Respectful Insolence

The Long Dark Tea-Time of Homeopathy

Sometimes politicians actually get it right.

I know, I know, it makes me choke on my words to admit it, but sometimes politicians can actually get science right. I’m referring to something that happened in the U.K., yesterday, when the Science and Technology Select Committee delivered its verdict on homeopathy. Indeed, the Committee has gone so far as to call for the complete withdrawal of NHS funding and official licensing for homeopathy. The report is called Evidence Check 2: Homeopathy, and I’ll cut to the chase. This is what the report concluded:

By providing homeopathy on the NHS and allowing MHRA licensing of products which subsequently appear on pharmacy shelves, the Government runs the risk of endorsing homeopathy as an efficacious system of medicine. To maintain patient trust, choice and safety, the Government should not endorse the use of placebo treatments, including homeopathy. Homeopathy should not be funded on the NHS and the MHRA should stop licensing homeopathic products.

It’s about time.

I realize that homeopathy is a frequent topic of supporters of science-based medicine, but that’s just because it’s about as pure a form of quackery as there is. After all, homeopathy is, more than almost any other “complementary and alternative” medicine modality, pure placebo given that homeopathic remedies above 12C (1024-fold dilution) are unlikely to have a single molecule of the original remedy left over. By the time homeopaths reach a 30C dilution (1060-fold), it’s incredibly unlikely that even a single molecule of active compound is left in the mixure, given that Avagadro’s number is on the order of 6.02 x 1023, 1037-fold lower than the dilution factor. These remedies are either left as water or packed into sugar pills and sold. It is the very fact that real homeopathy (not herbal remedies labeled as “homeopathic” when they are not) uses nothing more than water or alcohol diluents that makes it a perfect example to study how an inert “cure” can seem so compelling to so many people.

Moreover, the very principles of homeopathy are so ridiculous a their core from a scientific standpoint that it makes an excellent test case to examine how quackery can flourish. Stripped to its core, homeopathy is nothing more than a tarted up version of sympathetic magic, in which Frazier’s Law of Similarity (“like cures like”) is combined with the Law of Contagion (a.k.a. the “memory of water,” in which water somehow magically remembers only the good “homeopathic” bits that it’s been in contact with and somehow never remembers all the pollution, poison, and poo). Add to that the magical ritual in which it is supposedly the “succussion” between each dilution step that imbues the homeopathic remedy with its magical powers, and belief in homeopathy is nothing more than a belief in pure magic. Make no mistake, many are the times I’ve had homeopaths like Dana Ullman and others piously and condescendingly inform me that homeopathic remedies are more than just diluted substances but that it is the succussion that imbues them with their potency.

Unfortunately, the report can’t describe homeopathy in these terms, but there are certainly some excellent and very insightful observations, first, for example, about the plausibility of “like cures like”:

  • We conclude that the principle of like-cures-like is theoretically weak. It fails to provide a credible physiological mode of action for homeopathic products. We note that this is the settled view of medical science. (Paragraph 54)
  • We consider the notion that ultra-dilutions can maintain an imprint of substances previously dissolved in them to be scientifically implausible. (Paragraph 61)

That’s nothing more than a polite way of saying that “like cures like” is complete bollocks. (This is a British report, after all; so I think I should use the lingo.) Ditto the conclusion that water has “memory” that can maintain an imprint of substances previously dissolved on them. Of course, I would have put it another way, but then I don’t write reports for political bodies. I would also have been a lot less polite and a lot more–shall we say?–insolent than Martin Robbins was about this quote from Dr Peter Fisher, Director of the Royal London Homeopathic Hospital:

Dr Fisher stated that the process of “shaking is important” but was unable to say how much shaking was required. He said “that has not been fully investigated” but did tell us that “You have to shake it vigorously [...] if you just stir it gently, it does not work”

I’ve always wondered about this. As many may recall, Samuel Hahnemann, the founder of homeopathy, recommended smacking the vial containing the remedy being diluted against a leather-bound Bible as a way of shaking it. Martin may find it rather curious that homeopaths have never figured out how much shaking is needed between dilutions or how shaking supposedly “potentizes” the homeopathic remedy. Unfortunately, our National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine appears to have stepped in to fund a study of just that question, as I pointed out two years ago. Yes, that’s right. NCCAM has paid for what can only be described as pseudoscience. Would that our own government would have the clarity of vision to conclude, as Science and Technology Select Committee did, that homeopathy is not only not worth studying anymore but that doing so in clinical trials is unethical:

  • There has been enough testing of homeopathy and plenty of evidence showing that it is not efficacious. Competition for research funding is fierce and we cannot see how further research on the efficacy of homeopathy is justified in the face of competing priorities.
  • It is also unethical to enter patients into trials to answer questions that have been settled already. Given the different position on this important question between the Minister and his Chief Scientist, we recommend that the Government Chief Scientific Adviser, Professor John Beddington, investigate whether ministers are receiving effective advice and publish his own advice on this question.

Finally, I’ve discussed the ethics of trials of homeopathy, particularly in Third World countries. To understand the reason why clinical trials of homeopathy are unethical comes down to a question of informed consent. One of the overarching principles of clinical trials is that subjects must enter into them only after truly informed consent. That means that the patient must understand what the therapy being tested is, what its odds of helping are (as best as can be estimated by what is known about it at the time of the trial), and what the potential side effects are. Does anyone think that homoepaths actually describe what homeopathic remedies are to potential research subjects or patients. If they did, they’d have to explain that homeopathic remedies are water, that they have been diluted to the point where not a single of active molecule is likel to remain in them, and that science says that this is impossible. Indeed, to be truthful, a homeopath would have to explain that, for homeopathy to work, huge swaths of what we know about multiple areas of science, including physics, chemistry, and biochemistry would have to be not just wrong but totally, completely, and spectacularly wrong. I’m not talking about cutting edge science needing to be wrong, either. Cutting edge science is often later found to be incorrect or not supported by subsequent data. No, I’m talking about well-established science, such as the law of mass action or the chemistry and physics that say that the “memory of water” is so improbable form a scientific standpoint that it is, for all practical purposes, indistinguishable from impossible.

Of course, no homeopath would ever tell a patient or potential research subject anything like that. It would be the truth, but homeopaths believe in their woo, as do, unfortunately, many of the physicians suckered in to doing studies on these “remedies.” Even physicians not entirely sold on homeopathy tend to be so open-minded that their brains fall out when it comes to the possibility of the “memory of water.”

Even so, the MPs actually got it:

For patient choice to be real choice, patients must be adequately informed to understand the implications of treatments. For homeopathy this would certainly require an explanation that homeopathy is a placebo. When this is not done, patient choice is meaningless. When it is done, the effectiveness of the placebo–that is, homeopathy–may be diminished. We argue that the provision of homeopathy on the NHS, in effect, diminishes, not increases, informed patient choice.

This single brief paragraph is shockingly insightful, so much so that I find it hard to believe that it was written by a panel made up of politicians.

Perhaps the single most important conclusion of this report is the acknowledgment that when the government funds a treatment, it puts it imprimatur on that treatment. For all intents and purposes, by funding homeopathy, the British government is endorsing it as being evidence-based and effective, and this report recognized this fact. Indeed, it is because of this that the report explicitly recommends that the NHS stop funding homeopathy and other woo not based in science and evidence. This recommendation is also, in essence, a recommendation that the most famous bastion of homeopathic quackery in the world, the Royal London Homeopathic Hospital (visited three years ago by yours truly), be defunded and closed. The MPs also recommended that homeopathic medicines be delicensed:

It is unacceptable for the MHRA to license placebo products–in this case sugar pills–conferring upon them some of the status of medicines. Even if medical claims on labels are prohibited, the MHRA’s licensing itself lends direct credibility to a product. Licensing paves the way for retail in pharmacies and consequently the patient’s view of the credibility of homeopathy may be further enhanced. We conclude that it is time to break this chain and, as the licensing regimes operated by the MHRA fail the Evidence Check, the MHRA should withdraw its discrete licensing schemes for homeopathic products.

The MHRA is the Medicines and Health Care products Regulatory Agency. Basically, it appears to be the U.K. equivalent to our very own Food and Drug Administration. Being an American, I had not previously been aware that the MHRA licensed homeopathic remedies. And I thought the DSHEA of 1994 was bad! At least the FDA doesn’t license homeopathic remedies! In any case, it’s good to see the MPs tell it like it is and point out that it is not appropriate for a government body charged with regulating drugs and medical products to license placebos and confer upon them the status of real medicine.

Is this report likely to lead to action? Who knows? I’m not British and am therefore not familiar with British politics; perhaps some of my British readers could comment on the likelihood that these recommendations will become law and policy. Even as a Yank, though, I do know that Prince Charles is a huge booster of homeopathy and other varieties of quackery, and I can’t help but wonder what sort of influence he will bring to bear on the threat to his beloved homeopathic hospitals and remedies. On the other hand, this is a pretty resounding, damning report. Moreover, health care money is tight in the U.K., just as it is pretty much everywhere else in the wake of the global recession. Add this report to the budgetary pressures that will demand more efficiency and more evidence that what the NHS spends its limited resources on, and one can’t help but hope that this hard, cold reality, coupled with the political cover of this report, will lead to decreasing support and funding for homeopathy in the U.K.

A guy can dream, can’t he?

Comments

  1. #1 Kit
    February 23, 2010

    Both myself and my wife work for the NHS and have been annoyed with the funding provided for CAM since we first heard about it.

    While it is very refreshing to see politicians coming down on the side of reason I find it doubtful that anything will change quickly. CAM is popular with middle class twits that are to cool ( or in touch with their spiritual side ) to actually educate themselves, and this is the section of the population that poltical parties like to woo. Also as Orac said Prince Charles will no doubt stick his oar in.

  2. #2 Dr. Nancy Malik
    February 23, 2010

    Homeopathy on NHS is a political decision because of the pressure of reducing fiscal deficit as elections are looming late this year.

  3. #3 Deimos
    February 23, 2010

    The repercussions of this are already starting to be felt;
    http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2010/02/23/2827835.htm?
    This article “Homeopathy Not For Children” quotes a pharmacy consultant from Melbourne, Australia.
    Hopefully, once the beast of pseudo-science is shown to not be the juggernaut a lot of people thought it was, more unbiased analysis and testing will make its way into the public arena.

  4. #4 Matthew Cline
    February 23, 2010

    a.k.a. the “memory of water,” in which water somehow magically remembers only the good “homeopathic” bits that it’s been in contact with and somehow never remembers all the pollution, poison, and poo).

    I don’t at all believe in homeopathy, but: according to homeopaths, that’s because normal water doesn’t go through “succussion” (shaking the water by forcefully striking the container the water is in). I’ve no clue as to if they have any explanation as to why things like rain drops striking the ground and river water going through extreme turbulence doesn’t count.

  5. #5 Travis
    February 23, 2010

    I have not had a chance to read this yet but I will when I wake up (03:35 right now, not a reasonable hour to read something like this) but I am happy to see the Douglas Adams reference used in the title of this post.

  6. #6 gimpy
    February 23, 2010

    This single brief paragraph is shockingly insightful, so much so that I find it hard to believe that it was written by a panel made up of politicians.

    Well one of the Panel, Evan Harris, is a medical doctor with a track record of criticising quackery. In fact he’s a special hate figure of the homeopaths.
    It’s also interesting to note that a member of that committee did try and water down the report after being lobbied hard by homeopaths.

    As for the question of whether this report will make a difference?

    Yes.

    The Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain (RPSGB) were robustly criticised in the report for failing to regulate pharmacies properly with respect to homeopathy. They clearly recognised this concern some time back and were able to pre-empt this criticism with revision of their guidance documents on homeopathy.

    The MHRA will also find themselves under considerable pressure to change their practice with respect to homeopathy.

    However, I imagine the debate on NHS funding for homeopathy may be more protracted. Unlike the RPSGB or MHRA there are votes to be won or lost when it comes to politicians and the NHS. I think we can look forward to dirty tricks campaigns, the unconstitutional intervention of our Queens feckless son, Charles the future King, who has form on this, as well as debates on ‘patient choice’, as supported by the mainstream parties, being subverted to include non-efficacious treatments. Ultimately though this report will serve as an excellent counter argument to the above.

  7. #7 Andrew Dodds
    February 23, 2010

    The only problem with this is the UK media.

    You may have heard of the Daily Mail – the paper with a mission to separate the entire physical world into object that either cause or cure cancer – which is quite partial to woo of all forms. Expect lots of wailing and gnashing of teeth from them.

    There is the Telegraph as well. Not exactly reality-based media either.

    The thing is, in theory we have NICE, which scientifically evaluates treatments based on expense and outcomes; this tends to infuriate both Big Pharma, who get annoyed that expensive-and-of-marginal-use treatments don’t get funded, and the Alt-Med brigade, who don’t like the nasty insistence on only funding things that work.

  8. #8 DLC
    February 23, 2010

    And it only took a decade or two for them to figure out that homeopathy is not better than a placebo. I wonder if having all those skeptics “attempt suicide” by “overdosing” on homeopathic sleeping pills had any effect ?
    I hope so.

  9. #9 Richard Eis
    February 23, 2010

    Homeopathy is dying in England now if the polititions are debating it. The final nail in the coffin will come soon. Probably when the Daily Mail decides that homeopathy causes cancer.

  10. #10 speedweasel
    February 23, 2010

    Orac, if you’re going to use British lingo, you could at least refer to Homeopaths as ‘Muppets’.

  11. #11 Doug
    February 23, 2010

    A lot of this is thanks to one fantastic MP, Dr Evan Harris (MP for Oxford) who is a champion of science and evidence based medicine. If we had a few more like him then parliament would spend most of its time doing useful things.

  12. #12 symball
    February 23, 2010

    Hi Orac- a couple of clarifications for you.
    1) the MHRA doesn’t license sugar pills in the same way that it does ‘proper’ medicine. there is a rather woolly law that was passed in response to an EU statute that requires member states to allow alternative medicine to be marketed as long as it is shown to be a ‘folk’ remedy. The committee’s decision doesn’t answer the question of how this will be done if the MHRA don’t do this.
    2) the government have no legal duty to carry out the recommended actions from the committee, and given their track history with the external advisory panel on drug abuse
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/politics/8344895.stm
    there is probably little that will be done.
    3) as has already been mentioned a lot of the key electorate (middle class ‘earth mothers etc’ are into homeopathy, and with an election looming I doubt either side will do much, even the third party here (lib dem) whose members were key people on this committee, are being very quiet about this.

  13. #13 steeroy
    February 23, 2010

    TV and radio coverage of this report has been very annoying. To be fair, the journalists themselves have basically got it right; but their insistence on balance means that, as well as having a scientist explaining the committee’s findings, you get a doctor sympathetic to homoeopathy chanting ‘in my experience in works’.

  14. #14 reasonablehank
    February 23, 2010

    “You have to shake it vigorously…”, just before you prepare your homeopathic concoction. Slap the leather, so to speak. That’s homeopathy!

  15. #15 Bexley
    February 23, 2010

    Even so, the MPs actually got it:

    At least one of the members of the select committee is a doctor as well as a politician (Evan Harris) which may help.

    The select committee actually has a fairly decent recent track record. They have also previously supported research using hybrid embryos.

  16. #16 Sam
    February 23, 2010

    The likelihood of anything happening soon is pretty slim: first homeopathy on the NHS is funded on a hospital level so the government will have to pass policy through the house of commons stopping hospitals from funding woo. There is also apparently a lot of support for an early day motion (basically ‘lets talk about this’) supporting homeopathy that will have to be combated.

    I think the best we can hope for is to use this report as a rallying point to push the UK gov to remove woo from the NHS but I wouldn’t expect results any time soon. It should supply good support for debating homeopaths

  17. #17 Grant
    February 23, 2010

    I agree with you on them getting it right, I’ve blogged what I consider the highlights myself. You mention the polite rebuttals of the claims of homeopathy. There’s a slightly more direct one in the report where they choose to slap the faces of (some of) the homeopathy supporters who wrote to the committee:

    “We regret that advocates of homeopathy, including in their submissions to our inquiry, choose to rely on, and promulgate, selective approaches to the treatment of the evidence base as this risks confusing or misleading the public, the media and policy-makers.”

    Have to love them including “including in their submissions to our inquiry”.

    They also recommended that the government disclose how much money was spent on homeopathy or supporting homeopathic hospitals.

    I’m not that happy with the reasoning for their not banning homeopathy from pharmacies (the arguments offered seem poor logic to me), but what they have chosen to do seems a solid move in the right direction.

  18. #18 Sam
    February 23, 2010

    RETRACTION: I’ve just had a search and it appears that there isn’t an Early Day Motion in support of Homeopathy

  19. #19 Sankar
    February 23, 2010

    This is really scientific fundamentalism, not science. Such science is trying to sell the idea that homeopathy cannot work because science does not seem to understand how it could possibly work. Experiments are then arranged that test homeopathic medicine the same way as pharmaceuticals, although this is completely different to the way homeopathic doctors prescribe. Unsurprisingly, the results are not impressive. This is the Dark Ages, not scientific argument.

    As a regular user of homeopathic medicine, having seen it work successfully on myself, friends and family members, it is really mind blowing to see such closed minded orthodoxy being sold as “science”. What is needed is more serious research, not political condemnation.

    I am aware than science does not understand the process. I am also quite unimpressed by the pseudo-scientific explanations given by homeopaths. At the same time, it is quite evident to anyone who has taken some time to investigate, that some of these remedies evidently function. I would very much like to know why and how … not to listen to Scientific Ayatollah telling me that it cannot work because it is outside their systems of thinking. Science is investigation, not pontification.

  20. #20 sophia8
    February 23, 2010

    A big part of the problem with the public’s perception of homeopathy – in the UK at least – is that it is so often confused with herbalism and folk remedies. On the forums I’m on, there have been several posters writing about their good experiences with things like herbal cough medicines, witchazel ointment and so on, and panicking that the government is about to ban these.
    I must have written about three separate forum posts just yesterday, explaining that homeopathy is no more than magic water, contains no active ingredients, and that the arnica cream that they put on their bruises isn’t homeopathic.
    Of course, the homeopaths don’t do a lot to lift these misconceptions – they’re delighted to have their products confused for stuff that actually has some effect.

  21. #21 Marcus Hill
    February 23, 2010

    “1) the MHRA doesn’t license sugar pills in the same way that it does ‘proper’ medicine. there is a rather woolly law that was passed in response to an EU statute that requires member states to allow alternative medicine to be marketed as long as it is shown to be a ‘folk’ remedy. The committee’s decision doesn’t answer the question of how this will be done if the MHRA don’t do this.”

    I have a simple solution. We need to implement a separate body to clear these “folk” remedies. Something like a “British Organisation for Genuine but Untested Science”. Any “medication” cleared by this body would obviously need to be marked in such a way that it was obvious that it wasn’t a real medication, and one could do this by requiring that they have an acronym-based logo for this alternative clearing body prominently shown on their labelling.

  22. #22 Concernedresident
    February 23, 2010

    Sanker, this isn’t about pontification. It’s not a case of science being unable to determine how homeopathy works, more a case of the basic premise being so improbable as to be practically physically impossible. If homeopathy works as claimed then we need to revisit much of what we understand about physics. This would be as drastic as finding that rabbit dreams are the source of gravitation forces in our universe, or to use an example from biology, it’d be akin to discovering that heart is the source of human compassion.

    Homeopathy has already been studied in great depth, like many other forms of medical woo, and found wanting. I’ve no problem with people buying homeopathic products, but they should not be considered to be medicines any more than prayer should be bottled and sold as a cure for depression.

    Your use of the term “scientific ayatollahs” is indicative of self projection. Religious people regularly accuse atheists of having “faith”, or atheism itself being a religion, but this is an equivocation fallacy. Belief in the efficacy of homeopathy is a matter of faith, but the dismissal of homeopathy is only faith when there’s no evidence provided to support that position.

    You may find that homeopathy works, but you, like everyone else, are subject to personal bias. Science compensates for these biases. Testimonials carry little weight.

    Personally I’m overjoyed to see homeopathy being seriously scrutinised. Homeopaths are no better than then the self-proclaimed psychics who take money under false pretenses and enabling denial of reality.

  23. #23 Amadan
    February 23, 2010

    Edzard Ernst has an article in today’s Guardian about this report. One of the comments is priceless:

    There are some meta studies of tests of homeopathic treatments which show that as the tests become more scientifically strngent the effects of homeopathy disappear.

    There are experiments, one on 720 sprague dawley rats will show up here pretty soon, that show that homeopathy DOES work in a single blind test but not in a double blind test.

    That leaves what?
    Simple really homeopathy DOES work and a strict scientific test will impede its mechanism thereby rendering the test invalid.

    (Ummmmmm…..No, me neither…)

  24. #24 Matthew Cline
    February 23, 2010

    Experiments are then arranged that test homeopathic medicine the same way as pharmaceuticals, although this is completely different to the way homeopathic doctors prescribe.

    If you’re talking about the experiments not being individualized for each patient, homeopaths could volunteer to perform a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled where the non-placebos are individualized.

  25. #25 sophia8
    February 23, 2010

    Sanker, if homeopathy worked as claimed, there would be no need for testing to show that it works. That fact would be self-evident.
    People would be going to homeopaths instead of GPs, they would be having their diseases cured in the local homeopathic hospital, every pharmaceutical company would be selling homeopathic medicines by the ton. And Orac would be aiming his insolence at the deluded fools who claim that allopathic medicine works.
    But he isn’t. Because homeopathy has never cured a real disease. If you think otherwise, please how us the evidence.

  26. #26 Jeff Keogh
    February 23, 2010

    Sankar,

    Homeopathy is not rejected because ‘science’ doesn’t understand it. (Whatever that may mean). Science is a method, not a series of authoritative statements.

    Homeopathy is being rejected because whenever it is tested such that human foibles are ruled out of the equation, it shows no effect.

    No effect.

    The only effect shown is that of placebo.

    There is no fundamentalism at play here. There is only what works, and what does not. Homeopathy does not work beyond placebo.

  27. #27 Toast
    February 23, 2010

    RatWiki has an article on Homeopathy which has been amplified following this report: http://rationalwiki.com/wiki/Homeopathy

  28. #28 Andreas Schaefer
    February 23, 2010

    Sankar :

    As a regular user of homeopathic medicine, having seen it work successfully on myself, friends and family members,

    Actually What you may have seen is person A takes homeopathic remedy H and gets better.
    Which is not proof that the percieved change in the health of person ( or pet ) A was CAUSED by remedy H.
    I offer to furnish proof that everytime you or your friends got better when taking a homeopathic remedy my magic white cat farted. And that those magic cat farts are the true cause of your improvements. ( Well , my cat farted and you got better, so the farts MUST be the reason you got better. Q.E.D. )
    My ethics forbid me to accept donations in lieu for my cat so I will not mention my account numbers here.
    I know that my cats farts are magic healing because a unicorn I met on my last pub-crawl told me so. So there we have it on the best authority.


    Seriously, to show that any remedy ( including homeopathic and other alt.med ones ) actually works there has to be a difference between tratment and nontreatment.
    We know that most people recover ( for example ) from the common cold without any treatment. So a remedy would have to show that users of a certain remedy show a significantly higher rate of getting well. Or that if the average convalescence time ( time to get well ) is shorter for them. Aka : If you stay warm , mostly in bed this will take a fortnight, however with this remedy you will be fine in a week. So far homeopathy has not furnished one bit of evidence going that way. Unlike at least SOME herbal remedies.
    Just in case the swine-flue makes a reappearance I better get some more Z-Brand cat food ( it has that effect ;-) )

  29. #29 adaminspace1
    February 23, 2010

    The Science & Technology Committee’s report on whether the NHS should support homeopathy is akin to the Medieval Church insisting that the world is the centre of the universe. Newer scientific models show us a reality that will make the report irrelevant in the long term.

    The homeopathic process of dilution and succussion creates energy medicine. Scientific experiments, by Popp and by Benveniste for example, demonstrate that it does have an effect even though none of the original material is left.

    The committee’s acceptance of scientific testing only by double blind trials is decades behind current scientific models and is irrelevant to homeopathy which recognises our uniqueness as individuals. However, this narrow frame of reference made the outcome of their report inevitable.

    Just as inevitably, homeopathy will continue to gain in popularity because it works, and people now trust the truth of their own experience far more than ‘Experts’.

    The extreme scientific rationalism that the select committee are clinging to is already history and the sheep will follow them in ignorance. For anyone willing to peep beyond their geocentric view, I recommend The Field by Lynne McTaggart and Energy Medicine, the Scientific Basis by James Oschman.

  30. #30 Wrysmile
    February 23, 2010

    Here’s a nice write up.

    http://www.thedailymash.co.uk/news/health/parliament-emitting-angry-purple-aura%2c-say-homeopaths-201002232496/

    “Their accounts will remember the money we used to give them.”

    Love it

  31. #31 TGAP Dad
    February 23, 2010

    @19 Sankar:

    Here’s the short and sweet: If you can prove the efficacy of homeopathic medicine in a simple, easy test, you can get $1 million for your trouble. Go here to find out more. The process is very simple: you apply for the $1 million challenge, negotiate a mutually agreeable protocol and conduct a preliminary and (if you pass the prelim) final test. The protocol is always designed so that there is no need for interpretation; the results are apparent to even a casual observer.

    If you can’t take this test and prove your claim (and walk away with a check for $1 million) then one of the following is true:
    1) You are a coward, realizing that homeopathy is not provable. We refer to that as “NOT real.”
    2) You think homeopathy is valid, but not testable under ANY objective circumstances. (“Not testable” = bogus.)
    3) You think the test is not worth your time. (You pay nothing for the application and testing, not even travel.)
    4) You simply can’t take the time from your busy schedule of homeo-awesomeness to trouble being tested. Yeah, right.

    If you think you’ve got a winner here, apply for the Million Dollar Challenge. Otherwise homeopathy is bogus and you are a quack or you are promoting quackery.

    Put up or shut up.

  32. #32 Concernedresident
    February 23, 2010

    Adaminspace1, I look forward to seeing the authors you mentioned publishing their work in a mainstream journal, not just the rather esoteric journal of the ISSSEEM.

    Double blind trials are irrelevant to homeopathy? That’s rubbish. If homeopathy has any effects it should be testable just like any other medical treatment. By all means have your own beliefs, but you’re not entitled to your own version of science and reality that just happens to favour the whacky notions of homeopathy.

    Pseudoscientific cranks have long bemoaned scientific testing and found many excuses to explain why their fantastical claims crumble when properly tested. Could it be the cold sterile conditions of the lab that interfere with the mojo, or maybe it’s the negative vibes of the scientists?

    Anyone who could validate the claims of water memory and a subsequent pharmacological effect would be a strong candidate for a Nobel Prize. The fields of biology and physics would be turned on their heads. The medieval church preserved it’s power through doctrine. Science is competitive, and any scientist who could present serious evidence for the efficacy of homeopathy (beyond a placebo effect) would be drowning in awards and research grants. Odd that no-one has managed this, in the same way that alchemists appear to be struggling to turn base metals in to gold.

  33. #33 squirrelelite
    February 23, 2010

    TGAP Dad,

    I endorse your comment. However, as I recall, James Randi did not even require that a homeopath demonstrate that their product works or is effective. He just required that they be able to distinguish between the homeopathic water and plain water.

    No one has claimed the reward yet.

  34. #34 MikeMa
    February 23, 2010

    First a story:
    My wife and I just had dinner and drinks out with 2 other couples. During dinner the subject of ‘sensitivity’ came up and when I understood that this was in support of things like ghosts, reading tarot cards and tea leaves, I opined that, as educated people, we can appreciate the tarot card art and the entertainment value of predicting the future but not really believe in that stuff. Oops. Four faces turned on me and stated unashamedly that they believed. Three with college degrees and all four smart enough to reason this out correctly. My wife & I spent most of the rest of the meal either reinforcing our position of non-belief or listening to anecdotal drivel about mediums and ghosts.

    Point:
    This inability to interpret and sort facts and fancies correctly is what supports homeopathy and all other pseudo science. They want to believe in spite of all the evidence against.

  35. #35 Skeptico
    February 23, 2010

    Amadan #23:

    Read Jesus and Mo today on this subject.  I guess they read Ernst too.

  36. #36 Raging Bee
    February 23, 2010

    That’s nothing more than a polite way of saying that “like cures like” is complete bollocks.

    That’s an insult to bollocks — whose “physiological mode of action” has, after all, been solidly proven by medical science. (And yes, the effect is enhanced when you shake it with some vigor. It’s hard to find a robust young nurse to shake them just right.)

    And don’t be surprised if they try to water down the report; that would, after all, make it more effective. Or at least more homeopathic.

  37. #37 Matthew Cline
    February 23, 2010

    Double blind trials are irrelevant to homeopathy? That’s rubbish. If homeopathy has any effects it should be testable just like any other medical treatment.

    It’s likely (because of the “recognises our uniqueness as individuals” bit) that Adaminspace1 is making the same mistake that some (perhaps many) homeopaths have made, which is that it’s impossible for a homeopath to individualize a prescription for the patient in a double blinded trial. This is false, since there are ways to do both at the same. For example, the homeopath could give the water (or sugar pill to which the water was was applied) to a third party, who would either pass it along unaltered or replace it with a placebo.

  38. #38 Raging Bee
    February 23, 2010

    Such science is trying to sell the idea that homeopathy cannot work because science does not seem to understand how it could possibly work.

    That’s because: a) the homeopaths have been unable to explain satisfactorily how it’s supposed to work; and b) it has not, in fact, been observed to work at all.

    Experiments are then arranged that test homeopathic medicine the same way as pharmaceuticals, although this is completely different to the way homeopathic doctors prescribe.

    If homeopathy works as consistently and as well as pharmaceuticals, then its effectiveness should be observable by the same means as that of pharmeceuticals.

    Unsurprisingly, the results are not impressive. This is the Dark Ages, not scientific argument.

    Do you have ANY CLUE what went on in those “Dark Ages” you’re going on on about? Have you ANY CLUE how we got out of that darkness?

    What is needed is more serious research, not political condemnation.

    There’s plenty of serious research, and it doesn’t support any of your claims.

    I am also quite unimpressed by the pseudo-scientific explanations given by homeopaths.

    So why are you insisting we buy into any of it?

    I would very much like to know why and how … not to listen to Scientific Ayatollah telling me that it cannot work because it is outside their systems of thinking.

    In other words, you want answers, but when you get them, you call us “ayatollahs.”

    Science is investigation, not pontification.

    So why are you denying the science and offering nothing but pontification in its place?

  39. #39 Raging Bee
    February 23, 2010

    The Long Dark Tea-Time of Homeopathy

    How diluted was the tea?

  40. #40 Calli Arcale
    February 23, 2010

    adaminspace1:

    The homeopathic process of dilution and succussion creates energy medicine. Scientific experiments, by Popp and by Benveniste for example, demonstrate that it does have an effect even though none of the original material is left.

    You do realize, don’t you, that Benveniste was found to have discarded data which did not support his conclusion? And that myriad efforts to replicate his trials (which, BTW, were neither clinical nor really validation of homeopathic principles — I’ll get to that in a moment) all failed to reproduce the claimed results?

    Homeopathy is based on two principles: “like cures like” and serial dilutions. Benveniste tested only the latter, and in a way which actually contradicted the former. He wanted to know if a chemical, when diluted to absurdity, actually became stronger, when homeopathy actually predicts that the chemical will become progressively weaker, with its effect gradually diminishing to nothing, after which the *opposite* effect is seen and progressively strengthened.
    e
    This is not what Benveniste studied. So even if he trials weren’t fraudulent, they would actually contradict the majority of homeopathic practice! Yet oddly, homeopathic supporters seldom address this. I believe this is not a conscious attempt to conceal an uncomfortable truth. I believe they simply haven’t examined the evidence enough to have noticed this rather glaring problem.

  41. #41 Bob
    February 23, 2010

    @29, meet @31.

    Energy medicine? I didn’t realize energy could get ill.

    I’d respond with more than mockery but I’ve read Hahnemann; his writings are classic anti-conventional-treatment woo. Homeopathy is 18th century science tarted up with 20th century marketing. It needs to be shown the door.

  42. #42 ragesh preguptar
    February 23, 2010

    Science cannot answer many things, she cannot answer why the light sends out signals to different cells and her aura behaves differently. None of the studies considered by the UK parliament system looked at the right kind of studies and only looked at ones that were tighly controlled.

    It is a shame that modern medicine will not listen to ancient wisdom of the ancients, like in the film “highlander” which I love very much because it has Sean Cannery it it and that French person, Jean Clade Van Doom, for if they did they would discover a world of healing opportunity.

  43. #43 Natalie
    February 23, 2010

    Light has a gender?

  44. #44 Denice Walter
    February 23, 2010

    Possibly some good news from *this* side of the pond: according to the Natural Solutions Foundation(Big Herba?)websites,HealthFreedom.org/GlobalHealthFreedom.org,John McCain is introducing legislation to amend DSHEA, giving the FDA additional powers over retailers and suppliers.If major league woo-meisters are all in a tizzy *and* Ron Paul has already spoken against it,there *must* be some value in the bill.

  45. #45 Ahistoricality
    February 23, 2010

    n EU statute that requires member states to allow alternative medicine to be marketed as long as it is shown to be a ‘folk’ remedy.

    Shouldn’t that require that the ‘remedy’ in question have a traditional lineage that predates the modern age? Homeopathy is a 19th century pseudoscience that has no roots in pre-scientific medical practice.

    to ancient wisdom of the ancients, like in the film “highlander”

    ROFLMAO….. not even my most historically ignorant students consider “Highlander” to prove anything!

  46. #46 Amadan
    February 23, 2010

    Here in the Amadanian Academy of Homeopathetic Research we have postulated a scientific explanation of the many positive reports homepthic treatment.

    Our hypothesis is that succussion of water produces a substance, tentatively named Macavitum felis. We suggest that this is the curative component behind the many positive reports homepthic treatment. Macavitum felis is phenominologically related to the aether identified by leading physicists [see Newton (1704), Dirac (1951)]. We hypthesize that its physical existentiality is inversely related to its curative efficacy. Accordingly, the absence of observable quantities of Macavitum felis in homeopathic medicines used in the many positive reports homepthic treatment is not a problem in need of a solution, rather, it is the solution in the solution to the problem.

    You skeptics are sooooo negative

  47. #47 Rene Najera
    February 23, 2010

    Ragesh said:

    It is a shame that modern medicine will not listen to ancient wisdom of the ancients, like in the film “highlander” which I love very much because it has Sean Cannery it it and that French person, Jean Clade Van Doom, for if they did they would discover a world of healing opportunity.

    Sean Cannery? Jean Clade Van Doom? Exactly how much have you been smoking and how potent was it?
    (Highlander, by the way, starred Christopher Lambert and Sean Connery. But I don’t blame you; you also believe in auras.)

  48. #48 woolly
    February 23, 2010

    Please tell me where ‘woo’ comes from – is it an acronym? I can just about make out what it means but not it’s actual origin.

  49. #49 Chris
    February 23, 2010

    Amadan, here is a simple test to show how much you actually understand about physics. When homeopathy proponents bring up physics and energy properties of their remedy they often use the term “quantum.” The word is based on counting (the similarity between quantum and quantity is not accidental).

    When quantum was termed what were the physicists counting?

  50. #50 rob
    February 23, 2010

    you heard of the Caesar’s last breath calculation? you can do a similar calculation for Caesar’s last piss.

    if you drink a homeopathic remedy, there are more water molecules from Caesar’s last urination than there are molecules of the active ingredient.

    so, if you pay for a homeopathic remedy, you are pissing your money away.

  51. #51 WTF
    February 23, 2010

    oh, and WTF about medicine “not listen to ancient wisdom of the ancients, like in the film ‘highlander’”

    medicine is supposed to heed the shit in movies?

    ???

    i guess i recommend all doctors adhere to the adversion therapy portrayed in “A Clockwork Orange.”

    don’t forget to hide your big penis statues people!

  52. #52 Raging Bee
    February 23, 2010

    Has anyone here heard of treatments involving homeopathic plutonium? And can anyone tell me whether it’s homeopathic Pu-238 or homeopathic Pu-239?

  53. #53 Chris
    February 23, 2010
  54. #54 Raging bee
    February 23, 2010

    Light has a gender?

    If it does, that would seriously complicate a trip to the beach. How do I ensure that my scantily-clad body is bathed exclusively in female sunlight? ‘Cause I’m NOT GAY, unnderstand? And I don’t want any male light gettin’ all over my girlfriend either!

  55. #55 Amadan
    February 23, 2010

    Chris@49:

    In your haste to oppress any opinion that doesn’t bow to the dictates of your evidenciarist world-view, you have failed to following the link in my post. If you had, you would have seen that Macavitum Felis is a compound of elements 26, 53 and 6, or as we scientists describe it, iron-I-C.

  56. #56 Matthew Cline
    February 23, 2010

    why the light sends out signals to different cells and her aura behaves differently.

    What? You seem to be leaving out a whole lot of context, because that doesn’t make any sense on its own.

  57. #57 hexkid
    February 23, 2010

    I am very pleased that a Select Committee chaired by my own MP, Phil Willis, has dealt a huge blow to the credibility of homeopathy.

    All we need now is a separate investigation into chiropractors …

  58. #58 Chris
    February 23, 2010

    Amadan, it is a simple one word answer.

    Though now that I followed the link, I understand you are doing a Poe. It was a big joke (the link is to a TS Eliot cat poem).

    You have to understand that you sound like most of the clueless homeopathy supporters, and they are often quite serious.

  59. #59 Anthro
    February 23, 2010

    I wonder how this will affect Dana Ullman’s latest rant over on HuffPost? He practically refers to ORAC by name. The scary thing is that the comments are mostly supportive of Dana. I did my best to “reply”, but got weary of it in the end.

    I heard about this on one of my Podcasts (from the Guardian’s Science Weekly or BBC’s Science In Action–not sure which).

    What’s really shocking to me is that the NHS has been funding an actual Homeopathic Hospital all this time! What kind of illnesses do people go there for? Do they augment standard treatment or just use homeopathy? It is just incredible. But then, we have several MD’s and large hospitals here doing “integrative” medicine–which reminds me, Mark Hyman has a two-parter going on at HP about mercury-poisoning and a quick look at the positive comments will be enough to gag you very quickly.

  60. #60 Edward Rogers
    February 23, 2010
  61. #61 Amadan
    February 23, 2010

    Anthro@59:

    What’s really shocking to me is that the NHS has been funding an actual Homeopathic Hospital all this time! What kind of illnesses do people go there for? Do they augment standard treatment or just use homeopathy? It is just incredible.

    If you visit the hospital’s website you’ll see that they do all the usual medical stuff, and they use conventional medicine to so so. They use woo Magic Water for harmless or self-limiting stuff where it makes no difference.

    It’s funny how the ‘Professional’ association web sites all state that Magic Water isn’t meant to be used for any serious illness that can be treated with Real Medicine. What does that say about homeopaths’ belief in their own profession? When a patient comes back for a second consultation, do you tell them that the journals have just announced that everything you recommended last month is now wrong, and they should go to Dr Jones down the road?

    Those disclaimers and warnings scream out that it’s all just Mummy-Kiss-It-Better.

  62. #62 Shawn Smith
    February 23, 2010

    Amadan, you should have used 77 (Iridium), 8 (Oxygen), 7 (Nitrogen), 53 (Iodine), and 6 (Carbon). Then there would have been no need to spell out the first element. Also, putting in the rare earth element just increases its value. Oh, well.

  63. #63 Calli Arcale
    February 23, 2010

    ragesh preguptar @ 42:

    It is a shame that modern medicine will not listen to ancient wisdom of the ancients, like in the film “highlander” which I love very much because it has Sean Cannery it it and that French person, Jean Clade Van Doom, for if they did they would discover a world of healing opportunity.

    I’m a Highlander fan. Jean Claude Van Dam was not in any of the Highlander films, nor the TV series. In fact, no French person starred in any of them (though many French people did get guest appearances on the TV show, which was a French/Canadian coproduction partly filmed in Paris). The “French” fellow you may be thinking of is Christopher Lambert, who is actually a natural-born US citizen. (Born in New York City.) His parents were diplomats, and he ended up spending his formative years in Geneva, Switzerland, and was educated at a French boarding school. This is why he has such an unusual accent, even though his mother tongue is English.

    Mind you, if you think homeopathy is anything at all like the Quickening — goodness. Mixing up remedies must get awfully expensive, what with all of the property damage.

    BTW, I think Orac wins a few internets for the title. Douglas Adams would approve. ;-) (Which makes it rather delightful that I’m responding to comment #42!)

  64. #64 BLueMaxx
    February 23, 2010

    RAGESH:

    I can only sincerely hope you were posting with sarcasm and wit…
    because citing successful movie and TV series as scientific references CRACKS ME RIGHT UP.
    I also loved the Highlander movies… NOT for the ‘science” so much as for the “fiction”.. you know..transferred energy aura’s/chi/whatever, immortality, etc. But I did like the morality play and the basic ethical thread of doing the right thing…. something our esteemed UK brothers and sisters may have moved towards with their antiHomeo-woo efforts.

    If successful movie’s are to be trusted as medical and scientific sources… perhaps we need to engage the HOGWARTS School of Medicine, Pharmacy, and Potions?

    and for the British Parliament “only considering tightly controlled” studies.. that is often referred to as the scientific method. you know, control the variables, monitor the results, strive for consistent effects. that sort of crazy poopycock.

  65. #65 Master Shake
    February 23, 2010

    The Highlander was a documentary, and the events happened in real time.

  66. #66 Yojimbo
    February 23, 2010

    Exactly, Master Shake. Just like The Matrix.

  67. #67 Pablo
    February 23, 2010

    You know, if there was any evidence that homeopathic stuff actually did ANYTHING, science would absolutely be able to figure out why. And it won’t be because of the law of similars or the memory of water or stupid crap like that. It would be explained by using real scientific principles.

    The problem is, it doesn’t do anything, so there really isn’t any need to figure out how it works. Or doesn’t work. All this crap about how it works is a mechanism in search of a result.

    There are things that can happen that science doesn’t understand, and then we go figure it out. In fact, this has been the most common route in science. Someone sees something odd, verifies that actually something odd is REALLY occurring, and then you figure out why. But something really has to happen first. It’s like all the proposed mechanisms for how astrology works. Since it doesn’t, the mechanisms are meaningless.

  68. #68 Vicki
    February 23, 2010

    Well put, Pablo.

    Sometimes it takes science a long time to figure out how or why something works. But we don’t need to know why to observe and describe that something works. Newton didn’t tell us why gravity works, but he described what happens. Aspirin worked for headaches before we had an idea of why, and both opiates and antibiotics work whether or not you the patient understand the mechanisms. If homeopathy were valid, the homeopaths could demonstrate that it works, in reasonable detail. (E.g., which conditions it is most effective for, and whether there are categories of patients who shouldn’t use it–I’d expect discussions of the safety of homeopathy in pregnancy for example.) Instead, we have vague assertions that pink unicorns, no, maybe blue ones, maybe only the blue ones who have visited Paris, are why my tea mug can fly. And the mug just sits here on my desk.

  69. #69 Chris
    February 23, 2010

    Amadan, if you are serious (and the link to the cat poem was not a joke), then answer my simple question has to what “quantum” was counting when physicists coined the term.

  70. #70 Calli Arcale
    February 23, 2010

    Master Shake: The Highlander was a documentary, and the events happened in real time.

    Including “Highlander II”?

    *screams*

  71. #71 rob
    February 23, 2010

    i think the Highlander reference to homeopathy is a good one!

    “There can be only one.”

    –one molecule of the active ingrediant in a sphere of water a light year in diameter that is…

  72. #72 D. C. Sessions
    February 23, 2010

    If you’re talking about the experiments not being individualized for each patient, homeopaths could volunteer to perform a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled where the non-placebos are individualized.

    But how would you address the objection that the placebos weren’t randomized and blinded?

  73. #73 Militant Agnostic
    February 23, 2010

    I think “Jean Claude Van Doom” would take offenses at being called French since he is Belgian. The bi-cultural Belgians suffer the dual ignominy of being the butt of ethnic jokes in both France and the Netherlands.

    Homeopaths on the other hand ares the butt of jokes for rationalists the world over.

  74. #74 Prometheus
    February 23, 2010

    Rob,

    I’ve “done the math” and found that a “20C” homeopathic HGH solution could be made by placing a single molecule of HGH in a sphere of water slightly larger than the orbit of Mercury.

    This amount of water, however, would exceed the mass of the observable Universe by many orders of magnitude and would instantly create a super-massive black hole.

    Whether the creation of such a large singularity would substitute for “succussion” is open to debate.

    Prometheus

  75. #75 Fuzzzone
    February 23, 2010

    @72, please refer to post 37.

  76. #76 Amadan
    February 23, 2010

    Chris@69:

    You did read the poem, didn’t you?, You know, the one about the criminal mastermind cat who must have done something because ‘he wasn’t there’?

    You did read posts 55 and 62, didn’t you?

    Dissolve a bit of dihydrogen monoxide in hydroxyl acid and dilute to 30C. Rub a few drops on your temples, and you shall be enlightened.

  77. #77 Militant Agnostic
    February 23, 2010

    D.C. Sessions @72 – it has been done – The homeopath does his consultation and prepares the remedy which is then given to a dispenser who then randomly chooses either the homeopathic remedy or the official placebo and gives it to the patient. The result was as expected – no difference between the magic placebo and the ordinary placebo. (Thinking about homeopathy studies makes my brain hurt.)

  78. #78 TGAP Dad
    February 23, 2010

    @33 squirrelelite:

    You are correct in that aspect of Randi’s test protocol of homeo-water. The reasons for this indicated that there was concern over withholding legitimate medicine from sick people just so that homeo-water could be tested. The alternative protocol of simply distinguishing homeo- from plain water was proffered but, IIRC, never accepted by the applicant.

  79. #79 The Gregarious Misanthrope
    February 23, 2010

    To save money, I put homeopathic gasoline in my car. It should get AWESOME mileage. But, you know, it simply refuses to run. It’s as if it doesn’t WANT to run. I blame the car. Stupid car.

  80. #80 Calli Arcale
    February 23, 2010

    Prometheus:

    I’ve “done the math” and found that a “20C” homeopathic HGH solution could be made by placing a single molecule of HGH in a sphere of water slightly larger than the orbit of Mercury.

    This amount of water, however, would exceed the mass of the observable Universe by many orders of magnitude and would instantly create a super-massive black hole.

    I’m not sure the latter is correct. Gravitational compression would doubtless heat the water considerably, until it dissociated into a hydrogen-oxygen plasma, then continue heating it until ultimately hydrogen fusion was initiated. I believe the outward pressure of energy produced by this fusion reaction would resist the gravitational collapse of the 20C homeopathic preparation. Until, that is, the hydrogen in the core was exhausted, and then we start to progress through the process of stellar evolution. I believe you are probably correct, however, that this object will be massive enough to progress to the “iron sun” stage — the break-even point of nuclear fusion, where stellar fusion can no longer sustain itself and the star collapses into either degenerate material or a black hole.

    But I don’t know the numbers, because I’m just a computer science dweeb and not a physicist. :-P But I do think the homeopathic preparation would last a few eons before undergoing gravitational collapse, as it should contain sufficient hydrogen to support nuclear fusion.

    Mind you, I wouldn’t want to be that HGH molecule. :D

  81. #81 Dave
    February 23, 2010

    @45 – Nonsense, _Highlander_ clearly proved that there should have been only one.

  82. #82 Alexis
    February 23, 2010

    Cash strapped NHS trusts have already been reducing funding for homeopathy. The head of the Royal London Homeopathic Hospital was vocally unhappy about it.

    Politically? The pro-homeopathy brigade is smaller than the number of people who want the NHS to pay for nurses and midwives and cancer treatment. Alas, the sums spent on homeopathy aren’t enough to put a dent into any of those.

  83. #83 Chris
    February 23, 2010

    Amadan, I am allergic to cats. I get it, you are joking. Okay. And once a Poe is discovered it is silly to try to milk it for more.

  84. #84 Dave Ruddell
    February 23, 2010

    I would note that the web site for the British Homeopathic Association appears to be down.

  85. #85 MikeMa
    February 23, 2010

    Dave Ruddell
    Dare we to hope that with NHS subsidy they cannot afford the hosting costs?

  86. #86 DLC
    February 23, 2010

    Wooly @ 48: “Woo” comes from “Woo-Woo”, a sarcastic term used to describe any sort of “magical” process.
    It’s a reference to American movies — 50s “B” horror movies in which much of the sound effects were provided by a device known as the Theramin. ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theramin )

    Homeopathy fans: sorry, it just doesn’t work.
    I’m sure you’d like your magic water to work, but it just doesn’t. If it did, we’d be rewriting the laws of physics and chemistry in order to revise our knowledge base.
    People were debunking Homeopathy back when Hahneman was still alive.

  87. #87 Dave
    February 23, 2010

    @86 — Is that where it comes from? I thought it was because most woo was as effective as a concotion of vodka, peach schnapps and cranberry juice.

  88. #88 Old Rockin' Dave
    February 23, 2010

    How would a true homeopathic hospital run? How much would they dilute your IV fluid? Would the orthopedist make your cast from a teaspoonful of casting material in a fifty-five gallon drum of water? Do the prosthetic heart valves come from mice instead of calves?

  89. #89 Prometheus
    February 23, 2010

    Gregarious misanthrope complains:

    “To save money, I put homeopathic gasoline in my car. It should get AWESOME mileage. But, you know, it simply refuses to run.”

    Have you tried taking some of your 20C gasoline (just a drop) and mixing it with pure ethanol? I believe that some homeopathic remedies are made with ethanol (in the last dilution), so this shouldn’t compromise the “memory” of the solution.

    Be sure to shake it vigorously (and work in a well-ventilated area with no open flames).

    Prometheus

  90. #90 Mu
    February 23, 2010

    I found a 1A dilution of ethanol, stored for 12 years in an oak cask, makes an excellent anti-depressant. Interestingly, the geographic origin of the diluent is highly important, Scotland and Kentucky being the optimal sources.

  91. #91 Pen
    February 23, 2010

    Speaking as an evil socialist Brit, I would say the problem goes beyond mere effectiveness and ethics and touches on economic issues. We pay for nationalised health care and I agree with that. But if we’re made to pay for something that doesn’t work, we’re getting screwed over and wasting money that could be better invested in any number of things. Homeopathy is vanity (non-)medicine. If people want to waste their own money on it that’s fine.

  92. #92 squirrelelite
    February 23, 2010

    TGAP Dad-78,

    Thanks for the clarification. I don’t think I had heard about that part, but it makes sense. Anyway, if homeopaths can’t tell the difference between their product and plain water, how is your body supposed to tell the difference and get better? It doesn’t give them much of a prima facie case.

    DLC-86,

    I suspect the origin of the term woo in this context is more obscure and confused than that, but you might be right. Perhaps orac or one of his friends can elucidate it for us.

    The theramin is an interesting instrument. It at least gives you positive evidence that you can alter an electromagnetic field by waving your hands in it (which just about any freshman physics student could tell you anyway). Still, that is more evidence than the homeopaths and reiki practicioners have produced for the effectiveness of their methodologies.

    And, it does give you “Good Vibrations”!

  93. #93 D. C. Sessions
    February 23, 2010

    #77: Whoosh!

  94. #94 Chris
    February 23, 2010

    squirrelelite:

    I suspect the origin of the term woo in this context is more obscure and confused than that, but you might be right. Perhaps orac or one of his friends can elucidate it for us.

    See the links I posted in #53.

  95. #95 Dave
    February 23, 2010

    I’ve “done the math” and found that a “20C” homeopathic HGH solution could be made by placing a single molecule of HGH in a sphere of water slightly larger than the orbit of Mercury.

    This amount of water, however, would exceed the mass of the observable Universe by many orders of magnitude and would instantly create a super-massive black hole.

    Are you sure about that? I didn’t try to account for gravitational effects, but just assuming water at standard temp & pressure, I calculated that that much water would be equal to maybe 35,000 solar masses and thus much less than even our galaxy.

  96. #96 Matthew Cline
    February 23, 2010

    it has been done – The homeopath does his consultation and prepares the remedy which is then given to a dispenser who then randomly chooses either the homeopathic remedy or the official placebo and gives it to the patient. The result was as expected – no difference between the magic placebo and the ordinary placebo. (Thinking about homeopathy studies makes my brain hurt.)

    Huh, I hadn’t realized those had been done. There’s also the idea that homeopathy works via quantum entanglement, and that double-blinding collapses the wave function, destroying the entanglement and thus rendering the remedy ineffective. The pro-homeopathy people who have commented to this post might be talking about that.

  97. #97 Mu
    February 23, 2010

    MC, you’re nearly right, it’s just not quantum entanglement that gets broken but the positive thought. Succusion only works if done by a practitioner, you can’t have the whole dilution-succusion sequence done by a machine. So the non-believer injected into the homoepath-pharmacist-patient chain during the blinding renders the water in the homeopathic preparation inactive, just like it were pure water.

  98. #98 becca
    February 23, 2010

    quantum entanglements? positive thoughts? dear god. The more I learn about homeopathy the more I’m astounded that anyone falls for that stuff.

    (my daughter is taking a class where they had to identify how to tell pseudoscience. I told her that, if it had the word “quantum” in it, unless it was high-level physics, it was probably woo.)

  99. #99 Prometheus
    February 23, 2010

    Dave,

    I went back and checked my numbers and – my bad! – I messed up on a conversion.

    For a 20C dilution, the volume of water would be only 3.674 X 10^14 cubic meters (3.674 X 10^14 tonnes) which would be a sphere of radius 44,430 meters – about the size of a modest asteroid.

    A 40C solution of homeopathic HGH (which I happened to see in my local “organic food” shop) would require 3.674 X 10^34 tonnes of water per molecule of HGH. This would be a shade over 18 million solar masses. That is quite a lot of water, but even so is well under the mass of the galaxy (~6 X 10^11 solar masses), let alone the observable Universe.

    My apologies.

    Prometheus

  100. #100 Michael
    February 23, 2010

    #42, the wisdom of the ancients? Homeopathy is less than 225 years old!

  101. #101 snerd
    February 23, 2010

    Hint: #42 is a really good Poe, and most amusing to boot.

  102. #102 jj
    February 23, 2010

    The impossible often has a kind of integrity to it which the merely improbable lacks.

    -Douglas Adams

  103. #103 Mr. Mxpklk
    February 23, 2010

    Gimpy said:
    “It’s also interesting to note that a member of that committee did try and water down the report after being lobbied hard by homeopaths”

    Surely watering down the report would make it more effective? It would naturally be most information-rich once the last word was expunged, provided the remaining paper was shaken vigorously.

    I’ve really amused myself with that one.

  104. #104 Mariah
    February 23, 2010

    @Wrysmile #30: LOL:

    “Their accounts will remember the money we used to give them.”

    Top comment.

  105. #105 Sheri Nakken
    February 23, 2010

    Sheri Nakken, R.N., MA, Hahnemannian Homeopath
    Vaccination Information & Choice Network, Washington State, USA
    Vaccines – http://vaccinationdangers.wordpress.com/ Homeopathy http://homeopathycures.wordpress.com
    Vaccine Dangers, Childhood Disease Classes & Homeopathy Online/email courses – next classes start February 24 & 25

  106. #106 snerd
    February 23, 2010

    Ooh, random URL time! Can we play too?

    http://www.whale.to/vaccine/nakken_h.html

  107. #107 Chris
    February 24, 2010

    So, Sheri, you are in Washington, where Bastyr U. is located (they have a very nice cafeteria, but the parking is really bad!).

    About twenty years ago when they were located in the MacDonald School near Green Lake they announced to the local media with grand fanfare that they were going to do a definitive study on homeopathy. It was a commentator on KOMO Channel 4 that explained what homeopathy was (until then I thought it was some kind of herbal remedy).

    Well, it has been two decades, do you know what happened to that study. I keep looking at their website and I find nothing about that study.

    Do you know what happened to it? Do you think it was a victim of the file drawer effect?

    Or did you just come here to advertise your worthless class and remedies?

  108. #108 stuv.myopenid.com
    February 24, 2010

    Succusion only works if done by a practitioner, you can’t have the whole dilution-succusion sequence done by a machine.

    Wait, so Airborne has loving school teachers manually shaking vials?

  109. #109 Mojo
    February 24, 2010

    a.k.a. the “memory of water,” in which water somehow magically remembers only the good “homeopathic” bits that it’s been in contact with and somehow never remembers all the pollution, poison, and poo…

    But they don’t just require the “memory of water” as a justification for many of their remedies – the magic water is dropped onto sugar pills and allowed to evaporate, so all they are left with is the hearsay of lactose.

  110. #110 Mojo
    February 24, 2010

    @Andrew Dodds:

    The only problem with this is the UK media. You may have heard of the Daily Mail – the paper with a mission to separate the entire physical world into object that either cause or cure cancer – which is quite partial to woo of all forms. Expect lots of wailing and gnashing of teeth from them.

    Here’s what the Daily Wail said about homoeopathy the other day:

    Prince Charles last night stood accused of secretly lobbying ministers in support of using discredited homeopathic medicines on the NHS.

  111. #111 Calli Arcale
    February 24, 2010

    stuv.myopenid.com @ 108:

    Wait, so Airborne has loving school teachers manually shaking vials?

    Minor quibble: Airborne is not a homeopathic remedy. (If it were, they couldn’t have been sued for false advertising when they made medical claims for it.) It’s basically a hideously overpriced multivitamin. The dose of Vitamin A, far from being homeopathic, actually exceeds the maximum recommended daily allowance, and if used frequently, could lead to osteoporosis in women.

    It’s amazing how much variety there is in homeopathic claims. Some say you can’t have a machine do it — yet Zicam (an only technically homeopathic drug, which contains dangerous levels of zinc) and Head-on and others are mass produced. They must have a machine involved at some point.

    Other homeopaths do not prescribe store-bought preparations, but make their own. This allows them to make even more convincing claims about how “personalized” the medicine is, since it gets mixed up *just for you*. (Wow.)

    I also read about an enterprising Russian homeopath who devised a more efficient means of obtaining the desired dilutions. He even reported that his method was superior to Hahnemann’s. The method? Create the initial solution. Dump it down the drain. Refill the test tube. Voila!

    I expect that something along the lines of the Russian method are used by most homeopathic drug manufacturers, though they might make it even more efficient by skipping that time-consuming “create the initial solution” step.

  112. #112 oderb
    February 24, 2010

    And now more homeopathic woo – research crazy enough to suggest that even cancer could be helped by homeopathy. And published in that well known peer reviewed journal of woo
    The International Journal of Oncology – this month by scientists at that crank institution – M.D Anderson. Oh well, since homeopathy can’t work I guess there’s no reason to even post the abstract ….but in the unlikely case there’s still an open mind in this crowd…

    Cytotoxic effects of ultra-diluted remedies on breast cancer cells

    Authors: Moshe Frenkel, Bal Mukund Mishra, Subrata Sen, Peiying Yang, Alison Pawlus, Luis Vence, Aimee Leblanc, Lorenzo Cohen, Pratip Banerji, Prasanta Banerji

    Affiliations: Integrative Medicine Program-Unit 145, The University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, TX 77030-4009, USA. frenkelm@netvision.net.il

    International Journal of Oncology February 2010 issue

    Pages: 395-403

    Abstract:
    The use of ultra-diluted natural products in the management of disease and treatment of cancer has generated a lot of interest and controversy. We conducted an in vitro study to determine if products prescribed by a clinic in India have any effect on breast cancer cell lines. We studied four ultra-diluted remedies (Carcinosin, Phytolacca, Conium and Thuja) against two human breast adenocarcinoma cell lines (MCF-7 and MDA-MB-231) and a cell line derived from immortalized normal human mammary epithelial cells (HMLE). The remedies exerted preferential cytotoxic effects against the two breast cancer cell lines, causing cell cycle delay/arrest and apoptosis. These effects were accompanied by altered expression of the cell cycle regulatory proteins, including downregulation of phosphorylated Rb and upregulation of the CDK inhibitor p27, which were likely responsible for the cell cycle delay/arrest as well as induction of the apoptotic cascade that manifested in the activation of caspase 7 and cleavage of PARP in the treated cells. The findings demonstrate biological activity of these natural products when presented at ultra-diluted doses. Further in-depth studies with additional cell lines and animal models are warranted to explore the clinical applicability of these agents.

  113. #113 RobNYNY1957
    February 24, 2010

    Wikipedia says that all of the world’s oceans contain about 1,300,000,000 cubic kilometers of water, or about 1.3 x 10^9. Each cubic km is eaqual to 10^9 liters, and each liter is equal to 10^3 ml. So the oceans contain about 1.3 x 10^21 ml of water (1.3 x 10^(9 + 9 + 3)). Add one ml of any substance to the oceans, apply succussion (earthquake? or just draw out a liter and get a homeopath to do it right). Remove one drop, apply to a sugar pill, and you have a homeopathic remedy at (approximately) the 20C level. I suppose the reason that homeopaths wouldn’t expect that to work is because at that level is because it is still too concentrated.

    @Calli Arcale: The “Russian method” is actually one correct way to measure vermouth for a dry martini.

  114. #114 Matthew Cline
    February 24, 2010

    Some say you can’t have a machine do it

    This might be wrong, since I’m just repeating what I’ve read elsewhere (and I’m not expert on homeopathy), but I think that the legal definition of homeopathy doesn’t say who can or can’t make it, and practicing homeopaths might think that the legal definition is too broad. Also, the objection that many pro-homeopathy people make to things like Zicam is that it’s not individualized to the exact symptoms of each patient; the legal definition of homeopathy also doesn’t make any distinction based on whether or not the remedy is individualized for each patient.

  115. #115 Scientizzle
    February 24, 2010

    There’s a reason the International Journal of Oncology has an underwhelming impact factor…seriously oderb, did you read the paper (PMID: 20043074)? It’s terribly disappointing. They don’t even bother to do any statistics but readily claim that their findings “demonstrate biological activity”?! And what’s the deal with their HPLC results? The solvent shows a single distinct peak, and the tested compounds show a number of small peaks and not the distinctive solvent peak? Sounds like they used messy compounds and an asininely inappropriate control.

    Sorry, this open mind is going to need something far more substantial than yet another mind-numbingly flawed paper. Seriously, the authors should be embarrassed to have published that work, and you should be embarrassed to have cited it as support for the claim that “homeopathy works.”

  116. #116 Sean Case
    February 25, 2010

    It’s also interesting to note that a member of that committee did try and water down the report after being lobbied hard by homeopaths.

    Ha bloody ha.

  117. #117 bluemaxx
    February 27, 2010

    re # 105 and Sheri Nakken…

    you embarass all RNs with your postings, lack of science, and actions that endanger small children.

    IF you were licensed in a state other than California, I would entertain idea of reporting your unprofessional behavior. Being you are in California, it seems you have found safe haven.

    a Vigorous allopathic Humbug upon you, charlatan!

  118. #118 Chris
    February 27, 2010

    Bluemaxx, actually Ms. Nakken claims to now be in Washington State. But she is very shy about indicating exactly where she is located. She seems relocate quite often.

  119. #119 blueMAxx
    February 28, 2010

    CHRIS: (@#118)

    well if she is indeed actually living/or and practicing in Washington State, and by practicing I mean identifying herself as a REGISTERED NURSE and providing (shamefully inaccurate) medical advice/information/guidance while using the title RN, I believe she must be registered and licensed to do so. As of Sunday 2/28/10 her name (Nakken, any first initial S) yields no valid licensure as RN within the Washington state license verification database.

    check it yourself: https://fortress.wa.gov/doh/providercredentialsearch/SearchCriteria.aspx

    interesting, and perhaps reportable?

  120. #120 Ginger Yellow
    March 1, 2010

    Sam said: “I’ve just had a search and it appears that there isn’t an Early Day Motion in support of Homeopathy”

    Yes, there is. Sponsored by David “I need astrology software for work” Tredinnick, unsurprisingly.

    As for whether the report will lead to a change in policy/law, I’d say it’s a big maybe. Yes the NHS is under funding pressure, but homeopathy is most popular in the UK with the sort of people who are really influential with politicians – eg Worcester Woman, to use the pollsters’ terms. I suspect you’ll see some changes, but with enough loopholes that both sides can claim victory.