Healing — or a Bunch of Hooey?
Homeopathy is again in the crosshairs of the wellness wars
More people than ever are putting their money and their faith into things like juicing, oils and natural therapies. But a leading professor and scientist says they shouldn’t bet their health on any of it.
The debate over homeopathic medicine has flared up again after a study was released by Dr. Paul Glasziou of Bond University in Australia. Glasziou looked at 176 homeopathy trials related to 68 different health conditions. In the end, he reported there is no evidence to support that homeopathy is any more effective than a placebo effect.
He’s now calling the practice and the industry a “therapeutic dead-end.”
“I had begun the journey with an ‘I don’t know’ attitude, curious about whether this unlikely treatment could ever work,” wrote Glasziou in a recent British Medical Journal blog post about the study. “I was simply relieved that the arduous journey of sifting and synthesizing the evidence was at an end.”
Homeopathy, developed in the 1790s by German doctor Samuel Hahnemann, uses natural and highly diluted substances in order to treat or heal the body. The practice is considered a complementary or alternative medicine (CAM), with the premise that a substance that typically causes a certain symptom can help remove those same symptoms — and that diluting a substance has a greater power to treat these symptoms. Many times the dilution, also called succussion, contains so much water there is virtually none of the original substance contained in the liquid treatment.
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Dr. Lucie Baker, founder of Embodied State of Mind LLC, agreed with Glasziou’s findings, noting the principles upon which homeopathy were founded just do not add up.
“From a critical thinking standpoint, the foundations of homeopathy are highly questionable and these products are no more effective than a placebo,” said Dr. Baker. She explained that homeopathy was founded on the laws of similarity and infinitesimals. “The first suggests that if you give a person who is already ill more of the same toxin, they will get better. The second law essentially protects people from the first by diluting pathogens to their vanishing points.”
Despite Dr. Baker’s assertions and Dr. Glasziou’s study, believers stand by their practice — and claim the study is a bunch of hooey in and of itself.
[lz_bulleted_list title=”Homeopathy Use in U.S.” source=”http://www.nccih.nih.gov”]5 million adults use homeopathy|1 million children use homeopathy|$2.9 billion was spent on homeopathic medicines in 2007|$170 million was spent on visits to homeopathic practitioners that same year[/lz_bulleted_list]
“I have been working with homeopathics since I was in college with phenomenal results for not only myself but also for my clients,” said Dr. Kathy Gruver, a doctor of natural health based in Southern California. “I have seen homeopathics work on children and animals, where the placebo effect is really not a valid argument. And I have been able to stop my own allergy attack in a matter of seconds from taking homeopathic Histaminum,” she added, referring to an anti-allergen.
Other homeopathic medicine users say the treatments are very helpful for common ailments.
“We have not had flu shots in many years,” said Kati Driban, a Philadelphia-based massage therapist. “Even if we do get sick with something we believe to be a flu, we take the homeopathic remedy and we are better in a matter of days instead of weeks, like all our friends.”
Others believe it doesn’t hurt to use homeopathic medicine in conjunction with traditional western medicine.
“I credit homeopathic remedies with the return to health,” said Patricia Finely, who noted that her physician has been integrating conventional and homeopathic medicine to heal her since 2011. As the clerk for the Philadelphia-based Eco-Justice Collaborative, Finley credits the mixture of treatments for her reduced nosebleeds, a decreased severity of her asthma, the easing of her depression, and even the curing of an eye infection.
“This was the first time I was able to manage an infection without antibiotics. I attribute that progress to the skills of my physician and the judicious application of homeopathic therapy,” Finley told Lifezette.
Many other people cite a long history of positive personal experience with homeopathic treatments and practices.
Others say the placebo effect could be at work here. And just because it’s old — doesn’t make it true.
“There are many things that have been around for over 2,000 years, such as religion. The age of a practice alone should be no reason to believe that such a thing has a place in your life today,” said Jonathan Weber, founder of Marathon Media in New York. “I grew up in a family that heavily used homeopathic remedies, but as I grew older I came to realize that continuing to use them was not consistent with my general mindset of believing in and relying on things that are backed up by science.”
“I have experienced homeopathy several times, at least a dozen or two, with zero results,” said Phillip Mandel of Beaverton, Oregon.
“The fact that people have been gullible about homeopathy for a long time does not count as evidence,” said Amy Alkon, a science columnist. “Well, except as evidence of the persistence of human irrationality.”