Respectful Insolence

I had been planning on either discussing a study or analyzing another cancer cure testimonial, but things have been (mostly) too serious around the ol’ blog the last few days. What with depressing posts about the return of whooping cough thanks to antivaccine idiocy, more evidence that Andrew Wakefield is a despicable human being, and evidence that there are equally despicable ideas prevalent in “complementary and alternative medicine” (CAM), I was starting to enter one of my periodic periods of depression brought on by contemplating the sheer scope of human gullibility and stupidity. I needed a break, or at least something that could turn my despair at human idiocy into laughter. Fortunately, ss I was rooting about for potential topics for tomorrow, what should I see in my e-mail in box but an e-mail from my good blog bud Mark Hoofnagle over at Denialism Blog. The e-mail contained a link that made me laugh out loud when I read it because it is one of the best distillations of the utter ridiculousness of homeopathy that I’ve ever seen. True, it’s not quite as ridiculous as the article I once found about homeopathic plutonium a couple of years ago or Aqua Nova (click on the link if you haven’t figured out what it is already). When I read it, I decided instantly that, even though Mark had already blogged about it and even though it was a nearly four year old article about homeopathy, I had to pile on too, particularly after I saw that everyone’s favorite homeopathic apologist, Dana Ullman, had graced the comments with his IQ-draining presence. After all, if I haven’t seen it, it’s new to me and possibly new to you too.

Maybe, if we’re lucky enough, Dana’ll show up over here too.

The article is over at Hpathy.com and entitled On The Treatment of Burns. Like Mark, I know a thing or two about burns. You can’t get through a general surgery residency without learning to care for burns, and the residency program where I trained was home to the main burn unit in northeast Ohio. During my rotations there, I dealt with numerous burn patients, with burns large and small. Some patients had burns over greater than 75% of their bodies. Doing split-thickness skin grafts became marathon endurance sessions in the operating room, particularly the children, for whom we had to keep the temperature set very high, leaving the operating room team drenched in sweat by the end of the case. So, having some knowledge about how burns are treated, I wanted to see how homeopaths treat burns.

My regular readers should be very familiar now with at least one principle of homeopathy, namely that diluting a remedy makes it stronger. That particular principle of homeopathy usually brings the most ridicule, violating, as it does, several laws of physics and chemistry, as well as not making any sense from an intuitive, common-sense point of view either. The other principle of homeopathy, which we discuss less is the principle of “like cures like.” In other words, to treat a symptom, homeopaths choose remedies that cause that very symptom in healthy individuals. As with the idea that dilution strengthens a remedy, it concerns homeopaths not in the least that there is no physiological or biological rationale to think that such a principle is true, much less generalizable to an entire system of medicine. With that background knowledge now, I bet you can see where this is going, and, predictably, it’s straight off the deep end:

How do you treat a burn? Almost everyone, if you ask them for the first response required in the treatment of a burn, will tell you, “Put it in cold water…”.

However…

In my first year of homoeopathic training a general discussion led the lecturer to describe a treatment for burns. He explained that he had been dining with a friend who had burnt herself and had immediately, to his horror, held the burnt area of her hand in the heat of a candle for a little while. The friend had then explained to him that the normal treatment of using cold water was ineffective, but that the application of heat to a burn meant that it would not blister, and although it did hurt more on the initial application it healed far more quickly and painlessly thereafter. This she demonstrated a little while later when he saw to his amazement that the burned area was not even red and she was experiencing no pain.

Surgeons and doctors out there can probably guess what this idiot did. Can you? Yes, my guess is that this homeopath, by holding the burnt area of his hand in the flame longer, converted a first degree burn to a third degree burn (full thickness) or a deep second degree (partial thickness) burn. And it’s true: Full thickness and deep partial thickness burns don’t blister. They don’t hurt either, because the nerve endings have been seared away. The reason we put cold water on a burn is to stop the process of thermal injury; what this homeopath did was to accelerate it so that the burn went all the way through the skin. Now, in the case of a tiny burn, as from a candle, a person can get away with this. Basically, the full-thickness burn in the skin dries up and forms a scab under which new skin forms. However, doing this in the case of a larger full thickness burn would be disastrous, leading to more scarring, a longer healing time, and possibly even the need for a skin graft. As one of the commenters pointed out, it’s not a good idea to convert a superficial burn to a deep one because they hurt less!

Only someone who has no knowledge of burn physiology would be able to propose such a treatment. What a lot of people don’t know about burns is that it is the more superficial burns that can often be the most painful and nasty-looking, even though they are generally not as serious. For example, first degree burns are very superficial and will heal on their own. However, because they don’t burn away nerve endings they are often very painful. They also look incredibly nasty when healing, because they will often blister up. However, underneath the blister, the underlying skin usually heals without incident. In fact, it’s usually best not to break the blister, because it’s an excellent biological dressing.

Homeopath that the writer is, he has no evidence to present, no science. He does, however, have a couple of more anecdotes, for example:

The theory was tested more thoroughly when, about year later, whilst working in a fish and chip shop, I slipped and my left hand plunged into the chip fryer up past the wrist. I ran (screaming!) into the kitchen and turned on the hot tap. The plug was in the sink and the sink began to fill. At the same time a couple of concerned customers had run into the kitchen to see if they could help. One of them noticed that I was running the hot tap and tried to ‘help’ by explaining that I had turned on the wrong tap and attempted to turn off the hot and on the cold. In my pain I had to prevent them and also explain what I was doing. This meant that my hand remained in the water for a longer period than it would perhaps, had I been left alone (this is relevant later…).
The next day, my hand had no evidence of the burn whatsoever! The customers who had witnessed the incident were amazed!

What happened here? It looks to me as though he probably only had his hand momentarily in the fryer. He pulled it out right away, not having left it in long enough to get more than a first degree burning (which no doubt hurt like hell) and the thin layer of hot oil, because it was thin, rapidly cooled once his hand was out of the fryer. The warm water soothed it and also further cooled it, even though it was warm water. In other words, he was very, very lucky. I highly doubt that the outcome would have been so good if his hand had stayed in the fryer a few seconds. If his hands were wet before he slipped, that might also have helped because the water on the skin would instantly vaporize upon coming in contact with the hot oil and temporarily form a thin later of gas around his hand, which could have helped insulate him from the extreme heat, at least over the span of a second. In any case, my guess is that he would have done the same or even better if he had used cool water.

The third anecdote involves the homeopath’s daughter, who scalded her hand with “double boiled water” (whatever that is). Whether he meant water from a double boiler or water that had been boiled twice, I don’t know, but in any event apparently her friend’s dog had started humping her leg while she was pouring water into a cup. (Folks, you can’t make stuff like this up.) She told her dad that she had tried the “hot water thing” but that it hadn’t worked. Her dad, being the homeopath that he was, gave her Caust 200C, which is a 10400-fold dilution of whatever Caust is, a dilution that is many, many orders of magnitude greater than the estimated number of molecules in the known universe. To everyone’s relief, it apparently made the daughter less hostile to the dog, but to no one’s surprise it did absolutely nothing for the burn. In any case, he includes a photo of the rather impressive blister his daughter developed and described her course after that:

I was concerned as the blister was ‘impressive’, although after the initial hot water treatment she was in very little pain. She described the sensation as a ‘discomfort’ rather than ‘pain’. There had been criticisms of my treatment of it, with various people suggesting that she should have taken it to hospital to have it ‘treated properly’. I sought support or advice from ‘Homoeopathy’ but could only find instructions to ‘immerse the part in cold water and seek medical attention’, in addition to the obvious remedies.

She heroically and carefully kept the blister whole and continued to ensure that it did not become dry.

In addition to the hot water I gave her a bottle of Canth 30c, in medicinal solution, from which she took a teaspoonful daily for a few days, after succussing the bottle 6 times.

Ultimately the blister started leaking, and his daughter pulled the skin of the blister off, and–guess what?–the skin underneath had healed! Is this a surprise? Nope. Remember what I said about the blister being an excellent biological dressing? This is exactly what I meant. I’ve often said that homeopathic treatment resembles the correct treatment of a condition by coincidence only. This was nothing more than one such coincidence. Leaving the blister intact and letting the second degree burn heal on its own were exactly the right moves. Homeopathy had nothing to do with it, although I do like the little bit of detail about succussing (shaking) the homeopathic remedy exactly six times. Nothing like a little magic to make the woo go down. I say “magic” because homeopaths will oh so solemnly tell you that just diluting a remedy isn’t enough. It has to be “potentized” by being succussed at each dilution step in order to imbue the potion with its magic powers. Actually, they don’t put it that way, exactly. That’s just my translation of homeopathic woo-speak.

At least now I know where the myth I sometimes hear that cold water is bad for a burn came from. It appears to have come from Samuel Hahnemann himself! It’s right there in an excerpt from a treatise on burns written by Hahnemann in 1816. We skeptics often joke about how homeopathy is nothing more than water, and indeed it is. However, it’s more than that in that it is an entire system of magical thinking applied to medicine. We often assume that homeopathy isn’t dangerous because it’s water, or that it’s only dangerous when people use it to treat or prevent serious diseases instead of science-based medicine. However, the homeopathic treatment of burns is an example of homeopathy being dangerous on its own, particularly for those who are so deluded to heat a burn with a candle and convert a superficial or partial thickness burn into a deep or full thickness burn. It’s also the ultimate example of treating the symptoms instead of the physiology in that the severity of injury is increased by turning a superficial or partial thickness burn into a deep or full thickness burn in order to decrease the amount of pain. In other words, if homeopathic principles are followed in burns, in order to decrease symptoms, you increase the severity of the injury.

Comments

  1. #1 Grant
    January 18, 2012

    I knew your take on this would be longer and more through than my brief poke at it :-) (Admittedly, I was intentionally leaving space for some blogging colleagues that also wanted to cover it.)

    As you say, it’s an example of homeopathy directly causing harm as opposed to indirectly via withholding sound treatment and the understanding of how different level burns hurt (or not) is a nice example of science explaining something that, taken superficially (no pun intended), might be confusing or inconsistent.

  2. #2 Alia
    January 18, 2012

    As for blisters being the best natural dressing – several years ago my mother burnt her hand with boiling water. Not very severely but the blister was huge. Anyway, she went to a doctor, who wanted to prick the blister and dress the wound. Being a nurse with a lot of experience, she disagreed, because she was afraid of scars. She treated the blister with crystal violet (pyoctanin) instead. And guess what? There is no scar. No homeopathy, no magic, pure medicine.

  3. #3 Lawrence
    January 18, 2012

    Holy-moley, after going through a fairly traumatic burn experience (young teenager, can of gasoline, matches – and BIG BOOM!) I was extremely lucky to have the head of the local burn unit living down the street – after the intial hospital stay, he even made house calls to monitor my progress.

    It was one of the worst experiences of my life, but with the correct medical interventions, I got through it with minimal scaring. I can’t even imagine someone thinking that “homeopathic-anything” especially applying the thought process to burns would be a good idea…..morons!

  4. #4 D.Rose
    January 18, 2012

    My god. Sooo… how does a homeopath treat a stabbing? More stabbing?

  5. #5 Robert S.
    January 18, 2012

    Beyond cool/cold water, I seem to remember that ice and ice cold water applied for more then the few moments it takes to get the skin back down to normal temp is a bad idea. I think the reason mentioned is that you risk expanding the amount of damage in the tissue surrounding the area killed by the burn.

    Am I remembering this correctly? Other then stopping the heat damage is there a best temp for healing burns? Temp ranges to avoid if possible?

  6. #6 Jane DJ
    January 18, 2012

    Despite my attempts at education my mother and stepfather swear by aloe-vera as a burn treatment, would often thrust their gnarled hands in front of me and show me how well this or that burn was healing. Once I had kids I lived in constant fear of them getting burnt in their grandparent’s care, knowing full well that my stepfather would forgoe proper first aid just so he could show me up. What eluded them completely was the fact that he was a 50 year old farmer with hands like baseball mitts. They just refused to get it. Luckily, the kids have made it too almost-teenagehood intact.
    My favourite burn anecdote is a story by Dr Fiona Wood, the doyenne of burns research in my neck of the woods. She was interviewed on a talk show here quite some years back:

    ANDREW DENTON: Tell me, are you terrified of the thought of being burnt yourself?

    DR FIONA WOOD: No, personally… but for my children. And one of the stories I tell when I’m teaching first aid is that when my eldest boy would be about five or six and I came out of the bedroom early in the morning and saw the black cup of coffee going down his chest. And I grabbed him in a half-nelson. We were in the shower and…cold shower. I was in my pyjamas and he’s screaming and carrying on, “Dad, she’s freezing me to death!” And…and my husband came out of the room, out of the bedroom, and he said, “That was last night’s coffee. We haven’t even put the kettle on yet.” So I was in overdrive, yeah.

  7. #7 Orac
    January 18, 2012

    Well, certainly there’s going too far. You don’t want to use ice water, for instance.

  8. #8 LW
    January 18, 2012

    When I saw the title of the post, I thought that treating burns was the one relatively sensible application of homeopathy: take your pure water that once was exposed to something or other, and pour it on the burn. Maybe not quite as effective as copious amounts of tap water, but the right idea. Silly me.

  9. #10 daijiyobu
    January 18, 2012

    The problem is all your ALLOPATHIC mindsets!

    -r.c.

  10. #11 Quintus
    January 18, 2012

    D Rose, they use a tiny tiny knife

  11. #12 W. Kevin Vicklund
    January 18, 2012

    Sooo… how does a homeopath treat a stabbing?

    Acupuncture :)

  12. #13 Matthew Cline
    January 18, 2012

    @daijiyobu:

    The problem is all your ALLOPATHIC mindsets!

    Really? Our “allopathic” mindets are somheow controlling how homeopaths treat burns? How exactly does that work?

  13. #14 adelady
    January 18, 2012

    So _that’s_ where it came from.

    One of the worst nights of my life. I was 7 years old and my grandmother’s sister had taken us to the beach for the day. No such thing as sunscreen back in the early 50s. We had shocking sunburn from running around all day with no shade of any kind. (She was an awful woman and my mother hated her even more after that day.)

    How was it treated? A hotter than usual bath was the way to go. I’ve always regarded this horrible event as peasant style medicine for stoics. It can only do you good if it smells awful or tastes worse or hurts more than the pain you started with.

    Clearly the puritan notion that more suffering is the best response to suffering was backed up by ‘common knowledge’ that more of the same was a good thing.

    Diabolical.

  14. #15 gulliver
    January 18, 2012

    When burned, obviously not a huge burn that requires attention because of its scope, split a fat aloe vera leaf/spear and apply juicy inner flesh directly to burn. Burning sensation will abate. When the pain begins to return, repeat.
    If begun soon enough, a blister may not even form.
    Have used many times. Yes, I’m a klutz in the kitchen.

  15. #16 LW
    January 18, 2012

    I wonder if homeopaths also advocate rubbing frostbitten skin with snow.

  16. #17 Dunc
    January 18, 2012

    Only someone who has no knowledge of burn physiology would be able to propose such a treatment.

    Or a professional chef who really needs to get through the rest of the shift… It’s apparently quite common for them to “treat” minor burns in this sort of way.

  17. #18 Denice Walter
    January 18, 2012

    I am just recovering from my adventure in high temperature poultry grilling ( read substitute Tandoor oven for westerners): I barely brushed my wrist against the oven’s oh.. 600 degree F metal inner surface *et voila!* a rather deep but small burn. It didn’t hurt much and I mistakenly thought that it was merely blistered although there was something distinctly “odd” about it: a week later, I suppose the surface sloughed when I was washing my hands, and it began to bleed much more than I expected. After about two months, it is *finally* entirely closed up, not leaving much of a scar: white should blend right in with my usual skin tone.

    I’m really glad I don’t believe in homeopathy because I most likely would have made it worse. However, if you know the basics of whimsy-based treatment and through tutelage, have come to believe that medical professionals are virtually useless and thoroughly despicable, you might be motivated to DIY.

  18. #19 Dianne
    January 18, 2012

    The one situation where (cool) water is useful and homeopaths refuse to use it. What do they do for dehydration? Give concentrated salt?

  19. #20 Denice Walter
    January 18, 2012

    OT- but are attention-grabbing antics by woo-spreading entreprenuers *ever* _truly_ OT @ RI?

    Today Natural News “goes dark” in protest of SOPA & PIPA (Stop Online Piracy Act & Protect IP Act): which are “thinly-veiled” censorship, for if “SOPA becomes law, Natural News.com will be shut down” as an endagerment to public health or suchlike.

    If only.

  20. #21 Jim
    January 18, 2012

    Quite right, Dunc, I’ve done it myself. On my left hand there’s a patch of skin about the size of a quarter that has no feeling as a consequence of it. Of course, chefs (and cooks) can be absolutely stupid when it comes to treating injuries.

  21. #22 jane
    January 18, 2012

    I would certainly find it silly and pointless to hold a fresh burn in the warm to hot air around a candle flame. However, I can’t accept your repeated statement that the woman who did this (whose gender you repeatedly misstate) had converted a first-degree burn to a third-degree burn, when the only account of the incident says that “a little while later” the burned spot was “not even red.” To quote so many of your readers: “Evidence??” The alternative more consistent with the account – that she didn’t get enough direct exposure to the candle flame to worsen the burn, and that the candle had no effect – isn’t nearly lurid enough, is it? I guess we are supposed to assume not only that They are stupid enough to give themselves third-degree burns, but too stupid to SEE those burns – whereas We are so wise and perceptive that we know they are there even when specifically told otherwise.

  22. #23 missmayinga
    January 18, 2012

    Wow. That…it’s actually fascinating, how dumb that is. I mean, they’re not even trying to pretend like they know anything about the body, are they?

  23. #24 Science Mom
    January 18, 2012

    However, I can’t accept your repeated statement that the woman who did this (whose gender you repeatedly misstate) had converted a first-degree burn to a third-degree burn, when the only account of the incident says that “a little while later” the burned spot was “not even red.” To quote so many of your readers: “Evidence??”

    @ Jane, for your illumination, see the bolded statement followed by the explanation of the physiological process that could also explain the homeopath’s observation.

    Yes, my guess is that this homeopath, by holding the burnt area of his hand in the flame longer, converted a first degree burn to a third degree burn (full thickness) or a deep second degree (partial thickness) burn. And it’s true: Full thickness and deep partial thickness burns don’t blister. They don’t hurt either, because the nerve endings have been seared away.

  24. #25 Krebiozen
    January 18, 2012

    Second degree deep burns and third degree burns are not red either, as blood vessels supplying the area have effectively been cauterized.

  25. #26 Jed
    January 18, 2012

    I work at a pediatric burn hospital, and I can tell you why you should *never* use ice on a burn – the skin has already been traumatized by a high temperature. Plunging the skin’s temperature too low will just cause further damage. Remember, a burn is caused by temperature extremes – hot *or* cold. Liquid nitrogen will also burn, and frostbite is a form of burn as well. You should only use cold (but not *too* cold – think just barely crossing from cool to cold) water on a burn.

  26. #27 Robert S.
    January 18, 2012

    The custom at our house for small burns on the hand was a bowl of icewater to first cool, then numb the pain. I never thought about the issue of causing more damage until I heard about not icing a burn.

    MedTek: damnit, I don’t like starting my day by getting pissed off. I did learn that the “doc” who shat out that article has a bachelors degree in homeopathic medicine and surgery. Is it any wonder totally resistant TB is starting to show up in india?

  27. #28 Mu
    January 18, 2012

    I wonder if homeopaths also advocate rubbing frostbitten skin with snow.
    No, very finely powdered dry ice 3x a day.

  28. #29 Alia
    January 18, 2012

    @gulliver – I’ve heard about this method, too, but remember that some people can be allergic to aloe vera and then its effects could be rather unpleasant. Don’t get me wrong, I believe natural remedies can be helpful but then again, cyanide in bitter almonds and strychnine in strychnos nux-vomica are also natural, aren’t they?

  29. #30 lilady
    January 18, 2012

    @ Denice Walter: When I am in a baking frenzy, turning the cake pans about and switching trays of cookies from one rack to the other…I invariably burn myself. Typically I ignore the burn, so as not to burn the yummy cakes and cookies. Later that same day, I notice a reddened 2″ narrow line on by hand or wrist and within a few seconds I “remember” what a klutz I am.

    Paging Dr. Ullman, Paging Dr. Ullman…call for you on line 3 from Ho-Po…you missed this morning’s crank roll call.

  30. #31 jane
    January 18, 2012

    Science Mom – At the end of the essay Orac speaks of “those who are so deluded to heat a burn with a candle and convert a superficial or partial thickness burn into a deep or full thickness burn”, thereby presuming that such deluded people exist, which has not been proven. If a third-degree burn is not red, it’s because it is some worse color, not because it is invisible to the naked eye! Google Images provides unfortunately convincing evidence to this effect.

    I am always happy to see people convinced to abandon homeopathy, but this is not the way to do it. Arguing that one just knows that a minor burn reported to have disappeared quickly (as many do) must really have gotten worse would make one no better intellectually than those tragic people who insist that their cancer is being cured even though the tumors are growing.

  31. #32 missmayinga
    January 18, 2012

    @jane
    I think that with a small burn like the one described, it would be possible for the burnt tissue to be dead without necessarily being destroyed – sort of like the skin on top of a blister, which is dead, but maintains its structure to some degree. The destruction of the skin and subcutaneous tissue is what makes the burns you see on Google images look really nasty – it exposes the underlying tissues, which makes ‘em look all raw and visceral. All that a third degree burn requires to be classified as such is tissue death permeating through the epidermis and dermis, and reaching the subcutaneous level- a fairly shallow depth. Since the sensory nerves endings that pick up pain are located in the dermis, fairly close to the surface, it’s plausible that they could have been killed by the added heat, particularly if they were already damaged by the earlier burn.

    I think what Orac was really trying to get at here isn’t that Homeopath-lady definitely fucked her hand up by doing what she did, but rather, that it would be possible to bump a mild burn up a degree using these methods, and that the signs cited by the homeopaths as “proof” that the technique works (no pain, no blistering) could sometimes actually be symptoms of an even worse burn/further tissue damage.

  32. #33 Interrobang
    January 18, 2012

    I have a friend who has fallen hook, line, and sinker for homeopathy, and she tried to “explain” this to me ages ago. I finally had to get quite brusque with her, and said, “Look, physics doesn’t work that way. If you’re burnt, that means there’s too much thermal energy in your skin. You don’t get rid of excess thermal energy by adding more thermal energy — that is, heat — you get rid of it by subtracting thermal energy — adding cold. I can’t believe you’d even think this way. I thought you were smarter than that.”

    She’s a pleasant enough person to talk to in most areas, but sadly and weirdly deluded in that one. *sigh*

  33. #34 Calli Arcale
    January 18, 2012

    What really galls me in these cases is how the homeopaths like to claim their treatments are milder, and like to talk about how unlike doctors, they work with the body’s natural healing process.

    That’s utter baloney, and a story like this is a case in point. The correct medical treatment for a superficial burn is to stop the burning by removing the heat source and then . . . well, nothing really. Maybe a pain reliever if it hurts, but otherwise let it take care of itself. The body knows how to fix that. For all the alties talk about working with the body’s natural healing mechanisms, they don’t seem to know a lot about what the body can do (or realize why so much medical care really does revolve around treating symptoms; in many cases, that’s actually all you need to do — keep the patient going while their body sorts itself out).

  34. #35 Dangerous Bacon
    January 18, 2012

    The Academic Woo Aggregator now takes us to the University of Maryland’s complementary medicine website, where we get the lowdown on homeopathy’s approach to burns, including the following:

    “Although very few studies have examined the effectiveness of specific homeopathic therapies in the treatment of burns, professional homeopaths may consider the following measures to treat first and second degree burns and to aid recovery from any burn. Before prescribing a remedy, homeopaths take into account a person’ s constitutional type — your physical, emotional, and intellectual makeup. An experienced homeopath assesses all of these factors when determining the most appropriate treatment for each individual.”

    See, the allopaths advocate a one-size-fits-all approach to burns, whereas homeopaths treat the individual, in a personalized approach.

    My favorite treatment:

    “Phosphorus — taken by mouth for electrical burns, especially if the individual is easily startled and excitable.”

    ht_p://www.umm.edu/altmed/articles/burns-000021.htm

    This makes sense – if you’ve just sustained a major electrical burn, you might be flopping around a bit and looking startled and excitable. No Canth 30C for you!*

    (I suppose we should be grateful that the article also suggests placing burned parts in cold water rather than in a candle flame).

    *wouldn’t it make more sense for homeopaths to give these patients a therapeutic carpet shock? Maybe Nancy Malik, the grande dame of homeopathic spammers can show up to clarify this burning issue (sorry).

  35. #36 Shay
    January 18, 2012

    “Phosphorus — taken by mouth for electrical burns, especially if the individual is easily startled and excitable.”

    What, no lime-flower tea for hysterics?

  36. #37 Narad
    January 18, 2012

    However, it’s more than that in that it is an entire system of magical thinking applied to medicine.

    And behold, The Mystery of Causticum.

  37. #38 alison
    January 18, 2012

    From Narad’s link: remedies themselves choose when to be made -more evidence (if any was needed) that homeopathy is nothing more than magical thinking.

  38. #39 Beamup
    January 18, 2012

    whereas homeopaths treat the individual, in a personalized approach.

    Except when they’re putting their magic water OTC for anybody to use without even talking to a homeopath, of course. And advocating its use for anybody with a particular condition. (Zicam and oscillococcinum, I’m looking at you…)

    Consistency is not their strong point, to say the least.

  39. #40 Science Mom
    January 18, 2012

    Science Mom – At the end of the essay Orac speaks of “those who are so deluded to heat a burn with a candle and convert a superficial or partial thickness burn into a deep or full thickness burn”, thereby presuming that such deluded people exist, which has not been proven.

    @ Jane, you’re trying to pick at nits. It’s not like Orac said gravity didn’t exist. Not only did the woman indicate that burning it hurt more but small burns and depending upon where they are can appear almost “normal” in colour or a bit blanched. Most importantly, I think it’s perfectly appropriate to mock and deride such a stupid suggestion as burning a burn wound to heal it.

    The friend had then explained to him that the normal treatment of using cold water was ineffective, but that the application of heat to a burn meant that it would not blister, and although it did hurt more on the initial application it healed far more quickly and painlessly thereafter.

  40. #41 herr doktor bimler
    January 18, 2012

    I wonder if homeopaths also advocate rubbing frostbitten skin with snow.

    I imagine the homeopathic first-aid kit includes a small pair of false teeth in case someone is savaged by a shark.

  41. #42 ArtK
    January 18, 2012

    *sigh*

    The Stupid — It Burns!

    (Sorry, couldn’t pass that one up.)

  42. #43 Roadstergal
    January 18, 2012

    @Artk: Eeeeeeeexcellent.

    (The homeopathic cure for Burns must be either a diluted ground-up liver spot, or one word of Green Grow The Rashes.)

  43. #44 puppygod
    January 18, 2012

    Uh, I think I’m qualified to voice my opinion on that topic. Back in the days I held my hand over the flame of gas lighter on a dare (I was young, and stupid, and drunk, though that’s somewhat redundant). In fact it hurt only for the first couple of seconds. And when I finished – my reason finally kicked in and informed me using rather rough language that I’m not proving anything anymore at that point and just damaging deeper layers of tissue – I had nice round mark of whitish colour (a tone or two lighter than my natural skin colour). And it still didn’t hurt. Seems pretty consistent with what that candle lady reported.

    Though, obviously I got a rather ugly wound there within 24 h and it took forever to actually heal (more than two weeks – I usually heal my scratches and burns unusually quick – within days), so… Don’t try it at home. Bad idea.

  44. #45 Mary P
    January 18, 2012

    It appears that Jane thinks that all burns look like the google images. I know from experience that the quick burn from a stove element that turns white (and is not necessarily visible the next day) is less painful than mixed burns. One of the few things I remember clearly about being in emergency was the doctor trying to determine which burns were in which category. Good doc – being very reassuring but I did know that he was checking for third degree burns.

  45. #46 Colin Day
    January 18, 2012

    @Narad
    #37

    The article to which you linked mentioned homeopaths passing around Jamesons. Do homeopaths dilute that by 30C?

  46. #47 Mu
    January 18, 2012

    Narad, that’s article is such a case of #headdesk, it’s not even funny anymore. The author realizes that the preparation only produces distilled water, a fact known for 170 years. And still goes on to “produce” the elixir, and discussing the probable influence of unknown trace elements in Hahnemann’s original ingredients as the reason for the “failure” of some of his preparations. One is used to deluded people (YEC, thingy, voodoo economists) restating facts in a light only seen by them, but correctly stating the facts and then declare them irrelevant is a new level of willful ignorance.

  47. #48 Michael
    January 18, 2012

    My god. Sooo… how does a homeopath treat a stabbing? More stabbing?

    More stabbing, pfffff… Not nearly homeopathic enough.

    Try gunshots. Now that is a cure for stabbing!!

  48. #49 Michael
    January 18, 2012

    My god. Sooo… how does a homeopath treat a stabbing? More stabbing?

    More stabbing, pfffff… Not nearly homeopathic enough.

    Try gunshots. Now that is a cure for stabbing!!

  49. #50 maria
    January 18, 2012

    I feel as though you are using some logical fallacies in this argument, and it definitely hurts you. As a person who falls further to the homeopath than the allopath side of the continuum, this post is ridiculous. If you were to ask someone who actually uses herbs and *things occurring in nature* to treat a burn, a true homeopath would recommend fresh aloe, straight off the plant.

    I admit, I have no medical experience, as the author clearly does, but I’m also not an idiot. I burned myself, nearly second degree, with 375 F degree peanut brittle last Christmas. Treated it immediately by soaking it in cold water, and then dripped fresh aloe over the wound and wrapped it in gauze. I’m proud to say there isn’t even a scar. Because aloe is a natural remedy that works well with burns not needing skin grafting. Because I didn’t need to go to the burn unit to treat a burn on my hand.

    So, before we start making broad generalizations about people who choose herbs over chemicals, AS A FIRST RESORT, let’s use our brains. Modern medicine absolutely has its place, but that doesn’t mean nature doesn’t offer all sorts of valuable remedies as well. It’s a continuum not an absolute. Nothing ever is.

  50. #51 Rena Graham
    January 19, 2012

    10 years I had accidentally burn my hand badly. At the hospital, they cured the burn by having me keep my hand in a bowl of cold water (they kept changing the water to keep it cold) for quite some time. Followed, of course, by bandages and warnings to keep my hand dry.

    Perhaps using lukewarm water would be beneficial in that you would be more likely to keep your burnt bits there after a minor burn than in what feels like freezing water?

  51. #52 LW
    January 19, 2012

    “a true homeopath would recommend fresh aloe, straight off the plant.”

    A true homeopath would dilute it to nothing and then drip the resulting warter on a sugar pill and tell you it is a cure.

    Herbalism is not homeopathy, maria. Certain herbs do have real medical benefits. Homeopathic nostrums do not.

  52. #53 Calli Arcale
    January 19, 2012

    Maria — others have already pointed out that recommending aloe is definitely not homeopathy, but I’d like to point out that your treatment of your burn was pretty much exactly what mainstream medicine would recommend too. Most burns do not require heroic measures. In fact, there is very little you can really do to help a burn heal beyond getting out of your body’s way and letting it do the job of regrowing skin and tissue. As my general surgeon grandfather liked to say, the most important remedy for most injuries and illnesses is tincture of time. Homeopaths don’t realize that, and don’t realize that in most cases, all they’re doing is entertaining the patient while the patient gets better on his own.

    Of course, for deep burns, time is not an easy thing to give. You might need a graft (which basically gives your body more spots to grow new skin from) and you may need serious supportive care — a great deal of critical care medicine revolves around keeping the patient alive long enough for them to get better. Now, there are illnesses and injuries that can be directly treated with drugs, surgery, or other therapy; but many times it’s all up to the body, and the job of the doctors and nurses is to keep the body going and give it the resources it needs to keep fighting.

    So what am I saying? I’m saying there’s a good chance your hand would have healed that well without the aloe vera. I do use aloe vera on burns; if nothing else, I like the smell, and it might actually be helpful. I don’t have an aloe vera plant (it would be dead by now; I have a bad track record with potted plants) so I use commercial preparations; I’m not sure whether it’s the aloe vera or the gel base that’s doing any good. Gels may act as a moisture barrier, after all. It doesn’t seem to hurt, anyway, though I wouldn’t use it for a severe burn. (I’d be talking to an expert at that point.) But I’ve had about equal results no matter what I’ve done. (And yeah, I’ve inflicted a lot of minor burns on myself. I like to cook and I’m a klutz; it’s sort of inevitable.) The only really important thing seems to be cooling the wound down right away so it stops cooking. Same principle as plunging boiled eggs into cold water right after cooking them. ;-)

  53. #54 Mu
    January 19, 2012

    Maria, with apologies to Hawkeye Pierce, the homeopath would wave the aloe over a large glass of water to produce his cure.

  54. #55 Schenck
    January 19, 2012

    As far as the 1st to 3rd degree burn via candle, I think that Orac is considering, IF the symptom of ‘pain’ is ‘treated’ thru the application of heat, then it’s probably because you’ve caused so much damage that you can’t feel pain anymore.
    The other possibility is that the jerkwad holding their hand over a candle is too stupid to even realize that their pain is the same or worse. Kinda like how stupid a person’d’ve to be to plunge their hand, beyond their wrist, into a hot oil fryer!

    Also, if Dilution gives effect, then wouldn’t a burn best be treated by a dilution of heat in water? You know, cold water. In fact a real homeopathic test would have to be that cold water, that’s been slapped around first, works better.

    How in the world is this stuff legal, they’re claiming it’s a medecine, a drug, it should be regulated by the FDA, and since it doesn’t work, it should be illegal to put on the shelves.

  55. #56 Todd W.
    January 19, 2012

    @Schenck

    How in the world is this stuff legal, they’re claiming it’s a medecine, a drug, it should be regulated by the FDA, and since it doesn’t work, it should be illegal to put on the shelves.

    Thanks to lobbying back in the early 1900s when the Food and Drug Purity Act was first bandied about, homeopaths kicked up a huge stink to make sure their brand of magic was protected by law. If it is in the Homeopathic Pharmacopeia of the U.S., it can be sold as a homeopathic medicine, complete with claims to cure, treat or mitigate a disease or condition. There are some limitations, but not nearly as strict as even DSHEA, which ain’t sayin’ much.

  56. #57 Beamup
    January 19, 2012

    So, before we start making broad generalizations about people who choose herbs over chemicals, AS A FIRST RESORT, let’s use our brains.

    My brain tells me that a purified form of an active ingredient, in a known dose, with carefully studied safety and efficacy, measured therapeutic dose, known side effects to watch for, and tested for interactions…

    is massively superior to whatever mix of miscellaneous stuff a plant happens to have produced that particular day in that particular soil.

  57. #58 herr doktor bimler
    January 19, 2012

    a true homeopath would recommend fresh aloe, straight off the plant.

    So a “true homeopath” is one who uses non-homeopathic treatments? This is like arguing that the only true Scotsman is one who DOESN’T DRINK WHISKY.

  58. #59 Igor
    January 19, 2012

    “This is like arguing that the only true Scotsman is one who DOESN’T DRINK WHISKY.”

    I think this is more like arguing that a true Scotsman is one who was born outside of Scotland to parents of non-Scottish descent. parents. At least one can be a true Scotsman and a teetotaler. How is one a true homeopath without using homeopathy?

  59. #60 Igor
    January 19, 2012

    Ugh. Sorry for the typos. Too much in rush to use the preview function.

  60. #61 herr doktor bimler
    January 19, 2012

    I think this is more like arguing that a true Scotsman is one who was born outside of Scotland to parents of non-Scottish descent.

    OK. “A true Scotsman would speak Welsh as his first language.”

  61. #62 Dr. ErinKate
    January 19, 2012

    is it me, or do these blogs waste a lot of time bashing homeopathy? In terms of the way allopathics treat psychiatric illnesses, I’d put the smart money on experts looking back hundreds of years from now in horror at the current treatment of patients. Everything has its strenghts. Everything has its weaknesses. You chose to bash treating burns with burns, a glaring example that doesn’t make a lot of sense, true, but you also failed to examine every homeopathic treatment known to man, which is what you’d have to do to call the entire practice bullshit! Dr. E :)

  62. #63 Tom Herling
    January 19, 2012

    I just tried to read Narad’s linked page @37 The Mystery of Causticum:

    “One of the drawbacks to the industrialisation of remedy preparations by large homoeopathic manufacturers, over the years, is the imposition of allopathic methods of quality control and analysis on raw materials in order to licence remedies as medicines for retail sale. This can impose strict testing of original remedy materials to prove identity, quality and the validation of potentisation methods which, of course, is a good thing.”

    One of the drawbacks is a good thing? My head hurts from just these two sentences.

  63. #64 Chris
    January 19, 2012

    Dr. ErinKate, how can you call it “bashing” when it is just a description homeopathy’s basic silliness?

    Hahnemann coined the word “allopathic” to describe anything that was not homeopathy. So it could include diet, herbal medicine, acupuncture, etc.

    Of course we have examined every homeopathic treatment known to man. Since it includes diluting something to one molecule of the source in a solvent equal to the number of molecules that could fill a sphere with a diameter of this planet’s orbit around the sun! So every homeopathic pill is actually just milk sugar, and every liquid one is just water or alcohol. Nothing else.

    I think we have figured out what happens with you treat someone with just sugar pills, plain water and/or alcohol.

    Now, if you think you can tell the difference between a bottle of Nat Mur 30C and Nux Vomica 30C without the labels you can win a million dollars!

  64. #65 Chris
    January 19, 2012

    Dr. ErinKate:

    but you also failed to examine every homeopathic treatment known to man, which is what you’d have to do to call the entire practice bullshit!

    Of course we have examined every homeopathic treatment known to man (including the one on the Light of Saturn)! The reason is that the remedy is diluted so much, that all that is left is the solvent.

    A 30C remedy is diluted to one molecule of remedy (like sodium chloride for Nat Mur) into a enough solvent that would fill a sphere that has the diameter of the Earth’s orbit around the Sun. The two common solvents are water and alcohol, and we pretty much know what those do. To create a pill a drop of the solution is placed on a sugar pill, and we pretty much know how sugar pills work.

  65. #66 Laika
    January 19, 2012

    @Dr. ErinKate

    It’s you.

    There is no need to examine every homeopathic treatment because the PREMISE of the entire practice is bullshit.

  66. #67 Narad
    January 19, 2012

    you also failed to examine every homeopathic treatment known to man, which is what you’d have to do to call the entire practice bullshit!

    You mean every homeopathic treatment concocted over thousands of years? Phew, tall order.

  67. #68 Beamup
    January 19, 2012

    Tu quoque, anyone? You completely fail to support homeopathy.

    And when the principles of homeopathy are so grossly out-of-sync with everything known about physics, chemistry, and biology – plus there’s not a shred of credible evidence supporting them – is it not necessary to examine every possible treatment to declare the entire practice meaningless. Any homeopathic treatment which DID would would do so by pure chance, and would necessarily be one of the “weakest” such remedies (since the stronger ones are just water).

  68. #69 Igor
    January 19, 2012

    is it me, or do these blogs waste a lot of time bashing homeopathy?

    It’s likely just you. The overall analysis of homeopathic claims is highly diluted with posts on plethora of other pseudo scientific treatments.

    In terms of the way allopathics treat psychiatric illnesses, I’d put the smart money on experts looking back hundreds of years from now in horror at the current treatment of patients.

    Perhaps. In fact, Psychiatrists and psychologists view with horror the way these illnesses were treated only 50 years ago. But most assuredly experts (in what?) will be more horrified with the practice of homeopathy should it still be around. At any rate what does any of this have to do with homeopathic treatment of burns?

    Everything has its strenghts. Everything has its weaknesses.

    There is a grain of phylosophical truth in that. Then again, you will be hard pressed to point out the strengths of exorcising demons as treatment for a mental illness? Weaknesses there are aplenty.

    …but you also failed to examine every homeopathic treatment known to man, which is what you’d have to do to call the entire practice bullshit! Dr. E :)

    1. Analysis of individual remedies is pointless when they are all based on a fundamentally flawed concept. If I thought the way to cure disease was through waiving my hands in a particular way while chanting a spell, others don’t need to analyze every word combination and pattern of hand movement to comment on the efficacy of spell healing.

    2, When everything known to men can be put forth as some potential remedy, your proposed analysis involves examining every substance known to man. Quite a bar you are setting when all you need is that one unexamined remedy to redeem millions or billions of failed.

    3. One needs to show something works before its’ effectiveness can be challenged. The honus is not on everyone else to test the efficacy of every remedy in homeopathic arsenal, when homeopaths don’t bother to properly test any of their remedies.

  69. #70 Chris
    January 19, 2012

    Dr. ErinKate, the One Million Dollar Randi Challenge also includes being able to distinguish between two unmarked homeopathic remedies. For example could you tell the which pill was Nat Mur 30C versus one that was Nux Vomica 30C?

    You may wish to read a JREF forum thread about that here.

  70. #71 Maria
    January 19, 2012

    Callie Arcale:
    Thank you for your thoughtful response. My aversion to this article is that it applies gross generalizations, and generalizations are not good points of argument. And, I agree completely, the body is a wonderful thing, and heals magnificently, and is capable of amazing things.

    Natural Remedies and using natural remedies to aid in the healing of the body is the basis of homeopathy. My MD (yes, our GP) is also trained in homeopathy, because she understands this tenet. Nature offers some amazing *catalysts* to what the body is already doing. It does not CURE, instead homeopathy is an accessory to the healing process. It aids in the BIOLOGICAL process, not the pathological.

    Any person with a working brain understands that modern medicine is capable of miracles, and denying modern medicine in the face of absolute necessity, is imbecile. Homeopathy in no way replaces the need for science.

    But, concerning minor ailments such as the common cold and burns, eucalyptus essential oil works better than Vick’s, and fresh aloe soothes a burn that doesn’t need medical attention. Homeopathy has its place in that setting.

    It wouldn’t hurt any conscientious doctor to learn some natural remedies for minor ailments, to help relieve suffering, to use something natural before chemicals concerning the developing body. The maternity ward would be a wonderful place to start. Ask any midwife and natural birther and they will fill you with a list of *things occurring in nature* to induce and augment labour that aren’t a dangerous hormone cocktail. (Pitocin). Just sayin.

  71. #72 Chris
    January 19, 2012

    Maria:

    Natural Remedies and using natural remedies to aid in the healing of the body is the basis of homeopathy.

    Even the light of Saturn?

  72. #73 herr doktor bimler
    January 19, 2012

    eucalyptus essential oil works better than Vick’s, and fresh aloe soothes a burn that doesn’t need medical attention. Homeopathy has its place in that setting.

    Maria, if words mean anything to you, these examples are not homeopathy.

  73. #74 Chris
    January 19, 2012

    Maria and Dr. ErinKate, to explain homeopathy better here is how to make your own.

  74. #75 Igor
    January 19, 2012

    Natural Remedies and using natural remedies to aid in the healing of the body is the basis of homeopathy.

    No one here disputes the effectiveness of natural remedies. May have been found effective, researched and had the active ingredient synthesized. Willow bark, quinine and even coca leaf are all good examples. Considering basic homeopathic principles makes it likely that the remedy is devoid even of the natural compounds the healing (or sickness inducing) powers of which it evokes.

    Any person with a working brain understands that modern medicine is capable of miracles.

    Nature offers some amazing *catalysts* to what the body is already doing. It does not CURE, instead homeopathy is an accessory to the healing process.

    Not sure what you mean. There are many self limiting conditions that disappear without any treatment whatsoever.With the exception of an immobilizing device, fractures heal on their own. Most colds resolve themselves without any complications through natural processes involving our immune systems. If these are the only type of maladies that homeopathy claims to treat, then its unnecessary and better than inaction.

    Ask any midwife and natural birther and they will fill you with a list of *things occurring in nature* to induce and augment labour that aren’t a dangerous hormone cocktail. (Pitocin)

    Technically, pitocin occurs in nature as oxytocin. I don’t know why you credit naturally occurring compounds as somehow risk free? Everything carries a degree of risk, even the most natural and innocuous, although there is much in nature that is quite deadly to humans. Even if a natural remedy has shown to be effective in treating some conditions, it is often limited in quantity, has varying concentrations of the active ingridients when precise dosage is important, and may contain many other active ingredients that are either harmful or unnecessary. Noone here argues that natural remedies never work or shouldn’t be used.

    At any rate, what does that have to do with homeopathy which uses dilutions of known poisons to cure symptoms they are known to induce?

  75. #76 Igor
    January 19, 2012

    eucalyptus essential oil works better than Vick’s, and fresh aloe soothes a burn that doesn’t need medical attention.

    Don’t use any of these. Doing nothing apparently works great too. Interestingly enough, most of eucalyptus oil is actually camphor oil, which also occurs naturally and is one of the ingredients in Vicks rub. The manufacturer’s of natural eucalyptus oil are the same pharmaceutical companies that make other substances you deem unnatural. Despite being “natural” eucalyptus oil is toxic in higher doses.

    Of course, I still don’t understand what any of this has to do with homeopathic remedies?

  76. #77 Lawrence
    January 19, 2012

    @Maria – I don’t think homeopathy means what you think it means…..

  77. #78 Chris
    January 19, 2012

    Did Maria even read the four to five comments before hers that explain homeopathy? Essentially, the remedy is diluted past any kind of usefulness.

  78. #79 Narad
    January 19, 2012

    It wouldn’t hurt any conscientious doctor to learn some natural remedies for minor ailments, to help relieve suffering, to use something natural before chemicals concerning the developing body.

    Yes, we wouldn’t want to use chemicals. Wait, did someone mention eucalyptus oil?

  79. #80 Denice Walter
    January 19, 2012

    Igor responds to a frequent meme about psychiatric meds: oft demonised by natural health advocates- who may addtionally debate the very existence of serious mental illness itself-they would be replaced with EFT** (tap, tap, tap away your woes), Orthomolecular Psychiatry*** ( niacin cures all) or even methods that are approved by Scientology, Inc****

    Modern psychiatric meds which, while not perfect, have ushered in the age of de-institutionalisation, enabling the seriously mentally ill to live outside of hospitals. Fifty years ago, most of the western world had large complexes to house the population of SMI, who lived isolated from general society.( see E. Fuller Torrey)

    Alt med attacks on anti-psychotics and SSRIs ( amongst other meds) usually focus on side-effects ( a real problem) and *fail* to mention how these products assist people with very serious symptoms ( hallucination, delusion, mania etc) that interfere with independent daily living.

    So what’s so bad about believing in mental illness and chemical ways to treat it? Natural health, homeopathy, herbs and vitamins have been around for a long time- so were institutions ( ever hear of “Bedlam”? St Mary Bethlehem Hospital, actually- or Creedmore?) : *none* of these *more humane*, naturalistic approaches worked. Things started changing with the introduction of the first generation of anti-psychotics in the 1950s.

    Psychiatric meds have transformed how people live with SMI: alt med advocates deny their effect because it is profound ( like that of vaccines). Similarly, they need deny the existence of chemical aberrations- that can be addressed by meds- because their products can’t address the problem in any meaningful way. Expect to hear this issue tossed about the crankosphere in the next few months.

    ** Mercola.com
    *** Gary Null/ ProgressiveRadioNetwork.com
    **** Mike Adams/ NaturalNews.com
    -btw- none of which work.

  80. #81 Chris
    January 19, 2012

    Igor:

    At any rate, what does that have to do with homeopathy which uses dilutions of known poisons to cure symptoms they are known to induce?

    Indeed. Nux Vomica uses parts of the strychnine tree, and we all know how safe that is! (oh, and it was mentioned yesterday at comment #29)

  81. #82 Colin Day
    January 19, 2012

    @Chris
    #65

    A 30C dilution would require 10^60 water molecules. This is 1.66×10^36 moles, or 3×10^37 grams. This would occupy 3×10^37 cm^3 of space. This in turn is 3×10^31 m^3, which is 3×10^22 km^3. Setting this equal to (4/3)pi*r^3 yields r equal to 1.93×10^7 km. This is much less than 1.4×10^8 km, which is the earth’s orbital radius. Still, your average homeopath isn’t going to achieve this.

  82. #83 Chemmomo
    January 20, 2012

    Maria

    Ask any midwife and natural birther and they will fill you with a list of *things occurring in nature* to induce and augment labour that aren’t a dangerous hormone cocktail. (Pitocin)

    You just revealed your, your midwives’, and your natural birthers’ incredible ignorance.
    That “dangerous hormone cocktail” Pitocin is the exact same chemical as the oxytocin generated by our bodies. The only difference between the two is that “Pitocin” is the name we use for the stuff that’s administered to augment labor. It does occur in nature.

    As for the rest of your list of things – I’ll take the substance (oxytocin/Pitocin) that’s actually been shown to work, thank you very much.

  83. #84 Nancy malik
    January 20, 2012

    @ Dangerous Bacon | January 18, 2012 12:06 PM

    Homeopathy for treatment of burns

    1. British Homoeopathic Journal

    Mustard Gas 30 as prophylactic and Rhus Tox 30c for treatment of burns and skin lesions due to mustard gas (1943)
    http://www.jameslindlibrary.org/illustrating/records/report-on-mustard-gas-experiments-glasgow-and-london/key_passages

    2. Allgemeine Anzeiger (German)
    Treatment of Burns
    No. 156, 1816

  84. #85 lilady
    January 20, 2012

    @ Maria: “Ask any midwife and natural birther and they will fill you with a list of *things occurring in nature* to induce and augment labour that aren’t a dangerous hormone cocktail. (Pitocin)

    (I’ll hate myself in the morning) What specific *things occurring in nature*, Maria?

  85. #86 Narad
    January 20, 2012

    What specific *things occurring in nature*

    Castor oil. Blue and black cohosh. Fresh pineapple. Cumin (tea). “5W.” Sex. Dancing the hula. Depending on one’s definition of nature, add the homeopathic cohosh versions, eggplant parmesan, and balsamic dressing (really).

  86. #87 lilady
    January 20, 2012

    And, “inserting” castor oil capsules to soften the cervix, primrose oil and honeysuckle capsules…ingested?…inserted? and soap enemas; all recommended for home births.

  87. #88 Narad
    January 20, 2012

    Gelcaps aren’t natural! They were patented.

  88. #89 Narad
    January 20, 2012

    I’ll further remark before retiring that if I had a couple hundred bucks to blow, this Pharmaceutical Capsules by Podczeck and Jones (eds.) seems quite engaging.

  89. #90 Igor
    January 20, 2012

    @84: Although i’m sure Homeopathy has made great strides in its treatment of burns since 1943, I’ll take a look.

    1. The article deals with mustard gus burns. As far as I remember chemical are in many ways similar to heat burns and follow the same burn classification system. Of course chemical burns also present a host of other problems which differentiate them from regular burns and require additional treatment options. For the sake of the argument, however, i will stipulate that mustard gas burns are relevant to our present discussion on burn treatment.

    2. Whatever limited information I was able to glean from only a few excerpts from the study, shows what appears to be a relatively well designed controlled double blind study, which leads me to believe that the quality of homeopathic research has drastically decreased over the years. Unfortunately, there are no findings or conclusions presented in the available text.

    The second study is from early 19th century Germany, which leads me to believe that access to the original text is nonexistent or very difficult. And in antiquated German. If the study wasn’t in 1816, I would have assumed that the Germans found the remedy worthless and gave it to the British as a canard during the first world wars. What’s your Point NancyPerhaps

  90. #91 Chris
    January 20, 2012

    Colin Day:

    This is much less than 1.4×10^8 km, which is the earth’s orbital radius. Still, your average homeopath isn’t going to achieve this.

    Thanks. I should have known better than to believe Dr. Ben Goldacre. ;-)

    Though I do know that 200C requires more atoms than are in the known universe. Because 10400 is lots more than 1080!

  91. #92 herr doktor bimler
    January 20, 2012

    Ask any midwife and natural birther and they will fill you with a list of *things occurring in nature* to induce and augment labour that aren’t a dangerous hormone cocktail. (Pitocin)

    Maria appears to be under the impression that midwives are New-Age airy-fairy herbalists blithely dispensing poisonous plants, rather than trained medical professionals. Do you think she actually knows any?

  92. #93 Roadstergal
    January 20, 2012

    Not to mention, all I would have to do is ask one, and they’d fill me with a list of things to induce labor. I’m not even pregnant!

  93. #94 herr doktor bimler
    January 20, 2012

    a list of things to induce labor. I’m not even pregnant!

    A natural therapy comes to mind but it takes 9 months to work.

  94. #95 Prometheus
    January 20, 2012

    “Dr.” ErinKate (#62)

    “is [sic] it me, or do these blogs waste a lot of time bashing homeopathy?”

    Either that, or the homeopaths waste a lot of time trying to promote nonsense – take your pick.

    “In terms of the way allopathics treat psychiatric illnesses, I’d put the smart money on experts looking back hundreds of years from now in horror at the current treatment of patients.”

    As was mentioned above, “allopathic” is a term invented Hahnemann to mean “anything apart from homeopathy”, so the phrase “…the way allopathics treat psychiatric illness…” is vague and meaningless. If we assume that “Dr.” ErinKate meant “…how real doctors treat psychiatric illness…”, that may very well be true.

    It’s worth mentioning at this point that nothing that Hahnemann did in early homeopathy has been contradicted or abandoned by “modern” homeopathy (an oxymoron if there ever was one), suggesting that the homeopaths haven’t examined their practises very carefully (or, in fact, at all). Only religions “get it right” on the first try, so the fact that real medicine can look back on past practises with horror (or amusement) indicates that real medicine (as contrasted with homeopathy) is testing and refining its therapies.

    “Everything has its strenghts [sic]. Everything has its weaknesses.”

    A nice truism. Homeopathy’s only “strength”, however, is that it is something to do while you’re waiting for your body to “heal itself”. Homeopathy does not “help” your body to heal itself – as has been repeatedly shown – and is of absolutely no use in those cases where your body can’t heal itself, so it is of no more medical utility than knitting or reading a novel.

    “You chose to bash treating burns with burns, a glaring example that doesn’t make a lot of sense, true, but you also failed to examine every homeopathic treatment known to man, which is what you’d have to do to call the entire practice bullshit!”

    Actually, no. Even homeopaths cannot distinguish their remedies from the vehicle it is carried in – i.e., they can’t tell water from liquid homeopathic remedies carried in water (ditto for ethanol) and they can’t distinguish between lactose and a homeopathic remedy on/in lactose. Given that, it seems painfully simple to test “every homeopathic treatment known to man” – homeopathic remedies are the same thing as “placebo”.

    Maria (#71):

    “My aversion to this article is that it applies gross generalizations, and generalizations are not good points of argument.”

    How about the generalisation that “natural” is better than synthetic?

    “And, I agree completely, the body is a wonderful thing, and heals magnificently, and is capable of amazing things.”

    And, when the body doesn’t heal itself (e.g. diabetes, hypertension, coronary artery disease, osteoarthritis, etc.)…? That’s what we developed real medicine for.

    Homeopathy, as has been shown over and over again, is marvelous for the treatment of two (2) types of disorders:

    [1] Diseases that are self-limiting and will get better on their own (i.e. those where the body “heals itself”).

    [2] Diseases that don’t exist.

    “Natural Remedies and using natural remedies to aid in the healing of the body is the basis of homeopathy.”

    Actually, no. Homeopathy is the use of many natural and “un-natural” compounds diluted to the point where the chance that even a single molecule of the “active ingredient” is contained in a dose is less than your chance of winning the MegaBucks lottery a million times in a row.

    “Natural” remedies, on the other hand, are generally plant materials that often do contain physiologically active chemicals (yes, nassssty chemicals!) that are often (usually?) poorly characterised in their actions as well as their concentrations. While some homeopathic remedies are insanely diluted plant materials, true “natural” remedies (i.e. those taught to “naturopaths” in their version of Hogwarts) are not administered in homeopathic dilutions.

    However just as a board-certified MD or DO can practise homeopathy (or other magical “arts”), “naturopaths” can and do practise homeopathy.

    “Nature offers some amazing *catalysts* to what the body is already doing.”

    “Catalyst” is defined as something that makes an already thermodynamically favorable reaction procede more rapidly. In that sense, many “natural” remedies do catalyse “what the body is already doing” – especially if what the body is already doing is dying.

    “It does not CURE, instead homeopathy is an accessory to the healing process. It aids in the BIOLOGICAL process, not the pathological.”

    True – homeopathy does not cure. However, it has no physiological activity (apart from the water, ethanol or lactose it is carried on), so it can’t be described as an “accessory” of any sort.

    “Homeopathy in no way replaces the need for science.”

    Quite true. Science, however, has replaced the need for homeopathy.

    “But, concerning minor ailments such as the common cold and burns, eucalyptus essential oil works better than Vick’s, and fresh aloe soothes a burn that doesn’t need medical attention. Homeopathy has its place in that setting.”

    As has already been pointed out, eucalytus oil and aloe aren’t homeopathic remedies. But I do agree that the only true place for homeopathy is in the “treatment” of disorders that don’t require treatment. To do otherwise would be gross medical malpractise.

    Prometheus

  95. #96 lilady
    January 20, 2012

    @ Roadstergel & herr doktor bimler:

    “a list of things to induce labor. I’m not even pregnant!”

    “A natural therapy comes to mind but it takes 9 months to work.”

    Even if the “therapy” doesn’t work…it is a delightful experience…as evidenced by the “post-therapy” positive “consumer satisfaction surveys”.

  96. #97 Roadstergal
    January 20, 2012

    Fortunately, my siblings have taken care of all of the reproduction. I am happy to be the irresponsible aunt. :)

  97. #98 katryn
    January 20, 2012

    It is frustrating that people assume homeopathy means herbal
    AAAARGH!

    This Newsbiscuit article looks ‘scary’
    http://www.newsbiscuit.com/2012/01/19/homeopath-to-start-offering-assisted-suicide-remedy/

    ‘We take our special ‘faucet hydrogen dioxide’ formula to a funeral, where it is surrounded by mourning people. This emotional experience of someone passing is remembered by the special solution. We take this back to my ‘living room laboratory’ where it is diluted with more of the original solution to create a remedy that is so weak its strength is lethal.’

  98. #99 Politicalguineapig
    January 21, 2012

    Chemmomo: At the risk of a derail, is oxytocin real? A nurse I know says it is, but I’ve never seen anything about it that wasn’t either wikipedia or a paywall. And abstininnies idolize it, which makes me wonder if it’s real.

  99. #100 Chemmomo
    January 21, 2012

    Politicalguineapig,
    are you asking me do your google searches for you? Why?

    Yes, oxytocin is a real hormone, and one of its functions is to stimulate uterine contractions during labor. It’s a nonapeptide, with a disulfide link between amino acid #1 and amino acid #6. Yeah, I understand that means nothing to you, but that’s something I learned from textbooks, not wikipedia. When the synthetic version is administered to augment labor (as opposed to what a laboring women is producing internally), it’s referred to as Pitocin. Those two names describe the exact same molecule—just as we have trade names for other compounds which are sold by companies producing them. They’re both still the exact same chemical, and both real.

    If you don’t believe me, try going to a library and looking it up in a biochemistry textbook.

    As for the “abstininnies,” yeah, they’re out there. Really out there. That’s all I’m willing to say about them (i.e., no derail on my part).

  100. #101 Mephistopheles O'Brien
    January 21, 2012

    Maria,

    eucalyptus essential oil works better than Vick’s

    I’m not sure which Vick’s product you mean, as there are many under that trade name. But looking at the ingredients in Vick’s VapoRub, we find:
    Active Ingredients (Purpose): Camphor 4.8% (Cough suppressant and topical analgesic); Eucalyptus oil 1.2% (Cough suppressant); Menthol 2.6% (Cough suppressant and topical analgesic)
    Inactive Ingredients: Cedarleaf oil, nutmeg oil, special petrolatum, thymol, turpentine oil
    So if you’re looking to treat a cold with natural ingredients, the nice folks at Procter & Gamble seem to be right there with you. I wouldn’t doubt that eucalyptus essential oil, as a more concentrated form, might work better than a diluted form – though you’d miss out on all that camphor and menthol.

  101. #102 Politicalguineapig
    January 21, 2012

    Chemmomo: Thanks, I’ll try and scare up a biochem book. Sorry to bother you, but at this point, I usually just assume that anyone on the right is willing to lie about everything. In one of the low points of my life, I asked a weatherman from a Fox affiliate if he predicted better weather for a conservative district. And if some of the local politicians said the sky was blue and it was sunny, I’d assume the sky was green until I looked out the window.

  102. #103 Mephistopheles O'Brien
    January 21, 2012

    The first comment on the link from Chris’s post @74 leads to two videos on the operation of different designs of potentizers.
    They’re fascinating.
    Two things really blew me away – the statement that “by the time you get to 6C there is none of it [the original substance] left – it’s completely safe”, and that in the production device the way they get the right amount of solute for the next dilution is to open the vial and shake everything out (that might be true, I suppose, though I wonder if they ever really measured it).
    Wow. Just wow.

  103. #104 Colin Day
    January 21, 2012

    @katryn
    #98

    From the link:

    ‘We take our special ‘faucet hydrogen dioxide’ formula to a funeral,

    What is hydrogen dioxide? If there were one molecule whose structure homeopaths would get correct, it would be H2O.

  104. #105 Mephistopheles O'Brien
    January 22, 2012

    Colin Day – It’s probably important to realize that NewsBiscuit is a satirical site. “Hydrogen dioxide” might be a bit of ignorance on the writer’s part, or might be part of the gag.

  105. #106 Calli Arcale
    January 24, 2012

    Maria,

    I’m glad I could be of help. I think we probably agree more than we disagree, but can benefit from educating one another.

    Natural Remedies and using natural remedies to aid in the healing of the body is the basis of homeopathy. My MD (yes, our GP) is also trained in homeopathy, because she understands this tenet. Nature offers some amazing *catalysts* to what the body is already doing. It does not CURE, instead homeopathy is an accessory to the healing process. It aids in the BIOLOGICAL process, not the pathological.

    The word homeopathy has (perhaps in a sort of cosmic irony) been rather diluted to the point where today it has little meaning. I believe this was an unintended consequence of the Pure Foods Act, which created the FDA; a group of lobbyists managed to get Congress to put in a specific exemption for homeopathy. Anything listed in the official homeopathic pharmacopeia did not need to provide evidence of efficacy, and would instead be presumed effective by the FDA. This is probably why so many non-homeopathic methods (such as the natural remedies you describe) have co-opted the name. This has been so effective that even many practitioners do not seem to be aware of it. This might give you some pause, and it should. People who sell herbalism as homeopathy are benefiting from an exemption that ought not to apply to them.

    The basis of homeopathy is that all bodies have a natural vibration, and when this vibration is altered, disease results. The vibration can be restored by application of a substance which has been diluted long past the point where any of the original substance remains. Modern writers speculate about quantum vibrations and the memory of water, but these tend to be inconsistent with one another; the original concept was that if you dilute it past the point of completely washing away the original substance, and if you perform the dilutions in a precise manner, you will create a remedy which has the *opposite* vibration and which will therefore cure the treatment.

    So although homeopathy can be said to be quite literally nothing but symptom treatment (based on its model of disease), actually it does intend to directly CURE, not merely aid in the biological process.

    Natural remedies are something else, often conflated with homeopathy, but different. I have difficulty understanding how one can believe in, for instance, both homeopathy and herbalism — they have contradictory philosophies. It’s a bit like believing in both geocentrism and heliocentrism; they contradict one another. There is a whole field of medical science called pharmacognosy, which seeks to find remedies from nature. It has been very successful, and you might be surprised to learn how many pharmaceutical remedies come from nature. Most end up later being either synthesized or manufactured by genetically modified yeast, but that’s not a bad thing. The chemicals are identical, and we’re not having to rape the countryside or torment animals to get them.

  106. #107 tielserrath
    January 25, 2012

    eucalyptus essential oil works better than Vick’s, and fresh aloe soothes a burn that doesn’t need medical attention.

    Dear FSM, will people stop recommending eucalyptus (and tea tree) oil for burns and minor cuts?

    I’m losing track of the number of people who have converted their simple, heal-by-itself-if-you’ll-just-bloody-leave-it-alone burn/minor cut into a full-blown chemical burn requiring general anaesthesia, debridement and grafting. One woman who used it on a cut on the back of her hand nearly lost the hand.

    These are nasty, irritant chemicals and they should not be used on anything other than totally intact skin.

    Jeez, if one more idiot starts whinging ‘but it’s natural!’ I’m going to start slapping…

    /emergency doctor

  107. #108 adelady
    January 25, 2012

    “…will people stop recommending eucalyptus (and tea tree) oil for burns…”

    I’m duty bound to pass on Sunday’s tirade (a politer version) from my daughter – who nurses at our children’s hospital.

    Do *not* put *anything* on a burn after you have cooled the skin with water. There may still be heat beneath the surface and that needs to dissipate. Putting butter, oil, ointment, tomato juice, clay, alcohol, toothpaste or any other idiotic substance on the surface won’t help and may worsen it.

    Toothpaste??!!? we cried. Apparently some people think the ‘cooling’ taste of mint in the mouth means it will cool and ‘soothe’ a burn. (For the technically minded – it makes it worse.)

  108. #109 Calli Arcale
    January 25, 2012

    tielserrath — she was actually suggesting eucalyptus for colds, not burns. As I understand it, the evidence is mixed at best for that indication. I don’t think any essential oil would be a sensible thing to put on a burn.

    adelady — I don’t put anything on a burn for a considerable amount of time; I was always told to leave it alone as long as possible. Eventually, though, especially with sunburn, I get the urge to scratch, and putting some benign ointment on it does stop me doing that. I guess for me it falls in the category of entertaining the patient while the thing heals on its own. ;-) But again, I’ve only done this with minor burns. The one and only time I had a second-degree burn, I had a doctor deal with it (and the advice given was basically “leave it alone, it’ll be fine; take some Tylenol if it hurts too much”).

  109. #110 Edith Prickly
    January 25, 2012

    @107: People really put eucalyptus oil on a burn? Yeowch! you’d think the increased pain would be a first clue that it’s a bad idea. Unfortunately the natural fallacy is rampant in the cosmetics industry, leading many people to believe that “natural” substances like essential oils aren’t harmful. Most of them are in fact highly irritating even to healthy skin and don’t belong in skin care at all – like eucalyptus oil: http://www.cosmeticscop.com/cosmetic-ingredient-dictionary/definition/555/eucalyptus-oil.aspx

    Tea tree oil does have disinfectant properties that appear to be effective against acne, but that does not make it a good thing to put on a burn. http://www.cosmeticscop.com/cosmetic-ingredient-dictionary/definition/1472/tea-tree-oil.aspx(and yes, I know the links go to a cosmetics website, but those definitions are all based on published research and contain the references if you want to look at the articles yourself.)

    Even lavender and rose oils, which are often found in skin care products, are problematic: http://www.cosmeticscop.com/cosmetic-ingredient-dictionary/definition/841/lavender-extract-and-oil.aspx

    http://www.cosmeticscop.com/cosmetic-ingredient-dictionary/definition/1272/rose-flower-oil.aspx

  110. #111 Edith Prickly
    January 25, 2012

    @107: People really put eucalyptus oil on a burn? Yeowch! you’d think the increased pain would be a first clue that it’s a bad idea. Unfortunately the natural fallacy is rampant in the cosmetics industry, leading many people to believe that “natural” substances like essential oils aren’t harmful. Most of them are in fact highly irritating even to healthy skin and don’t belong in skin care at all – like eucalyptus oil: http://www.cosmeticscop.com/cosmetic-ingredient-dictionary/definition/555/eucalyptus-oil.aspx

    Tea tree oil does have disinfectant properties that appear to be effective against acne, but that does not make it a good thing to put on a burn. http://www.cosmeticscop.com/cosmetic-ingredient-dictionary/definition/1472/tea-tree-oil.aspx(and yes, I know the links go to a cosmetics website, but the definitions are all based on published research and contain the references if you want to look at the articles yourself.)

    Even lavender and rose oils, which are often found in skin care products, are problematic: http://www.cosmeticscop.com/cosmetic-ingredient-dictionary/definition/841/lavender-extract-and-oil.aspx

    http://www.cosmeticscop.com/cosmetic-ingredient-dictionary/definition/1272/rose-flower-oil.aspx

  111. #112 Alia
    January 25, 2012

    I do think aloe vera was the only thing mentioned for putting on burns – eucalyptus oil was just a digression (as in “eucalyptus oil is better than Vick’s” – for colds, not for burns).

    As for me, in my first post I mentioned crystal violet (pyoctanin), because that’s what my mother, a nurse, always recommends for burns.

  112. #113 tielserrath
    January 26, 2012

    Round here people still use mercurochrome from 40 year old bottles they have in the garden shed…

  113. #114 afeman
    January 27, 2012

    So aloe is a no-no too, even on 1st degree burns, even after they’ve had time to cool off? I find it rather soothing on sunburn.

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