Homeopathy Awareness Week


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oneiros
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Cross-posted from my blog to 'raise awareness':

This week, 14th-21st June 2007, is apparently Homeopathy Awareness Week and so what better time to have a little rant about this particularly ridiculous branch of woo^H^H^H Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM).

Homeopathy was invented two hundred years ago by the German physician Samuel Hahnemann (1755-1843) and is based around two basic principles: like cures like and potentisation through dilution, neither of which seem to have any basis in science.

The first of these suggests that you can cure an illness using a tincture created from a substance that produces similar symptoms. So for example, a symptom of the common cold might be streaming, rheumy eyes - peeling onions also makes your eyes run - ergo, onions might be suitable homeopathic alternative to Lemsip. Hahnemann documented about 300 such remedies in his Materia Medica, still the basis of homepathic treatments today.

On the surface this sounds a little like vaccination, a scientific principle that we all happily accept (media-driven autism scares aside) but there are crucial differences. Vaccination builds immunity through the introduction of a reduced amount of a virus known (and proven) to cause illness; homeopathy uses substances that generate similar symptoms, but otherwise have no direct connection (scientific or otherwise) to the malady being treated.

And anyway, Hahnemann’s second principle of making a treatment more effective by diluting it, does away with any ‘active’ ingredient even if it were shown to be beneficial: Homeopathic remedies are generally prepared by taking the prescribed tincture and diluting it one part in a hundred, a specified number of times. Hahnemann himself suggested that a dilution of 30C was appropriate for most treatments; so the original tincture is diluted one part in a hundred, thirty times, ie.:

1:1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000

That’s a pretty weak solution! In fact, chemists would tell you (with reference to Avogadro’s constant) that the chances of even a single molecule of the original tincture being present in the diluted solution are practically zero. Homeopaths would argue that the water has a ‘memory’ of the original substance, but quite how this happens (and why the water should favour the homeopathic tincture rather than all the other substances it has come into contact with throughout its lifetime) remains unexplained.

So to recap: homeopathic remedies are based on using substances that have never been shown to be medically effective, which are then diluted so much that (very literally) none of the so-called ‘active ingredient’ remains.

Of course, maybe none of this would matter if the effectiveness of homeopathic remedies had been proven; the truth is that homeopathy has never been shown to perform any better than a placebo when tested in double-blind, clinical trials. Those that claim otherwise are at best misguided; at worst they’re charlatans and con-artists, fleecing an unknowing public who are desperate to find an alternative treatment to cure their ills.

In fact, all that we can really conclude about homeopathy is that two hundred years ago, doing nothing proved a more effective treatment than bloodletting or sticking leeches up your bum...
#1 at 14:42:04 - 14/06/2007
Roobs
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You'd be impressed to know that they do degrees in Homeopathy at the uni where I work then. ;)

Homeopathy does sound like a load of crap. I know a lot of other alternative medicines could be perceived as being the same, but the basis for the occasional one does make sense. Homeopathy doesn't make any sense at all though.
#2 at 14:56:59 - 14/06/2007
gang_of_bitches
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Homeopathy and pretty much all alternative medicine makes my blood boil. All these happy clappy twats believing they're defeating Global Pharma or whatever by allowing themselves to be conned by these idiots. In a way I think they deserve all they get, but just the idea of all these self righteous snake oil salesmen getting rich on the back of half truths (half is being generous) is just unacceptable.

The fact that people with more money than sense like Prince Charles and various others then petiton for these treatments to be provided on the already overstretched NHS just takes the biscuit.
#3 at 14:58:25 - 14/06/2007
ruttyboy
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I drink at least 2 litres of homeopathic medicine everyday. The company I work for is really forward thinking like that and we have a dispenser called a 'cooler', they even arrange for a company to bring it in big bottles whenever we run low.

I'm not currently ill, therefore it must work and your scepticism is debunked!
#4 at 14:59:56 - 14/06/2007
gang_of_bitches
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Roobs said:You'd be impressed to know that they do degrees in Homeopathy at the uni where I work then. ;)

Homeopathy does sound like a load of crap. I know a lot of other alternative medicines could be perceived as being the same, but the basis for the occasional one does make sense. Homeopathy doesn't make any sense at all though.


Just out of interest, which ones did you have in mind?
#5 at 15:00:46 - 14/06/2007
ruttyboy
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Acupunture is the only one I'm aware of that has a scientific basis.

Oh and Faith Healing of course!
#6 at 15:05:56 - 14/06/2007
JimJam
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I had homeopathic treatment for a couple of years. On my admittedly one-person study, it didn't work and is therefore rubbish.
#7 at 15:07:23 - 14/06/2007
gang_of_bitches
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How come it took so long to come to the conclusion it didn't work?
#8 at 15:11:54 - 14/06/2007
Whizzo
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/casts Cure Light Wounds
#9 at 15:17:32 - 14/06/2007
Roobs
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gang_of_bitches said:
Just out of interest, which ones did you have in mind?


Herbal Medicine springs to mind as one that can work for certain ailments like digestive problems, especially as most pharmaceutical medicines are made of plants anyway, so the theory is the same, just everything is more specific. Also, I've tried Shiatsu Massage which I can recommend for back aches, as it works a bit like osteopathy and gets you stretched about which is good for backaches. Reflexology does something too, though I'm wondering if it actually has any benefits. I've actually tried it and even though it's very relaxing (which is always good for one's health), I felt like utter shit the following day. So even though it didn't do me much good, it definitely did something!

Bearing in mind I'm going by personal experience here. I don't know about the rest of alternative remedies, but some people do swear by them.
#10 at 15:23:09 - 14/06/2007
oneiros
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Whizzo said:/casts Cure Light Wounds

That's pretty much the best four word summary of homeopathy I've seen... :)
#11 at 15:23:52 - 14/06/2007
Retroid
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'Ignorance is bliss' week, surely?
#12 at 15:23:55 - 14/06/2007
terminalterror
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Homeopathy really winds me up, but people trying to get the NHS to provide Homeopathic treatment is utterly absurd.

Complementary and Alternative Medicine is BY DEFINITION useless and no better than a placebo.

Homeopathy will never work, but the moment some herbal remedy for something or other is proven to actually work, it then becomes part of real medicine and is no longer complementary and alternative.


What is it about our modern and cushy lives that make people reject some of our greatest achievements by blowing elements of risk out of all proportion, like modern medicine or mobile phones etc.?

Real drugs have side effects because they actually do something. Homeopathic treatment has no side effects because it doesn't do anything. However, it has the pretty drastic effect that you aren't taking proper medicine, which for people with serious illness (not just colds) causes far more harm than any potential side effect from a pharmacutical company's pill.
#13 at 15:25:33 - 14/06/2007
JimJam
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gang_of_bitches said:How come it took so long to come to the conclusion it didn't work?


That's a good question - in my defence I was about 8, and taking the pills at the behest of my mum, who is a hippy.
#14 at 15:26:24 - 14/06/2007
oneiros
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@Roobs: I think that it's the public's perception that herbalism and homeopathy are one and the same, but as you say, many of our most successful drugs are derived from natural sources and that has absolutely nothing to do with homeopathy.

Hence my original 'raising awareness' post...
#15 at 15:27:37 - 14/06/2007
gang_of_bitches
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JimJam said:
gang_of_bitches said:How come it took so long to come to the conclusion it didn't work?


That's a good question - in my defence I was about 8, and taking the pills at the behest of my mum, who is a hippy.


Good excuse.
#16 at 15:30:21 - 14/06/2007
gang_of_bitches
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oneiros said:@Roobs: I think that it's the public's perception that herbalism and homeopathy are one and the same, but as you say, many of our most successful drugs are derived from natural sources and that has absolutely nothing to do with homeopathy.

Hence my original 'raising awareness' post...


All our most successful drugs are ultimately derived from natural sources that hve been processed and refined. The word "Natural" is used as some kind of magic power that couldn't possibly be harnessed by the evil science people. It doen't necessarily mean "good for you" or even plain "good".
#17 at 15:37:05 - 14/06/2007
Roobs
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oneiros said:@Roobs: I think that it's the public's perception that herbalism and homeopathy are one and the same, but as you say, many of our most successful drugs are derived from natural sources and that has absolutely nothing to do with homeopathy.

Hence my original 'raising awareness' post...


Ah, I see what you mean. ;)
#18 at 15:37:50 - 14/06/2007
Retroid
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terminalterror said:
but the moment some herbal remedy for something or other is proven to actually work, it then becomes part of real medicine and is no longer complementary and alternative.

Why is this point so difficult for people to understand?

It's like they think there's a big conspiracy by doctors to keep the market to themselves.

/Tangent

Idiotic... and horribly close to what the Scientologists preach about psychiatrists.

Tangent/
#19 at 16:15:10 - 14/06/2007
Salaman
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I'm a herbalist!

/smokes herb
#20 at 16:19:39 - 14/06/2007

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