Homeopathy Wars

Homeopathy wars

There is an old joke about a man who was being treated by a homeopath for a rare illness until one day he forgot to take his medicine, and died of an overdose. If you don’t understand that joke, you are probably unaware of what homeopathy actually is. Its practitioners and advocates like to use terms such as alternative medicine, complementary medicine, holistic treatment…but to its detractors, it is quackery. The father of homeopathy was Christian Friedrich Samuel Hahnemann (1755-1843). Although he was a genuine doctor and indeed a brilliant man, the idea he came up with in 1796 is anything but scientific. Homeopathic medicines are taken in such infinitesimal quantities that there is really nothing there.

Rather than read a technical description you might like to check out this amusing video by the renowned skeptic James Randi; he starts talking about homeopathy at around two minutes, and again at eleven and a half minutes. He also tells the same joke about overdosing.

Homeopathy has been in the UK news recently because the Government is considering banning the NHS from dispensing it. Critics argue that it should be banned, suggesting that though at best there is a placebo effect with homeopathic treatment, this is found with all treatments, including genuinely useful ones. Countless studies over nearly two centuries have shown homeopathy to be not worth the candle, although very occasionally there are contra results, as for example in Clinical trials of homoeopathy in osteoarthritis: A systematic review, by three researchers, two of them Indian, one Australian.

There is likely to be a consultation next year. In the meantime, it is still being peddled as a bona fide treatment, including through institutions of higher learning, (see below).



About the author

Alexander Baron