Worst product of the week: homeopathy for kids and pets

Homeopathy is based on the principle of diluting an herb with water until none of the substance remains, then selling the water for $10—or $100. Inert powders are also used as the dilutant, with the same results.

Take, for example, the "HomeoFamily Kit", which is a big drawer full of tubes. Most of the ingredients listed are "30C", which, in homeopathy jargon, means that an extract of that ingredient was diluted 100 times, thirty times in succession. This means that it's so dilute there would be perhaps one molecule of the active ingredient remaining in a sphere of "medicine" 131 light years in diameter.

The manufacturer helpfully notes that it has "no side effects." Since these are literally sugar pills, a mix of sucrose and lactose, this is what you'd expect.

"Wait! HomeoFAMILY? Are they suggesting you give placebos to children instead of medicine?" That's exactly what they're marketing. Check out "Homeopathic Medicine for Children and Infants" for another example. This book recommends you give your kids homeopathic medicine as an alternative to real medicine for Rubella, bone fractures, asthma, head injuries, and Measles.

Would it blow your mind if I told you that the author of this book developed her own line of homeopathic medicine? The price of bottled water has not been diluted to the thirtieth power; annual sales of homeopathic remedies in the US alone are nearly a billion dollars ($870 million in 2009, according to the Chicago Tribune).

You can also buy "Cats: Homeopathic Remedies", which is a book, or Newton Homeopathic Eye Care For Dogs and Cats, or "Storm Stress" tablets to make your dog calm down during thunderstorms.

As the quote goes: if alternative medicine worked, they'd call it medicine, and it would be practiced by doctors.


  1. Someone explain to me how this works/doesn’t work. Aside from the Placebo effect, is there any evidence of this working outside of perception?

      1.  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1825800
        I suspect that this is publication bias, i.e. I think that the sensible position is still to regard the weak evidence presented here as insufficient to support the extraordinary claims of homeopathy. But anyone who says that there is *no* evidence is just rocking their own confirmation bias.

    1. Nope no evidence whatsoever. The theory is that water has a memory in that it can hold the vibrations from other substances. They also believe that these vibrations can be used to cure various diseases/ailments.

      The thought is that if you take something that causes a symptom and dilute in water you can cure that symptom, e.g. if you’re sneezing a lot because of a cold, you could put pepper in water (because pepper makes you sneeze) shake that water up, and then take some of that water and put it in other water and shake that up, and do that 30x or so and then you have a homeopathic cure. Of course there’s no evidence this works at all.

      1. Also, diagnosis is based on the symptoms experienced by a healthy person when given the remedy. There is a very detailed list of different symptoms, from physical to psychological, which match different remedies.

        Again, the idea is that by shaking a substance in water, the water retains its “energetic pattern” which then influences the patterns of the patient. This is not about chemical dilution but about energetics. The higher the number, the more subtle the “energetic pattern” the higher the potency. 

        Different patients may experience similar symptoms as the result of different issues/patterns, thus diagnosis is of paramount importance.

        According to Classical Homeopathy, giving a specific remedy for a small set of symptoms, like a cold for example, without further diagnosis is a waste of time. Different people would have a cold / weaker immune system for different reasons. So buying a remedy off the shelf or self-diagnosing, according to Classical Homeopathy are both ineffective. Some exceptions seem to be Arnica immediately after physical trauma and a few others.

        P. S. I make no claims whether Homeopathy works or not.

        1. Arnica works well for me and others.  I don’t discount that there is a vibration or “energetic pattern” that can be infused in objects, but also I make no claims as to how it works.

          1. Arnica is not homeopathic in and of itself. It’s an herbal remedy and it does indeed work as do many ‘medicines’ which are derived from herbs. Homeopathy specifically means taking a substance and diluting it as a way of strengthening its effect. No, it does not make any type of sense :)

          2. Just want to jump in to mention that taking oral arnica that isn’t homeopathically dilute is very damaging to the liver.  

        2. What’s interesting to me about this explanation is how it is structured to explain failures of homeopathy away rather than justifying successes.

          All pseudosciences and superstitions end up with similar caveats: failures in astrology are ascribed to the fact that there are so many astrological effects and missing even a small one can reverse a reading; failures in Freudian psychoanalysis are ascribed to unconscious resentment of the analyst by the patient; failures of psychokinetic experiments are ascribed to skepticism on the part of disbelievers in psychokinesis.  “It would work if only you’d just believe in it!”

          And there’s some truth in that.  Ritual magic uses the same epistemological safeguards as these other pseudosciences: a failure of a magical ritual will be explained after-the-fact by improper mental state of the ritualist or perhaps unverifiable assumptions about aspects of the ritual which were overlooked or performed improperly.  But ritual magic does “work” in the same sense that the placebo effect is an effect.  If a group of 10 people get the ritual performed and they all believe it will work half of them might actually get better.

          Still, such caveats have to be taken as warning signs that the practice in question has already been debunked and that the caveat is a form of religious apologetics explaining why it works even though it doesn’t.

          Most importantly, just because something has worked for you does not mean it is a good or moral idea to market that thing as medicine to everyone else.

    2. All I can tell you is that nobody knows. I consider myself a rational person. I believe in science and the scientific method. Homeopathy goes against everything I think I know about reality. Yet, I’ve tried it on a couple of occasions, and it worked. 

      1. The plural of anecdote is not data.

        Secondarily the placebo effect is very real, that does not mean that placebos have any active ingredients that ‘do’ anything.

      2. There have been a couple of occasions where doing absolutely nothing has worked for me.  Is that the same thing?

      3. Alex, one thing to consider is that “my symptoms went away” is not equal to “it worked.”

    3. I’ve seen medicines advertised as “homeopathic” that were listed as 1X, or a one-tenth dilution (the notation is nX or nC, equaling dilutions of 10^n or 100^n, respectively.)  Of course, one-tenth is a reasonable concentration of a substance if it actually has a healing effect.

      What’s going on here is that a great many people confuse the term “homeopathic” with “natural” or “organic.”  The makers of the medicines I saw played on that to attract the attention of ignorant shoppers.  It’s quite a backwards way of advertising a product that may actually work, as opposed to the more common homeopathic dilutions that rely on the magic memory of water.

      1. For example, Zicam possibly works. It contains Zinc at dilutions of 1x and 2x for two different zinc containing ingredients. It doesn’t actually say how much zinc it starts out with though, so it’s plausible that there may be therapeutic amounts of it, but equally likely that there may be only trace amounts.

    4. If the “Storm Stress” tablet calms down your dog, do you care if it’s because of pseudo-scientific woo-woo quackery or because he likes having you feed him a tasty sugar pill and tell him he’s a good doggie?  (Ok, you should, but it’s safer for him than actual medicine, so if it works, great.)

    5. Yes. About 200 published studies and a major health technology assessment.
      What’s this about “real medicine for Rubella, bone fractures, asthma, head injuries, and Measles”. There isn’t any mainstream medicine that cures any of these. You can set a bone fracture but it heals in its own time. Amazing how some people have such a naive view of what conventional medicine is all about.

    6. Homeopathy started as a not very scientific theory around 1800, about the same time as the first vaccines were discovered, and has a history of 200+ years of not very scientific trial&error experimentation plus speculative explanations (most of which range from bogus to very bogus to utterly ridiculous.)  While homeopathy didn’t pick up on the Germ Theory of Disease, so you can’t trust it to cure the causes of disease, sometimes the experiments find treatments for symptoms which can be useful as long as you don’t listen to the quackish explanations.*

      Why would you want to treat symptoms instead of disease?  Because sometimes that’s all you care about, and sometimes there are diseases for which scientific medicine doesn’t offer cures, just treatment of symptoms.  Until Tamiflu came out, scientific medicine could sometimes prevent the flu with vaccines, but couldn’t cure it.  Similarly, for allergies, the cure is “avoid pollen by staying away from plants and animals”, but if moving to Antarctica is inconvenient for you, there are a lot of scientific and homeopathic treatments for the symptoms, and you may may get more relief from the treatment than annoyance from its side effects (e.g. drowsiness from most of the early antihistamines.)

      There are some homeopathic treatments that are only diluted a few times, so they still contain enough non-filler ingredients to be useful.  “Alpha CF” is a homeopathic flu remedy that has a few different ingredients, including enough ipecac to know you’ve taken the stuff (but not quite enough to induce vomiting), and if I actually get the flu, it can reduce the symptoms from “really awful” to “a bit sick”, which is a big win. 

      (*Also, there are probably some conditions like hiccups or ear wax which can be treated by sticking your fingers in your ears and loudly saying “I’m really not listening!”, which is the proper response to homeopathic theories…)

      1.  How did you get that ‘started in 1800s’ bit? Like the double column support, this stuff has tablets from Caanan (do not take internally to Syria,) etc. And Maggie K.B. knows the
        like affects like’ thing doesn’t mean you draw the oils from the leaf surface to treat poison ivy; same plant, other end, homeostatis mechanisms make sense. Plants do not propogate by pickling themselves to death (much,) after all.

        Wait a minute, I need to update my spam filter with 1/(10^34) of the internet…ok, success!

        Then there are the trepanning angles on homeopathy, mentioned in BoingBoing before. Patch that trauma, patch that CNS!

        I could not have helped but consider Chinese Medicine training certification licensed by the AMA, which there is (again not doing 60C dilution foolishness, or stumping for Ayurvedic or Japanese dominance or licensing in the practice.) It is homeopathic by some measure.

        Oscillococcinum on-label must have bacteria with oscillating tentac…er, hairs. Fake endings (Oscillococcinibibabimus, anyone?) because tl:dr and it survives a US court? Feh!

  2. It’s all about the information registered in the water. The wavelength frequency of the “herb” is what the water retains and is what has an impact on the body.

    1.  I hope that you intended this as a sarcastic answer, because from what you have written it looks like yo don’t know what frequency nor wavelength actually are.

    1. Not necessarily. They could just list it as an “herbal supplement,” like a lot of other equally silly alternative medicines do. There’s a lot of pseudoclaims you can make that don’t get regulated.

      1. Actually herbal supplements (while many are neutral) can also be much much more dangerous.

        Look up the effects of Wild Ginger, which was commonly sold to *help* kidney problems.

        At least homeopathy is only deadly because it fails to do anything for your disease or if it contains an accidental contaminant like lead or cadmium.

        1.  Which is why homeopathy may have had an edge over other medical practice prior to about 1930 or so. Those sugar pills do a great of following the rule ‘first, do no harm…’, and conventional medical practice was pretty hit or miss prior to the invention of antibiotics.

    2. Not really, most herbal supplements are regulated like food rather than a drug, which means hardly at all.

  3. The promoters of this stuff should be arrested and charged with fraud as a minimum. Then charge them with manslaughter for each case of unnecessary death caused by reliance on these so-called medicines.

    Few things make me more angry than this homeopathy garbage. It is especially egregious when it is targeting children, as this scam is.

  4. I drank some tap water the other day and almost died. The homeopathic properties of tap water are off the charts. Everything is in there and it’s soooo dilute. Dangerous stuff.

    1. If it’s from rainwater, it’s interesting to think of where some of those molecules may have once been.  Dino piss, Jesus blood, Lincoln tears, Ghandi sweat, vapor in a Hitler fart.  And by homeopathic reasoning, you are now safe from dinos, Jesus, Lincoln, and Hitler.  But watch out for Ghandi.  Homeopathy isn’t perfect, you know.

  5. As the quote goes: if alternative medicine worked, they’d call it medicine, and it would be practiced by doctors.

    And if fraud worked, they’d call it laissez-faire capitalism, and it would be practiced by capitalists…

  6. One of the big issues I see is that people generally think that homeopathic means something similar to herbal or natural.
    I have my own gripes about those cures. I always remind people that arsenic is natural. But at least they may have some active ingredients that may do something for a few ailments. Homeopathy is a whole different level of quackery.

  7. Oh, yeah, I much prefer pharmaceutical drugs that cost a lot, have terrible side effects, and are largely untested.  I’d try almost anything before most drug company offerings.  Talk about unsafe.

    Doctors have forgotten that first primary rule… do no harm. They are led around by the nose by drug companies who just want to make money.

    1. Okay, I’ll take the troll bait.

      “Oh, yeah, I much prefer pharmeceutical drugs that cost a lot due to the high cost of drug development, clinical trials, licensing, and safety testing, have potential terrible side effects which are usually well-documented and publicly available, and have a proven track record of actually working .”


      Double blind study that the homeopathic crap works, please?

      1. There have been dozen of studies and they’ve consistently shown that homeopathic remedies do exactly as much as placebos.

        30C homeopathic remedies are complete nonsense;   the claim is that by shaking the original ingredient with 99x as much water, the water “takes on the vibratory essences” of the active ingredient.  By continuing this 100 to 1 dilution process 30 more times, shaking with each dilution, the “vibratory essences are transferred” and, the more dilutions, the more potent the supposed resulting product.

        I.e. complete nonsense.

      2. Double blind study that the homeopathic crap works, please?

        Not difficult to find: one randomly-chosen peer-reviewed double-blind example here.  I don’t believe for a moment that homeopathy works; I perhaps have less faith than you in the intrinsic worth of double-blind, or for that matter peer-reviewed, studies.

          1. Errr, yes, it is.  I would infer from that that it’s possible to conduct a peer-reviewed double-blind trial demonstrating the efficacy of water over placebo as a medical intervention.  The correct conclusion from that is not that water is particularly efficacious, but that peer-review, and double-blind trials, aren’t necessarily all they’re cracked up to be.

      3. To be fair, there is evidence that drugs and treatments are used too much, used without the patients knowing all the side effects, used on the basis of studies which turn out to be cherry-picked or stretched… but we should be able to admit all the faults in the world, and that wouldn’t bring homeopathy any closer to making sense.

      4. Interesting you would see me as a troll.  Maybe I don’t know what one is.  I wouldn’t have guess it is someone who has a point of view different from yours.  Is that in fact the definition?

        I am hugely into Boing Boing.  I am not even sure how I feel about homeopathy.  I have taken a few remedies like arnica. My vet has given some remedies to my cat (his health was hugely compromised by western veterinary treatment).  I do think that marketing a kit like that is weird (I do not have one nor do I want one).

        But I do know how I feel about Big Pharma.  They are too driven by greed to the detriment of caring about our health.  Did you know that there is one pharma salesman per 10 doctors and that big pharma spends $30,000 per doctor per year?

    2. “Do no harm” isn’t the same as “Do nothing at all”.

      Any doctor (especially those that work with the elderly, for example) will tell you that there are cases where the cure can be worse than the disease. Knowledge and discretion are critically important in making those decisions.

      But a treatment that demonstrably does – literally – nothing at all? That’s a dangerous scam. It’s false hope. It’s wasted time and money.

      Yeah – much better.

    3. While practices of Big Pharma can be questionable, the fact still remains that from conception to public availability, it takes 20 years for a drug to pass through regulation. They first demonstrate effectiveness on cells on a lab bench, then to animal testing, then safety testing and then efficacy studies via clinical trials. On top of that, some physicians will conduct independent research on the drug as well.
      Homeopathy requires none of this. The great part is that you will have no side effects with homeopathy but that comes with no main effect, because there is no active ingredient detectable by modern chemical analysis instrumentation in the pills. On top of that, homeopathists refuse to conduct clinical trials to show effectiveness.
      Lastly, don’t be fooled, homeopathy are making money off of you just as much as big pharma, it’s a $500 million dollar industry and growing.

    4. Then save your money and take nothing. Seriously. Or learn to “heal” with the magic of your own prayers or something that doesn’t cost you thousands while your kid rots from cancer :)

    5. By trying homeopathic remedies, you are doing exactly the same as doing nothing. Other than giving your hard earned cash to someone who is deliberately and with no evidence of any kind of efficacy scamming you. If you have money to throw around, send some my way please.

      1. I guess that just shows you how much I distrust big pharma.  Nothing IS better than big pharma.

        1. Hey, we can complain and protest about police abuses, but that does not mean we want or need to  eliminate the police force altogether.

    6. > by drug companies who just want to make money

      As opposed to Boiron that makes millions of dollars a year selling sugar pills?  I don’t see them giving their stuff away.

    7. Not saying that ‘big pharma’ doesn’t have its share of problems (like any industry). But every time I hear this notion that homeopathy (or ‘natural’, ‘alternative’ cures) is somehow brewed and distributed by earth mother-like individuals out of sheer care for their fellow-man, I have to wonder if they’ve ever checked how much money Boiron makes off of sugar pellets. Homeopathy is very much ‘big pharma’ (i.e. companies making a shitload of money selling pills) except it doesn’t even have any results beyond placebo for ANY of its pills. Money for nothing.

      The idea that companies selling ‘natural’ products are automatically more trustworthy and more ethical is just wrong. These products are also sold at huge markups, generate large profits and are even less regulated than pharmaceutical companies. I know the notion that some pure industry full of goodness and ‘close to earth’ exists is nice, especially concerning health care, but vigilance and evidence are our true friends.

      ETA: I see lots of people made the same point while I was spell-checking this missive

    8.  So your argument is:
      “Modern scientific medicine is frequently ineffective and dangerous, therefore homeopathy totally works.”

      You seem to have skipped a few steps.

    9. Whatever, I’ll be over here with my anti-depressants, that keep me from freaking out all the time over nothing, and the birth control, that allows me to function on the days when I’m menstruating and preserves my fertility so maybe I could have children some day. And, bonus, I’m not overweight anymore, because I was prescribed Metformin as a teenager, when my metabolism was all screwed up. Yes, I’ll be over here enjoying being happy and enjoying all that drug companies, despite and because of the profit motive, have done for me. Hope you don’t have any kids.

  8. I’ve had people recommend Oscillococcinum, and I say “no, thank you” on the basis that it’s not vegetarian ( it is a dilute solution of Muscovy Duck liver ) only to have them say “Well, there is no actual animal product in there”.  The discussion usually breaks down at that point.

    1. A 30C liquid dilution of Oscillococcinum would statistically have not one particle of animal product in it.  That much is true.   Of course, fancy bottled water would be both cheaper and, because of the volume, provide more benefit simply because of hydration.

        1. At that level of dilution, 30C oscillococcinum doesn’t require the pointless killing of ducks either.

          Just one duck could have been pointlessly killed, once in all of history, and the entire world’s supply of this pointless non-product would be assured for eternity.

          1. Simply thanks to the occasional fox, I am sure most of the water out there starts out with more than 30C duck liver. But I expect that doesn’t stop homeopaths from killing new ones.

    2. On the theory that the homeopathic remedy is based on the ailment, what on earth is the “energetic” of duck liver supposed to cure?

      Talk about quack science..

      1. The Long Island Duck had the misfortune to have a cell that looked similar to a bacteria he observed in patients with certain ailments that were actually caused by a virus. The Muscovy Duck is presumably used because it looks similar to the Long Island Duck. It’s like cargo cult medicine. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oscillococcinum

  9. if alternative medicine worked, they’d call it medicine, and it would be practiced by doctors.

    Mocking homeopathy is well and good (it’s absurd and dangerous).  But condemning everything that isn’t practiced by doctors is going a little too far.

      1. And even if you can do it double blind, I still don’t believe you (based on how many findings are reversed after the first study is replicated)  (see http://xkcd.com/882/ for another example of why double blind with p > .05 doesn’t mean much by itself)

        1.  Okay, before everyone goes slamming testing methodology, please offer a viable alternative to clinical testing (ie double-blind, blinded, open, etc)


          1. There are any number of clinical study designs, of which randomised controlled trials form a subgroup.  There’s nothing better for treatment studies, but that does not mean that such studies are immune from criticism.  So, yeah, I’ll cheerfully slam the methodology of a peer-reviewed double-blind study which demonstrates that water is a medicine, if that methodology deserves it.  What do you think I should do instead?

          2. So you’re saying that you’ll judge the efficacy of a particular methodology based on the outcome of the study?

            Isn’t that basically the opposite of science?  Like isn’t this what creationists do?

          1. That’s the beauty, I thought I was just stretching, but someone told me later I was giving a double blind Heimlich.

  10. Well, they are basically selling a placebo, which is known to be at least somewhat effective.

    Heck, they could name it “Placeboex” and nobody would call it dishonest at all. Even better, a known placebo still works, as long as you know that it will. Thing is, most people don’t know how effective known placebos are, so they get no benefits. 

    Turns out what you don’t know CAN hurt you…

    1. Heck, they could name it “Placeboex” and nobody would call it dishonest at all. Even better, a known placebo still works, as long as you know that it will. Thing is, most people don’t know how effective known placebos are, so they get no benefits.

      Except if you know for sure something is just a placebo, you also get no benefits.  To really get the benefits, you need some reason to believe (even just a little bit) that it might actually work….

    2. Plenty of doctors prescribe medication they know can’t work, that they know has side effects.  Azithromycin and amoxicillin, two common antibiotics, are frequently prescribed for viral illnesses like the common cold and viral sinusitis.  Of course, they can have some side effects — generaliy “worth it” when prescribed for bacterial infections, but risky when prescribed for the placebo effect (or, much more often from the doctor’s point of view, for the “calm the patient down and keep them as a customer” effect).

      A safe placebo would be a pretty significant advance — and a 30C dilution in pure water is as safe as it gets.

      1. Are doctors actually prescribing antibiotics for non-bacterial infections? That is unbelievably unethical, considering the well-known increase in antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

        1. Apparently there are “plenty”.  mine pretty mush refuses to prescribe amox these days.  I guess that’s how you can tell the good ones or something.

        2. Are doctors actually prescribing antibiotics for non-bacterial infections?

          Not more than a million or so times per week during cold and flu season.

    3. Whether placebos are effective depends. For things that the mind has a lot of control over, especially subjective experiences like suffering, they can certainly do something.

      A tumor is a different story. If cells have stopped taking orders and your immune system can’t stop them, a placebo isn’t going to change things. It might make you feel better, but from what I have read doesn’t reduce the cancer itself.

      In such cases, any trust people put in placebos is at their own peril.

      It’s also worth noting that when treatments are evaluated against placebos, there are going to be some people who simply get better on their own. Those are part of the “placebo effect” you find, but don’t necessarily mean the placebo did anything for them.

      1. There have been a few miraculous tumor cures, but only a very few (which are, of course, amplified far louder than their real significance by the alt-med crowd).  I wouldn’t put spontaneous tumor remission out of the scope of placebo for sure, but it does seem extremely unlikely for any individual to be able to heal cancer as a result of taking a sugar pill.

        The really interesting stuff about placebo: two pills work better than one and they’ll work better if an elderly doctor in a lab coat gives them to you than if a young person in casual clothing gives it to you.  It seems as though a more convincing “performance” results in a more robust placebo effect, which I take to mean that the less skeptical one is of a “cure” the more likely one is to be cured.

        It’s interesting to think about this in connection to traditional and magical healing.  Westerners are exposed to an insane amount of beliefs and ideas compared to our ancestors; we get to pick and choose what we believe, and I think as a result we tend to be more skeptical than people ever have been in the past (in the absence of electric monks, it’s simply not possible to believe everything you hear).  So imagine if you lived in a village of 100 or so people and had only ever been exposed to the culture and lifeways of that village.  I bet the rates of placebo effect for healing practices are really high in traditional societies, perhaps even for really severe ailments.

        There are some traditional healing practices that I think may have real benefits as well.  For example, I think it’s possible that acupuncture might actually cure some chronic pain by recalibrating the brain’s map of the body (but that’s loose, playful speculation).

    1. You’re trying to delete an article about homeopathy.  That may remove the original bits, but they’ve left behind vibrations in the EtherNetz, and the more thoroughly you delete them, the more powerful they become.

  11. I hope this means that Drew will be taking a turn as a guest-blogger soon, I think he’s a good fit for the Boinger crowd.

  12. This does make me wonder:

    Does the “manufacturer” actually go to the trouble of say, starting with 10 mL of a substance and 990 mL of water, mixing it, then taking 10 mL of the result, add another 990 mL of water, mixing, repeat until you’ve done this 30 times…

    or do they just say “chuck it all, fill it with distilled water and slap on a label!”?

  13. Did you hear the one about the homeopath who forgot to take his medicine?

    He died of an overdose.

  14. Research evidence – positive clinical trials

    In 1997, The Lancet published a thorough meta-analysis which showed that, of 89 clinical trials, 44 reported homeopathy to be significantly more effective than placebo;1 none of the 89 trials found placebo to be more effective than homeopathy. Even accounting for any publication bias towards ‘positive’ trials, the authors came to the conclusion that clinical benefit from homeopathic therapy cannot be explained by the placebo effect alone. Similar general conclusions were drawn from other recent meta-analyses or systematic reviews of homeopathy. 2–4 Further research is needed to identify, in particular, those medical conditions that respond most effectively to homeopathy.

    1. If you’re going to cite The Lancet article, cite the actual Lancet article, not a website that believes “We take the view… in identifying more evidence that it truly works”.  But don’t be afraid to check out the follow up (in The Lancet) from one of the authors of the study, who states:
      “I should have simply said: “…when these analyses were restricted to the best quality trials, homoeopathy produced no statistically significant benefit over placebo.””

    2. The Dude does *not* abide.

      “Homeopathic remedies are, after all, nothing but water, and their efficacy only exists in the minds of homeopaths, who are, whether they realize it or not, masters of magical thinking, or users of homeopathy, who are experiencing the placebo effect first hand. Studies of homeopathy demonstrate why, in the evidence-based medicine paradigm, there will always be seemingly positive studies to which homeopaths can point, even though homeopathic remedies are water.”

      Here’s some actual science surrounding homeopathy and meta-analyses, for anyone interested:


  15. As the quote goes: if alternative medicine worked, they’d call it medicine, and it would be practiced by doctors. 

    This is I think the stupidest thing I have read on boing boing.  Please stop, go read the many other posts on this site related to the unintended (and intended) negative consequences of the patent system, then take a nice big breath, and apply that to the pharmaceutical industry.  If it is not both patentable and highly profitable, even if it works, it will not be approved as medicine in the U.S. because no company will invest the money to bring it through the multi-million dollar drug approval process.  Regardless of your opinion on homeopathy, herbs, whatever, to pretend that we have a science-driven medical system, rather than a profit-driven one, is foolish.

    1. That’s bizarre.  I’ve had doctors recommend both saline solution and calcium carbonate for various problems, neither of which are patentable or highly profitable.  How does that square with your argument?

      Is it possible that being science-driven and being profit-driven aren’t entirely mutually exclusive?  Or that medicine isn’t entirely profit-driven in the first place?

  16. It is amazing how many people comment on homeopathy but know absolutely nothing about the evidence base. 

    People make claims in the name of “science” but have no idea what the basic facts are. Not exactly a ‘scientific’ approach.

    For anyone actually interested in the data here is a quick summary I wrote at the BMJ:


    There is a substantial body of very high quality evidence demonstrating the biological activity of homeopathic remedies in vitro, in vivo and in clinical trials.

    But of course, exactly how it works is not fully known (though recent discovery of nano-particles in high potency remedies may be part of it). Wow, imagine that – science hasn’t ‘figured it all out’ yet.

    Real scientists are curious. Psuedo-scientists simply refuse to investigate the matter.

    1. Unfortunately, this is the same argument made by all pseudoscientists even long after their “science” has been debunked.  You see the problem.  You could be outright lying or even simply mistaken and engaging in motivated reasoning so I can’t simply take your word on this.  And you seem pretty biased towards a particular conclusion.

      “Real scientists” may be curious but they are also usually pretty skeptical, at least when it comes to their scientific work.

      Even if I want to be open-minded I cannot trust a meta-analysis by a homeopathy advocate such as yourself.  Nor am I going to trust one by a CICOPS members.  Despite what you say about people’s ignorance of the evidence base, many people have already posted meta-analyses on this thread and the upshot seems to be that homeopathy has not been found to perform better than placebo.

  17. What I want to know is if the homeopathic companies actually bother to mix one molecule in with water, shake and dilute it a billion times, or if they just sell water (or sugar water)?  Are there giant factories that do nothing but shake water containers?  That seems like a giant waste of resources.

  18. “Homeopathy is based on the principle of diluting an herb with water until none of the substance remains…”

    Bit of a nitpick, but it’s not only herbs; the very popular (and expensive) homeopathic remedy oscillococcinum has duck heart and liver as its “active” ingredient.

  19. This is why I stopped supporting the ASPCA, and recommend that others do likewise: One of their newsletters suggested homeopathic pain remedies for pets.

    Now, I can see that — as with human medicine — there are times when a placebo can legitimately be used to treat the caregiver who insists that something “must” be done even when no treatment is needed or appropriate. But that does NOT justify a wider recommendation, or one which suggests that this is anything but placebo.

    And a placebo certainly isn’t going to do the pet any good; the most you can say is that it probably won’t do any direct harm.

    So: ASPCA has, in my opinion, adopted a position favoring animal abuse, and will never see another dime from me. Fortunately, despite their name, they are far from the only or even the leading SPCA in the United States and there are lots of better places to donate the money.

    Beyond that: This is what happens when we trash our school systems by killing the science tracks.

  20. Enjoying the discussion, as I’ve always been skeptical.I remeber being concerned about vaccination when going O/S many years ago & made an enquiry w the Aust Homepathic Association – they advised that homoeopathic vaccination would probably not work…

    While we’re talking water – would also love to see an article on all the hype re: alkaline water – a lot of intelligent people I know are being duped by this…anyone?

  21. Homeopathy seems silly to me, however some “homeopathic” remedies are actually fairly useful, not because of the magic woo-water, but because they are based in useful things like glycerine or saline, often minus the preservatives, artificial colors, or what have you of over the counter medicines.  Example: I really like the eye drops, which come in glass bottles.  Sounds weird, but I get an icky plastic aftertaste from cheap drugstore eye drops.  (When I put them in my eyes.  Must be dripping down my sinuses.)   It’s hard to find pharmaceutical grade glycerine without weird unwanted additives.  And since I don’t believe in vibrations or whatever it is I can disregard whatever the “homeopathic” ingredient is.

  22. Ritz seems not to directly call the Boiron 30C dilution bits valid or map homeopathy proper for the outcomes canny.

    My sugar-frosted Dr. House side says Patients Lie “works” 25% of the
    time, but my exact reading side says I could have an all-referral
    practice that is masteosis, well child inspection and sugar pill
    representatives all day.

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