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Is Homeopathy Really As Implausible As It Sounds?

•, By Emily Elert
 The new British minister of health has recently become the target of scorn and mockery, after a science writer with The Telegraph noted that he supports homeopathy, a branch of alternative medicine most health experts view as quackery. But just how quackish is it?

Quick as Western doctors are to equate alternative medicine with utter nonsense, there’s a difference between something that hasn’t been proven to work and something that couldn’t possibly work. The tools available for understanding the body are largely blunt, and some alternative theories have gained traction as those tools sharpen. Improvements in brain imaging technology, for example, have shown that meditation—a practice long dismissed by Western doctors as pure mysticism—can improve both the structure and function of the brain.

The form of alternative medicine known as Homeopathy was developed by a German physician around the turn of the 19th century. For two and a half centuries, it has sustained a solid following: According to the National Center for Homeopathy, over 100 million people worldwide use homeopathic medicine. There are—according to the Center's website—eighteen homeopathic doctors within a ten-mile radius of Popular Science's office in New York. Could it be that the practice of homeopathy is simply untested and unfairly stigmatized, or is it truly implausible?

4 Comments in Response to

Comment by Ed Price
Entered on:

What is really interesting about placebo effect is that it works both ways. A person who goes in for for his annual check-up, and is told by the doctor that he has cancer, just might develop cancer, even though he felt fine when he went in to see the doctor in the first place.

We get sick, and then we get well, all the time, even without seeing a doctor. Sometimes we feel "down" and other times we feel vibrant. Could it be that the doctor telling us that we are sick is the thing that keeps us from getting well automatically? Placebo effect in reverse usage.

Comment by Ed Price
Entered on:

One other thing that is very interesting about homeopathy and conventional medicines and treatments is placebo effect.

In some tests, people have been cured by the use of placebos in as much as 40% of those tested, using double blind studies. And this is regarding medical tests rather than homeopathy tests. This suggests that a whole lot of cures may depend on the mental state and attitude of the patient. Perhaps both, modern medicine cures, and homeopathy cures have their base in attitude.

Maybe attitude accounts for 90% of all cures, and all the rest of the treatment only serves to help bring about the correct attitude for healing.

Google: "placebo effect."

Comment by Powell Gammill
Entered on:

Is it really as stupid as it sounds? . . . yes it is!

Comment by Larken Rose
Entered on:

Unfortunately, this article does what most self-described "scientists" do (which is completely unscientific): start by pretending you understand how everything works, and then judge some theory, not by comparing it to actual evidence, but by comparing it to the model you already have in your head. Yes, compared to the standard way of thinking about matter, diluting something down to zero atoms of it should be the same as not taking it at all (or just taking a placebo). So, the not-really-scientists proclaim that Homeopathy must be quackery, because based on THEIR view of reality, it couldn't possible work. However, an ACTUAL scientist approaches the problem very differently. He sees if homeopathy has a measurable effect. Guess what. It does. In lots of double-blind studies, it gives results dramatically different from the placebo. Now, what the pseudo-scientists conclude is that there must be something wrong with the EVIDENCE. What a real scientist would conclude is that there is something wrong with the MODEL of how they view matter and chemistry. But getting self-described "scientists" to re-examine their assumptions and their paradigms is like... well, asking a politician to rethink the concept of "government."

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