Homeopathy woo again

At the Guardain. Yes, idiot foolishness.

A slightly different thought occurs.

The homeopathic pills are, quite literally, sugar pills. Ain\’t nowt else there.

Now they say that they\’re made by diluting down. Take a solution, dilute it 100 times with water, shake, take a bit, dilute again 100 times down with water and so on to 30 or even 60 times.

12 times would be the last time you\’re likely to see a single molecule of the orginal whatever it was there.

OK, right…now, why not simply sell sugar pills? Why bother with all of the preparation? Just manufacture lots of sugar pills, launch a new homeopathic range…and here\’s the clever bit….charge more for them.

They will be more effective.

Obviously, you\’ll have to have lots of different bottles and labels but the sugar pills can all be the same.

I can\’t see how this would fail. You cannot tell what\’s in the pills by analysing them as there isn\’t anything in the pills to analyse.

The only reason I can think of why this wouldn\’t work is that this is what they\’re all already doing.

22 thoughts on “Homeopathy woo again”

  1. Brian, follower of Deornoth

    I have my homeopathic remedies dissolved in beer. These remedies are clearly very effective as I feel much better every time I consume them.

  2. Now they say that they’re made by diluting down. Take a solution, dilute it 100 times with water, shake, take a bit, dilute again 100 times down with water and so on to 30 or even 60 times.

    12 times would be the last time you’re likely to see a single molecule of the orginal whatever it was there.

    You missed a step:
    o Then place a drop of the water onto a sugar pill and let the water evaporate…

  3. I wonder if anyone has ever done a veterinary clinical trial of homeopathic medicines. Animals, presumably, would not exhibit the placebo effect, so the causal (in)efficacy of homeopathy would be established once and for all.

  4. You forgot to say that you should dye the pills different colours, Tim. And foment a heated public debate about whether there should be a blue one.

  5. Did you hear the one about the homeopathy patient who forgot to take his pills?

    He died of an overdose.

  6. “You sure there’s no placebo effect for animals?”

    Well, since animals don’t have the concept of medicine, they can’t comprehend the concept of medical intervention or treatment. And without the possession of the concept of medical treatment, there cannot be any placebo effect, because the placebo effect depends upon the patient believing that a sham treatment is a real and efficacious one.

  7. Wow!! A highly intelligent blog, where both the owner & commenters seem unaffected by the seemingly recent pandemic of vacuousness. (an “intelligent” conservative economist?? Will wonders ever cease?? )

    Without going into an autobiography of myself-allow me to just comment as a former allopathic medical professional who was introduced to alternative medicine about 9 years ago. While my own experience with homeopathics was, well, as it should have been-a complete failure; I HAVE seen some amazing examples of the placebo effect. However, the use of Ayurvedic supplements & dietary remedies combined with a disciplined yoga practice, has had, literally, miraculous results.
    While the use of the Materia Medica is, in my opinion, a waste of time and money; other alternate methods-some which have been used for thousands of years, but for some reason have come to be “lumped in” with homeopathy-are as effective, or in my case much more effective, than conventional allopathic medicine.
    There’s an interesting documentary on my favorite doc site on homeopathy, (sorry, am out right now on iPhone with no access, just search homeopathy at topdocumentaryfilms.com).
    Re: Cats; my feline mistress is known to suddenly develop a very noticable limp within minutes of my arrival home from a grocery trip. Miraculously, just a small handful of “Greenies” suddenly HEALS this horrible injury!! Placebo or just another example of manipulation by the feline mystique?
    Thank you for a fascinating blog!! 🙂

  8. SoloPocono:

    It’s not just pills’n’sich that are mighty effective.

    About a week ago , my knee began to ache and was hard to put weight on, whether getting up in the morning or after spending time in a chair.

    I mentioned this to a gal who noticed my slight limp (I had just gotten up from a chair a few minutes previously.) She told me “What you need is to buy one o’ them knee braces they got in the drug store. It’ll do you good and, as long as nothing’s really bunged up bad, you’ll be walking OK in no time.”

    Well, I did as she said. And, several days later happened to meet her again, giving her opportunity to ask how my knee was doing.

    I said, “It’s fine–no problem. I went up to the drug store and bought me one o’ them knee braces, jus’ like you said. An’ I ain’t had a bit of a problem ever since.”

    She beamed, “I knew it would do the trick,” she said. Somehow, I just hadn’t the heart to tell her that I’d never even got around to taking the knee brace out of the package. Now, that’s effective!

    But it makes the scientist in me wonder, “Hmm. If buying the thing cured the condition, just how much relief would’ve I gotten if I’d just eyeballed it hangin’ on the rack? No way o’ really knowin’ them things–at least not without clinical trials an’ such-like.

    But you’re sure right about this blog. There’s more expertise displayed here (per column-inch, that is) than you’ll find almost anywhere. Even the fakes are “best of class” and a fair few can turn a phrase with the very best. You done come to the right place, for sure.

  9. I seem to remember something on the telly (BBC?) quite a few years ago where “they” ran a small trial on horses (?) — the number of 17 comes to mind — precisely to avoid the placebo effect. I can’t recall what was supposed to be wrong with the horses (presumably nothing very serious), or how the trial was conducted; but the conclusion presented was that the homeopathic remedy did not seem to be wholly ineffectual. Of course the sample was too small to constitute serious evidence.

  10. I do a fair bit of emergency surgery, where the effectiveness of the treatment is usually pretty obvious. If anyone would like to come in with a burst aneurysm or amputated limb and look at the effectiveness of prayer/homeopathy/Ayurvedic supplements and dietary remedies I am sure the results will be interesting.

  11. You can have a placebo effect with animals, if you give them a drug and get them used to it then replace it with a placebo then they will respond to it as humans would. It’s a Pavlovian thing I guess.

  12. “I don’t want the logic as to whether the placebo effect will or won’t work in animals I want a double blind trial into it.”

    But without conceptual clarification you risk asking the wrong question and so getting the wrong empirical results.

    “You can have a placebo effect with animals, if you give them a drug and get them used to it then replace it with a placebo then they will respond to it as humans would. It’s a Pavlovian thing I guess”

    The placebo effect seems to be more than just Pavlovian conditioning.

    This piece is quite good on the placebo effect and animals:
    http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/?p=263

  13. Regarding animal trials, there’s the old “management training” tale about garment workers in New York in the early 1900s. Their boss decided to improve working conditions by giving them more light and productivity improved. So he improved the air with fans and windows, again he got productivity increases. HE did other things as well with machines, space, materials, breaks etc. Basically he found that any change helped…even reducing things like light and air flow.

    It appeared that paying attention to his staff was enough to see improvements.

    My guess is that the animal trials would be totally compromised by the fact the people would be paying attention to the “subjects” who would behave better, get well, be happier purely because of the attention and not because of the drugs/placebos.

  14. Me, I’m an evolutionist. Soon, very soon in evolutionary terms, nobody will use homeopathic remedies.

    Dead children of stupid people are an evolutionary good, dontcha know?

  15. JohnRS – you are talking about the Hawthorne effect…perhaps you should review that again. You may not be aware that it consisted mostly of a single study of the efficiency of 5 (count them!) experimental subjects, although two were replaced mid-experiment (for being too slow). It was never really documented or analysed properly, although I accept it is the greatest anecdote in the history of statistics..

  16. The real problem for these homeopaths is the fact that they have to dilute their “substances” with something that in all likelyhood holds concentrations of said “substances” in fast quantities in the first place…I’m thinking of the copper plumbing their water comes through, contaminants etc…….physician dilude thyself

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