1. 2 ILLNESS NOTION. Homeopathy was “invented” by a German doctor named Dr. Samuel Hahnemann over 200 years ago. He stated the major premise that nature will never permit two illnesses with the same effects to coexist in the human body. Hahnemann invented this before the discovery of atoms, germs and viruses and their effects. He claimed that sickness was caused by “irritations of the vital force” and this is clearly out of line with the biological proof, for example, that germs are passed down from host to host. Biology tells us that one can certainly have two ailments in the body. People infected with HIV can be infected with a different strain of HIV which causes similar ailments.
2. LIKE CURES LIKE. The basic premise is that like cures like. For example caffeine stops you from sleeping so diluted caffeine will help you to sleep. Hahnemann dreamt this up after taking a large dose of quinine and feeling malarial like symptoms (scientists today would conclude that it was an allergic reaction to quinine that he experienced). He therefore concluded that quinine (a known malarial cure at the time) caused similar symptoms to malaria and quinine cures malaria therefore “like cures like” and that quinine “induces the self-healing process”. Over 1 hundred years later it was observed that quinine kills the malarial parasite even outside of the human body and thus has nothing to do with “self-healing” or “vitalism”. The whole foundation on which the “like cures like” fundamental homeopathic “law” (or “lore”) is therefore bogus.
3. DILUTION DELUSION. It’s well known that Homeopathic Remedies are highly diluted and the theory goes that the more the dilution, the more powerful the solution. So how well diluted are these substances? You’ll notice, if you look at a homeopathic product, that the product (pills or liquid) will have a number followed by a letter. Typically something like 12X or 15C or 5M. This represents the dilution ratios. The process goes as follows (I’ll use anti-histamine as an example diluted to 30C). The homeopath takes 1 drop of histamine (the substance that normally causes an allergy) and drops it into 99 drops of water. He/she then shakes the solution. The solution is now 1 in a hundred (or 1C). The homeopath then takes the mixed solution (1C), takes a drop of that and mixes it again with 99 drops of water making a 2C solution (that is 1 drop in 100x100=10,000 drops of water). The homeopath continues this process 30 times and then ends up with a solution that is 1 drop in 100,00,00,000,000,000,000,
4. NO SIDE-EFFECTS. I think they’re probably right here. When you dilute a substance to 12C, the chances are is that you’re left just with water! So, of course there are no side-effects as you’ll be drinking water. That’s like saying since I stopped eating I haven’t suffered from food-poisoning!
5. WATER’S MEMORY. So with the revelation on atoms and that highly-diluted solutions don’t contain any atoms of the original diluted substance, the homeopaths insisted that the “water memorises that it had been in contact with the substance”. Well firstly, in our 30C example, not only is no trace of the original substance evident in the water, but the water that came in contact with the original substance is not there either and arguably the water that came in contact with the water that came in contact with the water that the original substance was in is not there too! So are they implying that water molecules play a molecular game of “broken telephone”? Does this not sound a little suspicious? You decide. There is no scientific proof, of course, that water can hold memories. In fact a renowned critical thinker and paranormal debunker, James Randi, has offered any homeopath $1,000,000US to prove the existence of water’s memory. In this experiment, 25 test-tubes of homeopathic solution will be randomly mixed with 25 test-tubes of plain water (the solutions will not mix, just the test-tubes). The homeopath, not knowing which test-tubes belong to which group then need to identify the test-tubes that contain the homeopathic remedies in any way they like (they are allowed to test the water). BBC Horizon ran an experiment like this and the results were as random as guessing. No homeopath has ever been able to identify the homeopathic solution in this experiment. Another point to make is that if water molecules can remember then how do they discern between the homeopathic remedy and the other substances that they’ve been in contact with over their millions of years on earth substances like sewerage, arsenic and cyanide.
6. SUCCUSSION. A very important part of concocting a homeopathic “cure” is the shaking or succussion of the solution. Some homeopathic texts describe the importance of shaking the solution 10 times up-and-down, 10 times side-to-side, 10 times back-and-forth hitting the glass against a leather object (Hahnemann used his Bible). Why is this important? Well it is said that shaking the substance in a certain manner somehow “energises” the solution. Some texts quote that it “awakens the spirit of the substance”. Sound like airy-fairy pseudoscience to you? You be the judge.
7. THE POSITIVE “EVIDENCE” – ANECDOTAL. So you may have taken that Native American remedy Echinacea for flu (incidentally Native Americans never used this substance for colds or flu) and found that within a few days that you felt better. So it must work, right? There are 2 problems with this. Firstly it is anecdotal evidence. That means it is a sample of 1 and not a sample of hundreds that would make the results significant. The second problem is that you had a cold that the body almost always gets rid of in a few days anyway. So, just as you’re feeling really down with the flu, you take this remedy and within a few days you feel better: that’s like taking a die, rolling a one, sacrificing a lamb and then rolling the die again and getting a number greater than one and saying that the sacrificial lamb made the difference. So have you ever taken a homeopathic remedy for a life threatening illness?
8. THE POSITIVE “EVIDENCE” – ORIGINAL. The original rise of homeopathy had something to do with the medical profession at the time. Various pseudosciences were omnipresent in mainstream medicine. Cupping and blood-letting were frequently used and hospitals were far from the sanitised state that you’d hope for today (Florence Nightingale had yet to arrive on the scene). Often the best treatment was doing nothing and allowing the body to cure itself. Homeopathy with its water placebos worked a lot better than the sometimes dangerous nonsense often prescribed as cures in hospitals at the time.
9. THE POSITIVE “EVIDENCE” – TRIALS. In a drug trial a proposed remedy is given to sick patients and they are then examined to see whether they are cured. It is quite difficult to determine whether a drug actually cures a patient or whether that patient would have recovered on their own. Therefore the patient recovery rates are compared to those who are not treated. Interestingly though, if one gives a placebo (sugar pill) to a group (telling them that it’s medicine) and nothing to another group the placebo group will recover or will report positive symptoms more than the untreated group. This therefore poses a problem. Scientists have therefore formulated “double blind” testing where patients are given placebos and tested against patients who are given the proposed medicine to see whether there are any clear differences. Trials done on homeopathic medicine sometime show slight positive results, but repeated trials and the better formulated trials seldom do. In the end there is nothing to indicate that homeopathy cures anything (apart from, perhaps, dehydration!).
10. HOMEOPATHY IS HARMLESS. I think mostly this is true – taking Echinacea for a cold or to prevent a cold may put your mind at ease and less stress could be a good thing. However, if you read up on reputed members of the Society of Homeopaths and what they propose, it makes a further mockery of the “profession”. Peter Chappell of the Society of Homeopaths in the UK claims that he can transmit homeopathic remedies by phone. Others claim to use music and the internet to channel the water’s energy. Others go as far to claim that HIV can be cured too. That’s when it gets particularly dangerous. If patients are denied conventional medicine for homeopathy then homeopaths are guilty of unnecessarily putting humans’ lives at risk.
Think what you will. There are more succinctly written articles on the internet and countless investigations. The bizarre truth is that so many seemingly intelligent people believe in it (hell! I did for many years). So if you want to believe in sympathetic magic, my conclusion to all this is that Homeopathy has about as much substance as its dilutions contain.