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We are a worldwide social network of freethinkers, atheists, agnostics and secular humanists.

Probably preaching to the convert, but no site or group that deals with nonsense or bunk can avoid having a discussion on homeopathy. I thought I'd start by posting a great article explaining why homeopathy is nonsense, from the great Dr. Stephen Barret at quackwatch.com

 

Homeopathy: The Ultimate Fake

Stephen Barrett, M.D.

Homeopathic "remedies" enjoy a unique status in the health marketplace: They are the only category of quack products legally marketable as drugs. This situation is the result of two circumstances. First, the 1938 Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, which was shepherded through Congress by a homeopathic physician who was a senator, recognizes as drugs all substances included in the Homeopathic Pharmacopeia of the United States. Second, the FDA has not held homeopathic products to the same standards as other drugs. Today they are marketed in health-food stores, in pharmacies, in practitioner offices, by multilevel distributors, through the mail, and on the Internet.

Basic Misbeliefs

Samuel Hahnemann (1755-1843), a German physician, began formulating homeopathy's basic principles in the late 1700s. Hahnemann was justifiably distressed about bloodletting, leeching, purging, and other medical procedures of his day that did far more harm than good. Thinking that these treatments were intended to "balance the body's 'humors' by opposite effects," he developed his "law of similars"—a notion that symptoms of disease can be cured by extremely small amounts of substances that produce similar symptoms in healthy people when administered in large amounts. The word "homeopathy" is derived from the Greek words homoios (similar) and pathos (suffering or disease).

Hahnemann and his early followers conducted "provings" in which they administered herbs, minerals, and other substances to healthy people, including themselves, and kept detailed records of what they observed. Later these records were compiled into lengthy reference books called materia medica, which are used to match a patient's symptoms with a "corresponding" drug.

Hahnemann declared that diseases represent a disturbance in the body's ability to heal itself and that only a small stimulus is needed to begin the healing process. He also claimed that chronic diseases were manifestations of a suppressed itch (psora), a kind of miasma or evil spirit. At first he used small doses of accepted medications. But later he used enormous dilutions and theorized that the smaller the dose, the more powerful the effect—a notion commonly referred to as the "law of infinitesimals." That, of course, is just the opposite of the dose-response relationship that pharmacologists have demonstrated.

The basis for inclusion in the Homeopathic Pharmacopeia is not modern scientific testing, but homeopathic "provings" conducted during the 1800s and early 1900s. The current (ninth) edition describes how more than a thousand substances are prepared for homeopathic use. It does not identify the symptoms or diseases for which homeopathic products should be used; that is decided by the practitioner (or manufacturer). The fact that substances listed in the Homeopathic Pharmacopeia are legally recognized as "drugs" does not mean that either the law or the FDA recognizes them as effective.

Because homeopathic remedies were actually less dangerous than those of nineteenth-century medical orthodoxy, many medical practitioners began using them. At the turn of the twentieth century, homeopathy had about 14,000 practitioners and 22 schools in the United States. But as medical science and medical education advanced, homeopathy declined sharply in America, where its schools either closed or converted to modern methods. The last pure homeopathic school in this country closed during the 1920s [1].

Many homeopaths maintain that certain people have a special affinity to a particular remedy (their "constitutional remedy") and will respond to it for a variety of ailments. Such remedies can be prescribed according to the person's "constitutional type"—named after the corresponding remedy in a manner resembling astrologic typing. The "Ignatia Type," for example, is said to be nervous and often tearful, and to dislike tobacco smoke. The typical "Pulsatilla" is a young woman, with blond or light-brown hair, blue eyes, and a delicate complexion, who is gentle, fearful, romantic, emotional, and friendly but shy. The "Nux Vomica Type" is said to be aggressive, bellicose, ambitious, and hyperactive. The "Sulfur Type" likes to be independent. And so on. Does this sound to you like a rational basis for diagnosis and treatment?

At Best, the "Remedies" Are Placebos

Homeopathic products are made from minerals, botanical substances, and several other sources. If the original substance is soluble, one part is diluted with either nine or ninety-nine parts of distilled water and/or alcohol and shaken vigorously (succussed); if insoluble, it is finely ground and pulverized in similar proportions with powdered lactose (milk sugar). One part of the diluted medicine is then further diluted, and the process is repeated until the desired concentration is reached. Dilutions of 1 to 10 are designated by the Roman numeral X (1X = 1/10, 3X = 1/1,000, 6X = 1/1,000,000). Similarly, dilutions of 1 to 100 are designated by the Roman numeral C (1C = 1/100, 3C = 1/1,000,000, and so on). Most remedies today range from 6X to 30X, but products of 30C or more are marketed.

A 30X dilution means that the original substance has been diluted 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 times. Assuming that a cubic centimeter of water contains 15 drops, this number is greater than the number of drops of water that would fill a container more than 50 times the size of the Earth. Imagine placing a drop of red dye into such a container so that it disperses evenly. Homeopathy's "law of infinitesimals" is the equivalent of saying that any drop of water subsequently removed from that container will possess an essence of redness. Robert L. Park, Ph.D., a prominent physicist who is executive director of The American Physical Society, has noted that since the least amount of a substance in a solution is one molecule, a 30C solution would have to have at least one molecule of the original substance dissolved in a minimum of 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 molecules of water. This would require a container more than 30,000,000,000 times the size of the Earth.

Oscillococcinum, a 200C product "for the relief of colds and flu-like symptoms," involves "dilutions" that are even more far-fetched. Its "active ingredient" is prepared by incubating small amounts of a freshly killed duck's liver and heart for 40 days. The resultant solution is then filtered, freeze-dried, rehydrated, repeatedly diluted, and impregnated into sugar granules. If a single molecule of the duck's heart or liver were to survive the dilution, its concentration would be 1 in 100200. This huge number, which has 400 zeroes, is vastly greater than the estimated number of molecules in the universe (about one googol, which is a 1 followed by 100 zeroes). In its February 17, 1997, issue, U.S. News & World Report noted that only one duck per year is needed to manufacture the product, which had total sales of $20 million in 1996. The magazine dubbed that unlucky bird "the $20-million duck."

Actually, the laws of chemistry state that there is a limit to the dilution that can be made without losing the original substance altogether. This limit, which is related to Avogadro's number, corresponds to homeopathic potencies of 12C or 24X (1 part in 1024). Hahnemann himself realized that there is virtually no chance that even one molecule of original substance would remain after extreme dilutions. But he believed that the vigorous shaking or pulverizing with each step of dilution leaves behind a "spirit-like" essence—"no longer perceptible to the senses"—which cures by reviving the body's "vital force." Modern proponents assert that even when the last molecule is gone, a "memory" of the substance is retained. This notion is unsubstantiated. Moreover, if it were true, every substance encountered by a molecule of water might imprint an "essence" that could exert powerful (and unpredictable) medicinal effects when ingested by a person.

Many proponents claim that homeopathic products resemble vaccines because both provide a small stimulus that triggers an immune response. This comparison is not valid. The amounts of active ingredients in vaccines are much greater and can be measured. Moreover, immunizations produce antibodies whose concentration in the blood can be measured, but high-dilution homeopathic products produce no measurable response. In addition, vaccines are used preventively, not for curing symptoms.

Stan Polanski, a physician assistant working in public health near Asheville, North Carolina, has provided additional insights:

  • Imagine how many compounds must be present, in quantities of a molecule or more, in every dose of a homeopathic drug. Even under the most scrupulously clean conditions, airborne dust in the manufacturing facility must carry thousands of different molecules of biological origin derived from local sources (bacteria, viruses, fungi, respiratory droplets, sloughed skin cells, insect feces) as well as distant ones (pollens, soil particles, products of combustion), along with mineral particles of terrestrial and even extraterrestrial origin (meteor dust). Similarly, the "inert" diluents used in the process must have their own library of microcontaminants.

  • The dilution/potentiation process in homeopathy involves a stepwise dilution carried to fantastic extremes, with "succussion" between each dilution. Succussion involves shaking or rapping the container a certain way. During the step-by-step dilution process, how is the emerging drug preparation supposed to know which of the countless substances in the container is the One that means business? How is it that thousands (millions?) of chemical compounds know that they are required to lay low, to just stand around while the Potent One is anointed to the status of Healer? That this scenario could lead to distinct products uniquely suited to treat particular illnesses is beyond implausible.

  • Thus, until homeopathy's apologists can supply a plausible (nonmagical) mechanism for the "potentiation"-through-dilution of precisely one of the many substances in each of their products, it is impossible to accept that they have correctly identified the active ingredients in their products. Any study claiming to demonstrate effectiveness of a homeopathic medication should be rejected out-of-hand unless it includes a list of all the substances present in concentrations equal to or greater than the purported active ingredient at every stage of the dilution process, along with a rationale for rejecting each of them as a suspect.
  • The process of "proving" through which homeopaths decided which medicine matches which symptom is no more sensible. Provings involved taking various substances recording every twitch, sneeze, ache or itch that occurred afterward—often for several days. Homeopathy's followers take for granted that every sensation reported was caused by whatever substance was administered, and that extremely dilute doses of that substance would then be just the right thing to treat anyone with those specific symptoms.

Dr. Park has noted that to expect to get even one molecule of the "medicinal" substance allegedly present in 30X pills, it would be necessary to take some two billion of them, which would total about a thousand tons of lactose plus whatever impurities the lactose contained.

 

Read the rest here.

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And in case you guys are wondering why so many people believe in homeopathy, here is a very interesting blog post from Ad Hominin, proposing that homeopathy, like other superstitious believes, combine ontological beliefs with category violations, for example, that ghosts (disembodied souls) can cry, etc. The belief that water has "memory" falls in the same category violation type of belief.

 

Why people believe in homeopathy

 

Excerpt:

 

It is tempting to criticise such beliefs on the grounds that the people who hold them are somehow lacking basic cognitive skills. In fact, people who believe in all kinds of strange things are often very rational in other aspects of their life. I would instead argue that the faulty thinking that many engage in is a byproduct of our mind works. The human brain evolved not only to explain the world around us; it evolved to deal with an innumerable amount of tasks. Cultural transmission does not occur by downloading information, as was once believed, but rather is based on an inferential system. We classify things in our environment into ontological categories. Most things we encounter in our environment fall into one of the following groups: person, animal, natural object, tool and plant. Each ontological category has a set of characteristics that define it and set it apart from other categories. We make certain inferences about objects based on which ontological category it belongs to. For instance, we are not surprised when a dog walks down the street but would find it strange if we saw an oak tree doing so. Locomotion is part of our mental template for people and animals but not plants. We find certain counter-intuitive notions more memorable than blander ones, a prerequisite for a successful meme. Superstitious beliefs often combine ontological beliefs with a category violation. For instance, disembodied souls and inanimate statues that can cry, hear or bleed represent category violations for a person and a natural object respectively. However, not all superstitious beliefs are equally believable. While the belief in ghosts is widespread, the belief that ghosts cannot think and have desires is virtually non-existent. Violations must allow for further inferences, otherwise they result in cognitive dead ends. Although few of my readers literally believe in superheroes and zombies, that does not stop us from making inferences about what their needs, wants and limits would be if they did exist.

The idea that water has memory is a categorical violation. Memories are characteristic of a person or animal but not a natural object. Crucially, the belief that water has memory does not block further cognitive inferences. Conversely, we would find it much more difficult to believe that water remembers the substances that other water had been in contact with. This type of belief is rare since it prevents us from making further inferences. We have experience with the concept of remembering things that we have been in contact with but don't have experience of what it is like to remember things other people have been in contact with. People I met when I was younger — people who I have not seen for many years – still have an influence on me now. Likewise, it is not such a large cognitive leap to believe that substances that came into contact with water still have an influence over it.

 

Read the entire post here.

Thanks. That's a great image. Being a non-believer, I'm gonna pass reading this for now, but this does look like a great article to crosspost on sites where people need to hear it!

From Skepticblog, another homeopathy remedy that is very popular right now:

 Longish, but worth the read. Unbelievable (shakes head).

Oscillococcinum

 

by Brian Dunning, Mar 03 2011

There is probably very little in this post new to those who are familiar with homeopathy, but in the hope that its Googlehood might bring it into the hands of current or potential customers, it is presented forthwith.

Oscillococcinum, also known by its shortened and more familiar name Oscillo, is a homeopathic cold remedy. Its maker, Boiron USA, has been advertising it on TV pretty aggressively lately, and it keeps popping up in daily life, so I felt it was worth a skeptical treatment. 

According to their website, Oscillo is a 200C dilution of “Anas barbariae hepatis et cordis extractum”, duck liver and heart. If that sounds gross, don’t fret: A 200C dilution means that the water with which the pills were infused contained only one molecule of duck per 100200 molecules of water. Considering that there are only about 10040 atoms in the entire universe, it’s clear that the Oscillo dilution is pure water (chemical purity is considered to be 1 part per 6 × 1023) with no duck molecules whatsoever; in fact it’s many trillions and trillions  and googols (10100) of times purer than pure water.

Nevertheless, Boiron calls this a “therapeutically active micro-dose“. It’s not. It is a non-dose. Boiron is being consciously deceptive, either when they call it a micro-dose of anything, or when they label it 200C meaning that it contains no active ingredients. The two are mutually exclusive. It can’t be both a micro-dose and a non-dose.

Like most homeopathic products on the market, Oscillo’s “inactive ingredients” (in fact its only ingredients) are sucrose (85%) and lactose (15%), from which the small sugar pills are made. The “dilution” of pure water is said to be infused into these sugar pills; the principles of homeopathy dictating that the water retains a “spiritual imprint” or “essence” of whatever was once dissolved in it. Homeopaths call this “water memory”.

However, here’s the real kicker: The sugar pills are dry. Whatever water they are alleged to have been infused with — with its claimed cargo of spiritual essence — has evaporated out. Not even the pseudoscience of homeopathy puts forth any postulate that there is any such thing as sugar memory. Thus, not even the faith-based “active ingredient” of homeopathy, this so called spiritual essence, is present in Boiron’s product. The sugar pills contain no water. The water contained no molecules of duck. Molecules of duck have no plausible history of treating colds or any other illness.

Nevertheless, they assert the following on their web site:

Temporarily relieves flu-like symptoms such as feeling run down, headache, body aches, chills and fever.

This is an untrue medical claim. The product has no ability to do any such thing. Usually, promoters claim that homeopathy, and other alternative medicine products that have no therapeutic value, attribute reported effects to the placebo effect. This is all well and good; the placebo effect can indeed improve your perception of your symptoms when it works. You can get a placebo effect from anything that you believe works. However I tend to attribute such effects more to confirmation bias. When something happens that matches our preconceived notions, our beliefs are reinforced. We recover from colds naturally, and feel better in a few days; confirmation bias makes us attribute this improvement to whatever pill we took, even though that pill may have had nothing to do with the natural recovery.

Let’s take a look at Boiron’s main paragraph on their Facts About Oscillococcum page:

Manufactured by Boiron, Oscillococcinum has a long history of efficacy and safety.

Safety? Sure; a sugar pill never hurt anyone. Efficacy? Implausible and unproven (they do claim that clinical trials support their claims, and we’ll look at those in a moment).

Oscillo is used by millions of patients in more than 60 countries.

Millions of people smoke cigarettes too. Wide usage does not prove something is good for you.

In France, where Oscillo has been used for more than 65 years, it is the first flu medicine recommended by pharmacists.

I would like to see the evidence of this. Even if it’s true, pharmacists are not doctors. Pharmacies are retail outlets that make money selling stuff (anything). Colds are not otherwise treatable, so why not sell something that at least does no harm.

It has a remarkable record of safety and can be recommended to patients over age 2 and those who are following other treatments or suffering from chronic conditions. Oscillo will not cause drug interactions or side effects.

Of course. Air will also not cause drug interactions, and smiles have remarkable safety records too.

Four clinical studies, including two which have been published in peer-reviewed journals, show that Oscillo reduces the severity and duration of flu-like symptoms such as feeling run down, headache, body aches, chills and fever.

Is that so? Sounds compelling to the layperson, doesn’t it? Let’s take a look at these four “clinical studies”. They provide no information at all about two of them, so we have no idea what these might have consisted of, who performed them, or what the results were. The third (Papp R, Schuback G, Beck E, et al. Oscillococcinum in patients with influenza-like syndromes: a placebo-controlled, double-blind evaluation. Br Homeopath J. 1998;87:69-76) was published in the British Homeopathic Journal. This is a publication dedicated to the promotion of homeopathy; by no conceivable argument can it be considered a scientific journal. It’s essentially a place for the marketers of homeopathic products to send their press releases in order to be able to say that their research is “published”. The fourth study (Ferley JP, Zmirou D, D’Adhemar D, Balducci F. A controlled evaluation of a homeopathic preparation in the treatment of influenza-like syndromes. Br J Clin Pharmacol. 1989;27:329-335) is from the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, a legitimate journal. This study, which is 22 years old, is one of a minority of a few scattered studies that did find a small statistical improvement in symptoms among homeopathy users compared to a control group who took an identical placebo. It concluded “The result cannot be explained given our present state of knowledge, but it calls for further rigorously designed clinical studies.” Well, further rigorous studies of homeopathy have been performed in the intervening decades, dozens of them. Almost all (well-designed trials published in legitimate journals) show no value in homeopathy. There is always noise in the results of trials. You can’t just look at one; you have to look at many. Again, for Boiron to have cherrypicked this one study, and to have neglected to report the many others that contradict their desired result, which they would have had to dig past, shows conscious deception.

As with all Boiron homeopathic medicines, Oscillo complies with a well-established framework of guidelines, regulations, and quality standards enforced by the FDA through routine pharmaceutical manufacturing site inspections and surveillance on marketed products.

If this is true now, it certainly wasn’t as recently as 2009. Look at this warning letter Boiron received from the FDA for FAILING to comply with the law. The warning letter charges them with numerous violations, and shows that they attempted to capitalize on public fear of the H1N1 virus to sell their product, claiming it could treat it. It can’t.

If you’ve purchased Oscillococcum and feel that you were victimized by deceptive marketing, get your money back. This Boiron page will tell you how.

VN:F [1.9.7_1111]

Homeopaths want to use the "race card" in the UK! From Skepchick Rebecca Watson:

 

1023 homeopathy

Homeopaths: “We Can Play the Race Card”

Is it possible that homeopaths in the UK have reached a new low? Can you even get lower than, say, selling sugar water to people in need of malaria vaccinations? Maybe!
 

Today, Sue Trotter of Homeopathy World Community posted a blog entry in which she suggests that she and her cohorts “play the race discrimination card” in order to weasel out of complaints filed against them with the Advertising Standars Authority. She quickly deleted the post, realizing either that A.) homeopathy is actually of German origin, B.) it’s a stupid idea anyway that belittles actual racism, or C.) anyone at the ASA could see this post and realize what they’re up to.

Luckily, some skeptic got a screenshot of it before it was taken down (thanks to @magicthighs for sending it to me). Click it to see it full size.

To catch you up, the skeptics of the UK have been waging an all-out war on homeopaths, reporting them for illegally offering medical advice and communicating with the general public to teach them that the basis of homeopathy is complete and utter bunkum.

Because homeopaths don’t have any scientific evidence to support their claims, they resort to tricks like this. Good job, guys!

I’ve typed a transcript for those who can’t see the image. All typos are original to the post.

+++

[Complaints] About Homeopaths To The UK Advertising Standars Authority
Posted by Sue Trotter on May 12, 2011 at 3:30am in Social Media-Twitter-Questions-Answers-News

Chatting with my husband last night about the complaints by the Advertising Standars Authority here in the UK agans homeopaths, we think we have come up with a plan to put an end to this nonsense. We can play the race discrimination card if we get this right. Please bear with me whilst I explain.

If we can find some British Indians/Pakistanis or Bangladesh’s they can complain to the ASA explaining that homeopathy is a prefered system of medicine in their contries of origin, used to treat a wide range of illnesses. The current wave of complaints against homeopaths would therefore seem to be an attack on their culture and beliefs and therefore discriminatory. (I know homeopathy is not a belief system but many think it is, so why not use that to our advantage.) If we can get figures for the numbers of people using homeopathy as their primary healthcare in India and the rest of the sub-continent, even better!

They can also claim that it is akin to Christians claiming that Hindus and Muslims cannot call their beliefs a religion because it is not Christianity.

If they go on to suggest that the current wave of complaints may have been instigated by someone who has an agenda that is perhaps something other than scientific (just make a suggestion and leave it to them to work out what that agenda might be).

We would need to get a smart lawyer to draft the letter/s but if we could get the ASA to look at this as potential discrimination that may well decide to back off. If we can find someone on the ASA’s complaint list who’s family hail from the Indian sub-continent to complain they are being discriminated against, even better . . . and if the ASA find in their favour but still go for those of us of European Descent we can then go for a different race discrimination angle.

Got to be worth a try….you know how twitchy we are here in the UK at the slightest sniff of racism or other discrimination!

I am not sure how to co-ordinate this so have forwarded to a couple of homeopath groups and see what people think.

Time for homeopathy to stand up for itself !

with love and peace

This goes along the path of a new religion... and I totally agree homeopathy is bullshit !!!!!!

This is outrageous:

 

Homeopathy multinational sues blogger over statements that its mythological curative had “no active ingredient”

Samuele Riva, an Italian blogger, is being sued by Boiron, a France-based homeopathic "remedy" multinational. Riva dared to mock the company's claim that its Ooscillococcinum has no "active ingredient." The company claims that the product has been made by diluting "oscillococcinum" (a mythological substance said to be present in duck liver, though no evidence supports this claim) at 1:100 dilution 200 times, which "is the equivalent of diluting 1ml of original ingredient into a volume of water that is the size of the known universe."

Writing at ScienceBasedMedicine.org, Steven Novella calls this "a pseudoscience trifecta": Boiron claims that its imaginary element is present in its solution which has been diluted at farcical levels, and that the imaginary ingredient in question is effective at treating flu symptoms. "Essentially Boiron takes fairy dust and then dilutes it out of (non)existence."

 

Read the rest here.

More on this, from the Center for Inquiry:

 

Boiron, Please Sue Us

August 17, 2011

As you know, the Center for Inquiry (CFI) and the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry (CSI) have publicly rebuked Wal-Mart for marketing homeopathic junk, in particular a product called Oscillococcinum, a purported remedy for flu. We are now inviting the product’s manufacturer, Boiron, to sue us. Here’s why.

Boiron is a large, multinational corporation based in France. Apparently, Boiron has recently decided to throw around its corporate weight by... — that the so-called “active” ingredient in Oscillococcinum is so diluted that it is deceptive to describe it as “active.” Indeed, assuming Boiron has engaged in serial dilution to the extent it claims it has, it is highly likely there’s not a single molecule of the alleged “active” ingredient in its product.

Boiron lists the purported active ingredient for Oscillococcinum on its package (see photo). Because both CFI and CSI unambiguously assert that Boiron’s stated claim that “Anas barbariae hepatis et cordis extractum 200CK HPUS” is an “active” ingredient is false and deceptive, we invite Boiron to take us to court in the United States. (For those not up on Latin and homeopathic verbiage, “Anas barbarie.” etc. is duck liver and heart—which, as indicated, is then diluted to or near the point of nonexistence.)

We are inviting Boron to litigate not because we think their suit might have merit; quite to the contrary, such a suit would have absolutely no merit. If sued in any American court, we are confident we will prevail. Homeopathy has no scientific basis. Instead, we are inviting litigation because we do not believe Boron should be able to silence critics by picking on isolated bloggers.

 

Read the rest here.

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