The Skeptical Teacher

Musings of a science teacher & skeptic in an age of woo.

Posts Tagged ‘remedies’

JREF Takes Political Action Against Homeopathic Quackery

Posted by mattusmaximus on May 8, 2011

I found out the James Randi Educational Foundation has started a campaign to get people to put political pressure on the United States Congress in an attempt to get them to reign in medical loopholes pertaining to homeopathy.  If you care at all about science-based medicine, then I encourage you to get involved in this campaign…

Close The Quack Medicine Loophole For Homeopathic Remedies


So-called homeopathic remedies may be the only products given a free pass to say they’re intended to treat disease, without any proof at all that they work. In fact, most homeopathic products are nothing but plain sugar pills with no active ingredients. Manufacturers take millions of dollars a year from unsuspecting customers who often think they’re buying real medicine.

Drugs have to be tested for safety before they can be sold. Nutritional supplements have to carry disclaimers, telling consumers that their claims have not been evaluated by the FDA. Homeopathy is exempt from these requirements because of a law passed more than 70 years ago. It’s time to close this loophole and make manufactures of these quack medications play by the same rules as everyone else.

The facts about homeopathic remedies:

  • No Ingredients: Homeopathic remedies are so extremely dilute that most do not contain a single atom of their claimed active ingredient. The most popular homeopathic remedy, oscillococcinum, is based on a dilution of one part duck liver to 10^400 parts of water. 10^400 is the number 1 with 400 zeroes after it. To make such a dilution, you’d have to mix a single molecule of duck liver with more matter than exists in the entire known universe.
  • No Testing: Homeopathic remedies are exempted from regulations requiring drugs to prove they’re effective and accurately labeled with respect to dosage and potency. What’s more, homeopathic remedies were never even tested by their inventors to make sure they work. Homeopathic remedies are invented by a process homeopaths call “proving”: they give a substance to a healthy person, observe the symptoms it causes, and then take it on faith that homeopathic doses of the same substance will cure those symptoms. For example, coffee causes sleeplessness—that’s all homeopaths need to know in order to prescribe homeopathically-diluted coffee as sleeping pills, called “coffea cruda.” According to homeopathic principles, there’s no need to test whether it actually helps anyone sleep.
  • No Facts: Major pharmacy chains like CVS, Walgreens, and Rite Aid sell useless homeopathic products right alongside real medicine, with no warning to consumers. Manufacturers and retailers profit by denying customers the facts they need to make up their minds. U.S. law exempts homeopathy from certain rules that govern drugs and nutritional supplements, so manufacturers can market homeopathic remedies for the treatment of illnesses despite the fact that reputable studies show homeopathy to work no better than dummy pills made of plain sugar.
Click here to sign the letter and send a message to the U.S. Congress on this issue.  Please act now and take some time to pass this along to your friends & family.

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Randi’s Challenge to Homeopathy Manufacturers and Retail Pharmacies

Posted by mattusmaximus on February 26, 2011

As a follow-up to the successful 10:23 Campaign: “Homeopathy: There’s Nothing In It!”, I wanted to share with you all an excellent video challenge from skeptic James Randi, who is laying down the gauntlet to homeopathy manufacturers and pharmacies that sell this scam “medicine”…


In addition, please consider taking a few minutes to go over to and sign the petition which encourages these manufacturers & pharmacies to come clean to the public about these bogus products…

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The 10:23 Challenge 2011: Homeopathy, There’s Nothing In It

Posted by mattusmaximus on February 3, 2011

You may recall that about one year ago there was a very widespread and public examination of the pseudoscience of homeopathy in what was billed as the 10:23 Challenge – read more about how homeopathy failed to kill anyone via “suicidal overdose” at that event. In keeping with the spirit of grassroots skeptical activism, the 10:23 Challenge is back for 2011, and it’s taking place this Saturday, Feb. 5th.  Check out the 10:23 website for more information…

The 10:23 Challenge is a follow-up to the ‘overdose’ protest staged by the 10:23 Campaign in 2010. International protesters from more than 10 countries, and more than 23 cities will gather for over the weekend of February 5-6 2011, to make the simple statement: Homeopathy – There’s Nothing In It.

The challenge will culminate on February 6th at the QED conference in Manchester, where 300 protesters will participate the largest ever single demonstration against homeopathy.

**Update: As a follow up message, I’d like to share with you a Youtube video by my skeptical colleague from Down Under, Kylie Sturgess…

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10:23 “Overdose by Homeopathy” Event a Miserable Failure

Posted by mattusmaximus on February 1, 2010

This is a follow up to my recent “Suicide by Homeopathy?” post – and by calling the event a “miserable failure” I mean that it was the homeopathy that was an epic fail.  Hundreds and hundreds of skeptics attempted to overdose on a variety of homeopathic remedies, and not one person was adversely affected. Which begs a question: why do homeopaths bother mentioning anything at all about dosage on their remedies when it is apparent that dosage doesn’t matter?

Apparently, the press caught wind of this public experiment and thought it was interesting – check out the BBC article on it. In addition, here’s an update on the event from the 10:23 Campaign, along with some neat footage as well…

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Suicide by Homeopathy?

Posted by mattusmaximus on January 24, 2010

If you’ve been running around in skeptical circles for any amount of time, then you’ve no doubt heard of the quackery called homeopathy. According to the Skeptic’s Dictionary entry on homeopathy…

Classical homeopathy originated in the 19th century with Samuel Christian Friedrich Hahnemann (1755-1843) as an alternative to the standard medical practices of the day, such as phlebotomy or bloodletting. Opening veins to bleed patients, force disease out of the body, and restore the humors to a proper balance was a popular medical practice until the late19th century (Williams 2000: 265). Hahnemann rejected the notion that disease should be treated by letting out the offensive matter causing the illness. In this, he was right. On the other hand, he argued that disease should be treated by helping the vital force restore the body to harmony and balance. In this, he was wrong. He rejected other common medical practices of his day such as purgatives and emetics “with opium and mercury-based calomel” (ibid.: 145). He was right to do so. Hahnemann’s alternative medicine was more humane and less likely to cause harm than many of the conventional practices of his day. …

Homeopaths refer to “the Law of Infinitesimals” and the “Law of Similars” as grounds for using minute substances and for believing that like heals like, but these are not natural laws of science. If they are laws at all, they are metaphysical laws, i.e., beliefs about the nature of reality that would be impossible to test by empirical means. Hahnemann’s ideas did originate in experience. That he drew metaphysical conclusions from empirical events does not, however, make his ideas empirically testable. The law of infinitesimals seems to have been partly derived from his notion that any remedy would cause the patient to get worse before getting better and that one could minimize this negative effect by significantly reducing the size of the dose. Most critics of homeopathy balk at this “law” because it leads to remedies that have been so diluted as to have nary a single molecule of the substance one starts with.

And this is the real rub with a notion as loony as homeopathy.  We already know from modern science-based medicine that, in the case of drugs, there must be a certain amount of active ingredient in the drug in order for it to have the desired effect.  Of course, there are dangers from using medical drugs: one of the most common is that of over-dosing.  If someone takes too much of a certain active ingredient, it can be harmful or – in the worst case – fatal.  For example, we all know about stories of people committing suicide by over-dosing on sleeping pills.

However, with homeopathy, this is all turned completely on its head.  Homeopaths, invoking their magical “law of infinitesimals”, insist that by diluting the active ingredient to the most ludicrous extreme (i.e., imagine diluting a solution so much that only one molecule of active ingredient remains in it) this will somehow transfer the healing power of the ingredient to the patient and actually make the solution more potent.

A classic example of debunking this particular woo-woo claim has been performed numerous times by James Randi as he lectures on the topic of homeopathy & other quackery.  As he lectures, usually for roughly an hour, Randi will consume an entire bottle of homeopathic sleeping pills that he’d purchased earlier from a nearby pharmacy.  Needless to say, despite performing this feat numerous times, James Randi has yet to die from such an “over-dose”.

Read the rest of this entry »

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