Complementary and alternative medicine Medicine Quackery

In which Orac does his part to increase awareness of homeopathy in honor of World Homeopathy Awareness Week, part 2

As I pointed out yesterday, World Homeopathy Awareness Week began yesterday. One common question that’s asked about homeopathy goes something like this: If homeopathy is just water, then what’s the harm?

Here’s the harm:

Part 1

Part 2

Homeopathy is magical thinking, far more religious or superstitious in nature than medical or scientific. And this form of magical thinking can lead people people to eschew effective medical therapy, with tragic results.

By Orac

Orac is the nom de blog of a humble surgeon/scientist who has an ego just big enough to delude himself that someone, somewhere might actually give a rodent's posterior about his copious verbal meanderings, but just barely small enough to admit to himself that few probably will. That surgeon is otherwise known as David Gorski.

That this particular surgeon has chosen his nom de blog based on a rather cranky and arrogant computer shaped like a clear box of blinking lights that he originally encountered when he became a fan of a 35 year old British SF television show whose special effects were renowned for their BBC/Doctor Who-style low budget look, but whose stories nonetheless resulted in some of the best, most innovative science fiction ever televised, should tell you nearly all that you need to know about Orac. (That, and the length of the preceding sentence.)

DISCLAIMER:: The various written meanderings here are the opinions of Orac and Orac alone, written on his own time. They should never be construed as representing the opinions of any other person or entity, especially Orac's cancer center, department of surgery, medical school, or university. Also note that Orac is nonpartisan; he is more than willing to criticize the statements of anyone, regardless of of political leanings, if that anyone advocates pseudoscience or quackery. Finally, medical commentary is not to be construed in any way as medical advice.

To contact Orac: [email protected]

33 replies on “In which Orac does his part to increase awareness of homeopathy in honor of World Homeopathy Awareness Week, part 2”

Excellent videos!
I wish everybody would watch them.
thanks for promoting reason, Orac.

Bah, none of you understand. Homoeopathy only works in the presence of TIME CUBE!!


Just kidding, keep up the good work Orac.

Bah, none of you understand. Homoeopathy only works in the presence of TIME CUBE!!


Just kidding, keep up the good work Orac.

Time-Cube is far saner than the ridiculously infantile notion that is Homeopathy.

Example from TimeCube:

Versus a random homeopathetic site:
“Energy=speed of light” – “Dr” Werner.

The author of might rightly sue for defamation for being compared to Homeopathetic Kooks.

Speaking of woo… I figured this might amuse you and the other blog readers.

(Or possibly make your head explode, but that’s why I’ve got an umbrella.)

Homeopatheists take the expression “less is more” far too literally.Less is *less*. I’ve always suspected that the anti-vaxxers must surrepticiously also believe in homeopathy because they are so very afraid of vanishingly small amounts of thimerisol or other “deadly toxins” in vaccines and remain adamantly opposed to them *even* when those levels are decreased or eliminated entirely.Therefore(according to their style of thinking)the “toxins” have become “stronger” or remain,due to the “memory of water”,respectively.

Found the site and love it. I had a huge LOL when I realized that at first I was hearing “delusions” instead of “dilutions”. “1C = 1:100 delusion”. ahahhahahaa!

yeah right, in the above he states that all children have a right to proper medical care. A man with autism named Stephen Puckett apparently was refused treatment for seizures at an Oklahoma hospital. That’s just great. Wakefield gets crucified for helping children with bowel problems, and Desiree Jennings must have been faking her condition because it is impossible for the doctors to have helped her with her seizures. You people can’t have it both ways. There has to be more help offered to people who have autism AND comorbid medical problems.

So if 1/3 of a teaspoon of something out of all the atoms in the universe is a 40C dilution, I’m assuming they prepare that 200C dilution by writing “200C” on the label.

And the law has trouble forbidding the practice of something this incredibly foolish? How did laws on medical fraud ever get so… watered down?

i have a request 😛 :
could someone please send me this paper: ?
i would be delighted- its unfortunately for an intrafamilial woo war and i need to establish the facts about some of the herbal remedies.
thx in advance

nicolas.m.keller AT googlemail DOT com

jen, both Stephen Pluckett and Desiree Jennings are adults. So using them as examples “that all children have a right to proper medical care” makes absolutely no sense.

Plus, Wakefield was never qualified to practice pediatrics, and was never licensed to practice medicine in the USA. There is also no real evidence he helped any child.

You also are ignoring the parents here have mentioned time and time again that we have provided proper medical care for our disabled children. From dealing with their seizures, intestinal issues and even my son’s genetic heart defect.

So unless you can provide real science, instead of your nonsensical rantings: go away.

jen, do the anti-vax folks really still believe the case of Desiree Jennings was anything else but a odd case of a psychosomatic condition? I was under the impression that after the whole development of a “Australian accent” while shopping, JB and the rest of the crew essentially disavowed her as a agent of big pharma trying to make them look like asses.

@ Denice Walters

To satisfy the anti-vax/homeopathy crowd, we must increase the thimerisol so it is less effective.

Nick, I honestly don’t know about Desiree Jennings and what has happened to her. I have never heard another thing about her. (not even the Australian accent incident).
I wish medical types would get better at fixing many of our problems. For example menstrual cramps. Anaprox or the pill don’t seem to be great/effective options for a number of reasons. I have a little case of ring worm on my elbow and I swear to God that the most effective treatment I’ve tried (including the medically approved prescription cream-lotriderm) is the clear nail polish treatment. There may be something to it “suffocating the fungus” because it seems to be the thing that’s taking it down (and it stops it from spreading to others which is good).

@ Greg. Misanthrope:HAHAHAHA! Seriously, if we follow that manner of thought to its(forgive me if I say)”logical conclusion”, we’ll be able to understand why certain woo-meisters with whom we’re all too familiar are often considered to be “geniuses” to their devotees.

I did see something on youtube and she did walk funny AFTER she was interviewed which seems suspicious. I believe dystonia is a possible side effect of flu shots (probably not the most common, yet possible). IF she is faking it for attention then shame on her. The psychogenic explanation doesn’t seem as credible to me. I either think it was all bogus or not at all. I know my grandmother had guillaume-barre after a flu shot around /78 and the doc told her it was definitely due to the shot. She sure wasn’t faking anything.


Re: the off-topic issue of Desiree Jennings.

I don’t recall people saying she was faking it. What was said is that she had a psychogenic illness. Psychogenic does not equal knowing fraud.

Todd, I understand the distinction. I have heard that kind of comment( that she’s faking it- from some youtube searches today-“hoax”), as well of course, as the psychogenic explanation. I just think it’s kind of stretching belief to say that something is “psychogenic” and then have her speaking in strange accents and walking funny only when she knows cameras are on her. To me, it seems like it would be one thing (psychogenic) or the other (a real injury). But not psychogenic AND faking stuff for the cameras.


Imperfect examples aside, it sounds like you’re saying that if science-based medicine isn’t perfect, then implausible, unproven methods are somehow acceptable.

All we are saying is that people deserve treatments which have been proven effective (i.e., more effective than placebo) in quality clinical trials. We would also like people to be aware that certain treatments (like homeopathy) do not pass this standard and have no plausible mechanism.

Surely we can agree on that much?

It is always frustrating to have a treatment fail. What’s imperative is that it had a chance at efficacy in the first place.

Alas, I sure think it’s too bad that in this instance the parents didn’t try some steroid based creams. However, maybe there does need to be more acceptance of studies on things like, yes, clear nail polish use for ring worm or God forbid, chelation, bio-medical treatments for kids who have autism. When people are already engaging in these treatments anyways (and widely) it makes sense to actually study them fairly, wouldn’t you say?

@jen re: autism and chelation

I found 26 papers on autism and chelation, including the Trial to Assess Chelation Therapy (TACT) started by the NIH NCCAM in 2003. It was expected to be finished in 2009, but I see that it was stalled/delayed in 2008 over allegations of impropriety. There is some question if “Big Chelation”, aka the ACAM, is exerting pressure on the study. I haven’t seen an update, and I don’t know what the clinical results were up to the stall.

There were 13 papers on nail polish and onychomycosis. Mostly negative from the titles.

The research is out there, even if it is minimal. The problem is that just because something works anecdotally, or even in a lab, that does not mean it will work systematically in a clinical setting.

There has to be an objective, scientific system in place to determine what treatments have the highest benefit/cost ratio for the individual patient. Otherwise quacks will flourish in the shadows of medicine. There may be a better system, but this one is the best we have so far.

I am personally grateful to the physicians, the scientists, and even the hated pharmaceutical companies for moving the frontier of knowledge forward a little bit every year. I’m also grateful for the occasional gadfly who asks pointed questions about medical and scientific orthodoxy.

I am NOT thankful for the minions of pseudoscience, paranoia and fundamentalism who are pushing the frontier in the OPPOSITE direction. The difference between a denialist and a skeptic is that a skeptic suspends judgment in the ABSENCE of evidence, a denialist takes an opposing view IN SPITE of the evidence.

hmmmmm, thanks for the info on the nail polish. It sure has seemed to work for me. I was almost going to give up and go back to the Dr. but I feel it is going away for good. It will be interesting to see what the chelation study shows.

Wakefield gets crucified for helping children with bowel problems,

Actually, the offenses Wakefield committed that got him brought up before the GMC were more along the lines of doing painful and dangerous things to children that were not in any way attempting to help the children but simply in order to benefit his own goals.

and Desiree Jennings must have been faking her condition because it is impossible for the doctors to have helped her with her seizures.

It’s unclear exactly what you mean by this sentence. If you mean “we in the science-based medicine community strongly believe that Desiree Jennings’ case of ‘dystonia’ was not genuine, because it went away after a treatment by Rashid ‘Prettybeads‘ Buttar that would have been entirely ineffective as a treatment for actual dystonia, but would have been impressive enough to a layperson to serve as a placebo,” then yes, you’re understanding us correctly.

There is no disease for which waving a red scarf and chanting “Wubba Wubba Waikiki!” is a cure, so if someone says “I had all these dramatic symptoms that went away when Dr. Woo waved his scarf and chanted his magic healing words!” the most likely explanation is that their “symptoms” were psychogenic to begin with.

I believe dystonia is a possible side effect of flu shots (probably not the most common, yet possible).

If Desiree Jennings’ “dystonia” had been genuine it would have been the only case ever known of dystonia induced by a flu shot. “Probably not the most common” would be an almost comical understatement for something that has happened at most just once since the first seasonal flu vaccine in 1945.

And of course the evidence is very much against the claim that it happened even that once.

IF she is faking it for attention then shame on her. The psychogenic explanation doesn’t seem as credible to me. I either think it was all bogus or not at all.

The explanation that’s so improbable as to stagger the imagination is that Desiree Jennings’ “dystonia” was actually dystonia. Of the possibilities left, the psychogenic explanation seems the most probable for many reasons, the primary one being that anyone who consciously set out to fake an illness would probably do a better job learning the symptoms of the illness and figuring out how to fake them.

@ Antaeus Feldspar: I was hoping that someone would bring up the “healing with gemstones/ metal jewelry” woo.There seems to be an americanized hippie-new-age version as well as the Ayurvedic tradition:many of the Hindu and Sikh gentlemen who pump gas into my car(yes,I live in NJ)wear the steel bracelets or oddly designed rings,but not a single flawless 4 carat sapphire(supposedly one of the greatest “healers”)in sight.

[Miss Hoover] “It turns I only thought I had Lyme disease.”
(Writes Psychosomatic on the blackboard.)
“Now class, can you tell me what this word means?”
[Student 1] “It means she’s crazy.”
[Student 2] “No, It means she was faking it.”
[Hoover] “Well actually it means a little of both.”

Wait, you can DIE of ECZEMA?

I passed this irritating problem on to my son. Good thing our family believes in evidence-based medicine—no more than some itching going on around here because I use actual medications instead of “succussed” water and magical thinking.

Seriously, dying of ECZEMA??

Kind of reminds me of the tragedy our family suffered after my father’s death – the only difference is that it was a M.D. that killed him. Apparently he was too busy socializing at the club to read that the drugs he put my father on were a lethal combination How sad 🙁 Stupidity is stupidity.

One of my colleageus has very severe eczema. When he’s healthy, he is a triathlete. When he’s not healthy, he’s on medical leave. Eczema can be extra harsh for some folks.

I just get splotches of eczema on my hands, but when they dry out and crack, ow!!!

Patrick: What happened to your father is very sad. With all due respect, though, there’s a difference beyond “one was an M.D. and one was a homeopath.”

The M.D. could have (presumably) chosen a combination of drugs for whatever conditions your father suffered from that were not lethal together.

The homeopath, by contrast, could not have put together any combination of homeopathic remedies that would have treated the condition this little girl died from.

I’m an pediatrician, and very into spreading the truth about chiropractic and antivax woo. But I had not even heard about homeopathy until I started reading this blog. This is some serious next-level idiocy.

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