Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Homeopathy: just a spoonful of sugar

World Homeopathy Awareness Week may have been last week, but figuring that it's never too late to learn about this field of 'science' that is now, with staggering audacity, claiming to be able to cure infertility, I dived head-first into the website of the World Homeopathy Awareness Organisation.

It lists ten good reasons to use homeopathy. These are: having no harmful side-effects; being gentle, holistic, inexpensive, preventative; not having been tested on animals; easy to take; involving the patient; invaluable for first aid; and - this one is quite the claim - being 'the medicine of the future. 

You don't need to be eagle-eyed to spot the missing word: effective. Nowhere in its manifesto, does the organisation feel obliged to say that the treatment actually works. Undeterred, I ploughed through a 30-page lime-green powerpoint report on why homeopathy should be used for infertility. There too, they seem breezily unconcerned about whether the remedies might actually do what they claim. Under the heading "Does homeopathy always work", they say "A lot can be achieved, but there can be circumstances that influence the treatment negatively, such as: wrong diet, environment, medication, irreversible damage." 

Sure, there are contraindications with many conventional medications too, but these are clearly laid out when a doctor prescribes them to a patient. They're not used as a get-out clause to explain why 'sugar pills with water memory' (is it just me who thinks these sound like words from Star Trek?) don't work. In a final whammy, the report says that when taking homeopathic medicine, old symptoms may return, and what's more, your symptoms may actually be aggravated. That doesn't sound much like a cure to me. 

If all of this sounds like an angry, bitter rant... it is. Homeopathy isn't harmless. Pro-homeopaths would argue that I don't have to use if I don't want to, and I should just other people do what they want. But false remedies are insidious and often become harmful very quickly. I've met people all over India who use homeopathy for illnesses ranging from diabetes to heart disease to asthma. These aren't trivial conditions and the consequences for ignoring care can be dire. 

Perhaps the most heart-rending example I heard was from a cancer surgeon in Assam, north-east India. He told me that because patients try homeopathy and other remedies first, they may not see a doctor for a lump in their breast until it's too late. When homeopathy stands between a person living or dying, homeopaths really do need to examine their conscience. Better still, governments should step in and better regulate healthcare.  


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  2. Thank you for the info. It sounds pretty user friendly. I guess I’ll pick one up for fun. thank u

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  3. Thanks for the great info. I’ll be implementing much of this soon!

  4. It is in reality a nice and useful piece of info. Please keep us informed like this. Thank you for sharing

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  5. Sugar addict may lead to die young
    thanks for the great article Priya

  6. Thanks for the Informasiana
    verywell and thank you.....
    Good article you have here.

  7. I have a few questions about your "angry, bitter rant" that makes homeopathy sound like a creepy hypocrite.

    1) What fraction and population of users (or believers - you will perhaps prefer this word) of homeopathy assent to this form of treatment being insidious?

    2) Which conventional medication comes without side-effects?

    3) What form of medication does not have "circumstances that influence the treatment negatively, such as: wrong diet, environment, medication, irreversible damage"?

    4) Which form of treatment guarantees a cure for every case of illness?

    It would be better to have a comparison (with cited evidence, of course) of successes/failures and the scope of treatment of the known medications for various illnesses and let numbers speak. The article sounds more like a grudge in the form I read it. I believe, your readers expect better for the reputation you have as a science writer/journalist. Other than that, I agree that any deceitful medication should cease to exist. By the way, is health-care and its regulation really guided by conscience? It would be a wonderful world to live in, isn't it?