Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Thanks for the memory

Homeopathic remedies are getting a lot of stick at the moment. Critics are saying they're totally useless and have no active ingredients except water.

A few days ago some Merseysiders organised a mass overdose of homeopathic medicines to prove they were ineffective and no harm would result. Others have pointed out that there isn't a single molecule of anything beneficial in the remedies, only the supposed "memory" of the molecule.

I've never taken a homeopathic potion in my life, but they're lauded by many public figures including the Royal Family. They can be found in chain stores like Boots and they're available on the NHS.

They've become so respectable that the wave of criticism is not having much effect, even though it's pretty unanswerable. If you were offered a cancer remedy with nothing but the alleged "memory" of an active ingredient, would you be rushing to get it? I doubt it.

A lot of people like the idea of it being a "natural" remedy as opposed to some dubiously potent artificial drug. But homeopathic medicines are also artificial since they're manufactured. They're not something you can pick in the garden or gather on the beach. The "natural" is a misnomer.

I've known homeopathic doctors who stoutly defended their methods. I've known lots of individuals who swear homeopathic remedies cured them of some serious ailment. But the scientific evidence flatly contradicts them. Are we seriously to believe in some mysterious magic process that can't be identified by scientists? That way madness lies.

If Her Majesty wants to take memory-imbued water, good luck to her. I shall save my cash for something with more medical credentials than the modern equivalent of snake oil.

PS: Many patients at the Royal London Homeopathic Hospital swear by homeopathic remedies and say they have helped with conditions that didn't respond to conventional treatment. My mind is not closed on the subject!

19 comments:

Baino said...

I'm inclinde to agree. I think if anyone has benefited from these medicines it's because they've also amended their diet and lifestyle which is also part of the homeopathic 'treatment'. Then if I had Cancer, I think I'd even try a little snake oil. Just in case. Mind over matter can be a powerful thing indeed! Natural isn't always good either, look at pyrethrine . . we make insect killer out of it!

Grannymar said...

I am with you on this one Nick, although 60% of prescribed medicines do not work. When you think about it they are made for Mr & Mrs Average, pity there are not many of us 'Average'!

Ha ha! the word verification is 'buyin'!

Nick said...

Baino - It could very well be that lifestyle changes are also relevant. Or for that matter any other medicines or treatments the person might be taking. And as you say, lots of natural substances are highly toxic.

Grannymar - A lot of prescribed drugs are not just useless like homeopathic medicines but can be positively harmful in terms of serious side-effects. I can vouch for the weird side-effects of blood-pressure drugs myself.

kylie said...

i work in a factory making herbal medicine so i have an interest in the subject. herbs are different to homeopathy and they work but people treat them lightly with a lot of self prescription and that is a danger.

Nick said...

Kylie - Herbal medicines are different, I think they can often be very effective. They do actually have active ingredients! Which is why self-prescribing is dangerous, they can do serious harm if you take too much.

Leah said...

That's true, what you and Kylie say--there's worthwhile ages-old indigenous herbal remedies--although even with that said, I still totally cast my lot in with science-based FDA-approved medicine!

Wisewebwoman said...

I'm bleating from the opposite end of the pot, Nick, on this one. I've seen the horrific effects of Big Pharma up close - both in myself and others - and I've seen the benefits of the holistic and naturopathic approach particularly in my daughter who has MS.
I am a total cynic when it comes to prescription drugs, etc. and now that the H1N1 vaccine has proven to be one of the bigger scams ever perpetrated I'm relieved I wasn't pressured into taking it. Who knows the adverse affects of this down the road?
XO
WWW

kylie said...

leah,
i'm not sure how it is in the US but we are regulated by the australian equivalent of the FDA, the TGA.
things arent as stringent with herbs as with prescriptin meds but the controls on manufacturers are pretty tight. we are not required to prove efficacy but we are required to manufacture to a good standard, everything has to be well tested before it is released for consumption

tattytiara said...

I'm using a homeopathic treatment for a chronic condition. My doctor's skeptical, but when I ask about my condition has to admit that it's remarkably good. I'm aware that the effects might be due to placebo, but placebo's just a fancy way of talking the body into taking care of itself so I'm totally on board with that.

Nick said...

Leah - I would be reluctant to take anything that wasn't officially tested and approved. Though even so, approved drugs can still have dangerous side effects. There must be a UK equivalent of the FDA and TGA but I can't name it.

www - So what sort of medicines/remedies does your daughter take?

The swine flu vaccine had very serious side effects in some people, worse than the flu itself.

Kylie - Good to know herbal medicines are thoroughly tested. I don't know if that's the case in the UK, I think maybe not. But there's certainly a huge public demand for them.

Nick said...

Tattytiara - That's what the critics say, if there's any apparent benefit it's the placebo effect. Even so, if you feel it's doing you good, that's the main thing.

Rummuser said...

Each to his/her poison? Or should it be potion? If someone is comfortable, why disturb the equation?

Nick said...

Ramana - Surely if someone is comfortable but they're obviously being ripped off, shouldn't we say something? Or just laugh at their gullibility?

Kate said...

hmmmm I'm not sure about this - but then I wasn't sure about acupuncture until I tried it with amazing effect!!!

Nick said...

Kate - Acupuncture seems to be of genuine benefit to many people, I wouldn't write it off. It does appear to have an effect on the nervous system.

Wisewebwoman said...

To answer your question Nick, she's with an osteopath for bodywork and is completely gluten & dairy free, mega doses of Vitamin D and other herbal concoctions.
XO
WWW

Nick said...

www - That all sounds okay to me, nothing dubious. As I said, I think herbal medicines generally contain something beneficial, though even that is sometimes disputed (as with echinacea).

Liz said...

I started using St John's Wort a few years and it affected my eyesight. Fortunately it improved again when i stopped.

Now I stick to granny's favourite - cod liver oil.

Nick said...

Liz - That's interesting, because lots of people swear by St Johns Wort for things like depression. I used to take cod liver oil but when I stopped it made no difference to my health.