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Homeopathy June 15, 2008

Posted by gordonwatts in life.

You guys heard of Homeopathy? The idea, basically, is to give a sick person something that will cause the same symptoms. I pulled the below quote from wikipedia:

According to homeopaths, serial dilution, with shaking between each dilution, removes the toxic effects of the remedy while the qualities of the substance are retained by the diluent (water, sugar, or alcohol). The end product is often so diluted that it is indistinguishable from pure water, sugar or alcohol.

Now, when I hear about this this is what I think. Ok, you dilute something so much that you can’t distinguish it from water. Fine, then it is water. So what possible effect could it have on the body? What possible reaction could the body have to it? In science, to have an effect, you need a cause, right?

So, to me homeopathy just looks harmless and ineffectual. I could not find a study in a peer-review journal that supported it (but I really don’t know my way around medical journals, just search engines…).

Basically, I don’t care. So why write about it? Well, Julia, our daughter, was having some Input/Output problems and we took her to the local French doctor just in case. “Normal” he said. Prescribed some western medicine to help. And some homeopathic medicine. Being a medical doctor means you are a scientist. You can’t be otherwise in the modern world. And yet… he wrote the prescription. What the heck?



1. Joerg - June 16, 2008

You should look at the archives of http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/
It’s a really excellent blog that has also often covered homeopathy, and also extensively discussed medical trials of evidence-based medicine.
Yes, to put it short, of course it’s only water and the placebo effect 🙂

2. The Girl Detective - June 16, 2008

My father encouraged me to try homeopathic medicine for stomach problems once. The result? The stomach problems became twice as bad. Amazing.

3. A b-tagger going to bed - June 16, 2008

I don’t think medicine can/should be reduced to science. At least not until we achieve a full knowledge of biology (which arguably will never happen). It’s more an art of healing (when successful !) relying nowodays on various branches of science. If you were willing to take only medicine whose effects are 100% understood I think you’d be dead already. It’s amazing to see how little is known about the action of a drug like aspirin.

Regarding homeopathy and medical trials, there is a long-standing controversy about the protocol to follow for the tests. In a typical trial one would give the same drug to say 100 patients with the same disease, and count how many of them are cured. However the homeopathy proponents argue that such a protocol defeats the purpose of their science/art: the patients may exhibit the same symptoms for different reasons (which is not obviously crazy actually), and therefore they want to examine each patient individually and be allowed to give different kind of medicine/water/sugar to each of them. Difficult to reconcile the two approaches…

I can elaborate at the cafetaria tomorrow 🙂

4. perry Rice - June 17, 2008

Saw a talk by James Randi. He asked if we’d heard of the homeopathic patient who didn’t take their medicine, and OD’d…….

Some folks claim to make water potent (in the homeopathic sense) if the glass its in touchs a glass with “ordinary” water, this moved to holding your water up to the phone, or lately, hold it up to your monitor……

PT Barnum was right.

The protocol argument may work BUT then I’d say its up to the homeopathic community to DEMONSTRATE THAT IT WORKS BETTER THAN A PLACEBO. When they do, then I’ll listen.

5. Anon - June 17, 2008

Sue him!!!!
Oh wait, you’re not in the U.S….

6. Melissa Burch - June 27, 2008

There is amazing work being done now in the scientific world which can begin to explain the plausibility of homeopathy. Check out the work Dr. Rustum Roy, an eminent material scientist at http://nationalcenterforhomeopathy.org/didyouknow=32

and I really love what Dr. James Oschman said something like I can’t believe people have problems with homeopathy when they use a remote key to unlock a car or a remote to change the channel which is information traveling at a sub-molecular level–and the human body must be far more complex than a car!

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