If you were buying vodka and the sales guy told you there is very little alcohol in the fluid, indeed so little that you can’t pick it up on a breathalyser or any sensitive scanner, but, this fluid would still get you drunk, would you believe it? Probably not right? Welcome to homeopathy.
Homeopathy is a form of alternative medicine which hails from Germany. Samuel Hahnemann, its creator, came up with a theory called The Law of Similars. Homeowatch.org, which sounds like an anti-gay thing, is in fact the skeptics guide to homeopathy and I paraphrased from them here.
The Law of Similars or “like cures like”, states that substances that cause healthy people to get symptoms can cure diseases that have these symptoms. This idea is a form of “sympathetic magic” similar to the primitive idea that eating the heart of a lion will make a person brave. Drugs are therefore diluted. Heavily. Homeopaths call this process potentization. Dilution normally continues until none of the original substance remains.
Some homeopaths, like mine (I’ll explain later), tell you that it is this huge reduction or elimination of any true medicinal substance which makes the effect so much larger. In fact, the less of the substance you take, the more powerful its effects are. To me, that’s dangerous, because if you forget your meds you automatically have taken the highest dose possible, and you might die of an overdose.
So what they’re giving you is nothing. How do you heal? Well, enter Placebo. The Placebo effect is when a false medical treatment produces a healing, even though no actual medicine is given. It’s a great tool in drug approval tests and frequently scores high, sometimes better than the drug being tested itself, if you’re making a crap drug.
Placebo is also your brain revealing just how powerful it is. In Israel in 2004, 60% of physicians were found to be prescribing placebos, and this was seen as a way of “fending off requests for unnecessary medication” or to calm the patient. So it works, both in cases of traditional medicine, and in the case of homeopathy. However, medicine can explain and work with the placebo effect, whereas homeopathy just steals its thunder.
I say all this as someone who in the past did use a homeopathic practitioner. The treatment did feel like it was working, but after a bit of reading, I realised that my feeling better had nothing to do with the substances you don’t get, and everything to do with what the psychology world calls “therapist client relationship“. It’s a central tenet of Health Psychology and we know it works, in fact in the case of doctors we call it bedside manner. A gruff and bustled approach by your doctor is not going to make you feel better. On the other hand, a pleasant and low stress relationship with your therapist, be it a doctor, psychologist or homeopathic practitioner, will help you to feel better, but that little sugar granule isn’t going to cure your genital warts just yet.
Feel free to click and download the image in full size, especially if you want to ‘decorate’ some homeopath’s office with a few home truths.