I recently ran across this 2009 article about a young woman who apparently tried to overdose on a homeopathic drug called “Traumeel.” I’m not trying to make light of a sad situation, but only to use this example to illustrate the widespread ignorance regarding homeopathy.
A good description of homeopathy was given by James Randi in his 2001 talk at Princeton:
Note the math lesson beginning at the five minute mark. Homeopaths argue that the more dilute a solution is, the more powerful it is. At the 7:30 mark, Randi explains that a “30X” solution is so dilute that it reaches the “number of no return.” “30X” is so dilute that it is the equivalent of placing 15 drops of water in a container more than 50 times the size of the Earth. Other homeopathic solutions are available in 1,500x solutions. How dilute is that? It’s the equivalent of (12:00) smashing one grain of rice into a sphere of water the diameter of the solar system, shaking it up, and then further diluting that same solution 2 billion more times in an equivalent sized sphere.
To bring the matter full circle, at the ten-minute Randi explains how he ate two entire packages of a popular homeopathic sleeping pill (sold at nationwide pharmacies) without overdosing. Believe it or not, the active ingredient was caffeine.
At 13:30, Randi characterizes the people who sell these “medicines” “swindlers, liars, cheats, frauds, fakes, criminals.”
For more on homeopathy, now used by five million people world-wide, consider the many statistics in my earlier post and consider viewing this video by Richard Dawkins. At the 3-minute mark, Dawkins wryly notes that if water really had “memory” of the ingredients it formerly contained (as fans of homeopathy contend), what should we make of the fact that “in each glass of water we drink, at least one molecule has passed through the bladder of Oliver Cromwell.” At the 5-minute mark, when discussing whether homeopathy theory is plausible, the Director of a brand new English hospital (who actually was trained as a rheumatologist) unleashes this whopper of a quote: “The fact is that I couldn’t stop what I do even if I wanted to. My patients wouldn’t let me. They say it helps.”
BTW, check out the not-so-impressive medical research by the manufacturer of Traumeel. The manufacturer’s recipe of a British narrator uttering big scientific words is featured in this video, and it is doubtless irresistible to many potential purchasers. Here’s a bit of much needed skepticism regarding Traumeel.
Whatever you do, don’t utter the word “placebo” to anyone who pays big money for these “medicines.”