(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.
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.
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779 Replies to “The Truth About "Homeopathic" Medicine (#23)”
Go ahead. Tell my cat her skin disease cleared up and her fur grew back because of the placebo effect. Then take away her remedies. Oh and bring some bandaids for your face. Kitty has something for you. 😀
The explanation need not exclude options it is very possible that options 2, 3, and 4 are simultaneously involved. I’ve noticed a tendency to name or identify phenomena for comfort rather than deeper understanding such as when we say “it is the placebo effect.” Naming it does not tell us much more than we knew before the naming, only the sense of mystery is reduced from having named it. I think the rush to eliminate mystery often discourages exploration. Quite often when we declare something ridiculous, mundane, or irrelevant we stop looking for answers. Haven’t we seen past instances when “how the world works” turns out to be a good approximation but totally missing huge collections of phenomena being dismissed as unrelated or irrelevant?
I would answer your question with another question. Homeopathy has been practiced by name for over 200 years and otherwise for much longer. All without scientific evidence.
Tim, you have studied and speak Chinese (Mandarin at least). What are your feelings about eastern medicine, specifically the chakra and meridian systems? Science cannot explain these either, but I work with accupressure and meridian tapping daily with results beyond anything that drugs have ever produced for me.
You say the homeopathic was working. Either study it some more (a lot more) or embrace it.
Tim, Nothing in this post sheds any light on the “Truth” of Homeopathy. I suggest you expend a little – perhaps a lot – more effort researching this topic. Sorry, but there is no 4 hour path to understanding what sits behind the apparent veil of this discipline and other forms of Energy Medicine. Glad to see you are nevertheless reaping the benefits!
Hi Tim, before I migrated to Bolivia in 1993, I worked 3 years with french homeopathic products for farm animals. They were all homeopathic complexes (5 to 10 ingedients most C30) and did the following: Cows: cure and prevent mastitis, strengthen cow’s livers, … result: much better price for the milk because less leucocites and better quality. Pigs and Bovine for meat: better growth through more efficient metabolism…. and less interference of parasites. I think it works on the energetic level.
I was going to tell you that in addition to personal positive results with homeopathic remedies myself from a well educated homeopath, I first used them for my Siberian Husky through a vet clinic with immediate success for a serious ailment .
Why would most of the royal households in Europe use homeopathy when they could afford any treatment ?
I think your premise that some things are later understood through Science that are not for periods of time will hold true. Quantum physics seems unbelievable but is not.
Muchos de los medicamentos de hoy en dia estan basados en remedios naturales. Esta comprobado que incluso hay alimentos como la Curcuma, las moras, el cafe, la col rizada entre muchos mas, son beneficiosos para la salud.
El detalle es lo que compras en una botella vs. lo que te preparan al momento.
Por ejemplo, en China y Hong Kong existen boticarios en cada esquina que venden remedios homeopaticos, los cuales tu puedes ver mientras preparan. Sabes lo que te estan sirviendo- cuando compras remedios homeopaticos preparados comercialmente no sabes 100% lo que compras. No es una formula regulada por ninguna agencia.
La doctora Rosita Arvigo, en Belize, escribio un libro sobre su experiencia con los remedios homeopaticos de la cultura Maya, guiada por uno de los ultimos chamanes Maya. El libro se llama Satsun, y relata la manera en que se entrena un tipico medico en homeopatia Maya. Muy interesante.
La homeopatia es un arte antiguo, pero puede, al igual que los alimentos, comercializarse a un nivel que pierde su valor nutritivo o su integridad natural….Por lo pronto- que tu alimento sea tu medicina…
Dear Tim, You have recycled this content from the 4 Hour Body, and I could tell when I read the book that you really struggle with this. Lynn McTaggart, a London based science journalist, wrote a book called “The Field” which has a chapter about homeopathy I found extremely compelling, and I suspect you will to. It is not the placebo effect. It will shift the way you think about molecules, and will bring an important element into your examination of all things health and wellness. I dare you.
Best Regards from your Cornell friend from the Berkshire Hathaway meeting,
We buy many products of a homeopathic range from the pharmacy. We mainly
Use drops for nausea and vertigo, as well as a phophylactic for colds and influenza. When you feel you are getting sick, you take two tabs with each meal, and I promise you you are good again the next day. The droos for nausea also work, im sure you all know car sickness or even nausea due to many other factors are the worst feeling in the world and do not go away just from drinking eater etc. it works within 5 to 10 mins. We have given these remedies to many people who were very scepticla but it worked.
I first came across homeopathy about 25 years ago when I used to suffer horrendous migraines, my business partner at the time recommended I try his Homeopath so I did. After 1 visit I never had a recurrence again, I have had a couple of minor ones in recent years but nothing like the curl up and want to die versions I used to get 2-3 times a year.
Since then we have used it to cure my wife of some health issues, prevent our son getting grommets put in his ears when he was about 3 (he hasn’t had an earache since seeing the homeopath, yet prior to this point they were so bad that a conventional doctor felt the grommet operation was necessary) and our daughter of moluscum contagiosum (or whatever it is called).
I don’t care that conventional research can’t prove it’s efficacy, I only care that it works. I don’t really care if it was only a placebo effect, the thing that matters in the end is the result not the process…..
It seems modern medicine is more about boosting profits than improving health care anyway, so give me a $100 consultation and a few sugar pills over expensive and often intrusive conventional solutions any day…..
Im a chiropractor and have used homeopathy in many forms, on and off for over 25 years. I have seen it work well in some instances and not so much in others. Like you Tim, I want to know how it works and remain curiously skeptical but use it any way.
I think there may be some unexplained explanation more in the lines of energy medicine. I don’t discount placebo or the natural healing of things but have seen this work in resistant cases. As a doctor, I just want to do good and help people so my intention may even play a role.
Love the 4 Hour series.
Iam a big fan. Your awesome.
Iam a Biochemist, and have a Doctorate of Pharmacy from USC.
When I spent the time to learn the real theory beyond Homeopathic medicine, it made perfect sense. It was so simple, and so explained by basic chemistry, it was poetic.
Its all about Gibbs free energy. And the idea that chaos, or entropy, cost energy. Thus, the more organized a structure, the more favorable its energy state.
The second, its the Schrödinger equation of quatum mechanics. Which, relates or states, that everythings is both mass and wave like at the same time.
Which means, that just beyond you cannot see it, doesnt mean it doesnt have mass properties. Or more importantly, that wave and mass are equal and thus interconnectable. When you have waves, you have some form or indirect form of mass.
Thus, when you “sucuss” the remedy, with the original herb, you are “energzing the herb”, via the force your muscles put in. This external forces, affectly undergoes what is comparable to “x-ray crystallization defraction”, how they determine atomic structures, the energy goes from your hand, into the container, into the warer, into the herb, which has mass and wave like properties, and when the energy comes back out, reflects elastic collision, the wave is “set to a pattern”, that of the herb.
This defracted wave, with external energy, is then able to interact with the water, and organizes it based on the “frequency” set by the herb, via the succession.
Organized water molecules, hold the energy form, of the mass component of the herb, of geo, or whatever you water to make the remedy from.
Then, for conclusion, this is the pathophysiology. The basic idea, is that of epigenetics or cell-enviroment interaction via protien expression.
When the Homeopathic remedy enters tge human body, it alters the “frequency” in a way that alters the body. It can alter the environment such that the cell will respond.
The principle of homeopathy, by definion in latin, is “like treats like”. Create the symptom you wish to treat and the body with become active in the way it needs to, to fix the problem we ourselves didn’t cause.
Got watery eyes? take somethign that causes that, and your body will now be able to know the eyes are watering, and will mount its own response to equalize.
Lastly, if you arent familar with the class of herbs called “adaptogens”, they function in a somewhat similar way. An adaptogenic herb licorice, can lower blood pressure when the patient has high BP, and can also raise the blood pressure, in another pt who has low blood pressure.
Homeopathy is different, but similar in that a little can go a long way, and that the body already has its own cure, we just need to remind the body.
Awesome Response! I wish I could like this twice 🙂
There is no way to have a baby benefit by the placebo effect and all three of my children responded positively to the Boiron formulation for teething. Additionally, and far more impressively, was the effect arnica and calendula gels had on my youngest child’s thumbs. “M” has cerebral palsy. When he was still a baby he would sometimes get his thumb in his mouth (very difficult for him to do) and this would set off a tonic bite (his jaw would clamp down for as much as 30 seconds – HARD). By the time his jaw could relax again, and I could remove his thumb, it would be purple, mashed down with deep teeth impressions, and would then swell instantly. If there was broken skin (blessedly rare) I would apply a generous amount of calendula, then surround his thumb in arnica. NO ICE ever touched his thumb – just an almost-instant application of one or both gels. By the one-hour mark it was usually safe to wipe away any excess gels and get a look at the damage. Other than some swelling it would be recovered. Every. Single. Time. If you hadn’t been witness to the anguished screaming and frightful sight after evacuation from his mouth you’d never believe the injury occurred at all, never mind a mere hour before. I have more stories, but I always start people off (in homeopathy) with arnica and calendula gels, though if I can talk them into arnica pills, too, that’s ever better (take them for a couple of days before your next surgery, then during recovery, and see how differently you feel in the first 48 hours). I even heard arnica being referred to (though not as a homeopathic, I concede) as a remedy for a badly beaten character, in a John Wayne movie.
Do I get a free trip around the world for solving Tims mystery?
Can’t fully explain it, but Kevin Trudeau can (when he gets out of jail) He screwed up on the weight loss book but all else is spot on. Study the “Law of Attraction”. Everything in the Universe vibrates, including the molecules in a piece of steel, bricks and of course water. That remedy has a different vibration than plain water, thats about it. There was no placebo when I walked out of a Homeopathic office, were I went after 4 years of anger and depression. I had 0 expectation, I thought maybe something would happen if I come back 20 times or so. Less than 15 minutes walking to Subway I was feeling better. Didn’t know about vibrations then either. Kevin opened my eyes to so many things, I verified it all over number of years from many sources and fixed a few minor health problems over and over again. Modern medical science says there is no cure for the common cold, I have knocked it out at least 6 or 7 times in 2.5 years. Shouldn’t I get a Nobel prize or a million dollars or something? I am going to write a book on this when I retire. Thank You Kevin
My wife is in her fifth year of battling breast cancer (it recurred at stage 4 Nov. 2011). In my search to find science based nutritional answers to help manage her illness (and just maybe put it into late stage remission) one website that has helped is nutritionfacts.org. Its founder, Dr. Michael Greger, scours the over six thousand nutritional studies done around the world each year and condenses his findings into short (usually 2 to 4 minute) videos which he distributes for free. (Nutritionfacts.org exists through donations.)
Here’s a link to a very short (43 second) video he produced on a meta analysis done looking at several studies of the effectiveness of homeopathy. Given that his conclusions are based on a meta analysis and not a single study I trust his opinion on this. Dr. Greger is a vegan but I’ve found him to be even handed when the conclusions of various studies go against the vegan-vegetarian grain.
I’m betting that it’s between explanations #2 and #3, with #3 triggering #2.
I have lots of thoughts about modern homeopathy. I don’t want to say that people are being ripped off, because even though it’s been proven that those homeopathic remedies are just sugar pellets, those who believe in it will find value and healing. Keywords being “those who believe” as studies have documented that people heal faster when they believe that they are going to heal. That being said, people do spend lots and lots of money not necessarily on homeopathic remedies (though they do) but in the form of both time and money going to school, classes and setting up practices to be homeopathic practitioners and prescribing placebo remedies. But of course there is value in having someone trained in medicine (even homeopathic) to sit and discuss your ailments with – as talking through pain and illness is extremely healing and homeopaths tend to spend more time with patients than Western MDs.
Being both a Mom and a San Francisco resident, I do find it upsetting when people (and I’ve had this experience several times) say they will be opting for homeopath alternatives to vaccinating their children. As, of course vaccinations are the original homeopathic theory. That’s probably my biggest gripe with homeopathic remedies.
My wife is in her fifth year of battling breast cancer (it recurred at stage 4 Nov. 2011). In my search to find science based nutritional answers to help manage her illness (and just maybe put it into late stage remission) one website that has helped is nutritionfacts.org. Its founder, Dr. Michael Greger, scours the over six thousand nutritional studies done around the world each year and condenses his findings into short (usually 2 to 4 minute) videos which he distributes for free. (Nutritionfacts.org exists through donations.)
Here’s a link to a very short (43 second) video he produced on a meta analysis done looking at several studies of the effectiveness of homeopathy. Given that his conclusions are based on a meta analysis and not a single study I trust his opinion on this. Dr. Greger is a vegan but I’ve found him to be even handed when the conclusions of various studies go against the vegan-vegetarian grain.
As for the positive testimonials I see sprinkled throughout these responses if X thousand people take any supplement, a certain portion (Y) are going to have positive results for whatever reasons. Who you often don’t hear from are the portion (X – Y) who had negative or no results. Supplement companies and producers have made a good living off the testimonials of the positive responders for centuries. But science is based on replicatable results seen in double blind studies (and especially meta analysis studies based on analysis of the results of several studies). In such studies the supplement must beat the results of the placebo group or it is worthless.
I am not a researcher or scientist but I would like to share some info that I have come across that might shed some light on why homeopathic remedies might work as medicine or a placebo. It might be more about the water. Technically water is not a crystal but Ice is. So for argument sake water may share some properties that crystals do. One of those properties is that crystal can hold INFORMATION. If you don’t believe me you are using one right now. Computer chips use silicone crystals to store and transfer information. So for homeopathic medicine it could be that the Information from the initial medicinal molecules that were put in the water is now stored in the water even though the medicinal molecule is no longer present.
Tim or anyone else you should check out the documentary “What the bleep do we know” and “What the bleep, down the rabbit whole” the latter is the extended version. In it they talk about the work of a Japanese man named Masaru Emoto who had done some studies with water. He would expose water in a glass container to either positive or negative energies in the form of music, pictures, or words and then take samples from the water and freeze them to examine the ice crystals. What he found was the water exposed to positive music, pictures and words formed beautiful geometric shaped designs. The negative music, pictures and words produced ice crystals that were distorted asymmetrical and randomly formed. He also compared ice crystals from natural clean mountain streams to polluted bodies of water and found the same results. The documentary also talks about the mind blowing topic of quantum physics and how thoughts have energy and can affect and change your internal AND external environment.
If this information is actually true then what kind of information are we absorbing from drinking something like tap water. Tap water may be piped in from a natural source but is it polluted? It’s pumped and pushed through man made pipes to a treatment plant the filters, and uses all kinds of harsh chemicals to clean and stripe the water of contaminates and then it’s chlorinated and fluoridated and pushed at high pressure through copper, or possibly plastic or lead pipes to your faucet. I have come across this line of thinking from a guy named Daniel Vitalis. http://www.danielvitalis.com
He is a so called health guru that has researched water. One of his recommendations is to drink spring water. Not buying a plastic bottle of it but to go out and find a natural spring and collect it in a big glass bottle. The reason is because the water from a deep aquifer is literally thousands of years old. It was on the earths surface when nature was truly organic well before pollution. It has been filter as it traveled down through the earths rocks and minerals picking up INFORMATION of a pristine time on earth and is now coming back up to the surface. It is wild water that would have positive life giving information within it.
One other anecdote. This is second hand info so the accuracy is not there. I was speaking with a registered massage therapist that had attended a conference. One of the speakers (don’t know what the topic was) brought up a story of a scientist that had done some research on water back in let’s say the 70’s maybe earlier. I don’t know exactly what he was testing but fast forward to the late 90’s, 2000’s. Some researchers were trying to reproduce his experiments with water. They could not get them same outcomes as the data that had be produced by the original scientist. Some how they were either told or figured out for themselves that the original experiments were done during a time before accessibility to computers and laptops. So they removed all electronics from their lab and tried the experiments again. This time they were able to reproduce the data. The electromagnetic radiation from the computers they were using affected how the water acted in these test. So this brings up many questions. In our highly electronic wifi world what is that doing to us humans who are 75% water? How does that affect science period? Can we trust science without a doubt?
Sorry for the long post. Are these people crazy or is there more to this world than what science and hard facts can explain?
I’m surprised after being a 1%’r yourself you haven’t looked into frequency healing.
Apparently, I’ve understood it to work by the fact that the “frequency” of the homeopathic remedy is the same frequency as the problem it is solving (poison ivy for example). The understanding that “like” cures “like”
Looking that even the most elite individuals on the planet and some of the oldest scriptures/true philosophers talked about “frequency” and “vibration” being the root of our entire existence, I have always given respect to homeopathic remedies in that respect.
Sorry if its not a “scientific answer” But often the masses have dismissed solutions like homeopathic remedies as “pseudo-science” when in respect, there are many things science has not been able to explain….like the placebo effect itself.
My mentality…if something is controversial, take the opposite stance of what the masses have been conditioned to believe…and generally you’ll be right.
Looking at the strangle hold the pharmaceutical industry have had on our “objective scientific research” when it comes to health….I’d say that anything that deviates from the norm is generally something looking into.
Cheers!, I’ve been following you for sometime.
As a pharmacist I think of homeopathic often. I often recommend certain homeopathic remedies but am often reminded of what one of my professor’s thoughts on homeopathy. don’t recommend it l, it’s simply bad science. he would always go back to Avogadros number, and that if diluted it as much as the formula requires than it is impossible to have any active substance in the homeopathic product, due to the law of Avogadros constant. So why do I recommend some homeopathic products? think about what general issues they are developed for, almost none of them are serious. I believe in the amazing power of the human mind and the placebo effect. it is your conscious mind telling your subconscious mind what it would like to be fixed, generally the body will heal itself but when you select a product and believe it will work, it general does. just my thoughts
I have Hiatus Hernia and the acid reflux is so painful that anyone suffering will try almost anything. I went the usual allopathy route, was popping 15 odd pills/ capsules a day and all i got was temporary relief. The day i skipped, the pain was back. Then, I turned to homeopathy. It has been nearly an year that I have been ‘almost’ symptom free. There have been 2-3 minor episodes lasting 2-3 days each, but nothing like what I had gone through earlier. The intensity of the pain, when it comes, is the same (i think), but homeopathy helps be recover much, much faster. Also, there are days when i forget to take my medications, and skip them for days together, but get no symptoms. My money is on homeopathy. Sure, it cannot help an accident victim or a heart attack patient, but can help with the rehabilitation process. If you want, I will give you the name of my doctor and her husband. They routinely visit US. You could probably sit across the table and voice your concerns.
I use homeopathic medicine on my 17mo daughter before she gets too sick and it seems to work. I think it’s cos her little body isn’t polluted from taking previous medicines which I believe can leave traces in the blood steam making the homeopathic medicine less effective. I also use it at the start of an illness but I have no measure of its effect as I don’t have a clone of myself with the same illness taking conventional drugs to compare to.
Yes and No..your right and your wrong..or..maybe we should just give up being right about anything! We do seem to want to know the truth,,or the answer to everything. In reading Bruce Lipton or Lynn McTaggert, the field of quantum mechanics or cell biology suggest that there are “things” going on that we may not understand for many years. Science is certainly not the answer, as long as scientist forget that they should always be reaching,searching for a different way to explain the unexplainable. We just have to think outside the box(which Tim is famous for!) Have a nice day.
Know what they call alternative medicine that works? Medicine
Homeopaty helped my son very much, though I didn’t believed – so it was not a placebo effect. Tim, it wasn’t a placebo effect for ypu to. I believe, that mechanism of homeopaty is based on water memory, that’s why it is not nessesary to have active substance in healing concentrations in each dose. I’m not going to explain what it is (water’s as a world’s element memory and other properties), because there’s a lot of information in internet to read about.
When I was in my early 20’s we were selling at an arts & crafts show in Los Angeles. I had a boil on my wrist at the time & had suffered several (maybe 6 or 8) very large & painful ones over the years, starting when I was 16 or so. Anyways, there was another vendor at the show who noticed the bandage on my wrist & inquired as to my problem. I showed him the boil which I had placed a piece of bacon over to try & “pull” the puss (yuk, sorry!). He said he practiced Homeopathy & looked up in this little black book the remedy for boils. He had a case of some sort where he kept these little vile’s which supposedly contained whatever “cure” was listed for the boils & other ailments. He gave me two or three drops of grain alcohol with the homeopathy remedy on my tongue & told me to inhale. I thought I was going to choke to death, but by the end of the day the boil drained completely & I never had another one again. It’s been 30 years. If I remember right he said it was Silicea? Not sure what else if anything was with it. I have been a believer since that day.
This is a great piece Tim.
The biggest confusion that’s out there, which I have a hard time getting across to people, is the mis-use of different terms or perhaps the consumer lumping homeopathic, natural, herbal, etc. all together.
Even worse is the lay public mixing up a homeopath and a naturopath. Very different.
Homeopathy, and especially mass-dilution techniques, just cannot produce benefit beyond placebo. BUT… maybe that’s not a bad thing. Placebo is one of the most powerful treatments we have available!
I came off the contraceptive pill a year or so ago and after a few months developed an intense pain in my right ovary. After repeated trips to the doctor and scans that told me nothing, I decided to try an alternative route. I found an amazing alternative medicine expert (who looked a bit like Merlin the wizard) who gave me a homeopathic remedy that was tailored to my specific hormonal imbalance (identified through a Vega Test machine) and followed this up with several courses of acupuncture. Not only has the pain completely gone away but subsequent treatments have also resolved an irregular heart beat that I was experiencing and completely cured my severe allergy to horses! I am sold on the concept of an integrated natural approach to my health and have continued to go back from regular acupuncture since. I am also now riding horses every week 🙂
I’ve also seen acupuncture, on its own, cure heart arrhythmia, as well as successfully treat narcolepsy and early prostate problems. Powerful stuff!
Anyone familiar with the work and theories of Dr. Masaru Emoto? When water really does remember ‘structures’, could it be that homeopathic medicines work in a similar way?
dr fritz alfred popp’s work on biophotons has shown that water holds a memory of a substance that has been shaken in the water. biophoton work would be a plausible reason why homeopathy works. photons carry information… lots of papers on pubmed on this… maybe just a wait on the technology/ science to prove it and then science will be shown to have been very late to the game as in the case of acupuncture. (Again)
Hi, I am a German Pharmacist. I totaly 100% agree with the placebo effect. Also animals fall for placebo, specially because there is someone who is treating and caring for the problem to cure. Awareness that awakes in the body and boosts the own immun system is very powerful. For example, the treatment of wart with just alternating bath. The higher blood circulation in the area treatet will boost the immun answer.
But I still think it is a good kind of medicine! I call it myself a directed placebo effect. Many people like kids or pregnant women come into my pharmacy and seek for help in a situation, were I dont have anything “real” that is allowed for the patient. In this cases the homeopathic treatment is a great opportunity to at least do something.
Even if I dont agree with the mechanism of the postulatet healing principle, I think tell the people: If it works for you, use it! It is like the unusual basketball throwing style, if you make the points, it doesent matter how.
So my advice for you is to just stop thinking about it. Draw your personal conclusion and let everybody find their own. It is a question that will never be clearly answerd.
Kind regards from Frankfurt, Germany
Here’s a shorter version about homeopathy https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HMGIbOGu8q0
Hey Tim, interesting conversation here.
It might as well be a Placebo, but if there is a drug that can trigger similar placebos every time. It is awesome, isn’t it. I do not have a strong inclination for or against the argument but I use homeopathic and for whatever reason it works for me. Every single time.
I have two examples, One is of myself – I had a motorbike accident some 10 years back and after a few days I developed vertigo. It was ‘extremely’ bad. I wasn’t able to sit or stand, I had lie down in one posture for days and none of the regular medicine helped. All sorts of medical tests CT Scan, MRIs and X rays were normal and doctors weren’t able to detect any anomaly. I tried a homeopath and he tried three different drugs on me. Within 3 days it was gone. What worked was Conium 200. I have a few recurrent instances after that and after several experiments, going through the ordeal couple of times, I found that this thing always works out.
Second case is my dad’s – he developed a slipped disc and it was recurrent. Every time he was required to take a month off, put Tractions on and wear a broad waist band. Someone suggested following combination. It was healed without regular medicine and it never occur again in ten years until he lived.
Here’s his prescription:
Homeopathie works, don’t ask me why but I have years of experience with it personally and with my son. If you wan’t to KNOW: the next time you throw your back out get “Traumeel” tablets. After a car crash with whip lash etc. this remedy sorted me out after the hospital had failed to do so for many months. Best of luck and good health!
Very interesting. My mom used homeopathy prescribed by a homeopathic “doctor” for the treatment of hyperactive thyroid… And it was the only thing that worked!!! I believe it was purely placebo, however. Unfortunately, when she stopped, even when she started taking real medicine, things eventually got worse and she had to do a surgery. So I do recommend homeopathy, it’s harmless… But only if you believe in it and you’re not aware of the fact that it’s placebo.
I have used Classical homeopathy for 50 years for myself, my children, my animals.Those who talk about the placebo effect fail to explain how it can calm a baby screaming with colic within 5 minutes when the child has no idea that it has been medicated or how my animals respond even though it is in their food and they likewise don’t know..My present husband was really sceptical until an ear complaint he had had for years cleared up and I confessed that for a week I had been dosing him in his breakfast juice.
I refused an operation on ‘dangerous’ nodules on my thyroid, took the appropriate remedy and 3 months later they had shrunk.Another 3 months down the line, they had vanished. It is not always a quick-fix, depending on the complaint.
As we are all different, so our constitutional remedy varies. I am a typical ‘sulfur’ and, at the first sign of a cold or other complaint, this is what I take and within 24 hours all the symptoms have vanished.I don’t care that people rubbish it, none of us have had antibiotics apart from my son who had to take them when he was in the Army or he would be put on a charge,he secretly took his remedy alongside them though.
Perhaps a look into the work of Dr Emoto’s work from Japan and countless others who have documented the structuring and programming of water. The work of Marcel Vogel is particularly striking, describing powerful real-world effects from charging water with quartz technology. Fascinating stuff 😉
Unfair to troll this many “wooo” folk .. and yes I use that term dismissively. To date there is no peer reviewed credible evidence that homeopathy works at all. At best it is fraud at worst it is reckless endangerment.
Here’s one http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10671699
That’s a better reference; thanks. Here’s one critique: http://www.rationalvetmed.org/papers_c.html#Chapman1999.
A well balanced article. My only experience of homeopathy was when I contracted tonsillitis in Germany back in 1999. The doctor there (just a run of the mill general practitioner) prescribed me a homeopathic remedy – clearly it’s more readily accepted by the German mainstream, or at least it was back then. The remedy I was given was Apis Belladonna. At the time, I too was unaware that it was a homeopathic remedy I’d been given – I was just sent on my way with “here’s some medicine, it will make you better”. I took the dose as specified by the physician, but my recovery was no quicker or slower than from my usual bouts of tonsillitis. It didn’t even have a placebo effect on me – my N=1 prove very little.
Your article reminded me about something I read in “The Field: The Quest for the Secret Force of the Universe ” by Lynne McTaggart. There is a chapter about homeopathy, where she wrote that water that was in contact with active ingredient somehow copies and retains its properties on molecule level. So I will go with that there is an additional mysterious force working in 2 ways: on water itself and its molecules, and then by your brain believing it and changing the molecules in your body. It’s all quite mysterious and complex, I recommend that book though.
Homeopathic is used a lot over here in Germany.
I personally have not seen any results with me.
But what makes me write this very first comment is your approach to the topic.
You take 30C, although you don’t know anything about it.
And of course, you take more than you are advised to do.
Tim, with that mindset – you will NEVER find out what homeopathic stuff is about.
Its like you say you do a prayer, but then opened your eyes and God was not there… so you set up a camera to film him secretely…
If you believe in God or not – this mindset will not help you with that question.
And if you believe in homeopathic medicine or not – discussing about molecules in a 30C and testing it the way you can test normal medicine is not the way to get knowledge.
You talk like a guy that likes to touch things.
Who must see, smell, analyze.
That works with material things.
But using this approach with immaterial things … well, just won’t help.
It’s incredible how people are willing to believe in anything even being doctors!
All of them who believe in homeopathy say we dismiss because we are very closed minded in thinking that because there is no molecule of the active ingredient it doesn’t work.
NO! It’s dismissed because there is not a single serious study showing that compared to placebo it has a considerable effect. Plain and simple: You give sugar pills to someone (or an animal) telling him that it is homeopathy and you give homeopathy pills to another person or animal, and you won’t tell the difference between the two (and this is done with maaaany people or animals).
There are effects in science which doctors doesn’t know the mechanism and doesn’t make sense BUT they know it works because the statistics prove they work.
So please, homeopathy lovers, when saying it works, don’t say it worked for me or my dog because I got better when I gave the dog a pill, or don’t say we are close minded and science dismissed many things in the past, just cite a study proving that it works statistically and if the study is well projected all the entire world will believe you! As simple as that!
Homeopathy is ruled by companies, and it is very profitable. Really if they would want to prove it they have the money to do so and it would be in their interest. So why there isn’t a single validated STATISTICAL study showing that it works?
You reminded me Homeopathic Emergency Department video 🙂
(http://youtu.be/bgxzSUxxRzE) Very good text!
I spent 2 years at a birth center in Indonesia where they use homeopathy extensively. One could still argue the placebo effect, even with a language barrier – if a patient is handed a little white pill, they will assume it’s going to help them. But this doesn’t explain NEWBORN babies who revive, stop crying, calm down or go to sleep right after being given homeopathy. Or constipated babies, who haven’t pooped in a week, pooping minutes after homeopathy is administered. Or animals. I occasionally use homeopathy on my cats, which is extremely effective. I’ve had a cough that dragged on for 3 weeks clear up in 2 days with homeopathy – and I was an unbeliever at the time, so wonder how this speaks to the placebo effect. No one has been able to prove how acupuncture ‘works’ either, yet many people accept that acupuncture is effective against chronic pain, depression and a host of other ailments, not to mention greatly reducing recovery time from injury.
You Tim Ferriss,
are among the teachers that have sent me off on my own route when I was sailing as a navigational officer in the merchant marine.
Anthroposophical medicine uses homeopathic remedies. Rudolf Steiner, the founder of Anthroposophy(human wisdom and spiritual science), is quite the PolyMath, just like you Tim, and many other great personalities in history.
As a Waldorf Student, a human, a patient which has dealt with many different doctors, a friend, an entrepreneaur, a songwriter, a guitarist, parkour practitioner, a soon to be author, and a student of the occult(read student of the hidden: what everyone can know if they study it. Just as being an entrepreneur is very hidden for many untill they decide to study it), new worlds open which for the 5 senses are hidden.
Rudolf Steiner gave 6 specific exercises for this development. The development of the higher self which every human has the capacity to develop if they want to. And if developed gives you the ability to see the world very differently. As with you Tim, I doubt you see the world as the “normal” person does.
These are the six exercises.
– Thought. Developing the ability for absolutely clear thinking. No thought flickering og randomness. No running off into associations with random stuff.
– Will. The ability to choose your every movement, that then is defined with a verb as an action, which results in where you go in life. Deciding to go to college or hire college students to work for your company results in two very different life paths, a.k.a Destinations, a.k.a Destinies.
– Equinimity. The Stoic quality. To let the world be, and not be tossed around from top to bottom. Your mad that I didn’t take you out to dinner. Well You are the one experiencing madness, not I. I am simply observing your experience, not going with you on the ride.
– The ability to see beauty. Looking for beauty in even the ugliest thing. The rotting dog with beautiful teeth for example. Or another persons ability to express madness can be quite beautiful.
– Open mindedness. That there is a possibility. That something can be possible, that you didn’t yet know. Letting it be open to further investigation for the truth. Not to be confused with being mislead. When this is awakened, then you see the world again as it is, and not as you think it is with abstract thought. For the antonym of abstract is concrete. And the abstract must come from something concrete.
– Mix them in different combinations.
Each exercise arises a subtle feeling.
Basically spiritual stuff but done in a scientific method. But how can spiritual things be done scientifically. Well how can anything be done scientifically? We are the observers. And the whole matter of discussing art versus science is pointless. For art without science or science with out art is neither science nor art, but simply random acts of reckless movements. Just look at the world and reckless human movement is seen in many places.
Erkendung-Zoe-Bevegung-Iorta is a word I have made for a representation of this. As neither the Danish, Spanish, American, German, Latin og Greek languages have such words that point towards that which is there.
Art and Science. Form, function and purpose. Math, Chemistry, Physics, Language. Look into it and how it all connects and enjoy your discoveries.
Jake Baerentsen, Half american and faroese, living in Denmark.
I hope one day to meet you for a “whatever appears.”
I raised six children who never had to have antibiotics growing up, no tubes in their ears etc. They were very healthy. I attribute this to the homeopathic remedies I used. They work really well for children. I suggest finding a Homeopathic 101 class to learn more about using remedies…..you will be glad you did!
I am a veterinarian and a firm believer in Homeopathy .Treated numerous horses during a 30 year career as a racehorse vet with homeopathic remedies.Could measure the effect of the medicine not only in performance but also in numerous testing of bloodsamples pre and post applications.
Interesting link from a Nobel price winner about this subject:http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dana-ullman/luc-montagnier-homeopathy-taken-seriously_b_814619.html
I have found homeopathic remedies helpful. I also use Bach’s flower remedies which from what I have experienced–work on your subtle energy body. We are multidimensional beings. Science has not caught up with vibrational medicine. If something works…keep it. I watch TV and frankly I do not know “how” a TV really works. Skirting close to “faith” makes me uncomfortable too but I try to keep an open mind.
I am no expert in homooepathy – however I usually try homoepathic (or also herbal) remedies first before I go the conventional route and in deed it often works, I also had cases where conventional medicin didn’t work and I went for homoepathic… it worked . Placebo surely works to a certain or in fact high degree – our mind is more powerful than we often are aware of…and I wish to add another phenomena…psychomatic illnesses…it is absolute amazing to me to observe how often an illness of my daughter coincides with a stressful situation or even an argument I am having with someone to which she became exposed. And the moment she is out of it – she is so quickly back to normal, much quicker than the doctor said the illness needs to go off. Thought I add this ….
Love your blog however you should think about getting info from another source other than Wikipedia Any Jo schmo can add info to Wikipedia I have a chronic illness and almost every “homeopathic ” remedy I’ve tried has failed or shown little. Substantiveresults
Bad medicine by Ben Goldrace has good insights on this (essentially concluding it is mostly placebo that plays here). it’d be interesting for you to interview him; especially to get his down to earth views on all the experimentation you’ve been doing in recent years
My family uses homeopathic meds (in he true sense) and we have found they work. My son is on a regular course for some speech development issues and we have seen a marked improvement in him. The cold meds the same homeopath prescribed didn’t work for him but those that another gave worked. So that shows it is not placebo. Plus a 2 year old won’t know what a placebo effect is.
Tim I have your answer within two articles from which I pasted the most important part.
There is a subtle bio-energy that flows through all organic life. This energy is expressed as an electromagnetic vibrational frequency – and pure essential oils have the highest frequencies of any measured natural substance. Every atom in the universe has a specific vibratory or periodic motion. Each periodic motion has a frequency (the number of oscillations per second) that can be measured in Hertz
The following clips (that may be paraphrased) are from:
“the normal frequency range of the human body is between 62-68 MHz; but if it drops below that, the individual becomes a candidate for illness . . . Cold symptoms appear at 58 MHz, flu symptoms at 57 MHz, candida at 55 MHz, epstein bar at 52 MHz, cancer at 42 MHz
If parts of the body become imbalanced, they may be healed through projecting the proper and correct frequencies back into the body…This is why there are different forms of energy/vibrational healing including homeopathy.
The following clip is from:
What is interesting about Homeopathy is that each different remedy and potency has a particular frequency. In the same way that we tune a radio to a particular frequency and listen to our favorite radio station, homeopathic remedies are attuned to a specific frequency. The frequency obtained depends on the substance diluted, the scale of dilution, and the number of dilutions. Different dilutions are used for different things. One other point about homeopathy that I want to stress is its’ Healing and Vibrational nature and the dilution of the original substance. With each successive dilution the substance becomes infinitesimal and unrecognizable in the water. Only a Vibrational Energy is left and carried by the water and alcohol. This Vibrational Energy stimulates our bodies to heal.
Our body responds to the specific frequency that a Homeopathic is attuned to. What is also interesting about Homeopathy is that as the potency increases (the # of dilutions increases as well), the substance we originally used to create that frequency has disappeared. The substance becomes infinitesimal. That original substance is essentially gone.
More forms of vibrational healing:
• Homeopathic remedies
• Energy healing
• Bach flower remedies
• Gem and crystal elixirs
• Sound healing
• Bio-Electric or Physioacoustic devices
I am all for natural solutions, but some of my friends opt for “homeopathic” when real medicine is the cure. The Economist offered this short, but compelling article earlier this spring: http://www.economist.com/blogs/economist-explains/2014/04/economist-explains
I love the nanocast! Just the right length. Interesting discussion of homeopathy. Thanks Tim!
Funny that people do not see placebo as the best type of cure but rather seem to dismiss it as a non-cure, as though only chemicals are real cures. A placebo is the best kind of cure. And yes, placebo effects can be had without any pills or creams. Even if the placebo effect is simply the speeding up of the bodies own norml healing mechanisms, if it works, it works. I can induce in my body the effects of most remedies just by energetically inducing the effect with my will. Call it placebo and dismiss it if you want, but it is real.
JJ, this is not the problem – indeed the placebo effect has a very well-founded place in modern medicine. The problem is when people who are not medically trained decide when something needs a placebo and when it needs something with a true biochemical effect. People have suffered greatly because they have been given sugar pills when in fact they needed real medicine. That is unacceptable. If it was simply a matter of some people making money from the placebo effect, it would be one thing, that people suffer unnecessarily because of it is another.
I don’t know.
There so many opinions about that.
Of course, I realize that it’s kinda unreliable stuff, but still…
If it helps people why not?
In my opinion illness is our systems own way to cure and get balanced. Normal muscle pain is just a sign, that you are getting stronger and need rest sometimes warm and cold exposures can speed up the healing process. Attention driven healing can over time heal an injury. Concerning the use of homeopati I think that our adaptive cells will create a solution to exposure of a low dose of medicine or equal. In some cases this adaptive behaviour will cure the illness. If you look at you body as a muscle some stress is needed to grow, this stress could also come from taking medicine. Forcing the cells to find a response as we all want to live. Muscle pain in it self will nearly always heal over time with rest and right digestion. Always a good idea to consult a doctor.
Check out this Ted talk featuring the legendary skeptic James Randi as he takes a fatal dose of homeopathic sleeping pills onstage, kicking off a searing 18-minute indictment of irrational beliefs.
Homeopathy, quackery and fraud
This post made me smile! Thank you! I remember growing up in Brazil, spending holidays at the farm and the beautiful green glass bottle filled with arnica leaves and rubbing alcohol. Whenever we would hurt ourselves someone would shout: “passa arnica!”. Beautiful memories. They have been studying it in Brazil that plant for as long as I can recall. They now use the gel to help burned victims heal faster. They also use it a lot in plastic surgery post-ops.
I love homeopathics. Even though my dad (doctor) and I argue about it far too often I see his point of view that not everything can be treated with this sort of medicine.
I am also intrigued by this, I am sure you have seen Imoto’s work with water? If not check this link out. I believe intention is an incredibly powerful force when blended with action. http://www.masaru-emoto.net/english/water-crystal.html
Tim, I am a little disappointed that Wikipedia is your source. Anyone can edit an entry so that is definately NOT the place to seek credible information. Like so many of the other posters, I also use homepathic medicine and have also experienced its positive effects. I am fortunate to have one of the best homeopaths in the US very close to me and can definately attest to the safety and credibility of this field. I had many maladies when I started seeing her and she was in fact able to treat a lot of emotional issues as well as physical ones. She uses a combination of accupuncture and remedies with astounding results. I got to the point that I allowed her to treat my body without even telling her what my problem was. She could pretty much figure out what was going on just by reading my energies. I would walk into her office with a nasty sinus issue and walk out an hour later with almost complete relief. She treated my 7 year old son who had developed stomach ulcers. I have complete trust and faith in her and never really asked what she was treating him with. However, the following month when we saw her, I mentioned that my son had become very verbal in the past month and was really talking back a lot. She kind of laughed and advised she had treated him (emotionally) to speak out rather than hold things in which had caused the ulcers. I did NOT know her treatment until after I noticed its effects but the ulcers were gone.
I can also attest that after 4 years of birth control, I ended up in the hospital and on the block to have a full histerectomy at 24 years old due to completely cistic/destroyed ovaries. I was given a medical diagnosis of never being able to get pregnant again and having a super high chance of miscarriage if I did; I had no expectations of ever having another child. Apparently my homepath began treating my ovaries along with my other maladies at my visits, completely unknown to me. And a year later I was pregnant with no complications, went full term and had a completely heathly baby. I thought it was a miracle until my husband revealed that my doctor had been treating my ovaries at my visits. I have seen my doctor completely wipe out autism, cancer and other major illnesses with my own eyes. I am a firm beleiver of homeopath medicine and this is one area that I do not need to fully understand to KNOW that it works. From my experience, your search for answers in this field should encompass a thorough study of eastern medicine, not just the typical experience of walking into a doctors office, telling them your problem, and walking out with a perscription/remedy.
Homeopathy worked for me and it worked for my children.
My little boy had a kidney stone when he was 3, probably due to his inability to properly assimilate Calcium. We could not identify any allopathic treatment available for him so we were just watching for more than half a year his hematuria happening from time to time, with the stone size unchanged on ecography. Doctor gave him something which was supposed to dissolve it, but it was designed for adults. After a while we dropped that treatment and went on homeopathy, a bit skeptic but also considering there was nothing else to try except to wait him grow up until surgery would be safe. After 4 months the stone fully disappeared. I can testify he did not grow up so much during that year to allow the stone to be released naturally – because of the same Calcium problem, no supplements allowed.
Later on, homeopathy cured his serous otitis which reduced significantly his ability to hear with that ear, in spite of several series of antibiotics and inhalating lots of chemicals for few months.
I have chronic rhinosinusitis for a very long time. After few years of homeopathy the quality of my life improved significantly: now I’m able to do scuba diving and do heavy metal lead singing with my friends.
I have an engineering background so I am also fully puzzled about how such small dillutions could provide these effects. On the other hand I also believe scientists are far from fully understanding the complexities of the human body and somehow we should try things (especially since they’re safe), measure results and interpret them statistically.
I practice as an Osteopath and Homeopath in the UK and Barbados and I use homeopathy extensively on my patients and children patients. In combination with Functional Diagnostic Medicine I have treated many patients, pop stars / top athletes/ olympians and 11 times World Surf Champ Kelly Slater using the EMF homeopathic approach. I use a homeopathic scanner whereby patients are hooked up to a computer scanner to zoom in accurately the correct dilution or frequency. Its great tool in the tool box.
I wrote about this in my first book as an aid to helping cancer patients inform their immune systems as what to do about the layers of rot going inside their bodies caused by chronic fungal overload. Clue = Chemotherapy is anti-fungal therapy and homeopathy allows us to discover how many fungal layers there are hiding in patients bodies.
The most impt thing to remember about homeopathy is that it works on an EMF level. There is no trace of the original substance beyond a couple of dilutions. Whats actually happening is the transference of the EMF signal into the water’s crystalline memory. What Dr. Hahnemann MD , originally a first class medical doctor who spoke many languages ( english, french, greek, latin) stumbled onto a way to treat patients using dilutions which really are variations in the EMF frequency bandwidths.
That’s how I look at it. Its actually more to do with physics than with anything physical. Its a subtle energy technique that kick starts the physiology in a nudging kind of way.
Top scents Jacques Beniviste (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Water_memory) said something along the same lines too and it was widely discussed in Lynda Taggarts “The Field” ( by the way an exceptionally good book).
In my opinion if cell phones work on an EMF level well then Homeopathy is a cell phone call to our cells and organs, informing them how to fix things and bring them into balance.
Balance is the key….and very few physicians really know how to do that. Sometimes less is really more buts tarts after being in the trenches for more than 20 years.
Best for now LM
Really? I don’t think ‘it may work but we don’t understand how’ is the Truth about homeopathic medicine’ but this is http://www.dcscience.net/?p=164
Hi Tim, what a cool article! I have an Acupressure Mobile App Brand I would like to expand. However, I am not sure, how. Would you like to chat about that? Dr. Bargak
With Psora is not joking. Please always make a special doctor.
Psora often occurs with syphilis and Sycosis together. It is contagious and can spread.
Please carefully examine all leave!
No homeopathic experiments! It is dangerous and very contagious!
“Most readers and even many homeopaths will be surprised to learn that that has already happened! During the Third Reich the (mostly pro-homeopathy) Nazi leadership wanted to solve the homeopathy question once and for all. The research programme was carefully planned and rigorously executed. A report was written and it even survived the war. But it disappeared nevertheless – apparently in the hands of German homeopaths. Why? According to a very detailed eye-witness report [9 – 12], they were wholly and devastatingly negative.”
My mind says ‘no’ but my body says ‘yes’. I’ve used them on myself and my children with good results – particularly with eye infections for some reason. I’ve had babies in France and Germany where homoeopathic medicine is prescribed alongside standard medicines. The efficiency of homoeopathy continually stuns me, yet I remain quite cynical! I think there is something we don’t yet understand.
Tim, First of all Thank You to bring up such important issues up for discussion.
It is really a tragedy that Homeopathy is supported by most using “believe it, because it works” model rather than science.
It is not Samuel Hahnemann who should be be blamed. He invented this system at a period when western medicine looked more blasphemous than homeopathy now. His solution was to let time heal and avoid all painful and unscientific things practiced by western medicine in general like letting blood drain to let out diseases!
When chided by US Supreme Court that “if Homeopathy is works then biology, chemistry and physics are wrong”, leading Homeopathy practitioners retorted that water have memory!
Now tell me who is the real culprit- the innocent user? Poor Hahnemann who just wanted placebo effect? or the lobby behind this farce?
There’s a book called The Field by Lynne McTaggart that talks about this. Scientific explanation/evidence to homeopathy in chapter 6. But the whole book is kind of about scientific explanation to all things similar to homeopathy. Listening to the audio book now.
Tim, as you know, the BEST scientists are the most humble because they know that life and nature is a lot more complex than most of us realize. Second, did you know that many hormones in our bodies operate at such a LOW dose that most skeptics of homeopathy insist could not have any physiological effects (yes, most skeptics of homeopathy are embarrassingly uninformed and misinformed about reality).
As for scientific evidence for homeopathy, it is much more substantial than you may realize:
Below is but a very small # of studies published in LEADING conventional medical journals:
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease: Frass, M, Dielacher, C, Linkesch, M, et al. Influence of potassium dichromate on tracheal secretions in critically ill patients, Chest, March, 2005;127:936-941. The journal, Chest, is the official publication of the American College of Chest Physicians.
Hayfever: Reilly D, Taylor M, McSharry C, et al., Is homoeopathy a placebo response? controlled trial of homoeopathic potency, with pollen in hayfever as model,” Lancet, October 18, 1986, ii: 881-6.
Asthma: Reilly, D, Taylor, M, Beattie, N, et al., “Is Evidence for Homoeopathy Reproducible?” Lancet, December 10, 1994, 344:1601-6.
Fibromyalgia: Bell IR, Lewis II DA, Brooks AJ, et al. Improved clinical status in fibromyalgia patients treated with individualized homeopathic remedies versus placebo, Rheumatology. 2004:1111-5. This journal is the official journal of the British Society of Rheumatology.
Fibromyalgia: Fisher P, Greenwood A, Huskisson EC, et al., “Effect of Homoeopathic Treatment on Fibrositis (Primary Fibromyalgia),” BMJ, 299(August 5, 1989):365-6.
I could also list numerous meta-analyses that also show the efficacy of homeopathic medicines (once again, ALL published in leading medical journals:
Linde L, Clausius N, Ramirez G, Jonas W, “Are the Clinical Effects of Homoeopathy Placebo Effects? A Meta-analysis of Placebo-Controlled Trials,” Lancet, September 20, 1997, 350:834-843.
Kleijnen J, Knipschild P ter Riet G. Clinical trials of homoeopathy. BMJ 1991, 302, 316-23. Of the 22 best studies, 15 showed positive results from homeopathic treatment. The researchers concluded, “there is a legitimate case for further evaluation of homeopathy.”
Jacobs J, Jonas WB, Jimenez-Perez M, Crothers D, Homeopathy for Childhood Diarrhea: Combined Results and Metaanalysis from Three Randomized, Controlled Clinical Trials, Pediatr Infect Dis J, 2003;22:229-34. This metaanalysis of 242 children showed a highly significant result in the duration of childhood diarrhea (P=0.008).
Kassab S, Cummings M, Berkovitz S, van Haselen R, Fisher P. Homeopathic medicines for adverse effects of cancer treatments. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2009, Issue 2.
Taylor, MA, Reilly, D, Llewellyn-Jones, RH, et al., Randomised controlled trial of homoeopathy versus placebo in perennial allergic rhinitis with overview of four trial Series, BMJ, August 19, 2000, 321:471-476.
In addition to the body of scientific clinical evidence, you and your readers would benefit from knowing that significant amounts of “nanodoses” remain in homeopathic solutions…and this has been verified by high-quality research published in a LEADING scientific journal actually published by the American Chemical Society, called “Langmuir.”
First, just because homeopathic drug manufacturers dilute their medicine by 1:10 or 1:100 does NOT mean that the active medicine “disappears.” In fact, your calculations are COMPLETE FANTASY and have NO basis in fact!
To clarify, homeopathic medicines are made with a double-distilled water in glass containers. Glass is used because it was assumed that glass is inert, as compared with metal. However, conventional research testing glass has discovered that the vigorous shaking in-between each dilution leads to silica fragments falling off the glass walls at a level of 6 parts per million.
Then, the vigorous shaking creates bubbles and “nanobubbles” that brings oxygen into the water and increases the water pressure to 10,000 atmospheres (according to Bill Tiller, PhD, former head of material sciences department, Stanford University). Therefore, whatever medicine is placed in the water is forced into the silica fragments, and each substance will interact with the silica fragments in their own idiosyncratic fashion.
The point here is that when the homeopathic drug manufacturers pours out the water from the test-tube, the silica fragments cling to the glass walls…and therefore, they persist…and in significant numbers! Further, there is solid scientific evidence for this:
Chikramane PS, Kalita D, Suresh AK, Kane SG, Bellare JR. Why Extreme Dilutions Reach Non-zero Asymptotes: A Nanoparticulate Hypothesis Based on Froth Flotation. Langmuir. 2012 Nov http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23083226
This study that was replicated with SIX different medicinal agents and tested with THREE different spectroscopies found nanodoses of the original substances at doses that our hormones are KNOWN to operate and to have significant physiological actions. I sincerely hope that you, Tim, do not think that hormones are placebos. .
I am a chiropractor who incorporates homeopathy, meridian therapy (TCM), nutritional therapy and applied kinesiology(AK) into my practice protocols. I have utilized homeopathic remedies in my practice for longer than you have been alive. Like you, I am also very intuitive and skeptical about just about everything until I have either personally experienced its benefits or observed my patients do the same, but I always keep an open mind to learning new things, as I realized long ago that, unlike my teenage children, I do not yet know everything! When it comes to homeopathy, I have witnessed amazing results and also cases where no apparent benefit was realized. I find that choosing remedies based on symptoms alone is hit or miss at best. I always look for a remedy to produce some type of observable change in the patient’s body before I will prescribe it, such as a weak muscle getting stronger, a particular organ meridian balancing, or even leg length discrepancies balancing. This seems to increase the odds of a remedy having a positive therapeutic effect dramatically. I tell my patients that homeopathic remedies are like the keys on a janitor’s belt. If he tries to open a door with the wrong key, the door won’t open, but at least he won’t damage the door. On the other hand, if he utilizes the right key, the door opens. Conventional medicine may open the door as well, but they often use grenades to accomplish this simple task! Going to a health food store and buying a homeopathic remedy for migraine headaches may work one in a hundred times, but the results increase dramatically if you first determine what is causing the headaches, such as gallbladder inflammation, colon toxicity, low blood sugar, emotional stress, adrenal overload, etc.. By first identifying the cause, the practitioner can then choose a more appropriate remedy that will increase the chances that homeopathy will achieve the desired effect. The bottom line, my friend, is that healing is an art. I can’t explain how the Chinese masters came up with the concept of meridians, but I do know that when I suffered from severe migraine headaches years ago, certain acupuncture points could relieve my headache within minutes. Like St. Anselm said in the 12th century regarding faith, “I do not seek to understand so as to believe, but rather I believe in the hope that one day I will understand”. I believe that applies to healing as well. We know so much less about this amazing body of ours than we think we do, so keep an open mind and be humble in your approach to learning. Will you also try to debunk Prayer as well? Enuf’ said. Best wishes to all! Dr. John
Hello “Dr”. Tell us how a homeopath/chiropractor/applied kinesiologist determines how a patient has gallbladder inflammation, colon toxicity, low blood sugar, or adrenal overload when the practitioner is not even qualified to do a simple blood test?
If there’s one thing more bs than homeopathy it’s applied kinesiology.
Actually, “Mr. Magoo”, chiropractors ARE qualified to do a simple blood test and much more,..but why confuse you with the facts when your simple mind is already made up. I learned long ago to not debate anything with geniuses like yourself who know everything about nothing. Best wishes. “Dr.” John
Not offended, been called Mr Magoo since I was 6. Laughable that you know everything about me after a minor blog exchange.
The origins of chiropractic medicine,(ha ha), are pretty dubious. Germ theory denialism, every ailment caused by sublaxation, (Sublaxation Theory, not accepted by orthopedic surgeons), and of course applied kinesiology, (not to be confused with kinesiology). In Australia chiros can massage your back only, no blood tests at all. Just wondering what a chiro in the US would do if you tested positive to Chlamydia. That would be an L4-L5 adjustment no doubt.
I’m just going off to fill my car with homeopathic fuel now.
“There are more things under heaven and on earth, Horatio [Tim], than are dreamt of in your philosophy [science].”
From the snarky tone of this post, Tim, it appears that your ego-driven brain is mocking and belittling the empirical evidence of your body, in a desperate attempt to validate itself by proclaiming the infallibility of its thought process.
Fortunately, Tim’s body is still takin’ care of bizness; even if Tim’s brain hasn’t a clue how it happens, Tim still feels better. And that, no doubt, is why there’s no mention in your post of you tossing your arnica gel (which IS in fact just as much a homeopathic medicine as the 30C pills are) in the trash.
Just because something — anything — cannot be proven using currently understood tools, knowledge, and methods does NOT automatically prove that it is useless, invalid, or fraudulent. Can you see with your ears? Smell with your eyes? Prove the color blue exists with your taste buds?
All that said, I nonetheless appreciate your writing this post, because it certainly is stimulating some lively exchanges on homeopathy…and open-mindedness.
I noticed that most of the comments seem either anti-homeopathy or favor the “placebo” argument. One commenter even attributed these conclusions to the above average intelligence of Tim’s readers. I think we can dismiss the placebo explanation since homeopathy has treated children, animals and plants successfully, a group not likely to be susceptible to the placebo effect. If homeopathy is a hoax, then it has been a hoax for a very long time indeed. Developed at the turn of the 19th century by Samuel Hahnemann (Hahnemann was a remarkable individual and it is worth reading his life story), it gained widespread acceptance in Europe with the successful treatment of cholera patients. Reported mortality rates of those treated conventionally ranged from 40% to 80% while for those treated under homeopathy mortality rates reported were 7% to 10%. During the Influenza Pandemic of 1918, an Ohio doctor who kept careful statistics in his region reported that 24,000 cases of flu treated allopathically had a mortality rate of 28.2% while 26,000 cases of flu treated homeopathically had a mortality rate of 1.05.
One case from the present time: Dr. Luc Montagnier’s (a Nobel Prize winning French virologist) current research is investigating the electromagnetic waves that he says emanate from the highly diluted DNA of various pathogens. A quote from Dr. Montagnier: “I can’t say that homeopathy is right in everything. What I can say now is that the high dilutions (used in homeopathy) are right. High dilutions of something are not nothing. They are water structures which mimic the original molecules.”
There are too many examples of homeopathy being taken seriously by highly intelligent people and institutions to classify it as hoax. In India there are entire hospitals are devoted to homeopathy. The Swiss government recently released a report recognizing homeopathy’s efficacy.
Although homeopathy does not conform to the “scientific method”, it is the essence of empirical science, having been developed based entirely on observations. So if one is serious about knowing about homeopathy, one needs to do more than read the wiki article that google found.
I believe that one day the use of drugs to suppress symptoms will be looked on as primitive and as more sophisticated analytical tools are developed, the “science” of homeopathy will become evident.
The “placebo” faction, the “hoax/cult” cabal and the “no proof” contingent really should read this:
Ever heard of prana, chi, or ki? These are all words for “universal energy” (in Sanskrit, Chinese, and Japanese). I don’t know the answer of how homeopathy works for sure, but I do know about energy and my personal guess is that the liquid absorbs the prana from the substance. Different plants including healing plants have different types if prana which have various healing effects. (You can heal with these different energies directly using MCKS Pranic Healing, my energy healing modality of
choice. Others include Reiki and acupuncture.)
Always stay open-minded, folks–we don’t know everything! The miracles or even quackery of yesterday are the is the hard (and obvious) science of today.
“Miracles do not violate the laws of nauture but only what we know about nature.” –MCKS
Tim, I am glad you spoke on this topic. The placebo effect is very real. In fact, it can be great given its effectiveness without side-effects. Very likely contributed to observed outcomes. Of course, this is not to say “regression toward the mean” or another unexplained outcome did not contribute as well. As a researcher (I am a biological science postdoc at a University), we often try to control all other variables with exception of the independent variable being tested, which can be extremely difficult, especially in humans. Unfortunately, humans do not control the many other variables in their own lives (even if they think they do) that will impact their biology (e.g. diet, activity, sleep, etc., etc., etc.). Too bad for you that if you know it is a placebo, it loses its effectiveness. I honestly did not have time to read many responses despite my interest, but I did see one about an animal being treated. That too could very well be attributed to the placebo effect as you mention with your “sham” surgery. If the pet owner is administering/tending to the animal daily in a repeated behavior, this could parallel a human being treated. The care, the attention, and such can influence the animal mentally and physically. Again, the problem was that all variables were not controlled, thus the effect can not be attributed to a specific, biological action of the treatment. People often assume a placebo is a “sugar pill,” but that is just not the case. Co-incidents absolutely inflate the profitability of the supplement industry!
Wow, I really enjoyed this essay. Just listening to you makes me that much smarter than I was 10mins ago. Please, I’d like to hear your thoughts on, St. Johns Wort and Melatonin.
There have been proper clinical trials done on St John’s Wort. It is one of the few herbal remedies that actually works. The study showed there was a measurable improvement in people suffering mild depression.
is the Arinca cream legit or BS? If the pills are crap why is the logic behind the cream which also has some weird homeopathic dosage. Very confused, have liked the cream a lot.
Never found any meaningful improvement from homeopathy. MMJ however has done wonders for me. No wonder the pharmaceutical industry has done so much since 1937 to keep it illegal.
I’m a logical person, so get the dilution can’t possibly work type arguments and if only humans were involved then would favour of the placebo reason.
However…. our dog had a wart under its eye the vet couldn’t cure, they tried a number of things, so we took her to a homeopath and had a dilution prescribed and it cured it in 2 weeks.
I can’t believe this could ever be considered a placebo effect as other pills had been given to the dog and hadn’t worked, all I can say is I can’t explain why, but there was causation.
I find it fascinating that the intensity of your skepticism allows you to override the fundamental reality of your experience–which is to say that, to your own admission, the 30c actually worked better. Add to that countless other similar experiences by many others, in contrast to the resistance of those with no experience who nevertheless find a need to refute such experiences based on theory, not reality. All the mental gymnastics in the world does not negate the collective experiential evidence behind homeopathy.
This might help explain how homeopathy works.
What Nobel Laureates say about homeopathy…
Dr Nancy Malik a Nobel Lauriate? She has a phony degree from a phony institution.
She’s the author of the article referencing all the findings of past nobel laureates.
She’s not a doctor and all her qualifications are from some bogus homeopathic university. So she writes an article that I’m sure all those past Nobel Laureates would find misrepresents all their findings.
If you burn yourself and you ask me for help, I can from far away with the help of a prayer make your pain go away. No possibility to explain why with science, no placebo effect, because you will not believe it. If you need it, just tell me where you burn yourself and how bigis it. With homeopatic remedy it works really good with animalś. science is great but is limited because the doors and windows are closes very tight. Time to open your mind if you want to be credible. Hi from Switzerland. Brigitte
My only disproof is that my wife uses a homeopathic [something vomica] for a vertigo, a real condition that has sent her to the emergency room, and it has absolutely worked.
“Ultrafast memory loss and energy redistribution in the hydrogen bond network of liquid H2O”
(I’m including a link but if it’s removed, just Google the title above.)
“Many of the unusual properties of liquid water are attributed to its unique structure, comprised of a random and fluctuating three-dimensional network of hydrogen bonds that link the highly polar water molecules. One of the most direct probes of the dynamics of this network is the infrared spectrum of the OH stretching vibration, which reflects the distribution of hydrogen-bonded structures and the intermolecular forces controlling the structural dynamics of the liquid.
“… Our results highlight the efficiency of energy redistribution within the hydrogen-bonded network, and that liquid water essentially loses the memory of persistent correlations in its structure within 50fs.”
As restated by Wikipedia, that means that liquid water essentially loses the memory of persistent correlations in its structure within fifty millionths of a nanosecond.
Recent research: “The Placebo Phenomenon”, Harvard Magazine. If the following link doesn’t work, just Google it.
One cannot use Newtonian physics and the laws of thermodynamics to explain quantum events. The post synaptic receptor is 10 to the minus 29 angstroms in size. This is very small (quantic) and requires quantum physics to understand what is taking place at this level. And there are many studies showing that indeed a homeopathic dilution has been changed from the original medium and base substance.
There is imprinting of a message into the polymorphic structure of the water/alcohol mixture.
There is storage of information in the quantic states of the electrons, atoms, and molecules of the carrier fluid.
Analyzing the spectral reaction of the homeopathic to conductance, inductance, and capacitance gives us a trivector analysis of the electrical signature of the homeopathic.
One company studies the phenomenon of memory in water and alcohol through photon scattering tests, nuclear magnetic resonance and freezing.
Another common way to measure energetics is with Kirlian photography. It involves placing the product in a highly charred electrical field congaing rare gases. Each homeopathic produces its own unique fingerprint or pattern of colors to identify it.
Stop using quantum physics to justify magic. Kirlian photography has been debunked many times. I understand quantum computing, yes there is ‘storage’ of information in entanglement, which can be done by very specific processes, but it wouldn’t happen by diluting and shaking bottles.
If water or alcohol could be imprinted with the “vibration” or memory of a homeopathic substance it had been in contact with then wouldn’t that memory extend to every substance/mineral/compound the carrier had been in contact with?
With regard to Kirlian photography, we now know the reactions were due to moisture alone. Coins and other metallic or inanimate objects only produced the typical energy formation after being touched with sweaty fingers.
Interesting piece. As a surgeon, I became curious about this several years ago after treating a patient with ruptured appendicitis. They were treated with antibiotics initially, with surgery planned for 6 weeks later after the inflammation had subsided. The patient chose to use several homeopathic remedies in lieu of oral antibiotics at home after discharge from the hospital. I was skeptical, but went along with it. Prior to surgery, she was scheduled for a CT scan to help plan the operation. Pretty much every patient has some scarring, inflammation, or even small abscesses in the area at this point. To my astonishment, that area of her abdomen looked pristine, like nothing had ever happened. I’ve never seen this occur before. She gave me a book explaining the concepts, with I read with interest.
Although the “science” used to develop the concepts (like which compound to use for what diagnosis) is very sketchy, I believe the effects can be real somehow. Perhaps placebo effect. But what if there is some effect related to quantum mechanics, where the compound molecules are “entangled”, and can appear to be in multiple places at once? That might explain why it’s possible to have an effect despite the usual calculations that there shouldn’t be any present at the given dilution. It still doesn’t account for why a particular substance should work in any given situation.
Curious, and I have to admit I can’t completely chalk it up to placebo.
With great respect, I’ll point out (as I’m sure you know) that correlation doesn’t imply causation. Check out the very funny graphs at FastCo: http://www.fastcodesign.com/3030529/infographic-of-the-day/hilarious-graphs-prove-that-correlation-isnt-causation#1.
The question I still have about “entanglement” or “imprinting” or whatever is, if matter or water can retain a “memory” (sorry about the quotes) of previous, er, relationships with other substances, why would the substance originally mixed by the homeopath – arnica or whatever – create a response in the patient, when there are doubtless a kabillion other material relationships experienced by that water?
The universe is old. Hydrogen and oxygen atoms have been around a long time. As another commenter implied, the water’s already been through a thousand bladders. Why wouldn’t other elements the water has mixed with also have some effect on the patient?
I tried homeopathic remedies prescribed for ulcerative colitis by an MD/naturopath nearly 40 years ago, when I was more willing to entertain Woo. The little sugar pills did not help. This has always been the case, sooner or later, when I’ve attempted to test some Woo precept. And I don’t understand the attempts to muddle homeopathy with quantum mechanics except that quantum theory is both new/hip and poorly understood by nearly everyone, so citing quantum effects functions as an ultimate conversation stopper.
Tim, I teach pharmacology at Washington University in St. Louis. Your comments outline exactly how I teach this topic! Attributing the longevity of the myth of homeopathy to magic gives it too much credit. It became legal only because of ancient politics, and remains that way.
Placebo is a powerful thing, and has been proposed to work on animals due to diminished owner anxiety and pet owner perception, e.g. “Yes, Grover seems to be walking better.”
In reality the major effect with any kind of medicine, be it allopathic, naturopathic or homeopathic, is due to placebo. Placebo is activation of your own internal energy resources via an external focus (gee I can’t really heal myself can I? It’s gotta be something out there!). Can i create change in my own health? Google epigenetics to see the possibilities. Is homeopathy real? I have had positive responses. but then I expect this lol. It’s as valid as any other form of medicine, depending upon your belief structure, and direct experiential knowledge is the only way to find out if it’s good for you 🙂
I have used homeopathy for years and find it to be incredibly powerful. Here’s a different way of looking at it that I think might help. If you think of vitamins and minerals, they are only catalysts for enzymes. Its the enzymes that do all the work. An example, zinc is important to take, but its because it stimulates over 300 activities in the body controlled by enzymes. For homeopathy, its the same thing, the substance is a catalyst for the immune system (and other systems). So though the substances might be diluted to the x degree, the immune system gets stimulated even with the smallest doses. There’s much more to it, but I think seeing the ingredients as catalysts makes it easier to understand.
Smallest dose? Not even a single molecule remains in the carrier.
Hey Tim, Instead of thinking “Now, if I could just forget what I read on the label, I could repeat it next time.”
Why not take the opposite approach? Because your expectation was most likely the cause of the faster healing then you will now heal this much faster every time. Even fast with the gel.
Maybe expect even more next time?
Regarding option #1 and #4, no reputable independent double blind study has shown homeopathy to work better beyond a placebo if it did it would be accepted by the science community, physics would also welcome it since it would mean new physics.
Some people here are mentioning ‘but it works on animals!’, which in this case is option #3, nothing more than a regression toward the mean…
While I do believe in the placebo effect and find it to be a worthwhile intention and/or by-product of some treatments, there is efficacy to homeopathy separate from the placebo effect–even though most do not understand it by conventional norms.
It has to do with vibration and frequency. Do you think there is a molecule of substrate from a tiny pill we take “as conventional medicine” after it has become diluted in our bodies? That too has become diluted beyond recognizable molecules in our bodies. How do you think THAT works?
Dis-ease carries vibrational patterns. Energetic “signatures” are carried by homeopathic remedies and these cancel out the dis-ease patterns–perhaps long enough for our bodies amazing healing system to take over and return us back to homeostasis. Read some of James Oschman’s energy medicine articles and books. Even today, one can be sent a computer file with specific frequency that when applied to the body can counteract dis-ease.
Frankly I’m surprised by the lack of research that went into your article, considering the ngorous exploration you usually do.
Look to the Russian Academy of Sciences particularly the work done by Staninslav Zenin on electromagnetic potential and clathrates in water, very interesting stuff. Also Masaru Emoto’s work on water crystal formation sheds some interesting light on the weird and wonderful world of water. Homeopathy gets confusing in terms of Newtonian physics but appears perfectly plausible in the Quantum realm. There is also the problem of it being a cheap,effective, widely available & un-patentable alternative to pharma.
I use homeopathic St John’s Wart for neuropathic pain. I find that 6x works and 30c doesn’t. I expected the 30c to work fine, so I don’t believe it’s placebo. I think it depends on the amount of material in it. For a discussion on the different scales see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homeopathic_dilutions
BTW, Arnica rocks. We use Traumeel pills and lotions for various bruises, aches and pains.
Homoeopathic remedies can be dangerous too. Not in their use but in their substitution for real medicine. There have been alleged homoeopathic remedies that have been used in replacement of vaccines or treatment for cancer.
Simon Singh makes a good case here: http://www.1023.org.uk/whats-the-harm-in-homeopathy.php