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).
As the quote goes: if alternative medicine worked, they'd call it medicine, and it would be practiced by doctors.
Drew Fairweather is the author of The Worst Things For Sale, a blog about terrible things sold online. He writes the daily online comics Toothpaste For Dinner and Married To The Sea, and raps under the name Crudbump.