Alternative medicine is rampant in America and Homeopathy is one of the most used, but it also remains relatively inconspicuous about its methods. This is somewhat depressing as many numbers of people trust their health to this theory, and it remains unquestioned. Most people would demand an explanation of how a surgery, for example, would save their life or health, but I suppose those are the people who don’t use Homeopathy. In the following paragraphs I will overview the history and theory of Homeopathy.
The history of homeopathy is very simple, it started with the creator Samuel Hahnemann (hah-na-men) who was a doctor dissatisfied with the medical field of the day, which was understandable as the medical field of the time did more harm than good. It is also understandable that he would become upset at the practices and want to develop an alternative; however the result is so ridiculous and silly that it boggles the mind as to how anybody buys into this. The homeopathic philosophy (I call it such because it is not a medical practice) comes from one anecdote (story), a giant no-no in science, this was when Hahnemann took a small amount of the cinchona bark ,which contains quinine a common treatment for malaria, and he developed the symptoms of malaria. This established the first law of homeopathy: like cures like. This law is the basic premise of homeopathy and this has never been scientifically proven. There are a total of two homeopathic laws that I know of, I’ll cover those later. After its conception homeopathy rose in popularity mainly in the 19th century and then went into a decline here in the US. In the UK the royal families were great supporters of it so it was able to retain its popularity. There has recently been resurgence in the UK which is slowly spreading to the US.
The Homeopathic theory is based on the holistic approach which basically means that every patient is unique and needs a specific remedy for them. Now while this sounds very nice it is not how the doctors of today treat illness, they diagnose your illness by reviewing your symptoms and conclude from that and your medical history what treatment you should receive (at least that’s what I got from watching House) Besides the holistic approach there are two homeopathic laws I have already covered the first law, like cures like, the second law is the law of infinitesimal doses, which is that the “active ingredient” should be diluted in either alcohol or water. This really doesn’t sound that silly, I mean why would that matter at all when it’s all said and done? Really it wouldn’t matter that much except that they dilute to such a degree that it becomes ineffective and they do so in the following steps: take 1 cc (cubic centimeter) of the active ingredient, dilute in 9 cc’s of water. Shake across all axis’s, this means shaking up, down, side to side, and every other way you can think of, ten times. Fourth, repeat 29 more times on average. Now to see just how stupid this is lets take a look a fairly basic chemistry principle, the molecule, most will now this but just to be sure I will explain. A molecule is a grouping of at least two atoms that is electrically neutral and is stable through strong chemical bonds. Basically it means it is a bunch of atoms that make the substance have its properties. YOU CAN NOT DILUTE A MOLUCULE, IT CANNOT HAPPEN. The only way you can take a molecule down to a more basic level is to make it into a single atom at which point it is no longer the same substance, for instance if you take water (H2O) and try to break it into a more basic substance all you would end up with is 3 atoms, 2 hydrogen and 1 oxygen. When you try to do what homeopathy suggest you would, by some point, just be moving the molecules into separate containers. Now homeopathic remedies in your local pharmacy are usually sold between 6X and 30X solutions. I came across a website that actually did the math and found that in a 30X solution to find a single molecule of the actual ingredient you would need a container 30,000,000,000 times the size of the Earth. I am not making this up go here to check for yourself. There actually a 120X solution, now I don’t know how big of a container you would need but I have heard that it would be bigger than the known universe. Now most homeopathic practitioners probably know this and so they made a loophole, they say that the water retains the “memory” of the substance. If this rational holds true than all homeopathic remedies would have a memory of the ocean which probably has a diluted form of toxic waste, human waste, oil, and countless other toxins. It probably has about the same dilution so why don’t these ‘ingredients’ have an effect? Here we have two choices: it doesn’t because homeopathic practitioners say so or because Homeopathy doesn’t work. You decide.
I would go into the clinical trails of homeopathy and their conclusions but this would be needlessly tedious because I can cover it in these few statements: any placebo controlled double-blinded studies are conclusively negative. The few times it shows any positive results are when it is a poor study or when it is published in an alternative medicine journal.
Homeopathy is a hallmark of the SCAM’s (supplementary complementary and alternative medicine) (I love that acronym by the way) it takes people away from proven medical treatments and makes them afraid of the pharmaceutical companies and the medical community in general. It enables people to shut off their brains and never think critically about the treatment, they say there are no side effects, they never admit they could be wrong and that is one of the least skeptical things you can do.
For two much better written blogs by two experienced skeptics would be: Neurologica by Dr. Steven Novella of the New England Skeptical Society and host of the podcast The Skeptics Guide to the Universe. The Second would be The Memoirs of a Skepchick by Rebecca Watson, The Skepchick and panelist on the Skeptics Guide. Two fantastic skeptical podcast are the aforementioned Skeptics Guide and Quackcast a review of fraudulent medicine. Another humorous podcast is about critical thinking, LogicallyCritical.