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Don't drink the (extremely diluted) Kool-Aid!
January 25, 2010 10:34 AM   Subscribe

Next Saturday, more than 300 people will each swallow an entire bottle of homoeopathic pills in protest at the continued marketing of homoeopathic medicines. The group planning the event is specifically targeting health care in the UK.
posted by Taft (377 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite

 
Well if any of them are lactose intolerant, it could present a problem. Other than that, not so much.
posted by Danf at 10:36 AM on January 25, 2010


Comedians' Mitchell and Webb homeopathic emergency medicine sketch.
posted by Kattullus at 10:37 AM on January 25, 2010 [20 favorites]


They'll be extremely healthy! Or is that healthful.
posted by Eideteker at 10:40 AM on January 25, 2010


I'm going to eat a few sachets of sugar in solidarity.
posted by Burhanistan at 10:41 AM on January 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


If they really want to make a point, shouldn't they divide up one pill and swallow that?
posted by decagon at 10:42 AM on January 25, 2010 [28 favorites]


This is a terrible idea.
posted by smackfu at 10:44 AM on January 25, 2010


Can we get the homeopathic salespeople to stage a counter-protest at which they each swallow entire bottles of real, prescription medication?
posted by rokusan at 10:44 AM on January 25, 2010 [43 favorites]


Protesters to swallow pills in bid to prove treatments ineffective

Yes, because the measure of effectiveness of a substance is whether or not it can kill you if you eat enough of it.
posted by Lutoslawski at 10:45 AM on January 25, 2010 [25 favorites]


This is a terrible idea.

What, homeopathy? Yes. Yes, it is.
posted by scody at 10:45 AM on January 25, 2010 [22 favorites]


Upcoming homeopathy marketing angle: "Effective, yet so safe you can consume an entire bottle with no harmful effects!"
posted by Behemoth at 10:46 AM on January 25, 2010 [10 favorites]


I thought in a previous thread on the topic of homeopathic medicine it was observed that pseudo-scientific wankery had resulted in the use of several toxins which, luckily for the users, were so diluted by the practice so as not to pose a problem. Is multiplying them a good idea?
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 10:47 AM on January 25, 2010


MEGA-PLACEBO EFFECT!
posted by Artw at 10:49 AM on January 25, 2010 [3 favorites]


Upcoming alternative medicine marketing angle: you're not sick so we'll sell you some magic potions that will cure you of the disease you don't have, thus convincing you that you had it.

Unreal what they get away with, for years, outright lying to people backed by the institutional accreditation being sold in pharmacies as if this shit was anything but fakery.
posted by fourcheesemac at 10:49 AM on January 25, 2010


300 appears to be about .0004 percent of the UK populations so that's about the right amount of people to have a magical effect on the overall body politic.
posted by Babblesort at 10:50 AM on January 25, 2010 [54 favorites]


From the comments:

In another experiment people were given bowls of rice and asked to abuse one, love the other and ignore the third. Interestingly the one which was ignored rotted faster than the one which was abused showing that any attention is better than none for the life force which is perhaps why people stay in abusive relationships. But the rice which was loved lasted much longer before rotting than it would normally do.
posted by Combustible Edison Lighthouse at 10:50 AM on January 25, 2010


Or: succuss yourselves, quack motherfuckers.
posted by fourcheesemac at 10:50 AM on January 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


You know why they call it "alternative medicine", right?

Because if it worked, it would just be called "medicine".
posted by mhoye at 10:52 AM on January 25, 2010 [89 favorites]


Wait, but if homeopaths believe that their .0002% tinctures work *because* of the dilution, would they expect that a person would be affected adversely by an 'overdose'? I admit I know next to nothing about homeopathy, and I'm not sure that logic is really the best tool to use on these folks anyway.
posted by tula at 10:52 AM on January 25, 2010


Avogadro's constant – roughly 10 to the 23rd power – places an upper limit, broadly speaking, on the number of molecules in a given volume of liquid or gas. Successive dilutions used in the preparation of homoeopathic remedies reduce the amount of the original ingredient beyond this number, with the result that not a single molecule remains.

The article got to the right place but the path it took to get there was all kinds of wrong. That is some masterfully bad science reporting.

This has always been the sticking point for scientists who express bafflement at the notion that a homoeopathic "tincture", which contains not a single molecule of the active ingredient from which it was made, can have any effect.

I like how this paragraph makes it seems like it's the scientists' who just don't get it.
posted by jedicus at 10:52 AM on January 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


Dudes, now there is Radionic Homeopathy, which beams the signature of a homeopathic remedy saved on a hard drive into a vial of water. Buy your own machine and make your own at home!
posted by Burhanistan at 10:52 AM on January 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Yes, because the measure of effectiveness of a substance is whether or not it can kill you if you eat enough of it.
No, you are right that the lethal dose is not a measure of a medications effectiveness. Homeopathic substances are just expensive water however and so have no effect, unless of course you drown in it or something.
posted by substrate at 10:52 AM on January 25, 2010


outright lying to people backed by the institutional accreditation being sold in pharmacies

Don't they have to tell the truth in the fine print, e.g. "* none of the claims on this bottle have ever been verified in any clinical trial" etc?
posted by mrgrimm at 10:54 AM on January 25, 2010


This is a silly idea, although I agree with it in principle. Some herbal remedies are quite potent if not in quite they way they were intended. I had some ginseng pills that were upsetting my stomach and noticed that each pill contained a large amount of cayenne pepper. A whole bottle would have had me barfing. Also, there are things like gaurana which is a caffeine analog. A whole bottle will not go down pleasantly.
posted by doctor_negative at 10:54 AM on January 25, 2010


Their next protest will be a demonstration against astrology by eating calendars.

I signed up for their mailing list for when they decide to tackle fortune cookies. Skepticism never tasted so good!
posted by Christ, what an asshole at 10:55 AM on January 25, 2010 [10 favorites]


Lutoslawski: Yes, because the measure of effectiveness of a substance is whether or not it can kill you if you eat enough of it.

I really doubt that it will kill them.
posted by daniel_charms at 10:55 AM on January 25, 2010


If someone gets sick from a bottle of the pills, wouldn't that hurt their cause?
posted by smackfu at 10:55 AM on January 25, 2010 [3 favorites]


If water has a memory...
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 10:56 AM on January 25, 2010 [12 favorites]


The fact that you can safely swallow a whole bottle of pills seems to be one of the actual good things about homeopathy.

Look at aspirin, ibuprofen, and acetaminophen. They don't actually cure anything, and are very dangerous if taken in excess.

A fever is the body's defense mechanism against invaders. Taking acetaminophen lowers your defenses. And if you take too much it screws up your liver.

I don't believe in the efficacy of homeopathy but at the very least it does no harm. The same can't be said about even the most common medications.
posted by infinitefloatingbrains at 10:57 AM on January 25, 2010 [4 favorites]


Bad science? Meet bad logic. Bad information will be chaperoning.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 10:58 AM on January 25, 2010 [8 favorites]


A related prior post, by me. (And I wish I could be there to homeopathically poison myself alongside. Which is to say, to take some pills and nothing happens.)
posted by Turtles all the way down at 10:58 AM on January 25, 2010


I don't believe in the efficacy of homeopathy but at the very least it does no harm.

The harm in homeopathy is ascribed to people using it instead of regular medicine while their condition deteriorates.
posted by Burhanistan at 11:00 AM on January 25, 2010 [23 favorites]


I don't believe in the efficacy of homeopathy but at the very least it does no harm.

Except for the part where it doesn't do any good and its use may cause people to delay getting, you know, actual medical treatment.
posted by scody at 11:00 AM on January 25, 2010 [27 favorites]


I really doubt that it will kill them.

The snark, let me show you it.

I thought in a previous thread on the topic of homeopathic medicine it was observed that pseudo-scientific wankery had resulted in the use of several toxins which, luckily for the users, were so diluted by the practice so as not to pose a problem. Is multiplying them a good idea?

Uhh... actually, it's supposed to use toxins, because that's how homeopathy works. It's not wankery, it's the basic principle of this form of medicine. Similar to how contagion is the principle of Western medicine.
posted by shii at 11:02 AM on January 25, 2010


Look at aspirin, ibuprofen, and acetaminophen. They don't actually cure anything...

They don't claim to "cure" anything. They are mainly pain relievers and anti-inflamatories, and in that regard, they work.

And doctor_negative, I think you're confusing natural medicines which are real natural-source chemicals, and homeopathic 'medicines' which are 100% distilled water.
posted by rocket88 at 11:06 AM on January 25, 2010 [9 favorites]


I initially read this as meaning the participants would be swallowing the actual physical container of the homeopathic meds along with the contents, and thought "wow, these people have some stretchy throats! Where did the organizers find 300 sword-swallowers to protest homeopathy?!"

Then it dawned on me that swallowing the actual bottle may be the only way homeopathic medicine could have any effect at all.
posted by Panjandrum at 11:07 AM on January 25, 2010


This seems like a really bad idea.

Best case, everyone's fine and the homeopaths can just say "yeah, see, if they'd been using Corporate Mainstream Medicine, they'd have all died, so obviously homeopathic preparations don't have the same level of Toxins as the stuff Big Pharma is shoving down your throat".

Worst case, somebody ends up croaking a week later from a pre-existing condition and it's taken as proof that they overdosed on homeopathic medicine, showing its true strength and how it's not something to be taken lightly.

Or is there a scenario in which science wins?
posted by BaxterG4 at 11:07 AM on January 25, 2010


@shii Or doesn't work, as the case seems to be.

Also, isn't saying "Western medicine" just a euphemism for "I don't grok science"?

Modern medicine is science-based. If you're against science, you might as well just come out and say it.
posted by Construction Concern at 11:09 AM on January 25, 2010 [17 favorites]


It's not wankery, it's the basic principle of this form of medicine.

Can't it be both? It may not have been wankery before we knew about Avogadro's number, but it certainly is now. The most "potent" homeopathic medicine contains literally none of the substance from which it is derived - not one molecule.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 11:11 AM on January 25, 2010


Like the Dawkins stuff, this mainly seems to be for the benefit of those involved.
posted by Artw at 11:11 AM on January 25, 2010 [5 favorites]


It's not wankery, it's the basic principle of this form of medicine.

It's not medicine; it's the basic principle of this form of wankery.

FTFY.
posted by cerebus19 at 11:11 AM on January 25, 2010 [14 favorites]


Uhh... actually, it's supposed to use toxins, because that's how homeopathy works. It's not wankery, it's the basic principle of this form of medicine. Similar to how contagion is the principle of Western medicine.

Yes, it absofuckinglutely is wankery. Homeopathy is based on the idea that you can cure a symptom by giving somebody a substance which causes that symptom. It's complete nonsense which was only plausible at the time in which it was invented because it dates to an era in which mainstream medicine was worse than nothing. It is a sign of the pure wank and nonsense inherent to homeopathy that changes in its theories and ideas have come not out of empirical testing and better practices emerging that create better outcomes but in response to skeptical castigations of homeopaths' inanities. The whole concept of water memory didn't come out of experimentation- it was a "well how about this, then?" response to Avogadro-based objections.

There isn't a shred of evidence for homeopathy, and given homeopaths' tendency to deny the efficacy of real medicine and insist on the efficacy of homeopathy, they are frauds and cheats to a man. We shouldn't be debunking homeopaths, we should be jailing them.
posted by Pope Guilty at 11:12 AM on January 25, 2010 [42 favorites]


My sister always insists on snorting colloidal silver instead of taking antibiotics when she gets tonsillitis. When I told her that it turns people blue she just told me that she thought people like the blue man are cool.

I guess "dangerous" is a relative term, maybe?
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 11:12 AM on January 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


when protesting kooks, it's a good idea not to do it in a way that makes you look kookier
posted by pyramid termite at 11:12 AM on January 25, 2010 [8 favorites]


Regular medicine? You mean like treatments that do more harm than good?

The harm in homeopathy is ascribed to people using it instead of regular medicine while their condition deteriorates.

You just proved my point. Stupidity is far more dangerous than a chemically benign water dilution.
posted by infinitefloatingbrains at 11:12 AM on January 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Also, isn't saying "Western medicine" just a euphemism for "I don't grok science"?

That's a rather unfair generalization and attack on shii there. Lots of traditional therapies like yoga, meditation, and massage have been shown to alleviate symptoms and allow sufferers to function. The buzzword you are looking for is "allopathic medicine", which is used as a pejorative when referring to the whole doctors in hospitals scene.

(not a defense of homeopathy)
posted by Burhanistan at 11:13 AM on January 25, 2010 [3 favorites]


Also, isn't saying "Western medicine" just a euphemism for "I don't grok science"?

Saying "Allopathic medicine" works just the same.
posted by moxiedoll at 11:14 AM on January 25, 2010


Wait, but if homeopaths believe that their .0002% tinctures work *because* of the dilution, would they expect that a person would be affected adversely by an 'overdose'?

I believe that most homeopaths would argue that taking more pills at once will have no effect. Rather, the way to overdose on homeopathic medicine is to take pills at a more accelerated schedule than recommended. In other words, instead of taking a whole bottle of sugar pills at once, take one sugar pill every hour or so.

Of course, if someone tried this stunt, the homeopaths would move on to their next line of defense - the pills must be "tuned" to the individual's symptoms, so a random person taking random pills will of course have no effect.
posted by muddgirl at 11:14 AM on January 25, 2010


(somewhat, mostly) jinx, Burhanistan!
posted by moxiedoll at 11:14 AM on January 25, 2010


For those who don't know the jargon, "allopathic" is a homeopath's word. "Homeo"= same, "Allo"= other. So real doctors are "allopaths" because they treat diseases with something other than what homeopaths think causes the disease.

Homeopaths actually regard this as a pejorative, which tells you just how fucking dumb this shit is.
posted by Pope Guilty at 11:16 AM on January 25, 2010 [5 favorites]


Regular medicine? You mean like treatments that do more harm than good?

Gee, if we're simply throwing out anything that can cause you harm in some dose, I guess you're going to stop eating. Y'know, because of cholesterol, fat, possible allergies... etc.

Thing to remember about "natural": the bubonic plague is natural. As is every disease. So fuck natural.
posted by grubi at 11:16 AM on January 25, 2010 [7 favorites]


I initially read this as meaning the participants would be swallowing the actual physical container... "wow, these people have some stretchy throats! Where did the organizers find 300 sword-swallowers?!"

Craigslist. Casual Encounters.
posted by rokusan at 11:26 AM on January 25, 2010 [5 favorites]


It's a fun media-opportunity idea. And I'm no supporter of homeopaths. But I really would like to see the Bad Science/Dawkinsite-Atheist/Defenders of the Rationalist Enlightenment crowd do some campaigning based on real evidence of real harm that's being caused by alternative medicine. I'm not really convinced that the prevalence of homeopathy — as opposed to, say, the prevalence of anti-MMR hysteria — is causing so many problems that it outweighs its indisputable beneficial effects on the state of mind of those who believe in it and use it. Without that, these campaigns just seem like a bunch of angry young men offended that not everybody is as logical as they are. To which I'm inclined to reply, so what?
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 11:27 AM on January 25, 2010 [5 favorites]


Man, I feel sorry for Boots. A strong company with a good history, reduced to some debt-laden mule hawking fake medicines. So sad...so many reasons to boycott.
posted by Sova at 11:27 AM on January 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Now we have it.

Metafilter: a bunch of angry young men offended that not everybody is as logical as they are
posted by Burhanistan at 11:28 AM on January 25, 2010 [12 favorites]


When I was a little kid I told my friends (whose dad was a homeopathic doctor) that their dad was a quack.
He was, but no wonder those people never were very nice to my parents.
posted by dunkadunc at 11:29 AM on January 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


But I really would like to see the Bad Science/Dawkinsite-Atheist/Defenders of the Rationalist Enlightenment crowd do some campaigning based on real evidence of real harm that's being caused by alternative medicine.

You know, I'm getting a little tired of linking What's the Harm? in every single one of these threads.
posted by Pope Guilty at 11:29 AM on January 25, 2010 [29 favorites]


as a data point, homeopathy and naturopathy are not the same thing. The idea of Allopathy vs. Alternative is a false dichotomy, as there are many conceptions of alternative medicine. The use of tinctures to treat disease is only one of them.
posted by Lutoslawski at 11:30 AM on January 25, 2010


Is this where I come to find out about that homoerotic medicine?
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 11:31 AM on January 25, 2010 [10 favorites]


Also, everyone who sells a homeopathic preparation and represents it as a cure or a treatment of any kind of committing fraud. That they have a huge layer of bullshit built up around it which is designed to sound good to semi-literate people does not make them somebody with valid points. They are promoting a product which does nothing and claiming that it cures diseases and treats illnesses. That is fraud by any definition, and the FDA's refusal to clamp down on the supplement/CAM market is a national disgrace.
posted by Pope Guilty at 11:32 AM on January 25, 2010 [3 favorites]


homeopathy and naturopathy are not the same thing

This is a really common "mistake" made in drugs sold in US pharmacies. I don't know about the UK, but in the US there's a lot of confusion about the difference between St. John's Wort and homeopathic St. John's Wort. I've also seen bottles clearly labeled "homeopathic XXX" that showed concentrations well above any homeopath-recommended succession.

So yeah, any sort of stunt that educates people to the fact that homeopathic pills generally contain no active ingredients, unlike naturopathic pills, is a good thing in my book.
posted by muddgirl at 11:36 AM on January 25, 2010


Is this where I come to find out about that homoerotic medicine?

Back for another massage already?
posted by electroboy at 11:37 AM on January 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


Well, I guess we'll be organizing against pharmaceuticals companies next right? Perhaps swallowing bottles of prozac!
posted by kuatto at 11:37 AM on January 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


You know, I'm getting a little tired of linking What's the Harm? in every single one of these threads.

I'm certainly not denying the harm. But when you actually study the evidence of harm, it quickly becomes clear that what we have to do is to look at this whole issue as the social one that it is: how do you draw the line between people's freedom to believe weird things versus charlatans exploiting the sick? How far should society have the right to compel chemotherapy if someone prefers dowsing and crystals? What words should the label of an alternative "medicine" display in order to make clear the true amount of evidence that there is for them? All really important, difficult, political questions, and all a far cry from the You're Not Being Scientific Enough! tone of too much of the current debate.
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 11:39 AM on January 25, 2010 [3 favorites]


Uhh... actually, it's supposed to use toxins, because that's how homeopathy works.

Even at the level you're operating, this isn't really "right." Homeopathy is based on the idea that if you have a fever, what you need is a small dose of a substance that causes a fever or that has some other association with heat. That doesn't make it, necessarily, a toxin.

The problem is that it doesn't, and can't, work, because the dilutions are so strong that the probability that even a single molecule of the "active ingredient" is present in the "dose" is near zero. It's physically impossible for a substance that is not in the pill or tincture to have any physiological effect on a human body. All there is is the placebo effect, because all homeopathic remedies are is placebos. Really, literally. Placebo.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:39 AM on January 25, 2010 [6 favorites]


Taking acetaminophen lowers your defenses.

No it doesn't. Reducing pain doesn't make your immune system weaker.
posted by Justinian at 11:41 AM on January 25, 2010 [11 favorites]


So where's the protest where people slather on whole bottles of age-reducing face cream? Or where they put on whole bottles of Axe body spray and don't get laid? Or where they all vote Republican? Protesting against marketing strategies is a losing battle unless you're prepared to overthrow capitalism.
posted by Dr. Send at 11:43 AM on January 25, 2010 [5 favorites]


BaxterG4 : Or is there a scenario in which science wins?

People who rely exclusively on homeopathic medicines are eventually removed from the genetic pool by the process of natural selection?
posted by quin at 11:43 AM on January 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Pope Guilty: I don't disagree with you (though I think you're being a little over the top). However, I wanted to point out that on the What's the Harm website you linked to, most of the stories on the site are about people who sought alternative medicine after they were already sick. No respectable naturopath would claim the ability to cure serious diseases or conditions through naturopathy alone. Rather, naturopathy is mostly about prevention and general well-being. This can encompass everything from eating foods shown to reduce certain diseases and extend life, to taking natural supplements (and certainly everyone agrees that there are substances in nature that affect one's health in various ways; as a hyperbolic example, have you tried peyote?), to practicing certain exercises, meditation, etc etc.

The point is: it isn't fair to lump all alternative practices - and all alternative practitioners - into one single group of quacks. It's one thing to take a little St. John's Wort to feel a little good, or sip some chamomile tea before bed, and it's quite another thing to seek out holistic healing when your kidneys are failing. Naturopathy and allopathy are not necessarily mutually exclusive.
posted by Lutoslawski at 11:43 AM on January 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


I diluted one part snark to one million parts distilled water. I am prepared to sell the resulting Tincture of Snark at the low low price of $10 per wee glass dropper bottle.

Line forms to the left. Payment via PayPal; no personal checks accepted.
posted by ErikaB at 11:44 AM on January 25, 2010 [3 favorites]


Humans do silly things. Sometimes, the excuse they use is they're attempting to prevent other, sillier things.
posted by Pragmatica at 11:46 AM on January 25, 2010


Or where they all vote Republican?

A very good point. We need to distinguish sharply between homeopaths and others making explicit scientific claims that are factually inaccurate (which we need to address with strict regulation) versus the crazy idea that we can somehow ban people from offering false hope, which pretty much includes all western consumer capitalism.
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 11:46 AM on January 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Yes, because the measure of effectiveness of a substance is whether or not it can kill you if you eat enough of it.

And the measure of effectiveness of a protest or demonstration is whether or not it can make you comment on threads about it even if you disagree with the methods.
posted by TimeTravelSpeed at 11:49 AM on January 25, 2010


No respectable naturopath would claim the ability to cure serious diseases or conditions through naturopathy alone.

Isn't this the No True Scotsman fallacy? The people who were harmed presumably went to those naturopaths for a good reason. Most people do not have the necessary information to tell the difference between a "respectable" naturopath and an "unsafe" naturopath. The proponents and practitioners of naturopathy need to step up and excise harmful practitioners, just as traditional medicine has both procedures to certify doctors and procedures to disbar doctors.
posted by muddgirl at 11:49 AM on January 25, 2010 [11 favorites]


jedicus: "I like how this paragraph makes it seems like it's the scientists' who just don't get it."

Scientists' what? But you're right about the paragraph.

infinitefloatingbrains: "I don't believe in the efficacy of homeopathy but at the very least it does no harm."

This is a large part of the problem: Allowing Homeopathy to exist unchallenged harms people. 1) It dilutes (ha!) the credibility of science, allowing things like creationism and climate change denialism to claim that they're at least as rational as homeopathy, a "legitimate" or "approved" medical treatment in some jurisdictions, and b) harms people directly. At a homeopathy presentation a few years ago, the practitioner told us that she had once burned herself badly, and used homeopathic treatments to cure the burn. Except that the burn became infected and she had to resort to a regular doctor. I'm still not clear if this was supposed to convince us of her foolishness, or the more general foolishness of homeopathy. This is belief masquerading as knowledge, and her purpose there was to instill that belief in others. In terms of potential harm, homeopathy is right up there with anti-vaccination activism.
posted by sneebler at 11:51 AM on January 25, 2010 [7 favorites]


The proponents and practitioners of naturopathy need to step up and excise harmful practitioners...

I'm imagining some kind of psychic surgery. With sheep intestines.
posted by rokusan at 11:54 AM on January 25, 2010


You just proved my point. Stupidity is far more dangerous than a chemically benign water dilution.

WAKE UP, SHEEPLE!!!
posted by freshwater_pr0n at 11:56 AM on January 25, 2010


Isn't this the No True Scotsman fallacy?

Well, it does kind of come off like that, huh.

The proponents and practitioners of naturopathy need to step up and excise harmful practitioners, just as traditional medicine has both procedures to certify doctors and procedures to disbar doctors.


Yes, this is a good point. What I mean is that there are good and bad naturopaths (not true and false, if you will, sorry), just as there are good and bad doctors. The difference, as you rightfully note, muddgirl, is that allopathy is regulated to ensure that even if you're not the best doctor, there is still a framework in place to ensure a certain level of quality of care; naturopathy, on the other hand, is a sort of free for all.

I think we can all agree that naturopathy needs to be regulated with the same sort of scrutiny applied to allopathy. That said, there is also a certain amount of personal responsibility at work here. If you seek alternative care, it's your job to make yourself aware of the risks and issues involved, just like it is when you make any decision about your health, be it drinking soda or getting acupuncture.
posted by Lutoslawski at 11:56 AM on January 25, 2010


Gosh, I hope they're not diabetics.
posted by applemeat at 11:57 AM on January 25, 2010 [4 favorites]


Lutoslawski - it's not just an issue of "bad naturopaths" causing harm. It's an issue of outright misinformation being spread to make money. How can we expect consumers to make "rational" choices about naturopathy when we are told on TV and in magazine articles that naturopathy can cure cancer? A claim that "no good naturopath" would make? How can the average American family recognize the difference between a "good" naturopath and, say, Kevin Trudeau?
posted by muddgirl at 12:07 PM on January 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Also, there are things like gaurana which is a caffeine analog.

Quite a bit later than this was posted, but I feel the need to refute this statement. Guarana is a plant that contains caffeine, similar to coffee. In this respect, it'd be a coffee analog.

People sometimes refer to caffeine in other plants as "guaranine," "mateine" (yerba mate), or "theine" (black tea), but it's always the same molecule.
posted by explosion at 12:08 PM on January 25, 2010 [11 favorites]


What I mean is that there are good and bad naturopaths (not true and false, if you will, sorry), just as there are good and bad doctors. The difference, as you rightfully note, muddgirl, is that allopathy is regulated to ensure that even if you're not the best doctor, there is still a framework in place to ensure a certain level of quality of care; naturopathy, on the other hand, is a sort of free for all.

But what kinds of standards are possible? Scientific medicine has an obvious way of judging what works and what does not, and of challenging diagnoses and treatments. A doctor with the minimum skill can be expected to rationally assess a patient and prescribe a treatment. If naturopathy adopts the same standards then it ceases to be distinct as a form of medicine, yet I don't understand how else practitioners can be objectively judged good or bad.
posted by Sova at 12:10 PM on January 25, 2010


Now we have it.

Metafilter: a bunch of angry young men offended that not everybody is as logical as they are


No, it's:

Metafilter: The snark, let me show you it.
posted by vibrotronica at 12:10 PM on January 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm tired of all the arguing in these threads about homeopathy. Disagreeing with people's opinions makes you a closed-minded person. All opinions are equally valid. All statements are equally true. The universe is not right and wrong. We float in undifferentiated aether; "matter" and "energy" are fictions foisted upon you by scientists and the government. Even if homeopathy doesn't work, it's not very nice to say so.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 12:11 PM on January 25, 2010 [24 favorites]


You'll pry my stinging nettle tea from my cold, dead (arthritis-free) fingers.
posted by No Robots at 12:13 PM on January 25, 2010


mhoye: You know why they call it "alternative medicine", right? ... Because if it worked, it would just be called "medicine".

This bullshit is almost as bad as homeopathy. Science is not some magical inexorable march to the truth that never deviates from the True Way and that willingly seeks out and tests new ideas. It undeniably progresses in the long term, and does stumble across new ideas, but it also is incredibly conservative. Medicine is even more conservative. "Alternative medicine" encompasses a wide range of things, from undiluted garbage (e.g. homeopathy, no pun intended) to techniques that "medicine" will be falling over itself to rigorously develop in twenty years.
posted by parudox at 12:16 PM on January 25, 2010 [3 favorites]


"Alternative medicine" encompasses a wide range of things, from undiluted garbage (e.g. homeopathy, no pun intended) to techniques that "medicine" will be falling over itself to rigorously develop in twenty years.

Quick quick quick name five of these treatments which are referred to as "alternative" and not "experimental" go go go now now now
posted by Pope Guilty at 12:19 PM on January 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


allopathy is regulated to ensure that even if you're not the best doctor, there is still a framework in place to ensure a certain level of quality of care;

And by this I assume you mean the ability to successfully sue a doctor who screws up, because I don't see much else, and I have seen a LOT of awful doctoring.

Everyone I know uses alternative medicines along with Western medicine. Many of the specialists here who prescribe pretty much any kind of cocktail -for AIDS, cancer (chemotheraphy), or Hep C, for example- also STRONGLY suggest you go to a Chinese medicine practitioner to help ameliorate some of the cocktail's inevitable and dangerous side effects. Ameliorating these side effects is not only pallative- bodies do better with the support. Western medicine cures you if it doesn't kill you first, or some of your organs.

Only on metafilter have I seen so much willful belief in the infallibility of the Western medicine. Things that were "alternative" 10 years ago have been blessed by Western medicine since then. Viola! NOW they work? How many of us women were patted on the head and told we could drink cranberry juice for UTIs (as our grandmothers suggested) "If it makes you feel better, dear! It certainly can't hurt!" Now that the pharmaceutical companies have put cranberry compounds in a pill, it's suddenly a recommended prophylactic against UTIs.

Things that are "alternative" in America are mainstream in much of the rest of the first world. Do they still count as "real" medicine, even though the FDA hasn't approved them? Do things that have worked for 5000 years not count because no western study has been done on them yet? I can't speak to the rest of the world's, but Americans' provincialism about American mainstream medicine would be rather cute if it weren't so dangerous.

At what point do you decide things are acceptably mainstream enough for you? What papal blessing makes something "real" medicine?

What's more, many Western medical treatments have been discontinued due to inefficacy and/or how toxic and dangerous they were. They suddenly don't count as "real" medicine? You want a True Scotsman fallacy? This is one to look at.
posted by small_ruminant at 12:21 PM on January 25, 2010 [13 favorites]


It's an issue of outright misinformation

I must admit here that I'm a bit out of the loop. I live in Portland, where we have several schools of naturopathy and a sort of thriving naturopathic culture where lots of good information is available, competition is high, and people tend to have a reasonable view of the situation. I'd never heard of Mr. Trudeau, nor did I realize that treating cancer - of all things - with "naturopathy" was so wide spread. That is fucked up.

But what kinds of standards are possible?


Well sir, that is a damned good question. A certain amount of empirical data could be gathered, I would think, regarding especially the more widespread and common naturopathic practices (like whether, say, chamomile actually does make people sleepy). As far as the more controversial claims? Yeah, they should probably be illegal. I don't naturopathy is entirely quackery, though I don't think it should be able to claim it "cures" any sort of disease.
posted by Lutoslawski at 12:22 PM on January 25, 2010


Quick quick quick name five of these treatments which are referred to as "alternative" and not "experimental" go go go now now now

What does this mean?
posted by small_ruminant at 12:22 PM on January 25, 2010


"Well if any of them are lactose intolerant, it could present a problem. Other than that, not so much."
They're explicitly excluded. As are diabetics. And half the reason for that is "Worst case, somebody ends up croaking a week later from a pre-existing condition and it's taken as proof that they overdosed on homeopathic medicine, showing its true strength and how it's not something to be taken lightly."

(I'm not doing it for that reason, even though the total amount of sugar from 84 of these pills is still actually not a huge amount).

The people organising this have actually thought about it fairly carefully.
posted by edd at 12:22 PM on January 25, 2010


But what kinds of standards [for naturopaths] are possible?

Other countries have figured this out. Aren't they legally doctors in Canada? (I don't actually know, but I have heard this.) How are they regulated there?
posted by small_ruminant at 12:25 PM on January 25, 2010


Seems like the wrong battle to wage. . Of all the shit that's wrong with modern medicine , people are focusing their rage on homeopathy? That' probably just what the pharmaceutical companies would love us to do.
posted by Liquidwolf at 12:26 PM on January 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


On preview, small_ruminant raises some excellent points.

The belief in the infallibility of Western medicine in this thread is a little disconcerting. Let us not forget things like lobotomies, shock therapy, etc etc.
posted by Lutoslawski at 12:26 PM on January 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


game warden to the events rhino: "What words should the label of an alternative "medicine" display in order to make clear the true amount of evidence that there is for them?"

The same thing required of all Dietary Supplements:

"This statement has not been evaluated by the FDA. This product is not intended to treat or cure any disease."
posted by joshwa at 12:27 PM on January 25, 2010


Also, just to be clear, this isn't a science experiment. It's a publicity stunt to raise awareness. Homeopaths can make whatever arguments they want about the results, it doesn't change the simple fact that there's no evidence to support homeopathy despite 200 years of people trying to find it.
posted by edd at 12:28 PM on January 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


The thing that slays me about homeopathy supporters is how they're almost always virulently anti-vaccine, when vaccines are the SOLE example of anything based on homeopathic principles to have any sort of efficacy whatsoever! (In the sense that we give you a tiny amount of a neutralized pathogen in order to prevent you from getting sick from that same pathogen.) It's like, as soon as something is shown to work, it's on the shit list.

The whole thing reminds me of when I was at the grocery store, and saw that some wag had stuck a note on a bottle of generic nasal saline wash reading ""Compare to the active ingredient in Zicam!"
posted by KathrynT at 12:28 PM on January 25, 2010 [3 favorites]


All opinions are equally valid.

No, they are not. Some opinions are just plain invalid. "Chinese people are best at math" is not as valid as "Chocolate ice cream is tasty."
posted by grubi at 12:29 PM on January 25, 2010


This experiment was already attempted by the daughter of Billy Joel and Christie Brinkley, who downed a handful of sleeping pills in a suicide attempt in December. However, the pills were homoepathic, so not only did she not manage to kill herself, but she didn't even manage to get a good night's sleep.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:30 PM on January 25, 2010 [15 favorites]


Lutoslawski, I see no belief in the infallibility of Western medicine here. Saying "Uh, there's no evidence this shit does anything at all, you know" is not the same as saying "Everything endorsed by the AMA is a thousand percent true and good."
posted by KathrynT at 12:30 PM on January 25, 2010 [3 favorites]


"This is a silly idea, although I agree with it in principle. Some herbal remedies are quite potent if not in quite they way they were intended. I had some ginseng pills that were upsetting my stomach and noticed that each pill contained a large amount of cayenne pepper. A whole bottle would have had me barfing. Also, there are things like gaurana which is a caffeine analog. A whole bottle will not go down pleasantly."

Sure. Those things aren't homoeopathic though. You are more likely to get a buzz of the chlorine in the water of homoeopathic gaurana than you are off the gaurana.
posted by Mitheral at 12:31 PM on January 25, 2010


The thing that slays me about homeopathy supporters is how they're almost always virulently anti-vaccine,

No, they're not, and that's a whole 'nother can of worms that doesn't need to be started in this thread.
posted by small_ruminant at 12:31 PM on January 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


"The belief in the infallibility of Western medicine in this thread is a little disconcerting. Let us not forget things like lobotomies, shock therapy, etc etc."

First off, this isn't about Western medicine versus Eastern (whatever that is). Homeopathy originated in Germany, which is pretty western. It's not about alternative medicine or complementary medicine versus traditional medicine - that's a false division too. It's about evidence-based medicine versus crap.

The thing about evidence-based medicine is that it's pretty good at being self-critical. It doesn't always get things right first time - thalidomide, there's another notable example. But by being self-critical, and continuously so, at least it makes some effort to weed out the mistakes it is making.

It's not about infallibility, it's about knowing how to find failings.
posted by edd at 12:32 PM on January 25, 2010 [17 favorites]


Lutoslawski: The belief in the infallibility of Western medicine in this thread is a little disconcerting. Let us not forget things like lobotomies, shock therapy, etc etc

Homeopathy is unproven, ineffective, dangerous and illogical whether or not Western medicine is correct all the time, sometimes, or never. They are not opposites in the sense that if X (homeopathy) is wrong, then Y (western medicine) must be right. For all I know, they could both be wrong. But there have been at least shreds of evidence over the years that support the efficacy of Western medicine, which is more than I can say for homeopathy.
posted by bunnycup at 12:34 PM on January 25, 2010 [6 favorites]


Somebody smashed a glass in my head once and a friend suggested homeopathic meds, and that i should make sure not to touch the tablets before i took them. In case they lost their energy.

what helpful advice that was.
posted by sgt.serenity at 12:35 PM on January 25, 2010


First off, this isn't about Western medicine versus Eastern (whatever that is). Homeopathy originated in Germany, which is pretty western.

Western medicine is the phrase that apparently is less offensive than "allopathic." It has no more to do with the reality of the medicine than a vegetable's carbon content has to do with its being labelled organic.

It was phrases like You know why they call it "alternative medicine", right? Because if it worked, it would just be called "medicine" that turned this discussion into western vs alternative.
posted by small_ruminant at 12:36 PM on January 25, 2010


small_ruminant, I apologize: I should have prefaced that with "In my experience."

Having cast such aspersions, I'll attempt to make up for it by pointing out that people who choose to avoid traditional Western medicine for routine illness don't necessarily avoid it overall, or even as a matter of principle. My sister-in-law and her husband are both holistic chiropractors who believe very strongly in the innate intelligence of the human body, that the best cure for most disease and injury is chiropractic care, rest, fluids, and vitamin supplements. But over the weekend, when Paul woke up with a severe (7/10) pain in his left lower chest that didn't ease with any of those therapies, he quite happily went to the ER, where they diagnosed pleurisy and sent him home with a shitload of narcotics. Nothing in their philosophy suggests that Western medicine is ineffective, just that it is often not the best first plan of attack.
posted by KathrynT at 12:37 PM on January 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


Of all the shit that's wrong with modern medicine , people are focusing their rage on homeopathy?

Funny how no-one mentions all the shit that's right about modern medicine. I'm all for getting back to nature and shit. Seems like a great way to bring our grossly overpopulated planet back to some semblance of sustainability.
posted by twistedonion at 12:40 PM on January 25, 2010


If only people cared as much about the pharmaceutical mafia as the homeopathy industry.
posted by Liquidwolf at 12:41 PM on January 25, 2010 [3 favorites]


Homeopathy was not developed empirically. It was made because it sounded right to the people who came up with it, and they put it into practice without testing it.

Modern medicine needs to be tested before it can be sold as medicine. Homeopathy and other "natural cures" aren't required to be tested, and homeopathy fails miserably. At least herbs and supplements sometimes do well in double blind studies (ie ginger and nausea). There is the rare substance that can't be patented and marketed as medicine, but for that you should do research involving rational, peer reviewed studies, not the side of a bottle in the drug store.

When I'm anti-homeopathy, I'm not being close-minded or anti-newage or anti-East. I'm anti-spending money on shit that doesn't work. If you really want a placebo, buy a box of Fruit Mentos. Studies show that big and colorful pills make better placebos, after all, and these taste better than milk sugar.
posted by mccarty.tim at 12:41 PM on January 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


Nothing in their philosophy suggests that Western medicine is ineffective, just that it is often not the best first plan of attack.

Except that you don't need "western" medicine for routine illness, either. Rest and fluids will take care of most common illnesses; the Chiropractic care and most vitamins are simply placebos. So saying that someone only uses Western medicine for serious illnesses is essentially the same as saying that Western medicine is the only thing that actually works. Because virtually anything (including doing nothing) "works" against most non-serious illnesses.
posted by Justinian at 12:42 PM on January 25, 2010 [4 favorites]


The technique seems to be: Try to fix it with nonsense. When that doesn't work, go to the doctor.

You know, I don't use any nontraditional medicine, but I haven't had to go to a doctor in 21 years. All my illness have cleared themselves up after bed rest. I suspect it's because I eat a lot of curry, which must have some curative powers. Or because, once per day, I hold my breath for a minute, usually out of boredom. At the very least, that must be pallative. Or maybe it's all the whiskey I drink, which, after all, is a sort of medicine.

Any of those explanations have as much credibility as homeopathy. The one I have been using most of all, though, is that most illness actually do clear themselves up after a week or two.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:42 PM on January 25, 2010 [8 favorites]


It was phrases like You know why they call it "alternative medicine", right? Because if it worked, it would just be called "medicine" that turned this discussion into western vs alternative.

I don't think that's true. I think that, in the quote you reference above, the point is that "medicine" is something that has evidence of effectiveness behind it, while "alternative medicine" doesn't always. Now, sometimes that's because the other practice doesn't lend itself well to the kind of empirical testing that the whole Western framework favors; it's awfully hard to do a double-blind test of guided meditation as a treatment for cancer, for example. But there's plenty of Western so-called "medicine" that's been dropped from practice because, well, it doesn't work; see lobotomy and phlebotomy for two good examples.
posted by KathrynT at 12:43 PM on January 25, 2010


>
Couldn't you just make your own meds by taking a tiny shard of the glass and diluting it 30 times over? You could chug it down the second you mixed it, for super-energy!
posted by mccarty.tim at 12:43 PM on January 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Mental symptoms are considered very important when treating people with homeopathy. The classic homeopath will initially consult with you for one to two hours, gathering information on how you feel within your body and mind. They will ask questions about your dreams, your food intake and your reaction to weather patterns like the rain and the wind, which makes it an insightful process for the client. Once the homeopath has a concise history they will prescribe a single remedy that matches your symptoms and you as a whole person. Dosage can either be in tablets, drops, granules or powder.
posted by sgt.serenity at 12:46 PM on January 25, 2010


Justinian, I agree. Well, I mostly agree. I take my toddler daughter to a chiropractor for an ear adjustment when she has a runny nose, because the one time she definitively had an ear infection the ear adjustment fixed it literally within an hour. But overall, I'm a big proponent of and consumer of Western medicine.

But I do feel that there are areas of health management where Western medicine doesn't do a particularly good job, and that in some of those areas, alternative or complementary treatments might be something to look into. After all, if you can treat Crohn's disease with intestinal worms, maybe there are some other random trees that are worth barking up, you know?
posted by KathrynT at 12:48 PM on January 25, 2010


see lobotomy and phlebotomy for two good examples.

Phlebotomy? I'm not sure talking about a medieval practice that declined in popularity until it was essentially completely deprecated well over a century ago is a good example. Modern medicine is, well, modern. As for lobotomy, it's perfectly effective and works quite well. It was just used for inappropriate cases. So I don't think either of those cases are good examples of the failures of Western medicine.

In fact, the fact that both have been mostly dropped strikes me as an example of Western medicine's success.
posted by Justinian at 12:50 PM on January 25, 2010


Woah, Sgt.'s link is on taking care of horses with homeopathy. Apparently, the blogger has an entire ebook on homeopathic medicine for horses.

But how do you find out those answers for a horse?
posted by mccarty.tim at 12:50 PM on January 25, 2010


Homeopathy is unproven, ineffective, dangerous and illogical whether or not Western medicine is correct all the time, sometimes, or never. They are not opposites in the sense that if X (homeopathy) is wrong, then Y (western medicine) must be right. For all I know, they could both be wrong.

Metafilter, have you no memory? I think I was the first to point this out up-thread.

Forgive me for overstating - and generalizing - the *faith* in allopathy here (and indeed, it was an overstatement). I merely wanted to point out that a lot of Western practices are effective and safe until they're proven to be neither, and a certain skepticism of accepted medical practices is healthy. Was it not just recently that *we* decided testing for breast cancer too early was actually giving people breast cancer? (I point this out just as one example; I am not in anyway trying to put homeopathy and allopathy on a level playing, if you will, in this regard. Just trying to say, hey, I think we're overlooking some nuances here.)
posted by Lutoslawski at 12:51 PM on January 25, 2010


Come on, people, we have to get our snark and vitriol straight!

If someone bashes homeopathy, they aren't attacking chiropractors, naturopathy, the use of stinging nettle tea for arthritis sufferers, or old wive's tale/home wisdom like cranberry juice for a UTI, acupuncture, or anything else that's been defended in this thread.

Homeopathy is hateable for its one-two punch of silliness:

1. The theory that "like cures like," which was invented whole cloth by some German guy because it sounded plausible. IT'S RIDICULOUS.

2. Extreme dilution. To the point where mathematically speaking, no single molecule of the original substance remains in the tincture.

Let's say you (like myself) suffer from springtime allergies. A homeopath will take pine tree pollen, dilute it so that the only thing in the tincture is water, and then tell you to take it to cure your allergies. HOW CAN YOU NOT MAKE FUN OF THAT.
posted by ErikaB at 12:53 PM on January 25, 2010 [15 favorites]


Let us not forget things like lobotomies, shock therapy, etc etc.

By "shock therapy" I assume you mean electroconvulsive therapy. ECT is widely considered to be effective for treating severe depression that doesn't respond to less unpleasant treatments, so that's a bad example.
posted by Thoughtcrime at 12:54 PM on January 25, 2010 [8 favorites]


if you can treat Crohn's disease with intestinal worms, maybe there are some other random trees that are worth barking up, you know?

I guess I'm still not quite understanding you, though; if and when it is proven that parasites are effective against certain autoimmune disorders it would become part of Western medicine, no? I mean, they use maggots to debride wounds now in some cases.
posted by Justinian at 12:54 PM on January 25, 2010


"But I do feel that there are areas of health management where Western medicine doesn't do a particularly good job, and that in some of those areas, alternative or complementary treatments might be something to look into."
And that's absolutely why I have a problem with the distinction being put in the wrong place. There's certainly a problem that you, for example, get rushed through a conventional doctor's rather more quickly than most alternative therapists would deal with you. And that has a healthcare impact - one of a psychological origin, but no less real for it. And there's the potential that some herbal remedy is actually rather effective or whatever.
But I think you need to find out what actually works really rather carefully, and figure out how you can best deliver that to the consumer without misleading them about the effectiveness of something with zero effectiveness.
posted by edd at 12:54 PM on January 25, 2010


How far should society have the right to compel chemotherapy if someone prefers dowsing and crystals?

This is actually a pretty interesting question, and one that courts here in Minnesota were dealing with last spring. The Daniel Hauser case got a fair bit of attention around here - though it's perhaps a different twist on your question, since the patient was a minor.
posted by nickmark at 12:56 PM on January 25, 2010


In fact, the fact that both have been mostly dropped strikes me as an example of Western medicine's success.

Uh, yeah, that's my point.
posted by KathrynT at 12:56 PM on January 25, 2010


the Chiropractic care and most vitamins are simply placebos

It's worth noting that a many Western drugs are little more than placebo as well. Which makes me really agree with Liquidwolf: If only people cared as much about the pharmaceutical mafia as the homeopathy industry.
posted by Lutoslawski at 12:57 PM on January 25, 2010


Lutoslawski, sorry, I definitely misunderstood what you were saying and assumed you were implying that hating on homeopathy automatically meant loving on western medicine. As I do a search and look at specifically your comments in this thread, I find I agree with much of what you said. Particularly with regard to advising against lumping all alternative medicine together, and making a distinction between the casual use of, for example, chamomile tea, versus the use of arsenic tinctures rather than proven medicine for asthma.
posted by bunnycup at 12:57 PM on January 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


By "shock therapy" I assume you mean electroconvulsive therapy. ECT is widely considered to be effective for treating severe depression that doesn't respond to less unpleasant treatments, so that's a bad example.

Not that I would want to be exposed to it, modern ECT is but a faint echo of what was done in the 1940s-1950s. They still "shock your brain", but the pulses are more targeted, and they actually obtain consent nowadays.
posted by Burhanistan at 12:58 PM on January 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


I think ErikaB pretty much nailed it.
posted by Lutoslawski at 12:59 PM on January 25, 2010


Yes, it absofuckinglutely is wankery. Homeopathy is based on the idea that you can cure a symptom by giving somebody a substance which causes that symptom.

Like desensitizing yourself to allergens? They may be failing in their execution, but the idea itself is not complete wankery. At least not in the case of allergies.
posted by emeiji at 12:59 PM on January 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


The fact that you can safely swallow a whole bottle of pills seems to be one of the actual good things about homeopathy.

The same can be said about Plah-Doh...but the fact is that play-doh doesn't advertise itself as a cure-all snake oil.
posted by hal_c_on at 1:01 PM on January 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Not that I would want to be exposed to it, modern ECT is but a faint echo of what was done in the 1940s-1950s.

Apologies, then. I was referring to the 1940's and 50's version, and I was unaware of the modern versions. So yeah, not a great example, but still an example of, well, progress - and inherent in the idea of progress is that at some point in the past we were wrong, or at least not completely right.
posted by Lutoslawski at 1:02 PM on January 25, 2010


small_ruminant: Things that are "alternative" in America are mainstream in much of the rest of the first world. Do they still count as "real" medicine, even though the FDA hasn't approved them? Do things that have worked for 5000 years not count because no western study has been done on them yet? I can't speak to the rest of the world's, but Americans' provincialism about American mainstream medicine would be rather cute if it weren't so dangerous.

OK, bottom line here SR: do you believe homeopathy works, or don't you? If you do, give me some damn good explanations as to why it works. If you don't believe homeopathy works, then why are you trying to derail a thread about homeopathy with some bullshit diatribe about western medicine?

As for the harm that homeopathic "remedies" do? They hide in among real medicines, on the premise that some desperate sod will pick them up instead of real medicines. For example: the last time I had a major allergy attack (I get them bad enough to completely incapacitate myself) I ran to the pharmacy, and eyes streaming, sneezing constantly, fumbled among the allergy section for a remedy. Lo and behold, there was an "allergy remedy" that promised to deal with allergies without the side effects that old allergy relief medicines had. Thinking it was one of the new allergy meds, I grabbed it,and was actually in the checkout line before I had a suspicious thought and read the tiny tiny print that said it was homeopathic. If I had been just a little more in a rush, or a little more distracted by my allergies I wouldn't have noticed that, and would have spent $15.00 on a bottle of distilled water, at a time when I didn't have the money to spend.

So I don't want to hear bullshit about "not doing any harm"- homeopathic remedies take money out of the pockets of consumers based on false advertising and masquerading as real remedies. Unless of course you can tell me how homeopathic remedies DO actually work.

So put up or shut up, SR.
posted by happyroach at 1:02 PM on January 25, 2010 [10 favorites]


I guess I'm still not quite understanding you, though; if and when it is proven that parasites are effective against certain autoimmune disorders it would become part of Western medicine, no? I mean, they use maggots to debride wounds now in some cases.

I think we basically agree, we're just talking past each other. What I'm trying to say is that there are some areas in which Western medicine really, truly excels, and others where it doesn't do a great job. If you have any kind of trauma, cancer, or infectious disease, or problems in childbirth, then Western medicine is awesome and exactly the perfect thing. But for autoimmune diseases, mental and psychological health, chronic pain, or normal childbirth, the treatments range from not particularly effective to downright harmful.

Because Western medicine is empirically based, though, it DOES have the ability to expand its scope -- and it does exactly that, daily and constantly. But if your particular problems are ones to which Western medicine's scope has not yet expanded, I don't think it's necessarily a terrible idea to seek alternative and complementary therapy in an effort to do some empirical experimentation of your own.
posted by KathrynT at 1:02 PM on January 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


It was made because it sounded right to the people who came up with it, and they put it into practice without testing it.

Hair of the dog and all that. Sympathetic magic, effectively. Reasonably harmless for hangover cures. Not to be depended on for anything more important, or permit to become a money-making scheme to defraud credible members of the public. Not so long as you've decided that something as important as medicine is to be regulated.

Yes, scientists make mistakes (see the H. Pylori - ulcer connection). But alternative medicine advocates cling to these like creationists cling to "gaps" in the evidentiary record for evolution: as free license to make shit up. No, the theory best backed by the evidence is not equal to anything you might imagine in an alternate universe playing by different rules. Dilution leading to potency makes about as much sense, given what we observe in the world, as energy magnifying with distance (ie: maybe the inverse-square law has it backwards). We'd see a very different world (poisoned by everything we ate or drank/fried by the increasingly magnified energy from the stars) but hey, let's not reality get in the way of a good theory.

You can't go from that to saying "hey, sometimes 'western' [note: homeopathy is western] medicine gets it wrong" to anything you imagine has an equal chance of being right. If your theory depends on working the opposite of the way the natural world behaves, you'd better have some pretty outstanding evidence to back it up. This is not about a minor difference in theories.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 1:08 PM on January 25, 2010 [4 favorites]


Like desensitizing yourself to allergens? They may be failing in their execution, but the idea itself is not complete wankery. At least not in the case of allergies.

Except that the theory and execution of treating environmental allergies is completely different from the theory and execution of homeopathy. I guess if we take homeopathy's most fundamental statement ("Like cures like"), we can somehow twist that into something close to what allergen exposure accomplishes ("Small amounts of a substance can be used to build up an increasing tolerance to that substance"). But that would be a grave misunderstanding of the phrase. "Like cures like" is really implying that "We can cure physical symptoms by finding any substance that causes those symptoms and pretending to administer it in a placebo."
posted by muddgirl at 1:10 PM on January 25, 2010


It was phrases like You know why they call it "alternative medicine", right? Because if it worked, it would just be called "medicine" that turned this discussion into western vs alternative.

Let's stick with 'evidence-based medicine' and 'bullshit' so that all is clear.
posted by biffa at 1:11 PM on January 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


OK, bottom line here SR: do you believe homeopathy works, or don't you?

I do not believe homeopathy works. Homeopathy is not all alternative medicines and the discussion turned into a bash of all alternative medicines (see the above "why do they call it "alternative" medicine? quote). If people want to bash homeopathy, it's fine by me, but they need to bash it specifically, and not knock the rest at the same time.

Railing on all alternative medicines and then, when called on it, saying they only meant this little sub-section is disingenuous.
posted by small_ruminant at 1:15 PM on January 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


To be fair to small_ruminant, happyroach, I don't think he's talking about homeopathy, explicitly. If you've been following the thread, you'll have noticed that there is a great deal of confusion regarding terms here. Just to clarify once again: Homeopathy is not the same as Alternative Medicine (which is what, as I take it, SR was defending). There is magic and then there is nature, there is homeopathy and there is naturopathy. Let's make clear what we're talking about here before we start getting all 'Shut the fuck up' for no reason.
posted by Lutoslawski at 1:15 PM on January 25, 2010


To give homeopathy its due you have to put it in its proper historical context. I forget who said that it wasn't until the 1920s that the average person visiting a doctor would come away healthier for the experience.

Homeopathy was invented off the cuff by some random German guy in the late 1700s. At the time, the most common medical treatments were to either give you poison, or to take stuff out of you at random (emetics, bloodletting, enemas, cupping, laxatives, etc).

Most doctors believed that illness was caused by bad smells and an imbalance of humors. People were a solid 200 years away from learning about the existence of germs. Conventional wisdom held that maggots were spontaneously generated from rotting flesh. And so forth.

(If you have read Stephenson's System of the World then you're familiar with the medical technology of the day.)

Along comes someone who swears up and down that if you take this wee bit of magic water, it will make you better. This turned out to be 100% true, given that it did nothing - as opposed to a regular doctor, who would make you far worse.

Homeopathy's efficacy, in that context, is undeniable. Today? Not so much.
posted by ErikaB at 1:16 PM on January 25, 2010 [6 favorites]


I take my toddler daughter to a chiropractor for an ear adjustment when she has a runny nose

And this made sense to you?
posted by grubi at 1:16 PM on January 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


jeez, SR, I was a bit late to your defense. jinx.
posted by Lutoslawski at 1:16 PM on January 25, 2010


Reasonably harmless for hangover cures. Not to be depended on for anything more important,

Ironically, hangover cures might be one of the few areas that homeopathy (or any other thing that encouraged you to take in fluids for hydration) would actually work pretty well for.

Hmm, I smell a marketing scheme that might finally catapult me to riches!
posted by quin at 1:22 PM on January 25, 2010


Let's stick with 'evidence-based medicine' and 'bullshit' so that all is clear.

Again, whose evidence is good enough for you? FDA? 5000 years of experience in China? Do Canadian studies pass your bar? European? How about Soviet? Egyptian?

There was some German study that seemed to validate homeopathy's efficacy, which is why I have so many friends who believe in it. Their belief in it isn't totally built on faith, unless you count faith in studies, which as we all know, get tampered with all the time.* Falsified data gets found out when someone duplicates the study, but as they get more and more expensive, and the drugs more and more proprietary, we are stuck taking the pharmaceutical industry's original studies on faith.

No, homeopathy makes no logical sense to me, but a lot of medical cures make no sense to me. I take on faith that viruses exist. I haven't seen them. If someone wants to believe in a reshaping of water or whatever the hell homeopathy is supposed to be, I think it's absurd but I also understand it.


*fortunately it still counts as a scandal when it gets found out.
posted by small_ruminant at 1:23 PM on January 25, 2010


quin - I've already got plans in the works to market a line of homeopathic energy drinks.

Unfortunately every time I start to work on them, I get an attack of conscience. It's not really ethical to sell a bottle of water for $5, even if some people would believe it was actually helping.
posted by muddgirl at 1:24 PM on January 25, 2010


How far should society have the right to compel chemotherapy if someone prefers dowsing and crystals?

None, if the person in question is of age and competent. The right of a patient to refuse care should not be abridged, although the right of a parent to refuse care for their child may sometimes be overruled. Speaking of a can of worms...

Of course, in Florida one hospital recently decided to use the courts to imprison a pregnant woman with forced bedrest and refuse her the right to a second opinion. So clearly some doctors haven't gotten this memo.
posted by emjaybee at 1:24 PM on January 25, 2010


And this made sense to you?

Absolutely. Still does. Let me be clear: I don't think the ear adjustment will treat her runny nose, I think that the flexation of the eustachian tubes allows fluid to drain and helps her to not get an ear infection as a complication of the runny nose. Given that she's three and a half and has had exactly one ear infection in her life, and that one vanished without a trace within a couple hours of the adjustment, I think the theory is sound.

I know that post hoc isn't necessarily propter hoc, but here was the timeline for that: She woke up screaming in pain with a fever of 103, clutching her right ear and begging for "ear medicine." When I tried to get her to sit up to take a decongestant, she threw up everywhere, which is a common result of a serious ear infection. I scheduled a pediatrician appointment and a chiropractic appointment, back to back, with the chiropractor appointment being first. The chiropractor adjusted her ears, which was clearly very painful for her, and then we went to the doctor.

At the doctor, her temperature was 99.1. The doctor looked in her ears and said that the right eardrum was red and thickened, but not bulging, and had no fluid behind it. Two hours later, her temp was 98.6 and she couldn't remember which ear had been hurting.

So, yes, you BET I take her to the chiro for a runny nose.
posted by KathrynT at 1:25 PM on January 25, 2010


I take my toddler daughter to a chiropractor for an ear adjustment when she has a runny nose

And this made sense to you?


E-N-T are all pretty much tied together in your head. It makes sense, at least at a structural level. I don't know about the efficacy of chiropractors, however. I do know that comments like your reaction lead to problematic areas here.
posted by Burhanistan at 1:26 PM on January 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


I take my toddler daughter to a chiropractor for an ear adjustment when she has a runny nose, because the one time she definitively had an ear infection the ear adjustment fixed it literally within an hour.

You do realize this is one route to pneumococcal meningitis, right?
posted by Optimus Chyme at 1:28 PM on January 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


I have to express considerable ignorance here - I thought chiropractors manipulated spines. I don't even know how they would begin to manipulate the cartilage of the outer ear (they'd better not be manipulating anything deeper...).
posted by edd at 1:29 PM on January 25, 2010


I'm 26 and I've never had an ear infection. Must be all those homeopathic chiropractic treatments. You see, all the vibrations from other treatments success through the air and, by the time they get to me, are millions of times more effective for the dispersal.
posted by muddgirl at 1:30 PM on January 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


muddgirl : I've already got plans in the works to market a line of homeopathic energy drinks.

Not energy drinks... Hangover cures. It's brilliant; people will be feeling like hell (through their own vice-loving choices) and we'll be there, to sell them a bottle of Doctor Quin's Rejuvenating Mudd; a guaranteed* fixative for those days after you've imbibed a little to freely.

Three bottles of it when combined with 10 hours of rest are assured* to make you feel right as rain!

* not guaranteed, not assured.

Throw away your morals muddgirl, let's get rich!
posted by quin at 1:36 PM on January 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


I have to express considerable ignorance here - I thought chiropractors manipulated spines.

Have a close relative that is a chiro. They manipulate pretty much any damned thing with a hinge on it, and a few things that don't. It was always telling to me that his first best solution to problems with mechanical objects was a rubber mallet, or 'fine adjusting tool.'
posted by Pragmatica at 1:36 PM on January 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


Optimus Chyme: You do realize this is one route to pneumococcal meningitis, right?

How so?

mudgirl: I'm 26 and I've never had an ear infection. Must be all those homeopathic chiropractic treatments. . .

You know, if I said she took antibiotics and it went away that fast, nobody would make snarky comments about eating mold. But antibiotics have been shown to be no more effective than placebo for treating childhood ear infections.

edd: I have to express considerable ignorance here - I thought chiropractors manipulated spines. I don't even know how they would begin to manipulate the cartilage of the outer ear (they'd better not be manipulating anything deeper...).

She grabs the upper part of the ear and jerks back and around in a sort of a J-shaped motion. It tugs the outside part of the ear canal around and causes the fluid inside to drain. I've had it done when my ears were unpleasantly full, and it really does work instantly.
posted by KathrynT at 1:37 PM on January 25, 2010


too freely.
posted by quin at 1:37 PM on January 25, 2010


This will not work. The great thing about homeopathy, my friends who are into it tell me, is that if you take a remedy for something you don't have, it has no effect on you. It's like a puzzle, one of my friends told me, and if what you take doesn't fit right, it's just inert. So you could drink, eat, inject, or take as a suppository any amount of a homeopathic remedy, and if it did nothing, homeopaths would only see it as 1) you not understanding how homeopathy works and 2) it working just like it was supposed to.
posted by not that girl at 1:39 PM on January 25, 2010


But antibiotics have been shown to be no more effective than placebo for treating childhood ear infections.

Yep, which is why I didn't mention all the homeopathic antibiotics I ingest just by breathing the air.
posted by muddgirl at 1:41 PM on January 25, 2010


5000 years of experience in China?

Seriously? Five millenia of superstition is not evidence.

Absolutely. Still does.

I don't see the logical leap from "my poor child has an ear infection" to "let's go to a chiropractor".
posted by grubi at 1:41 PM on January 25, 2010


Hah! There is so much homeopath butthurt in this thread it can't possibly injure homeopaths! YOU'RE STRENGTH IS YOUR WEAKNESS ALLOPATHS WAT WILL YOU DO WITHOUT TICNTURES
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 1:41 PM on January 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


I don't see the logical leap from "my poor child has an ear infection" to "let's go to a chiropractor".

I thought I outlined it pretty clearly. Where's your gap in understanding?
posted by KathrynT at 1:42 PM on January 25, 2010


The cold remedy Zicam doesn't seem to be based on dilution. It's merely a gel that contains zinc gluconate, yet it has the word "homeopathic" on the label. I used it for years with good results (far fewer colds) but the nasal gel form was banned in the US last year because it supposedly can destroy the sense of smell. I didn't notice it affecting my sense of smell...

With standard medicine being based on profit and drug companies bribing doctors to prescribe drugs for all kinds of "off-label" uses after sketchy clinical trials set in sketchy African countries, I simply cannot get worked up about homeopathic remedies. If they are merely placebo, at least they "do no harm." If I am being dissuaded from using an "efficacious" standard medicine, weeellll, maybe that's a good thing. Depends on the condition.
posted by telstar at 1:45 PM on January 25, 2010


antibiotics have been shown to be no more effective than placebo for treating childhood ear infections.

I trust you have more than mere assertion to back that up?
posted by grubi at 1:46 PM on January 25, 2010 [4 favorites]


"This will not work."
I'm not entirely sure you understand the intention. The intention is to raise awareness of what homeopathy is. Noone's even taken anything yet, and people are finding out what it is.
I'd say it's working pretty nicely.
posted by edd at 1:47 PM on January 25, 2010


Lots of traditional therapies like yoga, meditation, and massage have been shown to alleviate symptoms and allow sufferers to function

Agreed, which is why those get incorporated into "Western medicine", which is willing to use whatever has been proven to work. My doctors have recommended both meditation and massage to me in the past.
posted by wildcrdj at 1:48 PM on January 25, 2010


How so?

Because like many adherents of chiropractic, next time you might decide that, hey, since the chiropractor fixed everything, we'll skip the GP. And untreated ear infections can lead to meningitis. This is assuming that the chiropractor's manipulations don't in and of themselves make the infection worse - it's really not hard to see how otitis media plus poking and prodding and twisting could lead to a perforated eardrum or even meningitis.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 1:48 PM on January 25, 2010


I trust you have more than mere assertion to back that up?

Only the assurance of my (board-certified, standard AMA) pediatrician, when she explained to me why they don't prescribe them any more. They did a whole EBM review of the clinic practices (it's a series of neighborhood clinics associated with the local Big University) and found that children prescribed antibiotics to clear up ear infections in their practice had identical outcomes and sequelae to those who didn't. So they stopped prescribing them.
posted by KathrynT at 1:49 PM on January 25, 2010


Shouldn't they be swallowing 1/100th of a pill in protest?
posted by BrotherCaine at 1:49 PM on January 25, 2010


I thought I outlined it pretty clearly. Where's your gap in understanding?

Oh, you don't know? Let's examine your story:

She woke up screaming in pain with a fever of 103, clutching her right ear and begging for "ear medicine."

1. Child is in pain from ear infection.

When I tried to get her to sit up to take a decongestant, she threw up everywhere, which is a common result of a serious ear infection.

2. Decongestant doesn't work as child vomits decongestant.

I scheduled a pediatrician appointment and a chiropractic appointment, back to back, with the chiropractor appointment being first.

3. You scheduled a chiropractic appointment.

My question: where in this story did you come to the logical conclusion to choose a chiropractor?
posted by grubi at 1:50 PM on January 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Because like many adherents of chiropractic, next time you might decide that, hey, since the chiropractor fixed everything, we'll skip the GP.

Why would I decide that? that would be dumb. As for the manipulation causing a rupture, well, that's why they go to school, is to learn not to do that. But meningitis? I can't see how anything you'd do on the outside of the head could cause an infection to move from the middle of the ear to the brain.
posted by KathrynT at 1:52 PM on January 25, 2010


My question: where in this story did you come to the logical conclusion to choose a chiropractor?

. . . because I know that the pain of an ear infection is caused by the fluid buildup behind the eardrum, and I know that this particular technique relieves that fluid buildup because I've had it done myself?

Why so fighty?
posted by KathrynT at 1:54 PM on January 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


All statements are equally true.

Except this one.
posted by nickmark at 1:57 PM on January 25, 2010


" As for the manipulation causing a rupture, well, that's why they go to school, is to learn not to do that."
I'm still kind of bemused that I've never come across this aspect of chiropractic before. Can you point at a webpage or something that indicates chiropractors are regularly trained in the safe manipulation of the outer ear?
posted by edd at 1:57 PM on January 25, 2010


I know that the pain of an ear infection is caused by the fluid buildup behind the eardrum, and I know that this particular technique relieves that fluid buildup because I've had it done myself?

Why so fighty?


Because chiropractic is almost completely bullshit it doesn't cure anything, as many chiros claim, and what remains is little more than physical therapy from people who are not given proper medical training). And this is coming from the grandson of a chiropractor.
posted by grubi at 1:59 PM on January 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


As long as they all go back to homes that were converted from former hospitals and healthcare facilities afterwards, anyone requiring treatment should be fine.
posted by davemee at 1:59 PM on January 25, 2010


edd:

Chiropractors receive no medical training.
posted by grubi at 1:59 PM on January 25, 2010


edd: I'm still kind of bemused that I've never come across this aspect of chiropractic before. Can you point at a webpage or something that indicates chiropractors are regularly trained in the safe manipulation of the outer ear?

What, you want like a syllabus or something? Every chiropractor I know or have ever seen knows how to to do this adjustment, I always assumed it was part of the standard training.

grubi: Because chiropractic is almost completely bullshit it doesn't cure anything, as many chiros claim, and what remains is little more than physical therapy from people who are not given proper medical training).

If the problem is pain, and if, after the treatment, you are no longer in pain, what hasn't it cured?

It's possible that chiropractic treatment has evolved some since your grandfather was practicing. My chiropractor went to school for 5 years for it.
posted by KathrynT at 2:04 PM on January 25, 2010


There isn't a shred of evidence for homeopathy, and given homeopaths' tendency to deny the efficacy of real medicine and insist on the efficacy of homeopathy, they are frauds and cheats to a man.

Homeopathy is unproven, ineffective, dangerous and illogical whether or not Western medicine is correct all the time, sometimes, or never.

So, two scenarios and a few questions:

a) I had fallen down the stairs, and had a massive bruise on the back of my thigh from the knee to the hip. It had been a day or two. The bruise was black/purple, and painful, and I took some arnica before I went to bed. The next day the bruise was mostly gone, and what was left was the faint yellow color that (my) bruises are when they're nearly gone (usually this takes a period of 4-8 weeks for me).

b) My daughter experienced the usual amount of bangs and scrapes before the age of three, including one time when I misjudged the size of her head and the distance a door handle stuck out when she was only a few weeks old and the door handle left a dent in her head when I walked (badly) through the doorway while carrying her, and another time when she was new at walking and fell and banged her head on the corner of a coffee table, again, leaving a dent. I gave her arnica whenever she fell when she was little. In both these cases (as in every other case when she fell down,) there was no bruise. She had a little dent in her head both times, but no bruise formed and there was no swelling.

So, my questions:

a) Placebo effect, amirite? I'm fine with that explanation for my bruise, but I want credit for extending that to my infant daughter, too young to even be aware that I was giving her something to make her feel better, let alone to prevent bruising and swelling, cos I think that's some fucking cool shit, that I can heal her WITH THE POWER OF MY MIND. Slightly harder for me to believe than homeopathy, but if you insist...

b) You want I should deny the evidence of my senses because it hasn't been proven effective? Dude, I'm sorry to offend your delicate sensibilities, but we need the eggs.

c) people are idiots. I'm a person, I'm an idiot, fine. Personally, I don't reject any sort of medicine dogmatically. I do reject some things that doctors suggest that I do or ingest or avoid or whatever because their judgement seems inferior to mine, their priorities are not my priorities, their experience of my life is not as well developed as mine is, the studies seem less than convincing, etc. I also reject many things that non-doctors suggest I do or not do. I can do that. I'm allowed. I'm just as allowed to choose to try some quack treatment for cancer as I am to refuse treatment for cancer or to try an experimental treatment. If someone has been injured or harmed because they thought their life-threatening illness was treatable by something they could buy over the counter for £4, and they didn't consult any other human on the matter, or get an opinion from a doctor, or whatever - why is the snake-oil to blame?

d) if some schmuck and his schmuck wife go for a walk and decide to eat some random plants they find growing by the side of the road, or another judgementally challenged couple decide to drink some herb tea (the herb in question not being meant to be taken internally, or if so only at a low dose) that they have let steep for several days - and these couples suffer illness or death as a result of their interaction with herbs that they thought were safe - why are the herbs to blame? (These are both examples from some nutrition book, possibly a Jane Brody, and were used as an argument against herbal medicine/teas/use-except-in-cooking (and then only carefully).)

It's not like we are bombarded daily with information telling us that doctors are not to be trusted and homeopathy etc. is/are the only medicine we need. There is no reason not to allow any person not judged incompetent to inform themselves and make decisions however they choose - with the advice of an MD, or DO, or ND, or herbalist, or a checkout stand magazine, or the interwebs, or whatever. And then they get to be responsible and accountable for their actions.

Also, I've known homeopathic practitioners, as well as users, and I've never run into one who 'den(ied) the efficacy of real medicine'.

And my perception of homeopathy doing no harm is that if I take, say, arnica, and it has no effect on my bruise, I'm no worse off than I was before. As opposed to, for instance, hormonal contraceptives, which my experience had shown repeatedly have a terrible effects on my health, and yet even though I report this I'm told to try it again, that this time there shouldn't be any consequences even though the inputs are all the same - and in this case if the doctor is wrong, I end up with severe health problems.

Why do I not get to be trusted with my own health, even if I make bad decisions? Even if I or my doctor or other practitioner makes a mistake (as all doctors and other humans can and do)? Why can I not be responsible and accountable for making decisions regarding my health and my life? Even if they're nonsense?

I'm sounding more strident than I intend to, I'm sorry - I am genuinely interested in hearing what other people have to say about this (tentatively - I haven't been around here long enough to have experienced other similar discussions, so possibly I'll recant Real Soon...).
posted by magdalenstreetladies at 2:06 PM on January 25, 2010 [4 favorites]


If the problem is pain, and if, after the treatment, you are no longer in pain, what hasn't it cured?

I don't go to doctors for treatment of pain; I go to doctors for treatment of the *cause* of pain. What it hasn't cured is the *cause* of pain.

And that five years sounds like bullshit. It takes less than eighteen months to become a chiro -- and none of it is anatomy.
posted by grubi at 2:08 PM on January 25, 2010


Man do I have fond memories of having this argument in my salad days.

I've mellowed out. I now mostly think stupid people deserve to be fooled and taken advantage of.
posted by fourcheesemac at 2:08 PM on January 25, 2010 [6 favorites]


But meningitis? I can't see how anything you'd do on the outside of the head could cause an infection to move from the middle of the ear to the brain.

If chiropractic manipulation can change the outcome of an ear infection for the better, then they can also cause complications, in this case, potentially fatal ones. Or are you asking how ear infections are linked to meningitis?
posted by Optimus Chyme at 2:08 PM on January 25, 2010


grubi, what do you mean by "no medical training"? Mysister-in-law went through five years of school, involving anatomy, cell biology, pathology, embryology, dermatology, neurology, physiology, and a cadaver dissection, as well as two years of clinic study.
posted by KathrynT at 2:08 PM on January 25, 2010


Look at aspirin, ibuprofen, and acetaminophen. They don't actually cure anything, and are very dangerous if taken in excess.

The worst you'll get from ibuprofen is an upset stomach. And it sure cures my tension headaches.
posted by KokuRyu at 2:09 PM on January 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


"What, you want like a syllabus or something?"

Well.... yes.

Really, when I go looking for this stuff, I can find very little matching the description of outer ear manipulation. Anyway, enough of that derail for me, I guess.
posted by edd at 2:09 PM on January 25, 2010


I think enemas are the answer to most of our problems. Enemas and interpretive dance.
posted by Mister_A at 2:11 PM on January 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


About 10 or 15 years ago I asked our family doctor for some about homeopathic remedies (I think I had some sort of rash) and he said "Sure, go ahead, if you think rubbing tree bark and dirt and shit all over you is going to work, be my guest!"

He's an awesome doctor.
posted by KokuRyu at 2:11 PM on January 25, 2010 [4 favorites]


grubi:
In Australia, chiropractors are required to do a 5 year course to become accredited.
posted by Kris10_b at 2:11 PM on January 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


grubi, the cause of the pain seemed to be pretty well taken care of, in this particular case. And I assure you that there is definitely a lot of anatomy training in all the chiropractic training that I'm familiar with.

OC, I always thought that ear infections went to meningitis by way of the sinuses. And yes, of course, if they can be treated for the better, they can get worse, but again: that's why they go to school. It's like saying that an appendectomy is asking for septic peritonitis; well, yes, but not if you do it right.
posted by KathrynT at 2:11 PM on January 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Seriously? Five millenia of superstition is not evidence.

It's superstition right up until Western medicine give it its blessing. Which keeps happening.
posted by small_ruminant at 2:12 PM on January 25, 2010


Whoops, I fucked up by responding and I'm really trying to stop arguing about this shit. Do whatever you want: all medicine is equal, all treatments are equal, go nuts, I don't care about how much money you spend on fake non-doctors and I don't care about your kids.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 2:12 PM on January 25, 2010 [4 favorites]


Optimus, fwiw I don't buy that all medicine is equal and I don't interpret your comments as arguing. I do this particular thing because I have observed good results from it, same as any other kind of empiricism.
posted by KathrynT at 2:14 PM on January 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


All I have to say is that there is an LD50 for everything (including water) and consuming an entire bottle of anything other than SKITTLES does not sound like a good idea to me.

I suppose the argument is "look these pills don't actually do anything!" but they still contain chemicals that may actually do something in large doses, and that something may be very harmful.
posted by sararah at 2:14 PM on January 25, 2010


My sister-in-law

There it is.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 2:14 PM on January 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


Oh now what. Because I have a relative who went through this, my experiences are invalid? She's not the chiropractor I see, she's just the person whose schooling I'm most familiar with.
posted by KathrynT at 2:15 PM on January 25, 2010


A google search for "chiropractic ear" indicates a lot of chiropractors/chiropractic associations recommend spinal manipulation for pediatric ear infections. There is, of course, no evidence that this is safe or effective. Manipulation of the ear cartilage is a new one to me. It does make somewhat more intuitive sense than manipuating the spine to correct 'subluxations' now that most of us have adopted the germ theory of disease. But can anyone point to studies showing the effectiveness of this technique? The plural of anecdote isn't data.

As an emergency doc, I see lots of kids with ear infections. Frequently by the time their wait to see me is over, the child is happy and in no pain: tincture of time. An eardrum doesn't need to bulge to be painful, so the improvement within an hour may have just been the natural course of the disease (or the counter-irritant effect of painfully tugging on the ear cartilage masking the pain from the infected eardrum).

I think we should be skeptical of mainstream as well as alternative medical practices, and I try to do my part to teach parents (and myself) that most ear infections don't need antibiotics.
posted by kevinsp8 at 2:15 PM on January 25, 2010 [9 favorites]


There's a sizeable segment of folks out there who believe that the medical industrial complex exists primarily to make money by prescribing drugs, radiation, and surgery that treats symptoms but never really heals the underlying condition.

"Oh, you've got heart disease? Here, take these pills with terrible side effects for the rest of your life until your condition deteriorates to the point where you'll believe us when we propose expensive and life-threatening surgery."

Non-medical treatments that have been scientifically proven effective such as proper diet are belittled, played down, or simply ignored because there's no money to be made in them.

In the face of this kind of treatment, many patients are going to want to seek alternatives. Most Average Joes are probably not scientifically savvy enough to know when some treatment's effectiveness is just due to a placebo effect, hence the popularity of homeopathy: it does provide a placebo effect (which works some of the time), it costs peanuts, and at worst it doesn't do any harm in and of itself.

Belittling the people who choose to use homeopathy is simply going to exacerbate the gulf between these folks and those of us who are more educated. It will also leave untouched the real cause of this problem: the medical industrial complex's use of the mantle of science to discredit competing modalities while focusing only on those scientifically proven methods which are the most ongoingly profitable.

Proponents and users of homeopathic treatments are going to look at this protest and think of it as another attack by the greedy know-it-all doctors on their right to self-medicate, and they'll dig in their feet even more.
posted by crunch42 at 2:16 PM on January 25, 2010 [3 favorites]


Lots of traditional therapies like yoga, meditation, and massage have been shown to alleviate symptoms and allow sufferers to function

Agreed, which is why those get incorporated into "Western medicine",


After decades of pooh-poohing and derision from the medical establishment.


The worst you'll get from ibuprofen is an upset stomach.

And munched kidneys.

That said, ibuprofen's my favorite drug in the WHOLE WORLD!
posted by small_ruminant at 2:17 PM on January 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


The worst you'll get from ibuprofen is an upset stomach.

That's not what it says on the package insert. Which I finally read after I started getting the symptoms it describes after years of taking it with no problem.
posted by magdalenstreetladies at 2:22 PM on January 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


Well, I have to say, I didn't expect that kind of dismissiveness from you. I was specifically addressing something that I factually knew to be incorrect. But I guess if that's "emotionally financially invested" and "posting at length," then so be it.

"Little clown colleges?" Please.
posted by KathrynT at 2:22 PM on January 25, 2010


Whoa there magdalenstreetladies! You're confusing our homeopathy-bashing with alternative-medicine-bashing. Not to say there hasn't been plenty of the latter in this thread, but you specifically called out a quote about homeopathy.

Were you taking a regular arnica supplement, i.e. herbal remedy? Or a homeopathic arnica tincture?

A homeopathic arnica preparation by definition has no arnica content, and I will laugh at you. To make a homeopathic remedy, either the thing is soaked and then diluted into meaninglessness, or the thing is bumped against a container of water and the water's memory takes care of the rest. That is how homeopathic "remedies" are made.

If you were taking a regular arnica supplement, then sure I'd believe it. A lot of herbal supplements are good for a lot of things. That would be a naturopathic cure, not a homeopathic cure. Huge difference!
posted by ErikaB at 2:23 PM on January 25, 2010


Non-medical treatments that have been scientifically proven effective such as proper diet are belittled, played down, or simply ignored because there's no money to be made in them.

I have to call bullshit on that one. Just about any US physician will tell his or her patients to quit smoking, eat better, and exercise. The thing is that most people just don't do it. They don't want to give up their vices; they don't want to sacrifice immediate satisfaction for the uncertain promise of a longer and possibly healthier life. They want the medicine to reduce their blood pressure, or control their blood sugar.
posted by Mister_A at 2:24 PM on January 25, 2010 [5 favorites]


Just about any US physician will tell his or her patients to quit smoking, eat better, and exercise.

I have yet to have a doctor who's mentioned any of these (though I don't smoke) and when I have brought up questions about diet, I get: "Just take a multivit."
posted by small_ruminant at 2:26 PM on January 25, 2010


That said, ibuprofen's my favorite drug in the WHOLE WORLD!

Yeah. It was mine too.

Ironically (in the context of this thread) I started doing yoga as a result of my no longer being able to take ibuprofen on account of senstitisation and all, and as you probably know, once you've had ibuprofen, paracetamol/acetominophen does nothing... So there I was with my chronic headaches and no relief in sight... So, yoga. And it worked. Eventually. Tough few weeks, though, sheesh.

posted by magdalenstreetladies at 2:27 PM on January 25, 2010


If homeopathy really worked, wouldn't we be horribly, profoundly affected by the minute traces of just about everything that are floating around all the time?
posted by dunkadunc at 2:29 PM on January 25, 2010


Yeah, I'm short a kidney so I got a lot of warnings about not taking it very often. And a friend of a friendtook heroic doses for rheumatoid arthritis and is now on dialysis.
posted by small_ruminant at 2:29 PM on January 25, 2010


All I have to say is that there is an LD50 for everything (including water) and consuming an entire bottle of anything other than SKITTLES does not sound like a good idea to me.

What utter nonsense. Skittles don't come in bottles.
posted by electroboy at 2:29 PM on January 25, 2010


If homeopathy really worked, wouldn't we be horribly, profoundly affected by the minute traces of just about everything that are floating around all the time?

If I understand correctly the titration involves a special magic method of shaking.
posted by Artw at 2:29 PM on January 25, 2010


small_ruminant, do you have signs, symptoms, and/or family history consistent with an increased cardiovascular risk profile? Are you substantially overweight, male and older than 55 years, have high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, impaired glucose tolerance? If you answered yes to any of these, then your doctor is an idiot and should lose his or her license. If no, well then of course your doctor wouldn't talk to you about reducing your cardiovascular risk.
posted by Mister_A at 2:30 PM on January 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


I really really want some Skittles right now. You guys suck.
posted by ErikaB at 2:30 PM on January 25, 2010


once you've had ibuprofen, paracetamol/acetominophen does nothing

This is among the sillier things in this thread.
posted by Pope Guilty at 2:30 PM on January 25, 2010 [7 favorites]


/starts work on a screenplay for a disaster movie in which Global Warming changes the wind in such a way that waves shake seawater in the special magic way, resulting in all of the earths waters having the properties of everything the sea has been exposed to, ever.
posted by Artw at 2:31 PM on January 25, 2010 [3 favorites]


Nutrition is good for more things that heart risk.
posted by small_ruminant at 2:32 PM on January 25, 2010


THAN heart risk.
posted by small_ruminant at 2:32 PM on January 25, 2010


As someone who suffered far too late in life from ear infections (I'm the only person I know who got ear infections in their mid to late 20s), this idea of going to a chiropractor to fix one is fucking insanity. Not all ear pain is an ear infection. You know why I know this? Because I've ignored real ear infections before and it's not a good thing. Now I'm really jumpy about that kind of ear pain, sinus fluid buildup feeling, but most of the time it's not a big deal.

Oh, and I'm not sure where you got this idea that antibiotics don't clear up ear infections; I'd probably be deaf if it wasn't for the wonders of antibiotics.
posted by aspo at 2:33 PM on January 25, 2010


magdalenstreetladies, what's the dilution of the arnica you take? It should say so somewhere on the box or bottle. 10X or 8C or something like that.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 2:33 PM on January 25, 2010


TBH you could probably substitute "took an asprin and hoped it would go away" with "used homeopathy" in most of those Does No Harm examples. Probably not the diabetic putting honey on his wounded foot though.
posted by Artw at 2:33 PM on January 25, 2010


Oh, and I'm not sure where you got this idea that antibiotics don't clear up ear infections;

From my DOCTOR. Who also diagnosed the ear infection, and agreed that the adjustment probably fixed it. What the hell, people? You think my chiro sneakily called my pediatrician and coached her on what to say to promulgate some sort of Mass Chiropractic Ear Conspiracy?
posted by KathrynT at 2:36 PM on January 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


No, I'm pretty sure nutrition is solely related to cardiovascular risk.
posted by Mister_A at 2:37 PM on January 25, 2010


Hey, ErikaB!

Were you taking a regular arnica supplement, i.e. herbal remedy? Or a homeopathic arnica tincture?

A homeopathic arnica preparation by definition has no arnica content, and I will laugh at you. To make a homeopathic remedy, either the thing is soaked and then diluted into meaninglessness, or the thing is bumped against a container of water and the water's memory takes care of the rest. That is how homeopathic "remedies" are made.


Homeopathic remedy, little lactose spheres. Since homeopathy works by a little curing what a lot will cause, taking straight up arnica would probably not make bruising and swelling better.

So here's my question: laugh at me why, exactly? I'm not making an assertion based on a theory. I haven't just read about this, or just given it some thought, or even conducted a questionably-well designed experiment. I have many instances of personal experience with this, on me, on my kid, on friends, partners... Why does someone else's reading about this have more weight than my personal experience? Not attacking, but I want to know if your response indicates that you think I'm making it up because I intend to deceive others, or as a joke, or if you think I'm just delusional and deceived about this myself, that my perception of reality on many occasions is invalid for some reason. I'm an actual person, not someone's relative's friend's uncle on a link on a blog - real human, self-reporting, nothing to sell. What is your explanation? What do you do with this information?
posted by magdalenstreetladies at 2:37 PM on January 25, 2010


"I really would like to see the Bad Science/Dawkinsite-Atheist/Defenders of the Rationalist Enlightenment crowd do some campaigning based on real evidence of real harm that's being caused by alternative medicine. I'm not really convinced that the prevalence of homeopathy — as opposed to, say, the prevalence of anti-MMR hysteria — is causing so many problems that it outweighs its indisputable beneficial effects on the state of mind of those who believe in it and use it. "

This is a thoughtful critique, but ultimately unfair. My response would be that the Bad Science/Dawkinsite-Atheists attack both homeopathy and the anti-MMR hysteria. The negative effect of homeopathy is in teaching people that real medicine cannot be good for them, when it can - which isn't to say that the rationalists are pretending your regular medical doctors don't get it wrong sometimes, or that conventional medicine can't be harmful even when used properly. It is about being honest about what medicine is and what it's limitations are.

Meanwhile, Dr Ben of Bad Science fame has said in debate that the one merit of homeopathy is that it isn't actively harmful, and that if people derive comfort from it and are not experiencing a serious medical problem then it isn't a particularly bad thing - it just happens to be wrong. There are people within this lobby whose critiques are more intelligent than you give them credit for.

The evil of homeopathy is in a) spreading misinformation and a misunderstanding of what science is, as well as encouraging illogical, lazy thought in the public sphere more generally, and b) encouraging ill people to go down useless avenues when they could be helped by genuine medical intervention, rather than wishful bloody thinking.
posted by marmaduke_yaverland at 2:37 PM on January 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


The use of antibiotics on ear infections in small children is what she was talking about, not adults. (link to mayoclinic.com)

That said, I don't dose up all my ear infections because I'm allergic to 90% of antibiotics and don't want to waste the other 10% on something that often clears up with a day and night of hot water bottle. When they don't, it's antibiotic time.
posted by small_ruminant at 2:38 PM on January 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


This is an unfortunate derail, and one where a newer member is being subject to more than is necessary for actual discussion. Check your spittle, gents.
posted by Burhanistan at 2:39 PM on January 25, 2010 [4 favorites]


No, I'm pretty sure nutrition is solely related to cardiovascular risk.
posted by Mister_A


Good grief.
posted by small_ruminant at 2:39 PM on January 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Thanks, Burhanistan. I'm no stranger to flameage on the internet, but this caught me a bit off guard.
posted by KathrynT at 2:41 PM on January 25, 2010


HOMEOPATHY HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE, PREVENTATIVE CARE, NATUROPATHY, CHIROPRACTICS, CHINESE MEDICINE, YOGA, AYURVEDA, MASSAGE, MEDITATION, OR MAINTAINING A HEALTHY DIET. PLEASE STOP BEING CONFUSED.
posted by Lutoslawski at 2:41 PM on January 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


Do you deny it?
posted by Mister_A at 2:41 PM on January 25, 2010


ROU_X - what's the dilution of the arnica you take? It should say so somewhere on the box or bottle. 10X or 8C or something like that

For physical craps, I try to get 6x, maybe 30x, but it's rarely available off the shelf anymore in xs - usually the most commonly available stuff is 6c or 30c (the more diluted). So I go for the 6c in that case, as the least diluted I can get.
posted by magdalenstreetladies at 2:41 PM on January 25, 2010


If I read that article it isn't saying that antibiotics don't work, it is saying that antibiotics aren't needed for minor infections because they clear up on their own.
posted by aspo at 2:42 PM on January 25, 2010


If I read that article right...
posted by aspo at 2:42 PM on January 25, 2010


HOMEOPATHY HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE

Homeopathy is one of the many disciplines which fall under the heading of "alternative medicine". To deny this is to lie, either to yourself or to the rest of us.
posted by Pope Guilty at 2:43 PM on January 25, 2010


aspo, that is the position of most medical professionals in the US.
posted by Mister_A at 2:43 PM on January 25, 2010


I gave her arnica whenever she fell when she was little

To a small child? Jesus. Arnica is toxic. It's supposed to be used only as a topical application. This could have had Very Bad results.
posted by Justinian at 2:44 PM on January 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


aspo, that is the position of most medical professionals in the US.

Stop trying to distract people from the pharmaceutical corporate conspiracy!
posted by Pope Guilty at 2:44 PM on January 25, 2010


HOMEOPATHY HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE

Homeopathy is one of the many disciplines which fall under the heading of "alternative medicine". To deny this is to lie, either to yourself or to the rest of us.


You really missed the point, man.
posted by Lutoslawski at 2:45 PM on January 25, 2010


Oh, a 6c homeopathic dilution. Never mind, it isn't toxic in that dosage since you're just giving her PLAIN OLD WATER.
posted by Justinian at 2:46 PM on January 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Mister_A: "that" being that antibiotics don't work for ear infections?
posted by aspo at 2:46 PM on January 25, 2010


aspo: No, the thing you said: antibiotics are not usually needed for pediatric ear infections.
posted by Mister_A at 2:47 PM on January 25, 2010


You really missed the point, man.

I think I got the point, it's just dishonest and serves the needs of murders, con men, and defrauders of the public, and I'm not going to pretend that it doesn't.
posted by Pope Guilty at 2:47 PM on January 25, 2010


Oh, a 6c homeopathic dilution. Never mind, it isn't toxic in that dosage since you're just giving her PLAIN OLD WATER.

Actually, just plain old milk sugar. Where is everyone getting the water thing from?
posted by magdalenstreetladies at 2:48 PM on January 25, 2010


Key word: usually.
posted by aspo at 2:48 PM on January 25, 2010


magdalenstreetladies I'll laugh because if what you're taking is a traditional homeopathic remedy* there is no actual arnica in it. It's just a little sugar tablet or eyedropper bottle with distilled water.

That's not my opinion, it's the stone cold truth, as homeopaths themselves are happy to explain.

* Note that some things are labeled "homeopathic" but they still contain a significant amount of the thing in question. For example I see that you can buy arnica for bruising in a number of different preparations, including arnica tea, arnica gel, and so forth. That's different.
posted by ErikaB at 2:48 PM on January 25, 2010


*passes out homeopathic Skittles to everyone*
posted by Burhanistan at 2:48 PM on January 25, 2010


He's fighty because he doesn't believe at all in chiropractic, and thinks it's a sham. I have to be honest: I think I agree with him, at least in general, though chiropractic obviously makes a lot more sense than homeopathy. And I know you've said you and your husband are chiropractors, KathrynT, so I don't want to loosely cast aspersions; I respect you and your position on it. However, while chiropractic may not be Scientology, it is about as scientific and about as rational. You mention "the innate intelligence of the human body;" I know that 'innate intelligence' is part of the doctrine of vitalism, the notion that there is some spiritual substance beyond material reality innate in human bodies.

Again, respectfully: I don't think it's possible to make a good argument for this being true. I can appreciate the benefits of some of the methods of chiropractic. I haven't done it myself, but I've found that Tai Chi is extremely healthy and beneficial because of the straightness of spine that it promotes; putting the spine in a healthier position has great benefits all over the body, because more almost any other single action we can take properly arranging the spine can put muscles in just the right balance and make us feel much more comfortable, alleviating numerous pains and maladies.

That doesn't change the fact that the theories which underlie chiropractic are a sham to me, and because of that fact I won't go to a chiropractor; if the underlying theories are false, then it's likely that, even if the central treatment is beneficial, the practitioner will go wrong at some point.

My body doesn't seem to be intelligent at all, to be honest. If I feed it junk, it might 'complain' a little bit, but not for long. If I hole up in my house and don't exercise at all, it will feel pain and ache at the merest exertion. It's silly to see the body as a simple machine, since living things are demonstrably and rationally different from machines; specifically, they are born, grow to maturity, have the potential to reproduce, and die. However, that doesn't mean that we aren't wholly matter in a certain sense. In this sense, it makes sense to say that the body is a machine which must be maintained in the same way that a machine is: carefully, with proper manipulation, and without assuming that the machine will take care of itself.

There is one aspect in which the body has 'innate intelligence:' human beings have minds which can direct their actions. While I think lots of people make the mistake of thinking that 'mind' and 'body' are things rather than aspects (this mistake is the source of a whole philosophical genre, in fact) the 'body' aspect of human beings is flatly not an intelligence. It is up to mind to provide the intelligence - to guide the body, to manipulate it properly toward health, and to try to do so in a conscientious way.
posted by koeselitz at 2:49 PM on January 25, 2010 [5 favorites]


Antibiotics shouldn't be given for childhood ear infections because a metric boatload of those ear infections are caused by viruses. So giving antibiotics does nothing except contribute to resistant bacteria. The only reason they are given is because parents freak out when their precious little squiggums has an ear ouchie and it is easier to prescribe the antibiotics than deal with outraged mommies.
posted by Justinian at 2:50 PM on January 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


*passes out homeopathic Skittles to everyone*

If there's even ONE molecule of Skittle in these I'm going to be very upset!
posted by Pope Guilty at 2:50 PM on January 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


From my DOCTOR. Who also diagnosed the ear infection, and agreed that the adjustment probably fixed it. What the hell, people? You think my chiro sneakily called my pediatrician and coached her on what to say to promulgate some sort of Mass Chiropractic Ear Conspiracy?

Not only are many doctors insufficiently skeptical of what they themselves prescribe, they are also insufficiently skeptical of what other practitioners prescribe. Furthermore, although they may not believe in certain unscientific treatments themselves, they may not want to offend or start an argument with their patient over a minor matter.
posted by kevinsp8 at 2:52 PM on January 25, 2010


What's The Harm: Homeopathy

(A homeopathic Skittle would be a good treatment for diabetes!)
posted by ErikaB at 2:52 PM on January 25, 2010


Homepathic Skittles are so bitter and alkaline, though! If we want a delicious treat, shouldn't we be having homeopathic kimchi?

NOT-KOREA-IST
posted by mccarty.tim at 2:53 PM on January 25, 2010 [3 favorites]


Like the Dawkins stuff, this mainly seems to be for the benefit of those involved.

By "Dawkins stuff" you mean science, right?
posted by inoculatedcities at 2:53 PM on January 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Again, whose evidence is good enough for you? FDA? 5000 years of experience in China? Do Canadian studies pass your bar? European? How about Soviet? Egyptian?

There was some German study that seemed to validate homeopathy's efficacy, which is why I have so many friends who believe in it.


5000 years of experience would validate bloodletting and trepanning for evil spirits, it would only take a couple of those years to do a meaningful double blind test, please feel free to post the details and I will look stuff up myself - I have journal access.
posted by biffa at 2:53 PM on January 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Like the Dawkins stuff, this mainly seems to be for the benefit of those involved.

By "Dawkins stuff" you mean science, right?


No, I mean the silly fucking about with slogans on the sides of buses and the like.
posted by Artw at 2:55 PM on January 25, 2010 [4 favorites]


Justinian: ok that I do buy. But that's loads different from "antibiotics don't do anything". I guess I'm confusing ear infection with bacterial ear infection.
posted by aspo at 2:55 PM on January 25, 2010


Burhanistan: “This is an unfortunate derail, and one where a newer member is being subject to more than is necessary for actual discussion. Check your spittle, gents.”

KathrynT: “Thanks, Burhanistan. I'm no stranger to flameage on the internet, but this caught me a bit off guard.”

Yeah, sorry for inadvertently participating in the derail - it really isn't relevant, and I didn't realize you were getting piled on so badly, KathrynT. Feel free to disregard my last comment there.
posted by koeselitz at 2:55 PM on January 25, 2010


magdalenstreetladies : I'm not making an assertion based on a theory. I haven't just read about this, or just given it some thought, or even conducted a questionably-well designed experiment. I have many instances of personal experience with this, on me, on my kid, on friends, partners...

Because, and I say this with all gentleness, there are many people who same the same thing about their experiences with angels. Or aliens. Personal experience is, by definition, not something that you can expect to hold up to community/ peer scrutiny. Because it's personal, we didn't see it, and there are enough huge gaping holes in homeopathy as viewed by science that we, the community of peers you are showing this to have reasonable doubt as to the accuracy of your claims.

Not that you are in any way willfully attempting to deceive or that you are wrong in what you experienced, just that there might be alternative explanations that could take in all the facts of what you described into account and provide an answer that isn't based on claims that have no scientific merit.

I've always felt that it's important to keep an open mind, but not so much that I'm unwilling to recognize that, at some point, claims like homeopathy need to be substantiated beyond personal experience, regardless of how much anecdotal evidence can be produced.
posted by quin at 2:56 PM on January 25, 2010 [9 favorites]


Yes, how dare people express their beliefs or lack thereof in a public space!

Oh wait, it's Dawkins that's arguing for the separation of religions from the public discourse. Carry on, then.
posted by muddgirl at 2:57 PM on January 25, 2010


5000 years of experience would validate bloodletting and trepanning for evil spirits, it would only take a couple of those years to do a meaningful double blind test, please feel free to post the details and I will look stuff up myself

The fact that people do something is far better proof that it is effective and useful than any evidence or actual investigation could ever hope to be.
posted by Pope Guilty at 2:57 PM on January 25, 2010


It's Max Dilution Skittle. In fact, my actual comment time stamp bears the radionic impression of all flavors of Skittles, so merely clicking on it will send the essence of Skittle right to your amygdala. Favoriting will prolong this sensation.
posted by Burhanistan at 2:59 PM on January 25, 2010 [6 favorites]


You know, the stuff KathrynT is talking about regarding antibiotics and childhood ear infections? That is, in fact, taken from evidence-based studies.

And the potentially nasty side effects of overdoses of many Over-The-Counter painkillers? YEARS of research backing that one up.

I'm all for evidence-based medicine and I think homeopathy is ridiculous. But if you're going to rag on people for operating based on instinct rather than evidence ... well, it'd be nice if you didn't do exactly that.

(You can of course disagree with studies, or point out flaws in their methodology and conclusions. Or, if you really know your stuff, you can sometimes point out -- as with homeopathy -- the fact that a zillion studies refute it and one or two weird studies support it seems rather fishy.)
posted by kyrademon at 3:02 PM on January 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


"No, I mean the silly fucking about with slogans on the sides of buses and the like."
I think you're pretty wrong here, Artw. I already know people who have reached a better understanding of the nature of homeopathy from this, and I know people aren't giving 5 quid to Boots just to make themselves feel clever. They're genuinely doing it because they they think Boots are wrong to sell homeopathic medicine as a major high street pharmacist.

And as for the buses, I also know there are people out there who may not have previously identified as atheists, but have gained a bit of awareness of a community of like-minded people which they didn't before realise was so large and widespread.

You might not like it, but 'silly fucking about' it is not, and for the benefit of those involved it also is not.
posted by edd at 3:02 PM on January 25, 2010


I just waved a $20 bill over a glass of water. YOU GUYS I'M A HOMEOPATHIC BILLIONAIRE NOW.
posted by ErikaB at 3:03 PM on January 25, 2010 [5 favorites]


(Although, KathrynT, since you really seem surprised at the vehemence with which some people have reacted to chiropractic's claims, you may want to peruse this Wikipedia article on the controversy. The AMA called chiropractic "an unscientific myth" and effectively barred doctors from associating at all with chiropractors until 1987. The founders of chiropractic were mixed characters, I think, and made all kinds of claims that most respectable adherents to chiropractic would find shocking today. It's worth reading up on, and though it may not change your mind about anything, I don't think you would agree with much of what D D and B J Palmer stood for - they were broadly anti-medicine, anti-instruments, and anti-empirical evidence. Chiropractic is very different today, I think.)
posted by koeselitz at 3:03 PM on January 25, 2010


A virus or bacteria can cause ear infections. Antibiotics will not not help an infection caused by a virus. Many doctors no longer prescribe antibiotics for every ear infection. (National Institutes of Health)

The results of this study suggest a potential benefit of osteopathic manipulative treatment as adjuvant therapy in children with recurrent AOM [note: Acute Otitis Media, or, in layman's terms, an ear infection]; it may prevent or decrease surgical intervention or antibiotic overuse.

I had recurrent ear infections growing up, which were treated routinely with amoxicillin. I remember my parents, grandparents and even myself constantly tugging on my ear to encourage the tubes to drain. I still do this now when my ears are clogged. If I was hearing a parent say that they were self-diagnosing ear infections and going to alternative care instead of (rather than in addition to and with the knowledge of) routine, standard pediatric care, I would be one of the first people to jump down their throats and tear them apart from the inside out (having had a child that died, and would have died a lot sooner if I had trusted MY gut - which told me she was fine - rather than deferring to a board-certified pediatrician). Here, I'm kind of with KathrynT, as it sounds like she's talking to the doctor and respecting medical advice. I'm thinking she - and her doctor - knows more about her own child than we do.
posted by bunnycup at 3:03 PM on January 25, 2010


Pediatricians are careful not to OVER prescribe antibiotics because we are now aware that some ear infections will clear up on their own and because of the concern over antibiotic-resistant strains. Guidelines suggesting restricted use of antibiotics for ear infections have officially been in place since 2004.

However, in cases of high fever or symptoms persisting longer than 48-72 hours like nausea, dizziness and especially vomiting, antibiotics are generally called for. Also, there are inner, middle and outer ear infections and some have efflusion and there's just all kinds of causes. My son once ruptured his eardrum, which was incredibly painful for him, as a result of an ear infection with fluid build-up behind the eardrum like your toddler had.

Saying that "antibiotics don't work for ear infections" is just not true at all, though. Antibiotics don't work for infections caused by viruses but they can be extremely effective and are in fact recommended for children under 6 months of age with ear infections.
posted by misha at 3:03 PM on January 25, 2010


I just waved a $20 bill over a glass of water. YOU GUYS I'M A HOMEOPATHIC BILLIONAIRE NOW.

I already owned the homeopathic patent on that process, so you owe me royalties.
posted by Burhanistan at 3:04 PM on January 25, 2010


You really missed the point, man.

I think I got the point, it's just dishonest and serves the needs of murders, con men, and defrauders of the public, and I'm not going to pretend that it doesn't.


Are you sure you got it? Because people in this thread are really confused about what exactly all these things are and how they are different, and the resulting derail has led to nothing but insults and a lot of confused folks. Homeopathy is a very specific approach to disease, and it is being grouped in this debate with many other types of alternative health practices, to the defamation of these practices that could not be farther removed from homeopathy. The exacerbation of this confusion of terms proliferated within this thread is just as prevaricating as the marketing of homeopathic potions. Your ersatz defender of the public, hyperbolic, often mean rants are not at all contributing to the dissemination of accurate information and education regarding this issue.
posted by Lutoslawski at 3:04 PM on January 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


No, I mean the silly fucking about with slogans on the sides of buses and the like.

Science has a PR problem -- that's why homeopathy, chiropractic, acupuncture, and other pseudosciences are multi-million dollar industries. The reason people don't understand basic science isn't because those who do are too visible in the culture.

Interesting Chris Mooney (Unscientific America) talk expanding on this point here.
posted by inoculatedcities at 3:04 PM on January 25, 2010


And I know you've said you and your husband are chiropractors, KathrynT

Ah. No. My husband's sister and HER husband are chiropractors. My husband is a technical writer, and I'm a stay-at-home mom and classical singer (and the child of two research scientists.)

I don't inherently believe in the principles of chiropractic. I go to one because it helps my tmj, my ENT system, and my lower back and hip pain, and I take my kid when she has a runny nose because I do think it helps her ears. But I don't believe in vitalism, I don't believe in the Innate Intelligence, and I have too much experience with various weird and chronic diseases to believe that my body is inherently smart.

Medicine is equal parts science and engineering. Sometimes we know exactly why something works; sometimes we have a pretty good idea, sometimes we have a working hypothesis, and sometimes all we have is the evidence that it DOES work. I think it's rational to make decisions based on any of those kinds of knowledge. Part of the problem is that when it comes to individual cases, the combination of small sample sizes and many confounding variables make true personal empiricism really hard, so we're left in a position of going with what "seems" right. And that's true for everyone, ultimately; you feel bad, you research treatment, you pick one, you get treated, you feel better, the treatment worked.

As a classical singer, I'm really familiar with my instrument, which is to say my whole otolaryngological system. I see a chiropractor for care on that part of my body when I'm sick because I find it effective, and because it avoids pharmaceutical treatment that has side effects which are deal-killers for me. And because I get good results without drugs from it, I choose it for my daughter, too.
posted by KathrynT at 3:06 PM on January 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm always amazed at the amount of vitriol in these internet discussions of homeopathy. While I agree that the chemical science is entirely faulty, the science of placebos cannot be so easily discounted. It may be that paying of good money for this treatment is just the leverage that the placebo needs in certain users.
posted by fairmettle at 3:07 PM on January 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


I already owned the homeopathic patent on that process, so you owe me royalties.

Luckily I'm homeopathic LIKE A FOX. I just touched my glass of homeopathic ten billion dollars to my computer screen. Simply touch a glass of water to your own computer monitor, and the benefits will be conferred upon you as well.
posted by ErikaB at 3:07 PM on January 25, 2010


ErikaB - I'll laugh because if what you're taking is a traditional homeopathic remedy* there is no actual arnica in it. It's just a little sugar tablet or eyedropper bottle with distilled water.

a) no water is involved here. Never had a homeopathic remedy in liquid form in 20+ years. Sugar pills, just like the cliche.

b) what I'm trying to find out is: Are you laughing at me for making a judgement that while correlation does not equal causality, the 95(ish, plus or minus 5 percent)% correlation (out of 100-300 personally observed or experienced treatments) between taking these particular sugar pills and the speedy healing from a bruise or the absence of a bruise where one should have developed is enough to make me continue to use this for the prevention or treatment of bruises and swelling? In other words, are you laughing at me because your opinion disagrees with my experience? Or are you laughing at me because you think I'm making it up, or because you think I'm fooling myself?

Because, I mean, if you can take as given that reallyreally, all those bruises that should have happened didn't, or that the times when the arnica was taken after the bruise had formed it went away very rapidly - what I'm looking for there is an alternative explanation. And if it's placebo effect, I'm just saying, hey, can I please keep my fucking sugar pills then? And also, the placebo effect has a lot of explaining to do in regard to it having an effect on other unsuspecting people.

I'm not trying to say that the laws of physics don't apply. I'm saying that I see a cause and effect relationship that I can't explain.
posted by magdalenstreetladies at 3:08 PM on January 25, 2010


(Sorry, just realized we have moved on from this and I am contributing to keeping a derail alive. Apologies. I'm a mess in this thread.)
posted by bunnycup at 3:09 PM on January 25, 2010


"While I agree that the chemical science is entirely faulty, the science of placebos cannot be so easily discounted."

So.. who is discounting the placebo effect? 10:23 aren't, I'm pretty sure of that.
posted by edd at 3:09 PM on January 25, 2010


She had a little dent in her head both times, but no bruise formed and there was no swelling. ... if I take, say, arnica, and it has no effect on my bruise, I'm no worse off than I was before.

Prior to your post, I had no idea what arnica was, but I'm a clumsy person, and I frequently bang my limbs on things badly and yet don't get bruises. Obviously my post-injury swearing has a therapeutic effect! Oh, wait... anecdotes about a few times bruises did or didn't form really don't prove anything, because real life is full of variables and humans have faulty and selective memories. As for plants from genus Arnica doing no harm, some quick research suggests that they can be quite nasty if you ingest enough, actually. I doubt you're ingesting grams of it, so you're probably not in huge danger, but the active compound's got a relatively low LD50. Given the difference in size and metabolism for small children, yeah, you might actually be putting your daughter at some risk, and there are unfortunately documented cases of kids ending up dead, in a coma, or with nasty organ damage due to eating a bunch of the plant.

If you're giving your daughter a homeopathic cure, of course, you're just giving her water or sugar pills, and failing to accurately remember the times you gave her (or yourself) arnica and she did get a bruise (or a sore spot that wasn't visibly bruised, etc.), or the fact that you didn't bruise all that easily before you started taking arnica.

The nasal gel form was banned in the US last year because it supposedly can destroy the sense of smell. I didn't notice it affecting my sense of smell...

I'm glad that your sense of smell wasn't affected. However, some people smoke a pack a day for decades and don't get cancer. Most dangerous things aren't guaranteed to harm you, they just put you at a much higher risk for certain sorts of harm. At a certain point, our society generally decides the risk is too high to allow these things to be widely prescribed. Having to balance the negative and positive effects of drugs is really complicated, and I don't envy the scientists who have to do it.

I merely wanted to point out that a lot of Western practices are effective and safe until they're proven to be neither, and a certain skepticism of accepted medical practices is healthy. Was it not just recently that *we* decided testing for breast cancer too early was actually giving people breast cancer?

Sort of. We never thought that the radiation from mammograms was harmless, but we thought that the benefits of screening outweighed the risks, starting at a certain age. We're revising that a little, saying that this point occurs a little later, really. The reason we're able to make these sort of revisions is because Western medicine is self-critical. Even medicines that have been around for decades - painkillers, birth control - are still the subjects of longitudinal studies to ensure that we haven't missed anything.

That's the whole point of science: it's not that we get everything right the first time. Rather, we're able to observe things old and new and make changes and predictions based on our observations. That's why things that were previously considered "alternative" do make it into the canon of Western medicine. It's a feature, not a bug that these things weren't grandfathered in on the basis of tradition and the fervent belief of many people: research makes it possible for scientists not only to prove that something is effective, but also to figure out what makes the thing effective, so that safe dosing limits can be established and side-effects can be avoided. Complain about the culture of hospitals, about the idiotic American health care system that makes it hard for doctors to spend as much time getting to know a patient as homeopathic practitioners do, about the people who make such ridiculous claims about alternative medicine that doctors end up dismissing it without actually testing it - but none of these things have to do with the basic system of Western medicine - and science - itself.
posted by ubersturm at 3:11 PM on January 25, 2010 [11 favorites]


"hey, can I please keep my fucking sugar pills then?"

Yes.
Any patient choice must be an informed choice, otherwise it is no choice at all. The best scientific data says that homeopathy does not work and patients must be made aware of this before they choose homeopathy.

Additionally, this campaign does not seek an outright ban on homeopathy. We are simply asking for the high street pharmacist Boots to stop lending legitimacy to this unproven "treatment". The simple act of Boots stocking homeopathy in their pharmacies implicitly suggests to patients that homeopathy works. Even Boots admits they have sought evidence to support homeopathy and found none.

Homeopathic products remain readily available from health food shops, the Internet and direct from homeopaths, if people wish to use them.
10:23 is not about removing your choice.
posted by edd at 3:13 PM on January 25, 2010


Look, I can see you're really upset about this. I honestly think you ought to sit down calmly, take a placebo pill, and think things over.
posted by Artw at 3:15 PM on January 25, 2010 [3 favorites]


magdalenstreetladies: I'm not ErikaB and I'm not, I hope you agree, laughing at you. But the reason what you are saying grates on some people is that you really, really, really are just taking a sugar pill. It's no different than if you were taking a 6C dilution of thyme, a 6C dilution of ibuprofen or, hell, a 6C dilution of arsenic. The placebo effect is extremely powerful. I hope it continues to work for you. But the idea that it is the arnica itself which is doing anything at a dilution level of 10-12 is simply ludicrous.
posted by Justinian at 3:16 PM on January 25, 2010


magdalenstreetladies: “I'm not making an assertion based on a theory. I haven't just read about this, or just given it some thought, or even conducted a questionably-well designed experiment. I have many instances of personal experience with this, on me, on my kid, on friends, partners... Why does someone else's reading about this have more weight than my personal experience? Not attacking, but I want to know if your response indicates that you think I'm making it up because I intend to deceive others, or as a joke, or if you think I'm just delusional and deceived about this myself, that my perception of reality on many occasions is invalid for some reason. I'm an actual person, not someone's relative's friend's uncle on a link on a blog - real human, self-reporting, nothing to sell. What is your explanation? What do you do with this information?”

Unfortunately, it seems to me pretty clear that the worst source of information about what makes people healthy is those 'self-reporting' human beings themselves. Look around, and you'll see that we're surrounded by urban legends and false assumptions based on the habit us humans have of drawing a false relationship of causation every time we see correlation. You'll often meet athletes, for example, who have a habit of wearing a particular piece of clothing the day before a game because they wore that piece of clothing before a great win, and because, as they affirm, it's always 'worked' for them.

When it comes to our own fates, and especially our own health and the health of our children, we human beings tend to be short-sighted; and since we're focused on ourselves, we're hardly ever looking at a large enough group of people when we conclude that a particular thing is healthy or unhealthy. I could generalize and say that a particular remedy was beneficial because when I took it, I saw an improvement, and I saw an improvement when my kids took it, and I saw an improvement when my friends took it; but that would mean very little, because (a) the improvement hasn't been linked in any rational way with the remedy; and (b) my circle of friends and family is so small that it's not really a large enough sample to be very helpful.

It's possible to think rationally about the human body and to come up with a rational way of treating it. I think this has always happened, even before modern science took up the task; Maimonides was a physician of great repute, and I think his rational cast of mind must have dealt very well with the difficult task of riddling out what's going on in the body, and of making little experiments and rooting out the proper remedies to different bodily disorders. But it's very, very important for us to recognize how pernicious and false our own impressions, based on the experiences of friends and family, usually are; if there's no rational basis, then we have no reason to assume that a particular remedy is actually beneficial at all.
posted by koeselitz at 3:18 PM on January 25, 2010


only slightly tangential, but if you haven't given a listen to the radiolab episode on Placebos, I highly recommend it.
posted by Lutoslawski at 3:19 PM on January 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


quin - Because, and I say this with all gentleness, there are many people who same the same thing about their experiences with angels.

Excellent, thanks - this is what I was looking for (not snark!!). I completely agree with you there, I get this, and this is the specificity I wanted. What I want to know after this is - if many people have this personal experience, and get some benefit from it - how does this affect other people to the extent that this shit should be banned? I'd like to see some better designed studies, myself, and I wouldn't mind an explanation. But in the meantime, my mental powers are only so good and no gooder, and I can't make bruises heal more quickly with anything other than those that have been breathed on by arnica, so can I keep them?
posted by magdalenstreetladies at 3:19 PM on January 25, 2010


with anything other than those sugar pills that have been breathed on by arnica, i meant. oops.
posted by magdalenstreetladies at 3:21 PM on January 25, 2010


TBH Placebos, and the fact that they do anything at all, is the most interesting thing about this. How does that happen? How can it be taken advantage of? The various magic tricks performed on the placebo to make it seem potent much less so.
posted by Artw at 3:22 PM on January 25, 2010


Misconception #2: Personal experience is the best way to tell whether something works. When you feel better after having used a product or procedure, it is natural to give credit to whatever you have done. This can be misleading, however, because most ailments resolve themselves and those that don't can have variable symptoms. Even serious conditions can have sufficient day-to-day variation to enable quack methods to gain large followings. In addition, taking action often produces temporary relief of symptoms (a placebo effect). For these reasons, controlled scientific studies are usually necessary to establish whether health methods actually work.
posted by kevinsp8 at 3:23 PM on January 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm glad that your sense of smell wasn't affected. However, some people smoke a pack a day for decades and don't get cancer.

Eh, I don't think that's a fair comparison. My own impression is that the anosmia thing was simply a figleaf to get Zicam gel off the market. Keep in mind that Zicam is used to treat the common cold. Know what one of the side effects of the common cold can be? Anosmia.

Zicam isn't actually homeopathic in the sense we are talking about; it really does have an active ingredient (zinc) which serious people have considered and are still considering as a potential treatment for colds. The makers labeled it homeopathic because homeopathic stuff, given that it generally contains no active ingredient, isn't regulated by the FDA. So labeling Zicam as homeopathic was just an end-run around the FDA.

So the FDA issuing a warning that Zicam might cause anosmia meant that anybody who ended up with anosmia after treating a cold with Zicam is suing the heck out of the makers and, given the FDA warning, are going to make bank. (Okay, the lawyers are going to make bank). So Zicam gel got yanked by the makers because they know full well that some people are going to get anosmia from colds and then sue them.

I don't think zinc is effective against colds. But I understand the purported mechanism of action and I wouldn't actually be all that surprised if I turned out to be incorrect. Which is the exact opposite of homeopathy where I would basically shoot myself in the face with a shotgun if it turned out to be effective since it meant that everything I believed about the universe was false.
posted by Justinian at 3:27 PM on January 25, 2010 [4 favorites]


Homeopathic dilution levels nicely explained:

"A drop of the original substance, whether it's snake venom or sulphuric acid, is added to 99 drops of water or alcohol. Then the mixture is violently shaken by hitting the tube against a hard surface. It is believed by homeopaths this is a vital stage. It somehow transfers the healing powers from the original substance into the water itself! The result is a mixture diluted 100 times, so called 1C solution. You then take that 1C solution and dissolve it in another 99 parts and now you end up with a 2C solution, and so on. And this is where the conflict with science begins. For example, 6C solution is equivalent to one drop of original substance in 20 swimming pools, and 12C is equivalent to one drop in the Atlantic Ocean. "
posted by ErikaB at 3:28 PM on January 25, 2010 [3 favorites]


Why does someone else's reading about this have more weight than my personal experience?

A fair question. Or why does one person's reading, or training, or practioner have more weight over anothers? Isn't all evidence, and thus all opinion equally valid? If only there were some way to tell which beliefs are wishful thinking and which reflect objective reality. Well, that would generally be the randomized double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial.

The tricky bit comes when different trials have different results, plus the time/expertise needed to sift through the nearly endless medical literature to find the best evidence.

Sadly I can tell you from my own training and practice that orthodox MDs hardly practice consistent evidence-based medicine. The one bright light for me has been services like the Cochrane Collaboration and Emergency Medicine Monthly in which doctors with expertise in evaluating medical literature do a lot of that work for me.
posted by kevinsp8 at 3:30 PM on January 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


magdalenstreetladies: “What I want to know after this is - if many people have this personal experience, and get some benefit from it - how does this affect other people to the extent that this shit should be banned? I'd like to see some better designed studies, myself, and I wouldn't mind an explanation. But in the meantime, my mental powers are only so good and no gooder, and I can't make bruises heal more quickly with anything other than those that have been breathed on by arnica, so can I keep them?”

First of all, nobody is requesting that anything be banned.

Second, this does great, great harm because homeopathy is quite often promoted as a cure for cancer, influenza, and a host of other very, very deadly diseases. People die as a result. That's not a direct result of you taking sugar pills, but it's a direct result of the industry that gave you those sugar pills. That's why homeopathy isn't simply a matter of opinion, but a matter of life and death.
posted by koeselitz at 3:30 PM on January 25, 2010 [3 favorites]


Kevinsp8, how does that relate to a condition where the symptom is physical and is instantly and obviously relieved immediately upon the treatment being applied? By which I mean, the practitioner massages and "pops" my soft palate while wearing a rubber glove, my sinuses INSTANTLY drain copious amounts of yuk, I spit it out into the sink, now my sinuses are clear. She adjusts my ears, the horrific fullness drains away, and now I can hear. Then I go sing, and everything works great.

I don't see what's so credulous about being willing to repeat such a treatment.
posted by KathrynT at 3:30 PM on January 25, 2010


That would be my opening crawl... cut to the atlantic ocean, waves endlessly tossed about by the wind... We see a coastline, a waste outlet pipe above the water level... a single drop of an evil looking green fluid drops from the wastepipe to into the ocean... and then: THE WIND CHANGES!
posted by Artw at 3:32 PM on January 25, 2010


KathrynT: “Kevinsp8, how does that relate to a condition where the symptom is physical and is instantly and obviously relieved immediately upon the treatment being applied? By which I mean, the practitioner massages and "pops" my soft palate while wearing a rubber glove, my sinuses INSTANTLY drain copious amounts of yuk, I spit it out into the sink, now my sinuses are clear. She adjusts my ears, the horrific fullness drains away, and now I can hear. Then I go sing, and everything works great. I don't see what's so credulous about being willing to repeat such a treatment.”

A symptom is by definition a sign of a disorder rather than the disorder itself. Immediate relief of a symptom is absolutely no indication that a treatment is effective or even healthy for the patient, because there are plenty of treatments which alleviate the symptom while actually making the disorder itself much worse.
posted by koeselitz at 3:36 PM on January 25, 2010


KathrynT: I agree that personal experience is a powerful motivator to believe in something. In general, however, it can be misleading and isn't the best way to choose between competing therapies. I don't have a specific alternative explanation of what you say happened in your case... which doesn't mean there isn't one.

I have lots of patients who demand antibiotics (usually useless) for their sinus infections, and swear whenever their regular doctor prescribes them, they get better within hours. Unfortunately studies don't bear this out.

In this case, again, I've never heard of this treatment, and perhaps it is effective. Certainly we need an effective treatment for sinus infections, as everything else we have (e.g. sinus syrups and antibiotics) are worthless. But I've heard similarly clear-cut anecdotes of other therapies which have been shown by study to be useless.

If these treatments are as clear-cut effective as you say, it is a wonder no one's done a proper study to show this yet. Or perhaps they have, and I'd be glad to have a reference to such a study. I've never heard of chiropractors going much beyond the spine, certainly not into manipulating the soft palate.
posted by kevinsp8 at 3:40 PM on January 25, 2010


Interesting study showing that "recurrent acute otitis media occurred more often" in children originally treated with amoxicillin. Found in the footnotes on the wikipedia article.
posted by dilettante at 3:40 PM on January 25, 2010


Koeslitz: yeah, but it's the symptoms which are bugging me, and which I need to go away. Pseudoephedrine doesn't cure the underlying disorder any more than this treatment does, andphenylephrine doesn't even treat the symptoms. (My joke is that the PE in Sudafed PE stands for "Placebo Effect.") Why is it preferable to treat symptoms with a drug than with a physical adjustment?
posted by KathrynT at 3:41 PM on January 25, 2010


Immediate relief of a symptom is absolutely no indication that a treatment is effective or even healthy for the patient, because there are plenty of treatments which alleviate the symptom while actually making the disorder itself much worse.

There are also a number of treatments that alleviate the symptoms without making the disorder itself worse at all. I do not want to put words in KathrynT's mouth at all, but I respectfully believe her point is that these treatments - the ear or palate manipulation - relieve the symptoms. I don't think she's arguing that they cured the underlying disease mechanism. Sometimes relieving the symptoms is all people want - such as advil for a headache, or nyquil for a cold.

On the other hand, I do think proponents of homeopathy argue that their tinctures cure the underlying disease mechanism. That is part of my personal objection to homeopathy.
posted by bunnycup at 3:41 PM on January 25, 2010


Actually, not to participate in this strange sinus derail, but that thing is true. I was told it was an "acupuncture pressure point." But whatever - it actually does work, and I use that trick a lot during allergy season.

The next time you're suffering from sinus pressure, gently press your thumb up against the roof of your mouth. It fits into a hollow up there near the front. You'll be able to feel it when you hit the right spot. Sounds gross and weird and I don't understand the physiology behind it, but it's amaaaaazing.

As long as I'm derailing with everyone else, I may as well mention that I had a severe ear infection about five years ago, and the doctor didn't give me antibiotics either. I was basically prescribed ibuprofin, a heating pad, and a week of excruciating pain. Yay.
posted by ErikaB at 3:41 PM on January 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


(Not claiming that my thumb trick cures sinus infections - it just pushes some kind of magic pressure release valve button. In the case of allergies, that's really the best you can hope for GET AWAY FROM ME WITH THAT NETI POT I WANT NOTHING TO DO WITH IT.)
posted by ErikaB at 3:44 PM on January 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Edd - thanks for pulling the quote, that was good. I only read the first link of the post.
posted by magdalenstreetladies at 3:44 PM on January 25, 2010


Nothing wrong with relieving symptoms. If the disease is incurable but self-limited (viral infection) what else is there to do (well masterly inactivity and catlike observation is still my favorite)?

Generally that is one slag on 'allopathic' medicine: that it seems to treat symtoms, while homeopathy purports to cure. I think intellectual honesty of the sort like 'We can put a man on the moon but can't cure the common cold' is refreshing to hear.
posted by kevinsp8 at 3:54 PM on January 25, 2010


Eh, I don't think that's a fair comparison. My own impression is that the anosmia thing was simply a figleaf to get Zicam gel off the market. Keep in mind that Zicam is used to treat the common cold. Know what one of the side effects of the common cold can be? Anosmia.

I know quite well that Zicam does have actual zinc in it (despite the word "homeopathic" in the ad copy), and I actually used to pop those EZ-cold zinc glutamate tablets when the first positive studies about zinc efficacy came out. In any case, the company put forth the same argument that you did; the FDA countered by saying that the rate of anosmia was higher in people taking intranasal Zicam, came with a different symptom set, and had a quicker onset, and that other intranasal drugs did not show the same rise in anosmia symptoms. They also expressed concern that the anosmia would be longer-lasting than the more temporary sort usually seen with colds; knowing someone who lost their sense of smell from something else, that is a crappy thing to have to lose. I don't have the numbers in front of me, so I can't judge which of these is accurate, but the FDA appears to have had some serious concern that the anosmia cases were not just due to the common cold.

None of which is really germane to my response, however, which was really more intended to address the "it hasn't hurt me yet, so I don't believe all those people saying it is dangerous" argument that pops up in a lot of pro-homeopathy arguments.
posted by ubersturm at 3:55 PM on January 25, 2010


Something I've just realised most people have missed about this post and it's pretty important. A main reason people get peeved off with homeopathy in the UK is we have a National Health Service. My taxes are spent on sugar pills when they could be better spent elsewhere.

The great thing about a National Health Service imho is that it is not about making money or pushing drugs for profit, it's about fixing people. Purely anecdotal but after a car crash I went to a private Chiropractice to see about problems with my neck and back. They pulled things and cracked stuff and i got temporary relief. Then the pain got worse. Going back to the chiropractice sorted it, for a while. Started getting costly.

Eventually I went to my GP. She sent me to the hospital for xrays. Xrays were fine so she referred me to a physiotherapist, after a few weeks of exercises my neck and back are pretty damn good. That's why I now trust qualified physicians.

Another anecdote. My dad had complete organ failure. He's now on a cocktail of (evil big pharma) drugs that keep him alive. Without modern science he'd be dead. Modern Science and medicine on the whole is a good thing. Modern 'alternative' therapies, on the whole tend to be inneffective at best.

Try keep a bit of perspective.
posted by twistedonion at 3:57 PM on January 25, 2010



Related to the topic of homoeopathy in Britain the Science & Technology Committee has recently undertook (not sure whether it's still in progress) a review on the scientific basis behind government policy on homeopathy (here).

You can also watch the oral evidence, the first session was reasonably interesting.

It also contains a gem in which the director of Boots admits that he has no evidence that homoeopathic remedies do anything, but they keep selling them because people buy them. Which I think is quite telling.
posted by Erberus at 3:58 PM on January 25, 2010


twistedonion: Good point about public money being spent on homeopathy in your country. Lots of unscientific things get funded due to public pressure. In Ontario where I live, naturopaths will be allowed to order prescription drugs for their patients, a law resulting from public pressure.

On the other hand, please don't give qualified physicians an unconditional vote of confidence. Much of physiotherapy, doctor's advice, and 'evil big pharam' drugs are less effective than commonly supposed. Overtreated is a great eye-opener on this.

If we are being fair, we have to apply the same standard of rigorous testing to all treatments, especially ones that are paid for by the public purse.
posted by kevinsp8 at 4:08 PM on January 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Erberus: it is precisely that admission that led to this campaign, as I understand it.
posted by edd at 4:09 PM on January 25, 2010


@TwistedOnion: If Orin Hatch had his way, the healthcare plan in the US would pay for faith healing! He justified it by saying "[It would] ensure that health-care reform law does not discriminate against any religion."

In short, no matter how crazy your country is, American Exceptionalism wins every time.
posted by mccarty.tim at 4:10 PM on January 25, 2010


He's now on a cocktail of (evil big pharma) drugs that keep him alive.

And "alternative" medicine could very well help reduce the side effects of his combined therapy (as they call the cocktails 'round these parts). Don't throw the baby out with the bath water.

But for God's sake find someone willing to integrate both kinds of medicines, not someone who thinks the "other" side is all quacks. For one thing, you don't want a bunch of herbs that react badly to the stuff he's getting in the cocktail.
posted by small_ruminant at 4:10 PM on January 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


twistedonion - A main reason people get peeved off with homeopathy in the UK is we have a National Health Service. My taxes are spent on sugar pills when they could be better spent elsewhere.

Are people getting homeopathic remedies for free on the NHS? Wow. I did not know this. I thought the objection was just that it was being implicitly endorsed by someone who ought to know better. Damn.
posted by magdalenstreetladies at 4:11 PM on January 25, 2010


If we are being fair, we have to apply the same standard of rigorous testing to all treatments, especially ones that are paid for by the public purse.

Hear, hear.
posted by KathrynT at 4:12 PM on January 25, 2010


And "alternative" medicine could very well help reduce the side effects of his combined therapy (as they call the cocktails 'round these parts).

Which alternative medicine? By what mechanism?
posted by Pope Guilty at 4:12 PM on January 25, 2010


Or are you laughing at me because you think I'm making it up, or because you think I'm fooling myself?

I'm not laughing at you. You're falling victim to a few common cognitive errors, is all.

At the low dilution of 6x, if the people making the remedy have good quality control, it's likely that you really are getting a few micrograms of wolfsbane extract in a pill.

But stop and think of that for a minute. A few micrograms. As in, take a grain of table salt, and chop into between 10 and 100 pieces, and take one of those tiny bits. That is, at most, the active ingredient you're getting. Now medicine can be powerful stuff, but do you really think it's likely that a tenth of a grain of salt worth of plant extract, passing through the hit or miss process of your digestive system, is going to cause a change in your entire body?

And at the higher dilution, as others have noted, it is unlikely that there are more than a few molecules of wolfsbane extract in your pill, though there are probably one or two.

You write that "I'm not trying to say that the laws of physics don't apply." But there's no physical way for a few, if any, molecules of a drug to have a widespread systemic effect like clearing up a bruise. There is, literally, no way that the active ingredient in the pill could possibly have any physical effect on you.

Unless you believe that there really is magic going on, magic that violates the laws of physics, magic that says that things that aren't there can have an effect, then you really shouldn't believe that homeopathic remedies work. You should look at the evidence being presented to you and decide that the examples you've had in your personal life really are just coincidences. Because, unless you're willing to believe in actual, real, literal no-shit magic, that's all they could be.

The fact that you're seeking out lower concentrations as being more helpful, in complete contravention of homeopathic theory, should be a clue that you don't actually believe it.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 4:14 PM on January 25, 2010 [8 favorites]


twistedonion: as much as I'm no fan of chiropractic, from what I understand the evidence seems to be that for back pain it is roughly as effective as anything else (which is to say, nothing really works brilliantly).
Chiropractic manipulations have been shown in several clinical trials to be as effective as standard treatments. One needs to know, however, that standard care is not very effective for bad backs, and studies that adequately control for placebo effects tend to arrive at less positive conclusions. When my team in Exeter reviewed data from these more rigorous trials we concluded that "spinal manipulation is not associated with clinically relevant specific therapeutic effects" (Journal of Pain and Symptom Management, vol 22, p 879).
- Edzard Ernst

For that reason, I would be cautious about drawing conclusions that the second treatment was necessarily better, when you may simply have been getting better gradually all along. Your story sounds rather like the kind of tale I would be critical of in other cases, and so I think we have to treat these things fairly, whether they work in favour of our preconceived ideas or not.

I won't make the same arguments regarding your father, however. There are some other areas where medical science really does work miracles.
posted by edd at 4:19 PM on January 25, 2010


ROU_Xenophobe - Thanks for the thoughtful response. I really appreciate the time everyone's taken to answer my questions, as well as the tone - it's been much better than I anticipated.
posted by magdalenstreetladies at 4:20 PM on January 25, 2010


"If we are being fair, we have to apply the same standard of rigorous testing to all treatments, especially ones that are paid for by the public purse."
We have NICE. It's far from perfect, but it's a start, at least.
posted by edd at 4:22 PM on January 25, 2010


kevinsp8: couldn't agree more. I don't give any human enterprise an unconditional vote of confidence. You get good and bad.

Perhaps my experience of Chiropractors was just a poor one. My point, poorly made, is that we need to be careful with anecdotal evidence. KathrynT gets positive experiences from alternative therapy where I get poor. My father gets positive treatment where others may not be so lucky with the same combination of drugs and blame the drugs.

Perspective is always required. Step back and look at the actual evidence. Again, in this regard, modern medicine is 'on the whole' effective and alternative therapies have been found 'on the whole' to be largely ineffective. I'm a cheerleader for neither, but put my faith in what is found to work, not what my friends friend found worked for them.

Been to my doctor twice in the past decade and I tend to rely on the ultimate 'alternative' medicine (cannabis) for any pain relief. If it's serious though, I'll trust a doctor, in the same way I'll trust a mechanic regarding my car, or a plumber with my central heating etc etc.
posted by twistedonion at 4:23 PM on January 25, 2010


Which alternative medicine? By what mechanism?

I'm not a doctor OR a patient, but the people I know use traditional Chinese medicine, generally herbs, to support over-all immune system health, platelet production (which gets knocked out by a bunch of these cocktails), and I don't know what all else. Like I said, I'm not a patient.

I do know their MDs recommend they do it because the people who don't have more severe side effects, may of which are permanent. Which is not to say that doesn't ever happen to people who DO use Chinese medicine in conjunction with cocktails, but it's less.

The person around here who first started making it "mainstream" is named Isaac Cohen, who has done a lot of work on Chinese medicine used with cancer chemotherapy. Now that I'm googling around, I see he's started a company, Bionovo.
posted by small_ruminant at 4:26 PM on January 25, 2010



Erberus: it is precisely that admission that led to this campaign, as I understand it.

I should really read more before I comment. But it does make sense.

I mean is there really any other industry where it would be considered legal or at the very least ethical to sell a product you don't actually believe does anything?

Oh and for a more comic look on homoeopathy/alternative medicine (NSFW) b3ta recently did an image challenge on it . The top (homoeopathy based) image is golden.
posted by Erberus at 4:30 PM on January 25, 2010


Are people getting homeopathic remedies for free on the NHS? Wow. I did not know this. I thought the objection was just that it was being implicitly endorsed by someone who ought to know better. Damn.
indeed they are

And "alternative" medicine could very well help reduce the side effects of his combined therapy (as they call the cocktails 'round these parts). Don't throw the baby out with the bath water.

Luckily the only side effect he is having is intentional (I think one of the drugs makes him quite slow, to ensure he doesn't stress his heart). To be honest I'm not sure I get the whole 'alternative' medicine. If it's proven to work it's medicine in my eyes.

For that reason, I would be cautious about drawing conclusions that the second treatment was necessarily better, when you may simply have been getting better gradually all along.

True, as far as I was aware it was only getting worse. What seems to be happening now is my muscles are getting stronger, helping to alleviate any problems. But I'm under no illusion the exercises 'cured' me. From my perception though, all the chiropractor did was crack stuff with no plan on how I could help alleviate the problems myself.
posted by twistedonion at 4:35 PM on January 25, 2010


KathrynT: “Koeslitz: yeah, but it's the symptoms which are bugging me, and which I need to go away. Pseudoephedrine doesn't cure the underlying disorder any more than this treatment does, andphenylephrine doesn't even treat the symptoms. (My joke is that the PE in Sudafed PE stands for "Placebo Effect.") Why is it preferable to treat symptoms with a drug than with a physical adjustment?”

But it's not a choice between the two. I'm not arguing that it's preferable to treat symptoms with a drug than a treatment, and moreover modern scientific medicine doesn't argue that, either. It's quite unfortunate that the pharmaceutical industry has blurred the line there, but the AMA has never been specifically pro-drug.

Moreover I don't want to make it seem as though I'm saying that particular treatment isn't effective at alleviating the symptoms in the way you want it to. It might even alleviate the underlying disorder; I don't know, and you aren't claiming it does. But responsible medicine demands that we go beyond the symptom, because there are all sorts of harmful effects that various treatments might have. In the 30s, one popular Hollywood diet fad involved eating a tapeworm and letting it work its way through your digestive tract in order to lose weight; this was something that many, many people did, weirdly enough. It certainly alleviated the 'symptom' of having more body-weight than one wanted, and it worked great for most people; but there are an array of diseases that this strange method can cause, and as such it really demands that a responsible person make a very real study of it before telling other people to do it.

It's not really about the patient's desire to undergo an apparently beneficial treatment, think; I do wish patients would think more skeptically about the underlying philosophy behind treatments, but they'll never be completely rational. It's more important, I think, to demand that medical professionals are responsible enough to assiduously consider the underlying rational basis for their treatments.

Finally, I wanted to say that I found your description of a very real and practical experience with a chiropractor interesting. I still feel about the same way about chiropractic treatments – that they're sometimes effective, but I'd much rather do them on myself than have anyone do them for me. But that's probably squeamishness on my own part, to be honest. And that's not really rational at all. Heh.
posted by koeselitz at 4:40 PM on January 25, 2010


The greatest crime committed by chiropractors is, of course, the introduction of "chiropractic" as a noun. That there is an adjective. Chiropractic medicine. Chiropractic treatment. See?
posted by Justinian at 4:41 PM on January 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


My instinct is always to call it "chiropracty."
posted by koeselitz at 4:47 PM on January 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


But it's not a choice between the two. I'm not arguing that it's preferable to treat symptoms with a drug than a treatment, and moreover modern scientific medicine doesn't argue that, either. It's quite unfortunate that the pharmaceutical industry has blurred the line there, but the AMA has never been specifically pro-drug.

Oh, that's not what I mean. What I mean is that if I say "I had sinus congestion, so I took a Sudafed" nobody thinks twice, but if I say "I had sinus congestion, so I went to the chiropractor to get a palate massage" suddenly everyone's all "Oh but that doesn't treat the DISEASE, just the SYMPTOM, and we don't even really know if it does that, because there aren't any studies that I'm aware of, and the whole philosophy behind it is crap, and and and" and meanwhile I'm over here saying "Uh but now I can breathe and my sinuses are empty, which was the point."
posted by KathrynT at 4:50 PM on January 25, 2010 [3 favorites]


"You know, if I said she took antibiotics and it went away that fast, nobody would make snarky comments about eating mold. But antibiotics have been shown to be no more effective than placebo for treating childhood ear infections."

Wait. Whaaaa?

"Only the assurance of my (board-certified, standard AMA) pediatrician, when she explained to me why they don't prescribe them any more. They did a whole EBM review of the clinic practices (it's a series of neighborhood clinics associated with the local Big University) and found that children prescribed antibiotics to clear up ear infections in their practice had identical outcomes and sequelae to those who didn't. So they stopped prescribing them."

Again Whaaaa?

"The use of antibiotics on ear infections in small children is what she was talking about, not adults. (link to mayoclinic.com)"

Not even close to the same thing (quoted above) as was originally stated. The link says the majority of infections don't need treatment. For those that do antibiotics, not placebos, are used.

"I think enemas are the answer to most of our problems. Enemas and interpretive dance."

Surely not at the same time.
posted by Mitheral at 5:00 PM on January 25, 2010


HOMEOPATHY HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE, PREVENTATIVE CARE, NATUROPATHY, CHIROPRACTICS, CHINESE MEDICINE, YOGA, AYURVEDA, MASSAGE, MEDITATION, OR MAINTAINING A HEALTHY DIET.

Well, it has nothing to do with preventative care and maintaining a healthy diet, because those things actually work. It does have a lot in common with those other things.
posted by electroboy at 5:07 PM on January 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


wow
posted by kuatto at 5:44 PM on January 25, 2010


It does have a lot in common with those other things.

What does homeopathy have in common with exercise (i.e. yoga), again?
posted by bunnycup at 6:27 PM on January 25, 2010


ROU_Xenophobe A few micrograms. As in, take a grain of table salt, and chop into between 10 and 100 pieces, and take one of those tiny bits. That is, at most, the active ingredient you're getting. Now medicine can be powerful stuff, but do you really think it's likely that a tenth of a grain of salt worth of plant extract, passing through the hit or miss process of your digestive system, is going to cause a change in your entire body?

Well, we have Botulinum (LD50 of roughly 0.005–0.05 µg/kg.) and LSD, which kicks in around 10 µg . The tiny amounts argument doesn't hold for all molecules and some "plant extracts" are pretty potent.
posted by psyche7 at 6:39 PM on January 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


So, 300 people are getting out of bed to make a point about shit that's by definition harmless? Wow, boy have I been barking up the wrong tree. Here I was picking my battles, when instead I could have been taking part in a movement that is the equivalent of loudly and angrily not believing in Santa Claus.
posted by Gamien Boffenburg at 6:51 PM on January 25, 2010


So, 300 people are getting out of bed to make a point about shit that's by definition harmless?
posted by Gamien Boffenburg at 6:51 PM on January 25


You know, I'm getting a little tired of linking What's the Harm? in every single one of these threads.
posted by Pope Guilty at 11:29 AM on January 25

posted by Optimus Chyme at 7:23 PM on January 25, 2010


"You know, I'm getting a little tired of linking What's the Harm? in every single one of these threads."

I'm getting a little tired after ten years of horribly draining online-world 'skepticism'.
Fuck it's boring. It's foppish 19th century style middle class control freakism pretending to be concern for others.

People have become so tightly wrapped in their science fetish it's become their little Theory Of Everything. Whatever, I know a new dogma when I see one and will piss all over it every chance I get.

This shit outrages me because it's a straight-up attack on freedom of thought. Yes, homeopathy is probably bullshit- no, wait, it's definitely bullshit because Science Said So- but let's not protest outside regular hospitals- that kill people in huge numbers, because hospitals are all science-ey.
posted by Gamien Boffenburg at 9:30 PM on January 25, 2010 [5 favorites]


I don't mean to be personally rude, but I do hate this kind of shit so very much.
posted by Gamien Boffenburg at 9:32 PM on January 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Lo and behold, there was an "allergy remedy" that promised to deal with allergies without the side effects that old allergy relief medicines had. Thinking it was one of the new allergy meds, I grabbed it,and was actually in the checkout line before I had a suspicious thought and read the tiny tiny print that said it was homeopathic.

To me this is much worse than the homeopathy itself. Just take random pills without any research into what you are taking.

I know people who take them for minor things. If they feel really sick they go to a regular doctor, but a placebo is a fine place to start and isn't going to work better if you believe in it?

So why don't you haters stay out of our placebos?
posted by psycho-alchemy at 9:35 PM on January 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


There is no lie that is ever entirely harmless.
posted by Astro Zombie at 9:51 PM on January 25, 2010


"There is no lie that is ever entirely harmless."

That's a lie.
posted by Gamien Boffenburg at 10:06 PM on January 25, 2010


psycho-alchemy: So why don't you haters stay out of our placebos?

Eponysterical?
posted by parudox at 11:26 PM on January 25, 2010


My family doctor (for over a decade) prescribes both homeopathic and regular, "Big Pharma" meds. He seems like a very sensible person, and I sometimes wonder if he didn't get in to homeopathy just to have an array of official-sounding placebos at the ready for people with viruses who come in demanding antibiotics, or seeking prescription drugs they've seen on TV but don't really need. (Before this doctor, as a young kid, I seem to recall being prescribed antibiotics for every head cold.)

I tend to think that homeopathy is bunk, but I have had at least one experience of my own that would seem to suggest otherwise.

I broke my foot back in 1996. A friend gave me a bottle of homeopathic globules containing symphytum. I took them as directed for the duration of my healing, and when the osteopath (who also happened to be a neighbor of mine) removed my cast, he told me that he was surprised by how quickly and how well my bone had knitted together. When I told him about the symphytum, he just looked at me like I was a nut, grumbling that it was probably "unlikely" to have made a difference, but managed to stifle any truly derisive comments.

I've always wondered about it, though. Why DID my bone heal so well? Can the placebo effect really make bones heal faster? Man, that's crazy!

Incidentally, the friend who gave me the homeopathic remedy often had no other treatment options available to her because she could not afford to see doctors very often and, being a small business owner, couldn't afford health insurance, either. I think many Americans turn to "alternative" care for this reason. It's cheap and available and it feels like you're doing something.
posted by apis mellifera at 11:47 PM on January 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Yes, homeopathy is probably bullshit- no, wait, it's definitely bullshit because Science Said So- but let's not protest outside regular hospitals- that kill people in huge numbers, because hospitals are all science-ey.

As opposed to, you know, all the people who died in various fairly nasty ways due to epidemics (smallpox! polio! plague! even small nasty deficiency diseases like scurvy!) that modern medicine's helped us with? Look, I'm a biochemist. I've spent more or less the past decade working on various nasty diseases you don't want you or your family or anyone you remotely care about to get/be born with. Absolutely no one is satisfied with the current state of affairs when it comes to our understanding of science, of medicine, of how the body works. Or the American healthcare system, which is a far bigger killer, but that's another argument. But we're all working our asses off to learn more and apply it and make sure that everyone is better off, and our experience when it comes to things like smallpox and polio and vitamin deficiency tells us that we really do have a fighting chance of actually achieving this.

So really, please learn something about how science works before you spout off about "science fetish[es]." The entire point of the scientific method is revising one's understanding of how things work based on what's actually going on, and then putting forth new theories that we can test and act on until we have a more or less accurate understanding of how things work and the best ways to help rather than harm. If hospitals are "kill[ing] people in huge numbers" - though again, I think most people would contest that on the balance, medicine in the last century has saved far more people than it has hurt - then doctors and scientists are working to try to stop that. Science is a dogma only if you're more interested in taking a loudly contrarian stance than in learning about how things work and going through the exhausting, painstaking process of doing research and trying and failing and trying and failing and trying again to figure out how things function, until finally you've got a model that seems to accurately reflect the real world.

The anti-cancer drug I've worked on has saved the lives of many people, but the side effects are nasty and do a great deal of harm that diminishes the quality of life for survivors. I hope my research might, in its own very small way, help future patients get the good anti-cancer effects and not the nasty side effects. Same goes for the work I've done in labs studying systems that cause immune diseases, some well-known genetic diseases, etc. I'm a scientist, I think things are fucking far from perfect, and I'm not sitting around protesting outside of hospitals - I'm doing my damndest to personally make sure that we'll be closer to the truth in the future, to make sure that the future is better for all of us. What, precisely, have you done? Where's the experience, the scholarship, the well-reasoned argument that supports your claim that supporting science is a "straight-up attack on freedom of thought"? Where's your bullet-proof argument against pragmatic philosophy and medicine based on systematic observation? And what's your alternative, and how will it make things better for us, and how can we believe you? Because all that I see is a bunch of resentment, and the unsupported claim that science is essentially just another religion, and really, that's not all that convincing.

After all, to echo what you said, "I don't mean to be personally rude, but I do hate this kind of shit so very much."
posted by ubersturm at 12:31 AM on January 26, 2010 [14 favorites]


You say it's hogwash, but I know a guy who suffered from critical thinking and homeopathy cured that in a matter of days!
posted by JeNeSaisQuoi at 1:08 AM on January 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


It's based upon an ancient principle which has been known for thousands of years, and which has already been verified by modern science.

If a patient comes to the doctor sick, and the doctor gives medicine, and the patient gets better, there isn't a thing you can do to convince the patient that one was not the result of the other.

I am not being condescending - I'm pretty sure everyone has experienced a similar effect (or the negative version). It's the reason I drink orange juice when I'm getting a cold, it's the reason I don't lean on the wall in lifts after that one time I got stuck. It's the reason that I wear a seatbelt - emotionally, all the studies in the world mean fairly little to me, but it saved my life one time - or at least, I didn't die in that car crash: maybe I would have been fine without it, certainly I could have been killed wearing it. I know someone with the opposite superstition regarding seatbelts - you can guess his experience.

So as long as human beings are relatively resilient, and homeopathic medicine is available, there will be people who know that it is effective. As long as taxes aren't being spent on it, and it isn't marketing itself to people who are seriously* ill, vive la difference. I think these guys protesting have the right idea - when it comes to our superstitious selves
puts on sunglasses
Laughter is the best medicine.
posted by Wrinkled Stumpskin at 3:48 AM on January 26, 2010


If homeopathy really worked, wouldn't we be horribly, profoundly affected by the minute traces of just about everything that are floating around all the time?

Who says we're not? What's your control group?
posted by rokusan at 4:34 AM on January 26, 2010


Oh, and why is it always about childhood otitis media when this argument occurs? Childhood ear infections heal by themselves a lot of the time.

Tell me antibiotics are useless the next time you've got an infected wound. I'm sure there's a placebo for that. We should be sending homeopaths down to Haiti right now to join the scientology community ministers.
posted by fourcheesemac at 5:33 AM on January 26, 2010


I broke my foot back in 1996. A friend gave me a bottle of homeopathic globules containing symphytum.

Except, in all likelihood, they did not contain any comfrey. They were, in all probability, little balls of pure lactose, plus whatever trace contaminants they had picked up from the air.

In the past year homeopathic treatment has vastly improved a skin condition I'd suffered with for decades previously.

Alternately, homeopathic treatment was what you happened to be taking when your body rid itself of the skin condition for some other reason or not particular reason.

Alternately alternately, you have a skin condition that can be cured with lactose.

Alternately^3, you're confusing an herbal treatment (ie, a straight-up drug with a looser regulatory scheme) with homeopathic treatment (ie, lactose or water at standard doses)

Alternately^4, if it's a topical external application of some sort, the "inert" ingredients in it are what's helping you.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 6:26 AM on January 26, 2010 [4 favorites]


I'm getting a little tired after ten years of horribly draining online-world 'skepticism'.
Fuck it's boring. It's foppish 19th century style middle class control freakism pretending to be concern for others.

People have become so tightly wrapped in their science fetish it's become their little Theory Of Everything. Whatever, I know a new dogma when I see one and will piss all over it every chance I get.

This shit outrages me because it's a straight-up attack on freedom of thought. Yes, homeopathy is probably bullshit- no, wait, it's definitely bullshit because Science Said So- but let's not protest outside regular hospitals- that kill people in huge numbers, because hospitals are all science-ey.


I keep starting to type up a line by line, or a refutation, but ultimately what it comes down to is that the values expressed in this comment are so completely alien to me- so utterly lacking in even the slightest valuing of rationality, reason, or even basic, fundamental morality- that I just can't even respond to it. How do you argue with somebody who would rather allow people to give false, dangerous medical advice and profiteer on the ignorance of the public than have people call them out? How do you respond to somebody who characterizes science as a fetish and a dogma?

You're living in a fantasy world which does not overlap with this one.
posted by Pope Guilty at 6:28 AM on January 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


In my experience osteopathy>chiropractic treatment>mainstream medicine for back problems. Having said that, it is always good to get a second opinion and MRI scans are only available to the rich or those who go through the NHS here. Also, ibuprophen is an effective anti-inflamatory which can be very helpful in conjunction with physical therapy.
As someone who gets bruised often through martial arts and mountain biking I can attest that topical application of arnica cream is efficacious. I can't comment on arnica pills, but my sister had a good experience with them in conjunction with the cream when treating a haematoma in her calf resulting from severe trauma (in the shape of a car hitting it with such force that the bicycle she was riding became banana shaped). She recovered the use of her leg and began walking in half the time that the physiotherapist predicted.
I haven't had much joy with homeopathy, but there is a lot to be said for the holistic approach to treatment that homeopath's employ, so don't throw the baby out with the 12c bathwater!
posted by asok at 6:31 AM on January 26, 2010


homeopath's homeopaths
posted by asok at 6:33 AM on January 26, 2010


You know that bit about science having a PR problem?
posted by Artw at 7:47 AM on January 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


There's pretty much nothing you can say to anecdotal evidence if the person citing it believes that it somehow accounts for all the variables that would be caught by proper double blind research. If it's effective, why can't it be repeatedly demonstrated under controlled conditions? And how do you make sense of the "reasoning" behind dilution to the point of no active ingredients being present?

If your answer to all that is: "I tried it and it works (and fuck you)" then, yeah, we really have nothing to talk about. On a number of subjects that go well beyond your particular treatment.

on preview: What other logic does FAM really need to provide here other than it worked for him?

None whatsoever, so long as we're happy to step into the room with faith healing, magnetism, new agey crystals, and anything else that appears to provide sporadic, but unreplicable, relief. Yeah, no one likes their experience to be lumped in with that lot, but if your only reply is "It worked!" then really that's tough titty.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 7:55 AM on January 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


"You beautiful clear skin is the slippery slope to sky wizards!"
posted by Artw at 8:01 AM on January 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


"You beautiful clear skin is the slippery slope to sky wizards!"

Ew. Do you have a non-greasy formula?
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 8:10 AM on January 26, 2010


I think it was mostly the power of your all-encompassing certainty that you are right and I am wrong,

Well, the fact that Dawkins is the de facto patron saint of MetaFilter does indicate the extreme bloody-minded, unimaginative, bullheaded skepticism of this place. Perhaps debate is not worth it.
posted by KokuRyu at 8:22 AM on January 26, 2010


Well, the fact that Dawkins is the de facto patron saint of MetaFilter does indicate the extreme bloody-minded, unimaginative, bullheaded skepticism of this place.

There's so much wrong with this sentence that I don't even know where to begin.
posted by Pope Guilty at 8:27 AM on January 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


Well, the fact that Dawkins is the de facto patron saint of MetaFilter does indicate the extreme bloody-minded, unimaginative, bullheaded skepticism of this place. Perhaps debate is not worth it.
posted by KokuRyu


Better bloody-minded and bullheaded than dead.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 8:30 AM on January 26, 2010


the fact that Dawkins is the de facto patron saint of MetaFilter does indicate the extreme bloody-minded, unimaginative, bullheaded skepticism of this place.

The fact that you actually appear to believe this hyberbolic twaddle says more about you than it does about Metafilter.
posted by scody at 9:19 AM on January 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


There has got to be a better way than this. Calling people frauds and charlatans or starry-eyed acolytes of the church of the white coat is no way to discuss anything. Maybe it makes people feel better, but I'd rather Metafilter was the control group for that experiment.

It occurs to me that science IS argument from authority, of a sort. Like everyone in the world, I don't understand 99.99% of science in detail. My statistics is rusty. If someone in a white coat claims to have found the Higgs boson, or a tumour in my lung, my only real way of evaluating the truth of their statement is to ask another authority. Depending on how outlandish the claim is, and how informed I am about the area, I may accept the "expert" opinion, or go with a "common sense" alternative, or seek out another opinion.

I guess the twofold question (nailing my colours to the mast as part of the reality-based community) is: 1. Is it worth convincing people that don't know or care about the scientific method that it is important, and works? and 2. How can that best be accomplished?

Of course, knowing my luck someone will link to a peer-reviewed study of why ridicule is both a productive means of discussion and an effective advocacy tool, in which case I take it all back, although I decline to participate.

(Also, Dawkins is a guy who I wish wasn't the public face of my broad spiritual group, but it beats having no public face at all. Why not Derren Brown or Terry Pratchett? David Mitchell?)
posted by Wrinkled Stumpskin at 9:35 AM on January 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


RIP Douglas Adams.
posted by Artw at 9:38 AM on January 26, 2010


There has got to be a better way than this. Calling people frauds and charlatans or starry-eyed acolytes of the church of the white coat is no way to discuss anything.

Homeopaths sell water and sugar pills with no active ingredients whatsoever. They persuade people to buy their water and sugar pills by telling them that said water and sugar pills are not only treatments/cures for diseases, but are better than the treatments and cures which have actual empirical evidence of their efficacy. To reiterate: they sell products under false pretenses. That is fraud. They are con artists. Being too polite to mention that is monumentally disrespectful to the intelligence of, well, everyone, and allows con men and frauds to insist that they be given the same legitimacy as others.

It occurs to me that science IS argument from authority, of a sort.

No, it isn't. Argument by authority takes the form of "[x] said that it is so, therefore it is so." Science involves a huge process of experimentation and research and public publishing of the results. If you do not understand something about science, it's because you have not educated yourself. It's all out there for anybody with the intelligence and work ethic (and, let's admit, the resources) to learn it.

Is it worth convincing people that don't know or care about the scientific method that it is important, and works?

Yes, it's very important that people live in reality and use reliable, evidence-based methods to investigate reality. That you would even question this is baffling.

How can that best be accomplished?

While this is something that can be argued over, I'm pretty sure that treating viewpoints which execrate and disdain empiricism and reason as being perfectly valid, legitimate ways to approach reality isn't one of them.
posted by Pope Guilty at 9:44 AM on January 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


Durn Bronzefist: If "science" is missing out on your wonder cure, what is being done wrong? What is not being accounted for?

"A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it." -Max Planck
posted by parudox at 9:57 AM on January 26, 2010


(That's really in response to the science ideology in this thread, not any specific homeopathic wonder cure.)
posted by parudox at 10:02 AM on January 26, 2010


It occurs to me that science IS argument from authority, of a sort. Like everyone in the world, I don't understand 99.99% of science in detail. My statistics is rusty. If someone in a white coat claims to have found the Higgs boson, or a tumour in my lung, my only real way of evaluating the truth of their statement is to ask another authority.

Do you believe that, if you spent sufficient time educating yourself on any one issue "scientists" have reached consensus, or virtual consensus on, you would arrive at verifiable answers, even if the evidence in any given case is, as you would presently interpret it, unintelligible gobbledy-gook on a scope, in a bubble chamber, on a graph?

Do you see any difference between that and "most water isn't full of the potent after-effects of past substances because, uh, it wasn't titrated 'properly'". What's the principle behind proper titration? "... SCIENCE IS OPPRESSING ME!"

Knowing, and caring about, the difference between good and bad evidence, and rational connections between evidence and conclusions, is the basis for understanding the world. Even if you want to boil it down to a trust issue, ask yourself who has produced the vast majority of verifiable evidence about your world. Your priest? Your mother? The National Post? If you must rely on someone else's investigation into the evidence (and I agree: you must), then relying on those committed to evidence and reason is just as important. "Remember that time that scientist got it wrong? Therefore APPLES EQUAL UFOs" is not reason.

An argument from authority says "Forget the evidence; believe me." (good) Scientists say: "Don't take my word for it; here's the evidence."

That you choose to spend your time elsewhere does not mean that there isn't a vast difference between the two.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 10:32 AM on January 26, 2010 [4 favorites]


Pope G: Of course it's important that people use the scientific method to investigate reality, but is it so important that Flapjax admits that homeopathic medicine only appeared to help him? People go through life making deductions without double-blind studies every day. If you go to a restaurant and get a crap meal, you don't keep going until you have a statistically-significant result. Everyday life is a series of experiments that wouldn't pass peer review.

I can't see this in black-and-white terms. People take homeopathic medicine and feel better, so it's a big ask when you tell them to disregard their direct personal experience in favour of controlled studies.

I'm not going to argue about the argument from authority thing: it just seems to me that without a detailed understanding (which we don't have) of the research area, it's effectively saying "X did the correct rituals, and is a member of a respected institution, so what she says is true", and that that holds true for everyone, just more so for non-scientists. I'm not sure it's possible to persuade someone against their will that the scientific ritual is more correct than any other.

That, given that science continues to work when people don't believe in it anyway, leads me to question if it's a fool's errand to try. If it doesn't just make us look authoritarian and boorish.

Also, when I referred to "people" I was meaning the people involved in the discussion here, the arseholes making money off it are fair game - a social rather than a logical distinction.
posted by Wrinkled Stumpskin at 10:41 AM on January 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


Heh. "That you choose to" sounds like snark. That I choose, too! Hell, I'm spending time on Metafilter rather than following up on a thousand different interesting scientific findings. That wasn't a jab.

On preview: rituals are symbolic. A control group is not a ritual. An experimenter blind to which subjects are in which groups is not the waving of a crystal wand. Just because some people don't understand, nor care to understand, their purpose doesn't render them "rituals".

I don't know how to be any more plain than than that. It's like telling people if they want to drive their car, inserting their key is just a "ritual". Fuel? Ritual.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 10:47 AM on January 26, 2010 [4 favorites]


[bunch of comments removed "kiss my ass" is really not on okay way to be maintaining a healthy respectful discussion - go to metatalk or take a walk. sorry to those whose comments got caught in the crossfire.]
posted by jessamyn at 10:52 AM on January 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


"A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it." -Max Planck

That was Planck being unduly pessimistic. Yup, scientists are human, and can be bullheaded and stupid and yes, there are some famous cases of individual scientists being resistant to new theories. But we regularly see huge discoveries changing the way we think about things. Look at RNA: between non-ribosome ribozymes and RNAi, our understanding of the physiological role of RNA has undergone a huge revision in the past decade or two. You don't see many holdouts claiming RNA is only good for rRNA, mRNA, and tRNA these days, because the new theories are solid and supported by compelling evidence. That's science, working as it should.

I think there may be a bit more dogmatism when it comes to healthcare (rather than basic science), but to my mind, that's partly just the result of the fact that we simply don't understand the body as a whole nearly as well as we understand the biochemistry of many of its subcellular systems. Look at our complete confusion over nutrition, for example! When our understanding of a topic is in complete flux and there's no hugely compelling evidence for any one theory, I suspect it's easier for faith (in whatever theory you find most plausible) to fill the void. Doctors are only human, after all, and they can't delay making decisions about someone's health for a few years, even if there's not yet a solid consensus about how something works.

I really hope that we'll be make medicine more of a, well, science as we start to understand not just biochemistry but systems biology more, and as we get a better handle on how it all fits together.

it just seems to me that without a detailed understanding (which we don't have) of the research area, it's effectively saying "X did the correct rituals, and is a member of a respected institution, so what she says is true", and that that holds true for everyone, just more so for non-scientists.

That's the thing: if you're willing to meet with me daily for the next semester, I can give you a good basic understanding of genetics and the biochemistry of DNA and RNA synthesis, damage, and repair. We'll have to go through some dry textbooks, of course, but as long as you're willing to work at it, you can get that detailed understanding. And the same thing goes for all of science. You can verify for yourself - without being a "member of a respected institution" - that our understanding of things is more or less sound, and you can see where we're still trying to flesh things out, and you can understand why we call the things we do experiments rather than rituals. You can design some yourself, and reason through the things we do to make sure we're getting real results from those experiments. Science is challenging, but it's fundamentally transparent to anyone willing to put in some time and energy.

Compare that to homeopathy and some of the other less plausible sorts of alternative medicine: it's self-contradictory, it's subjective, there are many claims about how it works that you really can't verify, and results are really, really patchy. It is ritual, doing something because you believe it rather than because you can prove it; I can sit and read as much as I want, but nothing about "statistically there are no atoms of the active substance in this so-called medication" makes any sense to me when I'm trying to figure out how a tincture of something is supposed to work. Homeopathy is ritualistic and empty of any logical explanation in a way that science is not.
posted by ubersturm at 11:14 AM on January 26, 2010 [6 favorites]


DB: Missed that snark in the crossover :-) actually I chose to spend my time getting a science degree, and then went to work elsewhere. I am not disingenuously pretending that it is all equal - it isn't, to me. I was basically trying to take the heat out of the discussion, because it was going rapidly nowhere, and because I'd rather see advocacy than flames of rage. General sneering is not advocacy, and serves to make us feel better and look worse.

To put it another way, I don't see anyone changing their opinion on homeopathy on this thread - if one side is demonstrably right, and the other demonstrably wrong, then one side has seriously bad persuasive tactics. That dynamic is interesting to me.
posted by Wrinkled Stumpskin at 11:24 AM on January 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


Well, what do you want, exactly? You have to discard reason and empiricism in order to be a homeopath. Without the ability to go all Ghost of Christmas Future and physically rub their noses in the corpses of those who thought homeopaths were telling the truth about medical treatment, the only remaining tool is shame and social pressure, along with loudly eviscerating their arguments in the hopes that people who haven't made up their minds will be well exposed to the ins and outs of exactly why homeopaths' claims are wrong.
posted by Pope Guilty at 11:30 AM on January 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


the only remaining tool is shame and social pressure, along with loudly eviscerating their arguments

Does that work for you? It doesn't for me.
posted by small_ruminant at 11:44 AM on January 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


Well, what do you want, exactly?

If I had it all figured out, I wouldn't be participating in the discussion, honestly. The "other side" is not homogeneous, either, if it includes people saying "well, it worked for me, and that's good enough", people saying "my clients go away feeling better and that's the important thing", and people saying "buy my HOMEOPATHIC SCIENCE WATER for $15". Group three, sure, phasers off stun. But I don't think it's effective to treat everyone who isn't attacking all beliefs not backed by scientific evidence as enemies of reason. (mmmm, sooo many negatives)

There is the argument that the moderates enable the extremists, but I don't think that that justifies treating posters here as though they were peddling dummy cancer cures personally. Specifically I think it's both ineffective as a tactic and not the right thing to do, here or elsewhere.
posted by Wrinkled Stumpskin at 11:56 AM on January 26, 2010 [3 favorites]


That's cool, Wrinkled.

And thanks, ubersturm, for saying what I wanted to much better than I ever could.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 12:03 PM on January 26, 2010


If one side is demonstrably right, and the other demonstrably wrong, then one side has seriously bad persuasive tactics. That dynamic is interesting to me.

Well, one side gets to make shit up and tell you what you want to hear. I'd love to be able to spend 20 dollars to get a few pills that magically cure me of really bad things without any side effects. Science doesn't have a PR problem, reality has a PR problem. Entropy is a bitch; you are going to die.
posted by aspo at 1:57 PM on January 26, 2010 [4 favorites]


I'd love to be able to spend 20 dollars to get a few pills that magically cure me of really bad things without any side effects.

I believe I can help you with your problem. You've described your symptoms as "having twenty extra dollars", is that correct?
posted by electroboy at 2:07 PM on January 26, 2010 [4 favorites]


Alternative medicine sales soar as consumers shake off cynicism

Or as Ben Goldacre puts it "You'll never win: you argue with morons because it's interesting, no more "
posted by Artw at 2:08 PM on January 26, 2010


Schiller: "Against stupidity the gods themselves contend in vain."
posted by scody at 2:34 PM on January 26, 2010


Alternative medicine sales soar as consumers shake off cynicism

Okay, but that's a Daily Mail link. Daily Mail.
posted by small_ruminant at 3:08 PM on January 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


It occurs to me that science IS argument from authority, of a sort.

That's right, appeal to science is appeal to authority. Appeals to authority are often totally fine and perfectly epistemically respectable. Our level of knowledge about the would be impossible without a social division of epistemic labour, and the notion of authority is a great tool we've invented to ensure that this divvying up of labour goes smoothly. There are a lot of subtle issues on this point studied by philosophers of science and social epistemologists.

And yet, "appeal to authority" is always listed in those bad and hamfisted lists of argumentative fallacies you see online or in critical thinking texts. Those things are totally out-of-date. They're founded upon 2000-year-old guides to reasoning and ignore all sorts of discoveries in economics and social psychology. I hate them. Even ad hominem arguments have their place. Appeals to authority should be considered fallacies when you don't actually have evidence that the person you are appealing to is an authority, or when you treat the person as an authority in one subject when she is actually an authority in another. And even saying that is too clunky to be taken as anything more than a general guide.
posted by painquale at 3:17 PM on January 26, 2010 [4 favorites]


Yes, it's very important that people live in reality and use reliable, evidence-based methods to investigate reality.

I live in a very important cartoon and use an unreliable mallet to investigate the properties of cartoon heads.
posted by generalist at 3:24 PM on January 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


Unlike 'allopathy' which only seeks to treat the symptoms of the disease, homeopathy treats the cause of the disease. It does this by giving you a preparation of a substance (IE. the light of Venus or dolphin song) that has been rigorously 'proved' by homeopaths to cause similar symptoms to the disease. Do you see? It's treating the cause of the disease by identifying and treating the symptoms of that disease.

A very cogent point raised by someone, somewhere was: "what happens to the dilutions that aren't in the final solution?". For example, I'm creating a 20C dilution (veeery strong*) of Berlin Wall - I create my dilutions, "succussing" every time up to 19C, using my approved leather-covered board. From my 19C solution I take 1ml and dilute it with 99ml of purest, 100% H2O to create my 20C solution. Now, what do I do with the remaining 18.81 litres of solutions (with concentrations from the 'weak' 1C to the 'very strong' 19C)? If I throw it down the drain I am dumping a very powerful medicine into the water supply, where it will only get stronger the more it is diluted. I assume other 'mainstream' medicine producers have stringent controls on how they dispose of their drugs/by-products, shouldn't this powerful therapy also require similar controls?

Conveniently though, because Homeopathy has no deleterious side-effects and has been practised for around 200 years the sea contains every homeopathic remedy every produced, and at fantastically strong 'concentrations', therefore a drop of seawater, on a sugar pill, is sufficient to cure anyone of any disease... except, it seems, that scourge of mankind: skepticism.

* or dilute depending on your acceptance of the atomic theory of matter
posted by JustAsItSounds at 4:55 PM on January 26, 2010 [3 favorites]


Metafilter: Enemas and interpretive dance.
posted by Hairy Lobster at 6:56 PM on January 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


I just realized that I linked to two Michael Strevens articles in my comment above about appeals to authority. They're both good, but I meant for one of those links to go to Alvin Goldman's Standford Encyclopedia article on social epistemology.
posted by painquale at 5:42 PM on January 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


So, did they all drop dead from sugar pill overdose or did anyone even notice them?
posted by Burhanistan at 3:57 PM on January 31, 2010


Noone died, and press coverage was pretty comprehensive.
posted by edd at 4:04 PM on January 31, 2010


Current list of media coverage:
http://www.1023.org.uk/media-coverage.php
Beware the infinite loop.
posted by edd at 3:23 AM on February 1, 2010


"what happens to the dilutions that aren't in the final solution?"

Careful with that phrase.
posted by grubi at 7:55 AM on February 1, 2010


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