Respectful Insolence

Another reason why homeopathy still persists?

A few weeks ago, Martin over at Aardvarchaelogy, Steve Novella, and I speculated about how alternative medicine modalities might evolve and what the selection pressures on them might be. We all agreed that, to some degree, there is definite selection pressure for remedies that do no harm but that also do no objective good either. In other words, there is selection pressure for placebos.

Obviously, the evolution analogy is imperfect, but there is also another possible explanation for the persistence of something like homeopathy, which is, in essence, no more than water and thus nothing more than a highly complex, ritualized placebo. We could look at classical operant conditioning concepts instead, as Christian at Med Journal Watch suggests. Basically, he likens alternative medicine (like homeopathy) to one big Skinner box, in which the reward is randomly distributed. As all students of classical psychology know, the random “reward” or reinforcement for a behavior produces the strongest conditioning of all. (It’s the same principle that makes playing the slot machine so compelling.) As Christian puts it:

Just like pigeons, humans are programmed in detecting patterns in a complex world. Such a pattern has been detected by Samuel Hahnemann who, using china-bark (a herbal remedy against malaria) as a healthy person, later has been suffering from symptoms similar to malaria. Based on this “similia principle”, he invented a totally different kind of medicine, homeopathy. His fever – the random pellet (a bad one of course). Taking china bark in self-experiment – the random behaviour.

And:

Time has gone by. Today, millions of users are taking plain solvent, sold as homeopathic remedies. Again, we may use the Skinner box as a model to explain their behaviour. The worsening of symptoms is analogue to the condition without food pellet. The betterment is analogue to the pellet. And we all know that the whole life is based on rhythms – by the way a fundament of many woo theories (their arguments can be turned against them). That is, on a more or less random basis, symptoms come and go, wellbeing waxes and wanes. The best example is malaria, Hahnemann’s first similia paradigm, causing periodic fever attacks.

Now, feeling worse, our user will take some drops of solvent or globules of sugar containing no effective substance – the analogue of the nonsensical behaviour of the pigeon. He will continue to do so until he feels better, which is the analogue of the random pellet that inevitably will be given. Next time when feeling worse, he will not just take the remedy but he will take it “because it had helped me before” – and here we have the analogue of Skinner’s reinforcement of a behaviour element.

Such a model may explain why such remedies are so resistant to logic and science. Certainly, it’s worth considering. One thing that appears to be missing (or at least not explicitly included in the discussion) is the concept of regression towards the mean. In other words, the reinforcement delivered (improvement of symptoms) is probably not random, because homeopathy users are more likely to take their remedies when they are feeling the worst, a condition which almost inevitably moves back towards the mean, leading to the impression that homeopathy improved the patient’s symptoms.

Unfortunately, comments don’t appear to be enabled at Med Journal Watch; so leave your thoughts on this concept here.

Comments

  1. #1 wfjag
    December 7, 2007

    “Now, feeling worse, our user will take some drops of solvent or globules of sugar containing no effective substance – the analogue of the nonsensical behaviour of the pigeon. He will continue to do so until he feels better, which is the analogue of the random pellet that inevitably will be given. Next time when feeling worse, he will not just take the remedy but he will take it “because it had helped me before” – and here we have the analogue of Skinner’s reinforcement of a behaviour element.”

    Not quite. In science you control both for false positives and false negatives, and also provide some control or analysis of those who drop out of the experiment or study or are subject to materially different conditions. IF the homeopathic patient is “cured” or feels better due to a substance that is a contaminant in what is taken (there being no standards for purity for “homeopathic medicines”) rather than the substance that allegedly provided the “memory” after dilution, that is one type of false positive. IF the patient just gets well because he/she just got well, there’s a placebo effect, which is another type of false positive. IF the homeopathic patient dies, there’s no one reporting the negative result. IF the homeopathic patient doesn’t get well, but doesn’t report that to anyone, that’s another type of unreported negative result. IF the homeopathic patient also receives conventional medical treatment and is “cured” or feels better, but ascribes or is reported cured by the homeopathic treatment, that’s a false positive.

    Still, since many “homeopathic medicines” have significant alcohol content, there may be a element of the classical conditioning to receiving a reward. Then again, so does a bottle of Jack Daniels.

  2. #2 BA
    December 7, 2007

    The gambling-homeopathy analogy is interesting and I see the implied relation. However, to refer to random reward as the most potent schedule of reinforcement is a bit misleading. It is the variable, probabilistic reinforcement of behavior that produces the most behavior with the least payoff. Furthermore, the analogy breaks down in that homeopathy would have to produce the change in illness to reinforce behavior operantly. I doubt there is a contingent relation between homeopathic remedies and recovering from illness.

  3. #3 Rob Cullen
    December 7, 2007

    I highly recommend Bausell’s “Snake Oil Science: The Truth About Complementary and Alternative Medicine” (2007; ISBN 9780195313680), wherein he concludes:

    “there is no compelling, credible scientific evidence to suggest that any [!!!] CAM therapy benefits any medical condition or reduces any medical symptom (pain or otherwise) better than a placebo [p.254...and regarding 'conditioning placebo' quoting Price & Fields] ‘we think that classical conditioning is a major determinant [!!!] of the magnitude of the placebo effect'[p.141.”

  4. #4 Chris Noble
    December 8, 2007

    BF Skinner’s ‘SUPERSTITION’ IN THE PIGEON is a classic that explains a lot of human behaviour.

    Every now and then people that swear that modality x cured them from condition y. I started practising x and then my y resolved straightaway. But then you hear that they also did modality a, b,c,d,e,f ….. beforehand. Whatever “modality” they are doing when what is typically a self-resolving condition resolves is then the cure.

  5. #5 Clare
    December 8, 2007

    It’s an interesting idea. But I would probably want to know how many people use homeopathy exclusively, as opposed to those who use it alongside acupuncture, Chinese medicine, macrobiotic diets etc. etc. in a suite of “therapies” that might even be accompanied with treatment by doctors using scientific medicine. Most people I know who are into alternative medicine seem to pick on things pretty indiscriminately; they don’t trust conventional medicine but they do use it, although they much prefer to attribute positive results to the alternative remedies rather than whatever it is that their doctor does. In these situations, the parasitic model you had previously described makes sense to me, where alternative medicine depends upon judicious use of real medicine in order bolster claims about itself. Another way of thinking about it would be alternative medicine as “rituals of intensification.” These are rituals that supposedly amplify existing conditions or processes (like fertility rituals to encourage agricultural growth). Plant growth, as we know, will go on irrespective of the religious rituals people conduct (as, in the same way, boys and girls will go through puberty whether or not they undergo a puberty ritual). It’s not that cultures with these rituals don’t accept that these facts are true, but there is a sense that the ritual is a kind of insurance, or an assurance, that things will turn out well.

  6. #6 Bad
    December 8, 2007

    I’ve been going at this subject for a while now with a pro-homeo blogger. He can’t seem to make up his mind whether homeopathy is well supported by a body of reliable literature or simply so great that it cannot be measured with silly scientific controls. He seems to bridge this gap by claiming that enough anecdotes make a body of well tested and reliable data…

  7. #7 Rjaye
    December 8, 2007

    I think the other thing about woo therapy is that there’s another underlying condition the patient refuses to acknowlege, and that is we’re going to suffer sometimes.

    We get a cold. We are going to suffer. The best thing to do is to hunker down, stay warm, keep well hydrated, and let our bodies fight off the bug. Actually, the fact our bodies are able to do this on their own is pretty awesome.

    Some folks can’t hack it and they buy these OTC meds, teas, homeo remedies trying to fend off the crud, but the thing is, even with helpful ways to deal with the common cold, all those meds do is make your sinuses feel better, or ease the pain. One is stuck with a cold.

    Chronic conditions just drive these people nuts. They can’t accept their diagnoses. They want to be “whole” people, whatever that is.

    Most people figure it out, and get on with their life, but there’s a few with magical thinking that all they have to hear is “have you tried this new amazing thing,” and they have to try it.

    Basically, my long-winded way of saying these folks are in denial, and thus not doing the things that really would make them feel better.

  8. #8 DLC
    December 9, 2007

    From Christian at Medjournalwatch :

    Just like pigeons, humans are programmed in detecting patterns in a complex world. Such a pattern has been detected by Samuel Hahnemann who, using china-bark (a herbal remedy against malaria) as a healthy person, later has been suffering from symptoms similar to malaria. Based on this “similia principle”, he invented a totally different kind of medicine, homeopathy. His fever – the random pellet (a bad one of course). Taking china bark in self-experiment – the random behaviour.

    China bark?
    Perhaps an error in transcription somewhere along the way.
    Chinchona bark was long used as a specific for malaria, and is in fact where Quinine was originally obtained from.
    A quick search for “china bark” at wikipedia (admittedly an incomplete source) turned up only a reference to
    Tsuga chinensis, a chinese hemlock tree.
    Would that Hahneman been doping himself with hemlock!

  9. #9 marcia
    December 9, 2007

    Newsweek has a commentary on Bausell’s book:
    http://www.newsweek.com/id/73283

    Check the comments after the article. It’s an uphill battle.

  10. #10 Ladybird
    December 11, 2007

    Why do medical doctors “waste’ so much time of theirs on alternative medicine, if they don’t believe in it? Why not just leave it alone. Do your comments change anyone’s mind about it? People who are going to go to it are anyway. Your comments don’t bother them at all. I’m one of those “lunatics”, quite a “rational” person, at least, I like to believe, who am on one herb, yes, just one. It helped my A1c to come down to 5.9 from 6.8 over a year. THAT is evidence based, for sure!! Regular blood tests have shown it. That was no placebo effect, dear sir. But certainly no crystal ball therapy for me, no extremes.

    “Western medicine” by the way, was “Eastern medicine”, coming to Europe, from Greece, by way of the Arabs, who took it and added a lot to it and then took it to Spain. Have we forgotten this point? A lot of Western drugs have been taken from plants, how is that so different from eating the herbs or herbal supplements directly. A lot of homeopathic meds are also based on natural herbs and flowers. So much for us “lunatics”!! I’m quite happy being a “lunatic”, taking a herb with very little side effects as most “Western” drugs do have.

  11. #11 Bronze Dog
    December 11, 2007

    Why do medical doctors “waste’ so much time of theirs on alternative medicine, if they don’t believe in it? Why not just leave it alone.

    Come back when you have an answer better than surrender and defeatism. I’m not selfish enough to give up on the world.

    Do your comments change anyone’s mind about it? People who are going to go to it are anyway.

    It changed my mind about some of them, thankfully before I had an opportunity to waste money on it.

    I’m one of those “lunatics”, quite a “rational” person, at least, I like to believe, who am on one herb, yes, just one. It helped my A1c to come down to 5.9 from 6.8 over a year. THAT is evidence based, for sure!!

    1. One anecdote does not equal data. You can’t do statistics with a datum. You most certainly cannot draw a conclusion.

    2. Herbs are not inherently alternative. Many pharmaceuticals are based on herbs that worked. Pills are often just carefully measured doses of the active ingredients in relevant herbs.

    3. “Try it yourself” is a very effective way of adding bias.

    “Western medicine” by the way, was “Eastern medicine”, coming to Europe, from Greece, by way of the Arabs, who took it and added a lot to it and then took it to Spain. Have we forgotten this point?

    Rather pointless for a “point”, even if it is true. Why should I practice racism in judging whether or not a treatment works? Please refrain from bringing up race as an argument from false authority.

    A lot of Western drugs have been taken from plants, how is that so different from eating the herbs or herbal supplements directly.

    1. Consistency: If you take a pill marked 100mg of whatever, you know that you’re getting 100 milligrams. If you eat an herb, you can’t even guarantee you’ll get any. Sometimes plants just don’t grow the chemical we want.

    2. Cleaner: There are plenty of herbs that contain toxins, heavy metals, or just simply additional chemicals that are unnecessary. Herbs are living things. Life is a messy business. Human-conducted chemistry can be done much more cleanly.

    3. Potentially Greener: Lot of herbs are harvested from the wild in poor countries. Too much demand for them could lead to overharvesting and extinction.

    A lot of homeopathic meds are also based on natural herbs and flowers.

    Homeopathy dilutes chemicals until there’s nothing left in the solvent. For that reason, it’s absurd to think that it works.

    Guess what: It turns out (more importantly than the previous point) it doesn’t work, whether or not we’d think it’s absurd. Homeopaths have consistently failed to provide any worthwhile evidence. That’s why they always insist on sloppy tests that will let bias, natural healing, and other things do the work for their alleged cures.

    Of course, I’m particularly incensed with homeopaths right now, leftover from a fairly recent incident where some of them thought they could play Thought Police on our friend Le Canard Noir, by silencing his website. Back to the early point: You can’t silence us. We will not sit politely by as woos break the law, demand double-standards, try to silence criticism, and so on and so forth. All in the name of the bottom line.

    o much for us “lunatics”!! I’m quite happy being a “lunatic”, taking a herb with very little side effects as most “Western” drugs do have.

    You have no idea what you’re talking about.

    Of course, how can you claim herbs have few side effects if you don’t test them under rigorous standards? Seems to me that the ‘no side effects’ party line is just propaganda that doesn’t exactly soothe the pain of those who wind up with allergic reactions.

    So, one note to avoid getting me further incensed if you’re more than just another cowardly hit-and-run propagandist: Don’t bother mentioning “East” and “West” anymore. It’s racist. Medicine should be judged by effectiveness, not the nationality or skin color of the people who invented it.

  12. #12 HCN
    December 11, 2007

    Ladybird,

    Homeopathy is not herbalism. One homeopathic remedy is Nat Mur 30C, that is based on salt. Is salt an herb? Another one is Oscillococcinum 200C, starts with duck’s liver. Is that an herb? Don’t worry about the ducks, that dilution is one cell of duck liver diluted in more atoms in the known universe. For a detailed explanation see this video:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Z1QFZcnAi4

    For a Nat Mur 30C recipe check this posting on the misc.health.alternative newsgroup:
    http://groups.google.com/group/misc.health.alternative/msg/8e13fd1b374ce84b

    Also, homeopathy was invented 200 years ago in GERMANY by Samual Hahnemann. By most definitions that would make it a “western medicine”.

    The chicken pox vaccine came from Japan. Does that make it “eastern” or “western” medicine?

  13. #13 Ladybird
    December 12, 2007

    First of all my comment on “Western” and “Eastern” medicine was not meant to be racist at all! You completely misunderstood it! I happen to be a proud Indian, brought up basically in the West and love the Western and Eastern combination! I thought Eastern medicine was being criticized over here, as it so often is, because a lot of herbal meds are from the East, not denying the fact that they have been practiced for centuries in Europe before the so called “evidence” based medicine took it over, let’s call it that. And yes, I know that homeopathy originated in Germany. According to what I learned in school, Japan is in the East, did I learn wrong? And what difference does it make? That wasn’t my point at all. Helping people is the aim of all good docs, wherever they may come from.

    Bronze Dog: Your point about “Greener”: People have been taking herbs as meds for centuries; should they suddenly stop? It’s so much a habit in India – let me talk about my country only so that nobody else thinks I’m insulting them-
    turmeric is in the news these days; whenever we as small children had a cold, my mother would give us some warm milk with some turmeric in it to make us feel better, the way people here take Tylenol. So habits don’t die overnight. Yes, greener is better, but I’d rather have the natural meds rather than allopathy all the time, when I do have a choice, they are greener than most other meds.

    When a surgeon tells us we need surgery, we take it as a last resort, not the first. It’s the same here. Every med, whatever type it may be, has side effects, allopathic, herbal and I guess homeopathy also, it’s the benefits and risks we have to look at, right? I didn’t say at all that herbal medicine doesn’t have side effects, but LESS.

    I’m only on one herb for my diabetes and I read as much about it as I could, before trying it out, a lot of studies have been done on it. Let me confess, am trying out two homeopathy meds right now…I happen to be on two allopathic meds already, a BP me and a statin..I believe in trying things out before I condemn them. When I have my new A1 tests in a couple of months, would you like me to report back the results?

    All I was trying to say is that there seems to be a hysteria out amongst allopathic docs at the moment against homeopaths/homeopathy. Why? Sure, all homeopathic meds may not work but then neither do all allopathic meds.

    When people are feeling desperate about their illnesses and not getting anywhere with their regular meds, what’s the harm in trying something new. Or when they don’t want all the side effects of allopathic meds they go to herbal or homeopathy.

    So is it save the world from homeopathy, so all these blogs about it? I can think of many other more important things the world could be saved from. It hasn’t changed my mind, since a herb has worked for me and maybe the homeopathic may
    also. IF it doesn’t, will drop it, simple as that.

    Tirades don’t help, more decent language might. I don’t pretend to understand homeopathy but am willing to try some of the meds out. I do know many people who swear on it. The man who’s recommended them to me happens to be an allopathic doc himself, a very senior one, with a very open mind.

    What docs need to do is educate people and help them to understand that things like homeopathy may not work for some very serious conditions like heart problems but may be ok for other med problems. All out attacks are just not going to work.

  14. #14 HCN
    December 12, 2007

    Sigh, I was trying to tell Ladybird what homeopathy is, and I did not think I did it as an “attack”. We cannot force her to watch the Horizon video, nor can we ask her to read the links.

    Though it would be nice if she actually read for comprehension the posts before she comments.

    She did say “When people are feeling desperate about their illnesses and not getting anywhere with their regular meds, what’s the harm in trying something new.”

    And there are plenty of nefarious folks willing to seperate those people with their money. You might want to check out this blog’s postings on Dr. Buttar, Roy Kerry and the Geiers.

    Blogs like this, along with the list on the left side of this page, have lots of information to help desparate people from being fleeced by those who would take advantage of them. What is wrong with that?

    Why do you want to give a free reign to the likes of Rashid Buttar, Roy Kerry (who killed a kid), the parents of little baby Gloria Thomas (http://www.news.com.au/dailytelegraph/story/0,22049,22706946-5006009,00.html ), and others who prey on the sick and desparate?

    Should we not be angry at those who take money and health away from the desparate?

    Clarification: There is not “western” or “eastern” medicine. There is medicine that works, that stuff that does not. Please do not define it by geographic origin. Which is why we find it funny when something based on some German’s philosophy is called “eastern”.

  15. #15 Ladybird
    December 12, 2007

    “And yes, I know that homeopathy originated in Germany. According to what I learned in school, Japan is in the East, did I learn wrong? And what difference does it make? That wasn’t my point at all. Helping people is the aim of all good docs, wherever they may come from.” Did I say that homeopathy is “Eastern” in origin?

    HCN, sorry but it seems that you haven’t read my post clearly. I did clarify about the “Western” and “Eastern” medicine and I,infact, have read some of the links and the posts above. I was talking about the general attacks on homeopaths/homeopathy in these last few weeks on the blogs.

    And did you read my last para?

    We all have a right to go where we want to for medical help. ALL docs should explain the facts to their patients as simply as possible, mentioning the side effects of meds etc as well as the benefits. Do all allopathic docs do this always? Some people may read about them on their own, others don’t.

    You mention two homeopathy meds, let me mention one allopathic med I was on for over a year, Neurontin, for my diabetic neuropathy. It did not help my numbness at all, infact it kept on increasing till I stopped it on my own and tried something I read in Dr J. Whitaker’s newsletter, an amino acid, because I was yes, “desperate”. It worked in just about a month. The numbness has almost completely disappeared.

    You’ve completely missed my point. I’m only saying to allopathic docs to please be a little more open to alternative medicine. Unless you’ve really studied it, don’t be be so quick to judge things, which are not familiar to you.

    All patients need to be protected from quacks and there are quacks everywhere, but it doesn’t mean that what we ourselves don’t understand need be necessarily bad/evil or not work. Chiropracters were shunned about 30 years ago, today they have recognized degrees. Their work is now respected by a lot of regular docs now, certainly not by all.

    Allopathy may be wonderful for a lot of things, but maybe not for everything, why not look at other things which could work hand in hand with it/or have fewer side effects? Most homeopaths do not tell their patients not to go to regular docs, infact the one who really cares about his/her patient is going to tell them to do exactly that, be honest and say that homeopathy is not going to cure them of that particular problem. Regular docs should be just as honest.

    Any doc, homeopathic, herbalist, and yes, the regular doc also, should be punished if they are doing wrong things and fleecing/killing patients. I’m sure we would all agree over here.

    People have a right to go to whomever they feel like, if they feel that what they’re on at that moment is not working for them. The way I see it is that more and more Americans are going to be going the alternative way, because of the severe side effects of some allopathic meds. Look at Avandia, there are, I think, many docs who would like to see it taken off the market completely, the Black Box warning has not been enough for them. So it’s not worked as well as some people hoped it would, does it mean that every doc who prescribed it to his/her patient is a quack? Well, I guess not. And I’m sure Avandia is not about to be taken off for a long time, if ever. So every med, allopathic or homeopathic or herbal just may not be the best, but everyone has his/her opinion about that particular med.

  16. #16 HCN
    December 12, 2007

    Ladybird said “What docs need to do is educate people and help them to understand that things like homeopathy may not work for some very serious conditions like heart problems but may be ok for other med problems. All out attacks are just not going to work.”

    I would suggest you read to read this blog a bit more carefully. Where is the evidence that “homeopathy …. may be ok for other med problems.” ?

    Homeopathy is not effective for anything. If you have evidence to the contrary please present it. It does not deserve to be defended.

  17. #17 Joe
    December 12, 2007

    Ladybird,

    Could your thoughts be less organized?

    The popularity of quackery has no bearing on the fact that it is fraud. And the fact that evidence-based-medicine (EBM, which you mis-name as allopathy) cannot cure all illnesses is no reason to think quackery can.

    Your Avandia example is a perfect illustration of the advantages of EBM- EBM continually evaluates and corrects mistakes. Homeopaths still cite 200-year-old nonsense promulgated by an ignorant man. That nonsense, like Avandia, has been called into serious question; yet, in the case of homeopathy the proponents are oblivious to their faults.

  18. #18 Bronze Dog
    December 12, 2007

    When people are feeling desperate about their illnesses and not getting anywhere with their regular meds, what’s the harm in trying something new.

    The mating call of the vulture, and one of the most dangerous phrases in the entire English language: “What’s the harm?

    Bronze Dog: Your point about “Greener”: People have been taking herbs as meds for centuries; should they suddenly stop?

    They should stop taking them when they’re useless, so that they won’t be overharvested into extinction. That way, when there’s a call for herbs that have actual use, people like you wouldn’t have squandered them because some religious guru recommended to take them willy-nilly.

    What docs need to do is educate people and help them to understand that things like homeopathy may not work for some very serious conditions like heart problems but may be ok for other med problems.

    What you need is to show us homeopathy works for anything. It’s that simple. Educate us on the evidence we require for any scientific claim.

    I did clarify about the “Western” and “Eastern” medicine…

    The very existence of a “clarification” for that sort of thing in a discussion about scientific claims is inherently racist. Jingoism isn’t a substitute for evidence. Either a treatment works or it doesn’t work. Nationality is of no consequence to that question.

    All patients need to be protected from quacks and there are quacks everywhere, but it doesn’t mean that what we ourselves don’t understand need be necessarily bad/evil or not work. Chiropracters were shunned about 30 years ago, today they have recognized degrees. Their work is now respected by a lot of regular docs now, certainly not by all.

    Chiropractors are still quacks. Show me the evidence that Chiropractic works. Show me evidence that homeopathy works. Argument from authority and popularity doesn’t cut it.

    Hint: Uncontrolled, unverifiable anecdotes don’t count. You can’t do statistics when n = 1. The Type I and Type II error levels are incalculably high in those sorts of “experiments.”

    And, of course, she continues with the lie of “allopathy” accusations. Allopathy largely died out for the same reasons we now attack homeopathy. EBM buried its corpse and occasionally exhumes its body to desecrate it again. Why do you think people joke about comparing ineffective treatments to leeches and bleeding? Allopathy is what we compare your stuff to. Homeopathy, thankfully, is merely useless and only capable of negative harm, rather than direct harm to anything other than some guy’s wallet.

    As Joe comments about Avandia: If you police your own organization, chances are, you’re eventually going to run into someone doing something nasty. Quacks will never police themselves. They just plead for more and more leniency, so that they’ll never have to be responsible for anything. Le Canard Noir once posted an entry suggesting that the Society of Homeopaths follow through with their own ethics rules and slam down on a member who advertised a cure they said not to. Instead, they threatened his ISP with a lawsuit in order to silence his criticism.

  19. #19 Ladybird
    December 12, 2007

    So we are basically back to where we began, that homeopathy is just the practice of placebos being given to patients; this makes the patients think they are feeling better.

    I hate to confess it but am not anywhere close to being a homeopath, otherwise, I’d have tried to give some evidence of how it does work. I first tried it about 6 years ago for my hemorrhoids, it didn’t work at that time, but certainly didn’t do me any harm, but am willing to try it again to keep my glucose levels stable -my A1c is 6.3 at the moment- since I don’t want to go on diabetic meds with all their side effects. A person trained in Evidence Based Medicine, with a doctorate in Science has told me which homeopathic meds to try. He’s seen it work in many patients of his. If I trust a doc, I’m willing to try what he recommends and my glucose meter for this last month (since I’ve been on it) is showing me lower averages. THAT is evidence based medicine exactly as the herb – fenugreek- has been doing for me this past year for me. Check it out on the net, many studies with controls have been done on this herb, being used for centuries in India; again evidence based. It’s part of alternative medicine.

    Allopathy: The word on About.com/Alternative medicine: The term is generally used to describe the conventional approach
    to medicine in “Western” medicine.

    Oh, I’m so sorry Bronze Dog, that was a “racist” slur, was it, used by both About.com and me!! Actually, that was a historical statement when I wrote in my first post,”Western medicine” by the way, was “Eastern medicine”, coming to Europe, from Greece, by way of the Arabs, who took it and added a lot to it and then took it to Spain. Have we forgotten this point?”

    Bronze Dog, you interpreted it as a “racist” statement. I’ve already written medicine has nothing to do with religion, color or race, good docs are good docs anywhere. I didn’t want to mention this here but talking about racism twice, Bronze Dog is making me: that I happen to be a brown Muslim living for some years in the US and having been trying to explain after 9/11 to some of my friends here that every Muslim is not a terrorist. I have friends, the closest, from every race/religion, one of my closest friends happens to be Jewish. Does everything have to be colored “racist” even on a medical blog?

    I have a MA in History from NYU, thus am sorry I can’t explain any of the homeopathic principals but have a very open mind and as have said, am willing to try meds, as long as I know they are pretty safe. Since was pronounced a diabetic by my great doc here, about three years ago, have been reading as much as I can on this and decided to go on alternative meds as have already explained because of the major side effects of some EVB meds. I can only talk about my own experiences with alternative meds, which have been pretty good up to now.

    Has Avandia also not caused suffering and some direct harm to somebody’s wallet? And is it the only med in EVB to do so? Let’s be more honest about the untold side effects of many EVB meds? This is the main reason that thousands across the world are trying out alternative meds, which includes homeopathy. The earlier posts talked about the fact that we don’t know how many people who do go on alternative meds also are on conventional meds and thus it’s very difficult to say what’s helped these people. Again talking from my own experience, I can only say that the Lipitor or Cozaar that am on, certainly didn’t help my foot drop to resolve; am sure that docs reading this blog would agree with me on this. Alpha Lipoic Acid did, but it’s just not on the list of the meds that American docs even recommend! It is, though, on the list of alternative medecine’s docs. And as far as I’m concerned, that’s what I call evidence based medicine! Meds which work for me and have worked for a whole lot of people.

    Good night, good luck to you all trying to persuade other people not to try alternative meds and that conventional medicine is the best!

  20. #20 Orac
    December 12, 2007

    I have a MA in History from NYU, thus am sorry I can’t explain any of the homeopathic principals but have a very open mind and as have said, am willing to try meds, as long as I know they are pretty safe.

    There’s nothing “safer” than homeopathy in that it’s nothing but water or other diluents. The problem is, it’s only water or other diluents. So if you have a disease that is progressive, the delay in seeking efficacious therapy can be dangerous.

    As for an “open mind,” be careful that your mind isn’t so open that your brains fall out. Having an open mind is fine, but it must be tempered with reason and evidence. Homeopathy is utterly ridiculous both in concept and execution.

  21. #21 daedalus2u
    December 12, 2007

    Ladybird, raising nitric oxide levels is probably the “best” treatment for diabetic neuropathy. If you are using the amino acid L-arginine (which is the substrate for nitric oxide synthase, and is commonly used in an attempt to do so), you should be warned that it doesn’t raise nitric oxide levels long term. There is upregulation of asymetric dimethyl arginine (a nitric oxide synthase inhibitor) and arginase (which turns arginine into ornithine and urea).

    http://circ.ahajournals.org/cgi/content/abstract/116/2/188

    It does work short term, but it doesn’t work long term and may actually make it worse.

    The placebo effect of homeopathy might help for a while by raising NO levels too. But the placebo effect of all woo eventually fades.

  22. #22 HCN
    December 12, 2007

    Ladybird, really… watch this video:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Z1QFZcnAi4

    It will explain in great detail what homeopathy actually is (it has nothing to do with herbalism).

  23. #23 Macnerdzcare
    December 17, 2007

    Well in some cases even a fake pill would actually lessen the symptoms of a disease and we call it “the placebo effect”. It is also the reason why FDA drug approval for phase III, requires a double blind study with placebo and contro.

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