Homeopathic Berlin Wall Pills made from its pulverized concrete "treat" loneliness, isolation, and oppression

I recently listened to a terrific episode of the Unbiased Science Podcast entitled, "Snake Oil For The Soul: Exposing Mental Health 'Wellness' Grift," which featured an interview with Dr. Jonathan Stea, who discussed his new book, "Mind the Science: Saving Your Mental Health from the Wellness Industry." The publisher, Oxford University Press, provides the following overview of the book, which it describres as "a takedown of mental health misinformation and pseudoscience to educate and embolden readers who wish to make informed decisions about their mental health":

According to some estimates, there are at least 600 different "brands" of psychotherapy, most of which are not supported by scientific research. There also exists countless unregulated providers of mental health services in the 5.6 trillion USD wellness industry and alternative medicine community who market themselves as "life coaches," "wellness consultants," and–depending on particular countries and jurisdictions–other various non-legally protected titles, such as "therapists," "psychotherapists," "counselors," and "practitioners." In a landscape where mental health concerns are at a fever pitch and anyone can call themselves a "therapist" without a license, the world of mental healthcare is very much caveat emptor: buyer beware.

In Mind the Science, Jonathan N. Stea provides a takedown of mental health misinformation and pseudoscience to educate and embolden readers who wish to make informed decisions about their mental health. Readers are empowered to protect themselves from mental health scams, charlatanry, and poor or misguided health practices that thrive in the multi-trillion-dollar wellness industry. The book begins by acquainting readers with the nature, evolution, and seduction of pseudoscience, coaching them on how to become science and mental health literate. Next, the book teaches readers how to spot misinformation and propaganda, shining a light on various pseudoscientific practices, showing the psychological reasons that leave us vulnerable to believing misinformation, and helping readers to develop a keen eye for the tactics and tropes that are used to push propaganda in the wellness and alternative medicine communities. The book concludes with strategies and solutions, showing the concepts and science behind evidence-based ways to improve mental health and teaches what to look for when seeking real professional help.

Mind the Science is the self-defense shield that we direly need to protect us against the onslaught of bogus mental health treatments and products that have increasingly flooded social media, popular media, and the business of healthcare itself. By the end, readers will be better positioned to identify mental health misinformation, to steer clear of misguided and predatory practices, and to understand what mental health really means.

In the podcast interview, among the various mental health grifts he discusses, Dr. Stea mentions a product that somehow stood out as even more absurd and awful than the rest: Berlin Wall Pills. The host of the podcast, Dr. Jessica Steier, provides this overview:

Proponents claim that pills made from pulverized pieces of concrete taken from the Berlin Wall cure loneliness, isolation, and oppression, since that is what the Berlin Wall caused when it was intact. There is no reason to think a piece of concrete could be a remedy for emotional problems, but the underlying reasoning is the same as other homeopathic medicines.

She goes on to explain further:

They are made from ground-up pieces of the Berlin Wall diluted in water and are based on the homeopathic premise that "like cures like". In 2019, they made the news in the UK when it was uncovered that they were being sold by a pharmacy holding royal warrants from the British Queen and Prince Charles, lending them a veneer of credibility.

She also discusses how homeopathy is a pseudoscience that lacks rational scientific evidence:

Its core principles defy basic chemistry and physics – the idea that water can retain a "memory" of diluted substances and administering things that cause symptoms can treat those symptoms when highly diluted. Numerous clinical trials have found homeopathic remedies are no more effective than placebo.

The National Health Service in the UK and major US medical institutions like the FDA, CDC, and FTC reject #homeopathy as pseudoscience, stating it is biologically implausible and ineffective for any condition. The FDA notes, "there is no scientific evidence that homeopathic products work," while the FTC has acted against companies making deceptive cure claims.

Homeopathy persists due to belief perseverance, but its proposed mechanisms violate fundamental scientific laws. Its reliance on substances diluted beyond the point of containing any active molecules means the remedies contain no pharmacologically active ingredients. Endorsing such scientifically dubious products lends legitimacy to #pseudoscienceand could potentially dissuade people from evidence-based medicine.

While popular among some #alternativemedicine advocates, homeopathy's principles were conceived before germ theory and modern chemistry. Leading science, health, and medical authorities agree it is an obsolete and unproven practice contradicted by 21st century understanding of physics, chemistry, and biology.

I was absolutely intrigued (and horrified!) and found several articles describing the Berlin Wall Pills and outlining the pseudoscience grift of both the pills and homeopathy in general (here are pieces on the pills from The GuardianMedscape UK, The Times, and The Telegraph). Despite these critiques, they're still available for purchase at Ainsworths, a homeopathic pharmacy that's a favorite of the British royal family and continues to hold Royal Warrants of Appointment. The Ainsworths website explains

In 1980, we were graciously honoured with Royal Warrants of Appointment to HM The Queen, HM The Queen Mother and HRH The Prince of Wales as suppliers of homoeopathic remedies and have since earned a worldwide reputation as a centre of excellence.

Just when I think the wellness grifter industry has stooped as low as it can go, it surprises me with yet another outrageous grift. I can't wait to see what they have in store for us next. Sigh.

The Unbiased Science Podcast is hosted by Dr. Jessica Steier, who has a Master of Public Health (Evaluative Sciences) at SUNY-Stony Brook University and a Doctor of Public Health degree from the Graduate Center at the City University of New York (CUNY). The podcast is "devoted to objective, critical appraisal of available evidence on science and health-related topics relevant to listeners' daily lives." Its goal is to:

dispel misinformation and misconceptions across an array of science and public health topics (e.g., vaccines, GMOs, fad diets, supplements). With the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic, the podcast initially dedicated most episodes to distilling the latest research about the ongoing pandemic in real time as the evidence unfolded. But the podcast has evolved over time and now tackles a variety of issues. Known for clear, direct, and informative content, Unbiased Science has become a trusted source of no nonsense, just science for people around the globe.

Watch the episode here. The discussion of Berlin Wall Pills stars around the 29 minute mark.