What does the public really think about homeopathy?

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There is nothing more likely to raise the hackles of any self-respecting rationalist than to be confronted with the latest celebrity story about the miraculous healing power of homeopathy or some other “alternative” or “complementary” quackery. Or, embarrassingly, to discover that some of your best friends are also devotees.

This isn’t a new bugbear in response to some kind of New Age, middle-class hippiedom. Charles Darwin wrote in a letter to a cousin:

You speak about Homeopathy; which is a subject which makes me more wrath, even than does Clair-voyance: clairvoyance so transcends belief, that one’s ordinary faculties are put out of question, but in Homeopathy common sense and common observation come into play, & both these must go to the Dogs, if the infinetesimal doses have any effect whatever

There is no serious scientific debate about the efficacy of homeopathy. It performs no better than placebo and is based on principles wholly at odds with established scientific understanding. Nevertheless, it whips up what might seem like a disproportionate amount of political controversy.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt (yes, the man in charge of UK national health policy) is a known sympathiser and got into hot water for allowing Prince Charles to lobby him about prescribing it on the NHS.

A newly appointed public health shadow minister, Luciana Berger, was “forced to renounce” previously positive views.

And earlier in 2013, Chief Scientist Mark Walport called homeopathy “nonsense”, while his predecessor, John Beddington, said that NHS spending on homeopathy was the only issue where ministers had “fundamentally ignored” his scientific advice. Sally Davis, England’s Chief Medical Officer, said thatthe taxpayers' £4m would be better spent on proven treatments as hospitals suffer painful cutbacks.

Written By: Nick Allum
continue to source article at theconversation.com

21 COMMENTS

  1. This member of the public thinks homeopathy is a steaming pile of bullshit,the only supplements I take are iron because I am prone to anemia and vitamin D because I rarely see daylight in winter and the only other “alternative” therapy I believe is effective is meditation /relaxation.

  2. I made a quick inventory of the homeopathic remedies sold within 10 feet of the pickup counter at my local RiteAid. There were 15 assorted packages of concoctions for cough, sleeplessness, allergy, and mood.

    • In reply to #2 by DocWebster:

      I made a quick inventory of the homeopathic remedies sold within 10 feet of the pickup counter at my local RiteAid. There were 15 assorted packages of concoctions for cough, sleeplessness, allergy, and mood.

      Sleeplessness, allergy and mood could all be psychosomatic and a cough would probably cure itself given time. Let me see a homeopathic remedy for chickenpox, tuberculosis or diabetes. The 21st century version of snake oil!

  3. Homeopathy is similar to faith healing, just another way of getting money from the gullible or the desperate. There are no propers trials, double blinds etc, and nearly all accounts of homoepathy working are hearsay with no credible evidence. In the few cases anyone does get better it is either down to the genuine medicines/treatment they have had or, as does happen, the body will heal for some inexplicable reason.

    I have been offered countless “remedies” all of which would do nothing to help my haemophilia, some would actually make it worse. Unfortunately I have lost the papers I needed for the exact details of this (will keep searching) but the story of Rasputin and the Tsarevich Alexei is a good example of quackery claiming success. The Romanovs were desperate to find some help for their son who had Christmas disease (haemophilia B) and their doctors tried many things, among these (names in lost papers) were preparations, plants etc which worked as blood thinners, similar but less potent than warfarin, heparin etc. Obviously these would exacerbate a condition where the blood did not clot properly. Rasputin told the family to throw out all of the other doctors remedies and only to do what he said. So yes, to the unknowing he did help the boy get a little better but the truth was he actually stopped the processes that were making him worse.

    It is this total dishonesty of homeopaths that makes me trust none of them. Even if some treatment comes along based on a homeopathic “cure” it is total luck the homeopaths got anywhere near and total science the fact the medical people had success.

    I am lucky, the advancement of haemophilia treatment in my lifetime means anyone born with it today can lead a practically normal life as long as Factor VIII is used regularly (Alex Dowsett is a severe, <1% F VIII haemophiliac, and a professional cyclist who has completed the Tour de France). However, I remember the years before plasma was isolated as a treatment and can well understand how anyone with a condition that seems hopeless could be persuaded to flirt with woo – it is not always a matter of lack of intelligence, quite simply continual pain and illness can lead the strongest of us to desparation and that is when the charlatans pounce.

  4. It has just occurred to me that because of the way the land drains in the UK from higher pastures from where water finds its way into reservoirs, then homeopathic remedies probably do contain more bullshit than the advertised contents. My apologies to the tens of thousands who gave made this point before me, but surely the fact that the idea is so watered down makes it immeasurably powerful, or something.

  5. The thing most people don’t understand about homeopathic preparations (it took me a long while before this occurred to me), is that, as they typically contain no active ingredient whatsoever, every preparation is the same no matter what it is supposed to treat.

    Furthermore, if there was any truth to homeopathic claims about water memory, any water (and all water), would be both immediately deadly and a cure for every known malady.

    What annoys me most about homeopathy, is that lies are so transparent, and so preposterous, that it damages my respect for the human race that anyone could be so naive that they are taken in by it.

    • In reply to #8 by N_Ellis:

      What annoys me most about homeopathy, is that lies are so transparent, and so preposterous, that it damages my respect for the human race that anyone could be so naive that they are taken in by it.

      Great sentence and it can easily be used again, just change homeopathy to religion.

  6. when i tweeted that i had unfollowed someone for advocating homeopathy for cats i had more retweets and favorites than any other comment i’d made. a lot of the public are quite well informed

  7. It is more than a tad ironic that the authors of this article chose to quote Charles Darwin…and by doing so, these author provides STRONG evidence for the efficacy of homeopathy! Darwin was clearly very skeptical of homeopathy, and thus, he would not be as amenable to being cured by a homeopathic physician…and yet, he was! Anyone with rudimentary knowledge of Darwin’s life know that in 1849 he said that he was dying! He was unable to work 1 in 3 days, had fainting spells, spots before his eyes, nausea and vomiting 24/7, boils over his entire body, trembling, and great fatigue. And yet, after just 8 days of treatment from a homeopathic doctor, Darwin was walking 8 miles a day, eating without any nausea, and virtually ALL of his symptoms disappeared. THANK YOU for helping to prove that homeopathy works even when a person is as skeptical as Darwin was. Strangely enough, some skeptics assert that Darwin’s results from the treatment from this homeopathic physician was “regression to the mean.” Does this mean ANY sense, except to the master spinmeisters?

    Reference: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2816387/

    In addition to this personal experience, there is a significant body of clinical and basic science evidence that homeopathy works, despite the misinformation provided in this article. A report commissioned by the government of Switzerland verifies the efficacy of homeopathy:
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dana-ullman/homeopathic-medicine-_b_1258607.html
    And further evidence is here:
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dana-ullman/the-case-for-homeopathic_b_451187.html

    It is time that we realize that homeopathy is a nanopharmacology that has an important place in medicine today and in the future…

    • In reply to #17 by HomeopathicDana:

      It is more than a tad ironic that the authors of this article chose to quote Charles Darwin…and by doing so, these author provides STRONG evidence for the efficacy of homeopathy! Darwin was clearly very skeptical of homeopathy, and thus, he would not be as amenable to being cured by a homeopathic…

      Gully’s water cure didn’t work so well for Anne Darwin, did it?

  8. In Response to Dana Ullman,

    You are either ignorant of the true communications of Darwin on this subject or you have chosen to lie. Given the citations in your original piece on this subject I suspect it is the latter. Making up tall tales based on actual events isn’t new, it lends a certain weight to an argument if some of the things being said are based on fact. Hijacking a famous name to lend weight to your argument is also another common trick.

    You are a buffoon Mr Ullman, a charlatan and a fraud.

  9. Playing the devil’s advocate here, but one problem with “homeopathy” , is that due to it’s popularity, a lot of products are now called homeopathy, when they are infact natural treatments ( herbs,fruits, etc… )

    For example : you can find “elderbery syrup” categorized as homeopathy, while it’s not actually diluted : it’s just syrup made from elderberries.

    While that doesn’t necessarily prove it’s efficacy, it at least warrants some investigation, whereas the statement ‘diluting something makes it more powerful’ can be dismissed without further thought.

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