Thursday, June 7, 2012

Homeopathy

"There's a sucker born every minute." - David Hannum

I'll admit it- I was one of those suckers.  This past winter, Makayla had a cold and cough. There was no reason to go to the doctor in my opinion, but she said her throat hurt when she coughed so I went to the drug store and looked for some cough medicine. Unfortunately everything there was for children over the age of 4-6 (she's 3). Everything except so called homeopathic remedies. I bought Hyland's Cough Syrup 4 Kids and gave it to her. She said it tasted good but she coughed for the rest of the day. I noticed no improvement in her symptoms until two days later when she gradually started getting better. Makayla does not get sick very often, in fact she's never been to the doctor for a sick visit. She gets two or three colds a year that clear up fairly quickly so I hardly ever have cause to think about medication for her.

Today I was perusing Science Based Medicine because I'm kind of obsessed with it at the moment and I love finding out about things I didn't know. So today I picked homeopathy to look into. I read it and said "Wow, I'm an idiot" because honestly I was completely ignorant of what homeopathy really is.

Homeopathy is the practice of treating "like with like". Basically the "premise" behind it is that you can cure illness by treating it with extremely dilute concentrations of what made you sick. For example, treating lead poisoning with an extremely dilute concentration of lead.  After I read that I knew that this whole thing was nothing but shenanigans. THEN I read HOW dilute. This is the process for creating a 6X HPUS homeopathic dilution:
  1. Fill a 100mL container with the mother tincture
  2. Dump it out
  3. Fill the container with water
  4. Shake it
  5. Dump it out
  6. Repeat 2 more times
The dilution of the "potentized" liquid will be 10^(-6) or  0.000001:1. Seriously, that is absurdly small. The irony of that is that this is a relatively strong dilution in the world of homeopathy. One of the most common nostrums is that of oscillococcinum. First off- oscillococcus don't exist. In the 1919 flu epidemic a physician who did not understand that artifacts on the slide, probably bubbles, move randomly due to Brownian motion.  Looking at the tissues of flu patients with a microscope, he  found what he thought was not only the cause of influenza, small cocci (round balls) that oscillated under the microscope.  He found these wiggling bubbles in all the tissues of all the ill people he examined and thought he discovered the true cause of all disease. He is the only person, before or since, to see these oscillating cocci. So to make oscillococcinum take the heart and liver of a duck and stick it in a bottle with pancreas goo and sugar. Wait for 40 days until it autolyzes into a goo. Then dump it out. Refill with water. Shake it. Repeat 200 times. 200 TIMES! The final dilution of this solution would be 10^(-400). That is a decimal point, 399 zeros and a 1. To put that in perspective there are about 10^80 molecules in the entire universe. So to find one molecule of duck goo in this solution you need to have 4 more universes to look in. This will cure the flu.

So let's look at a popular homeopathic remedy that I see advertised in my parenting magazines frequently. Hyland's Teething Tablets

The ingredients used in this product are:
  • Calcarea Phosphorica 6X HPUS: teething, dentition
  • Chamomilla 6X HPUS: irritability
  • Coffea Cruda 6X HPUS: sleeplessness
  • Belladonna 12X HPUS: redness and inflammation
in a base of Lactose (or sugar)

Calcarea Phosphorica is calcium phosphate
Chamomilla is chamomile
Coffea Cruda is unroasted coffee beans
Belladonna is Death Cherries or Deadly Nightshade

I'm going to go ahead and point out that obviously there are none of these in the actual product. But Belladonna is Deadly Nightshade- a POISONOUS plant. Eat it and you die. In a product for babies. Makes perfect sense. So basically these are sugar pills or placebos. So the only effect you could possibly get from them would be a placebo effect in which you have convinced yourself that it is working so it is.

What really pisses me off about these products is that they are sold as medicine, right next to the real medicine when they are anything but.

So to sum up- homeopathy is complete bullshit. The more you know...