Thursday, 24 April 2008

10 Reasons why Homeopathy is Stupid

If you’re like me, you probably grew up accepting that homeopathy provided an “alternative” method of helping you relieve or cure symptoms of certain ailments. It was and is often promoted as being “purer” or “more natural” or having “fewer side effects”. The tricky thing is that the human body is so complex that we tend to listen to authorities without questioning the logic and processes ourselves. The truth is that homeopathy is a bizarre and almost embarrassingly illogical and ludicrous practice. Do you feel offended or puzzled? Read on. This note hopes to take 5 minutes of your time to illuminate the truth about Homeopathy. Oh, and for those who think I’m crazy, lying or biased or deluded, I encourage you to look into it yourself.

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,
000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000! That’s less concentrated than having one drop of histamine in all the Oceans and seas of the world! Some dilutions can be as high as 200C (equivalent to 1 drop in 10^400 that’s 10 with four hundred 0s), there are fewer atoms in the universe than this. Ultimately once you’ve passed your 12th dilution there should be no atoms left of the original histamine in the solution (those with high-school chemistry will refer to Avogadro’s Constant in working this out). You see, homeopathy was invented before the atom was discovered. It was therefore believed that you could carry on diluting a substance and a part of it would still be there. This is of course not so as the solution is just a bunch of discrete molecules in a test-tube!

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.


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Dr Saji said...

Homeopathy..Delusion of dilutions

When I graduated I sincerely believed that homeopathy is a truly scientific medicine. But soon after I started practicing pediatrics I came across many cases badly botched up by homeopathy and I am sure that those conditions would have been easily treated in the first place. I have seen children with pneumonias and massive effusions, meningitis being treated as febrile seizures, simple impetigos coming with nephritis, ruptured appendix with peritonitis, etc etc…I have been particularly saddened by the plight of the parents who repents on putting faith in homeopathy. I have seen parents losing their only child because it was too late to get proper treatment.

Initially I thought it to be mistakes of the homeopaths rather than homeopathy. Out of curiosity I soon started studying homeopathy. With each day I was dumbfounded by the utter rubbish they teach and propagate.

Let me explain.

The main axioms of homeopathy are that
1) ‘like cures like’, a substance that causes certain symptoms in healthy volunteers is a cure for such symptoms in patients. Eg onion causes watering of eyes, so diluted onion can cure epiphora.

2) less is more. The ‘less is more’ axiom posits that, if we dilute and shake a remedy, it becomes not weaker but stronger. Homeopaths believe that the most potent remedies are those that have been potentized to the point where no ‘active’ molecule is left. Hahnemann, the father of homeopathy, might be forgiven for developing these concepts some 200 years ago. Today, however, we know a lot more, and comprehend that they are not in line with much that science has taught us. Yet homeopaths seem to prefer mystical thinking to science.
"C" dilutions homeo medicines are prepared by serial dilutions of 1:100. Thus, a remedy marked C30 would imply a 1:100 dilution performed 30 times. By simple mathematics, it can be calculated that at dilutions of C12 or greater, it is not likely that the remedies contain even a single molecule of the original substance.

It was in the light of contradictory scientific evidences that they came up with an even more absurd theory, ‘The Water Memory’, the theory that water is capable of retaining a memory of particles once dissolved in it, even after being diluted so much that the chance of even one molecule remaining in the quantity being used is nil!!

Then why do we find many testimonials on the efficacy of homeopathy. Testimonials are personal accounts of someone's experiences with a therapy. They are generally subjective: A patient may improve because of many other factors apart from the treatment he/she receives.

Common sense tells us that we can tell if a treatment works by simply trying it. Does it help me? Does it help my aunt? If so, it’s effective. If not, it doesn’t work.

Unfortunately, NO, that’s not right.

Medical conditions are an area of life in which direct, common sense observations aren’t reliable at all. The insights brought to us by double-blind studies have shown medical researchers that they can’t trust their own eyes.
The reason why: a horde of confounding factors.

Suppose you’ve invented a truly lousy treatment that fails almost all the time, but helps one in a hundred people. If you give such a nearly worthless treatment to 100,000 people, you’ll get a thousand testimonials, and the treatment will sound great.

Then why do we find some studies confirming the effectiveness of homeopathy? That is because you could just pick out the positive trials, as homeopaths do, and quote only those.
This is called "cherry picking" the literature - it is not a new trick, and it is dishonest, because it misrepresents the totality of the literature. Essentially, when a trial gives a negative result, alternative therapists, simply do not publish it.

Dr Saji said...

There is a special mathematical tool called a "meta-analysis", where you take all the results from all the studies on one subject, and put the figures into one giant spreadsheet, to get the most representative overall answer. When you do this, time and time again, you find, in all homeopathy trials overall, that homeopathy does no better than placebos. This has been proved many times and the Lancet analysis is just one of it.


You can read about more of what I am trying to convey here

I you still believe in the miraculous cures of homeopathy , then try this.

American rationalist thinker James Randi, now best known as the world's most tireless investigator and demystifier of paranormal and pseudoscientific claims has offered One Million Dollars to any one who can prove the effectiveness of homeopathy in a clinical set up.

Even after many years nobody has claimed this prize.

Anonymous said...

i think the writer is a frustated homoeopath who doesnt understands the faithfullness and science of treating people.............

Anonymous said...

This article is ridiculous in the history it draws on.
If everyone knew how to use homeopathy, drug companies would be bankrupted. So there is a motive to write bogus articles damning it.

Anonymous said...

Since I know already the pharmaceutical companies that create the junk they call medications, the pharmacy's and doctors are in on the 'Let prescribe pills and charge them a large amount for something that mostly works as well as a placebo'! My ex tried to kill me 27 yrs ago hitting me with a ford f150. Between being hit from behind with it, then he kicking my body I have a lower back injury. Every day I feel horrific pain, sitting here now with a warm rice pack for relief.
I discovered a homeopathic called 'Arnica Montana' and since doctors wont subscribe anything stronger than tramadol to take for pain. I get more relief from the Arnica Montana than the tramadol anyway. I pray one day that there will be more people like me, willing to try something just once, probably more if they really like it or how it worked for them. The above 3 company's would suffer I'm sure. But doubt it will happen for people dont know of it. I order mine online, cheaper than the health food store. Its the reason my lower back is not hurting me now. I have to believe who originally wrote this article, has perhaps never really had a reason to try something homeopathic. My doctor knows I take it, it has no effect on my other usefull meds.
Dont give up on something cuz you read someone's silly, worthless thoughts on it. Try it for yourself. Then if you dont like it or it doesnt help, talk about it. Tramadol and many others, give me a glass of water, keep the pill, take it yourself, that crap doesnt work! Dont touch my Arnica Montana!

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Common Sense said...

To believe in homeopathy is to show a total lack of common sense. So, I can dilute medication until there is not a single molecule of the active ingredient in the water and still have the medication work? REALLY? Well then, let us do this: Take all the homeopathic active ingredients (whatever they are) and mix small quantities of them with water. Do you mumbo jumbo mixing and then save large numbers of people (millions) by simply putting the solution in the city's water supply. That water should end up being the cure to everything and it should only cost a few dollars to cure the million of people living in any city or the hundreds of people living in villages.
If homeopaths were such wonderful people and wanted to show how well their stuff works, why do they not take their treatment for malaria, provide a concentrated version of it to all those poor countries where malaria is endemic, provide instructions on how to dilute their concentrate and then have it put in the water supply. PRESTO! everyone would be cured of Malaria!
So, explain to me why they are not doing so?

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