The Truth About "Homeopathic" Medicine (#23)

Homeopathy -- effective, useless, or dangerous? (Photo: Marcos Zerene)
Homeopathy — effective, useless, or dangerous? (Photo: Marcos Zerene)

[Audio version]

The Truth About "Homeopathic" Medicine (#23)

[Text version]

(You can find the full transcript of this episode here. Transcripts of all episodes can be found here.)

I routinely use an arnica gel for minor muscular strains. In fact, it’s one of my “go to” treatments.

In 2010, however, I found myself swallowing Boiron Arnica Montana 30C pellets, an oral version that was the only option at the closest GNC. I started at five pellets, SIX times a day–TWICE the recommended dose. Risk of overdose? Not likely.

“30C,” which I looked up that evening, tells you all you need to know.

This consumable version of arnica, unlike the creams I’d used in the past, was a homeopathic remedy. Samuel Hahnemann, a German physician, pioneered the field of homeopathy in 1796, if the term “pioneer” can be applied to alternative “medicine” founded on concepts like mass dilution and beatings with horse-hair implements. From the Wikipedia entry for “homeopathic dilutions,” last I looked:

Homeopaths use a process called “dynamisation” or “potentisation” whereby a substance is diluted with alcohol or distilled water and then vigorously shaken by ten hard strikes against an elastic body in a process called “succussion”… Hahnemann believed that the process of succussion activated the vital energy of the diluted substance.

Riiiight.

Back to 30C. 30C indicates a 10-60  (10^(-60), or 10 to the negative 60th) dilution, the dilution most recommended by Hahnemann.

30C would require giving 2 billion doses per second to 6 billion people for 4 billion years to deliver a single molecule of the original material to any one person. Put another way, if I diluted one-third of a drop of liquid into all the water on earth, it would produce a remedy with a concentration of about 13C, more than twice the “strength” of our 30C arnica.

Most homeopathic remedies in liquid are indistinguishable from water and don’t contain a single molecule of active medicine. In systematic review after systematic review, these dilutive homeopathic remedies display no ability to heal beyond placebo.

I found this particularly bothersome. Bothersome because I appeared to heal faster using oral 30C arnica.

There are a few potential explanations…

OPTION #1 — HOMEOPATHIC REMEDIES WORK AS ADVERTISED

The water actually retains some “essential property” of the original substance because of the beatings and shakings. I give this a probability of somewhere between zero and epsilon (where epsilon is almost zero). It violates the most basic laws of science and makes my head hurt.

NOTE: Some people use the term “homeopathic” interchangeably with “organic” or “herbal”; I am not addressing this misnomer nor the associated compounds. Some herbal, non-prescription medications have tremendous effects. I’m speaking only to the original use of the word “homeopathic” as related to dilutive treatments.

OPTION #2 — THE PLACEBO EFFECT

I didn’t realize it was a homeopathic remedy until after four or five doses, and I had been told it could reduce pain by up to 50% in 24 hours. Placebo is strong stuff. People can become intoxicated from alcohol placebos, and “placebo” knee surgeries for osteoarthritis, where incisions are made but nothing is repaired, can produce results that rival the real deal. This explanation gets my vote. Now, if I could just forget what I read on the label, I could repeat it next time.

OPTION #3 — REGRESSION TOWARD THE MEAN

Imagine you catch a cold or get the flu. It’s going to get worse and worse, then better and better until you are back to normal. The severity of symptoms, as is true with many injuries, will probably look something like a bell curve.

The bottom flat line, representing normalcy, is the mean. When are you most likely to try the quackiest shit you can get your hands on? That miracle duck extract Aunt Susie swears by? The crystals your roommate uses to open his heart chakra? Naturally, when your symptoms are the worst and nothing seems to help. This is the very top of the bell curve, at the peak of the roller coaster before you head back down. Naturally heading back down is regression toward the mean.

If you are a fallible human, as we all are, you might misattribute getting better to the duck extract, but it was just coincidental timing.

The body had healed itself, as could be predicted from the bell curve–like timeline of symptoms. Mistaking correlation for causation is very common, even among smart people.

In the world of “big data,” this mistake will become even more common, particularly if researchers seek to “let the data speak for themselves” rather than test hypotheses.

Spurious connections galore–that’s what the data will say, among other things.  Caveat emptor.

OPTION #4 — SOME UNEXPLAINED MECHANISM

‘Tis possible that there is some as-yet-unexplained mechanism through which homeopathy works. Some mechanism that science will eventually explain. Stranger things have happened.

And while we don’t need to know how something works if we observe it to work (which clinical trials have not, in this case)…

Until something even remotely plausible comes along, I’ll do my best to scratch my psora (an itch “miasm” that Hahnemann felt caused epilepsy, cancer, and deafness) with at least one molecule of active substance.

###

Do you agree or disagree? Do you have evidence to the contrary? Please share your thoughts in the comments by clicking here.

This is something that has bothered me for years, but I’m very open to being proven wrong.

For more material like this article, check out:

The 4-Hour Body

How to Keep Feces Out of Your Bloodstream (or Lose 10 Pounds in 14 Days)

Gout: The Missing Chapter and Explanation

The Tim Ferriss Show is one of the most popular podcasts in the world with more than 700 million downloads. It has been selected for "Best of Apple Podcasts" three times, it is often the #1 interview podcast across all of Apple Podcasts, and it's been ranked #1 out of 400,000+ podcasts on many occasions. To listen to any of the past episodes for free, check out this page.

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774 Replies to “The Truth About "Homeopathic" Medicine (#23)”

  1. Tim, Greetings! Google and YouTube the name, Jacques Benveniste and the words, “memory of water.” Then research Grander Water. Cheers!

  2. HI Tim,

    If you have not heard of Masaru Emoto you may want to look him up. Masaru

    wrote a book called The True Power of Water. In this book he talks about a case study where he uses homeopathy to cure a woman of lead poisoning with tiny amounts of lead in water. He also has some very interesting ideas about the nature of water. http://www.masaru-emoto.net/english/water-crystal.html Masaru has a handful of books which can be found at Amazon.com All of which have an interesting point of view, which you may appreciate.

    1. Masaru Emoto had a predetermined result in mind when he went about this “research”. He had no controls whatsoever. Water doesn’t respond to what he says it does. A little research on the background of those experiments would reveal that.

      1. Can you give us a clue to said research..very curious. How do you explain the results

  3. Has anyone tried Traumeel for sports injuries, brusing, etc? i have and it works. it is a homeopathic ointment and is one of the most studied medications out there-european studies. i play amateur/company sponsored volleyball and many times will bruise my arms-deep purple, awful bruises from over inflated volleyballs, etc. i use Traumeel as indicated-3x per day on the bruise and in less than a week, i am ready to play again-no bruise, no sign of bruising. My bruises, without traumeel take up to 2 weeks to heal. Placebo? i dont think so. i have tried and experimented and my body heals much faster with the ointment. Tim, do an experiment like that and see what results you find. thanks for the thought provoking articles

  4. I have used homeopathy for years. I’ve experienced and seen in my kids actual homeopathic miracles. (My son had nightmares nightly for 2 months which completely stopped after 2 days of a remedy. I think he was too young for it to be placebo. I had a condition that left me in pain for a whole year. I went to several doctors. I tried several homeopathic remedies that did nothing for me. Then my homeopath suggested a new one. Within one week the pain completely went away never to return. If it was placebo, I would think the earlier remedies would have worked. ) Homeopathy is a tricky thing to get right – it’s like having 5000 keys for a door. If you get the right one, it’s amazing. A good homeopath asks questions to help reduce the number of likely keys but they still don’t always get it right at first. Generic homeopathy (like what you used) takes the most likely remedies (or keys) but they won’t open the door for everyone.

  5. Thank you for shining a light in this dark, dark cave. So many otherwise intelligent and educated people choose to believe in snake oil and crystals, that one is tempted to despair of the human race. Furthermore, I’m sure many people simply don’t know that homeopathic remedies are so greatly diluted. You have rendered them a great service. I suggest fellow readers look up the great James Randi for more on this and other forms of bull.

  6. I worked in the medical/pharmaceutical industry for years and have seen the effects of placebo. It’s amazing what the mind can do for people both positive and negative.

    The biggest thing that most people need to realize about “Commercial Homeopathic Medicine” is that the majority of the companies in the business don’t do any research on their products. They bring together the ingredients make a controlled batch of product and then sell it. The ingredients in a loaf of bread are more closely controlled by government than the ingredients in over the counter Homeopathic Medicine.

    If you’re going to go the Homeopathic route you need to find companies who have done trials with their product. Either against other products or against placebo. My one caveat here is that it’s great if they do the studies but they should also be published in a peer reviewed journal. When something is submitted to a journal a lot of eyes looks at the study and often times the study can fall apart under all the scrutiny. Those that pass get published and it’s legitimate info.

    There are several very reputable homeopathic/nutraceutical companies in North America and they are very careful about their standards. These companies are also starting to do more trials with their products which are getting published.

    Follow the evidence and you will find products which work I know I have.

    1. you are wrong. what you have said above is not correct. homeopathy is USP and has a drug facts section on its label.

      if you worked in the non-corporate part of manufacturing, you would be more aware of what really goes on. pharma has so many employees, they tend to be very unaware of things outside their daily doings.

  7. There seems to be a notable absence of homeopathists enthusiastically volunteering to help out with the ebola crisis. I wonder why that is?

    Why does this “medicine” only cure diseases that would otherwise get better by themselves?

    1. Mainstream medicine is highly effective in death prevention, whereas alternative medicine tnds to focus more on health. We have the miracle of modern medicine for acute, life threatening conditions, and we have a plethora of healing modalities, including nutritional approaching for promoting and maintaining optimal health.

      If I was in a car accident, for example, I would not want a naturopath in charge of my immediate care, and on the flip side, I would certainly not want a paramedic to advise me on long-term optimal health strategies.

  8. I worked for a Dr. of Homeopathy when I was 17, now 81 I relate his explanation– Principal is to dilute a toxic material to a level where the body can survive the low concentration and build anti-bodies to deal with the toxin. This “training” then produces antibodies that also can attack other poisons in the body and thus produce a cure. Experimentation was required initially to determine what other infections responded to a stronger but still very dilute application. He spoke of dilutions of 50 and 100 times not billions.

  9. Hello. People still like mocking and being skeptic about homeo even after 200 years, even lots of diagnosis of diseases healed by homeo. Read book by Dr. rajan Shankran and famous homeopaths in the world. Etc: He has cured many2 types of cancer with Homeopathy like pneumonia. Cases were recorded thoroughfully.It is actually more than a placebo effect. Researches are still being done to produce scientific evidences although curing action has taken place on many since 200 years.

    Compared to allopathy, they more to applying suppression. For instance, you are having flu, you take flu drugs. The drug suppresses the bile or liquid, so wont come out and you relieved. Then a few days after that, or weeks, you started having it again. This happen to all people that applying modern medicine which is crude drugs. Crude drug is poisonous. Because allopathy isnt potentised, therefore it poison system. Let say you have acne problem. People these day will buy Accutane (crude drug claimed to be the World No1 remedy for acne problem). Yet they have flawless skin. But they forget that the allo effect will suppress from less important place to more important place in the body. What is that important? Liver. Why is that crude drug cannot be taken excessively? Because it is freaking crude drug and it is poisonous. Instead of homeo, you can take over and over, even though your vital force is normal. It wont be deranged because homeo applies permanently health restoration principle. Homeo has gentle approach, minimum, simple, wholly and permanent. Look at aphorism 2.

    So, what s now is scientific evidences is still on research. Homeopaths still need to prove, how much dilution is effective? And others.

    Data needed to be collected sufficiently. Many not supporting this approach because simply of the placebo effect without having further understanding bout it. This is what homeos need to prove efficiently by the way.

    The homeo approach is cheap because it use natural resources. For example, arnica, arsenic!, sand, mercury, sulphur and all. These are all crude drugs but simply potentised so wont poison patients. Allopathy is expensive, harmful and relief is temporary. Why allopathy? Why again call of placebo effect? Unless you re not being humble yo yourself and admit whats right. If still questioning, help yourself to improve findings and thoughts about homeo.

    Homeo applies 7 Laws for the better of human health. Google.

    I am still homeo student 2nd year. Lots of studies need to be done. To understand more, meet an expert. Homeo isnt magic, it has proved a lot of cured cases from 1790s.

    Be humble people. Yaw will find more than you brilliantly and vigorously think.

    1. Homeo is personalized and more to individualism. Each patient is unique. It treats wholly tha allopathy treats only the disease. Maybe someone has no disease at all, but he commits suicide. Why? Coz maybe in part of his / her life, isnt balance. He is maybe socially deranged, or mentally disturbed or spiritually. Can allopathy cure all off these? No, they giving PAINKILLERS. They only treats the disease but not he HUMAN. Homeo treats human as wholly, holistic. Thats why lots of people nowadays deiceds to give up allo, and turn in to homeo.

      Google what is allo-pathy. Opposite like opposite. It is like you are pulling a cat’s tail downward while it went upward up on a hill. This is the analogy of suppression. What s the result? Nothing. Cat wont move. Same as your flu.

  10. I like your article! THANKS!

    After we hit a dead end with what western medicine could do for my son’s food allergy and related neurological problems, so we turned to something as hard to believe as homeopathic remedies. We have seen measurable results. Before the visit: rash, acid reflux, or tics when eating food. After the visit: none. Even when he has no idea what we were treating him for. I agree a lot of it is tapping into the power of the subconscious mind to heal, but some of the treatments are given completely blind and still work! I agree also with what someone else said- that just creating the time and space to make better choices is very powerful. The voodoo I’m talking about stops working if subtle energetic changes happen during the session….being dehydrated, having a cell phone on within a few feet of your body…but once we figure out what is “off” and fix it, things start working again! So Kooky! The theory is that really subtle electromagnetic energy seems to be transmitted from healer to patient and from patient to his own subconscious. I’m an evidence-based geek BUT ALSO AM VERY OPTIMISTIC AND THEREFORE GULLIBLE…I research things intensely and run lots of experiments on myself so it’s really hard to comprehend or fathom how it works…but so far so good!

  11. Simple question for those of you who are in support of homeopathy:

    Where do you get pure water from that isn’t already contaminated with another substance at homeopathic dilution?

    Or to put that another way, why shouldn’t a random sample of any tap water be homeopathically active?

    1. Answer is simple too. Tap water contain contaminants, pure water not. Why risk health? Mixed resources will not produce curing action. Only one remedy at a time results curative changes.

  12. Not bad–I am glad you took time to debunk homeopathy for your fans.

    Mistakes:

    You have the concept of regression towards the mean wrong.

    You state that borynium 13c (which is so dilute that only 1 molecule will be given to all those billion people taking the drug every second and so forth) is twice as concentrated as 30c

    Twice? it is actually 100000000000000000000000000000000000 times more concentrated than 30c. Neither of which have any molecules of the “active” ingredient.

    You also imply that the oral form is more hokey than the cream form you use–but both are equally hokey.

    Keep doing the podcast!

  13. While I would never use homeopathic medicine, a researcher’s assistant accidentally proved it effective in a botched experiment. The dismayed researcher went back and repeated the errors, finding homeopathic doses caused measurable effects. So he built a machine to take himself out of the study and the results still showed that micro-doses can effect change. You can read all about this and the scientist who proved that we DO know when someone is staring at the back of our heads in Lynne McTaggert’s, “The Field” where she details many status quo upsetting discoveries.

  14. Cause:

    The company have actually included ACTIVE MOLECULES of the substance.

    If there are no active molecules, no physiological response to the ACTIVE SUBSTANCE can occur.

    How else would it?

    The product you’re using is either WATER, or ACTIVE MOLECULES of the substance.

    Only the latter can produce the response.

    Unless the placebo response has been reinforced so strongly that it’s still occurring to the drug.

  15. I wasnt much of a believer until i tried ASYRA. [Moderator: link removed]

    Intersted to hear other people who have tried this. I was blown away a little bit.

    Jeff

    1. I agree; the Asyra / Qest is probably the most advanced, informative system that exists. It picked up everything very well, including my dogs vaccinations from the day before! My jaw dropped when I saw this. Not only that, the programmed homeopathy actually works, with the most obvious thing that happened was that all of my food allergies were gone after 2 months (2 scans total)!

  16. The scientific method demands measurement of actual active ingredients, right? However, homeopathic medicine is “energy medicine.” Within the scientific community, it is well established that most things have a particular vibration (as for example here: http://tinyurl.com/psnqoko). Homeopathy is centuries-old; if it were completely useless, it would have fallen into disuse like countless other remedies. Instead, the diluted material still retains its vibration and that’s the basis for homeopathy.

    1. – That link was completely useless, looked like some kid’s homework.

      > if it were completely useless, it would have fallen into disuse

      In China, people still think Rhino horn will cure impotence. So baloney can survive for many hundreds of years.

      >the diluted material still retains its vibration

      What “vibration” are you talking about? Are you telling me that the water molecule “remember” (for how long?) that they were whacked against a particular other molecule? (But apparently not previous stuff that they hit beforehand?)

  17. I’d have to put it under #4 as unexplained (for now).

    Good article for starting a discussion. However, I believe Tim missed a key point related to homeopothy, or more specifically the succussion process. The concentration factor of the succussed substance is not important!

    Everything is energy! Everything is vibrating at a specific frequency. Water’s unique properties (specifically how hydrogen atoms bond – and the angle of that bond) described as ‘memory’ in the last decades is key to understanding why succussion works, and why homeopathic remedies provide results. The closest analogy would be how atoms share electrons, changing their properties (ion) or the nature of photons and magnetism.

    More recent testing in this decade is now proving that manipulation of these energies, or more to the point – those molecular frequencies, have dramatic effect on the physical properties of any substance. Whether it is a change in vibration/frequency in water from another atomic structure’s vibration, passed along to water via succussion, that empowers a tincture to destroy bacteria, virii, and parasites, or a modulated frequency directed at solid materials that results in their movement and levitation, the effect remains CLEARLY OBSERVABLE, although currently hard to explain scientifically. It’s this transfer of vibration/energy that changes our internal energies (CHI).

    Heresy you say?! Everyone should acknowledge scientific ignorance and arrogance over the eons (Galileo, Wegener, Semmelweis, Tesla). I understand the speculation in these comments, but is ‘quantum tunneling’ fake, a placebo, or do we really intend to build computers at the atomic level? Good lord… we can now see atomic structures with our own eyes! But I digress…

    I urge everyone to keep open minds and stop poisoning our genetics at the planetary level with man made drugs. Placebo or not, I have been using homeopathy with positive results INSTEAD of man-made pharma for over 20 years now. I really don’t care how or why it works, but I know that is does! You can keep your toxic pharma or you can open your mind and open your personal electromagnetic fields to new energy.

    PS – Tim – Keep up the inspiring work. I love all the personal experimentation results.

  18. http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=-ZK92ROgiIU

    Hey Tim,

    I love your work.

    Do you know Lynn McTaggart ?

    Check her out on YouTube.

    She’s got some good explanations for

    Homeopathy ( and everything else ).

    Her findings run congruent with another

    Great researcher, Paul Stament. You

    Might want to check out his lectures

    as well.

    It would be awesome if you got either

    of them on your podcast .

    Aloha,

    James

    [Moderator: Email removed]

  19. This kind of discussions show how prisoners we are of One particular sort of thinking. Scientific thinking as absolute and unique form. Why judge the phenomena of homeopathy from a purely scientific standpoint? Why try to get a truth which can be applied to any individual, with no particular participation of the individual in the process? That is the scientific paradigm, which is now a decadent one, as was scholastics at his time.

  20. Could there be another option such as “Power in Extreme Subtlety”? For example there are many healing modalities that work via vibration. Homeopathics are a form of vibrational medicine that bridge the gap between our dense physical form and our more subtle, and more powerful, vibrational form. I always imagine Homeopathics influencing the vibrational core of my cells and atoms. Mumbo-jumbo? -Maybe. But when I read about quantum mechanics or experience the almost unbelievable power of my own intentions – maybe not. I like the idea of living in a world where our most powerful forms of medicine are also our most subtle forms. I’m not saying this is the world we live in – but I’m open to the possibility!

  21. Here’s a story for you. As true as I can tell it.

    I spent about five years exhausted. I was tired all of the time no matter what I ate, how much or how little I exercised, no matter what I did. Just exhausted.

    No one thought to check me for Epstein Barr.

    Until they did.

    My titers were 15,000 plus if I recall correctly.

    Enter homeopathics. The gentleman who thought to see if I had Chronic Fatigue was an acupuncturist. He worked with an MD in Chapel Hill, NC who was open to alternative treatments. After it became clear that I was very sick he sent me to her for repair.

    I spent an hour and a half in her office during the first visit. She asked me every question on the book, felt my liver several times, talked a lot and listened to me talk a lot. Then she left me alone in the room for about 15 minutes finally returning with three little glass bottles in her hand. They were homeopathics from Belgium. I can still see the bottles in my mind’s eye. She told me to take several drops once a day in a glass of water until they were used up in two weeks and to schedule an appointment for three weeks out.

    I left thinking that she was crazy and that I was about to spend two weeks drinking water. I trusted the acupuncturist who had sent me to her so I played along and followed instructions.

    The next visit was about 15 minutes long. She asked me a lot of questions about what had happened during the three weeks since our last visit, felt my liver, left me alone in the room for five minutes and came back with three different bottles telling me to follow the same protocol as above.

    Three weeks later I had another 15 minute visit identical to the last.

    I was noticing no difference. I was exhausted. She didn’t seem to be concerned.

    This went on for six visits. Always asking me questions, leaving the room, then coming back in with three different bottles then sending me on my way to take the homeopathics for two weeks returning to her a week after they were done.

    On the 7th visit (21 weeks) she asked me what had happened in the prior three weeks and I said nothing. As she was leaving the room to go get the next round of bottles I stopped her and told her about an incident in which I went to bed and work up a couple of hours later on fire, feverish in a puddle of sweat. I stayed awake for two hours then fell back asleep and was fine the next morning. She shook her head in an “aha” kind of way, left the room and came back with three more bottles and off I went yet again.

    Two weeks later I got sick. I mean really sick. I began to get flu like symptoms and started to run a fever. Each day my fever increased. I spent a couple of days at about 103.5. Then it got really bad. I spent two days at 105.5 degrees. You do not want to spend several days with a fever of 103 – 105, I promise you. In the middle of the two 105 degree days my wife called the doctor, told her what was happening and she said to do nothing. Just wait it out. Drink lots of fluid.

    So that’s what I did. The fever dropped back to about 103ish for a couple of days then slowly subsided. After 9 days it was over.

    I went to see her at my three week appointment. She drew blood.

    Two days later the test results were in. My Epstein Barr titer was near zero.

    I have never had Chronic fatigue since then. It’s now been 10 years.

    It has also changed my relationship with science, what science knows, and what science can know.

    Making matters even more interesting in the ensuing years I discovered that the doctor who treated me was an adherent of the late Indian guru Meher Baba. During those 15 or five minute absences in which she left me alone in the examining room she was in her office consulting her spirit guides for counsel on the appropriate homeopathics for me to take for the next two weeks.

    I once again tell you that this story is as true as I can tell it.

    1. Could it be that just inducing a fever was enough? It seems that this natural mechanism your body uses to kill viral infections was successful and you just happened to get the flu at this time. By raising the temperature, your body deactivated the flu and Epstein Barr, without being aware of Epstein Barr. Now you attribute this to taking homeopathics.
      On the other hand, homepathics could have improved your immune system to that degree that it noticed the Epstein Barr and started treating it the way it always treats viral diseases as mentioned.
      This way or another, getting a high fever was key.
      I would love to discuss this further. Maybe, as I said, is inducing a fever a cure for basically all viral infections, also those being hidden.
      But normally, the body stops the fever once it’s certain, the infection is eliminated. So the time it’s required should be determined by the body, not an external source – or at least there needs to be an artificial feedback loop…

  22. Placebo effect seems to make the most sense to me. The mind is a very powerful thing and can manifest dis-ease as well as health. Honestly, if you think you perform(recover) faster, better then does it really matter. You can spend all your life looking into science proving something in the body and never come to any solid conclusions. Interesting side note. American Psychiatric Association actually has studies showing placebos work just as good, if not better then anti-depressants. How great would it be if people just took sugar pills instead of mind altering drugs???

  23. The placebo effect may be set prior to even entering the door, as when you made the decision to see a certain Practionier or buy a product. The molecular science or statistics here does not even account for the environment it is used in- the context of a particular individual or any person in general. What we call medicine or medical “science” today is much more economic and political and far from any exact precise or replicable “science.” Dean Ornish, said it well:

    ” Not evidenced based, re-ebursement based. Doctors do what they are trained to do, and what they are trained to do is what they are reimbursed to do..” D Ornish

  24. Hi there

    I am quite saddened to read your post on homeopathy

    “We can not solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them”

    -Albert Einstein

    Homeopathy does not hide that there is zero of the original substance left in the mixture, that’s the intention

    The processes involved are such that the energetic signiture is left which has a profound but slow and steady (subtle) effect on the body’s energy system

    There is no point throwing around stats from studies to prove or disprove the validity of holistic health practices

    At this point in human history the ones that can afford to set up the studies own the results

    The western medical model and big pharma are the big money holders and it is not in their best financial interest to fund supporting studies

    I really enjoy a lot of what you do and your genuine interest in learning

    I hope you find yourself in a holistic health training at some point, maybe Energy Medicine or Jin Shin Jyutsu

    It’s a facinating field of study

    xo

    Sarah

  25. Tim, You may want to check out Dr. Lisa Rankin’s book Mind over Medicine – it is an in depth study of placebos as well as our body’s ability to heal itself. Based on this post, I think you might find it interesting.

  26. I have had problems with skin cancer for years, and turned to a anthroposophic ointment to treat lesions, which I have found to help control them and reduce the frequency of Mohs surgery. Anthroposophic remedies are very similar to homeopathic, but have been influenced by the work of Rudolph Steiner and others (also the founder of the Waldorf education system). Homeopathy is also more widely accepted in Europe and England. We have been so programmed by the medical/industrial complex to treat quickly regardless of potential side effects that any alternative is looked on with suspicion. It is helpful to know that many drug compounds have a plant source, and that there is a huge base of unknown plant-based compounds that have yet to be discovered, and how they may be used for healing. All healing, it must be remembered, must start in the mind. Even the most effective main stream drugs will fail if the patient / subject has given up.

  27. I’m really happy to see that you a taking a strong skeptical stand on homeopathy and other issues. I’ve always admired you willingness to try new techniques and how think out of the box, but I’m happy you haven’t fallen down the ‘woo’ trap and led your readers astray. Keep up the scientific thinking and I look forward to your new, proven, discoveries!

  28. Tim, I’m very happy you’ve introduced this discussion on your page. Because many people are suffering who don’t need to if they approach homeopathy with an open mind. We are entrenched in an old chemical molecule (ie pharmaceutical ) paradigm. Homeopathy was so effective that the one thousand medical schools in the US were run out at the turn of the last century. It’s too cheap and too effective. Put on a new hat and new paradigm. You’re good at that. Quantum Physics is the new reality. Everything vibrating at its own tone. The vibration of a substance is transferred to the remedy in the water during the successive dilutions. Dr. Emoto proved that water has memory. So with an exact recommendation for a remedy, The human body is receiving a new vibration or note. We are all just vibrating energy. No matter actually exists except in our minds.

    .

  29. Could not agree more. Got no experience on the subject (homeopatic) but always drive me crazy to try to understand. My area is mec. Engineer so with my logical thougt is hard to figure out homeopatic stuf..

    Best regards

  30. We use homeopathic (not Natural/ Organic but homeopathic) on our kids, both under 3 year old. They have no idea what placebo means and yet this has helped immensely. Another thing we’ve used is amber anklets to help with teething…

    On both counts, I have no idea how/ why it works and frankly I used to be in the “this is BS” camp but having tested on our children (can I say that without getting a call from social services!?), it’s worked as well if not better than drugs doctors try to push down your throat.

  31. Totally agree Tim. Placebo effect is very strong and the only logical explanation to the effects you are seeing.

    Hypnosis my be able to reverse the effect of having read the label, since it is only your subconscious that you are tricking.

  32. I am so glad you have brought up this topic. I am a family practice physican-board certified and a professor at medical schools. I am the daughter of a surgeon, and avid spiritualist. When you have dissected a brain, pronounced people dead, and done tons of yoga and meditation, you learn a lot about what it means to be “alive.” when you have listened to peoples storied and seen patterns that exist in people, you understand healing more–that a cold is not the same for each person. In America, the land of “fast and cheap money as the motivator”, quality and spiritual growth are underappreciated. Hoemopathy was a medicne from Abrahams time. It is best used in the classical form which helps address patterning that helps people make a spiritual shift over years. I have seen it work miracles in children, where o placebo affect is possible. but most profoundly, I have seen it change the essence, and therefore lives of well educated, sophisticated popele who are aware of the more subtle patterns in themselves in others. Disease develops soemtimes acutely, but more importantly, chronically from life patterns we have. Homeopathy shifts these patterns, so our health and life changes. It is uncomfortable for many to understand it by overanalyzing the science behind why it works. but when you have a patient who gets chronic UTI’;s and is also being”fucked”by life and people, and you give her staphasagria, she starts standing up for herself, stays sober, goes home alone, and the Uti’s go away. YOu have just changed this person’s life. I will say thaat to receive the right remedy, you need a ahomeopathy who can actually see you patterning. But most are not so great. I have studied classicc homeoapthy with a world master, as well with some french program for doctors only. The understanding coming from a master is ligt years away from the understanding of the common brain trying to use homeopathy just for acute issues. Find a classical homeopathy master, try a classical remedy for years. Only after you have learned and EXPERIENCED real homeopathy from a master, would i suggest you harbor an opinion. I would not judge the burger from a mcdonalds.

  33. I love this post!!! I have mulled these ideas for some time and have concluded that the Placebo is the number one underused medicine in treatment. For me, placebo’s work up to two weeks, then I return to the bell-curve model and heal according to time. For acute issues, that’s worth the bluff. But even more so, I think there is enough invisible evidence to merit more study on the power of the mind (over matter). Thanks for pondering on the page.

  34. Tim – Greetings!

    Beyond researching Jacques Benveniste and the “memory of water” (based on a comment I posted earlier), you might also like the book, “The Field” by Lynne McTaggart. A search on Rupert Sheldrake would also be fun, as would a few days looking at information and videos on Royal Raymond Rife – and the University of Southern California study he was a part of. I actually sent information on this to your publicist a couple years back. Cheers!

  35. I have spent a considerable amount of time experimenting with natural remedies and homeopathic ones specifically following an experience with a homeopathic doctor (also a GP). I seemed to be stuck in a cycle of repeat bronchitis and had tried every kind of treatment presented by my normal GP. I was taken to this homeopath by family, and as a resolute skeptic I was amazed at the physical changes to my health. I retained my skeptism, but after returning a few times over the years for a tune up, I decided to learn what I could for myself. A side effect of this treatment was that aural migraines that plagued me too, all but disappeared. (I’ve had 2 in 10 years compared to 10 a year).

    I have tried various homeopaths in the years since but have been very unimpressed. However, I have used my own knowledge to treat minor ailments for myself and my family for all of these years. I use a cross section of reference books and tend to treat colds, flu, all kinds of tummy upsets and a variety of typical travel related types of things (travelled multiple times in Africa with only my travel kit to treat stuff). I can’t fault it, and whereas I am not using it against serious issues, I am

    amazed at how well different kinds of colds, coughs, tummy upsets are catalogued with symptoms, and are easily identifiable with a bit of practice, and easily respond to the right remedy. I’ve handled all kinds of kid based things like temperatures, teething. I used the 200 potency variations for a range of post birth issues after both of my c-sections. I find that there is an increased effect (quicker) because I have no need of other ‘conventional’ over the counter stuff.

    I don’t find that the energy based or esoteric explanations hold water with me, excuse the pun, it works, so I keep using it. Some of the people representing homeopathy are not helping it’s cause. Given my own success (for me and my family), I am mystified how scientific tests have given no conclusive positive evidence. I have a theory to add to yours – I buy the idea that all these plants and substances are on this earth to help (heal) us. Conventional drugs are made from isolated derivatives of these. My theory is that there is truth to the homeopathic concept of treat like with like. I think that in taking a homeopathic remedy we effectively give our body a short cut set of instructions as to what is wrong so it can go ahead and fix the problem. Choosing the right remedy is critical. I don’t think there is an acting substance retained, but some discrete pattern or instruction that our bodies are able to recognise and respond to. It’s our body that does the magic.I can’t prove it, but I will continue to judge it on it’s merits

    .

  36. Tim, I think your number 4 (unknown cause that makes homeopathy work) is not an option, as it’s been falsified many times over by double-blind randomized controlled trials.

    Since there is a control group that is given regular bottled water, we can see that there is an EQUAL positive effect in people who did not receive the homeopathic stuff. Even if we have no clue WHAT is causing the positive effect, we DO know that it happens for the tap water just as well as for the ‘homeopathic cure’.

    So even if there’s an unknown property that’s causing the homeopathic cure to ‘work’, it’s also causing regular bottled water to ‘work’, so it still proves homeopathy doesn’t work better than regular bottled water.

    On a more comic note: the water you are drinking (whether tap or bottled from source or filtering) has almost beyond any reasonable doubt been in contact with animal or human feces. If homeopathy works because it remembers the tiny tiny amount of homeopathic base material that it was once into contact with, then surely it will also remember the tons and tons of feces it has been into contact with?

  37. Tim,

    You’re probably tired of anecdotal comments from gullible people who state that “you just have to trust in the universe”. So, I thought I would offer some unusual scientific studies that can shed some light on this topic.

    For years I scoffed at all of the fruity New Age quackery snake oil treatments out there. However, like you, I make it a point to follow up with research, before arriving at any conclusion. That’s what differentiates a true skeptic from someone who is just close-minded.

    Well, after reviewing some of the scientific studies conducted with animals, I can no longer categorize homeopathy with crystal energy and incense healing. After all, the placebo effect does not generally work with animals the way it does with people (unless tadpoles and other animals are closet Pentecostals).

    I thought you would appreciate looking into these studies:

    http://www.inter-uni.net/static/download/publication/komplementaer/a_1991_Endler_et_al_Berlin_J_highland.pdf (a study on the effects of homeopathic treatments and tadpole-to-frog metamorphosis)

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18194759 (another tadpole-homeopathic study that also involved electromagnetic field exposure)

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1475939/ (animal studies on homeopathy, and its effects on immunity and inflammation)

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23497815 (a review of hundreds of animal studies and the effects of homeopathic treatments)

  38. I have used homeopathic medicine with good results. Also did some shamanic healing with incredible results. BUT, you have to find a true shaman, not some dipstick who did a shamanic course. I do know that homeopathic meds work better than the stuff you get from a traditional doctor, without the side effects. Might be because people who seek out natural medicine actually want to heal. A lot of people get sick and the disease gives them some meaning in life, so they have a “reason” to be sick.

    Just my .02 cents.

  39. Homeopathy is energy medicine, not chemical medicine. They don’t work the same way at all. Homeopathic remedies are not something you can assign just based on “this condition needs this cure”. You have to find the right energetic remedy for the specific person, which might or might not be the one traditionally used for that condition. That is why “double-blind” studies don’t work. Energetic remedies don’t merely chemically fix you, like chemical remedies do. They work on your energy system, which is something most medical researchers don’t have any clue about.

    Western science doesn’t understand a lot of the mechanisms behind energy medicine–that doesn’t mean it doesn’t work. And you’ll never understand it if you can’t get past your “this is obviously stupid” bias. If you really are willing to test things out, then test them. But if you don’t do it with an actually open mind you’re wasting your time.

  40. I have tried a few homeopathic remedies in the past which I agree appeared not to have any affect which I scientifically conclude because the potency is too weak. I have tried various pills that claim to help with migraines as I can suffer 3 per month for 4 days at a time; none of which helped in the slightest. I have also used Bach flower remedies to calm my nerves when I was under a lot of emotional stress. The back flower remedies did actually seem to work although logically I do not believe it possible.

    If anyone has any tried and tested ideas for my migraines I would be delighted to test them!

    1. According to alternative medicine migraines are caused by a dislike of being driven, resisting the flow of life and sexual fears. They can be eliminated by masturbation apparently. Pranic healing and qigong and hypnosis also work. A book I recommend is Messages From The Body by Narayan Singh. Lynn Henderson sales them. They are around $100.00. The book lists virtually all disease/illness and the EMOTIONAL cause of it.

      Lynnhenderson.com

      1. My migraines are definitely environmental. I tend to suffer them when I have stress. I meditate daily which has resulted in less frequency thankfully. I have just moved to the north of Chile though and am suffering altitude sickness at the moment. It’s not much fun and is causing me headaches.

  41. Tim — Interesting discussion you’ve stirred up here but here is the summation of Homeopathy in a nutshell: It is impossible given the laws of thermodynamics (there has never been an observed exception to these laws) in fact an exception would lead to a radically different universe to the one we inhabit.

    Consider the fact everything requires a transfer of energy (not the new age mumbo jumbo energy).

    Consider:

    – Your car needs gasoline to run

    – A hot cup of coffee left on a table goes cold

    – All medicine that works involves a reaction pathway at the cellular level

    – Diluting material (beer, wine, medicines) serves to reduce it’s strength.

    So either homeopathy is the ONLY exception in the universe of something that violates thermodynamical laws or it is garbage (and tests show it is no better than placebo).

    It’s an either/or scenario. Either the body responds to food and meds by changing reactions at a cellular level or it doesn’t. All the evidence I have says the former is correct.

  42. I think the term “placebo” is derogatory given its medical genesis. It means that nothing was introduced physically to which a cure can be attributed. I actually think the idea that something could be introduced which, by itself, could create a cure is much less plausible than than idea that “thought creates”. Medicine has done great things but it has also created a dependency whereby many people now need an outside stimulus from the thoughts of others to stimulate their own healing response. When Ghandi said, “Be the change you wish to see!” he may not have been talking simply about social justice. I don’t believe that any medicine can work without our positive thoughts, beliefs and faith that it will. But, with that internal support medicine can do more than either right thinking or the medicine could have done by themselves. Evidence – two people the same age, same basic lifestyle, same sex, same diet, same physical condition, both treated for the same cancer at the same stage and in the same way. One dies and the other makes a full recovery.

  43. Something else that has to be considered too, what part does the mind play in all this?! I don’t mean the placebo either. Why did I use to get severe colds in winter? Stress? I have way less stress now and colds are a rarity. When I do feel one coming on I take Vitamin C & D along with some echinacea and it is gone within 24 hours 99% of the time.

    1. Hi Gordon,

      In my own field of study ( flower essence therapy, 17 years of researching my own remedies ), the mind plays a pivotal role in health conditions. We still work from a model of medicine where the mind is not attached to the body and ignore the role of ‘focused energy’ ( thought ) on our biology. Not to mention the effect of ‘grid locked’, emotion charged memories. This subject is the main one I am interested in.

      I would estimate that if you could slice open a health condition or disease, that 95% of it is consciousness. And 5% is the ‘physical wrapper’, the symptoms affecting our biology.

      I have seen some amazing cases of people shedding years of disease patterns through talking about raw issues that are charged with emotion. Once tapped into, it’s like pulling a cork out of the bottle, and because that stuff is no longer a reality within the body-system, health improves. As logic says it will.

      The mind is no placebo. I view the mind as the ultimate medicine.

      Nice chatting,

      Brendan Rohan – founder of the Skyflowers

  44. Suggestion for the book club

    Bad Sceince by Ben Goldacre.

    Covers this and other subjects in some detail. Interesting and illuminating read

    [Moderator: link removed]

  45. I’m going with Option 3, regression toward the mean. Or sometimes, coincidence/lack of accounting for other factors. Viva la scientific method.

    1. Peer-reviewed double-blind studies with suitable test populations. Eliminate bias. Tests should be repeatable by others. Science. Simple.

  46. Hi Tim, just for the record I’m a fan and I started an internet business after getting inspired by the “Four Hour Workweek”. Not setting the world on fire but I get money at the most unexpected times. Anyway, I’ve seen lots of anecdotal evidence and even experienced some relief based on homeopathy. I remember reading about the Spanish Flu epidemic in 1918 and how alipathic (so-called “normal”) medicine had a much higher failure rate than homeopathic Here’s a link for starters: http://www.organicconsumers.org/articles/article_17729.cfm

    Anyway, I enjoy hearing from you.

  47. Interesting the items you wrote. It is right to look for evidence in the medical treatments using homeopathy.Personally my brother used it to overcome epilepsy when he was a child. Best

    M. Arce

  48. Hi Tim,

    I love your writing research, and going in depth on topics, but this is one that deserves a bit more that the cursory knowledge supplied here…

    As a Naturopathic Doctor, I personally do not use Homeopathic treatment modalities in my practice due to inconsistencies, but to explain their effects as coming from the actual “substance” that is supposed to be contained in them is incorrect.

    Homeopathy is centered around the concept of energy, and that energy comes from the vibration and “essence” of the substance that has been diluted down.

    Samuel Hahnemann was working with and talking about Quantum physics long before anyone else knew what it was. Homeopathy cannot be explained by any other methods beyond this, because you’re right… there’s no actual substance left in the “water.”

    Again, I’m not a proponent of it, but let’s at least have a discussion of how homeopathy actually works. And, there is actual research based evidence showing that some formulas do work. For example, Oscillococcinum has been clinically proven in at least 2 studies to reduce the duration and symptoms of the flu. And, it’s been shown to work in children and animals (no placebo effect).

    I just don’t think this post was as well researched or thought out as your others and it didn’t seem to fit with your otherwise well written work. It’s just my opinion, but this seemed more of an off-the-cuff thought than a typical researched Tim Ferris blog post I’m used to…

    Thanks Tim!

  49. I write because I hope your post won’t dissuade people who are suffering away from a potential healing with homeopathy. I have had extraordinary help from homeopathy in many ways over the years. True, the energetic template or “essence” you describe is not verifiable on the substantive/molecular level. But homeopathy is a science, and legitimately homeopathically prepared remedies are used after repeated “provings” have validated results. Homeopathy takes some faith, and belief in the unseen, which is hard for folks to implement these days. A few years back I had a licensed massage therapy practice alongside a classically trained homeopath, one that had studied in Europe (England), India and Israel. She taught me that homeopathy is mainstream medicine in those places, and that used to be true here as well before a political break between America’s medical establishment and Hahnemann’s followers, most of whom were also MD’s. But more to the point, last month she treated a friend of mine with Bell’s Palsy who was in such bad shape she had to blink her own eyes and couldn’t care for her kids for 3 three weeks. With a remedy, my friend was symptom-free in 10 days. The homeopath treated someone else I know with Bell’s Palsy, using a completely different remedy, because this is a form of healing that treats the individual, nothing formulaic about it. Same extraordinary results for a condition that can last up to nine months. Over the years, I have seen her yield similar, jaw-dropping results for people I know with cancer, lymes disease, intractable cases of warts… you name it. Yes, there’s something here worth trying. Energetic modalities of healing are being sought in Reiki, Yoga, Polarity Therapies, and so on. It takes a willingness to try the unexplainable.

  50. Tim, You are consistent and erudite. You have eloquently summed up way better than I have the patience and ability to say, pretty much what I think after 7 plus decades on this here planet. Your advocate. sQs Delray Beach FL aka Village By The Sea

  51. I’d like to comment on the idea of Placebo effect. You take “medicine” with the intention of feeling better or getting some kind of result, but not all “medicine” does the trick. So wouldn’t a Placebo effect run hand in hand with other medicines? Quite frankly some of the medicines out there don’t really work even though you expect them too. “placebo”

    I learn my first lesson on the power of homeopathic about 5 years ago. I rarely get sick and Im a pretty natural guy when it comes to drugs. I had the flu and while at wholefoods saw a homeopathic “natural” remedy. So I figured I would give it a whirl. The name of the product was Oscillococcinum, its quite popular now and you can find it at CVS as well. http://www.oscillo.com/

    Within 15 minutes of taking the prescribed dosage I felt 85% better! I was blown away, my body aching was almost gone, my fever seemed to had lead up. The next 3 days I took the normal dosage and didn’t feel but mildly sick, where as I was pretty freakin sick to begin with. Since I don’t get sick often when I do it’s pretty hardcore. But now I keep Oscillococcinum, just in the rare times I get the flu. Ive also started using more and more homeopathic remedies, and there is one for heartburn that works in no time as well! Tums never really worked so well for me.

    Tim if you are really interested in reading up on homeopathic and the nature of how they actually work I would recommend reading the section on homeopathic in Vibrational Medicine: The #1 Handbook of Subtle-Energy Therapies. Very interesting stuff.

  52. Dear Tim and all,

    I have my own range of flower essence remedies ( which are similar, but not same to homoeopathics ) and have been researching them since 1997. I am well used to working at ‘below biology levels’ to correct various issues and have some amazing testimonials of physical problems that were corrected.

    Having said that I am sober as to what vibrational medicine can and can’t do. Whether a remedy works or not depends on whether it was the right approach to begin with. Even in my own field of medicine, many therapists get ‘camera locked’, look at everything as if it needs a flower remedy and attempt to treat everything via this method.

    One reason why a remedy “does not work” in treatment is not because vibrational remedies like homeopathics are bogus, but because the issue needs correcting via another method. Or a range of other methods such as homoeopathic pills, sleep and dietary changes. Often, if the remedy does not ‘work’, another perspective needs to be taken to treat the cause. You need to match the right medicine to the ailment. In other words, a hammer is for hammering nails, not a screwdriver.

    Personally, it amazes me how the term ‘skeptic’ has come to ‘logical and rational’. I am the first to admit that I see some crazy thinking in my own field. But, on the other side of the fence in ‘skeptic-ville’, I see a lot of crazy thinking. If you fail to apply vibrational remedies with skill and precision, then of course you will see some poor results. As I said earlier, you need to take the right corrective approach to your illness to solve it – which may mean employing a totally different treatment, medicine or technique.

    I once cut my thumb badly. While I am flower essence therapist, I instinctively reached for a surgeon. The correct medicine. In fact, I define medicine as not what we put into the body, but what comes out of us – ‘the instinct within every human being that seeks happiness, health and prosperity’. I learned what medicine was the moment I cut my thumb and nature took over.

    Debunkers of vibrational medicines such as homoeopathy seize upon the fact that a remedy was merely the incorrect approach ( i.e. you didn’t need homoepathics or they were misapplied ) and make the broad claim that the whole practice is ‘snake oil’.

    In a world where we still have incurable diseases to solve and are making new scientific breakthroughs everyday, that should tell us that we are yet to master the human organism. And need to remain open minded about treatments – mainstream or ‘alternative’.

    Brendan Rohan – founder of the Skyflowers

  53. Actually, there’s a 5th option. The studies done didn’t actually test what they claim to test.

    Take acupuncture for example. There are many many studies that show acupuncture doesn’t work. And many that do. The deciding factor seems to be the sample size. Tim, I know you know your way around research studies, so you know that the bigger the sample size, the more statistically reliable the study is supposed to be.

    The reason is obvious if you look a little deeper. The studies with large sample sizes are performed with one size fits all treatments – we call them protocols. If you look at studies that didn’t work, and showed that acupuncture works a little better than placebo, you’ll usually see the scientists consulted a list of acupuncture points and chose the points said to be used for X condition. These made up protocols are something no self-respecting acupuncturist would use as a treatment.

    Acupuncturists choose a combination of points that work together based on a diagnosis, not based on the symptoms. The same symptoms can have different causes. For example, scientists are discovering that MCS (Multiple Chemical Sensitivity) is actually 6 different syndromes with nearly identical symptoms. Most acupuncturists already knew that.

    It’s still permissible to use a one-size-fits-all protocol. For example Andy Rosenfarb in New Jersey has a 50% success rate for macular degeneration using a protocol (but also claims a 90%+ success rate using a custom treatment). And there’s the NADA protocol which is so effective at treating drug addiction, the California legislature passed something or other recommending it’s continuing and expanded use in the prison system.

    So a real study of acupuncture’s effectiveness would require actual acupuncturists doing a proper diagnosis and giving a custom treatment to the patient. Which is cost prohibitive for larger studies.

    I have no idea if homeopathy works. If there’s a lot of disparity in experimental results, I would look at the experiment design first.

  54. Hi Tim,

    Great post and controversial (as you can see from the comments).

    I would like to recommend a book that discusses this topic: “Bad Science” by Ben Goldacre.

    By the way, it would be great if Dr Goldacre could be a guest in your podcast.

  55. I am an Acupuncturist who leans heavily to the functional evidence based medicine side of the yin/yang scale. And, full disclosure, I think homeopathic “medicine” is crazy woo woo placebo water. However, being a rational thinker…I too contend that there might be some method of action that is being overlooked but has a tangible effect. I happened upon an article today about how quantum vibrations might play a role in how the brain works and though…ok, maybe? Here is the article: http://www.scienceagogo.com/news/20140017222508.shtml

  56. Many think that science is an accurate measuring stick for everything. And a judge of what’s right and wrong. Rational and irrational. Correct and incorrect.

    But what measures the accuracy of science itself?

    Science was invented to measure the natural world, to map it, to know it. Not to judge it. Science is based upon the human desire to know and understand. It is an exploration tool for furthering our understanding of the subtleties and nuances of life. The role of science is to work out a means of measuring the new, not give up on something because we don’t have a measure for it yet.

    This is lazy. And irrational.

    In a world where we are still finding out answers, making breakthroughs in medicine and still have incurable diseases to cure, I don’t think it’s wise to quit measuring the universe we live in. Or marginalize any treatment method or emerging science, especially when some are finding it to be effective.

    Science has not measured everything yet. Because there is still a world to explore.

    Brendan Rohan – founder of the Skyflowers

  57. My primitive understanding is that homeopathy works on the same level of law of attraction “like attracts like” — so take a poison ivy plants in a tincture, dilute it so that there’s virtually 0 poison ivy, yet the ‘energy’ is still there and draws it out

    The idea that the world is the mirror of your subconscious mind makes sense to me, ie the law attraction, so I could see this being the case

  58. Tim,

    First, as always, thank you for putting this out there to a larger audience. Your ability to get the conversation started, even when I do not agree with your views, is powerful and a catalyst for change. I’m appreciative of that.

    Second, I’m also very appreciative of all of the great resources for those sticking up for homeopathic treatment that have been posted here in the comments. Without your willingness to talk about this, I would not have found some of those resources. So, again—thank you.

    Third, while this feels to me like one of your least researched posts, I am grateful that you, at the very least, gave Option #4 some kind of mention. For someone who has always appeared so open-minded, My jaw dropped to see you spell the word “right” with four i’s—a spelling reserved for only the densest of skeptics. 😉

    I have always looked up to you ever since reading the 4-Hour Workweek when I was 23-years old. You have completely changed the way I live my life and empowered me and so many others to never take conjecture as fact and instead do our own research.

    It was that spirit of unbridled experimentalism that led me into experimenting with homeopathic treatments when doctors told me that I would not be able to walk fully upright ever again after suffering a lower back injury. Without nutritional response and muscle testing, my life would be very different right now, as my back has fully healed and I have returned to a healthy workout routine.

    There is a big difference between purchasing a homeopathic treatment off the health food store shelf because a label caught your eye and using something like kinesiology to dose a treatment that is specific to your body’s energy and chemical makeup. I would love to hear your thoughts on those types of treatments and any prolonged experimentation that you’re able to put together.

    When someone you respect so much flippantly dismisses something that you have seen to be true in your own life, as I have with homeopathic medicine, you can imagine how jarring it might be. I moved through the typical human emotions after reading this post—first embarrassment, then hurt, then anger, then elation.

    Why elation? Because if Tim Ferris off-handedly dismissing the profound affect that consciousness and science of mind has on healing, then it means I’m ahead of the curve and when MY book comes out about it, I’LL get to blow the lid off of it and show the world the truth. Man—that’s exciting! 🙂

    Any great scientist strives to be in a place where they are willing to throw out a lifetime’s worth of work if it means it will lead to new discovery. Any true alchemist knows that lugging around a dead carcass will only feed the pack for so long. Eventually, the pack has to go back out and hunt for something that is alive.

    You inspired within me, at age 23, the desire to discover what was possible; to not take any one else’s word for it, but rather let my own experiments show me what worked for me. Science has given us all so many gifts, but in many ways, it is the dead carcass that we’ve all been feeding off of, and we’re getting down to the dry bone.

    I’m excited about the possibilities. I’m excited about being a part of something new and fresh and controversial. I’m thrilled to be living as an experimentalist. And I can’t wait for noetics to take flight with the next generation of intuitive thinkers, and alchemy to have its resurgence. I’m excited to learn more about the organizing principle behind scalar waves and magnetics. I love to hear fringe scientists talk about multi-dimensionality and magnetics. It’s all very new and very cool—and yet, these ideas have been around since the beginning of time. That’s intriguing to me.

    Thank you for your mind, you attention to detail, and your creative spirit, sir. But, I for one, am leaning towards new discovery and finding new understanding for “unexplained mechanisms.”

    Cheers. 🙂

  59. Hey Tim, I regularly see a Homoeopathy for all my ailments (and so does my young family) We don’t treat ourselves with over the counter Homoeopathy cause it needs specialised ‘matching’ of symptoms with remedies. The lady we see is a fricken miracle worker I tell you. My kids walk in with a terrible cough, she treats them on the spot (one dose does it) and they walk out WITHOUT a cough. When we see her for physical problems we also find that any emotional issues are instantly resolved too (I had depression and anxiety). I’m a logical, academic type (yea you know) and I can’t figure out how it works either. All I know is that it ABSOLUTELY works. I only ever see a medical doctor for diagnosis now, and go to my Homoeopath for treatment. Much kinder on the body than drugs. I challenge you to try it Tim! Find a good reputable Homoeopath (or use mine, she does skype consults around the world, google nautilushomoeopathy) and try it.

  60. It’s great that you are asking questions, instead of dismissing homeopathy because it seems unexplainable by common sense! Here’s a good explanation for the reason why homeopathy works, from the University of Arizona website on advanced medicine. http://arizonaadvancedmedicine.com/services/energy-medicine/

    Our state-of-the-art diagnostic scientific tools are just beginning to verify the reality and efficacy of energy medicine and ancient healing methods, just as, not too long ago, germ “theory” was found to be true. (“What? diluting and succussing homeopathics makes them more potent?!” Counterintuitive, yes, but does that mean it cannot be true?) Proofs run the gamut from scientifically verifiable by instruments, to anecdotal but reproducible results. For example, Chinese energy meridians have recently been traced and verified by electron microscopes, a very believable level of proof for skeptics who doubt the 4000 year history. At the other end of the verifiability spectrum, we can see Dr. Masaru Emoto’s “Messages in Water” and scratch our heads for an explanation, unless we admit that the energy of our thoughts is real. (Now, THAT’s a subject worth investigating! The Princeton random number generator experiments are a good place to start, or read some of Dr. Larry Dossey’s books or Dr. Robert Beck.) Anecdotal information is best not discounted if we are to remain open minded, which is essential to the scientific method. If I’ve learned anything in life, it’s that I don’t know everything. Which is OK, as long as I keep looking.

  61. I’m glad to read this! I’ve felt kind of lonely in my skepticism. If it is a placebo effect, it can never work on me because homeopathy is illogical, and I can’t make myself believe in it. But if there is some yet-unexplained process happening, when it’s been documented and explained I may not have any problem believing it at all! Until then, I’ll stick with more ‘concentrated’ remedies.

  62. Tim, I’m disappointed that you would spread misinformation/cast doubt on a great healing modality to so many people. Check this out: “In a German trial, a homeopathic treatment for vertigo outperformed the pharmaceutical remedy; at Harvard, subjects with mild brain injury showed significantly greater improvement with a homeopathic treatment than with a placebo.”

    Homeopathy works, more than placebo, please accept the facts.

    Link: http://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/200403/the-strange-case-homeopathy

  63. Hi Tim…I am a first time responder and will be working on my new “muse” this coming week.

    As to Arnica, I have used it successfully to treat very painful hip bursitis, both topically and internally. I can attest that it is not a placebo because I used it alternating with a doctor prescribed gel containing “diclofenac sodium”. The arnica won!. I did a search for treating bursitis naturally and there are several medical studies that confirm arnica success.

    I concur Deane’s comment on the placebo effect as to using it successfully with animals, so what we think or not may not matter.

    For guests, the name that immediately came to mind was Watts Wacker, visionary and futurist at .

    Cheers!

  64. Thanks for a discussion on this important topic. I am very pleased to see the number of people who have used homeopathy and trusted their experience to say ‘Yes, it worked for me. Don’t know how, but it definitely worked” despite hearing so much skeptical opinion about it.

    Despite what you will hear in the mainstream press, scientific evidence absolutely supports the effectiveness of homeopathy. Homeopathic remedies have been conclusively demonstrated to 1) have physico-chemical properties distinct from water or succussed water controls, 2) have biological effects both in vitro and in-vivo (mice/rats), and 3) to have clinical effectiveness.

    You can read more detail at my comment in the BMJ:

    http://www.bmj.com/content/345/bmj.e6184/rr/606486

    It is incorrect to state that systematic review after systematic review has found homeopathy inefficacious. In fact, 4 of the 5 general systematic reviews have found it efficacious. The one Tim mentioned, Shang et al, is truly a joke and was completely discredited (by literally dozens of authors, but here are a few):

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18834714

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24200828 (the guy who wrote this paper is a Swedish anesthesiologist/surgeon with no connection at all to homeopathy – has never used it himself, studied it, etc. He looked at the data and found glaring bias in the Shang study and other negative studies. The full paper is available free by clicking the link on the page).

    The Shang study was directed actually not by Shang, but his mentor Mathias Eggers, who is a very vocal and hostile critic of homeopathy and holistic medicine in general. The Shang study was methodologically incorrect in so many fundamental ways it is impossible to sum here, but you can read a little more in the above link to my BMJ comment.

    The other 4 systematic reviews were led by neutral and even skeptical parties, yet still had positive findings. The highest quality of them is Linde’s 1997 review (also published in the Lancet). Unlike Eggers/Shang, Linde is a world-renowned epidemiologist/biostatistician with no ax to grind one way or the other. Also unlike Shang, Linde re-analyzed his data in multiple subsequent, published, sensitivity analyses, all of which continued to find homeopathy superior to placebo::

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9310601

    Homeopathy likely works through modulating the central nervous system, not through the well known conventional pharmacological cell receptor-ligand or enzyme interactions. I know this is very hard for some to accept, but this is how reality works – through matter AND waves. Here is a great model put forward by an Iranian immunologist:

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23343410

  65. Probably “The field” by LynneMcTaggart would give more insight of things happenning in that strange world of the quantum tjheory wichi would cover the workings of homeopathy.

  66. Very interesting book on this topic: The Memory of Water: Homoeopathy and the Battle of Ideas in the New Science. An interesting perspective on what constitutes ‘science’ in the prevailing paradigm.

  67. Homeopathy is not based on science or any controlled experiments. It is tolerated because it is relatively harmless. Placebo effect though is not something to be laughed at. When statins were being investigated the patients with the most measurable benefit were those taking the drug daily, second most benefit were those taking the placebo daily. I find

    though that many patients have limited resources and the placebo effect may not be enough. Or may be just enough to cause a delay in making a critical diagnosis. Young people with good habits can tolerate a slightly longer time to repair but your parents and grandparents need to know the cause of discomfort and if the cause is benign, then homeopathy will not do any harm.

  68. After 5 or 6 rounds of antibiotics for my (then ~1 y.o.) son’s chronic ear infections were so bad and the side effects of the antibiotics so severe , we tried homeopathy. Maybe it was a placebo or observer effect; he never had another ear infection. Who cares what the true mechanics of homeopathy are if it gets the results?

  69. I use Arnica pellets and they def work! Used before 2 surgeries and both times doc commented on how quickly I was healing

  70. “The water actually retains some “essential property” of the original substance”…I would give more weight on this one as potential, and not to underestimate the magical properties of water. It’s ability to pick up and hold something of what it comes past, or into contact with. Water memory. Quite a few experiments on this already. Plus taking this back to an energy level (energy frequency vibration), for me its likely that water does actually retain some essential property of the original substance.

  71. Hey Tim, it is worth following Gerald Pollack’s research on water chemistry. I think his lab is at U Washington. Jack Kruse also has a quite a bit to say about water and electrodynamics. I’d venture to suggest that it never really was about the biochemistry but the quantum effects of biochemistry on water (after all, water is a dipolar molecule, and the mitochondria are all about electron dynamics)

    1. Also, Andrewamarino.com has plenty to say. He worked with Robert O. Becker, the guy nominated for the Nobel 3x. Becker wrote the book, The Body Electric. Speaking of all things liquid, have you had a Central Otago pinor noir lately?

  72. Hi Tim,

    I’m a fan of your work and your way of thinking!

    Option 4 answers options 1 & 2. Option 3 can be said of any medicine. If science is only to know what is marketable then what is not is ignored. Have you read ” hidden messages in water ” or seen ” what the bleep do we know “? In the back of the book is an experiment on making a cloud disappear. This gives an experiential knowing of your option 4.

    I studied Reiki, matrix energetics, pranic healing, reconnective healing, and silva method. All where fun for awhile, but it was not till I discovered isha yoga that I found what really works for me. Never bored and always moving forward.

    I would love to hear your experience of ” inner engineering ” if you were to accept the challenge! I think it would take you beyond the limits that you have already exceeded !

    Regards,

    Aaron

  73. fascinating – i think that bell curve is correct – we go to the crazy stuff toward the end of the natural healing cycle…as i have just booked in an appt this week for a long standing problem!!! I think that Milton Erikson was also on to the healing powers when he spoke of RAPPORT being the most important thing between patient and doctor of any kind.

  74. If you are of the opinion that oral homeopathic remedies are probably a placebo effect, explain why they work so well with animals. No placebo effect there. I know several horse owners/trainers who get positive results using homeopathic remedies. Maybe it’s the energetic properties?

  75. All I know is that Sudafed makes me high as a kite and ColdCalm works wonders as long as I take it at the first sign of a cold. Of course what works even better is a daily high dose of Vitamin D (10,000 IU) 🙂

  76. Greetings Tim. Love your books and your blog.

    The title you chose however, rubs me entirely the wrong way. It seems that we will have to agree to disagree but using the word “truth” as if your opinion is the only one that is real actually discredits and degrades millions of people including highly trained physicians, veterinarians and pediatricians who are more than satisfied with the results of of their homeopathic medicine.

    If it’s not for you, that is fine, but for the many dogs and cats I have rescued, it has not only been a safe healthy alternative but a much cheaper one that I’m very grateful for. It makes me cringe to think of others who may not try homeopathy for fear of feeling ostracized over something that has great results for many millions of users over the years!

    Just recently I had a very large brindle bully breed mix, who was 13 when I adopted him, and 19 when he passed. Very unusual for a dog his size and yet he only saw homeopathic vets during those last 6 beautiful years. Sure we used natural remedies, but never have I had a problem with homeopathy and a dog or cat.

    Hope this article does not discourage people from trying homeopathy and possibly encourages people to educate themselves more on the topic.

  77. I have 3 words for the people here reading this: Dr. John Sarno. Tim this is a man 50 years ahead of his time in medicine and his ideas have healed me of 30 years of a laundry list of symptoms. Emotions (mostly unconscious) cause symptoms. It really is that simple. There is no money in curing people of their ills.

  78. Hi Tim!

    I am very excited about the challenge you have set 🙂

    I have been waiting for such a challenge for years. I have a very clear experiment ready for such a challenge which will prove to you beyond any doubt that Homeopathic medicine is extremely powerful, should be treated with respect and goes way beyond what people define as a placebo.

    I will devulge the experiment to you when you reply to my email.

    Regards

    David Story

  79. I worked for a homeopath for about five years while completing my Bachelor’s degree in Accounting and for a couple years after I completed my degree. I saw plenty of results with many many people. However, can I prove any of this to anyone? No, as there are no scientifically acceptable data on this. One explanation I offer up is this – Everything is composed of energy. Are all forms of energy measurable? I believe what is being used in homeopathic medicine is the energy of the various substances. Now that being said – One thing I also observed, Of two people with what appeared to be the same conditions, one would get better remarkably and the other would not. I have also seen similar scenarios with people with prescription medications. One possible alternate explanation would be the effect that a person’s beliefs and emotions about whatever health problem they have as well as any subconscious beliefs etc exist. The mind is a powerful thing. I don’t recall where I read this but the article was talking about the how the placebo affect works. They indicated that when someone is doing something they believe will help them it relaxes the part of the brain that has a major part in the healing process so it can do its thing. Sorry I’m a little sketchy on the details as I am recovering from an anoxic brain injury. Best wishes to all in your search for truth about this.

  80. I have continued success treating common illnesses in my young daughters and at an age when the placebo effect would be hard to explain. I suspect your 4th option is at play.

    There is scientific research showing the effectiveness of homeopathy for example… http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1475491610000585

    Lynne McTaggart in her excellent book The Filed also explains from a scientific perspective how homeopathy may work. Here is some discussion about the ORMUS elements and how homeopathy may indeed work.

    http://www.subtleenergies.com/ormus/tw/review.htm

    http://www.subtleenergies.com/ormus/tw/homeopat.htm

  81. Dear Tim,

    Homoepathic medicine is NOT like allopathic medicines!! I am a bit disappointed about the contents of your writing, it shows that you have very little knowledge or understanding about homoeopathy and the law of cure.

    Hahnemann was a very advanced soul, and you will find that science is finally catching up – nowadays this is called quantum physics and if you follow Emoto’s work on Messages of Water, where he photographs water crystals that have been infused with certain intentions or substances you can see a bit more on how things work.

    Therefore what you are writing is based on your limited knowledge as a consumer, rather than having an understanding on how homoepathy works, and unfortunately, people like yourself who write up like this are giving natural medicine a bad name, undeservedly so in my opinion. The pharmaceuticl industry loves articles like this as this will certainly give them fuel to justify what hey are doing: to keep people sick or making them sick. There are numerous articles and testimonials of people who have been treated to death by convential medicine, just like in Hahnemann days when fever was “cured” by bloodlettings, even to the extent that the last drop was squeezed out. The patent was declared cured of the fever, but unfortunately lost his or her life in the process – and a different look on what cure is…

    The homoepathic doctrine is “like cures like” – which means that we are looking at what brings up the symptoms, also cures the symptoms. And in doing so, we take everything into account: if you take a group of people with what is labelled flu, they will all behave differently, one may want to be quiet, another may be very fussy, another may be restless, another may be very thirsty for hot or cold drinks, so we don’t give the same remedy for every person because it would not do the job – we are looking for a “picture” rather than the symptoms…

    The picture is created by provings – Thi sis done as follows – a group of humans rather than animals are taking the homoepathic remedy themselves over a period of time (animals do not talk and depending on what kind of animal it is they would behave very differently anyway). During this time each of them will bring up certain symptoms, which can be several 100’s or even 1000’s depending ofcourse on the size of the group. They will however, have a few key-symptoms in common and that is what we call a “picture”.

    Because “like cures like” this means the following, if a healthy person brings up certain symptoms like thirst for cold water frequently and in small quantities, restlessness, and has a tendency to be tidy and want everything in place, these are the keynotes for amongst others Arsenicum Album. Now if you are ill and have the same symptoms, and everything else matches (that’s why a good homoepath is worth their weight in gold!) and yoy utake the Arsenicum Album in it’s potentized form – and again one needs to have the skills to determine which potency to choose and frequency. If you keep on taking the remedy after the symptoms have subsided, you may well bring up the same symptoms again!

    Also when you take homeopathic over the counter remedies, the main reason that people find that they don’t work, is that as a homoeopath, we’re looking not just for the symptoms but rather to the cause

    Arnica is a good first aid remedy, but if it doesn’t fit your “picture” (and that could be amongst others that you have the wrong potency, you may either need a lower or a higher potency) you will not find that it doesn’t do the job. Also it is NOT a painkiller! It works that way because the way homeopathic works, is that it restores balance in the body.

    Natural medicine in general works on restoring balance rather than patching up what’s there, we are looking at all that surrounds a condition.

    It’s about the body expressing something that is not in order within the system, and that can be mental, physical or emotional – usually a combination of all three.

    It will take me too long to explain everything in detail, but if you google Kent’s lectures, of read Hahnemann’s biography – a very interesting read as he was well ahead of his time and peers,by whom he was judged and laughed at in his days you will find that there is more than what you see…

    I do hope that this has somewhat clarified the whole issue and I do hope that, after you have enlightened yourself a bit more, you will write another article with some more knowledge and less judgment about something that you have very little knowledge about.

    I have been taught as a homoepath many years ago, and it is through the skills I was taught, I owe my life and that of my 4 month premature baby-daughter to my teacher who gave me the deep understanding about homoepathy, and told me that to be a good homoepath is an art. DSo maybe next time you may be doing better to see a good homoepath when what you are taking isn’t working. It may make all the difference

    One more last remark: I always say if it works on animals, babies and plants (this is from own & other homoepath’s experiences)experiences, you do not have to believe in placebo effect.

    With kind regards,

    Dewi Bone

  82. Lynne Mctaggarts book The Field explains the scientific research done and how water still retains the blueprint.

  83. I’ve worked at a health food for awhile and have seen good to miraculous results for some issues and then minimum to no results at other times and for different conditions and remedies. The last testimony that I have was when I drank too much alcohol (heavy IPA beer) on accident and laid down with the nausea and spins. I happened to have Nux Vomica and took the recommended dose and poof! Spins and nausea gone, slept great and woke up fine!

  84. As someone who has dedicated her career to digging through BS to get to the goods (read: rigorously controlled research), homeopathy is something that has bothered me for years too.

    I am not a homeopath. My focus is nutrition, and critical thinking. I do not make any suggestions for homeopathic remedies in my book, training programs, or to my clients.

    However, I still do feel compelled to read up on homeopathy from time to time. Dug this up a few months ago. Curious what others think of it.

    “Plausibility and evidence: the case of homeopathy.” Rutten, Mathie, et al. Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy: A European Journal. Vol 13, No. 1. 1 Feb 2010. http://animalmundi.com/tl_files/artikel/pdfs/Plausibility%20and%20evidence%20of%20homeopathy.pdf

  85. I find these sort of arguments pretty depressing and take the tact that you cannot change the sceptic as that is their job… to be sceptic. However I don’t want to waist my time stating the obvious. It works. It works for me. Just because you don’t understand how it works and that its “working model” is out side of your scientific paradigm makes no difference to it working. It used to be said about Chinese medicine also and the same is here in that the paradigm is different to the western model. Who says the western model is the “be all and end all” I have people come to see me who have been taking 2 to 3 courses of antibiotics for their flu and are no better. Within 3 days they are well on the way to recovery. I use Homoeopathy because it works.

  86. Hi Tim,

    The thing is, we’re working with 1 substance or energy. In essence, all is a placebo. I don’t believe fully in the idea because I’ve been sick for extended periods, but I’m also fairly clear on the concept because I’ve heard stories and seen good friends become healed from Eastern healers, through homeopathic methods.

    I met a man who was partially paralyzed, who physiologically shouldn’t be able to walk now – impossible, according to scans – yet he not only walks, he can achieve difficult yoga poses. He’s called the Walking Miracle, and he lives in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

    Richard saw 3 or 4 healers in remote areas of Thailand and China….one worked with a former US president, another never fell sick in her 80 plus years on earth….and she smoked cigarettes!!!

    Subconsciously, these people accepted the homeopathic medicines or treatments as cure all’s…..and it is so, since they’re living in remote areas, and simply don’t expose themselves to doubting people, and all the mental garbage most of us need to face and release to be well.

    Thanks Tim.

    Tweeting in a bit.

    Signing off from Fiji.

    Ryan

  87. This article outlines my confusion around homeopathy too. I’ve seen a show on the Placebo effect with the Knee surgery that blew my mind so I do think placebo can play a role in most treatments. It’s why I’d never want to push my opinions around a medical treatment another person had chosen and interfere with their personal placebo potential (PPP – should I TM that ? 🙂 I haven’t used homeopathy regularly but many years ago my daughter had a bad case of pin worms. I tried everything natural I could and it was a couple of weeks with no improvement. One visit to the homeopath and she was cleared within 24hrs (with Cina). The placebo seems unlikely because I didn’t think it was going to work and my daughter was 3yrs old. I tried it again years later and it didn’t work – only to find out I was using the wrong one (I used china instead of cina). What has inspired me to continue figuring this homeopathy question out and being open to beyond just placebo is that I became good friends with a homeopath that also happens to be such a cynic with everything else. Somehow a cynic can give credibility to alternative approaches 🙂 She thinks essential oils are woo woo and I am unable to convince her even though there is more research to support their effectiveness compared to homeopathy. I hope that the answer for homeopathy is Tim’s #4 of some unexplained mechanism that my linear thinking brain cannot grasp. I want to believe it so I get the placebo benefits too!

  88. Hey Tim. Coincidence is a marvellous thing. It’s funny how many of my patients ‘coincidentally’ improve – a lot- after taking a well prescribed homeopathic remedy. You only need to worry about explaining ‘scientifically’ how it works if you believe that science can already explain everything!!