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1023 2011

The 1023 campaign is a UK based organization whose purpose is to raise awareness of the actual claims of homeopathy. The name is a reference to Avogadro’s number (6.02214179×10^23), which is the number of atoms or molecules of a substance in one unit called a mole. This is an important basic concept in chemistry, for it means that there are a finite number of bits of a substance in any solution, which further means that solutions cannot be infinitely diluted. You cannot have fractions of a molecule of any substance. There is therefore a dilutional limit – a point beyond which if you further dilute a solution you are increasingly likely to have removed all of the original substance.

Homeopathic preparations frequently use serial dilutions that vastly exceed this dilutional limit. This is a central fallacy of homeopathy (what homeopaths call a “law” of homeopathy). Samuel Hahnemann, who invented the fiction of homeopathy, knew about the dilutional limit but believed that substances gave their magical essence to water when diluted. Modern homeopaths believe this too, but in order to make their nonsense more marketable to a 21st century culture a tad more used to science (or at least scientific jargon) than Hahnemann’s, they have desperately tried to wrap “magical essence” in sciencey technobabble.

The 1023 campaign’s main purpose is public awareness. It appears that the best tool defenders of science-based medicine have against homeopathy is simply to make the public aware of what it actually is. I have not found any good surveys that quantify public beliefs on the subject (sounds like a good project) but it is my subjective experience (and that of many of my colleagues) from talking to countless patients and acquaintances that many if not most people are simply not aware of what homeopathy actually is. The term is often conflated with herbal or “natural” remedies. Shock and disbelief is a common reaction to explanations of what homeopaths actually claim.

Therefore there is much to be gained by raising public awareness of what homeopathy is, so at least it doesn’t get a free pass out of simple ignorance. As part of this mission the 1023 campaign has had a public event in which groups around the world commit “homeopathic suicide” by massively overdosing on a homeopathic product. This is a stunt, but it is effective in garnering media attention, and so meets the mission of public awareness.

There is now a new event planned:

While international participation is yet to be announced, the challenge will culminate in a demonstration in Manchester on February 6th, at the ‘QED: Question. Explore. Discover. event, with over 300 protesters participating the largest ever single demonstration against homeopathy.

They also wisely add a word of caution – not all homeopathic remedies are highly diluted. Some products “cheat” by including measurable amounts of an active ingredient, and so a real overdose is possible. Before attempting such a demonstration, therefore, one should be sure that the product is truly “homeopathic” and contains, essentially, nothing.

These efforts are essential as the amount of misinformation available to the public about homeopathy and other medical pseudoscience is immense. For example, we have complained extensively about the National Center for Complimentary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) and their soft promotion of nonsense. On their homeopathy page, for example, they write:

If You Are Thinking About Using Homeopathy

* Do not use homeopathy as a replacement for proven conventional care or to postpone seeing a doctor about a medical problem.
* Look for published research studies on homeopathy for the health condition you are interested in.
* If you are considering using homeopathy and decide to seek treatment from a homeopath, ask about the training and experience of the practitioner you are considering.
* Women who are pregnant or nursing, or people who are thinking of using homeopathy to treat a child, should consult their health care provider.
* Tell all your health care providers about any complementary and alternative practices you use. Give them a full picture of all you do to manage your health. This will ensure coordinated and safe care. For tips about talking with your health care providers about CAM, see NCCAM’s Time to Talk campaign.

The first recommendation is very important, but the fact is that once in the hands of a homeopath there is no guarantee that homeopathic nostrums will not be used instead of effective medicine. Homeopaths believe that their magic water works for treating and preventive real disease, and they are often hostile to science-based medicine. For example, there in an ongoing scandal regarding the use of homeopathic products instead of effective treatment for malaria. So this recommendation is like saying, “If you are going to play 3-card monte on the streets of New York, be sure you don’t get cheated,” when the only effective advice is, “don’t play, it’s a scam.”

The second recommendation to look for published research is ridiculous – while I am all in favor of patients being well-informed, it is not reasonable advice to tell the average patient to do the research for themselves to determine which treatments are safe and effective. That is the job of professionals and professional organizations. The body of research on homeopathy is large and complex, and it takes time and expertise to sort through it and come to a meaningful conclusion about what the evidence says. It seems like the NCCAM is trying to avoid doing this themselves – but isn’t that part of their mission? In fact experts have combed through the research, such as this review by Edzard Ernst, and have found that the clinical evidence shows that homeopathy does not work for any indication. Shouldn’t the NCCAM just state that?

Next they suggest you ask about the training and experience of the practitioner. But training and experience in nonsense is meaningless. There is no evidence that the training and experience of a homeopath means anything, or allows them to effectively treat any condition. This is akin to advising that one seek the council of only experienced psychics, or well-trained astrologers. And make sure you only consult certified numerologists.

The caution regarding women who are pregnant or nursing makes it sound like there is some potential effect from homeopathic treatment, which there isn’t (unless, as I stated above, they are not really homeopathic and sneak in some actual drugs). This recommendation also makes it sound like if you are not pregnant or treating a child you don’t have to consult your health care provider.

The last recommendation is the only one that is reasonable – patients should disclose their use of all treatments to their physicians. Although again, it is carefully worded to imply that the primary purpose is “coordinating” (or integrating) fake treatment with real medicine.

These recommendations, from a government agency allegedly dedicated to science and health, are an embarrassment. Here is what the recommendations should say:

If You Are Thinking About Using Homeopathy

* Do not use homeopathy. It is dangerous nonsense.

I much prefer the 1023 summary of what homeopathy is to the NCCAM’s.

Homeopathy is an unscientific and absurd pseudoscience, which persists today as an accepted form of complementary medicine, despite there never having been any reliable scientific evidence that it works.

Nuff said.

Posted in: Homeopathy

Leave a Comment (79) ↓

79 thoughts on “1023 2011

  1. kirkmc says:

    It’s certainly a good idea, but from a marketing point of view, it is, IMHO, a big mistake. Using a name that requires a fairly lengthy explanation (such as your first two grafs) means that people will have to first explain chemistry before saying why homeopathy doesn’t work. I think that, given the fact that most people who use homeopathy are not chemist, or even have a good science background, this is counter-productive. It makes the campaign seem elitist, when it should be more concrete.

    As with many such campaigns, it well get good press on blogs like this, and on the science pages of major newspapers, but will be unlikely to spill over into the general public, which is the target audience.

    To be fair, they have a very good website here:

    http://www.howdoeshomeopathywork.com/

  2. Kirkmc – it’s hard to measure something like this – effectiveness in terms of public awareness. Unless you are doing serial extensive surveys, and even then this would not control for other factors.

    So I can only give my opinion. I think the campaign has been effective. Their tagline is: “Homeopathy, there’s nothing in it.” That’s pretty straightforward. The homeopathic suicide stunt also has a fairly straightforward point, that the general public should get.

    Calling themselves the 1023 campaign is catchy enough. Further, it is mostly reasonably well-educated people who likely have the curiosity and highschool science background to get the reference or inquire as to its meaning who need to be reached. Surveys show it is the well-educated (although still not scientific literature) that have the disposable income to use things like homeopathy.

  3. JCloth says:

    I think that the issue is more likely to be whether or not the public care anyway. This campaign is likely to be preaching to the converted – or the semi converted at the very least. Most people I have spoken to will accept hearsay or something they read in the newspaper once over an honest scientific explanation for any given condition – as has been noted by many people, most of the public want an easy explanation that purports to have all the answers and be all seeing, over one that acknowledges that it knows a certain extent, may have doubt in other areas, and cannot quite say in yet others – ie science.

    Nice try….

  4. windriven says:

    “while I am all in favor of patients being well-informed, it is not reasonable advice to tell the average patient to do the research for themselves to determine which treatments are safe and effective. That is the job of professionals and professional organizations.”

    I choked on this passage for several reasons. First and foremost is that the patient should always accept primary responsibility for his or her own health and health care. Medical professionals are honored and essential experts that an individual hires for their expertise in much the same way that one engages an attorney or CPA. So very much of what is wrong with health care in the US can be traced to the alacrity with which people shift the burden of responsibility for their health care to others (leading to unrealistic expectations, misunderstandings, lawsuits, etc.) and on the structure of third party payment for medical services.

    Second is that homeopaths, back-crackers, needle twiddlers and an assortment of other goofs, frauds and charlatans ARE professionals in their own eyes and in the eyes of Our Federal Government (NCCAM, for instance) as well as the eyes of the medical establishment. How many first rank medical schools have departments of quackery now? How many major medical centers have CAM programs?

    So Dr. Novella, just which professionals are you talking about? Unless patients “do the research for themselves to determine which treatments are safe and effective”, at least in a general sense, how are they to decide?

  5. SkepLit says:

    Kirkmc – Stepping in here as a data point of 1. ..
    My background is one of relative scientific illiteracy. I studied literature in college and only took the my required science courses.
    I only know Avagadro’s number because of skeptical discussions regarding homeopathy. Speaking as one of the unwashed masses, using a name like “The 1023 Campaign” makes it easy to start a discussion about why it is called “The 1023 Campaign” instead of “The 1024 Campaign” or “The ‘You Guys Are Idiots’ Campaign”.
    Homeopathy is so far “out there” percisely because the very structure of matter itself (as encapsulated in Avagadro’s number) defies the claims of homeopathy.
    For homeopathy to be real, reality can’t be real. I feel the best way to make that point incontrovertible in a person’s mind is to start out by explaining the concepts underlying Avagardo’s number. I feel the campaign name provides exactly the right chat-up line when approaching anyone who wants to discuss homeopathy.

  6. Good post, Steve, especially the exposure of the NCCAM drivel, which cannot be too often repeated. One slight correction: Hahnemann could not have known about the dilutional limit, because Avagadro’s number wasn’t calculated until around 1855, several years after Hahnemann died. Nevertheless, you are right that H. realized that his dilutions were extreme, and that he explained their ‘potency’ by magical thinking.

    KA

  7. Adam_Y says:

    They also wisely add a word of caution – not all homeopathic remedies are highly diluted. Some products “cheat” by including measurable amounts of an active ingredient, and so a real overdose is possible. Before attempting such a demonstration, therefore, one should be sure that the product is truly “homeopathic” and contains, essentially, nothing.

    Actually, that may not help. How many homeopathy poisonings have there been due to a manufacturing error akin to what happened to Gary Null? You probably should just also pick something that isn’t toxic just to be sure.

  8. windriven – I agree that the existence of medical pseudoprofessionals is a big problem. Consumers should research which professions are science-based and legitimate. And they should research their practitioners to ensure that they are credentialed, experienced, and science-based.

    And – as I wrote – patients should be well-informed. The bigger the health care decision, the more care that should be taken – getting second opinions, etc.

    But – it is folly to rely upon one’s own research as a lay person to make decisions about the safety, efficacy, and appropriateness of specific interventions. Taking responsibility does not mean substituting your own opinion for expert advice. This is true even for physicians outside their area of expertise. And also taking responsibility should not equal treating oneself – which is also folly (even for a physician).

    My point is – for the NCCAM to simply give the advice to research a treatment themselves is irresponsible, and glosses over all of the above nuance.

  9. Kimball – you are correct about the estimation of Avogadro’s number, but it is my understanding that the basic concept that there is a limit to dilution (because substances are not infinitely divisible) predated Hahnemann. I cannot find a good reference right now, but will continue to look. Let me know if you have anything.

  10. kirkmc says:

    “Surveys show it is the well-educated (although still not scientific literature) that have the disposable income to use things like homeopathy.”

    That may be the case in the UK; I live in France, where homeopathy is reimbursed by the state health insurance, and where people of all levels use it. It is very common for people to be convinced – by the general ambient atmosphere of trusting that which is most present – that homeopathy works, and for them to request homeopathic treatments, even just by asking in a pharmacy for what they should take for a given symptom. Perhaps this is different in the UK…

  11. Dash says:

    I can’t actually see how a mass overdose would work. One of the big selling points of CAM is how ‘safe’ they are, for people who aren’t already open to conversion this will just play into that and confirm their choices.

    Why not have a production line where people serially dilute and shake an original drop to produce a homeopathic medicine? That would demonstrate how ridiculous the idea is, and possibly hit the pocket book too – imagine if patients realised they could make their quack remedies more potent at home! They’d never have to buy any more!

  12. Windriven “I choked on this passage for several reasons. First and foremost is that the patient should always accept primary responsibility for his or her own health and health care. Medical professionals are honored and essential experts that an individual hires for their expertise in much the same way that one engages an attorney or CPA.”

    I see what you are saying. I think it’s important for people to take responsibility for managing their healthcare. But, I also think of it in terms of say hiring an architect or construction contractor. One does the research in terms of finding the most qualified practitioner, but then because the (customer) patient is relying on the practitioners superior expertise, the practitioner must be responsible for their recommendations. In other words I look for a good architect, but I can’t tell from online research where the load bearing wall is. The architect has to be responsible for making recommendations that will keep the house stable.

    Also windriven – “So very much of what is wrong with health care in the US can be traced to the alacrity with which people shift the burden of responsibility for their health care to others (leading to unrealistic expectations, misunderstandings, lawsuits, etc.) and on the structure of third party payment for medical services.”

    I’m curious what you had in mind on the effects of the structure of insurance payments…If you have time to elaborate?

  13. Steven Novella “Consumers should research which professions are science-based and legitimate. And they should research their practitioners to ensure that they are credentialed, experienced, and science-based.”

    As a layman/patient, I think I can figure out online which professions are legitimate through research and critical think. I also feel that I find credentialed practitioners and with a little more work, find out their experience level. I don’t feel as confident that I can figure out whether an individual practitioner is science-based. This would be especially true when one starts distinguishing between science and evidence based. But even lumping the two together, I find it hard to tell how practitioners are deciding upon their recommendations.

    Tips and pointers for laymen on that topic would be appreciated. Maybe a future article…

  14. windriven says:

    @micheleinmichingan

    “But, I also think of it in terms of say hiring an architect or construction contractor.”

    Yes, I agree. I probably mistook Dr. Novella’s point and mine is very much in line with yours. I recently had some minor surgery. I researched the types of surgical interventions available and chose a surgeon with exceptional training and experience in a laparoscopic approach. That seems to me appropriate due diligence.

    “I’m curious what you had in mind on the effects of the structure of insurance payments…”

    This is a really complex subject. Back when DRGs* were first being introduced, I used to give lectures to medical industry groups on the likely impact of those and other changes. The short version is that after WWII when industry was booming and unions were strong, employers quickly figured out that benefits like health insurance were cheaper than pay increases (because overtime was the frequent and paid time and a half while benefit costs were generally flat regardless of hours worked). This led to a shift in the way individuals looked at health care (it doesn’t cost me anything so I’ll go see the doctor about (name your mild malady)). It also led to a change in the doctor-patient relationship. Tests, drugs and procedures that patients once paid for out of pocket were now paid for by someone else; they could be ordered without the patient saying, “gee doc, I can’t afford that.” Benefits packages became the norm, with or without unions, and stayed that way until the costs became unsustainable for many businesses. And of course the government provided similar benefits through Medicare and Medicaid to the aged and the poor.

    This has led to better health care. It has also led to wildly expensive health care. In short, if I had to make a proposal, it would be generally along the lines of HSAs; something that would require patients to have substantial skin in the game but would buffer them from the cost of major medical incidents.

    *DRGs – Diagnosis Related Groups – a reimbursement system pioneered by Medicare that paid (I’m simplifying here) a set amount for a given procedure, i.e. a cholecystectomy would pay $XXXXX as opposed to the traditional fee for service.

  15. Regarding any attempt to commit homeopathic suicide, in order to be consistent with ‘similia similibus curentur’ it would have to be done with a ‘potentized’ substance that simulates the ‘symptoms’ of, er, being alive. It’s hard to think of what that might be, although perhaps a ‘nosode’ made from grinding up a healthy human being would do. Or maybe from a viable human embryo discarded from an IVF clinic. Heh.

  16. nwtk2007 says:

    Just to clarify, the homeopathic byline for those who tout its healing qualities is that the more diluted the solution is, the more powerful it is. The resaoning being that the offending substance is imprinting a mirror image of itself on the water, the mirror image being the antithesis of the offending agent. In other words, the mirror image of the offending substance will have the reverse effect and cure the patient of what the offending agent has caused.

    I was in a seminar where a doctor (MD), was presenting his argument and science for why it works. He even claimed to have evidence that water molecules with bond angles of 180 degrees has been detected in homeopathic solutions. When I asked for reference, of course, I was told that it was not available at that time.

  17. @nwtk2007 and others:

    Here is one of my favorite explanations for how ‘potentized remedies’ work:

    Time-Logics of the Quantal Base State in Homeopathic Potentization

    Potentizing homeopathic substances beyond the Avogadro limit is a critical-state coherent process, wherein an element of active information cannot be considered identical to itself. Temporal ordering is paramount in transferring such information to and from the quantal base state, and requires m-valued logics and skew-parallel geometries to represent the identity transparency produced by the active temporal operators. In order to model the turbulent dynamics of dilution-succussion, the Hilbert space of quantum theory must be modified under m-valued logics such that a multivalued reference space becomes the informational ground, or quantal base state, decomposed and recomposed by operator-time. Such temporal operations inherently involve complex angular momentum exhange via “imaginary time”. This temporal-spin is a generalization of Dirac’s “spin coordinate” and offers insight into how homeotherapeutic potency sustains itself indefinitely.

    In homeopathic potentization the dilution-succussion process…becomes a water-borne stack of crisis states that cascade highly organized (i.e., coherent) time-pattern shapes through the nested collection of “acetate” clock-sheets constituting the transparent information ground.

    –Pensinger W, Paine D, Jus J. Journal of the American Insititute of Homeopathy 1997; 90: 77

    Any questions?

  18. tmac57 says:

    Dr. N.-

    it is folly to rely upon one’s own research as a lay person to make decisions about the safety, efficacy, and appropriateness of specific interventions. Taking responsibility does not mean substituting your own opinion for expert advice. This is true even for physicians outside their area of expertise. And also taking responsibility should not equal treating oneself – which is also folly (even for a physician).

    This sounds reasonable to me,but I fear it is more complicated in practice. An anecdote:
    My primary care physician,whom I trusted greatly because of her excellent care,one day while giving me otherwise sound dietary advice,pulled out at pamphlet on Juice Plus+,and gave it to me.”I want you to try this,it has tremendous benefits” she said. I had never heard of this product,but my ‘skeptic senses’ instantly began to tingle. When I got home,I checked this out on Quackwatch and found out that it was just an expensive,multilevel marketing vitamin product that made a lot of extravagant health claims. Now, I would be hard pressed to believe that I should have listened to her “expert advice” instead of blowing it off as ill informed,but I realize that this was a more benign,and straight forward situation. The problem is, how to recognize when expert advice is not reallyexpert.(This could be a whole thread in itself,I’m guessing.)

  19. @Kimball Atwood,

    How about a 100C homeopathic preparation of a multivitamin and an aspirin?

    Effects should be severe nutrient deficiency, inflammation, headache, and blood clot leading to stroke.

  20. tmac57 says:

    @Kimball Atwood-Thank you for the delicious Homeopathic word salad! ;)

  21. “Something that would require patients to have substantial skin in the game but would buffer them from the cost of major medical incidents.”

    You mean progressively means-tested skin, right? So someone with an annual income of $10k or less could have an annual deductible of $250, which would hurt a lot but be possible if they were motivated. Someone with an annual income of $200k or more could have an annual deductible of $50k or more, which would be (similarly) painful but possible.

    Is that what you mean? Because you and I may have very different cutoffs for “substantial skin.” Who would be in charge of means testing? Then you get into problems where people find it cheaper to quit their jobs and give away their property which is not behaviour that anyone wants to incent.

    It just seems so baroque.

    The way we benighted Quebecers do it is we all pay 6% of our incomes to a public insurance plan up to a cap. (Split between employer and employee in my case.) Then the government limits the total amount of spending and the total number of doctors such that individual doctors have to ration tests and care. Motivated young person with cancer and little kids? Pull out all the stops. Experimental treatments, specialists flown in from outside the country, whatever it takes. Rich, poor, doesn’t matter. Demented old person with cancer? The medical staff all know someone else who could make better use of those resources. Rich, poor — of course it ends up mattering, but it’s not the biggest factor. It’s terribly unfair to doctors (and I’ve heard them complain bitterly) but from the perspective of balancing cost containment and public health, it works fairly well. Everyone I know has gotten the care they needed.

    Medication is a mix of public and private that seems to work extremely well. Provinces have a formulary and negociate prices for the drugs on it with the pharmaceutical companies. They buy the drugs in bulk for the hospitals at a certain price and the pharmaceutical companies have to sell them to private pharmacies for the same price. This is another case where government, by virtue of being huge, is able to throw its weight around to keep costs down. When it comes to buying drugs privately at the pharmacy, individuals are either on a private group plan or a public plan that costs (I think) $50 per month and has a $25 monthly deductible. It seems to really work. In my case, the public plan (started in 1996 or 1997) meant that I had access to expensive medication for the first time which in turn meant that in 1998 I got a well-paid job, switched to a private group plan and proudly started paying lots of taxes. (Seriously. Proudly. I’m still proud.)

    Tests are a grey area. Rich or privately insured people can pay cash for a private clinic and get results immediately. Poor people have to wait in a very long line for hospital tests. This mix of public and private works much less well.

    I’m NOT advocating anything in particular beyond making a case for enlightened self-interest generally. I just think there’s a lot more to health care costs than poor and lower-middle-class people being able to access health care (the nerve!). Poor people go to the doctor here too, society as a whole benefits from that fact, and our costs are still lower than yours.

  22. eschatologist says:

    Don’t homeopaths claim that their remedies have to be individualized to the specific person, that the homeopath must interview the patient extensively about every nuance of their lifestyle, and that it takes years of practice to become skilled at deducing the appropriate personalized treatment for each case?

    How, then, could any homeopath support OTC remedies?

  23. I’m definitely gettin’ old. After posting that juicy quotation about “Time-Logics,” two ideas crossed my mind: first, that it’s a perfect example of ‘life imitating art,’ Sokal Hoax-style; second, that it would be great for a W^5 translation.

    Hmmm: http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/?p=5406

  24. Squillo says:

    It’s remarkable (not really) how similar the press release sent out by the British Homeopathic Association after last year’s 10:23 event is to NCCAM’s statements about magic fairy water.

    If you’ll forgive a blog plug, I posted about it here.

    My favorite BHA quote:

    “The Faculty of Homeopathy and BHA do not support the sole use of homeopathy for any serious disease when effective conventional treatment is available to, and tolerated by, the individual patient.”

  25. qetzal says:

    Actually, I’m not that impressed by 1023′s summary:

    Homeopathy is an unscientific and absurd pseudoscience, which persists today as an accepted form of complementary medicine, despite there never having been any reliable scientific evidence that it works.

    IMO, that final clause is terrible. It leaves open the (false) interpretation that homeopathy might actually work, but we don’t (yet) have reliable evidence to show that.

    I’d much prefer something like this:

    Homeopathy is an unscientific and absurd pseudoscience, which persists today as an accepted form of complementary medicine, despite abundant scientific and clinical evidence that it does not and cannot work as claimed.

  26. ConspicuousCarl says:

    windrivenon 12 Jan 2011 at 9:17 am

    “while I am all in favor of patients being well-informed, it is not reasonable advice to tell the average patient to do the research for themselves to determine which treatments are safe and effective. That is the job of professionals and professional organizations.”

    I choked on this passage for several reasons. First and foremost is that the patient should always accept primary responsibility for his or her own health and health care.

    That was my first impression as well, but I think he is actually right on this one.

    While I normally default to “buyer beware” and expect people to have a level of reasonable intelligence and curiosity, the strange case of homeopathy involves a record-setting spread between the absolutely useless and fraudulent nature of the product, and the respectable treatment it receives from retailers and governments.

    The worst rating homeopathy usually receives from governments is vague soft-headed crap like “needs more research”, and drug stores have entire shelves full of it. To someone who doesn’t know about chemistry, it really does look like it might be something that works. I don’t mind declaring that users of reiki are idiots, but I don’t expect everyone to know about Avogadro’s number.

  27. Jan Willem Nienhuys says:

    I notice that there are a few misunderstandings about homeopathy here. Firstly, the idea of ‘committing suicide’ is quite OK. The homeopaths claim that their highly diluted cures only work if the similia principle applies.

    So if you are healthy and take for example Natrum Muriaticum (table salt) C30 you may get any kind of horrible ‘symptom’. I kid you not.
    symptom 23: Hypochondriac, even to being tired of life (2 days after taking the drug)
    symptom 93: Loss of memory; he could not recall anytrhing about yesterday … (5 days after taking the drug)
    symptom 210: Falling out of the hair
    symptom 366: Toothache with swelling of the cheeks for many days
    symptom 646: Stool mixed with blood
    symptom 836: Cough with vomiting and retching, with expectoration of bloody mucus
    symptom 1133: Many furuncles on the body (14 days after taking the drug)

    And so on (all taken from The Chronic Diseases by S. Hahnemann, 1838, translated 1846).

    The point is that these and many other such ‘symptoms’ were obtained with highly diluted stuff. In 1799 Hahnemann already worked with 1:100,000 dilutions when he was testing the effects of drugs on ‘healthy’ people, and in 1828 he was recommending C30 (= 10^60) as the ideal dilution to do tests.

    In Hahnemann’s writing there was nothing about memory of water. He probably saw the effect of dilution and succussion as akin to magnetising an iron bar by vigorously rubbing it or stroking it with a magnet (section 269 of Organon)

    So the conviction that these dilutions actually do something was grounded in ‘experience’ (poorly performed experiments).

    In the ideas of the homeopaths it is essential that the correct simile is given to any person suffering from a disease. Giving the wrong stuff would only make it worse. (I can’t find where Hahnemann says this in so many words, but this is a common idea of homeopaths). Also, important for the 1023 campaign, Hahnemann says explictly that giving even the right simile in a too large quantity or ‘potentized’ too far will be not good for the patient. See his sections 275 and 276 in Organon

    I don’t know why homeopaths think their method works. I suspect that all they have is the experience of people getting better after homeopathic treatment, of course in combination with a selective memory and ignorance of the natural course of diseases and the variation this natural course.

    I’m afraid that the homeopaths are not impressed by Avogadro’s number. They even might say or think that all those suicidal types will feel ill a few hours later, or even days later and not tell about it. If any of those taking part in those happenings drops dead (heart or cerebrovascular attack) a few days later, then this can be explained by the homeopaths as the consequence of doing dangerous experiments: section 138 of the Organon says explicitly that everything happening to a healthy person after s/he takes a drug for testing purposes must be considered as caused by the drug.

    It’s the general public that has to be told: there is nothing in it.

  28. Jan Willem Nienhuys says:

    PS. The idea of taking diluted vitamins as ‘suicide drug’ is a bit silly, as the homeopathic teaching is that one cannot predict the curative of a high dilution from the undiluted stuff. One has to do tests with healthy people to ascertain the effects with highly diluted stuff (this is not entirely correct, because some of the symptoms of some drugs, for instance Spanish Fly, were mostly obtained from clinical reports of poisoning cases).

  29. bapowell says:

    @windriven – do you think the average person knows what a p-value is? t-tests? Randomized double-blind matched trials? People should absolutely take responsibility for their own health, but I think it’s a little naive to think that the average person has the time and knowledge to navigate academic literature on their own.

  30. daijiyobu says:

    Speaking of dilution, for some reason I’m reminded of the Nelson-homeopathy link — from UK circles.

    There is a homeo. remedy maker in the UK called Nelsons (see http://www.nelsonsnaturalworld.com/en-gb/uk/our-brands/nelsons-homeopathy/ ) [of course it's all called "natural"], but that’s not what I mean, though it has been reported that a Nelson’s pharmacy [apparently] recommended homeo. remedies instead of actual malaria prophylaxis in 2006 (see http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2006/jul/14/medicineandhealth.lifeandhealth ).

    My memory was of a snarky quote, maybe by Richard Dawkins, something like: ‘you are more likely to drink today in one of your beverages a molecule of water that has passed through Admiral Nelson’s bladder [he is known to have peed into the sea at least once!] than to find a molecule of original substance in a homeopathic remedy.’

    Since Admiral Nelson was shot by a French marksman, and your unavoidable Nelson-remedy is likely in everything you drink, we’re all protected from SIMILAR [!!!] 19th century marksman rifle-fire. In fact, I know NO BODY who has been so accosted. I’d like someone to provide subjects that refute proof of this protection!

    Anyway, I’ve looked on-line, but can’t find the source / origination — the internet has diluted it.

    Or, perhaps I dreamed it. So I’ll borrow [!] and reiterate:

    “I’m more likely to shovel a molecule of water in the snow on my walk this afternoon that has passed through Admiral Nelson’s bladder than to find a molecule of original substance in a homeopathic remedy from the dispensary of the naturopathic college down the street.”

    -r.c.

  31. @ windriven – thanks for taking the time to explain. I have heard of the idea of cutting back on unnecessary testing treatment by increasing the cost to the consumer a few times. In many ways it makes a lot of sense. I am particularly fond of encouraging desired behavior through market measure such as this. Of course, I might be too fond…bias considerations.

    But in this case I come up against two considerations. I wonder what you think about them.

    1) testing and treatment do have a “cost” to be considered regardless of insurance payments. That is the inconvenience of an office visit, the discomfort or danger of a test or procedure, side effects of medication, etc. This should be offering some controls on consumption above the typical consumption controls on say gas or food.

    2) By discouraging consumption (by increasing out of pocket costs) of unnecessary medical testing and procedures would we also discourage needed testing and treatment to diagnose illnesses early keep them well controlled, thereby loosing some of the cost savings that early diagnoses can bring with some conditions? I wonder where we end up economically, comparing cost saving achieved by discouraging consumption and additional costs accrued by potential later diagnoses or interrupted treatment of serious illness.

  32. @Jan Willem Nienhuyson 12 Jan 2011 at 1:54 pm

    “PS. The idea of taking diluted vitamins as ‘suicide drug’ is a bit silly, as the homeopathic teaching is that one cannot predict the curative of a high dilution from the undiluted stuff. ”

    I contend that the idea is absolutely no less silly than the idea of homeopathy itself.

    Even from a homeopathic standpoint, I would disagree with you also. Surely a homeopath does predict the curative of a high dilution from the undiluted stuff or they would just pick substances at random to carry out provings. The law of similars predicts that like cures like, that’s the basis for selecting substances to use for provings. Perhaps you meant that he homeopathic teaching is that one cannot -determine- the curative of a high dilution from the undiluted stuff.

    Of course, I’m sure all homeopathic preparations used these days go through provings and none have ever been prepared and used based sorely on the predicted curative properties without conducting a rigorous proving, right? /endsnark :)

  33. The Blind Watchmaker says:

    Best of YouTube Homeopathy (non-parody — apparently)

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HxMz-4IKzew

  34. windriven says:

    @Alison Cummins

    “You mean progressively means-tested skin, right?”

    No, I don’t. Nor do I suggest that there is any one-size-fits-all solution. There will, for the foreseeable future (in the US), be private insurance and public programs for the retired and for the poor.

    There will also be tiered health care, though it probably will be called something else. I don’t care whether you live in the US, Canada, or Costa Rica, the wealthy will always have better health care than the poor.

    Each society will need to define the levels of basic healthcare that all of their citizens should be entitled to. It will necessarily not include each and every advanced test or procedure for each and every citizen. There simply isn’t enough money. So it boils down to how the limits get set.

    And finally, I’m not saying that this is the way that life should work. But life, from the simplest organisms to the most complex, involves competition for scarce resources. Modern health care with PET scans and heart transplants is a scarce resource.

  35. windriven,

    If it’s necessary for everyone “have substantial skin in the game” to keep health care costs down, but progressive means testing is not in the picture, what does it look like for Bill Gates to “have substantial skin in the game” and for you to be able to afford health care of any kind?

  36. Also, how can tiered health care exist without means testing?

  37. BKsea says:

    In my experience, one of the defining features of the homeopathy crowd is a strong anti-establishment streak. They view homeopathy as sticking it to the man (i.e. Pharma).

    In that regard, I think a grass-roots anti-homeopathy effort will have a lot of traction. It is the kind of action to get the attention and sympathy of the typical homeopathy user.

    In the same vein, I think it is also useful to point out the many establishment aspects of the homeopathy industry. For example, as I understand it, in the US, the “effectiveness” of homeopathic nostrums is decided on by a panel (Homeopathic Pharmacopia Convention of the US) that is funded by the homeopathic industry. Imagine if real medicine was regulated by the pharmaceutical companies themselves instead of the FDA!

  38. windriven says:

    @Alison

    “what does it look like for Bill Gates to “have substantial skin in the game”

    It looks to me like Bill Gates gets all the health care he’d like.

    “Also, how can tiered health care exist without means testing?”

    I didn’t raise the subject of means testing, you did, and I inferred from your question a linkage between means and the premium paid for a given insurance policy, not a linkage between means and tiering.

    In an insurance-less system, means and tiering are directly linked. Insurance adds elasticity to the connection between means and tiering.

    The link between means and tiering is a different issue from means testing for insurance premiums.

  39. RedBear says:

    I have recently rediscovered the ancient science of Anagramology. Through this process, the true meaning or nature of a word or phrase can be revealed by properly rearranging the letters within the word(s).

    The phrase “homeopathic remedy” yields the following insights:
    A myth, mediocre hope.
    A hypo-medic theorem.
    Their hype, a commode.

    The simple word “homeopathy” is more challenging, but offers this for contemplation:
    Ooh, pay them.
    Oho! TAM hype.
    Ahoy to hemp. (ie: what are they smoking?)

    (This process may seem simple, but poor technique can lead to disastrous misinterpretations. To become a certified anagramologist, it is necessary to complete a series of esoteric, quantum-alphabetic trainings which I will soon make available through books, workshops and dvd’s, at an exorbitant price.
    (Oh, and if anyone here knows of a gullible celebrity not yet endorsing an alternative pseudoscientific product, please refer them to me.))

  40. Jan Willem Nienhuys says:

    @ Karl Withakay on 12 Jan 2011 at 2:38 pm

    Indeed, for very many substances in the homeopathic Materia Medica the symptoms there (thousands of them for every substance) all have been obtained with provings with high dilutions. You don’t think that Hahnemann thought that all these 1300 symptoms of table salt were the consequence of ordinary salt in the amounts usually added to food?

    Hahnemann was against isopathy (same cures same), but he explicitly stated (section 56) that if you potentise (i.e. dilute and succuss) you get something that is changed.

    ‘Like cures like’ was interpreted by Hahnemann to mean that one should give a person Natrum Muriaticum C30 if his symptoms resembled those obtained by doing tests on healthy people with Natrum Muriaticum C30. So even now, when a new homeopathic cure is developed, for example ‘rays of planet Jupiter’

    http://www.interhomeopathy.org/jupiter_rays_preliminary_presentation_of_proving_results

    the provers go through the whole series of dilutions. Each dilution has its own symptom.

    Homeopaths themselves cloud the issue by explaining about arsenic for stomach pain and coffee for sleeplessness. As far as I know, the vast majority of the symptoms listed in these Materia Medica are based on what 19th century provers occasionally noticed as remarkable symptoms. When classical homeopaths get patients, they talk with them for an hour to establish the ‘symptoms’ and then try to find the one substance in those very thick books with 19th century experiences that resembles these ‘symptoms’ best.

    Some homeopaths think that is too much work, and they use only a small repertory of remedies, based on people’s general characteristics. For example blond blue-eyed women who cry easily and like their tea tepid, are given Pulsatilla, no matter what they actually suffer from. (Correct me if I’m wrong.)

    Now for the OTC homeopathy, it’s a totally different story, but in the end – barring exceptions – it goes back to these same symptoms obtained with highly diluted stuff.

    Not all of it! It seems that some of the symptoms of Apis Mellifica (honeybee) go back to case descriptions of people that were stung by a bee and got an anaphylactic reaction.

    In the end the only rational argument is: there is nothing in it. If you want to elaborate: no person or method can distinguish water or alcohol or sugar from a homeopathic remedy. The homeopaths themselves can’t either.

  41. tmac57 says:

    @Redbear- Well done! If laughter is the best medicine, then I just overdosed. I especially liked:

    Their hype, a commode.

  42. The Blind Watchmaker says:

    Actually, some modern homeopaths do not even have to use a history of symptoms to pick the remedy. They can use a crystal pendulum to dowse for the remedy.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wVGFTbvCJt8

  43. clgood says:

    Nice post. Puts me in mind of a question I’ve been meaning to ask.

    Arnica Montana is a folk remedy in Mexico used in an ointment to treat bruises. I’ve heard it lumped in with homeopathy, even though it’s an actual substance rather than just water.

    A few years ago I was prescribed (by an actual doctor) some Arnica capsules after nasal surgery. This gave me the impression that it’s actual medicine. Yet my doubts persist.

    Is it?

    Thanks.

  44. windriven on skin: “It looks to me like Bill Gates gets all the health care he’d like”

    Absolutely. But you have explained that health care is wildly expensive unless patients are required to have substantial skin in the game. Unless Bill Gates is using an extremely exotic form of health care, he’s paying for it with spare change. In the ideal health care system, what does it mean for Bill Gates to have “substantial skin in the game”?

    You explained that what you’re envisioning involves no means testing, just tiers. I’m guessing that’s a world in which everyone without exception has access to a certain level of publicly funded medical care (no means testing) and that people with money can pay for cushier/faster/woo-ier medical care (tiers). That sounds suspiciously like today’s US where the un/underinsured and those who don’t have a primary care doctor (see issues with remuneration of cognitive services) go to the ER for pregnancy tests where all it costs is a long wait. Those with good insurance or a wad of bills make an appointment with a happy, well-paid doctor who sees them in an office at a convenient time — and who might even make house calls.

    But that system is a cause of ballooning health care costs, not a solution.

  45. windriven says:

    @Alison Cummins

    “But you have explained that health care is wildly expensive unless patients are required to have substantial skin in the game.”

    No, I explained that not having skin in the game in a collective sense is in part responsible for the high cost of medical care. Choosing an individual from either tail of the bell curve is meaningless.

    Alison, if 100 people go to dinner with the full expectation of paying their own bills, the sum of their expenditures will be X. If those same 100 people are told in advance that a faceless corporation will be paying for their dinners, will the sum of the expenditures be greater than or less than X?

    “You explained that what you’re envisioning involves no means testing”

    No, that isn’t precisely what I said. I simply suggested that health insurance that puts a good measure of skin in the game is desirable from the standpoint of reducing health care costs. You raised means testing as it pertains to insurance premiums. I then pointed out that I didn’t expect any insurance plan to fit everyone and that I assumed that the government would continue to pay for health care for retirees and the poor.

    You have a perfectly valid point regarding the high cost of doing primary care in the ER. It is ridiculous. But you are falling prey to the hype. Medicaid – an admittedly lousy health care program – is widely available to the poor, including the working poor. Medicaid recipients sometimes go to the ER for primary care because it is more convenient than trying to find a physician who will accept the paltry sums Medicare pays for primary care. But the desperate need to retool Medicaid (now possibly moot as the new universal health plan is phased in) has nothing to do with replacing quickly vanishing company provided healthcare.

  46. Tesla says:

    clgood,

    This is from the wikipedia page:

    The roots contain derivatives of thymol,[3] which are used as fungicides and preservatives and may have some anti-inflammatory effect.[4] Arnica is currently used in liniment and ointment preparations used for strains, sprains, and bruises. Commercial arnica preparations are frequently used by professional athletes.[5]

    The thymol derivatives concentrated in the plants roots have been clinically shown to be effective vasodilators of subcutaneous blood capillaries. Arnica preparations used topically have been demonstrated to act as an anti-inflammatory and assist normal healing processes by facilitating transport of blood and fluid accumulations through a dilating action of subcutaneous blood capillaries (Holist Nurse Pract, 2008, 22(4):237-239). In one double-blind trial, Arnica montana was found to be equally effective as the more expensive diclofenac for accelerating wound healing after foot surgery, but was less effective than the same drug for pain relief.[6] However, Diclofenac does not promote wound healing as it is an anti-inflammatory drug and hence this comparison is not useful[citation needed]. A study of wound-healing after surgery to treat varicose veins found a trend towards a beneficial effect of reduction of pain and hematoma following surgery.[7]

    In regards to arnica used in homeopathy (one of the things my idiot midwife required I have on hand for my birth) it says:

    A systematic review of clinical trials showed that arnica was no more effective than a placebo.[14] In some quarters, the fact that homoeopathic Arnica has been the subject of published clinical trials at all has drawn criticism grounded on the allegation that the basic premise of the high dilutions used in homoeopathy would be inherently flawed.[15] With respect to the range of homoeopathic Arnica creams available on the market, these are generally formulated using the mother tincture rather than a dilution, and they therefore do in fact contain measurable quantities of the medicinally active substance.

  47. Arch01 says:

    If homeopathy worked as described by homeopathic principles, we would be cured of all ills merely by drinking water. Simply because all “homeopatheic remedies” have existed, at least in trace amounts in water.

  48. Joe says:

    @clgood on 12 Jan 2011 at 7:26 pm Arnica should never be taken internally. Of course if it is in a typical homeopathic prep there isn’t any arnica left. Either way, I think that tells you what you need to know about the “actual doctor.”

  49. Jan Willem Nienhuys says:

    Arnica is an excellent example of how homeopaths make up ‘drug images’ (i.e. symptom collections). In case of Arnica, there are homeopathic preparations of Arnica ranging from D6 (= 10^6 tiumes diluted) to C30 (= 10^60 times diluted) .

    The ‘symptoms’ seem to be partly taken from the alleged complaints for which undiluted Arnica is used traditionally, but there are symptoms that apparently have nothing to do with it. For example ‘Traumatism of grief, remorse or sudden realization of financial loss’ is what you find in:

    http://abchomeopathy.com/r.php/Arn

    The well known homeopath Vithoulkas also has a symptom list which makes you sick even reading it:

    http://www.vithoulkas.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=238&Itemid=118

    One might be tempted to think that at least things like ‘Produces conditions upon the system quite similar to those resulting from injuries, fails, blows, contusions’ are derived from the traditonal use. But that need not be true.

    Homeopaths were used to do the provings on healthy people unblinded without control groups. So any prover bruising him- or herself wrote down the ensuing symptoms, in accordance with the iron rule that anything happening after taking the drug should be written down in the diary. And when people know they are supposed to feel like if they have bruises, they will write such things down.

    So the capsules cigood got might have been homeopathic Arnica (in the Netherlands cosmetic surgery, for example eyelid correction, often is accompanied by the advice to take Arnica D6, and if you ask why, it turns out to be a tradition, the surgeon learnt it when he was training that this was the thing to do).

    One can see that something is homeopathic by looking at codes like D6, X8, C30 or CH30, or maybe 200K or 200CK (= diluted 10^400 by the one glass method of Korsakov) or one may meet LM potencies (LM8 meaning a formal dilution of 50,000^8) or M potencies. A little circle with an oblique bar through it doesn’t mean diameter or Oersted, but ‘original tincture’ or mother tincture, meaning plant juice mixed with equal parts alcohol so as to preserve the healing powers. As preparation of the mother tincture is also in the homeopathic handbooks, this formally counts as ‘homeopathy’ but it is not diluted.

  50. Jan Willem Nienhuys says:

    @ The Blind Watchmaker on 12 Jan 2011 at 7:09 pm

    Many homeopaths don’t use diluted stuff at all. They use ‘frequency’ remedies, said to have been obtained by transmitting the ‘electronic signature’ of an ordinary homeopathic remedy into the carrier substance. Some of these apparatusses have an internal memory in which many (say 50,000) ‘frequencies’ have been stored. One doesn’t need the original remedy then. Some of those machines can transmit the healing frequency to the sick person, even when she is not present. Others don’t need a remedy, one just speaks the name of the remedy into the microphone. Such machines are sold as Remedy Makers or Electronic Homeopathy.

    Look at the site of Nativis for a similar idea: http://www.nativis.com/
    It was analysed by Quackometer:

    http://www.quackometer.net/blog/2010/06/the-curious-case-of-nativis-the-forsaken-nobel-prize-winner-and-the-ghost-of-jacques-benveniste.html

    In the old time experienced homeopaths knew that if you didn’t have a remedy available, you could make one by writing the name of a remedy, say Calcium Carbonicum C30, on a piece of paper and put a glass of water on that paper. Let it stand for some time, and then it’s ready. In this way one can even make diluted black holes, rainbows, vacuum.

    In the Netherlands there is a psychiatrist who treats autistic children with homeopathically diluted helium. When I asked him about the provings he said that there were no provings, but that in modern times new ways had been discovered for establishing the curative powers of diluted stuff. He relies on a book by Dutch MD Jan Scholten, and here you can find someone from Wisconsin who does the same thing:

    http://hpathy.com/homeopathy-clinical-cases/a-case-of-incipient-autism/

    There is no upper limit to the madness of homeopathy.

  51. Jan Willem Nienhuys says:

    On the internet I find that capsules Arnica are homeopathic:

    http://www.drugs.com/drp/arnica-montana.html

    A complete cure has both 1M and 12C capsules.

    Elsewhere one can even find ‘Food and Drug Administration-approved’ capsules without lactose.

  52. Joe
    “Arnica should never be taken internally. Of course if it is in a typical homeopathic prep there isn’t any arnica left. Either way, I think that tells you what you need to know about the “actual doctor.”

    Is that true. When I check med pub for Arnica and surgery it seems there are a few studies on Arnica used orally. It’s a pain, because you have to sort past all those homeopathic arnica studies. Here’s one on Arnica vs Steriods post rhinoplasty. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17572575

    It does appear that the FDA has banned Arnica used orally as an herb. It sounds to me, that means sold OTC or in health foods stores. I can not find information on it’s use as a prescription medication.

    Just curious.

    Side note, I use arnica gel for muscle, tendon pain. The last time I bought it I came with a free bottle of homeopathic arnica. The homeopathic arnica was worth every penny. :)

  53. Joe says:

    @Jan Willem Nienhuys on 13 Jan 2011 at 7:23 am Does 1M mean 1000:1? I wonder if that is sufficiently dilute to be safe taken orally.

    JWN also wrote “Elsewhere one can even find ‘Food and Drug Administration-approved’ capsules without lactose.

    That may be a lie, or ‘technically’ true if it is homeopathic. I don’t understand the “without lactose” part.

    @micheleinmichigan on 13 Jan 2011 at 7:31 am It is true that arnica is not recommended for oral use by experts, it may be experimental. See “Tyler’s Herbs of Choice” (Haworth Herbal Press, 1999) by Robbers and Tyler. Varro Tyler was the Lily Distinguished Professor of Pharmacognosy at Purdue. Also, “Herbs Demystified” by Holly Phaneuf (Marlowe, 2005) and “Herbal Medicines” by Joanne Barnes et al (Pharmaceutical Press, 2002).

    To be precise, the FDA has not banned arnica orally as an herb; the FDA has noted that it is unsafe to take it orally.

  54. Canadians will be treated to something special this Friday night at 8:00PM – CBC (The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) has a TV Show called “Marketplace – Canada’s Consumer Watchdog” – this week’s title is “Cure or Con” and is an investigation of Homeopathy.

    http://www.cbc.ca/marketplace/2011/cureorcon/

    Oddly, of the 61 comments (at the time of this post) most of them are sympathetic to Homeopathy. And, as the comments in this blog suggested, we’ll get nothing but challenges from using “overdosing” as a method of exposing how stupid Homeopathy really is.

    Head on over and leave your thoughts…
    http://www.cbc.ca/marketplace/2011/cureorcon/

  55. Joe said – “To be precise, the FDA has not banned arnica orally as an herb; the FDA has noted that it is unsafe to take it orally.”

    It might be a bit before I can get access to those book. But I am coming up against the words unsafe to take orally. Safe/Unsafe is a pretty broad term. For instance I would say that prednisone is unsafe when used without the instruction and supervision of a physcian, but I wouldn’t dis a doctor for prescribing it for the right conditions.

    Regardless, It’s clear from the FDA’s listing arnica as a poisonious plant that it is a danger internally.

    Upon review of the med pub article is seems that the ones I found were homeopathic preparations of arnica. Some of those studies seems to conclude results that reduced bruising and swelling after some surgeries, other’s not. It seem used primarily with plastic surgery. I have trouble with the math in the dilutions, so it’s not clear to me if there is sometimes actual arnica in the preparations, but the dilution level is considered safe when used with caution or still unsafe…(sigh)

    If one of the writers here is looking for a topic, I’d be interested in reading one on arnica, homeopathic oral preparations, plastic surgery, etc.

  56. tmac57 says:

    @sarniaskeptic-Thanks for the link.I went over and took a look.I was very disappointed and disheartened reading those comments.A more cynical person might read those and think to themselves “I need to invest all my money in this Homeopathy nonsense!”

    There’s a mark born every minute, and one to trim ‘em and one to knock ‘em.

  57. Joe says:

    @micheleinmichigan on 13 Jan 2011 at 11:20 am wrote “… For instance I would say that prednisone is unsafe when used without the instruction and supervision of a physcian, but I wouldn’t dis a doctor for prescribing it for the right conditions.

    Of course. When I said it is unsafe, I meant that there is no known safe use for oral arnica in herbal doses. For that reason, I disapprove of it being recommended either as an herb or homeopathically.

  58. Joe says:

    @sarniaskeptic on 13 Jan 2011 at 10:42 am as to:
    http://www.cbc.ca/marketplace/2011/cureorcon/

    Wow, the comments are breathtaking! I hope I get to see the show.

  59. Jan Willem Nienhuys says:

    @ Joe on 13 Jan 2011 at 8:53 am
    yes, 1M means 1:1000. That is measurable in a lab, but it’s already quite dilute. But for people that are allergic to arnica, it may produce discomfort, I don’t know.

    The capsules I mentioned contain:
    Sucrose, Lactose, Capsules contain gelatin, titanium dioxide, iron oxide, FD&C blue #1, D&C red #28, D&C green #3.

    So here is some lactose in it, presumnably the carrier of the homeopathic
    dilaution.

    Presumably the homeopathic arnica (i.e. alcohol) was sprayed over the lactose after which it was left to dry. Then the lactose was mixed with the other stuff and then the mixture was put into the capsules.

    I think it is quite common for homeopathic manufacturers to prepare (alcoholic) dilutions, say 4D, spray them over their globules of lactose (or other kind of sugar) and still call the resulting medication 4D whatever. But it contains less than 1 part in 10^4 by weight.

  60. Jan Willem Nienhuys says:

    @ sarniaskeptic on 13 Jan 2011 at 10:42 am

    I looked at (now) 111 comments on that trailer of 20 seconds and less than 200 words. I think it is an organised campaign, for example some homeopathic organisation mailed their members to do some posting. Some posters seem to know more about it than the trailer and the text. About 18 of the posters were practising homeopaths (I googled the ones that gave their full name).

    Maybe I am succumbing to the conspiracy virus.

  61. pmoran says:

    I don’t know why homeopaths think their method works. I suspect that all they have is the experience of people getting better after homeopathic treatment, of course in combination with a selective memory and ignorance of the natural course of diseases and the variation this natural course.

    There’s no real mystery. Can you think of any substance or human activity that has NOT been credited with healing powers? Animal excrement, anyone? How about bits of dead body, preferably ” — that which is stinkeing, —”?

    “Working”, or at least “reputedly works sometimes” is the default state for a medicine. Mere hearsay sustains it. Illusion and human suggestibility reinforce it.

    Practitioners are in the most vulnerable position of all. They add a whole new layer of biased perceptions and interpretations to those active within their patient population. They always have an exaggerated perception of their worth.

  62. tmac57 says:

    Jan Willem Nienhuys-

    I think it is an organised campaign, for example some homeopathic organisation mailed their members to do some posting.

    I’m glad you said that.I had the same feeling while reading the comments,because so many of them were pro homeopathy.I just didn’t want to be the first to bring it up.

  63. pmoran “Can you think of any substance or human activity that has NOT been credited with healing powers?”

    Taxes?

  64. No, wait, I’ve got it! speed metal. I’m pretty sure speed metal has never been known for it’s healing power.

    This is, of course, the exception that proves the rule.

  65. BillyJoe says:

    Jan Willem Nienhuys

    “I think it is an organised campaign…Maybe I am succumbing to the conspiracy virus.”

    It is indeed an organised spam campaign with lots of advice on how to have the maximum impact. For example:

    http://conscioushealthnaturaltherapy.weebly.com/war-on-natural-health-freedom.html

    1. Check your TV listings for the Marketplace timeslot in your area and record the programme if you can, so that you can quote it accurately if necessary.

    2. Spread the word. Tell your friends, colleagues, patients, etc. about the show and share with them your thoughts and recommendations about how they can respond.

    3. Write a testimonial about how homeopathy has worked for you and send it to homeopathy@csoh.ca for inclusion on the CSH website. Ask your friends, colleagues, patients, etc. to do the same. Over the coming weekend, we will use these testimonials to draw attention to the effectiveness of homeopathy.

    4. Be prepared to leave a comment on the CBC and Marketplace website immediately after the programme airs. Go to http://www.cbc.ca/marketplace/blog/ and check out the comment function right now. Sign up now to create a user’s account so that there will be no delay when you are ready to send your comments. Once the programme has aired, you can leave a comment by clicking on the title, which will take you to a summary page concluding with a link “Share your comment”. This leads to a comment box, which requires that you sign in. CBC monitors and reviews all messages so you may want to read the Submission Guidelines page before planning to send your comments.

    5. Know what you are going to say so that you can post a response without delay. Choose to focus on a single point per comment, elaborate on it, and conclude with a strong, affirming statement. Often the most effective messages are short, concise, and to the point. Send as many of these as you can.

    6. Familiarize yourself with the issues. We suspect that the programme may contain some of the common criticisms and mis-information that have been published in the past. We have compiled a list of these erroneous statements and will e-mail them to you upon request. If it’s helpful, you can make use of our material in your comments to the CBC.

    7. Watch Out for Follow-up Enquiries
    If you are a practitioner, be prepared for phone enquiries from the media. Most will be asking you for a comment regarding the Marketplace programme.

  66. BillyJoe says:

    My last comment is held up in moderation so I will repost it without the large quote and see if this passes the the moderator:

    Jan Willem Nienhuys

    “I think it is an organised campaign…Maybe I am succumbing to the conspiracy virus.”

    It is indeed an organised spam campaign with lots of advice on how to have the maximum impact. For example:

    http://conscioushealthnaturaltherapy.weebly.com/war-on-natural-health-freedom.html

  67. pmoran says:

    I’m pretty sure speed metal has never been known for it’s healing power.

    I don’t even know what that is, — a form of energising music therapy, perhaps? In any event, give it time. :-)
    i

  68. Jan Willem Nienhuys says:

    @ BillyJoe on 13 Jan 2011 at 9:27 pm

    It is indeed an organised spam campaign

    Do I qualify for clairvoyant now? Besides all the pro homeopathy a lot of posts are of the avuncular ‘Shame on you CBC’ kind, and rather long winded too, rather than the inchoate hate mail stuff one usually sees when people react spontaneously.

  69. Billy Joe – I love the line from your linked page.

    “Surely if a person has the free will to purchase cigarettes, alcohol and guns legally, then we should have the free will and right to purchase natural medicine. ”

    Pretty sad when the advocates of natural medicine put it in the same category with cigarettes, alcohol and guns. :)

  70. pmoran – It is actually a pretty fun mental exercise to try to think of things or just one thing that has not been reputed to have healing powers. Perhaps a nice airport time waster. It’s very helpful to have google on hand in other to search for ” _______ healing powers”

  71. tmac57 says:

    @BillyJoe-Nice bit of detective work.Thanks!

  72. clgood says:

    So it seems that topical Arnica might be OK. If that doctor gave me homeopathic capsules that’s yet another reason I have to be pissed at him. (Having to repeat the nasal surgery a decade later being the primary.) Thanks for the pointers, all.

  73. Joe says:

    @Jan Willem Nienhuys on 13 Jan 2011 at 3:52 pm wrote “… yes, 1M means 1:1000. That is measurable in a lab, but it’s already quite dilute. …
    Presumably the homeopathic arnica (i.e. alcohol) was sprayed over the lactose after which it was left to dry. Then the lactose was mixed with the other stuff and then the mixture was put into the capsules.

    In Jay Shelton’s book “Homeopathy” (Prometheus, 2004) there is a table that shows the amounts of residual starting material in liquid and pill form for various potencies. It looks like the pills are more dilute than the liquid forms by 1/500. That means that a 1M (3X or 3D) pill is actually nearly a 2M (6X or 6D).

  74. Kim Moir says:

    The CBC marketplace episode debunking homeopathy was really good considering it’s a half hour show, of course they could have said much more if they had had more time.

    Clip from CBC national news
    http://www.cbc.ca/health/story/2011/01/14/marketplace-homeopathy.html

    Full show
    http://www.cbc.ca/marketplace/2011/cureorcon/

    There is a good summary here
    http://www.digitaljournal.com/article/302583

    I wrote Marketplace and thanked them for the great show. Now I have to write my MPP (Member of Provincial Parliament). They have a established a working group to license homeoquacks in the province of Ontario. What’s next, licensing unicorn herders?

  75. Ben Kavoussi says:

    What about dowsing and homeopathy for computers?!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-MM0Z_jCrGo&feature=related

  76. Joe says:

    The CBC program can only be seen in Canada. Currently, a copy exists on YouTube http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2011/01/bravo_homeopathy_deconstructed_by_the_cb.php

  77. Newcoaster says:

    @Joe
    I was also going to post the recent CBC Marketplace investigation http://www.cbc.ca/marketplace/2011/cureorcon/ but was unaware you had to be in Canada to view it.

    One interesting thing is that the comment board is now closed with over 1000 comments registered. The top 50 seem to be uniformly negative and angry at Marketplace and the CBC for the “hatchet job” on homeopathy. Most stories there typically get between 50-150 comments, so the woo brigade was out in force.

    Interesting, the week before it even aired or was available to view, the homeopaths were up in arms, and advising their supporters to write to the CBC protesting, as this link from the Quackometer reports. http://www.quackometer.net/blog/2011/01/the-homeopaths-response-to-the-cbc-marketplace-programme.html

    I also find that most people who take or promote homeopathy don’t have a clue that it contains nothing but magically shaken water. They usually think it is something “herbal and natural” and are quite startled when the truth is revealed, as was the woman near the end of the episode.

  78. Manduca says:

    Of course you can have fractions of a mole.

    I make hundredth-molar solutions every day.

    You can’t have a fraction of a molecule, however, so if you try to dilute a one molar solution below 10^-23, you (almost certainly) won’t have any solute molecules remaining.

    And many solutes will not go into solution at one molar, so the starting stock solution may well be more dilute than one molar.

  79. Jan Willem Nienhuys says:

    @Manduca

    The classical instructions for making homeopathic remedies from materials that don’t readily dissolve in alcohol, such as sand, chalk or elemental sulfur (to name a few) is that they are first triturated. This involves rubbing with milksugar for three hours so as to obtain a C3. See the description in section 270 of the Organon:
    http://www.homeopathyhome.com/reference/organon/organon.html

    If one starts with mercury one ends up with 5 cc of pure alcohol containing 5 x 10 ^-10 mole of mercury, if I understand the recipe correctly. This is used to moisten sugar globules. So even if there’s almost nothing in it, preparation of the stuff is quite labor intensive.

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