Originally published Thursday, May 21, 2009
Have you ever been tempted in the drug store to purchase one of those ubiquitous homeopathic remedies? Well, don’t waste your money. Instead, do a little research into just what homeopathy is. If you think homeopathic remedies are some sort of herbal medication, you are sadly mistaken. Homeopathic remedies are nothing more than placebos. They contain virtually NO active ingredients. Homeopathy is based upon sympathetic magic—the idea that like produces like, the so-called “principle of similars.” To cure a headache, in the homeopathic way of thinking, give the sufferer a substance that causes headaches, only dilute it so much that nothing of the substance remains. Don’t worry that there are no active ingredients left; during the dilution process, the water is shaken so that it magically “remembers” the substance. What a load of horse shit!
But don’t take my word for it. Just read the Wikipedia entry on homeopathy, or the article on homeopathy on Quackwatch, or, better yet, read what the United States government’s promoter of quackery and woo, the National Institutes of Health’s National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, says about homeopathy in general and about homeopathic remedies in particular:
A [homeopathic] remedy is prepared by diluting the substance in a series of steps…. Homeopathy asserts that this process can maintain a substance’s healing properties regardless of how many times it has been diluted. Many homeopathic remedies are so highly diluted that not one molecule of the original natural substance remains. (emphasis added)
Even the NCCAM recognizes that homeopathy violates the laws of science and that the scientific evidence for the efficacy of homeopathy is, at best, underwhelming, admitting that “systematic reviews have not found homeopathy to be a definitively proven treatment for any medical condition,” and acknowledging that the few studies that have show homeopathic remedies to have an effect beyond the placebo effect have problems that “include weaknesses in design and/or reporting, choice of measuring techniques, small numbers of participants, and difficulties in replicating results.”
If homeopathy works, it should be a pretty simple matter to show its efficacy with properly designed, properly controlled, properly blinded scientific studies. Yet, in spite of years of studies, there is scant evidence that homeopathic remedies work, and very strong evidence that they don’t.
Here’s an example of the illogical, irrational, nonsensical, and anti-scientific thinking you find coming from the promoters of homeopathy, quoted from a homeopathic newsletter:
It is commonly assumed that bacteria and viruses “cause” disease, and it is heretical to consider otherwise. And yet, most of us have various bacteria and viruses in our body right now despite the fact that we are not sick…[B]acteria and virus [sic] are not the cause of disease but at best are a “co-factor” to disease.
You read right. These whack-jobs deny the germ theory while promoting their magic potions that are diluted so heavily that not one molecule of any active ingredient is likely to be contained in the pill or liquid you ingest.
The next time you are in the drug store, pick up a homeopathic remedy and look at the list of active ingredients. You will see the name of a substance coupled with its dilution. A dilution of 6X would mean that the active ingredient was originally diluted with distilled water (or powdered lactose or some other substance) at a ratio of 1 to 106, a 1 followed by 6 zeros. In other words, a 6X dilution would have one part active ingredient to 999,999 parts water. The dilution processes would start with diluting one part active ingredient with nine parts water. The resulting solution is then further diluted by taking one part from the first dilution and diluting it further with nine parts water. Then take one part from the second dilution and dilute it further with nine parts water. Keep repeating this until you have done it six times. That gives you a final product that is one in a million. In other words, if you have a million molecules of the concoction, only one molecule will be of the active ingredient and the rest will be water molecules. If the dilution is a C instead of X, the ratio is 1/100. A 6C dilution would be 1 to 1006, or 1 to 1,000,000,000,000. With dilutions like these, how many molecules of active ingredient do you suppose are contained in a single dose of a homeopathic medication?
Keep in mind that you will sometimes see a dilution of 30C on the label of a homeopathic remedy. This is a dilution of 1 part active ingredient in 10030. That’s a 1 followed by 60 zeros.
Of course, the homeopaths will be quick to point out that with each dilution, the concoction is subjected to succussion, a vigorous shaking that causes the vital energy of the substance to be released. And the more the substance is diluted, the stronger its potency. Yep, it’s magic.
Don’t be fooled by the fact that these homeopathic nostrums are sitting on the shelves of CVS, Rite-Aid, and Walgreens right beside the legitimate OTC medications. They are nothing but snake oil. When you buy homeopathic remedies, you are buying nothing more than distilled water or sugar pills. And that’s why I say that homeopathy is for suckers.