epidemics

Homeopathy is quackery. There, I’ve fulfilled my normal requirement to start out all posts that I write having to do with homeopathy with a simple, declarative, and, most of all, true statement about what homeopathy is. I also like to mention briefly homeopathy’s two major “laws.” The first is the Law of Similars, a totally pseudoscientific “law” without basis in science that proclaims that the way to treat a symptom is to use a substance that causes that symptom in healthy people. The second “law,” of course, is the Law of Infinitesimals, which further states that the more you dilute a remedy the more potent it becomes. This leads homeopaths to dilute remedies to 30C (C = one hundred-fold dilution) and beyond. Given that a 30C dilution equals a 1060-fold dilution and Avogadro’s number is only approximately 6 x 1023, such homeopathic remedies are unlikely to contain a single molecule of the original substance, other than perhaps contamination carried over from one dilution to the next. Either way, homeopathy is basically water or ethanol or whatever diluent is used to dilute the substance, and any effects from homeopathy are placebo or nonspecific effects. Indeed, I like to think of homeopathy as the Rorschach test of quackery in that quacks see in it whatever their nature leads them to see.

I normally don’t blog about Facebook memes (although I have been guilty on occasion of spreading them around), but the other day I saw this a screenshot of this Tweet:

Upon seeing this, I thought: Good point! Why aren’t there homeopaths trying to treat Ebola victims in Africa? After all, there are, unfortunately, homeopaths out there treating AIDS victims in Africa, a truly terrifying incursion of quackery into Third World countries.

First off, does anyone remember Homeopaths Without Borders? It’s not a joke. (Well, it is a joke, actually, but Homeopaths Without Borders does nonetheless exist.) There really are homeopaths out there who, thinking themselves capable of doing anything more than getting in the way of real doctors and rescue workers, for example in Haiti after the earthquake of 2010. A year and a half later, the results were not exactly what I would call a smashing success, although homeopaths bent logic, language, and medicine to portray it as such. Homeopaths have also claimed to be able to treat malaria, although malaria isn’t nearly as “sexy” a disease (i.e., frequently in the media) as HIV/AIDS or Ebola.

The meme made me curious though? Is Rayne correct? Is it even completely fair? After all, even the Peace Corps is temporarily removing volunteers from West Africa in the face of the spreading Ebola outbreak. On the other hand, While it’s true that Homeopaths Without Borders appears not to be rushing to the areas in Africa where there are currently Ebola outbreaks and hundreds of fatalities, what about other homeopaths? It’s not as though homeopaths don’t claim to be able to treat or even cure Ebola, as you’ll see.

Ebola, of course, is a horrible virus causing a horrible, horrible disease. It’s also very contagious, being spread through the secretions of the infected in much the same way Hepatitis B and C are. The disease the Ebola virus causes belongs to a subtype of viral diseases known as hemorrhagic fever, because in addition to the usual viral symptoms of fever, joint aches, muscle aches, nausea and vomiting, Ebola victims often develop diffuse dysfunction of their clotting system, leading them to hemorrhage from suffer from hematemesis (vomiting up blood), hemoptysis (coughing up blood), melena (GI bleeding leading to gross blood in the stool) and bleeding from mucous membranes (gastrointestinal tract, nose, vagina and gingiva).

Healthcare workers are particularly vulnerable because of their close contact with victims and can contract the disease if they don’t use protective gear, such as surgical masks and gloves, and even if they do use them can still catch Ebola if there’s a break in protection. Presumably the two American doctors who have been infected with Ebola used adequate protection. Nonetheless they acquired the infection. After all, easy to slip up when you’re in prolonged contact with patients with Ebola, as any physician knows how easy it is not to be 100% anal 100% of the time about universal precautions. Indeed:

Sierra Leone’s top Ebola doctor fell victim to the virus and died. Two American health-care workers, volunteers with the Christian aid group Samaritan’s Purse, have contracted the virus. The group has since evacuated some workers from Liberia, but medical staff have been left behind to treat patients.

Given the symptoms of Ebola virus disease, here’s what two homeopaths have proposed a a homeopathic remedy for Ebola:

Dr. Gail Derin studied the symptoms of Ebola Zaire, the most deadly of the three that can infect human beings. Dr. Vickie Menear, M.D. and homeopath, found that the remedy that most closely fit the symptoms of the 1914 “flu” virus, Crolatus horridus, also fits the Ebola virus nearly 95% symptom-wise! Thanks go to these doctors for coming up with the following remedies:

1. Crolatus horridus (rattlesnake venom) 2. Bothrops (yellow viper) 3. Lachesis (bushmaster snake) 4. Phosphorus 5. Merc. cor.

If you are not in the U.S., you must locate your closed homeopathic practitioner and ask him or her to order these remedies for you from Hahnemann Pharmacy, (510) 327-3003 (Albany, California, a suburb of Oakland). If your country’s laws allow you to call a homeopathic pharmacy directly, do so. In any case be sure to find a homeopathic practitioner you can work with. Do not try to take care of yourself without the further education and experience that a homeopath can give you.

If you’re not sure where to find your closest homeopath, call the National Center of Homeopathy, (703) 548-7790, Take this article with you and let a homeopath read it and instruct you on how to use the remedies.

You know what they call an Ebola victim foolish enough to use these five homeopathic remedies in the hope of curing their disease? Almost certainly dead, that’s what! While it’s true that Ebola disease can result in up to a 90% case fatality rate, which is what the Zaire Ebola virus can do, even with good medical care. Basically, all science-based medicine can do right now is to try to support the patient and keep him alive until the body can clear the virus, if it can manage to do so. Of course, homeopathy can’t even do that, which would not only increase the chance of death but prevent even the palliative care that can be given to the suffering.

Unfortunately, Derin and Menear are not the only homeopaths recommending this nonsense. Homeopathy has been proposed by clueless homeopaths as a valid means of combatting bioterrorism, chief among the bioterrorism agents being Ebola. For instance, Joetta Calabrese has suggested:

In the case of Ebola, no conventional treatment or vaccine is available. Fortunately for us, homeopathy has great renown for its healing ability in epidemics.

Calabrese proposes a variant of Derin and Menear’s delusional treatment:

The following remedies would be considered by a homeopath for any of the viral hemorrhagic fevers that match this symptom picture.

As a preventative if an outbreak happens nearby, Crotalus horridus 30C, one dose daily, until the threat is out of the area is the method many homeopaths familiar with this disease suggest.

If a person is infected, the remedies most commonly used would be the following. One dose every hour, but as the severity of the symptoms decrease, frequency is reduced. If no improvement is seen after 6 doses, a new remedy ought to be considered.

Crotalus horridus 30C – Is to be considered for when there is difficulty swallowing due to spasms and constriction of the throat, dark purplish blood, edema with purplish, mottled skin.

Bothrops 30C – Is the remedy to think of when nervous trembling, difficulty articulating speech, sluggishness, swollen puffy face, black vomiting are present

Lachesis mutus 30C ,– when there’s delirium with trembling and confusion, hemorrhaging in any area, consider this remedy. Often, the person cannot bear tight or constricting clothing or bandages and feels better from heat and worse on the left side.

Mercurius corrosivus 30C, – For copious bleeding, better when lying on the back with the knees bent up, delirium, headache with burning cheeks, photophobia, black swollen lip, metallic, bitter or salt taste in mouth.

Secale cornutum 30c,– For thin, slow, painless oozing dark hemorrhage with offensive odor, cold skin and tingling in the limbs. The individual wants to be uncovered and feels WORSE from motion.

Echinacea 30C – For when there’s sepsis or blood poisoning, fetid smelling discharges and enlarged lymph nodes.

Homeopathy is an ideal medical stratagem for survivalists, homesteaders and anyone wanting to be self-reliant in any situation.

I thought this might be a joke, given its proximity to April 1 this year, but it’s not. All you have to do is to peruse the rest of Calabrese’s website to realize that she actually believes these things. Calabrese also pimps her forthcoming book, The Survivalist Guide to Homeopathy. In any event, all of these remedies, being 30C dilutions, are nothing more than water, likely soaked into sugar pills. (I still can’t figure out why homeopaths take their water, press it into sugar pills, and then let them dry out. Why not just administer the water with a bit of salt? In that case, it might at least have a chance to contribute to the rehydration of a vomiting and bleeding patient.

Of course, these recommendations aren’t just the delusional ravings of pseudoscience-believing homeopaths? They’re based on science, maaaan! There’s even a paper in the British Journal of Homeopathy (OK, so it’s not actually science) entitled Sicarus (Six-Eyed Crab Spider): A homeopathic treatment for Ebola haemorrhagic fever and disseminated intravascular coagulation?. Shockingly, I found this ridiculous paper hosted on a personal page on the Indiana University website. In any case, it’s not just Ebola. Homeopaths are deluded enough to think that they can treat potential bioterrorism agents such as anthrax (Anthracinum and Arsenicum album), smallpox (Variolinum, Malandrinum, Sarsparilla, Thuja, Baptisia (Pestinum and Crotalus horridus for hemorrhagic plague; Lachesis, Arsenicum album for bubonic plague; Phosophorus for pneumonic plague), and Botulism (Botulinum and Gelsemium, Arsenicum album, Belladonna Alternate).

I never thought I’d say this (I really didn’t), but this is a case when that font of all quackery, New World Order conspiracy theories, and utter lunacy, NaturalNews.com, is less deluded than these homeopaths, albeit only marginally. There appeared today a post from Mike Adams expressing concern—well panic, actually—that the CDC is bringing a victim infected with Ebola to Emory University Hospital for treatment. At least Adams realizes that Ebola is a disease that is contagious and deadly. On the other hand, it is amusing to see his panicked rant, given how NaturalNews.com has previously published rank germ theory denialism. After all, if microorganisms don’t cause disease, then why worry? Of course, it’s not long before Adams dives into rank conspiracy theories about big pharma wanting this patient to develop Ebola drugs and thereby make massive profits or the Army wanting the body after the victim dies in order to use what it finds to further bioweapons research

The only reason that Adams’ rant is marginally less delusional than homeopaths believing they can cure Ebola is because his rant doesn’t rely on a system of “medicine” that postulates principles that violate the laws of physics and chemistry, but that’s the only reason. The bottom line is that, with increasing outbreaks of Ebola, the fear mongering is going to reach extreme levels, and the quacks always take advantage of that. What they don’t understand is that Ebola is unlikely to spread very far because it is so fatal. Outbreaks of diseases that are this fatal this fast tend to burn themselves out very quickly because the infected can’t travel far or come into contact with enough people to allow wide dissemination. That’s not to say Ebola is not a threat, but it’s certainly not a threat that homeopathy can do anything about.

Comments

  1. #1 Krebiozen
    October 27, 2014

    I find it strange that proponents of homeopathy always claim that those who don’t believe in it as either closed minded or ignorant. Some years ago I approached homeopathy with an open (though skeptical) mind, read a great deal about it, used remedies and even experimented with making remedies and nosodes myself. Nothing in my experience led me to even suspect that homeopathy does anything at all.

    It’s not surprising that clinical trials find little evidence that homeopathy is anything more than a placebo, and that a systematic review and metaanalysis (found in a list of ‘positive’ studies provided by a homeopath) concluded:

    Studies of high methodological quality were more likely to be negative than the lower quality studies.

    When it comes to the claim that animals respond to homeopathy, so it must be true, I usually refer the claimant to the Veterinary Voodoo Society, and in particular the letters to their journal, both pro and anti homeopathy, which I always enjoy perusing. The letters from vets who reported total failure of homeopathy to prevent parvovirus and to treat canine distemper are distressing to read, and leave me in no doubt that those who believe homeopathy works are fooling themselves.

  2. #2 Krebiozen
    October 27, 2014

    I feel compelled to share a paper I came across on the Veterinary Voodoo website. Others may be familiar with Lionel Milgrom’s groundbreaking paper, Patient–practitioner–remedy (PPR) entanglement. Part 3. Refining the quantum metaphor for homeopathy, but I wasn’t. Who knew that homeopaths and their patients act like subatomic particles?

    By analogy, one could suggest that PPR entanglement occurs during case-taking and ‘ends’ when the Pr ‘gets’ the case and decides on a remedy (in the Copenhagen Interpretation of quantum mechanics, this would be the equivalent of ‘collapsing’ the Ψ PPR wave-function to the point of cure: if so, then ‘cure’ should ‘begin’ at this point, possibly even before Px has physically taken the Rx).

    Surely a joke, but apparently not.

  3. #3 herr doktor bimler
    October 27, 2014

    Aristotle invented science, but destroyed philosophy.
    — Alfred North Whitehead

    I suspect that Whitehead was praising Aristotle; Sunil Mittal seems to read it differently.

  4. #4 herr doktor bimler
    October 27, 2014

    Who knew that homeopaths and their patients act like subatomic particles?

    Have you already forgotten the saga of Bengston and therapeutic touch for rats, and the quantum entanglement, from two years ago?
    http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2012/06/05/reiki-versus-dogs-just-being-dogs/

  5. #5 doug
    October 27, 2014

    Eau deer. Speaking of philosophy, and the works of L.R. Milgrom:

    at
    http://www.badscience.net/2000/01/journal-club-conspicuous-by-its-absence-the-memory-of-water-macro-entanglement-and-the-possibility-of-homeopathy/

    Acknowledgements

    I thank Bill Scott, Kate Chatfield and Professor Harald Walach for introducing me to the consolations of philosophy.

  6. #6 Krebiozen
    October 27, 2014

    HDB,

    Have you already forgotten the saga of Bengston and therapeutic touch for rats, and the quantum entanglement, from two years ago?

    That hasn’t happened yet in my timeline, thanks to all this goddamned quantum jumping. Those homeopaths had to bring quantum phenomena into the macro world, or was it the therapeutic touch people? Figuring out cause and effect is impossible now non-locality has taken hold and rendered RCTs meaningless. You knew where you were with the old Newtonian universe, now you can’t move for uncollapsed eigenstates.

  7. #7 Krebiozen
    October 27, 2014

    doug,

    Speaking of philosophy, and the works of L.R. Milgrom:

    Good grief. I just love the way some people invent outlandish explanations for imaginary phenomena, whether it’s water memory, macroscopic quantum entanglement or gut dysbiosis. Let’s not waste time figuring out if something works, let’s jump straight to how it works.

  8. #8 Helianthus
    October 28, 2014

    @ squirrelelite

    I especially like the one from Mark Twain

    I was musing on how Mark Twain would react being quoted by purveyors of pseudoscience.
    From his biography, I know he liked scientific/technological progress (if his story about an American at King Arthur’s court is anything to rely upon).
    Hasn’t Mark Twain published a humorous story about his visit to some German woo-users, or is my memory faulting me again?

  9. #9 Helianthus
    October 28, 2014

    OT

    My RI webpage is currently displaying an add in (almost correct) French about “le traitement à la Mer Morte”, “le (sic) merveille de la nature”
    (Dead Sea treatment, Nature’s wonder)

    The add invites me to ask their physician about it. Why couldn’t I ask mine?

  10. #10 Krebiozen
    October 28, 2014

    Helianthus,

    Hasn’t Mark Twain published a humorous story about his visit to some German woo-users, or is my memory faulting me again?

    I believe you are thinking of a very funny piece he wrote about his experience with a Christian Scientist in Austria. He later compiled his essays on the subject into a book.

    “Nothing exists but Mind?”
    “Nothing,” she answered. “All else is substanceless, all else is imaginary.”
    I gave her an imaginary check, and now she is suing me for substantial dollars. It looks inconsistent.

    Plus ca change….

    By the way, I don’t think you mean “faulting”; “deceiving” or “fooling” would be better. I envy your grasp of English as a second language, so I hope you don’t mind me pointing out a very rare slip.

  11. #11 LouV
    October 28, 2014

    Ask and you shall receive (alternatively : “Watch out what you wish for”)
    “The good news is that a small international team of experienced and heroic homeopaths have arrived in West Africa, and are currently on the ground working hard to examine patients, work out the “genus epidemicus,” and initiate clinical trials.”
    http://www.donotlink.com/framed?571422

    I don’t know what to think about that.
    On one hand, you can’t say any longer that homeopaths don’t have the courage to put their theory to the test.
    + at least they are working in cooperation with teams using standard treatment.
    + the teams on site could use more people ; when they aren’t strictly working on homeopathic treatment they can be of some help if only for managing symptoms while they are waiting for it to have an effect (yeah, we could lament that it would be better if they worked full time on non homeopathic affairs, but it’s not nothing either)

    On the other hand, doesn’t looking for a treatment that work for a lot of people contradict the individualisation principle ? (not that I am complaining ; and it seems like there are different opinions among homeopath on that subject)
    + the clinical trials will have to be quite rigorous if you want to prove that the homeopathic part of the treatment made a difference.

  12. #12 Helianthus
    October 28, 2014

    @ Krebiozen

    Thanks for both the compliment and the correction 🙂
    I don’t mind at all.

  13. #13 squirrelelite
    October 28, 2014

    @Helianthus, I agree about Mark Twain.

    I wonder if the Dead Sea Treatment referred to this:
    http://www.algemeiner.com/2014/10/27/second-annual-dead-sea-rave-draws-international-djs/

    If nothing else, it ought to cure you of lassitude!

    Thanks for the link, Krebiozen.

    I haven’t read as much of Mark Twain as I would like, but I downloaded that one.

  14. #14 squirrelelite
    October 28, 2014

    Also on the Ebola front, there is some welcome good news for Amber Vinson.

    http://www.msn.com/en-us/news/us/nurse-who-had-ebola-to-make-statement-on-discharge/ar-BBbGhfF

  15. #15 Shay
    October 28, 2014

    Supportive care for Ebola patients includes lots of hydration — I suppose homeopathy can serve a useful purpose there.

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