Homeopathy is the number one alternative health product in Europe. In the UK, homeopathic products are available under the NHS. Here in Ireland, despite the popularity of homeopathic products, those who wish to buy them must pay full price. In Ireland, medical hard holders are entitled to prescription drugs free of charge, and those without medical cards can avail of the drug payment scheme which means they will only pay a maximum of €42 per month for prescription drugs. Only drugs that have been shown to have an effect are eligible on the list, and according to the department ‘homeopathic products do not meet these criteria and accordingly, are not eligible for inclusion on the common list’.
[pullquote]Even the top homeopaths have trouble explaining how homeopathy is supposed to actually work.[/pullquote]Even the top homeopaths have trouble explaining how homeopathy is supposed to actually work. The process of preparing a homeopathic remedy is quite simple. You simply find a herb that induces the symptoms you’re experiencing, dilute it in some water, and succuss (shake) it. If you want to consume it in pill form, simply drop some of your newly created medicine water onto a sugar pill and leave it to dry. After ingesting your treatment, it will supposedly stimulate your body’s natural defenses and cause wellness.
The trouble is, it’s never been shown to work in a clinical trial, and that’s why our government refuses to treat it as medicine. Everyone knows someone who got better after taking homeopathic products, but without a proper clinical trial, we can’t be sure that any given patient wouldn’t have recovered anyway. Homeopathy has always failed when tested and without empirical evidence, claiming that something is ‘medicine’ is dangerous and irrisponsible.
Homeopathy doesn’t just fail empirically either. There’s a massive problem with the theory behind how it could work, and this problem has never been properly explained by homeopaths. There’s only so many molecules in a glass of water. Once you dilute beyond a certain limit, you can’t be sure that there’s even a single molecule of what you’re trying to dilute in there. That limit is 1 part in 1023 (that’s one with twenty three zeros after it). That’s very very very dilute, but not as dilute as most homeopathic remedies. A standard flu remedy can be as dilute as 1 part in 10400. There will be far more contaminants from the production, bottling and consumption in your homeopathic product that there will be any kind of proposed active ingredient – one more reason why selling such a substance as ‘medicine’ is dangerous and irresponsible if people are using it instead of visiting a doctor. [pullquote]Selling such a substance as ‘medicine’ is dangerous and irresponsible.[/pullquote]
Regardless, the Irish Society of Homeopaths list 143 conditions which they claim can be treated effectively with homeopathy. These include everything from cold and flu to anxiety, exhaustion, jet lag, and nightmares. Well I’m happy to call shenanigans. There is no conclusive scientific evidence to support their claims.
It’s too easy to believe in quick fix solutions when it comes to health. What most people don’t want to hear is that the secret to good health is healthy living. Eat well, exercise, and don’t abuse your body and you’ll probably live longer and be healthier. Modern medicine isn’t perfect, but it has a much better success rate than its alternatives and it’s based on evidence. That’s where I want to see my taxes going.
In the UK, things are different. Homeopathy has been given unearned credibility because it’s available through the NHS. Encouraging homeopathy is encouraging people to see alternative health practitioners (or perhaps alternatives to health practitioners) in place of real doctors who stand a good chance of spotting what’s really going wrong and fixing it. Our friends from the Merseyside Skeptics Society offer examples of how this can be harmful. They’re running a campaign to raise awareness about the reality of homeopathy in the UK. Their website is full of information, news and videos about the harm that homeopathy can do.