Proof That Homeopathy Works

Posted by Phil Ferguson on October 11th, 2012 – 10 Comments – Posted in Homeopathy

HomeopathyMy post last week on homeopathy got a lot of attention and  I was surprised by the number of people that commented and a few people even suggested that Homeopathy works.  One of these people was “Dr.” Nancy Malik.

Here is her definition of Dr.

A BHMS degree (a regular full-time 5.5 years of medical degree course recognised by Central Council of Homoeopathy, Deptt. of AYUSH, Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, Govt. of India) from prestigious ‘Homoeopathic Medical College and Hospital’, Chandigarh affiliated to Punjab University (accredited), Chandigarh, India

Oh, you have got to be kidding me!  BHMS = Bachelor of Homeopathy Medical Science.  Let me point out that the degree is called “Bachelor”.  So at best you have a degree and are not a Doctor!  Additionally, Homeopathy is a scam so you have a worthless “degree”.

Nancy, made some big claims….

…there have been 245 human studies published in 98 peer-reviewed international medical journals (80 integrative, 9 homeopathy and 9 CAM) including 11 meta-analysis, 6 systematic reviews, 1 Cochrane Review and 100 DBRPCT in evidence of homeopathy.

A worthless degree and some studies published in non-medical journals.  Not a good start.  I asked Nancy to pick one study for me to look at…

I am not plowing through hundreds of BS citations just to have you claim another one is better. Please cite 1 or take your claims elsewhere.

Nancy actually picked one out.  Well done Nancy!

Cochrane Review - Homeopathic medicines for adverse effects of cancer treatments (2010).  Homeopathic medicines for the prevention or treatment of adverse effects of chemotherapy, radiotherapy, and menopausal symptoms caused by hormonal therapies or oestrogen withdrawal.

Wow!  That sounds fancy.  Well, I was out camping for a couple of days and would have to review the claim later.  Thankfully, SkepticMoney has some really smart readers.  Savonarola stepped up and wrote this beauty….

[The Cochrane Review] requires a subscription to read the full text of the article. However, the abstract is available, so what do we see there? Of eight studies, four show negative results. Two of the remaining four “positive” students aren’t explained, one more had only 32 participants, and the last studied a 4% by mass ointment. Sorry, but 4% by mass isn’t homeopathic in terms of serial dilutions; in fact, 4% by mass is more than enough for the substance, calendula, itself to have an effect.
So no, nothing here supports the idea that water retains some imprint of molecules previously in contact with them. [emphasis added]

I could not have said it better myself.  Nancy’s citation turned out to NOT support her claims.  Savonarola did not stop there….

I went to Malik’s previously-linked site of over 100 allegedly pro-homeopathic peer-reviewed articles. I clicked the first one with the full text available. 404 error. So I tried the second, from the Journal of Thermal Analysis and Calorimetry. This 2004 paper specifically contains the following tidbit:
>> It’s worth noting that no work of this kind, concerning
>> the study of the physicochemical properties of these
>> ‘anomalous solutions’, namely the ‘extremely diluted
>> solutions’, with significative results, is known in
>> current literature.
So as of 2004, there was no published evidence for a basis for homeopathy. Not that this article changed anything.

Oh, SNAP!  But wait there’s more….

The experimenters neglected to use deionized water when determining effects of ions in water.
The experimenters tested “extremely diluted solutions,” the most dilute of which were as much as 36 orders of magnitude more concentrated than many homeopathic products (claim to be).
The authors continued testing only on samples that happened to be “active”; no homeopathic-friendly explanation for why any sample could be “inactive” exists.
Samples showing anomalous results did so at a rate of no more than 50%. No homeopathic-friendly explanation for why any of these samples would show non-positive results exists.
Samples showing anomalous results were found, by-and-large, to have measurable levels of contaminants. Making matters worse, I have already pointed out that the authors chose a source solvent expected to contain contaminants, and they did not test for anionic contaminants to account for additional variance.

Finally, *nothing* here supports the idea that water has memory of solutes previously dissolved in it, which is the foundation of modern homeopathy. So going to Dr. Malik’s own site and starting with those citations she lists first, we see nothing that supports her point.

Hey, Nancy!  Not actually a Doctor – strike one.  A bogus degree – strike two.  Your own citations show NO support for homeopathy – strike three.

  1. Red the Fister says:

    This… this… this is just beautiful!
    these homoeopath(ogens) need to be exposed as the frauds and dangers that they are.

    thank you, thank you, thank you!

  2. Louise Mclean says:

    For those thick skeptics (who anyway haven’t a clue about homeopathy, never having opened a materia medica or repertory), in INDIA, homeopathic practitioners may call themselves DOCTOR and are also trained in surgery.

    • I'm an Astronaut! says:

      You do realize that if water has a memory then it has LOTS of those “memories” including dinosaur crap, oil spills, radiation, etc. None of those homeopathic concoctions contain anything but WATER. Plus, making them is a HUGE waste of water.

      Also, just because someone can call themselves “doctor” in India does not mean they even come close to being a doctor in the US. I can call myself an astronaut, but that doesn’t mean NASA is going to let me join them on the next trip to space!

    • Joe says:

      India is pretty well known as a mecca for pseudo-medicine, the fact that they are allowed to call themselves doctor (or aren’t prohibited from doing so, to be more accurate) is a pretty poor indication of it’s legitimacy. If only there was some way to test the claims homeopathy makes.. like some sort of scientific study.. hmm. Find ONE that supports it’s validity, or shut up.

  3. Savonarola says:

    I’m an Astronaut! wrote,
    > Plus, making them is a HUGE waste of water.
    Sure, a common explanation of the ratio of alleged ingredient content to water content is often explained as drops of “medicine” per ocean of water. Unfortunately, this has made some people think that the arguments *against* homeopathy can’t be correct because manufacturers obviously don’t require entire oceans to make their products. These are people who don’t understand ratios. Our problem here is that the people who don’t understand ratios are the same people who’ll believe that water has memory. We need to consider the impact that our statements make.

    First, whether making these products wastes water is irrelevant to whether they work or have a basis in science. Second, your claim is flatly false. I recommend that — if you’re going to make statements about how something that somebody else is saying isn’t true — you should focus on making statements that are actually true. We have enough problems with people being stupid; let’s not make it worse by perpetuating misinformation.

    Serial dilution works to greatly reduce concentration without requiring enormous amounts of water. For example, starting with 1 gram of an ingredient, I can make an entire liter of a 30X solution wasting less than half of a liter of water… unless you also want to count that liter of product as waste, which it really is. Of course, if I have apparatus that allows me to measure more precisely than 1 gram or than 1 milliliter, I can waste even less water.

    There’s enough ammunition against homeopathy to stick to claims that have teeth and are entirely accurate. Using bad arguments doesn’t help.

    Louise Mclean wrote,
    > For those thick skeptics (who anyway haven’t a clue
    > about homeopathy, never having opened a materia
    > medica or repertory)…
    Ms. Mclean, I’ve never opened a “materia medica or repertory,” but I’m pretty sure that I not only understand the standard claims of homeopathy but also understand the molecular behavior of water, and the latter more so than do homeopaths who believe the rubbish that they peddle. But perhaps I’m wrong; what statements can you find in any of my comments that either are scientifically incorrect or are misleading regarding the claims of homeopathy?
    You’ll forgive me if I don’t hold my breath for your response. (Turns out that the oxygen gas actually has to be in my bloodstream, not just have been there once before!)

  4. Narayana Prasad Pillai says:

    Hi friends,

    Let me ask just one question straight. Obviously all of you do not believe in homoeopathy. What proof or evidence do you need to believe in the effectiveness of homoeopathy?

    Regards

    Prasad

    • Phil Ferguson says:

      Evidence would be nice!

    • Jim Newman says:

      While Phil sums it up nicely, let me explain further. I have had several friends who either use homeopathy deeply or who even work in the companies that manufacture Homeopathic “medicines”. Indeed our farm has sold some of the ingredients that are used by a major manufacturer–not a big money maker since a small plant serves for an incredible number of tablets.

      A good friend wears a t-shirt that says Homeopathy Works! That’s all that is needed. Another friend, basing his career on old-order, horse doctoring has many examples of success. I myself practiced it for a couple of years as I have an insatiable curiosity and desire for knowledge through experience. Indeed many of my older hippie-type friends were fond of Arnica and other remedies as they had a distaste for allopathy and its often hammer-like effects.

      It is not enough that something works, or seems to work. We have to ask why it works, for whom does it work, and on what basis does it work; lastly, what are the specific mechanics of its effect. Then we have to take these conclusions and hypotheses and see if they can be repeated and verified.

      A medicine like caffeine works because it inhibits the receptors that make you feel tired. It doesn’t make you less tired but it fools you from thinking you are tired. Further, we can determine the exact chemical exchange that causes this to happen. This is important. It is not enough to just feel less tired. Someone wishing for optimal well being will be more concerned with the tiredness of the body than the feeling that it is awake. If we only used gross observation, caffeine would seem a miracle drug, or medicine, but it only gives us the illusion of well being and in fact causes us to be more inefficient though we don’t care because we feel better, we perceive success.

      Aspirin, works in several ways, some 20 or so effects on the body, but its reduction of swelling alleviates pain simply by removing fluids that are pressing against nerve endings.

      The explanation of homeopathy is that the accurate and specific contact of the ingredient passes on the traits of the ingredient to the medium, usually water. Simply, if you mix it right the potential actualizing sources transfer to the water. The original ingredient need no longer remain.

      The difficulty is that even though we have the tools to witness subatomic particles there is no evidence of this transfer whatsoever. In this sense the transfer would have to be so incredibly subatomic that they could no longer transfer the effect–eg, you can’t move a molecule with a Lepton and the body is activated by molecules when it is healing tissues. The differences in energy are just too great. Even incredibly small cosmic rays that might cause an atom or two to deviate are easily detected with modern instruments.

      Most people get homeopathy incorrect in that they think of it as a vaccine where you can take the disease and input some of it in a benign (or active as in the older Polio, live vaccine) form to to cause the body to build antigens against the disease. That is not homeopathy at all, as stated by homeopathists.

      That homeopathy does work is best shown in symptoms-diseases of pain, depression, and diseases that can be affected by immunity response. These issues are best suited to the placebo effect. I don’t mind the placebo effect. If you can use your mind to get well and to maintain well being that is fucking amazing. Indeed, that even posture and attention to self can help is awesome. However, the cause is not the tablet but the mind.

      Some diseases have incredibly poor placebo responses; the horrific, insistent “have a positive attitude” to cure breast cancer accords more misery for those who simply don’t or can’t be positive and creates stupid guilt in feeling that they are in control of the disease with their mind when they are not and would be happier living life and doing whatever it is that makes them happy and not just wearing positivity; thinking it is the cure and then feeling like they aren’t being positive enough when there is no change. In these cases, insisting on the placebo effect is emotional abuse.

      One thing about homeopathists is they spend more time with their patients with greater follow up. Additionally, self attention also creates a healing environment. For cancer it doesn’t matter. For a joint injury, greater attention also transfers to resting or caring for the joint better. The greater attention creates the healing and not the tablet–resting more, or using it less, or keeping it cold or hot appropriately creates the change. In this sense homeopathy serves as a motivator to pay more attention to the injury rather than taking the pill and ignoring the damage. Which is why pain pills aren’t always a good idea unless one is disciplined to resting, whichever prosthesis is needed, in spite of absence of pain.

      The harm of homeopathy, other than its implicit denial of science, is that it also tends to create guilt in the user by making them think they are in greater control of their body and responsible for illness. “I got the flu because I didn’t do the right things; I deserved the flu; I am a bad person.” This is facile and stupid. It may be true that one overworked themselves but the conscious knowledge of how the immunity system goes up and down at any given time dynamically is beyond accessible awareness for now. At some point it may not be but other than obvious exhaustion it is near impossible for us to assess our immunity levels based on actions–having a great, exciting, soul-filling day can reduce immunity response. Fro flues and colds, cleanliness is more important than attitude as a generalization.

      It is important to differentiate how medicines work so we can apply them more accurately with greater success.

      My last antipathy against homeopathy is it encourages a distrust of science, empiricism, and knowledge. It narrows perspective to a solipsistic, internal space–unreachable, unverifiable, and dogmatic. I would rather that energy were taken to more useful form, especially as insistence that medical practice be improved for which there is great room.

      The tests, anecdotes, and observations simply show that putting Neosporin on a cut and letting the wound heal wet causes it to close and heal most quickly with the least scarring. That some anecdotes show otherwise raises suspicion on the method. Does someone using neosporin bash around their hand more than someone paying attention and caring for it? Consider the entire process and not simply the results. Otherwise, you create false correlates like your mom called when you thought of her so she must have known, gotten your communique, you wished for contact and dialed you up.

      Homeopathy creates a panoply of problems and takes us away from real success not just in the injury but in how we know. It would be nice to make well being simple and accessible without needing degrees and study but life is too complicated and our bodies too good at hiding what ails us.

      • Narayana Prasad Pillai says:

        “It is not enough that something works, or seems to work. We have to ask why it works, for whom does it work, and on what basis does it work; lastly, what are the specific mechanics of its effect. Then we have to take these conclusions and hypotheses and see if they can be repeated and verified.”

        I totally agree with what you are saying above. These are the questions that proves the scientificity of any claim. But consider this argument, the science as of now is still evolving. New discoveries are made which were considered previously, to be implausible. May be the present science with all it’s potentials may not be able to describe homeopathy and it’s principles. Remember, ancients described earth to be flat plate, but we now know this is not true. They didn’t have the resources to find out whether the earth was round or flat. It took Magellan and his fleet who didn’t fell off from the edge of the world, to prove the old concept was wrong.

        In science if we cannot explain a particular thing as of now, we don’t claim that these observations are fallacies. But we try to explain the observation which is found to be true by modifying the present theory so that it can include the recent observations as well. If still we can’t find a way to explain it we can put it aside until a new theory or a principle is discovered which can explain the new and old observations as well.

        I admit placebo effect is real as well. But it only works on subjective symptoms and only in persons who knows they are going to be cared by their doctor who prescribes medicines (in this case placebo) and bystanders. Then how can homoeopathy give relief to babies and animals? You can’t possibly argue that they know they are getting medicines so they already starts feeling well. And also in adults, were fibromyomas(fibroids in uterus), renal calculus, gallbladder stone and to name a few, resolve within a matter of months after homeopathic treatment (proofs – ultrasound scans taken by a physician trained in modern medicine before and after treatment) can’t be explained by placebo effect. If it’s by placebo effect as you said before it will be “fucking amazing” because that is the only thing you are going to need to get cured of a host of diseases.

        I believe a skeptic is a best candidate to prove the effectiveness of homoeopathy. He himself does not believe in homoeopathy, so there will not be any doubt about placebo effects. And also he believes there is no material content in the potentised homoeopathic medicines, so there are no risks of side effects. Do someone wish to try?

  5. Jim Newman says:

    The Placebo Effect works even when you are told you are taking a placebo. Many studies note in dual blind trials that when some patients were given a sugar tablet, and told before or after, they insisted it still worked and insisted they continue with the sugar tablets. It is an urban myth that the patient should not be told it is a placebo; we do not need to, for the sake of well being, encourage lying in medicine to increase the placebo effect.

    The placebo effect has tremendous variance based on illness. Additionally, many people recover quit simply because they were going to recover anyway but it is misattributed to the medicine. The amount of people who insist antibiotics helped them get over a cold or flu is phenomenal yet nonsense but of course they got better. Dead people don’t advertise anecdotal health.

    The body is good at healing itself but it also doesn’t always do it; not everyone who seems to have a gallstone needs an operation. Some people pass kidney stones with huge pain, others don’t.

    The notion that at worst homeopathy is just cheap, harmless medicine is as wrong as saying prayer is harmless in the sense that it prevents the patient from seeking better medicine and does promote the bad belief that evolving science allows bad practice to continue. In any case medical insurance often does cover dubious claims of benefit from Reiki, acupuncture, and other CAM prostheses. Early reporting of illness gives the best chance of recovery.

    I used to be more tolerant of vapid remedies until I saw people getting worse for no good reason and also promoting poor thinking as a result. Sure, one thinks, it does no real harm to say “your aura has great vibes” except for the fact that it continues poor thinking which in other situations causes harm because it accentuates the many heuristic biases of which we should be aware to prevent their harm; feeling vibes may be a way of talking about trust but actually knowing when someone is going to harm you or not is much more tricky and rather than relying on vibes it might be good to learn to assess situations etc.

    In medicine, especially, wound triage, it is important to be sure a prostheses works before it is used universally. Only by careful study and tests can certainty be ascertained. I would not say to stop researching homeopathy but I would say the burden of evidence is to prove it not disprove it. which is true with any discovery. If it works, it is not obvious in any way. When sulfa was discovered the change in cure rate was phenomenal. If homeopathy worked with any statistical significance, we would all immediately jump on it as we all wish to be as well as possible as cheaply possible.

    Some things don’t matter less. My mother couldn’t afford stitches for me and used tape which worked fine with scarring. Turns out tape is a good thing. But that doesn’t mean if we had had money I shouldn’t have gone to the doctor.

    That money can’t be made of it is also false. Maybe Big Pharma couldn’t=wouldn’t but if Homeopathy worked Big Pharma would have to prove it’s claims that it works better to justify the greater cost or Small Pharma would quickly gain a market edge by sheer number of validated successes.

    Indeed, the backlash against Big Pharma for promoting pricey drugs to the detriment of finding new antibiotics has quickly been shown for the bullshit marketing it is. Eventually, the people will legally insist on more antibiotic research.

    I study ethnomedicine and was fascinated by the use of maggots for wound cleansing yet after studies were done they found yes, it has a beneficial effect but antibiotics are still the better way by far. Good to know though if society is deconstructed to not be able to produce antibiotics or if you are trapped in the woods away from help and need to do something at hand. Then it would be still which ethnomedicine would work best.

    Finally, it’s just sheer human egoism to think people are like gods that can defend themselves against disease with mental abandon; as if we weren’t under constant and debilitating germ/parasite/flora/fauna warfare while also hosting beneficials that do unseen battle for us.

    This same kind of egoism that allows people to eat sugar, salt, fatty foods, fructose with impunity–or smoke, drink, etc and finally to give up and make the wager that living to 70 is good enough. The mental work we really need is in dealing with the biases that prevent us from doing the obvious and evidential actions that clearly promote wellbeing.

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