Saturday, February 5, 2011

Homeopathy - There's Nothing In It.

That's the slogan of the annual 10:23 challenge which began in January 2010 to convince a chain of pharmacies in the U.K  to stop selling homeopathic products and thereby lending legitimacy to this unproven woo. On the 30th of January 2010 at 10:23 AM 400 people swallowed an entire bottle of homeopathic pills, to highlight the fact these 'remedies' have no active ingredients. As chemist I like that they chose 10:23 in reference to the concept of Avagado's number 6.022x1023.

In the TV show The Big Bang Theory Dr Shedlon Lee Cooper drawing on the experiments of Bertram Forer in 1948 called Astrology "nothing but pseudoscientific hokum". I would like to draw upon the work J Maddox, J Randi and W. W Stewart who proved conclusively through meticulously designed experiments that Homeopathy is nothing but pseudoscientific hokum.

Homeopathy according to the Australian Homeopathic Association (they have courses and degrees and everything) is based on "the Law of likes" for example coffee can wake you up so if you are suffering from insomnia a diluted quantity of coffee can help you sleep. No seriously they even sell a product called 'coffee cruda', sorry prescribe a treatment to alleviate this problem. It gets sillier from there. Homeopathy also believes in the 'Law of Infinitesimals'  the more dilute the remedy the more potent. No I am not making this up.  Of course not just any dilution, special dilutions called 'centesimals'.

As described on the 10:23 website 
Taking a single drop of caffeine and diluting in ninety-nine drops of water creates what is known to homeopaths as one 'centesimal'. One drop of this centesimal added to another ninety-nine drops of water produces a two-centesimal, written as 2C. This 2C caffeine potion is 99.99% water and just 0.01% caffeine. At 3C the dilution is 0.0001% caffeine, at 4C it's 0.000001% caffeine, and so on. Homeopathic remedies are commonly sold at 6C (0.000 000 000 1%) and even 30C (0.000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 1%) dilutions, which homeopaths will often drip onto little balls of sugar to sell.
When these numbers are written out, it's easy to see how absurd they are. At 12C you pass what is known as the Avogadro Limit, the point at which there is likely nothing of your original substance left.
By the time you reach 30C, you have more chance of winning the lottery five weeks running than you have of finding a single caffeine molecule in your homeopathic sleeping draft. It's just ordinary water, dripped onto ordinary sugar.
Finally they throw in the Law of Succussion which means shaking the solutions so the water can retain the memory of the molecule that is no longer there. Honestly according to homeopaths shaking stuff makes it hold the pattern better?
Darryl Cunningham has put together a magnificent cartoon of the whole homeopathy mess over on his blog Darryl Cunningham Investigates. Below is the front page. He also did one for the MMR vaccine and autism.homeopathy 1
Some of the ways folk are highlighting the foolishness of homeopathy - folk in the UK have bought homeopathic medicines and plan to overdose, which is difficult when all you are effectively consuming is sugar water, others have taken a drop of nitroglycerin and diluted homeopathically which should by their system making a much more potent explosive, but according to the system called science just makes it wetter.   
I also like to think humor is an effective weapon against such woolly thinking, for those who are big fans of the late great Dr Carl Sagan like me and the_weapon this piece by the folk at Ninjerksu made me smile for a while.
Astrology... Your future looks............. Gloomy 
Some will ask why the fuss, if people want to spend their money on what is effectively expensive water where's the harm. Simon Singh provides a cogent argument here. Also the website What's the harm, provides examples of some of the 400 people harmed because of homeopathy, including Ms J Alderslade who when told by a homeopath to give up here asthma medication, died of an asthma attack and Isabella Denley a 13month old who died because her parents refused to treat her epilepsy with medication and instead relied on 'alternatives like homeopathy.'  
realize that western medicine can cause side effects, some of which in the cases of diseases like cancer can be horrific and painful. However they have been shown to provide the best chance for long term survival and I would choose western or science/evidence based medicine over any amount woo or quack voodoo.
So remember when it comes to alternatives like homeopathy.


  1. A good friend of mine is a homeopath.

    We just don't talk about it. Ever.

  2. I understand and sympathize. Could be worse, could be a faith healer.

  3. I really wish the shit worked. Way cheaper than pharmaceuticals!

  4. Like Astrology and other supersitious nonsense I can't help but feel that homeopathy is a throwback to an inate desire of some for a kind of mystical solution. I simply call it all bollocks. I do believe some herbal treatments can be effective given that that's where a lot of modern medicine had its origins but any munters who try and tell me that homeopathy works is given short shrift. Same with astrology and psychic seeing, sheer bullshit designed to leech money out of susceptible 'marks'. Numerology, card reading, crystal balls etc etc. I say 'pah! 'to the lot.

  5. The Simon Singh libel case is just plain scary, it has had a lot of column inches written about it in the Private Eye.

    BTW talking of hokey quasimystical stuff, found a great cooffee supplier over here so will bring some over for you the next time I'm in Melb!

  6. Excellent looking forward to the visit

  7. Perhaps thurbs, but when I look at the crate of 'scientifically proven' drugs my mother in law shovels into herself every day, I can't help but think that allopathy works on much the same faith healing level. She is 80, and doddery and sufferers form a million ailments of old age. She was a pharmacist. She believes in the drugs. They are not doing her any good.

    Also interesting to note - I just helped my mother move. There, collected over many years in her top drawer I found a mountain of unfilled prescriptions. She, unlike Geoff's mum, doesn't believe in doctors. Thinks they are quacks. For years she has visited them with her ailments, but has not taken their drugs. She;s still alive and kicking and a lot physically healthier. Just a scientific observation.

    And BTW, though the doc's aren't supposed to believe there is anything in homeopathics, nevertheless, at Geoff's recent day surgery the do asked him if he was taking any because apparently, some of them can increase bleeding. Some surgeons, it seems, aren't prepared to take that firm a stand on the issue.

    (Sorry if this posted twice - first go didn;t seem to work)