No Homeo, bro!

Supplementary, complementary, and alternative medicine (SCAM) seems to be popping up in the darndest places. No longer are alchemic tinctures and potions sequestered to hippie shops and mom and pop health stores. Large chains such as Wal-Mart, Walgreens, and CVS are now carrying all
manners of nonsense. One could write a book (and many have) on any single SCAM category, but here I want to focus on homeopathy.

Why?

Because it’s fucking retarded.

And I don’t mean in that bumbling cute blonde girl who consistently uses a possessive pronoun where she means to use a contraction sort of way. No, I’m talking about retarded in the way that describes the person whose actions resulted in chainsaws having a warning label that reads  “Do not attempt to stop the chain with your hands”.

It really is that retarded.

With many SCAM remedies and treatments there is an air of plausibility surrounding them. It sounds completely plausible that a large dose of vitamin C could cause one to get over a cold faster than normal (it doesn’t), or that burning a candle in one’s ear will suck out some of that pesky wax that you can’t seem to get with a golf pencil (it won’t). Homeopathy has none of that plausibility. The very principles it espouses violate everything we know about how the world, the body, and the universe actually work.

Without going into the history of homeopathy, the basic principles are:

The Law of Similars – Similia similibus curantur, or like cures like. This means that one should use a substance that causes similar symptoms to the symptoms the patient is experiencing. If a person has a rash, a homeopath would suggest curing it with a substance that causes a rash. In a pro-homeopathy pamphlet I picked up from a local health store there are listed homeopathic remedies for warts and syphilis. Draw your own conclusions.

Law of Infinitesimals – The smaller the dose, the more powerful the effect. This means that 1 mg of substance X is more powerful than
1 gram of substance X. Stronger still would be 1  µg, or microgram, which is 0.000001 grams. Here we see that it is claimed that the more extreme the dilution of the “active” ingredient the more enhanced is its curative properties while simultaneously eliminating any possibility of side effects of harmful interactions with other drugs or other contraindications.

There are a few more laws dealing with how homeopaths treat the whole person instead of just the illness and how the drug moved from minor to major organs etc … That’s all fine and dandy, but here I want to focus on the law of infinitesimals.

A few years ago I was required to take a speech class. Being the kind of guy that loves to hear himself talk, I jumped at it. Performance has always been a forte of mine, so when it came time to pick a topic from a list that included various new age philosophies, I picked alternative medicine, seeing an excellent opportunity to scare the shit out of my classmates.

I arrived that day prepared for my speech with a bottle of a popular homeopathic sleep aid. I began my speech by taking the entire bottle, 50 sleeping pills. I had to trot to the other side of the room to continuously swallow large mouthfuls of these pills while classmates tried to snatch my bottle away. I succeeded in what appeared to them as a suicide attempt. I had science on my side.

Earlier I stated that homeopaths believe that the more dilute a substance is, the more powerful it is. Since this is the opposite of how the real world works I knew I was safe, but it is important to understand just how diluted these remedies are.

Here is a chart of various dilution levels found on the backs of homeopathic bottles. It is ordered from least diluted to most, or least powerful to most. Skim down to the 400X/200C dilution, which is contained in a popular homeopathic flu remedy. Notice that it is equal to 10 to the -401th g/g. To give you an idea of just how diluted that is, physicists estimate there are 10 to the 80th number of atoms in the universe. A dilution of one molecule in a container the size of the entire observable universe would be 40C. This means that this remedy would require 10 to the 320 more universes to simply have one molecule in the final substance.

To make it painfully obvious for some of you mouth breathers out there who nearly closed the window when you saw scientific notation, that means that there is practically nothing in homeopathic remedies.

Taking a look at the ingredients in the sleeping pills I overdosed on we see that the least diluted substances are 1x (100 mg/g) of avena sativa (oats), 1x of passiflora (a genus of common flower), 1x of Humulus Lupulus (hops), and 2x (1 mg/g) of chamomilla. The rest of the ingredients are 3x (0.1 mg/g) of calcium, iron phosphate, potassium phosphate, sodium phosphate, and magnesium phosphate. These amount to simple food additives and antacids, or at least they would in normal amounts.

This, dear readers, is the reason why I’m so pissed that drug stores are marketing this bullshit as medicine. Not even as medicine, but as an alternative to medicine. The layperson who is confronted with the choice between two sleep aids is probably going to pick the one that advertises no side effects. How could they know any better? Afterall, most of us trust our pharmacies to only stock products that work as indicated. The selling of this nonsense marks a gross breach of that trust.

Want to do something about it? You can start by contacting these chains and letting them know how outraged you are at them taking advantage of the public for a quick buck. There is also a petition you can sign. Probably best of all is to send your friends and family to blogs and websites that elucidate just how fucking stupid homeopathy is.

-Mike S.-

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One Response to “No Homeo, bro!”

  1. True that, homie! I’ve read a little about this subject and watched a few lectures and I couldn’t agree more. F-bomb these douches!

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