I know, I know, I was supposed to tackle Alternative Medicine in one go, and leave it at that, but I just can´t help myself from attacking the practice of Homeopathy, because it is probably the largest and, if you ask me, the most pathetic of them all. So I thought it deserved, on those credentials, to have a blog dedicated to itself.
So, what is Homeopathy?
Well, it is a system of dosing up on a dilute solution of.... WATER! Yup, you read it correctly, WATER. H2O. Its central tenet, founded in the late 18th century (before science discovered that germs and bacterias cause diseases!) by Samuel Hahneman, is the notion of "Like cures like". What this basically means is that what causes a certain symptom can cure those symptoms. For example, dilute poison ivy can cure skin rash, because undiluted it causes that rash. You might now start to think that I´m caricaturing, oversimplifying or ridiculing, but I assure you that these all are the actual principles of homeopathy! But wait, it gets more bizarre!
According to homeopathy, the more you dilute an active ingredient in water, the stronger it becomes. If you pick up a homeopathic remedy, you´re likely to see "30C" on the bottle. This means one part medicine to a hundred to the power of thirty parts water. Let me write it again, so there are no misunderstandings:
ONE PART MEDICINE TO A HUNDRED TO THE POWER OF THIRTY PARTS WATER.
To give you, my dear reader, an imaginable idea of how much this is, I will put it like this:
In order to get one molecule of the active substance, you need to imbibe ALL THE ATOMS IN THE SOLAR SYSTEM!!! Imagine one grain of sand in the Sahara desert, divide it by a billion, and you´re starting to get an idea of what we´re talking about.
Maybe this is why homeopaths themselves acknowledge that there isn´t a single molecule of the active substance in the bottle they sell. So, when you think you´re buying a remedy that contains diluted molecules of, say, onion (for streaming eyes), ask the homeopath if the substance actually has a single molecule of onion in it. If they are honest, they will say that it does not.
But homeopaths aren´t too concerned about this. Because they claim that the remedies work because (and this is absolutely true!) water is supposed to have a memory! So, when you initially start diluting the water with the substance, you´re supposedly changing the structure of the water, and when you´re taking remedies, this "new form of water" (should I pause for you to stop laughing?) provokes your immune system to battle against whatever it is you´re struggling with...
Interestingly enough, there has never, EVER, been a scientific test that shows that water has any such abilities. But let us say it has. Wouldn´t then the water we drink in our daily life be subject to the same procedure? The water we drink every day has been in contact with urine, excrement, poison, blood, billions of different viruses and bacteria. Why aren´t we dropping down dead or, better still, why haven´t we evolved an uncrackable immune system??? Homeopaths claim that the reason why their water works this way is because it is distilled, and almost pure. Well, first of all, you can never get 100% pure water, even if you kept distilling it for twenty years. But that doesn´t make any difference, because the water we drink today has, at one point or another, been very pure.
Homeopathy is not regulated by the government. What this means is that ANYONE can call themselves a homeopath, without any form of education, degree or even insurance, and start prescribing these remedies. One might ask: "Well, what´s the harm? They´re only dashing out water anyway!". Well, the harm of this is that people who might need REAL, SCIENTIFIC medicine will turn to uneducated, self-proclaimed "doctors" and think they are being helped, while their condition worsens, and in the worst possible scenario lead to death. There have been many instances where people who were in need of proper medicine and a proper doctor, turned to a homeopathic charlatan, which resulted in their demise. Simon Singh, the great scientific writer, conducted an experiment where his subjects visited thirty homeopathic shops and asked for a protection for malaria, because they were going to be in a heavily infested area on holiday. EVERY SINGLE ONE of those shops offered a remedy for the protection of malaria.... This is not harmless, this is dangerous, wicked and cruel.
My movement teacher and I had a debate about homeopathy once. She, being a fierce supporter, said something that I never picked up on at the time, but that has stuck with me ever since. She said that when she or any member of her family feels ill, she doesn´t need to visit a doctor anymore, she just goes to her homeopathic book, looks up the symptoms, and finds the cure for it... Think about this for a while... How extremely disrespectful (although unintentionally) this is to our doctors. Doctors, who study day and night for a minimum of 5 years, in what is one of the hardest academical branches there is, and then carry on studying in the hospitals where they work, people who have dedicated their lives to help others, who have sacrificed blood, sweat and tears to deserve one of the most prestigious titles in society today... My movement teacher claims to be on par with these people, because she has a book... One book... She doesn´t need these people anymore... Yet, I was the one being called arrogant after the debate...
This is the other problem with homeopathy. It makes people who are uneducated in the field of medicine believe they can be hobby doctors. People with no understanding of the vertebrate immune system, of the causation of different conditions, of the biology of our organs, the evolution of our specie and how that relates to medicine, think that they can study homeopathy and provide answers...
Homeopathy does not work. You, my dear reader, have surely met at least one, probably many, who swear by homeopathy and its effects, or you might be one yourself. Let me ask you one question: If I was the person who decided on whether or not homeopathy is to be introduced in every single NHS clinic in Britain, would you want me to rely on your and everyone else´s anecdotes, or would you want me to test the claims of homeopathy by using the scientific method? I hope your answer is the second option. Well, it has been tested.
In 2005, the medical journal THE LANCET surveyed all the meta-analysis (basically the analysis of the analysis) and failed to find "reliable effect of homeopathy". I will end this post with a summary of their findings, but before I do so, I have to recommend some videos for you to watch! So here they are my friends:
"The homeopathic test":
http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=Ozfio_e1Xj0 (part 1)
http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=bMDV-4KGWi8&feature=related (part 2)
http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=5SMegB9-QUk&feature=related (part 3)
http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=bxnaSNkKOvo&feature=related (part 4)
http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=QPOK3f1OoBg&feature=related (part 5)
This one is quite horrendous:
This is very funny:
And here´s the summary from the LANCET test:
The Lancet, Volume 366, Issue 9487, Pages 726 - 732, 27 August 2005
Are the clinical effects of homoeopathy placebo effects? Comparative study of placebo-controlled trials of homoeopathy and allopathy
Aijing Shang MD a, Karin Huwiler-Müntener MD a, Linda Nartey MD a, Peter Jüni MD a b, Stephan Dörig a c, Jonathan AC Sterne PhD b, Daniel Pewsner MD a d, Prof Matthias Egger MD a b
Homoeopathy is widely used, but specific effects of homoeopathic remedies seem implausible. Bias in the conduct and reporting of trials is a possible explanation for positive findings of trials of both homoeopathy and conventional medicine. We analysed trials of homoeopathy and conventional medicine and estimated treatment effects in trials least likely to be affected by bias.
Placebo-controlled trials of homoeopathy were identified by a comprehensive literature search, which covered 19 electronic databases, reference lists of relevant papers, and contacts with experts. Trials in conventional medicine matched to homoeopathy trials for disorder and type of outcome were randomly selected from the Cochrane Controlled Trials Register (issue 1, 2003). Data were extracted in duplicate and outcomes coded so that odds ratios below 1 indicated benefit. Trials described as double-blind, with adequate randomisation, were assumed to be of higher methodological quality. Bias effects were examined in funnel plots and meta-regression models.
110 homoeopathy trials and 110 matched conventional-medicine trials were analysed. The median study size was 65 participants (range ten to 1573). 21 homoeopathy trials (19%) and nine (8%) conventional-medicine trials were of higher quality. In both groups, smaller trials and those of lower quality showed more beneficial treatment effects than larger and higher-quality trials. When the analysis was restricted to large trials of higher quality, the odds ratio was 0·88 (95% CI 0·65—1·19) for homoeopathy (eight trials) and 0·58 (0·39—0·85) for conventional medicine (six trials).
Biases are present in placebo-controlled trials of both homoeopathy and conventional medicine. When account was taken for these biases in the analysis, there was weak evidence for a specific effect of homoeopathic remedies, but strong evidence for specific effects of conventional interventions. This finding is compatible with the notion that the clinical effects of homoeopathy are placebo effects.
All the best!