Effectiveness of homeopathic remedies

  1. I work at Whole Foods and we sell quite a bit of homeopathic products. When I first started there a couple of years ago I had never heard of them, but a co-worker explained them as "amazing". So I went home and looked them up so that I could explain how they work to customers in case I was ever asked. After looking through several websites, it seems that these therapies have been diluted so much that they are essentially just water. The other part of the remedy usually contains some type of herb or other natural substance which is thought to cause minor symptoms similar to the one that the user is experiencing, thus curing the ailment on a larger scale. I also read somewhere that the ingredients are still based on century-old research from a German physician.
    (This pretty much sums up everything that I've found since looking it up:

    So needless to say, I'm not convinced that they do anything at all. I've read that James Randi, in an attempt to have them banned, swallowed a whole box of these pills that cautioned "do not consume more than four pills at a time", and of course nothing happened to him.

    The reason I raise the topic is that these products are HUGE sellers at my work. Am I missing something here? Many customers swear by them and are entirely convinced that they work. Has anybody tried them with any success? I would do it on my own, but I'm not willing to shell out money for what seems to be complete quackery.
  2. jcsd
  3. Pengwuino

    Pengwuino 6,942
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  4. HallsofIvy

    HallsofIvy 41,264
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    Also many people now-a-days have an unfortunate tendency to use "homeopathic" when they mean "naturopathic". The latter simply refers to using "natural" remedies- vitamins, herbs, etc. "Homeopathic", strictly speaking, derives from the observation that, if a person does, in fact, recover from a fever (with no treatment) what happens is that the fever "breaks"- it gets worse and worse and then suddenly abates, the patient recovering quickly after that. This led to the idea that one could force[/b\] the body to fight and cure a disease by making it worse- and that could be done by giving "medicine" that made the symptoms worse! (That is the genesis of the "homeo" part of "homeopathic"- you give the patient a medicine that is the same as what has caused the disease.)

    Of course, such a procedure is as likely to kill the patient as to cure him! That, in turn, led to homeopaths turning to very dilute solutions of such "medicine". So dilute, in fact, that one can show there must be less than one molecule of "medicine" in each dose! (Homeopathy developed before the "atomic" and "molecular" theories were accepted.) True "homeopaths" get around that by saying that the medicine left a "magnetic aura" in the solution even after all molecules were gone.
  5. ideasrule

    ideasrule 2,315
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    The U.S. government does not require homeopathic quackery to undergo clinical testing, so as HallsofIvy pointed out, many products fradulently claim to be "homeopathic" but do have an active ingredient. Such products are extremely harmful; Zicam, a so-called "homeopathic" cold remedy, destroyed many users' sense of smell before the FDA issued a warning against its use.

    I seriously think that selling quackery like this is insanely profitable. I mean, think about it: I can just buy a bunch of tiny glass vials, fill them up with distilled water, and sell them for the same price as regular medicine! Real pharmaceutical companies have to do tons of scientific research to discover a new medicine and years of clinical testing to establish safety and effectiveness; all of that costs a fortune. I can simply fill up a vial with tap water and sell it; no research required whatsoever!
  6. Just remember to put a bit of colouring in it, ideasrule, and add a dash of bitter flavouring.
  7. Moonbear

    Moonbear 11,955
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    You've just made the same error Halls tried to caution about. Products like Zicam are NATUROpathic, not homeopathic. With homeopathic remedies, it is just water and entirely useless. With naturopathic (a.k.a. herbal supplements), the danger is that the industry is not regulated. This means that if the product does actually have an effective ingredient (some do, some don't), it likely has not undergone any clinical trials to test its safety or to determine if there are other drug interactions with it, and nobody is checking quality control to make sure the doses in the actual product are consistent (this is especially relevant with an herb that might have different amounts of a compound depending on how it is grown, or what time of year, or how long it has sat around since harvest).

    With naturopathic remedies, people using them are usually choosing them under the misguided assumption that natural means safe. It really only takes a moment of reflection about all the inedible plants that can be dangerous to consume to realize this assumption is incorrect.

    With homeopathic remedies, people using them are usually under the misguided assumption that there's actually something in them other than water. If the premise of homeopathy were true, one would need go no further than to drink tap water to cure them of anything that might ail them, since the water coming out of the tap has been exposed to all sorts of things that have been diluted out to undetectable amounts.
  8. Further, modern homeopathy claims that water has "memory" and therefore doesn't require the presence of the original substance (which itself may be questionable in terms of efficacy) because of water's "memory" capabilities.
  9. ideasrule

    ideasrule 2,315
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    AFAIK, Zicam itself claims to be homeopathic. My point was that this claim is fradulent; it does contain an active ingredient, and this ingredient managed to cause permanent loss of smell in many users.

    Are you sure that naturopathic drugs are not regulated by the government? It makes sense for homeopathic drugs to get some slack since they're just water, but it would be quite an outrage if drugs that can cause irreparable harm aren't regulated.
  10. Well that study linked by Pengwuino basically wiped out our entire "medicine" department. Fortunately I transferred departments, so I don't really have to sell that garbage anymore. I was usually pretty blunt about what I've read and told customers that it's basically just water, but they still end up buying it and thanking me. I guess I'm just a really good saleswoman. =D

    I also think this is worth mentioning, just for amusement.

    I don't think it's truly homeopathic, but the description uses the word anyway. I found these while just walking around on shift one day. I'm not really sure what they are supposed to do, but I recall reading that they contain 30% alcohol or something like that. And oddly, these are huge sellers as well. It is definitely a profitable business.
  11. I dont know what medicines the TS is referring to, but in India there are a lot of natural cures which are pushed as homeopathic actually originate from the ayurveda and are quite effective. A lot of them are quite frankly practical and do work, but they are herbal remedies and I have seen them being prepared from scratch. I dont know the remedies (I've never prepared them), but I'll try and find some. One example is a preparation of honey, pepper and some other herbs against cold... I guess its the Indian equivalent of chicken soup.
  12. But we're talking about homeopathic remedies which are so diluted that they could not have any medicinal effect. It might be true that there are some natural remedies that have a health benefit, but they aren't extremely diluted and so by definition are not homeopathic products.
  13. Your discussion on homeopathy is laughable!

    You still don't know what homeopathy means and what it is to be homeopathic.

    I have seen very serious disease cured with homeopathy.

    While you guys are popping prevacid I had my reflux cured with homoepathy.

    While you down tons of dangerous antibiotics into your children I have cured every infection my kids had with homeopathy once I learned, including a very serious one that the doc said would take a long trail of antibioitics and steroids to over come, and that was after 6 rounds of antibiotics that had failed to work.

    A dear friend had a parasitic disease acquired in Israel cured by homeopathy in just a couple of days while the medical doctors did nothing for him for 4 years!

    My sons scoliosis was cured, thats curvature of the spine documented with x ray due to homeopathy. He never received any other treatment.

    My neighbor comes to me for homeopathic care for broken bones. He has broken two bones in the last couple of years. Homeopathy is better for pain relief of broken bones than narcotics.

    I treated a young woman with a very serious fracture to her foot. She had no money or insurance. The docs said she needed surgery. They put a brace on her leg and sent her home. She took remedies and continued to work on her feet, 12 hour shifts as a CNA. She was pain free with homeopathy. 4 weeks later she felt well enough to want to take the brace of. She went back to the doc and he took an xray. He couldn't believe it. It was well healed, this fracture they wanted to do surgery on...in FOUR WEEKS!

    The very best homeopath I ever went to was head cardiologist as Texas Southwestern Medical School... a very serious and responsible man who was driven by results not magic or placebo effect.

    You sit around and criticize what you know not know and you think your so dam smart. For those who use homeopathy you look just like dam fools.
    Last edited: Jul 9, 2009
  14. Ivan Seeking

    Ivan Seeking 12,122
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    Provide evidence in an appropriate scientific journal supporting your claims. Or are you suggesting that there is some kind of grand conspiracy to keep homeopathy a secret? Millions of researchers have all hidden the truth so as to prosper by their evil deceptions?
  15. ideasrule

    ideasrule 2,315
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    Things like this make my blood boil. If somebody wants to believe that Earth is flat, that medical research is a sin against god, or that a magic man in the sky created the Earth, that's fine; I just view such a person as a crank or a fool. However, when these cranks and fools risk their children's lives by withholding modern medical treatment, they're injuring and potentially killing others. That's as good a remainder as any of why fighting crackpottery tooth and nail is so important.

    All you've offered, Arrowwind, is anecdotes. Everybody knows that coincidences are commoplace; considering how many events happen every day, statistics demand the presence of what seems like patterns but are actually random coincidences. To prove homeopathy is effective, controlled clinical trials must be done. Many have been, and they prove that homeopathic medicine is as worthless as water.
  16. homeopathy really works. That is my experience. But macro level science can not explain the truthfulness of the homeopathy. I think nano technology or quantum physics can exlain it. When you are able to accept the interaction between the subatommic particles such as neutrinos and anti neutrinos which seem to have nether mass nor charge why not accept the homeopathy as such?
  17. Pengwuino

    Pengwuino 6,942
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    What are you talking about? Do you even know what any of that means? You just threw a bunch of sciencey terms together and hit submit I think.
  18. Ivan Seeking

    Ivan Seeking 12,122
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    If it really works, then by your own accounting it could easily be demonstrated to work in appropriate scientific testing. Since after all of this time there is there is no evidence supporting the claims, there is nothing to explain. We only need a theory if we have reliable evidence to explain. Unlike claimed observations of ghosts and UFOs, claims like your should be repeatable, thus they can be tested. They have been tested and they hold no water.
  19. ideasrule

    ideasrule 2,315
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    Let me make this clear: quantum physics does not predict that vials of distilled water labelled "homeopathic remedy" are better than vials of distilled water not labelled as such in treating diseases.
  20. I am afraid that your tone of replying is a bit harsh, unrefined and quite annoying. This is only the forum to share views of people. I don't know what homeopathy has to do with physics forum at all. I think it is highly irresponsible to belittle an alternate form of a world renowned medical system developed by a genius Dr. Hahneman, who himself was an allopath earlier. When people all over my area were suffering from the deadly disease “chickengunia’ and took the allopathic antibiotics and costly painkillers and recovered from "chickengunia" but continued to suffer from new side effects such as irreparable back pain for more than a year, a three-dose homeopathic preventive medicine kept away our entire family and friends from the attack the disease itself. When I was suffering from some serious urinary problem a few years back, I was foot-balled from one specialist to another, making me under go all costly diagnostic tests one after another for nearly six months without giving any treatment at all. Finally they simply told me that they could not find any thing abnormal in me and all my system is clinically alright. I spent nearly ten thousand rupees with these modern medical stalwarts and at the end of the ordeal I was simply left with the same suffering as at the beginning. Then only a leading homeopath came to my rescue and he prescribed the medicine "Sabal sarrulata" for a six months simply based on symptoms, I suffered and whether You believe or not, I was completely cured of my problems and leading a healthy life till today.
    George Bernard Shaw hailed homeopathy in the preface of one of his plays. Mahatma Gandhi was a great admirer of this system of medicine. In India, in the two Marxist ruled states Kerala and West Bengal homeopathy is encouraged as a people's medicine by the state governments themselves. I have practically experienced myself that a single dose of "Phodophylum-30" immediately stops diarrhea without collapsing the stomach, "calendula" in no time heals wounds caused by the cuts without any trace of scar. What about the wonderful healing power of the drug "cantharis" in dealing with the burns caused by the fires.
    Reality speaks. Proof comes always later. You can't kill a patient, just because each medicine does not carry a mathematical proof tied around its neck.
    When Volta dipped two dissimilar metals, say, copper and zinc in dilute sulphuric acid, and observed the flow of current when connected externally, in the early nineteenth century, no body could explain the phenomenon. They knew nothing about electrons at that time.
    Explanation came only in the latter half of the twentieth century. Even now, many physical and chemical phenomenons has not been fully understood and explained. Physicists are yet to explain convincingly as to why certain metals exhibit positive Thomson effect and certain others negative Thomson effect.
    A patient demands only cure, not an explanation. Explanation is the headache of the academic pundits and theory-sticking puritans.
    I am not adamantly for any particular form medicinal system. What I want to stress that every medicinal system has its merits and demerits and their limitations. When one system ends another system begins.
    When you argue that a substance without "even a molecule of medicine" can not protect a patient, with the same line you can argue that a substance that contains over dose of hazardous chemicals and others could permanently damage the immune system of a patient beyond repair. How many antibiotics had been prescribed earlier in massive scale and later on hurriedly withdrawn or banned at a later stage, after some body proves against them in some international conference of doctors some where? What about the plight of the patients to whom the same medicines had been administered by these same experts earlier?
    What about the irreversible damage that was caused to them? Can those poor patients sue these expert-try doctors for playing havoc in their lives for trying these new drugs without testing their side effects?
    Finally, let any discussion by healthy, decent and intellectual without bias.
    I am a physics teacher and very well know the meaning of the scientific terms I used. Perhaps the said member could not correctly catch the context in which I used those terms!
  21. Sorry, by mistake my same reply has appeared three times. Kindly bear with me. Please take
    only one reply and ignore the repetitions. As there was some problems in the display of my computer. I had to upload my reply three times.
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