Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Homeopathy: the air guitar of medicine

From Gadgette:  http://www.gadgette.com/2016/02/03/homeopathy-the-air-guitar-of-medicine/

This subhead contains as many active ingredients as your sugar pill

By Jennifer Harrison, Science Officer February 3, 2016

Homeopathy is an alternative medicine, which means a few things. It means it’s not medicine, it’s an alternative; it means it’s seen by many as somehow better and healthier than modern medicines; and it means that people are incredibly emotional in their support for it.I’ve received death threats pretty much every time I’ve ever written about homeopathy, which is incredible if you think about it. How can a remedy cause so much hatred? And what could I possibly say that would make people upset? Well, it doesn’t work. Homeopathy is a £40 million industry in the UK and it doesn’t even work. I once deliberately overdosed on homeopathic sleeping pills. I ate the whole tube, about a month’s worth. I did fall asleep but it was 10 hours later and at bedtime.

Like cures like

Many alternative medicines are a bit silly. Crystal healing anyone? However, none are as frustratingly absurd as homeopathy. There are not one but two unbelievable aspects of homeopathy that people are often unaware of, the first being like cures like. Homeopathy was invented in 1796 by a German named Samuel Hahnemann. He believed that you could treat and cure illnesses by using substances that cause the symptoms of the illness in healthy people.

If you had insomnia, a suitable substance would be caffeine. Caffeine will keep healthy people awake but if you’re unable to get to sleep then according to homeopathy, it will help you. You can buy homeopathic remedies on the high street that supposedly contain caffeine to help you sleep. And worse, Reddit user papafree claims to have used dangerous and hilarious ingredients while working in a homeopathic manufacturing plant according to this entertaining and disturbing thread.

No active ingredients

Homeopathic remedies come as water or a sugar pill. There are no other ingredients. If you take a remedy for curing insomnia and another for treating the cold and mixed them up, nobody on Earth could figure out which was which. Every test of the pill’s composition would find only sugar. Every study of patients taking the pills would reveal no difference because they are identical pills. There are no active ingredients in homeopathy.

As if Hahnemann’s belief of like cures like wasn’t weird enough, he felt that the more you diluted the substance the more effective it was. This almost makes sense at first because his ingredients were chosen to make symptoms worse (e.g. caffeine for insomnia), so using less of the ingredient would obviously give better results than more. But Hahnemann took it further, introducing the Law of Infinitesimals.

If you take one drop of your ingredient and dilute it in 99 drops of water, you’ve got 1 centesimal. If you take one drop from this solution and mix it into another 99 drops of water, you’ve got 2 centesimals written as 2C. With each further dilution, you very quickly lose the initial ingredient. Remedies are frequently sold at a 30C dilution. At that dilution you could buy enough of the product to fill the entire solar system and not find a single molecule of the original ingredient. You’re more likely to win the lottery five weeks running than find a single molecule of active ingredient in your remedy from Boots.

Continue reading at:  http://www.gadgette.com/2016/02/03/homeopathy-the-air-guitar-of-medicine/

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