Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Homeopathy - The Memory of ......now what was it?

My good friend Richard over at Falling Through an Endless Summer Sky sent me this yesterday. The link is to the original article.

Homeopathic medicine is nature’s tonic.
By Fiona Phillips 27/02/2010

Once again a “lack of scientific evidence” has been used to argue that something a lot of people believe in doesn’t work. This time, it’s homeopathic medicine.

The scientific evidence is that thousands of people use homeopathy because it works. I’ve used belladonna when my children have high temperatures and it’s always effective.

Whether it’s a placebo or not, who cares? I think it’s better than stuffing some pricey chemical concoction down their necks and hoping for the best. Like thousands of others I buy homeopathic medicines instead of going to my GP for a prescription for a proprietary brand loaded with scientific evidence and side-effects.

It saves the NHS a fortune. The more people who do that, the lower the drug companies’ profits are. And that’s why homeopathy has been deemed not to work.

Normally I wouldn’t comment on some drivel from the intellectually challenged who write in the Mirror newspaper, but as I have little else to do just now except demolish facile arguments even a five year-old could tackle, I thought I’d analyse what this air-headed yummy-mummy-who-lunches has to say:

  1. The fact that hundreds of years ago the vast majority of people believed the world to be flat is not scientific evidence that it is or ever was flat. The fact that millions of people read their horoscopes on a daily basis – and believe them - does not make astrology a science. I suggest Ms Phillips gets herself a dictionary in order to look up the words scientific and scientific method and then places a bet on the 4:30 at Kempton Park.
  2. The scientific fact is that homeopathy has been proven not to work in clinical trials because it simply doesn’t work beyond the placebo effect. No-one can prove otherwise, despite the claims. If it does work, then where are the peer-reviewed papers and the clinical trials data? The only evidence is anecdotal, and we all know anecdote is worth shit as people embroider the ‘evidence’ to the extent it becomes a veritable Bayeux Tapestry of Chinese whispers. No-one is going to admit to having been stupid enough to be duped and that it didn’t actually work.
  3. A derivative of belladonna, donnatal, is a prescription pharmaceutical, approved in the United States by the FDA, which combines natural belladonna alkaloids in a specific, fixed ratio with phenobarbital to provide peripheral anticholinergic/antispasmodic action and mild sedation. As a dilution to 30C (homeopath-speak for having no belladonna in it whatsoever) has no proven efficacy for anything, except quenching your thirst and slimming – and even then it’s only effective for the latter on your wallet or purse.
  4. If she’s using a preparation of belladonna, either she believes it has an active ingredient, or she doesn’t’. If the former, then why is she administering deadly poisons to her kids without a psychiatrist in attendance; if the latter, then why is she doing it at all? Either way, she’s either criminally insane and should be in jail, or a fool.
  5. People do not generally stuff pricey chemical concoctions down their throats and ‘hope for the best’; if they have a reasonable level of intelligence they can be certain in the knowledge that, unless there’s a serious underlying problem or the problem has been misdiagnosed in the first place, the remedy will in fact work in the vast majority of cases - there is at least 15 years’ worth of clinical trials and post-prescription event monitoring backing the facts (the latter having been introduced as a direct result of the thalidomide disaster). They are tried and tested and proven - they are not allowed on the market unless that is the case (unless they are homeopathic of course).
  6. Yes, homeopathy does save the NHS a fortune; unfortunately a lot of money is quite inexplicably spent on homeopathic preparations by the NHS – this is what has to stop. There’s nothing preventing ill-informed, stupid and dull people buying homeopathic preparations, if that’s their choice, but public money should not be wasted on ineffective remedies. You might just as well offer horoscopes on the NHS.
  7. Ms Phillips should not confuse homeopathy with herbalism. Herbs do work and a lot of pharmacological preparations – such as asprin - are synthesised herbal remedies – synthesised solely because it’s cheaper to make them that way in bulk. Herbal remedies work because they actually contain an active ingredient – unlike homeopathic remedies, which are pure water. If Ms Phillips wants to spend several days pounding willow bark with a mortar and pestle to produce an analgesic, then that’s her prerogative, but you won’t find me doing it – I’ll pay a few pennies for an asprin.
  8. You should never really start a sentence with the conjunction ‘and’, especially if you allegedly have an MA in English – it’s intensely irritating. A conjunction’s whole purpose is to join two parts of a sentence. But don’t necessarily believe my word for it. OK, I’m being intensely annoying now.


  1. This is a most excellent refutation - HURRAH!

    I love the linking Homoeopathy with Flat Earth and Astrology.

    Richard x x x

  2. I am very sadly nodding in agreement to a number of your points.

    What makes it worse is that some of these "practitioners", who can be very persuasive and compelling, appear to have no scruples in persuading vulnerable people to give up their "traditional" medicines i.e. prescribed, clinically effective treatments, and instead turn to "natural" homeopathic cures.

    It makes me mad!


  3. Ignorance and desperation meets pseudo-science and greed, an age old combination.

  4. Excellent reading this morning Chairman, but I'm now in a bit of a panic. I'm trying to get my head around the fact that the earth isn't flat. Surely if it's round, as people claim, then everything would roll away?

  5. It's interesting how skeptics always use the scientific / clinical trial approach when arguing against homeopathy; and now you've compared it to the idea that 400 years ago, we thought the earth was flat; but it never occurs to you that maybe science doesn't no everything about the properties of the universe or matter - for that matter - and that maybe clinical trials are limited by what science understands now?

    Perhaps you could explain to me then why water, when frozen at different altitudes exhibits unique crystal structures - then when thawed and re-frozen at much lower or higher altitudes, it maintains the same original crystal structure? Perhaps you could explain why the ultra-violet spectrum water exhibits microscopically is unique based on the homeopathic substance present in the dilution?

    The truth is, there are very good reasons why homeopathy doesn't work in clinical trials. The main one is that clinical trials don't work in homeopathy!

    The fact is, homeopathy requires individualized diagnosis and treatment - it's not a one size fits all method. Equally important, it requires a completely different definition of the term "works". What works? How does it work? What to expect?

    You're free to go on filling your body with chemicals and believing everything the pharmaceuticals are feeding you... keep drinking the cool-aid. Ultimately, what I'm suggesting is that you are the one with your head buried in the sand. You are the one ignorant of the facts.

  6. I was bemused.

    I am not a defender of Fiona Phillips; I don't even know who she is.

    Chairman, your 'defence' of the Pharmaceutical Industry is troubling. Not least of all as I consider them to be the western equivalent of the mindless terrorists who go around blowing themselves up along with other innocents. Except that the 'Pharmas' know precisely what they are doing, driven only by greed and their shareholders!

    By the way, have you managed to find a homoeopathic equivalent for thalidomide? Something that affected 10,000 to 20,000 infants (the jury is still out), worldwide?

    And I've never really had a problem starting sentences, even paragraphs, with a conjunction. Nor do I baulk at sprinkling apostrophes where they ought not to be ...

  7. Richard: Thanks for the link in the first place.

    Anon: If it works as a placebo, then fine. But I don't have truck with people who invent a 'scientific' cause with no evidence when no-one knows about the placebo effect.

    Steve: I quite agree.

    Spiv: Well I could be wrong. Some believe it was created 6,000 years ago.

    Anon: I shall give your post pride of place tomorrow.

    Fletch: that's why post prescription event monitoring was introduced. It didn't exist before thalidomide - as I noted in the blog.

    Fletch: I'm not a defender of Big Pharma, but a traducer of magic. Big Pharma have a lot to answer for, but homeopaths have as much to answer for.