The Failed Promise of Homeopathy

Posted by in Health Matters

medical quackery homeopathyI can understand now why doctors and medical professionals get fed up with alternative medicine. Why some may have legitimate efficacy, you still have snake oil quackery like homeopathy out there. But don’t take my word for it. Let’s go to the scientific literature for answers.

What Is Homeopathy?

First, let’s define homeopathy. According to Merriam-Webster, it is, “a system for treating illnesses that uses very small amounts of substances that would in larger amounts produce symptoms of the illnesses in healthy people.” (It is, incidentally, in the top 30 percent of words looked up on the site.)

You don’t need to read between the lines to realize that it means giving you small amounts of poisons or contaminants of some sort. That should be enough to send any sane person running for the hills. But let’s dig a little deeper.

The National Health Service of the United Kingdom (NHS) didn’t take kindly to Prince Charles plea that alternative treatments, including homeopathy, be offered to NHS patients. The prince is a campaigner for such controversial treatments. His actions prompted the British Medical Association to pass a motion denouncing it. The BMA went as far as calling homeopathy “witchcraft.”

Science and Homeopathy

Before you think it’s just royal bickering, let’s look at the evidence. For that, we’ll turn to Australia’s National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC). The organization recently published a review of 225 well-designed studies that investigated homeopathy. Their conclusion could not be more damming.

“There was no reliable evidence from research in humans that homeopathy was effective for
treating the range of health conditions considered: no good-quality, well-designed studies with
enough participants for a meaningful result reported either that homeopathy caused greater health
improvements than placebo, or caused health improvements equal to those of another treatment.”

If you prefer something homegrown, there is this piece published in Trends in Molecular Medicine that calls for an end to trials with dubious medical treatments like homeopathy and reiki. As Steven Novella of Yale University states,

“Studying highly implausible treatments is a losing proposition.”

Flying in the Face of Evidence

Despite this catalog of evidence against the use of homeopathy, imagine my surprise when I visited and did a search on homeopathy. Some 244 items turned up. A particular one, Botanic Choice Homeopathic Allergy Relief Formula, caught my eye. Here’s the list of ingredients:

Red Onion4C HPUS , Honeybee4C HPUS , Arsenic Trioxide4C HPUS , Eyebright4C HPUS , Poison Nut4C HPUS

I don’t know about you, but I’d pass on anything containing arsenic and poison nut, thank you very much. Arsenic trioxide is one of the precursors using in the manufacture of Roxarsone. It is a food additive that is banned in the EU and for which Pfizer suspended use after the FDA stepped in about possible carcinogen exposure. Poison nut is appropriately named, given the strychnine in its seeds.

Of course, Walgreens can’t control what manufacturers do, but manufacturers would be well advised to avoid using terms to describe their products that equate to quackery. Walgreens can, however, control what they stock on their shelves.

By having such tripe available, Walgreens legitimizes homeopathy—in defiance of what good science tells us. All I have to say is if it says it contains poison, and it contains poison, it probably is poison. I guess you can be well as long as you don’t buy the homeopathic “treatments” on their shelves. Chris DR
photo credit: The snake oil serum via photopin (license)