Treating cancer can be gruelling, and patients often suffer side effects as a result of modern treatments. This is because it is very difficult to accurately target drugs or radiotherapy specifically to cancer cells. And because these treatments have powerful biological effects on cells, there is an inherent risk that healthy cells may also be damaged, causing side effects.
This week saw the publication of a comprehensive review of clinical trials investigating whether homeopathy can help with the side effects of cancer.
The review showed that homeopathic treatments did not interfere with cancer therapy. But with the exception of two specific treatments (at least one of which, it could be argued, is not truly homeopathic), there was no convincing evidence that homeopathy helped with the side effects.
However, some headlines gave a different impression – for example “Homeopathy ‘eases cancer therapy’” or “Homeopathy appears compatible with cancer therapy”.
Let’s take a closer look at the story to find out what’s really going on.
What is homeopathy?
Homeopathy is a form of alternative or complementary medicine that was first developed back in the 18th century.
The most commonly understood idea behind it is that the patient is treated with extremely diluted solutions of substances that would cause effects on the body similar to the symptoms of the disease. Usually, these solutions are so dilute that there are effectively no molecules of the original substance left in the water.
It’s a quaint idea, but there is no plausible scientific explanation as to how homeopathy might actually have a biological effect on the body. There are plenty of stories from people who have used it to find relief from various conditions, but there is no scientifically robust evidence to show that homeopathy works any better than a placebo (dummy treatment).
And, as you might expect, the most commonly held explanation for how homeopathy works is through the placebo effect.
Who did the review?
The new review comes from the highly respected Cochrane Collaboration. This is an international non-profit organisation producing expert reviews of scientific evidence for the benefits (or not) of medical treatment, from heart disease to cancer to tooth decay, and everything in between.
They scrutinise conventional medical treatments alongside alternative and complementary therapies, aiming to provide doctors worldwide with the latest information about the most effective treatments.
In this review, experts (who were from the field of homeopathy and complementary medicine) pulled together the results of as many randomised controlled clinical trials as they could find where homeopathy had been tested for the relief of cancer treatment side effects. The experts did not include trials that did not stand up to scientific scrutiny – for example, they were biased, or did not include controls.
In total, they found just eight suitable trials – seven comparing homeopathy with a placebo, and one testing it against an active (i.e. medical) treatment – with a total of 664 patients. Three trials looked at the side effects of radiotherapy, three looked at the side effects of chemotherapy, and two studied menopausal symptoms (such as hot flushes) that can be brought on by certain breast cancer treatments.
What did they find?
Out of the eight trials, just two gave positive results for homeopathy that were unlikely to be the result of bias or flawed methods. In the highest quality study, scientists found that an ointment containing an extract of calendula, a type of marigold, could prevent skin irritation caused by radiotherapy in a trial of 254 patients. The trial showed that it was more effective than the conventional cream, called trolamine.
It is important to point out that it is doubtful whether the calendula ointment is a typical homeopathic treatment, as it is not highly diluted. Remember that homeopathic remedies are almost always just water – they effectively contain none of the original substance. So the calendula ointment is more like a herbal treatment, which may well contain biologically active chemicals.
And the trial wasn’t blinded, as there was a significant difference in the smell, colour and texture of the calendula treatment compared with trolamine. In blind trials, neither the patients nor the researchers know which treatment someone is getting. This avoids biasing the results, whether intentionally or not.
In another study of only 32 patients, researchers found that a dilute herbal mouthwash called Traumeel S was more effective at relieving mouth inflammation (stomatitis) in children undergoing bone marrow transplants for cancer, compared with a salt water mouthwash.
Although this study was blinded, and there was no difference in taste or colour between the two treatments, this study was very small. According to the Cochrane review, researchers are currently repeating the study to see if the results are the same, and also testing Traumeel S in a patients receiving radiotherapy for head and neck cancers.
Perhaps the most striking – and underplayed – conclusion of the review is that there is a severe lack of high-quality studies into homeopathy. Given that conventional medicine seems to have no problem designing scientifically rigorous clinical trials that demonstrate whether a particular treatment works or not, it is notable that so few have been done for homeopathy.
It is not for lack of money. Homeopathy is big business, particularly in countries like Germany. Yet there is a distinct lack of scientific evidence that the treatment actually works in its own right, as opposed to merely being a placebo. Nor is it for a lack of time. Homeopathy has been around for centuries, and yet there is still no strong scientific evidence that it works.
It is also disappointing that many of the news reports have gone for the angle that homeopathic treatments do not interfere with conventional cancer therapy. Surely the important part of the story is that the treatments don’t work, not that ineffective, highly diluted treatments (unsurprisingly) don’t interfere with chemotherapy or radiotherapy.
This is not a dismissal of all complementary therapies for relieving the side effects of cancer treatment. There are a few areas where scientifically solid studies have shown benefits for patients.
For example, we’ve previously blogged about a Cancer Research UK-funded study of aromatherapy massage for relieving anxiety and depression in people with cancer. And we are also currently funding a trial to find out if acupuncture can help to relieve severe mouth dryness caused by radiotherapy for head and neck cancers.
The important thing to note is that these treatments are prepared to stand up to scrutiny in rigorously-designed clinical trials. And there is significant evidence that they may bring benefits to patients – otherwise we wouldn’t be funding them.
In the case of homeopathy – as understood to mean treatment with extremely diluted solutions – there is simply no evidence that it works, either to treat disease or to relieve the side effects of conventional cancer medicine. And the scientific explanation behind the therapy is deeply flawed.
Scientists and doctors have put a lot of effort into developing ways to reduce the side effects of cancer treatment. For example, we recently opened our new Radiation Oncology and Biology Institute in Oxford, where researchers are developing ways to target radiotherapy more precisely to tumours.
Our drug development programmes are focusing on “smart” drugs that target the faulty molecules and biological pathways within cancers, steering clear of healthy cells. And increasingly scientists are investigating how an individual’s genetic makeup affects the effectiveness of their treatment, allowing it to be tailored more precisely, reducing side effects.
We acknowledge that it is important to consider the side effects of conventional cancer treatment, and work towards relieving or removing them as far as possible. But the only effective way to do this is through therapies that have been proven to work. And, as this review shows, this isn’t the case for homeopathy.
PS This story has been covered on a number of science blogs, including Quackometer and Neurologica.
The pdf version of the review is available online.
Kassab S, et al. (2009). Homeopathic medicines for adverse effects of cancer treatments. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. , CD004845
Pommier, P. et al (2004). Phase III Randomized Trial of Calendula Officinalis Compared With Trolamine for the Prevention of Acute Dermatitis During Irradiation for Breast Cancer Journal of Clinical Oncology, 22 (8), 1447-1453 DOI: 10.1200/JCO.2004.07.063
Oberbaum, M. et al. (2001). A randomized, controlled clinical trial of the homeopathic medication TRAUMEEL s� in the treatment of chemotherapy-induced stomatitis in children undergoing stem cell transplantation Cancer, 92 (3), 684-690 DOI: 10.1002/1097-0142(20010801)92:33.0.CO;2-#
K Datta December 14, 2010
I honestly pity the young gentleman from Bronx (my erstwhile romping ground) that the first thing he had to endure in his research was John Benneth’s crazy screed. I would direct him to Science Based Medicine, David Colquhoun’s Improbable Science site, as well as the Quackometer, for getting acquainted with a more comprehensive idea about what Homeopathy truly represents.
nIgGaFrOmDaBrOnX June 22, 2009
Yo, everybody! Mr. Siddali got me doin a research paper on the Homeopathic Controversy for a summer chemistry class at my high school here in New York, and I won’t to know if anybody can tell me if this thing below is what that guy up theres talking about, like the memory of water thing, you know… I’m just tryin to make sense of who’s sayin what in all this debate, you know. Damn, this stuff is crazy complicated! LOL! Thx, brothas!
Dielectric Breakthrough for Homeopathy
by John Benneth
The critic’s hypothesis
For decades critics of homeopathy who have failed to properly research
their subject have insisted that theoretically there can be no physical
differences between homeopathic aqueous preparations and plain water, and
that the action of these substances on human beings can be only that of
The critics have insisted that the preparation process of homeopathic
medicines removes all active ingredients from the water in which they are
made. Theoretically, one gram of any substance contains 6.06 x 10 to the
28th power number of molecules. Diluting a substance, ink, for example,
in water at one tenth of its previous concentration and doing this 23
times leaves only six molecules of ink left in the water. It inspires the
question in this example then that at the 24th dilution, how is it that
the solution can contain a piece of an ink “particle” that retains the
characteristics of ink?
Further dilutions beyond the 23rd can leave only a fraction of a
molecule. This contradicts a vaguely held notion in physics of the
non-specificity of the sub atomic field.
Crude observations of our ink in water dilution “mixture” reveal
nothing more than distilled water. However, sophisticated observations
reveal that when the dilutions have been interspersed with a process of
mechanical shock, called “succussion”, the water, as we shall see, is
left with a dramatic imprint of the vacated ink, becoming a water/ink
If the loudest critics of homeopathy . . . the self proclaimed
skeptics who insist that homeopathic medicine is nothing more than the
use of placebos . . . IF they had studied the literature of homeopathy
research they would have found many studies to confound their theories
and null hypothesis.
Is this then why homeopathy is only attacked on a theoretical basis,
and discussion of reports of the hard science research of the type that
follows is left out of their attacks? Perhaps the key to homeopathy’s
long life is because whenever an intelligent, open minded and reasonable
investigation is made of it, it bears the examination and quiets the
obloquy, leaving only those who do not make such reasonable
These are the people who make their opinions prior to their inquiry.
Given that opponents of homeopathy who choose not to examine the evidence
for its efficacy have only theory and an offensive manner to use in
support of their argument, they are left to rail about the lack of common
sense of homeopathy’s proponents.
Typically, when such people are confronted with what follows, they
fall silent on the subject with little more to say other than to admit a
confession that they actually know very little about homeopathy. Their
attacks are relevant only to the virtue of the players, not to the truth
of the matter. And this is what distinguishes them as statement bearing
cynics from inquiry making skeptics.
Comprehensive testing has been accomplished
Studies have been made using the techniques of physics to show that
there are physical differences between homeopathic preparations and plain
water. Tests made on plants and animals show the reactions of living
organisms to homeopathic solutions, destroying the placebo hypothesis.
In this paper we look specifically at one physical measure of
homeopathic solutions, the dielectric stress measure or test (DSM) on
serially agitated dilutions (SADs). It is not the only physical measure
of homeopathic substances, but it has been selected here because it has
been studied exhaustively, uses relatively simple and inexpensive
technology, has passed double blind tests and has survived replications.
SADs is the term we will use to refer to the active constituent of
these mysterious preparations most often referred to as homeopathic
It is our hope that this report will assist in demonstrating the
efficacy and physical reality of homeopathic medicine. We can only
speculate as to why homeopathic research is not cited more often in the
discussion of the topic. It appears that disbelief of the phenomenon
fuels arguments that rest only on theory and keep cynics at bay from
acknowledging the known physical measures of homeopathic remedies.
Dance the dielectric
In 1951 Alphonse Gay of Lyon, France first reported that SADs have
dielectric stress indices (DSI).
Dielectric stress is a measure of the resistance of a particular
material to conduct electricity. The conductivity of water at high purity
is extremely low when compared with impure water, such as water
containing dissolved electrolytes, so water as a test material serves us
well in this inquiry, as we are compelled to study the question of what
characteristics in water are created by the SAD process.
The DSM then is a study of a material’s “puncture voltage”, (PV) the
point, measured in volts, at which a connection is made between two
electrodes placed in the test solution.
The dielectric stress test for homeopathic solutions
Using the DSM, Gay demonstrated that SADs have dielectric indices
which differ from their vehicles, the distilled water in which they are
made. He showed the DSM for a particular SAD is specific for the
substance in dilution as well as for the degree of dilution.
The DSI for ink, then, would differ from that of saline, or mercuric
chloride. We suspect that the differences become even more profoundly
anomalous within a time space relation for the same substance tested at
different times, quantities and places.
In 1952 Gay reported a continuation of his work with Jean Boiron.
They reported a series of exhaustive investigations they made into the
DSI of SADs.
In a comparison of the capacitance of distilled water and a SAD of
sodium chloride, put through identical stages of dilutions to 10-60th
(60x), both dilutions revealed sinusoidal curves in their DSI’s which
approximated each other fairly closely except that at 10-26th,10-38th and
10-54th they were in direct opposition!
OHMS NEED NOT APPLY
Gay and Boiron concluded that “Ohms law is not applicable” for SADs.
“The electrical resistance is not linear for frequencies between 1.050
and 2.650 periods per second.”
The Gay and Boiron double blind test
In spite of even more sophisticated measures than the DSM, given the
amount of resistance to and disbelief in homeopathic research we have
found that a half a century later we can imagine the acrimonious reaction
to Gay and Boiron’s report. Perhaps to answer the reports that they were
making up their results, Gay and Boiron staged a double blind
demonstration in which they would select a flask containing a SAD of
sodium chloride diluted one tenth 54 times from six other flasks
containing distilled water. They scored perfectly, finding the correct
flask without any trouble in 100 out of 100 attempts.
American team replicates the dielectric test
The DSM was repeated again in 1966 by Albert Brucato, M. SC., of
Norfolk, MA and James Stephenson, M.D. of NY., NY Although Gay and Boiron
used a modified galvanometer, Brucato and Stephenson used a 50 KV AC
Dielectric Tester, and reported on a DSI of mercuric chloride.
Their investigation was a DSM of mercuric chloride (MC) and 33 SADs
of it in distilled water. They reported on eight series of tests that
gave them a peak, low and average for the MC and it’s 33 SADs.
Here are the results for the first six dilutions:
Brucato-Stephenson Dielectric Stress Test of
Serially Agitated Dilutions of Mercuric Chloride
The puncture voltage for distilled water in these tests
is 6.0 kilovolts
Dilution Average Peak Low puncture voltage (KV)
1x 2.41 2.45 2.40
2x 2.52 2.65 2.45
3x 3.05 3.05 3.05
4x 3.28 3.50 3.20
5x 3.75 3.90 3.70
6x 4.20 4.20 4.20
We can see that the average puncture voltage for the first six
dilutions (1x to 6x) that they tested increases steadily. Their scale
shows that the average PV for a 1x dilution is 2.41, the peak 2.45 and
the low 2.40 kilovolts . As the mercury electrolyte is removed in each
subsequent stage of dilution, the PV rises steadily as we would expect to
a 4.20 KV average at the sixth dilution (6x).
During this sequence there is not anything anomalous to report on,
except for an odd coincidence at 3x, where the average, peak and low PVs
are EXACTLY the same, 3.05 KV. At 1x there was a .05 KV spread, and at
4x there was a .30 KV spread. At 2x there is a spread of .20 KV between
the peaks and the lows. And then what happened at 3x happens again at
6x, where the average, peak and low PV is exactly the same 4.20 KV, a
Perhaps there is an inconsistency in the equipment. But in eight
tests of the same potency, one would expect to find the same kind of
fluctuations and spreads as in other potencies. It is highly improbable
then that the meter ALWAYS reads 3.05 when 3x is tested in a series,of
which there were eight, so each dilution was tested eight times, and
circumstances would have allowed for plenty of “slop”, operator or
machine inconsistency or error so as to expect varying results when
testing a particular diltuion in run from 1 to 33.
So when during two of the six dilutions representing 16 of the 48
separate tests done in this segment we find a sudden consistency, that
for some unknown reason the test circumstance, operator and machine
variables became consistent, or that at q particular dilution there are
no dimorphic differences from one test example to another, we begin to
suspect thta the machine and operator are not the reason for the
inconsistency of readings at some potnecies and consistency at others.
Still nothing worthy of great surprise, although it does forebode
something, as these sudden consistencies were found at other diltions up
as high as 31.An anomalous pattern is beginning to emerge, as we shall
soon see. But this is quickly overshadowed by what happens next.
THE SEVENTH DILUTION
When we get to the seventh dilution (7x) something very strange
happens. The average, peak and low PV for the 7x mercury chloride
amazingly drops .20 KV to 3.95 KV across the board, almost what it was at
Dilution Average Peak Low puncture voltage (KV)
7x 3.95 3.95 3.95
At this point physics has been stood on its head. By the record of
the previous incline, the puncture voltage at 7x should average 4.5 KV,
but the PV has dropped more than half a kilovolt off its projected
And then, as if to doubly make the point, the eighth dilution
reveals exactly the same results.
8x 3.95 3.95 3.95
For the rest of the eight series that total 216 more tests of
dilutions ranging up to 33x, the results form into a pattern of a
sinusoidal curve, the PV rising and dropping, never going above a peak of
4.40 KV at 15X. After that point the sinusoid plots downward, achieving
the lowest PV resistance of 3.15 KV at 26x, 28x and 30 x dilutions.
Dielectric testing of SADs is remarkable because at dilutions above
24x there theoretically can be no more molecular content of the mercuric
chloride (MC) left in the water, yet the water is acting dielectrically
as if it is at a molecular concentration of MC lower than 4x. We can
speculate then that the structure of the water itself has changed to act
as if it actually carries the molecules of the governing MC substance
Have water polymers formed electrical channels to conduct electricity?
A dilution of 10 to the third power (3x) of a particular substance,
depending on its individual characteristics, is still enough to be
detected by human senses.
Let us take a moment to contemplate the drama of these results. Not
only is the SAD process challenging the notion of the non-specificity of
the subatomic field, it is giving us a flirting glance at what may be a
kind of alchemy. We have seen that by artifice the characteristics of
one substance, the water, has been altered by the passage through it of
another, the mercury chloride, leaving the waterpure in its molecular
content yet transformed into something else measurably distinct from
other waters, even though its characteristics may be transitive or easily
The SAD process is not a natural one, and there is evidence that
homeopathy’s founder, Samuel Hahnemann, discovered the process in ancient
alchemical texts while working as a translator in a Transylvanian medical
What would have happened if Brucato and Stephenson had continued to
test the dielectric stress of dilutions much higher than their limit of
33x? Although the results pattern themselves into a sinusoidal curve, we
can see that it appears to be dropping from a high of 4.40 at 15x to a
low of 3.15 KV at 30x.
Let us underline the results here. By using a homeopathic
preparation of mercuric chloride researchers were able to almost halve
the electrical resistance of water! Common theory demands that the water
that tested at a dilution of 30x have a puncture voltage of six (6)
kilovolts, since it is theoretically pure of contaminstion by MC at this
point, but it nevertheless tested at only 3.15 KV!
These researchers are also telling us that different substances have
different puncture voltages. Are they suggesting that there may be
susbtances that would render even lower puncture voltages?
Could a string of water particles be impregnated with information
that could be read at a later time? Isn’t this exactly what homeopathy
has been suggesting to us? What implications does this have for the
The theory may arise that the mechanical shock used in the SAD
manufacture process invokes more air into the water and this is what is
decreasing the water’s resistance. However, Gay and Boiron tested dilutes
of salt against dilutes of pure water and were able to obtain a
difference. The question still remains as to what the relaxation time,
if any , there is for water. How does mechanical shock alone affect the
From the data we have the notion that added air may affect the PV
still does not explain the differences between one dilution and the
another. Between the peaks and lows of the results one can see a pattern
emerging, especially at the higher potencies that the air thoery could
not account for.
At some potentially projected higher dilution the dielectric
qualities of the water may go even lower than the beginning dilution,
although we expect a second curve to emerge over a greater number of
dilutions. There is no limit to how high the dilutions may go, some
scales going as high as the millions.
We are further intrigued by the consequences this may have for other
applications. What does it mean for scientific, industrial or commercial
applications to lower the electrical resistance of water yet maintain its
It spawns other questions. What happens when a dilute of hydrogen
peroxide is put through this process? Could the SAD process kick another
oxygen particle into the water if given a chance to create hydrogen
peroxide out of plain water? What sort of oxygen measurements can be made
of water? Subsequently, we have seen that the SAD manufacturing process
has in previous experiments been shown to affect the pH of water.
Does the SAD process work on other substances? We have heard tales of
lead being turned into gold through alchemy by the addition of very small
amounts of a “philosopher’s stone” and this attention to minutiae is
beginning to sound like something familiar. Might there be a possibility
that lead, given the template of gold and put through a process of shock
in a crucible, could transform into gold in the same way we suggested
water might be able to transmogrify into hydrogen peroxide?
As a final note to the dielectric tests, in addition to pH
measures, in 1982 a government team of scientists at the Indian
Department of Science and Technology, Jussal, Meera, Dua and Mishra
measured in SADs capacitance, resistance and dielectric dispersion.
They tested NaCi, KsCO3, lactose, BaCO3, ethanol, Euphrasia,
Syzigium and Idicin at 100 Hz, 10 KHz,1 KHz using a LCR bridge and time
domain reflectance spectroscopy (100 MHz to 4Ghz).
They too showed tht SADs have dielectric indices.
Reporting the results of only selected compounds., they said
“essentially similar behavior was obtained in all cases, although
results were distinct for each compound.”
Their graphs show the same kind of sinusoidal curves reported by Gay,
Boiron, Brucato and Stephenson.
In 1983 Jussal, Mishra and Dua continued dielectric testing in a
second, more thorough government funded study of dielectric indices in
SADs using a Hewlett Packard Time Domain Spectroscope. Once again they
obtained sinusoidal curves in SAD preparations of Arsenic album As2O3 and
And once again they showed that specific substances to have impacted
SAD structured water and that they have somewhat predictable indices that
differ greatly from pure water.
In addition to the biochemical work of William Boyd, M.D., Jacques
Benveniste and others, and the numerous studies and observation of
effects SADs have on living organisms, including plant life, and the
growing number of clinical studies , it is our hope that a reexamination
of measures of SADs such as the dielectric will encourage others to
consider their value in the use of industry, agriculture and medicine.
.) 1951 Gay, Alphonse. Using a modified galvanometer, Gay discovers that
high dilutes have dielectric stress indices. “Presence of a Physical
Factor in Homeopathic Solutions, Edition des Laboratories P.H.R., Lyon
2.) 1952 Alphonse Gay and Jean Boiron , “A Study of the Physics of
Dynamization”, Edition des Laboratories P.H.R., Lyon, France,
3.) 1953 Alphonse Gay and Jean Boiron. In collaboration with Alphonse
Gay, Jean Boiron demonstrated in a double blind trial that high dilutes
have dielectric indices. Out of 700 selections they identified the high
dilute from the liquid vehicle using Gay’s mercury armature galvanometer.
“A Physical Demonstration of the Real Existence of the Homeopathic
Remedy,” Edition des Laboratories P.H.R., Lyon France
4.) 1966 Smith & Boericke, nuclear magnetic resonance
spectroscopy. Smith and Boericke in this report demonstrate that high
dilutes can be identified using nuclear magentic resonance.
“Modern instrumentation for the evaluation of homeopathic
drug structure”, Journal of the American Institute of Homeopathy 59,
5.) 1966 Brucato & Stephenson. Using a 50 KV Alternating Current
Dielectric Tester, these two researchers repeated the discovery by Gay
and Boiron that homeopathic remedies have dielectric stress indices.
“Dielectric strength testing of homeopathic dilutions of HgCl2,” Journal of the
American Institute of Homeopathy 59: 9-10: 281-286
6.) 1982 Jussal, Meera, Dua, & Mishra. Here they measured capacitance,
resistance and dielectric dispersion, H-ion
concentrations, electrode potentials using an LCR bridge,
time domain reflectance spectroscopy, digital pH meter,
and nonpolarising electrodes. “Physical effects on the
suspending medium by compounds asymptotically infinite dilutions,”
Hahnemannian Gleanings, 3:114-120
7.) 1983 Jussal, Mishra, & Dua “Dielectric dispersion of weak
alcoholic solutions of some drugs at high frequencies using
Time Domain Spectroscopy”
Hahnemannian Gleanings, 8: 358-366
PL Hayes June 23, 2009
Yo! It is ‘memory of water’ crackpottery, yes. Wikipedia has a page on the subject:
Some recent ‘memory of water’ fun:
It can get complicated, yes – homeopathy ‘researchers’ love to pretend to talk quantum and (mis)use expensive laboratory equipment – but the common underlying reason that all the various ‘memory of water’ theories and experimental claims aren’t taken seriously by good scientists is pretty simple and fundamental:
PL Hayes April 30, 2009
Erk! I meant “…*all* [non-gravitational] phenomena of any direct relevance…”, of course. ;-)
nt4i April 30, 2009
“If you find yourself or someone you know in a bed under chemotherapy treatment (and, I hope you do not), just remember there was a safer alternative to try… but, of course, that’s pure hogwash.”
I’ve read this several times now and although I can’t beleive its serious you seem to be promoting homeopathy as an effective cancer treatment? Surely you must agree that this is dangerous and irresponsible?
Given you can’t provide any evidence that hoemopathy works, despite its powerful healing at the sub-fermion level, I assume you also can provide no evidence such a powerful treatment is safe?
jsr April 30, 2009
‘you don’t appear to understand how homeopathy works in practice’
That’s because homeopathy doesn’t work in practice.
It really is that simple.
pv April 29, 2009
Ok, for the umpteenth time, here’s a simple challenge that has never been met.
One incontrovertible, fully documented and referenced example of homeopathy ever having cured a non-self-limiting condition. Just one will do.
Homeopathy has been kicking around for 200 years, ever since that misguided delusionist and sufferer of fools Sam (the homeopath) Hahnemann invented it. In that 200 years worth of meticulously documented cases their ought to be hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of examples easily to hand. So you would think that asking for one would present no problem. We shouldn’t be hanging on to every statistical anomaly that comes along from every poorly run trial to “prove” the homeopathy works. Recorded and documented cases should be crawling out of the woodwork so to speak.
But problems there appear to be for the evangelistic disciple of homeopathy, because not one such case exists or has ever existed. All that has ever existed is rumour and innuendo. No bodies or smoking guns.
And even self-limiting conditions, which by definition need no intervention, fare no better. Even there all we have is anecdote and statistical anomaly. No incontrovertible, documented and referenced cases.
It should be said in Hahnemann’s favour that he was an advocate of basic good hygiene which, 200 years ago, would have done much to improve the health of any population and where his results of otherwise doing nothing come from.
Everything else aside the principle of dilution as regards homeopathy is nonsense, as 200 years of subsequent scientific progress and discovery have shown. There is no feasible basis on which homeopathy as described by it’s inventor can work. And, as is evident by its complete absence of documented and referenced evidence, it doesn’t work for anything except fooling the minds of and extracting money from the credulous and ignorant.
So, how about this incontrovertible, fully documented and referenced case…?
A modest proposition April 29, 2009
It’s cute, your little term for me: woo-meister. Sorta like capelmeister. Sure, no facts, no logic, complete hogwash… no hope. I’m irrational, of course. Notice, I did not dismiss science completely in any way. Notice, I never said you should use homeopathy–if you haven’t used it, you are surely unqualified to remark upon its effectiveness. I asserted simply that there is no basis for your denunciations when you don’t appear to understand how homeopathy works in practice. In studies, it performs better than a placebo. There are myriad case studies that support this conclusion. For this reason, MDs prescribe homeopathic remedies. Sure, Benveniste failed to demonstrate the memory of water–hence, my remark on the nature of minute particles. Just because he failed to explain a natural phenomenon does not imply that the phenomenon does not occur, or that succussed remedies have no effect. Perhaps, it occurs at a sub-fermion level, and is, thus, undetectable to modern science. The article above states that homeopathy does nothing for cancer treatment side effects. I wonder why. Perhaps, because one would need to stop cancer treatment in order for homeopathy to have even a chance of working. In homeopathic theory, cancer victims suffer from a cancer miasm. A homeopath would attempt to disable that miasm (think of it as an epigenetic taint) for there to be a chance at treating the patient. Sure, that’s hogwash, I know. It’s certainly hogwash when you’re sitting in a wheel-chair with no hair. It’s certainly hogwash when alternative therapies such as CE-certified electromagnetic treatment have been shown clinically at the Baylor College of Medicine to alleviate a man’s brain tumors–all 25 of them. He kept his hair. Scientifically impossible, I know. One must cut and poison tumors to get rid of them–sorta like using leeches to draw blood. You do not need to accept my “quackery reasoning” if you don’t want to. Doesn’t bother me at all. Just don’t go around claiming you know how homeopathy’s supposed to work, and that it doesn’t work accordingly, when all the while you have a deeply flawed understanding of how it’s supposed to work. Just let it be if it doesn’t suit you, instead of letting it become a disease of your own making. If you find yourself or someone you know in a bed under chemotherapy treatment (and, I hope you do not), just remember there was a safer alternative to try… but, of course, that’s pure hogwash.
PL Hayes April 29, 2009
Okay, point by point, fallacy and falsehood piece-meal style this time – just for the ‘fun’ of it:
“I did not dismiss science completely in any way.”
Just about everything you have written amounts to a complete dismissal of reason, never mind science.
“if you haven’t used it, you are surely unqualified to remark upon its effectiveness.”
So… not only /is/ the plural of anecdote data in your anti-logical anti-science fantasy world, proof of efficacy actually /requires/ personal experience.
“I asserted simply that there is no basis for your denunciations when you don’t appear to understand how homeopathy works in practice.”
How it works in practice? In fact there is an /extremely/ strong basis for denouncing the ridiculous homeopathy ‘hypotheses’ ab initio but since even those of us most tolerant of stupid and ugly parodies of scientific hypotheses now know (courtesy of a body of mostly pointless empirical work – cf. my first comment here) that *it really does not work*, asking how it works isn’t even
a meaningful and useful exercise.
“In studies, it performs better than a placebo. There are myriad case studies that support this conclusion. For this reason, MDs prescribe homeopathic remedies.”
It doesn’t, there aren’t, and MDs (and vets and even scientists) can be fools too.
“Sure, Benveniste failed to demonstrate the memory of water–hence, my remark on the nature of minute particles… Perhaps, it occurs at a sub-fermion level, and is, thus, undetectable to modern science.”
Bearing in mind that a phenomenon which doesn’t exist doesn’t actually need an explanation of mechanism at all, and that a medicine working (or not) can never be a fact undetectable to modern science, let’s examine just what it might mean for something to “occur at the sub-fermion level”… As I futilely hinted at earlier, the spin-statistics theorem is salient here. As described on page 238 of the first volume of Steven Weinberg’s QFT textbook, for example, you will discover that it shows that a property of any causal quantum field is that its particles will be either bosons or fermions. [QED – the only part of fundamental physics remotely conceivably relevant to human biology, medicines, the structure of water… in fact *all* phenomena of any direct relevance to human experience – is a quantum field theory and rightfully renowned for being the most accurate (and breathtakingly so) description of nature mankind has yet achieved.] The conditions under which QFT becomes inadequate as a description of nature, so that things could reasonably be described as “occuring at the sub-fermion level”, are (typically) the conditions of enormous energy density under which the microscopic structure of spacetime itself is involved – i.e. where quantum general relativistic effects cannot be ignored. So if homeopathy is supposed to work at the sub-fermion level then it would have to be an “energy medicine” indeed and I wouldn’t want to be within a thousand light years of anyone actually trying to use it.
“In homeopathic theory, cancer victims suffer from a cancer miasm. A homeopath would attempt to disable that miasm (think of it as an epigenetic taint) for there to be a chance at treating the patient. Sure, that’s hogwash, I know.”
It seems you do not know that but the most important thing that you do not know, and which is obvious from the empirical evidence, is that there is nothing to theorise about in the first place.
“CE-certified electromagnetic treatment have been shown clinically at the Baylor College of Medicine to alleviate a man’s brain tumors–all 25 of them. He kept his hair. Scientifically impossible, I know.”
No such thing has been shown. There is nothing impossible about spontaneous remission, misdiagnosis, variability of disease severity etc. etc. Why can you not understand that if I bury a dead toad under a yew tree at midnight and the next day patient X with terminal disease Y completely recovers (or ‘recovers’), exactly nothing has been shown?
“Doesn’t bother me at all. Just don’t go around claiming you know how homeopathy’s supposed to work, and that it doesn’t work accordingly, when all the while you have a deeply flawed understanding of how it’s supposed to work.”
Straw man argument – and if I ever did catch myself claiming I knew how something which doesn’t exist worked, I’d make an appointment to see my GP.
“just remember there was a safer alternative to try”
I hope for my own sake and the sake of anyone else who might die in appalling agony and indignity (as one female ‘alternative medicine’ enthusiast I read of recently did) that the absurdity of the idea that homeopathy (or whatever brand of quackery) is an alternative at all would be uppermost in the mind of anyone so unfortunate.
Ed Yong April 17, 2009
Eagle-eyed readers will note that since Kat wrote this post, the BBC have changed their headline from “Homeopathy ‘eases cancer therapy’” to “Homeopathy ‘no cancer care harm'”.
pv April 17, 2009
After 200 years of “treating” patients and “meticulous” record keeping homeopaths should be able to provide hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of solid, well documented cases.
So you would think!
Far from there being millions, or thousands, or even hundreds of cases over the two centuries of practice, however, there isn’t a single verifiable case of a non-self-limiting condition being cured by homeopathy. Furthermore there isn’t a single verifiable case of a self-limiting ailment being substantially or even vaguely helped by homeopathy. Everything is just claims and innuendo. And every request for solid evidence or verifiable cases is met with the same homeopath waffle of prevarication and procrastination.
Never mind the evidence of efficacy though. The basic idea of homeopathy is as plausible as babies delivered by storks, a flat earth, a geocentric planetary system, phlogiston, astrology, phrenology…
Every well conducted study shows homeopathy to be the equivalent of doing nothing. Enough of giving credence and support to what is at best a superstition with religious characteristics, and at worst (and much more often) a scam.
If it were financial fraud then people would be prosecuted. But when someone makes money by medical fraud then we seem to think that’s ok and we should have more research. And when that research turns up the same old evidence of nothing a million times more, for some reason we should do even more research – just to keep homeopaths out of prison and to avoid disillusioning anyone who is convinced by the homeopaths’ sales patter!
PL Hayes April 17, 2009
“the highly respected Cochrane Collaboration.”
The Cochrane Collaboration’s publication of (reviews of) grossly superfluous studies of long discredited and maximally implausible nonsense such as homeopathy which (yet again) compound that error with the bogus, “Further research is required“, does not engender respect.
“Homeopathy has been around for centuries, and yet there is still no strong scientific evidence that it works.”
There is still no strong scientific evidence for the existence of the aether or for phlogiston either. Will the LHC physicists be looking for evidence of phlogistons in their proton-proton collisions? Homeopathy is not medicine and homeopathy research is not science. The absurdity and irony of the situation:
might be amusing if the field was something other than medical science.