calculated the number of molecules for each solution. Apart from the excess water on the floor of the computer lab, they had a great time.

    I talked about how we have standards of water treatment and what is a permissible amount of arsenic in our drinking water which was somewhere about 5C (50ppb)

    They were great. I showed them the $7 bottle of 12C belladonna that I got from the drug store (!). Their response “But it can’t do anything! Is that a fraud?”

    Right. That’s 6 more minds educated.

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