My October edition of “I can’t help but react to stupid stuff” concerns itself with Homeopathy.
Here is how I got this particular burr under my saddle. I happened to be paging through a recent copy of the journal entitled Archives of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery. I know what you are thinking; who the hell reads that! Well, what can I say; it was a boring Sunday afternoon and almost anything is better than watching the Fox Football broadcasters stumble over fourth grade vocabulary words. Anyway, this is an American Medical Association (AMA) Journal that is supposedly carefully scrutinizes all submitted studies and only publishes the cream of the crop in it’s field. Lo and behold right there in print is a study comparing a conventional prescription drug to a prescription homeopathic drug for the treatment of vertigo. Seeing that made me dizzy; no pun intended. Homeopathy in a high profile medical journal!! Now, please don’t confuse me with someone who has a lot respect for the field of general medicine and pharmacology. My medical school training and 20 plus years of pharmacological chemistry study cured that. But still; I mean, even the AMA has to have some standards. Well, their inclusion of homeopathy definitely “lowered the bar” measurably.
Frankly, it made me nervous because I knew what had to be behind it. That four letter word that the AMA absolutely worships….CASH. Well, if homeopathy had the money to burn “shrimp tabling” the AMA maybe it was bigger than I imagined. Eegaads! The results of my short research endeavor stunned even a cynic like myself. An estimated 6 million Americans currently use homeopathic products and spend in excess of a quarter billion dollars a year on these alternatives to good common sense. More alarmingly, Homeopathy is growing every year at a double digit rate.
For those of you who have no experience or knowledge of homeopathy, let me explain it’s principles. If you begin getting a really sick headache at anytime; discontinue reading immediately and go watch something that is more intelligent and believable like The Jetsons or Scoobey-Doo Where Are You. Admittedly, I understand this is sure to get a few people really pissed. Hey that’s life. I learned long ago that there is no better way to attract negative fan mail than to challenge the really stupid beliefs of wackos. So let’s talk about Homeopathy.
No, not Homophobia, that’s means possessing an irrational fear of homosexuals. But, then, Homeopathy makes about as much sense as homophobia.
Many intelligent people confuse homeopathy with a belief in herbal products or preparations. This is a big mistake. Herbs can contain chemicals and natural constituents which have a basis in science and can be useful and productive to the body. Homeopathy, on the other hand, is illogical, unscientific and downright idiotic. Homeopaths believe that if you take something in large amounts and it causes a negative reaction, say toxic poisoning, then taking a smaller amount will cause an opposite effect. In fact, the smaller amount of a compound you put in a homeopathic supplement, the more of an effect it has. Make sense? Not to me. Trying to lose weight, simple, eat a bigger piece of chocolate cake. After all the less you eat, the more calories you will have to burn off. How’s the headache coming?
Let’s look more closely at the homeopathic principles. Most homeopathic products list a “strength” on the label. Typical “strengths”, and I use this term very loosely, are 12x, 24x, etc. This refers to the amount of “succussing” a particular product has been subject to. Succussing is a simple, yet sublimely silly, process. Here is what you do. You take a small amount of a raw material and dilute it with alcohol and water and shake it vigorously by hand. Then you take a small portion of that and dilute it again with alcohol and water and shake it by hand again. If the label says 12x you “succussed” it 12 times. 24x means it has been diluted 24 times. 100x would mean it was diluted 100 times. Understand, each succussion further dilutes the material. According to homeopaths, the more the product has been succussed the more powerful it is. They call this “potentization.” In fact, they believe that the most potent preparation is one that has been succussed so many times that there is no active ingredient in it! According to them the more it is potentized the deeper it acts, the longer it acts and the fewer number of doses are required. Oouch, this logic even hurts my brain. Please, hand me the remote, even the Three Stooges make more sense. Moe, Larry….hand me my homeopathic cough medicine.
Let’s take an example. I really want to make sure you understand this in case your Aunt Martha ever tries to sell you on the wonders of homeopathic medicine. A favorite substance of homeopaths is Nox Vomica. Nox Vomica is a very highly toxic substance that can kill, or according to homeopaths, can increase energy, vitality and appetite. Since an undiluted preparation of Nox Vomica can kill you then a product that has been succussed 24 times must be great for you. But not nearly as good as one that has been succussed 50 times. And 100 times, well since you might not be able to find any Nox Vomica in it at all it would be absolutely wonderful as an energy and vigor stimulant. Go figure that!
Imagine taking a spoonful of Creatine and shaking it up with a quart of water and alcohol. Then taking a small portion of that diluted mixture and diluting it further and further. After 50 times, you’d bottle it and tell the world you had a super Creatine preparation that would increase muscle volume and anaerobic energy better than the original spoonful. Yeah right.
Homeopaths make real sense. When questioned about dosage density, mathematics and scientific reasoning they revert to the spiritual ideas of unseen forces. You know what I mean, the final homeopathic remedy works because it has a special electromagnetic frequency which somehow activates the body’s vital forces to promote healing. Sure guys, we all believe that.
I can’t continue. My head hurts too bad. Let me end with a quote from Jay Borneman, the president of one of the largest homeopathic companies in the world, “In a sense, the industry has become ‘unremarkable,’ in that we are not considered crazy guys anymore.”
Ha! Sure Jay; keep dreaming.
P.S. The cold season is coming around in full force. Lest anyone mistake me laughing at homeopathy as a sideways endorsement of traditional drug (oops, I mean, medical) treatments let me relate an old medical school joke that we used to tell the nurses about strep throat. When treated with penicillin, strep throat will go away in about 7 days; if left untreated it’ll go away in about a week.