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A homeopathy supporter notices our visit with the director of NCCAM

On April 2, Steve Novella, Kimball Atwood, and I visited the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) to meet with its director, Dr. Josephine Briggs. I’m not going to rehash what was said because we agreed that Steve would handle that task, and he did so admirably last week. I agree with Steve that it was encouraging that Dr. Briggs apparently reads this blog and shares many of our concerns about NCCAM, the poor science that it has funded, and its use by promoters of unscientific medicine to promote their quackery. Most heartening of all was that she appeared to recognize how much CAM is infused with anti-vaccine beliefs and, worse, the promotion of these beliefs to the detriment of public health.

Those positive reactions to what was a friendly but frank exchange of views notwithstanding, as we were sitting in a conference room next to Dr. Briggs’ office, I couldn’t help but wonder what the reaction of CAM promoters would be when they found out about this meeting. Now I know. John Weeks over at The Integrator Blog is not happy:

Novella’s posting reads like a Fox News interview: 95% his team’s point, then a brief NCCAM response. That Briggs asked for the meeting likely grew out of an early March conference at Yale at which Novella and she both participated. For this, she deserves the Barack Obama Big Tent award for her proven interest in sitting down with everyone, no matter which party affiliation or belief. (Some have said this was proven in early 2008 when Briggs met with me.) Arguably, Briggs takes her openness to dialogue further than the President. While Obama has kept arms length from leaders who call for the demise of the United States, Briggs has now met with those who have been lobbing bombs at her professional home for years, calling steadily for NCCAM’s destruction.

Because our previous calls for the closing of a relatively small government institute because we view it as a poor use of taxpayer money is just like calling for the downfall of the United States government. Weeks clearly likes ridiculously overblown hyperbole. Interestingly enough, what appeared to upset Mr. Weeks the most was our discussion of homeopathy with Dr. Briggs. As Steve put it:

Dr. Briggs pointed out that it is not the job of the NCCAM to make final pronouncements about any treatment or medical claim. This is fair enough — but depends on context. The NCCAM is responsible for informing the public about so-called CAM modalities, and that should include a fair assessment of the science. If the science says a treatment is worthless, the NCCAM should not be afraid to say so.

Further, the NCCAM does determine what studies the NCCAM funds. The NCCAM accepts applications for research into homeopathy, but have not funded any in several years. What does this mean? Will they consider funding homeopathy research, and if so they are basically saying that they do not close the door on any medical modality, no matter how implausible or damned by negative evidence.

If they will not consider funding homeopathy, then why are they accepting grant applications for homeopathy research? This could be construed as disingenuous — perhaps a way to not fund homeopathy research without having to say they will not fund homeopathy research.

Steve is correct. The NIH can never totally close the door on any line of research. It can, however, set priorities. It could decide that, given the homeopathically diluted prior plausibility of homeopathy based solely on physics, chemistry, and biology, homeopathy is not a priority. It can make sure that only reviewers with the relevant background in basic and clinical science — not “homeopathic” science — make up the study sections that review NCCAM grants. Indeed, I was much heartened to learn from Dr. Briggs that she had already moved peer review of CAM grants out of NCCAM-sponsored study sections and into regular standing NIH study sections run by the Center for Scientific Review, which is where the vast majority of NIH grants are normally reviewed.

As a sort of counterpoint to our message, Mr. Weeks described in the same post a meeting that Dr. Briggs had with an “international homeopathic team.” Besides the amusement I felt at the word choice (is a homeopathic team a team so diluted that there is no one there?), the content itself was at the same time both disturbing and full of hilarious howlers. For instance, this passage concludes the section discussing our visit:

That said, what would have been especially interesting is if Briggs’ scheduler crossed wires and the anti-NCCAM bloggers and homeopathic researchers had showed up for the same meeting time.

I can’t speak for Steve or Kimball, but I assure Mr. Weeks, that I probably would have enjoyed such an encounter thoroughly, although we would have been disappointed that we wouldn’t have been able to have the discussion that we had planned on.

But how did the meeting between Dr. Briggs and the homeopaths go? This is how Mr. Weeks describes it:

Gahles, in a report to the Integrator, assessed that the meeting went “very well.” In her view, a presentation by Chaplin and Roy on chemistry and slides that “showed activity of homeopathic remedies on basophils and IgG” seemed to be particularly compelling to the NCCAM team in suggesting mechanism of action. Gahles underscored that conventional bio-markers seemed to be key in stimulating interest from the NCCAM team.

On the other hand, a presentation on quantum physics and energy medicine seemed to be less useful in making in the case. At one point, an NCCAM team member who said he found the presentation “powerful” asked what the community of top scientists would think. Those in the meeting responded: “We are the leading scientists in the field.”

More like the leading pseudoscientists in the field. The thought of a homeopath claiming to be a leading scientist, particularly when it comes to physics and energy brings to mind Dr. Charlene Werner’s tortured attempt to explain homeopathy through physics or John Benneth’s attempt to explain it as “nanocrystalloids.” Maybe they’re the “leading scientists” of the field of homeopathy. Or perhaps Mr. Weeks means Dana Ullman. Or maybe Jacques Benveniste. In any case, it’s disturbing that an NCCAM team member apparently found the presentation “powerful.” Anyone who finds the clinical research on homeopathy “powerful” does not understand the true tenets of homeopathy and what pseudoscience they are. Such attitudes will tend to stand in the way of attempts to bring more rigorous science to the study of CAM.

Still, Mr. Weeks has done us an unintentional favor — two, actually. First, he has demonstrated clearly that the CAM community wants its pseudoscience, not rigorous science, to guide NCCAM’s research efforts. This has only reinforced my appreciation of Dr. Briggs’ delicate situation. Every move she makes towards bringing rigorous science to the study of CAM is certain to enrage supporters of the purely pseudoscientific CAM modalities such as homeopathy, reiki, and various “energy healing” modalities that are no better than faith healing under different belief systems than Christianity.

Second, Weeks actually points out the heart of the conflict at the heart of NCCAM. Dr. Briggs is clearly trying to move NCCAM in a direction that we at SBM would approve of, namely towards a more drug discovery-oriented approach towards herbal and botanical remedies and various supplements, as well as the study of exercise and various relaxation techniques. After all, these are the most plausible remedies that fall under the general rubric of CAM, and a pharmacognosy approach is the most likely to yield useful information and scientific advances. But that is not what CAM proponents want. Indeed, they resent this approach, as Weeks demonstrates:

One of the perverse pleasures that comes from the disposition of the NIH to hire NCCAM leaders who have no prior experience in alternative or integrative medicine is to think of the culture shock when they move from a zone of relative comfort — drug research on fractions of botanical — into the far reaches such as homeopathic theory and practice. In truth, forms of energetic thinking and practice are infused throughout the “CAM” universe; homeopathy’s dance with Avogadro’s number merely makes it, with distant prayer, the most challenging.

“Challenging” is putting it mildly. But this is the kicker:

It is probably good that Briggs’ extensive and admirable self-education process over the last 2 years preceded this meeting. The culture shock may had this meeting been in her first months.

I rather suspect that Mr. Weeks is correct here, only not in the way he thinks. I’m willing to bet that it was a major culture shock for Dr. Briggs to find out just how much magical thinking, religion, and pseudoscience underlie so much of CAM. What Weeks calls a “comfort zone” is in reality nothing more than staying within what can be studied and demonstrated scientifically, which is what scientists do. If homeopaths could produce anything more than centuries-old magical thinking to support their quackery, if they could produce actual science in the form of physics, chemistry, and biology to support their mystical beliefs in the “memory” of water and that “like cures like,” then their discipline would enter the realm of science, rather than being relegated to the realm of pseudoscience. The problem, of course, is that homeopathy and the “energy healing” modalities are so removed from science that this is about as unlikely to happen as there is likely to be a single molecule of active remedy left in a 30C dilution.

Therein lies the conflict at the heart of NCCAM, and, although I approve of Dr. Briggs’ attempts to increase the scientific rigor of NCCAM and, given that NCCAM isn’t going anywhere, see that as the best path towards trying to make NCCAM a useful center in the NIH, I’m afraid that her actions will only exacerbate the conflict. It’s the institution and the laws that created it that are the problem, and Dr. Briggs won’t be there forever. Her successor might not be as dedicated to science as she is. (In fact, if people like John Weeks get their way, you can count on it.) No matter how much Dr. Briggs may change the culture of NCCAM under her stewardship, all it takes is a new director to change it right back. Directors come and go, but institutions last for generations.

Posted in: Clinical Trials, Homeopathy, Medical Academia

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46 thoughts on “A homeopathy supporter notices our visit with the director of NCCAM

  1. daijiyobu says:

    Per “institutions last for generations,” I’m inclined to add:

    ‘individual graduates of sCAM educational institutions last for no more than one generation [when you collide them].’

    But I may be wrong: not due to their sCAM leading to any kind of measured ‘increased longevity’ [no such study has ever shown that, that I know of] or ‘monolithicity’, but because, like many terms, the question is:

    “what do you mean by generation?”

    Wikipedia states, physically:

    “within the Standard Model, fourth and further generations have been ruled out by theoretical considerations [...] a fourth generation with a ‘light’ neutrino [...] has been ruled out by measurements of the widths of the Z boson at CERN’s Large Electron–Positron Collider [...yet] searches at high-energy colliders for particles from a fourth generation continue, but as yet no evidence has been observed.”

    So, I’ve been thinking about colliding sCAM institutions, or sCAM purveyors if that’s easier, or something like that [a homeopathy pun], to get down to the most basic generational constituents to figure out exactly how many generations things would last for.

    -r.c.

  2. DevoutCatalyst says:

    “…At NCCAM, we are unwavering defenders of science and the scientific method, and we approach our work with curiosity and neutrality….” — Josephine P. Briggs, M.D.

    I wouldn’t think so, Dr. Briggs, but if that’s the direction you’re now heading, fine.

  3. cervantes says:

    BTW, they have explicitly stated their priorities, here.

    # Probiotics

    1. Gut barrier function in infants and children (necrotizing enterocolitis, colic, irritable bowel syndrome)
    2. Anti-infective modalities in humans (treat or prevent antibiotic-induced diarrhea and enhancing influenza vaccine activity)

    (Not sure why NIAID couldn’t fund this sort of thing.)

    # Natural products as adjuncts to pharmacological management of chronic pain

    1. Glucosamine or Turmeric/curcumin (Curcuma longa) for musculoskeletal pain and exercise induced muscle soreness
    2. Devil’s Claw (Harpagophytum procumbens) for back pain
    3. Butterbur (Petasites hybridus) for migraines

    (I don’t know what the evidence is concerning these items, but if they really are promising, again, why NCCAM?)

    Mind-body approaches to promote healthy eating, physical activity, adequate sleep, smoking cessation and weight maintenance

    1. Validation of measures (e.g. biological or other markers) to assess degree of mindfulness achieved during practice, between sessions, and long term
    2. Assessment of the impact of mind-body approaches in activities of daily living and everyday life situations
    3. Development of well-characterized standardized protocols (mindfulness, yoga, tai chi, qi gong)
    4. Assessment of adherence to and feasibility of standardized protocols (mindfulness, yoga, tai chi, qi gong)
    5. Determination of appropriate outcome measures to assess the broad effects on health behaviors of mind-body approaches
    6. Development of comparison/control interventions for mind-body interventions
    7. Validation of psychological, biological, phenotypic, or genetic predictors of responsiveness to mind-body approaches

    (Sure, but what’s wrong with NIMH? They invest hugely in behavior change interventions, and I believe they have funded research into meditation techniques.)

    There’s something a bit misleading by labeling some promising interventions as CAM. If there is evidence for them that’s worth pursuing, then go ahead and pursue it, and if they pan out, just call them medicine or therapy. Aspirin comes from willow bark, statins from a fungus, the NYT today says psychiatrists are studying pscilocybin mushrooms. Terrific. What’s the issue?

  4. overshoot says:

    Pity there wasn’t anyone there who was prepared to ask serious quantum-mechanics questions. That would have been quite revealing for the “leading scientists in the field.”

  5. Scott says:

    “Leading scientists in the field” seems to have been redefined as “those who are insufficiently skilled to have noticed that it’s bunk”.

  6. DanaUllman says:

    Yeah…other agencies SHOULD be providing funding for various CAM treatments, but because they were not doing so, a separate agency had to be created to do it.

    And here’s another study for you that may help explain why skeptics are wrong about homeopathy. The hyper-rational and mechanistic thinking of skeptics have left them (you) with a true understanding of the amazing characteristics of nature.

    The below study is not a “homeopathic” study, but it verifies the significance and power of “similars” and homologies, even in distant and mindblowingly “small” doses.

    The press release for this study was headlined as: “‘Telepathic’ Genes Recognize Similarities In Each Other.”

    The story is at: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/01/080124103151.htm

    The original article is at: http://pubs.acs.org/doi/pdfplus/10.1021/jp7112297?cookieSet=1

    Now, put down your rotary phones and your typewriters, and welcome to the 21st century.

  7. Draal says:

    Homologous recombination is old news, buddy. The new study just adds new information about the mechanism. I use this trick in my research. It’s a non-sequitur to think it provides support for homeopathy.
    In fact, DNA is an example of opposites attract. Base pairs are not AA or TT or GG or CC, they are AT and GC. Its likely how homologous recombination is able to work!

  8. Draal says:

    Homeopathy was invented in the 18th century. Talk about not being in the 21st Century.

  9. DanaUllman says:

    Hey Draal…

    You gotta do some homework because you’re failing again. The word “homeopathy” was not even coined until 1807 (that makes it the 19th century, not 18th).

    Please tell me if there are any conventional drugs that have this longevity.

    And while you’re at it, since you seem to know so much about homologous recombination, how many molecules does it take for it to occur? Unless you can tell me this, you’re now a part of the woo-woo club. Welcome aboard…you wildman, you.

    It seems that information may not work in the same mechanistic fashion as you normally limit yourself…but please tell me the NUMBER OF MOLECULES involved here! Hmmmm…

  10. David Gorski says:

    Oh. My. God.

    Even given his history, I can’t believe Dana is actually trying to point to homologous recombination as evidence for homeopathy. That is perhaps the most unintentionally hilarious thing I’ve read from him in a long, long time, and that’s saying something. That Dana would even think that homologous recombination is in any way evidence for homeopathy or even evidence for the plausibility of homeopathy reveals a scientific ignorance regarding biochemistry so profound that…he became a homeopath.

    I thank Dana for the chuckle, though. I hope Dr. Briggs is reading this exchange. I really do. Dana has unintentionally provided evidence to support my contention that homeopaths (Edzard Ernst excepted) are experts in pseudoscience, not science.

  11. qetzal says:

    DanaUllman writes:

    The below study is not a “homeopathic” study, but it verifies the significance and power of “similars” and homologies, even in distant and mindblowingly “small” doses.

    Wow. Talk about your fallacies of equivocation! Nothing in this study verifies anything relevant to homeopathy!

    In the study, the ‘power of similars’ is that like DNA sequences prefer to pack together when condensed. No connection whatsoever to homeopathy’s ‘Law of Similars.’ Similarly, homology in DNA refers to similar or identical base sequences. Irrelevant to homeopathy.

    The distances involved here are ~2 nanometers. That’s the same as the width of the double helix. Not particularly distant (especially given the authors’ hypothesis that charge interactions are involved, which normally act across such distances.)

    Finally, the ‘doses’ are the exact opposite of homeopathy here. They didn’t dilute the DNA to see these effects – they concentrated it tremendously, condensing it into spherical aggregates.

    In retrospect, I guess this paper is a perfect example of homeopathy: take some sciency-sounding terms, redefine them to mean something completely unscientific, and claim them as proof of your nonsense!

  12. PTsickofBS says:

    “Please tell me if there are any conventional drugs that have this longevity”

    Longevity of a treatment or modality does not necessarily relate to efficacy, and is a poor argument to support it.

    Bloodletting was around for millennia – didn’t make it any less bollocks!!

  13. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

    Dana:

    “Yeah…other agencies SHOULD be providing funding for various CAM treatments, but because they were not doing so, a separate agency had to be created to do it.”

    Ignoring of course, that these other agencies be spending their scarce research dollars on interventions that bear the most promise – that is not homeopathy, with its contradictions of physics, biology and chemistry, as well as its lack of basic efficacy – if homeopathy is truly effective, it should be easy to show it. Conventional pharmaceuticals can, often with rather trivial tests.

    “The below study is not a “homeopathic” study, but it verifies the significance and power of “similars” and homologies, even in distant and mindblowingly “small” doses.”

    If the doses are small, but still detectable, then it’s not really homeopathy, is it? Has there ever been a verification of molecules in homeopathic preparations? Any preparations from cells could, for instance, be tested for the presence of DNA. Mind-blowingly small doses can still be detected and manipulated to good effect using many technologies (such as the atomic clock, which uses a single molecule of cesium to “tick”) but you still need that one molecule of cesium.

    “You gotta do some homework because you’re failing again. The word “homeopathy” was not even coined until 1807 (that makes it the 19th century, not 18th).”

    That would mean it was not named “homeopathy” until the 19th century. But according to wikipedia, the practice was theorized by Paracelsus in the 16th century and provings in 1796 – making it an 18th century phenomenon. It’s less specific on dilution and succession, but obviously it’s slightly more complicated than merely saying homeopathy was from the 18th or 19th century. Of course, this is all irrelevant, as age does not demonstrate efficacy or worth. Lingering for more than two centuries isn’t longevity, antisemitism has a longer lifespan than that, does that validate all its criticisms of Judaism? Racism has a longer history, so does alchemy, slavery, bloodletting, etc. Invoking “its old” actually works against it when you’re talking about anything that existed before the application of the scientific method to medicine.

  14. Draal says:

    Here’s another source:

    Homeopathy was discovered by a German physician, Dr. Samuel Christian Fredrich Hahnemann in 1796.

    http://drgeetahomeopathy.blogspot.com/2008/04/homeopathy.html

    Got two words for you:

    SUCK IT!

    “It seems that information may not work in the same mechanistic fashion as you normally limit yourself…but please tell me the NUMBER OF MOLECULES involved here! Hmmmm…”

    1 or 2 molecules. Ever hear of intermolecular and intramolecular reactions? It’s basic chemistry 101. Did I just blow you mind?

  15. Draal says:

    “Please tell me if there are any conventional drugs that have this longevity. ”

    You know what we call Chinese medicine that works? Medicine.

  16. Draal says:

    let’s see stuff that’s been around…
    Morphine
    Opium
    Marijuana
    quinine
    Vitamin C

  17. Draal says:

    Now it’s your turn to answer my question:
    Couldn’t you just combine a bunch of homeopathic medicines into one batch and make a super homeopathic remedy capable of curing everything?

  18. DevoutCatalyst says:

    @Draal

    “Couldn’t you just combine a bunch of homeopathic medicines into one batch and make a super homeopathic remedy capable of curing everything?”

    I can answer that. How do you plan to offer a “Doctor of Classical Homeopathy program spanning four years and 4280 clock hours” with THAT simplistic approach? Go succuss your face, buddy.

  19. Draal says:

    But Dana’s the John Steward of homeopathy. Let the man speak.

  20. overshoot says:

    the doses are small, but still detectable, then it’s not really homeopathy, is it?

    Sure it is. For one instance, there’s Zicam’s 1X zinc.

  21. lonnie123 says:

    I would say even if the NCCAM was doing proper research and approaching things the way we would have them do it, at the very least a name change is in order.

    I think most of the readers/authors of this blog can agree that there should be no such distinction as “Alternative” medicine… There is simply medicine(Chemicals/ Drugs/ Herbs/ Sunshine…whatever you use to increase health) that works and medicine that does not work.

    The fact that the Government is funding the organization lends legitamicy not only to the ideas that they research, but simply to the idea of “Alternative” medicine itself, which is a misnomer.

    There should simply be one organization that funds and examines research into new treatment ideas, it should be based on merit and plausibility… Not on whether or not is is “main stream”

  22. # cervanteson 12 Apr 2010 at 1:58 pm

    “BTW, they have explicitly stated their priorities, here.

    # Probiotics

    1. Gut barrier function in infants and children (necrotizing —-etc on to—-
    1. Glucosamine or Turmeric/curcumin (Curcuma longa) for musculoskeletal pain and exercise induced muscle soreness
    2. Devil’s Claw (Harpagophytum procumbens) for back pain
    3. Butterbur (Petasites hybridus) for migraines

    (I don’t know what the evidence is concerning these items, but if they really are promising, again, why NCCAM?)”

    Okay, I’m going to show my ignorance, big time, But I’m don’t understand, why the argument, if the line of research seems valid (although, perhaps not as promising as other NIH funded projects.)

    For instance, herbals, (and yes, I know, once again I’m ignorant) but if an herbal remedy may be less promising for mass production because perhaps it’s hard to standardize the dosage. Maybe it wouldn’t get funded by NIH, but perhaps it’s still could be a valid thing to look into.

    But, then I do see the point that if the money is all ultimately coming from the same place that more promising research could be losing out to the less promising “herbal” research.

    But then again, Perhaps there is some value in having two perspectives (NIH and NCCAM) as long as there is a minimum level of ethics in research standards and credibility met?

    Sorry, I get kinda lost on the research funding issues. But, I am making a fool of myself in the hopes that I might learn something.

  23. weing says:

    From what I recall, curcumin is being studied for dementia. I’m sure by several pharmaceutical companies. I’m not a research though, so I know very little about government funding except that you have to know how to write grant applications. I can imagine, it’s a very desirable skill to have.

  24. lonnie123 says:

    @micheleinmichigan

    Perhaps the comment I left right before yours could help shed some light as to why the poster left the “Why NCCAM” comment.

    One of the gripes many of us have is that the very notion of a “NCCAM” necesitates the existence of “CAM” – Which is a false distinction.

    If the research areas in those fields (Devil’s Claw for back pain etc…) looked promising, or even plausible, they would/should be funded and treated the same as any other medicine… But because they are “Alternative” they get special attention focused on them.

    Asprin, for example, originally came from the bark of a Willow Tree, and the rest is history. We dont consider it “alternative” because its from a tree… The same should be true for ANY bush/herb/tree/seed/etc

  25. lonnie123 – yes, I missed your comment while writing my own.

    I think for me to wrap my head around the topic I have to understand what NIH views as promising. Then I have to see if there is either a reasonably valid argument that NIH was not funding CAM theories that meet their (NIH’s) standards as promising OR that NIH’s definition of promising is in some way flawed.

    If neither of the those things are true (possibly true), then I would be inclined to agree that it is a false dicotomy. If one or both of those things were true then I would see more reason for NCCAM. Or, the other option (beside having NCCAM) would be to fix NIH’s definition of promising or their selection process.

    Just outlining my understanding thus far.

    weing – The herbal that had in mind is not really an herbal. It Armour thyroid, referred to a ‘natural thyroid hormone’ (Pig thyroid hormone) that often seems recommended my CAM doctor and somewhat disliked by Conventional doctors, due to, I’m told, unreliable dosages. But maybe that’s not really relevant to the Conventional/CAM debate, it was just the thing that popped into my mind.

  26. squirrelelite says:

    Since Dana seems to be showing a little more persistence this time, I’ll pose him the same a question I asked a different commenter on one of Dr Novella’s Neurologica blogs:

    Since you seem to support the effectiveness of homeopathic treatments, how do you distinguish between a 10 ml bottle of distilled water and a 10 ml bottle of a 20C diluted homeopathic “medicine” diluted from the same source of distilled water?

  27. squirrelelite says:

    Since Dana seems to be showing a little more persistence this time, I’ll pose him the same question I asked a different commenter on one of Dr Novella’s Neurologica blogs:

    Since you seem to support the effectiveness of homeopathic treatments, how do you distinguish between a 10 ml bottle of distilled water and a 10 ml bottle of a 20C diluted homeopathic “medicine” diluted from the same source of distilled water?

  28. weing says:

    I thought Armour Thyroid was pulled from the market. Another company may be trying to get it on the market again. It is not an herbal, it’s desiccated thyroid gland from cattle, and nothing CAM about it. You are right that dosing is unreliable but patients on it seem to love it. The T3 in it apparently gives patients a jolt like a few cups of espresso, that’s why it’s difficult to get them off of it. Some patients have been going to Canada to get it.

  29. DanaUllman says:

    Qestal asserts the obvious: “homology in DNA refers to similar or identical base sequences.” Great, we’re on the same page.

    Then, he says that this is “Irrelevant to homeopathy.” Wrong.

    Just as a “C” note is hypersensitive to other “C” notes, this hypersensitivity is the same basis to the homeopathic principle of similars. As in music and physics and homeopathy, when there IS resonance, there is hypersensitivity, even to exceedingly small doses, including non-molecular “doses” such as resonance.

    And thanx Draal for lising almost ALL of the drugs that have been around for a long time…and that are virtually all missing from the day-to-day practice of family medicine. C’mon, after all of these years and billions and billions and billions of dollars, can you not find a regular drug that has been proven to work? Does anyone here have a mirror? You’ve got to look in a mirror and try to keep a straight face…

  30. qetzal says:

    DanaUllman,

    Do you honestly think that gibberish makes sense, or are you just a homeopathic poe? There is no “hypersensitivity” or “resonance” involved in DNA homology. Homology in this sense doesn’t involve any molecular interactions at all. It just means the sequence of one DNA is similar to another DNA due to shared ancestry. No hypersensitivity, no resonance, no relation to homeopathy at all.

    Also, “non-molecular ‘doses’ such as resonance” makes about as much sense as this.

  31. Adam_Y says:

    But according to wikipedia, the practice was theorized by Paracelsus in the 16th century and provings in 1796 – making it an 18th century phenomenon.

    Really? Paracelsus wrote this:

    All things are poison and nothing is without poison, only the dose permits something not to be poisonous.”

    Just as a “C” note is hypersensitive to other “C” notes, this hypersensitivity is the same basis to the homeopathic principle of similars. As in music and physics and homeopathy, when there IS resonance, there is hypersensitivity, even to exceedingly small doses, including non-molecular “doses” such as resonance.

    It doesn’t even make any sense from a chemistry perspective. Very rarely do you end up with a scenario that is similar to the resonance in the piano. Mind you if you know the reason why you should be able to complete the though process I have.

  32. Draal says:

    “…and that are virtually all missing from the day-to-day practice of family medicine.”
    Movin’ the goal post. I gave you examples of drugs that are still in use after over 200 years and you want even more. Doctors recommend drinking enough water to keep hydrated. That should be conventional enough for even you. But homeopathy isn’t prescribed by the vast majority of family doctors.

    “C’mon, after all of these years and billions and billions and billions of dollars, can you not find a regular drug that has been proven to work?”

    I’m done answering you since you still haven’t answered my question. I want my super duper cure all but DanaUllman, Miles Per Hour isn’t being too helpful like his website claims he is.

  33. JMB says:

    Thank you Dana Ullman for calling to my attention to a good study with a freely downloadable article. I will quote from the introduction,


    Organization, compaction, and processing of genetic material involve direct interactions between DNA double helices at small distances. {1} These interactions have many surprising features even in simple electrolytic solutions without proteins.{2-10} Invariably, they are assumed to be independent of the base pair sequence because the nucleotides are buried inside the double helix and shielded by the charged sugar−phosphate backbone. {7,8} However, a recent theory {10} challenged this concept, predicting that the sequence dependence of the backbone structure {11-13} might affect the DNA−DNA interactions and even result in sequence homology recognition without unzipping the double helix. {14,15}

    Geoff S. Baldwin, Nicholas J. Brooks, Rebecca E. Robson, Aaron Wynveen, Arach Goldar, Sergey Leikin, John M. Seddon, and Alexei A. Kornyshev. ‘DNA Double Helices Recognize Mutual Sequence Homology in a Protein Free Environment’, Journal of Physical Chemistry B, 23 January 2008.

    So the hypothesis is that aggregation of homologous strands of DNA may occur because of the structure of the exposed sugar-phosphate backbone. This hypothesis was supported by their observations in their in vitro experiment. This has interesting implications for molecular evolution (at least in my off beat way of thinking). The other implications are stated in this article:

    Self-Assembly of Double-Stranded DNA Molecules at Nanomolar Concentrations†

    Shotaro Inoue,‡ Shigeru Sugiyama,§ Andrew A. Travers, and Takashi Ohyama*
    Department of Biology, Faculty of Science and Engineering, Konan University, 8-9-1 Okamoto, Higashinada-ku, Kobe 658-8501, Japan, Instrumentation Engineering Laboratory, National Food Research Institute, 2-1-12 Kannondai, Tsukuba, Ibaraki 305-8642, Japan, MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology, Hills Road, Cambridge CB2 2QH, U.K., Department of Biology, Faculty of Education and Integrated Arts and Sciences, Waseda University, 1-6-1 Nishi-Waseda, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo 169-8050, Japan, and Major in Integrative Bioscience and Biomedical Engineering, Graduate School of Science and Engineering, Waseda University, 1-6-1 Nishi-Waseda, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo 169-8050, Japan
    Biochemistry, 2007, 46 (1), pp 164–171


    We suggest that the attractive force causing DNA self-assembly may function in biological processes such as folding of repetitive DNA, recombination between homologous sequences, and synapsis in meiosis.

    While the cited article may have some implication for the mechanisms occurring within the environment of the cell nucleus cited above, there is no support for proposed homeopathic mechanisms of action. In fact, because of the tendency to aggregate, the possibility of any measurable effect remaining after serial dilutions becomes even less than remotely possible.

    It would be interesting if the authors of the cited article would describe their scientific study as supporting homeopathy. While they might not take the time to respond to this blog, perhaps they might respond to an inquiry from NIH/NCCAM.

  34. Harriet Hall says:

    Dana,

    Which are you going to give up: hormesis or remedies with trans-Avogadro dilutions? You can’t have them both.

  35. David Gorski says:

    Self-Assembly of Double-Stranded DNA Molecules at Nanomolar Concentrations†

    Of course, nanomolar concentrations are tens of orders of magnitude greater than homeopathic concentrations. In molecular biology, in fact, nanomolar is not that tiny a concentration, and the chemical interactions at such concentrations can be readily studied. :-)

  36. Opps, Weing – I only assumed Armour Thyroid was CAM because the folks I knew who took it were prescribed it by Integrative Doctors. Quite awhile back, I asked my previous Endocrinologist about it and she said she didn’t recommend it due to dosing concerns. Also, it being marketed as “Natural”. Thanks for the correction.

  37. Draal says:

    Anyone else wondering how you get nanomolar concentrations for 1 molecule of DNA?
    Take E. coli. It has 1 molecule of circular DNA of about 3 million base pairs. In terms of moles, that 1 / Avogadro’s number = 1 / 6.022 * 10^23 = 1.66 * 10^-24 moles. Wow. That’s small… how can you get nanomolar which is 1*10^-9 moles/liter?
    Well, the aqueous volume of an E. coli cell is 1*10^-16 liter. So putting it all together, you take the # of moles and divide it by the volume = 1.66 * 10^-24 moles / 1 * 10^-16 liter = … (wait for it) …

    1.66 * 10^-8 = 16.6 * 10^-9 = 16.6 nanomolar.
    Great Ode’s raven!

  38. Dawn says:

    @DanaUllman: Vitamin C is often in daily use. Due to my surgery, my doctor recommended I take a multi-vit every day. It contains Vitamin C, and I know many people who also take it alone every day.

    Daily use: How about digitalis? Still in use, although not as commonly as better drugs with less severe side effects are more commonly used.

    Daily use: Aspirin. Many people take it every day, recommended by their physicians for its cardioprotective actions (baby asa). Although Aspirin was only refined and synthesized in the 1800′s, you have to admit it was in common use (willow bark) long before that.

    Better than the distilled water and sugar tablets you offer. (And yeah, I went down the homeopathy woo path for a few years as a midwife, till I really tested the “drugs” and found they did nothing. Quit using anything that didn’t show a measureable effect as compared to modern medicines…i.e. if the “drug” showed a similar effect to it’s comparable medicine, I would use it. If it showed no effect, I dropped it. Ended up not using any homeopathic drugs. Stuck with some herbal medicines. )

  39. Dawn says:

    ARGH! “its comparable medicine”, not “it’s”. Too many typos today and I’m sure I’ve missed others.

  40. mikerattlesnake says:

    Wait, I thought that a couple days ago that the explanation for homeopathy was sillicates leaking from glass (an explanation I’m all for, that way anyone can make a homeopathic remedy at home with a glass jar and some distilled water without a cent given to a scam artist… I mean homeopath)? Which is it? Resonance, silicates, nanobubbles?

    How about an explanation that actually shows how the SPECIFIC properties of a SPECIFIC substance are maintained and transferred without a molecule of that substance being present in the water. None of this “here’s a scientific study that is tangentially related to homeopathy (and only then if you’ve had more beers tonight than you’ve had chemistry classes)”, show us an acutal, plausible mechanism that explains dilution beyond avagadro’s number, succussion, AND the effect of homeopathy (not just a bit here and a piece here).

    How about this one: what happens if I succuss and already “finished” homeopathic solution? Do I break up the nanobubbles (or silicates, or resonances, or whatever) and turn it back into regular water?

    Be careful with your homeopathic medicine everybody!

  41. mikerattlesnake says:

    common medical suggestions and practices that have lasted a significant amount of time (some may not be 200 years old, but they have lasted as long as the knowledge that drives them has existed. What’s the factual knowledge that homeopathy is based on again? Oh yeah, it was just an idea that some dude thought up.):

    exercise
    nutrition
    sterile/disinfected/clean surfaces and instruments
    amputation
    glasses
    setting and supporting/reinforcing broken bones

    I’m not a medical doctor and I’m too lazy (not as lazy as our resident homeopath, though) to check the dates for all of these. The exercise is silly, though. Comparing the age of treatments is pointless given that most of our modern treatments are based on things that we have only known about the human body for a few decades at most and the treatment we are comparing them to (like reiki, accupuncture, and so much other BS) was just MADE UP. Forget the efficacy, forget the mechanism; how about just looking at where this stuff came from? Are you suggesting that some dude over two centuries ago made some shit up with no knowledge of modern biology, chemistry, physics, or anatomy and he just happened to be spot-on?

    This is a patently abusrd idea. You are a doofus for buying it or an evil man for making your living off of suckers who do.

  42. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

    “Just as a “C” note is hypersensitive to other “C” notes, this hypersensitivity is the same basis to the homeopathic principle of similars. As in music and physics and homeopathy, when there IS resonance, there is hypersensitivity, even to exceedingly small doses, including non-molecular “doses” such as resonance.”

    Strings tuned to specific notes will vibrate in sympathy with the same note, and air molecules will undergo summative compaction and rarefaction in response to specific frequencies, but I fail to see the applicability of this to people. People aren’t strings, masses of air, or other types of relatively homogeneous structures that tend to respond well to resonance. Individual molecules and solids may vibrate in resonance, when relatively stable and not faced with other, competing vibrations from bumps, nearby trucks, flexing or bending, stabilization by clamps or other fixed structures. Humans do all of these things. This is an extension of a stable, simple mechanical system to an unstable, heterogeneous biological system, with multiple feedback loops designed to maintain homeostasis. Put another way, humans are not musical instruments. Do you have evidence indicating resonance has an effect on the human body? And what are those remedies resonating with? Bones? Blood? Hemoglobin? Bile salts? Potassium? Resonance is also the transmission of force, do homeopathic remedies store energy in the form of physical bonds? Is that energy released when digested, and does that release occur in a temporal sequence such that it causes “resonance”? It’s insufficient to say “resonance” – resonance in mainstream science can be defined and explained in terms of what is resonating, in response to a specific force. Without defining the “what” and the force applied, this explains nothing. Again, this demonstrates the willingness to co-opt scientific terminology without a corresponding willingness to adopt science’s methods (observation, isolation, controls, replication), tradition of criticism, and emphasis on evidence to settle disputes. Where is the evidence that remedies contain “resonance” that applies to and affects humans, or other living systems?

    “And thanx Draal for lising almost ALL of the drugs that have been around for a long time…and that are virtually all missing from the day-to-day practice of family medicine. C’mon, after all of these years and billions and billions and billions of dollars, can you not find a regular drug that has been proven to work?”

    Morphine and opium – used as a pain killer and narcotic universally, during operations, postoperatively, and in outpatient treatment of addictions (though methadone, fentanyl and other derivatives are more common as they present more favourable risk:benefit profiles as demonstrated by research). In other words, these compounds have been improved upon by modern medicine.

    Marijuana – used to treat glaucoma and anorexia for HIV patients.

    Quinine – used to treat malaria when artemisinin is not available. Also replaced by quinidine, a derivative of quinine – again an improvement on a useful medicine by science.

    Vitamin C – not really a drug, but certainly a nutrient whose importance has been elucidated by science over the past couple centuries. A universal recommendation for good health by all practitioners of modern medicine, generally in the form of fresh fruits and vegetables.

    If you defined what a “regular” drug is, I could probably provide more, I’m sure Draal could as well. If you mean medicines used by large numbers of people, how about penicillin? Insulin? Attenuvax? Guaifenesin? Dextromethorphan? Celebrex? Viagra? Would you like me to cite the peer-reviewed studies that demonstrate they work?

    Modern medicine has moved on with the discoveries of science. These examples demonstrate how the former use of these chemicals as panaceas has moved on to only indicated uses as demonstrated by evidence-based medicine. These “medicines” are all still used, but their uses have diminished as more effective molecules have been discovered or synthesized. A corresponding proliferation of other effective medicines have stepped in to the gaps left when we realized morphine doesn’t do a thing for the flu or smallpox. Medicine changes with the evidence. I think we can all agree however, that homeopathy has not changed substantially since its inception. Medicine is about evidence, not revealed truth, and again I’m reminded of the links between homeopathy and religion.

  43. daedalus2u says:

    The basal level of nitric oxide happens to be about one nanomolar. Soluble guanylyl cyclase is ~50% activated at about 10 nM/L. (there are a lot of different isoforms and they are modified by other things which changes the activation which is also time dependent).

    If the oldest treatment is always the best, then no new treatment can ever be any good.

    Blood letting may have been therapeutic. There haven’t been clinical trials, so we don’t really know. Hemoglobin is the sink for NO, so if you induce anemia by blood letting, you temporarily increase NO levels (until the body compensates). At rest you have a large excess of hemoglobin to carry sufficient O2.

    If you have a bad infection, your body needs to raise the NO level to where quorum sensing by bacteira is inhibited, so they don’t form a biofilm in your blood stream. Bacteria in your blood is bad, but a biofilm is a couple of orders of magnitude worse. That is what the immune system stimulation of sepsis causes, a high enough NO level that adhesion of bacteria to the inside of vessels is inhibited. If you induced anemia, it takes less NO to achieve that level.

    I suspect that some of the blood loss associated with childbirth may be a “feature” that provides a little resistance to strep infection (puerperal fever)by this mechanism.

  44. wertys says:

    Hey Dana, where’d you go buddy?

    I hit a high C in the shower the other day and all the glass around me resonated. I think I unintentionally potentized all the water in my shower at that instant, but I couldn’t save any to make remedies from.

  45. superdave says:

    @wertys
    A high C, that’s impressive.
    But seriosuly Dana, if you take an honest step back and look at the posts you made here, how can you not see the similarity to the arguments you make here and the kinds of arguments people make that 9/11 was an inside job or that the moon landing was a hoax. That paper has as much to do with homeopathy as “pull the building” meant to use explosives to bring down building 17.

    http://www.debunking911.com/pull.htm

    PS, the amount they have to do with each other is nothing.

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