Why Homeopathy Is Still Bullshit

Homeopathy is a pseudoscientific alternative “treatment” that is based on treating real diseases with astronomically diluted versions of the thing that caused the disease (or sounds like it). So diluted snake venom supposedly cure snake bites, diluted caffeine somehow cures insomnia, diluted duck liver cures influenza and so on. This is, of course nonsense. It is antivenom that cures a snake bite, insomnia is treated by cognitive behavioral therapy or medication and influenza can be treated with antivirals. Also, the astronomically large dilutions means that there are, statistically speaking, almost never even a single molecule of the active ingredient. In other words, homeopathy is just water, or sugar pills on which a drop of water has been placed.

The Minnesota homeopath Jennie Hoglund recently wrote an article defending homeopathy on the website Medium called Why Homeopathy Should be at the Top of Your Self-Care List. In reality, it is just a thinly veiled advertisement for her own “clinic”. According to her Facebook page, she charges 185 dollars for a 1-1.5 hour visit for a children between newborns and aged 12, 225 dollars for an adult and even 25 to 60 dollars for “acute” care that lasts 30 minutes, either by phone or in person. How on earth a homeopath could ever give a medically legitimate and relevant acute help via the phone? Hoglund does not say, and probably cannot. In other words, Hoglund charges big money for treating very young children who are sick with various fake “treatments”.

The body is not a ticking time bomb

We are taught from an early age that when it comes to health and disease, our bodies are ticking time bombs. They are accidents waiting to happen. Essentially enemies that need to be sharply reprimanded, bludgeoned into submission via procedures, treatments, and medications.

No, human diseases and other medical conditions are caused by a variety of things from easily identified singular things like viruses and smoking to more complicated interplay between biology, psychology and environment. HIV causes AIDS, smoking causes cancer, there are genetic risk factors for schizophrenia and so on. Diseases and other medical conditions can be understood with scientific and medical research accumulating knowledge over time as new treatments are developed, tested and approved. This has led to enormous successes from antipsychotics that helped to end systemic institutionalization, medication to radically improve cancer survival and new antiviral medications to cure hepatitis C. Homeopathy, a pseudoscientific fake set of “treatments” from the 1800s that do not work, has no medical benefit whatsoever over placebo.

Homeopathy bastardizes reductionism

We learn that we should turn over the care of our separate body pieces, disjointed parts, and unconnected systems to various medical professionals.

This is a classic equivocation fallacy that conflates greedy reductionism with hierarchical reductionism. The former is a straw man insisting that modern medicine only looks at a tiny individual part of the human body and attempts to understand or treat it without paying any attention to any other part of the body. This is supposedly “fixed” by relying on “holistic” alternative medicine that takes into account “the entire body”. This is of course complete bullshit, as modern science and medicine practices hierarchical reductionism, which involves understanding health and disease by understanding how different aspects of the body interact with each other. For instance, cancer is seen as a complicated group of diseases for which we have come to understood from molecular biology, developmental biology, biochemistry, physiology and many other areas of biology and medicine. As many scientists and medical doctors have pointed out before, alternative medicine typically contradict itself by pushing a magical one-size-fits-all cure like homeopathy for just about any medical condition or perceived issue, while real medicine is actually becoming increasingly personalized.

The reason why there are medical specialties is because they are needed. The knowledge mass accumulated in medicine is so large that no single human can master it all. There are probably no medical specialist that has mastered all the research material in her field. Instead, medical professionals often become specialized in specific areas where they learn a ton of material related to that area to be able to provide the best possible care to their patients.

Modern medicine is not mere symptom treatment

Because symptoms are the problem, simple as that. Get rid of the symptoms, cure the disease. Right?

Modern medicine treats the underlying condition, not just symptoms. Giving antibiotics to someone infected with a bacteria that is sensitive to that particular antibiotic means treating the underlying condition. Giving effective antiviral medication that cures someone with hepatitis C means treating the underlying condition. Removing a cancerous tumor with surgery means treating the underlying condition. The claim that modern medicine does not treat the underlying condition also directly contradicts the claim that modern medicine is too reductionist, because the latter would only focus on the underlying cause and ignore the rest of the “entire body”. Even more ironically, homeopathy can only ever “treat the symptoms” via the placebo effect since it does nothing to treat the actual condition.

Homeopathy is nonsense

Homeopathy is a 200+ year-old system of medicine originally developed in Germany.

The fact that something is really old is not an argument for its efficacy. Essentially all terrible treatments, from bloodletting as a universal cure to drinking mercury, is very old, but that does not mean they are any less ineffective or any less harmful. What matters is this: does well-designed and reproducible scientific research show that the treatments are safe and effective for a specific outcome? The answer, for homeopathy, is a resounding no. To the contrary, it has been repeatedly shown to be ineffective for a wide range of conditions and it has zero biological plausibility.

It uses very diluted forms of natural substances (mostly plants and minerals) to stimulate a healing response in a person, so that symptoms resolve and vitality increases.

Calling it “very diluted” is misleading. In fact, homeopathic preparations are so astronomically diluted that, statistically speaking, there is no molecules left of the active ingredient. It is just water, or a sugar pill that someone put a drop of water on. Since sugar pills and a small amount of water cannot cure any diseases, homeopathy cannot either. There is simply no biological plausibility behind it whatsoever, and large scientific studies have shown that it just does not work.

Homeopaths also have no clear mechanism for how these sugar pills or water “stimulate a healing response”. Do they increase antibody production? Increase transcription of mRNAs that code for antimicrobial peptides? Homeopaths never say, and indeed, they cannot, as it would be easy to disprove by scientists. Furthermore, how do this “healing response” get rid of the symptoms? By treating the underlying condition? If so, how and why could modern medicine not accomplish the same thing? Homeopaths have no intelligible and coherent answer to any of this.

The reference to “vitality” is another red flag for pseudoscience. This is the idea that living organisms have some kind of magical vital spirit that makes them “alive”, while this “vital spirit” do not exist in rocks. This is, of course, nonsense. We know from scientific research that all the core processes that are typical of living organisms, from DNA replication to metabolism, is run by well-understood principles of physics, chemistry and biology.

Homeopathy does not, and cannot, work

Homeopathy means “like cures like.” This means that if a substance would cause illness in a healthy person, the homeopathic (very diluted) preparation would heal those same symptoms in a sick person.

This would mean that treating someone with a deadly snake bite with astronomically diluted snake venom would cure them. In reality, the person would just die since all he had been given was sugar pills or water. The idea of “like cures like” is just a superficially sounding principle that is not supported by any scientific evidence. Also, it is another case of the one-size-fits-all and greedy reductionist nature of homeopathy, which directly contradicts their claim of being “holistic” and “personalized”. Furthermore, Hoglund does not tell readers exactly how absurdly weak the dilution is. Perhaps that would make her readers realize that homeopathy is nonsense.

There a several key factors that set Homeopathy apart from conventional medicine — both in how it is practiced and how it works — that give it the edge when it comes to bringing about TRUE health and wellness, allowing balance and harmony to come from inside the individual.

What exactly is “true” health and wellness? Is this the kind of “health and wellness” that is never provided by homeopathy much in the same way that “real magic” does not actually exist? There is no true or false health. There is only health. Wellness is also one of those sneaky weasel words that alternative medicine pushers use to con healthy people into regularly buying and using their products even though they are not needed for health. Another great irony with homeopathy, as they often accuse modern science-based medicine of getting people hooked on having to take regular treatment for a very long time just to “make money”, while ignoring that some serious medical conditions need regular treatment due to well-understood pharmacokinetic reasons. In other words, for some medical conditions, the body needs a reasonably steady level of some substance and the body continuously use or break it down, which is the reason why it needs to be added regularly.

Balance is another quack weasel word. The real counterpart in modern medicine is homeostasis, which means that the body preserves an internal stable state in the presence of a changing environment. If you get too warm, the body starts to sweat. If you are too cold, the body begins to shiver to create heat. This exists in multiple levels and there are many mechanisms to maintain homeostasis. This, however, is typically not what is meant when quacks use the term “balance”. Instead, they typically mean something akin to living in balance with nature and the mind.

Attacking science-based medicine is not evidence for homeopathy

Much of conventional medical care involves assessing symptoms, making a diagnosis, and prescribing medication to stop or lessen the symptoms. While this approach may indeed stop symptoms, relief usually comes at a high price.

Again, medication does not only treat symptoms, but also often the underlying cause. Examples previously mentioned are antibiotics against susceptible bacterial infections and antiviral medication that can cure hepatitis C. The reason real medication (as opposed to quackery) sometimes have side effects is because they have an active pharmacological effect. Homeopathy, on the other hand, might have less side effects simply by virtue of not having any pharmacological effect whatsoever. It is no comfort to claim that homeopathy has no side effects or interactions with other medications because homeopathy literally has no pharmacological effect. What is worse is that homeopathy can have negative expectancy side effects known as the nocebo effect and of course there is a considerable negative effect of leaving a serious medical condition untreated by real medicine. Even more problems can be found in the article Five Reasons Why Placebo Medicine is Bullshit.

Very often, when a medication is given to address one set of symptoms, it simply causes suppression on one level, causing the imbalance to express on another level.

Again, medication is not exclusively about “addressing symptoms”. That would be homeopathy that attempts to do this via the placebo effect. What is this imbalance that Hoglund is talking about? Does she mean the underlying condition? The pathogens, the smoking, the genetic and social risk factors and so on? In the end, this is just another attempt to demonize modern medicine by claiming that treating the actual cause of a condition with modern medicine will just cause another disease.

An example is the eczema/asthma connection. Often, the use of a steroid cream on the skin will lead to the development of asthma. This is because the body is a whole, and all body systems are connected. When an imbalance is expressing itself through a particular body system, removal of the symptoms does not heal the imbalance — it just puts up a roadblock, and the symptoms have to find expression elsewhere.

Eczema and asthma are both autoimmune conditions. Steroids are an anti-inflammatory treatment against such conditions. Treating eczema with steroid cream does not cause asthma. Quite the contrary, as steroids treat asthma. Asthma is not an evidence-based side effect of topical steroids.

The argument is even more batshit, because eczema and asthma share common risk factors and it is these that are the real reason for why people who have eczema can later go on to develop asthma. There is even some evidence of a direct causal link between eczema and asthma. Taken together, this has come to be known as the atopic march concept: eczema often comes before other allergic disease and asthma. This has nothing to do with treatment with steroid cream whatsoever.

Homeopaths just make stuff up

Homeopathy views symptoms as clues to the underlying imbalance, and a Homeopath uses the clues to select a remedy that will stimulate the body to heal the imbalance, thereby bringing relief on all levels — mental, emotional, and physical.

So it is the reductionist symptoms then, rather than the whole person, that decides the treatment, and that treatment only treats the underlying imbalance, not the entire person? Homeopathy has so many internal contradictions that it has become an absurd parody of itself.

Homeopathic clients report an increase in energy, vitality, and overall feelings of well-being. These are signs of healing on a foundational level.

These are the signs of a temporary and fleeting placebo effect that does nothing to treat the actual cause of the medical condition, merely manipulates the expectations of the client. It also, of course, enriches the quack pushing the ineffective homeopathic preparations.

Modern medical care tends to be physician-centered, revolving around the schedule (and often, ego) of the clinician. Nevermind that you are paying them for a service, and that they are essentially working for you. Sometimes, it feels like just the opposite. We pay big money for a 7 to 10 minute appointment in which our questions and concerns are frequently dismissed.

It is certainly the case that working at a hospital is a stressful situation and many patients do come with complaints that do not represent any actual medical problem or thinking that their cold is a deadly disease. There are many valid criticisms to be made of the modern health care system, but this is not even remotely evidence for the effectiveness of homeopathy. That is the false dilemma fallacy, whereby evidence against some position is taken as evidence in favor of some other position.

It is also strange for pushers of fake “treatments” to complain about costs, since they are taking money by conning sick people and giving them stuff that does not work above the placebo effect. In fact, alternative medicine is a 34 billion dollar industry per year and these figures come from a few years ago, so it is probably an even bigger industry today. In contrast to real medicine, alternative medicine is an industry that is almost entirely unregulated.

Homeopathy is a one-size-fits-all, not patient-centered

Homeopathy is truly patient-centered. You and your experience are the primary focus in Homeopathic care. In an appointment, I spend 2+ hours listening to each new patient, inviting details, descriptions, and questions. Every person is seen as an individual, with unique characteristics and qualities. This process helps me choose, from over 5000 remedies, the ONE remedy that will most help my client.

The reason that homeopaths spend that long with clients is that it enables them to both charge more money since they are spending more time with the person and boost the placebo response by showering them with attention and sympathy. That is the real reason. It has nothing to do with allegedly seeing clients as individuals or helping them choose from many remedies since they are all either just sugar pills or water.

Now, please understand that I am not suggesting that you throw out all conventional medical treatments in favor of Homeopathy. That would not be wise. In serious or life-threatening situations, it is very important to seek medical help, as conventional medicine absolutely shines in the areas of trauma, emergencies, injury, and in some acute illness and infections.

Right, in areas where the outcome of a treatment strongly matters for the life of a patient, science-based medicine is superior. Another way to say this is that homeopathy only appears to “work” for subjective and diffuse symptoms highly sensitive to a placebo response. In other words, it does not work at all.

Although it is great that homeopaths advice their readers and clients to seek real medical treatment if they have serious situations, it is a tacit admission that there are really manipulating people into forking over their hard-earned cash. The honesty is refreshing, but really begs the question: if homeopathy is a legitimate treatment for thousands of different medical conditions, why would it not work in serious situations? Why does it not work for serious infections, but only for very mild infections? Surely, is not the most honest answer that homeopathy does not work period?

More misrepresentations of modern medicine

Antibiotics, chemotherapy, and surgery do save lives, there is no doubt about that. But my question is, why do so many people get to the point that these are the only options?

A homeopath that admits that antibiotics, chemotherapy and surgery saves lives?! How refreshing. The answer to the deceptive question is, of course, that no one thinks that antibiotics, chemotherapy and surgery are the only options. They do not even treat the same thing. Antibiotics do not treat heart disease, anti-cancer chemotherapy does not treat a bacterial infection and so on. Modern medicine also has more treatments available than those three depending on the condition, from psychotherapy for depression to antivirals for hepatitis C. It is also strange that two out of the three treatments listed above (chemotherapy and surgery) related to cancer. Homeopathy, of course, cannot treat cancer at all.

It’s the management of chronic disease, and the failure to consider the patient as a whole that is modern medicine’s greatest liability. There is no option, no vehicle for lifelong wellness, within the conventional medical system. Homeopathy offers that option.

If a condition is chronic, then by definition it is a long-term condition that cannot be easily cured. That is the very definition. While it is true that modern medicine has had more success with simpler medical conditions, such as bacterial infections, this does not mean that there is no effective medications to manage chronic medical conditions. Finally, there is no evidence whatsoever that homeopathy can successfully manage chronic conditions and notice the continued usage of the misleading weasel word “wellness”.

The height of irony

Homeopathy is gentle, and allows the body to heal itself. Medications often come with a long list of side effects and can be quite disruptive to life. Not so with Homeopathic remedies. Because they are so diluted, the risk of side effects is very low, and there is no interference with other medications.

The reason that medications can have side effects is because they actually have a pharmacological effect. The reason that homeopathy is “gentle” and without pharmacological side effects or interactions with real medication is because they are pharmacologically inert. Statistically, they have no molecule of the active ingredient left because they are so diluted. It is therefore very frustrating when homeopaths uses this exact argument to explain why there is very low risk of pharmacological side effects! Why cannot homeopaths apply this exact logic to the effectiveness question?! Mindbogglingly absurd.

Homeopathy acts on an energetic level, and is able to support and guide your body through healing.

So homeopathy is…what exactly? Physics? Biochemistry? This is yet another case of quackery trying to abuse scientific terminology to prop up their nonsense “treatments” to scam people for money.

Remedies are safe for babies, and through pregnancy and breastfeeding.

Stop pushing homeopathy for babies. Seriously.

Emil Karlsson

Debunker of pseudoscience.

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