This entry was posted by Wednesday, 4 September, 2013
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Diluting a substance


Crown Prince Interfering With The Health Service?

‘If he wishes to lobby ministers, he should stand for Parliament or join a lobbying firm, but he should not be using his position as heir to the throne to do it.” — – – Paul Flynn, Labor MP

Prince Charles has pissed off some of the big guns in the UK who are responsible for national health policy. They say he has been  meeting privately with  the UK’s Health Minister to get a more liberal policy on drugs. Specifically he wants them to keep  “homeopathic remedies” on the menu even though there’s no evidence that they work. According to the Mail, the prince’s active lobbying is wrong.


What the prince is into is strange stuff.   Homeopathic organizations are generally hostile to  regular doctors, regular hospitals, and regular drugs. Homeopaths excuse themselves from the need for all the usual scientific testing of their “elixirs”.  You either believe or you don’t. If you don’t it’s probably because you’ve been influenced by the “medical establishment”.

Here, in the US, homeopathic remedies are available all over the place. Look on the shelves of your drugstore. They look authentic but, if you inspect the package carefully, you will see that there probably aren’t any active ingredients. There’s  just water or just alcohol (sometime there is a faint amount of something else but nothing a doctor would ever think of as medicine).

The American Medical Association says these guys are  quacks.


Well, Prince Charles isn’t our problem. Years ago, Americans made it pretty clear how we feel about the monarchy. No need to rehash.


We’ve got our own issues with homeopathy.


A 1938 US law requires homeopathic stuff to be treated like any other over the counter medications.  This “allows” you to be  buying homeopathic remedies when you really thought  you were buying something that would cure your headache. The packages have an air of authenticity. You might need a magnifying glass to see that this  is a homeopathic “remedy”.

Maybe you think that drugstores have a duty to educate their customers about  products that lack any active ingredients or any proof of efficacy  but I guess  that’s not how the boss at the store  sees it. Drugstores “appreciate the business” and “respect consumer choice”.

Don’t get hoodwinked.  Water doesn’t fix headaches.


What is homeopathy? It seems to have originated  in 1796. Samuel Hahnemann had the idea that he should be able to cure a disease by a) figuring out what its symptoms are b) finding a  substance that caused “similar” symptoms (cinchona bark, for example, makes you feel woozy with symptoms similar to malaria) 3) weakening (diluting) the substance until it is basically gone 4) Giving what’s left of the original substance (or isn’t left) to the patient.

That’s it.

No seriously. That it. That’s the cure.

The odds are that, after the repeated dilutions,  there’s nothing left in the bottle but water or alcohol.  You spoon it out to the patient and he.she quickly recovers from vapours, consumption or, I suppose, prostate cancer.



Here’s how a homeopathic remedy is usually made. First you dilute the solution. Then, you knock the container against something a few times (succussion).  You do that over and over again. How many times seems to vary, depending on the recipe. Some practitioners don’t give the actual potion  to the patient. Instead they pin a piece of paper with the name of the active ingredient to the patient’s clothes, place it in the patient’s pocket, or position it under a glass of water which the patient than drinks.

You don’t believe me, right?  How could something like that work? Especially since the “cure” has nothing curative in it, Luckily, Hahnemann, the father of homeopathy, had the answer for that one too. The water (or alcohol)  “remembers” the substance that used to be in it. Even though it is now gone completely.

Well that’s the theory.

Real stuff?


Scientifically, it’s nuts, right? But- you know what? If it works, it works.

Look,  if I didn’t know better,  I wouldn’t have seen the point of zapping a cancer patient with radiation. Or giving chemo which, after all, is pretty toxic. But it’s been shown that those things  can help – shown scientifically, that is.

I’m a pragmatist. If homeopathy works, all good then.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t! There is no evidence that would convince anyone but a crazy person (or a prince) that it does.

Here. Read this.

If that doesn’t convince you. Read this, okay?

The top doctor at England’s National Health Service has stated that homeopathy  is “rubbish”.

It is.

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The two drawings are mine. The photo was snapped in a chain drugstore.  I won’t name the store as I don’t imagine the owners would appreciate the publicity.


  1. Upto the end of year 2010, there have been 11 meta-analysis and 8 systematic reviews including 1 cochrane review (out of approximately 20 systematic reviews published) published in 14 medical journals in evidence of homeopathy. Out of 11 meta analysis, 5 are comprehensive, 5 on specific medical condition and 1 on super-avogadro dilution effect.

  2. MISTER Science Ain't So Bad

    Thank you for pointing out that there is some work that is, to various degrees, supportive of homeopathy. Almost all off beat science manages to get some papers into some journals. This is what makes science interesting and, perhaps, confusing. What, then, is a scientifically credible claim? Isn’t it good enough to be able to point to a paper? To two papers? To a dozen? What about the quality of the research? How many leading scholars have to be holding their noses before you get to disregard a real paper in a real journal?

    You are Dr. Nancy Malik, Doctor of Homeopathy and member of the Central Council of Homeopath, are you not? If so, I particularly appreciate your taking the time to contribute to the discussion. I have to think that you are strongly convinced of the value of your work and aren’t likely to change your mind merely because of the problems others may see in the supporting evidence. Excuse me for saying this but the studies you mention have to be seen in the larger light of all the numerous studies on this subject. You can’t just pick and choose. That’s misleading.

  3. Studies in the larger light of all numerous studies
    1. Upto the end of year 2010, 8 out of approx 20 systematic reviews are in favour of homeopathy i.e. 40%
    2. Upto the end of year 2010, 95 DBRPCT out of approx 225 RCT are in evidence of homeopathy i.e. 42.23%
    3. Out of 164 high quality peer-reviewed papers published between 1950-2011 (inclusive) on RCT in 89 medical conditions, 71 (43%) papers reported +ve findings, 9 (6%) were negative; 80 (49%) were non-conclusive; 4 (2%) contained non-extractable data.
    4. In 32 out of 89 disease conditions, there has been replicated research (2 or more RCT). In 22 out of 32 disease conditions, the results of replicated research were statistically significant.

  4. MISTER Science Ain't So Bad

    Once again, thank you for taking the time to share what you know.

    I won’t go “tit for tat” with you, but I will share a link from someone who takes the other position. and I will note a recent study from the UK

    It would be curious if the scientific literature truly supported the validity of a therapy that has no physical basis. Science has to tread carefully between being close minded and being naive, don’t you think?

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