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Getting to the Source

As I was researching for a paper on medical ethics concerning the prescription of homeopathic medicine (which I argue is unethical), I decided that I could more poignantly make my argument if I could actually demonstrate how homeopathic “medicine” is made. My rationale was that anyone who saw the process would realize how scientifically ignorant this alternative treatment can be, and my goal here is to share the same information with you so that you too can see the misguided foolishness first hand.

After doing a quick search, I came upon a website that indeed has a recipe for making any kind of remedy that you want to seemingly treat anything. If you have any questions about my selection, take it from the website itself, “Hpathy.com.”

According to the website:

Hpathy.com is the world’s No.1 Homeopathy Portal. With the largest number of unique services and content, millions of users, tens of millions of page-views – Hpathy.com is the undisputed king of homeopathy in the cyber-world! Hpathy develops free, professional content and services for the homeopathic community. Every month Hpathy.com shares it’s world of Homeopathy with more than 500,000 people and serves millions of homeopathic pages each year. 

So this is supposedly the number one source for online misinformation about how efficacious medicine works (though I doubt it). Let’s take a look at the recipe.

The Recipe

This is the unedited version (I did cut out the parts not directly applying to the recipe) of the official recipe for homeopathic medicine from the above referenced website. You will learn how to make your own homeopathic remedy, and after we expose how unscientific and nonsensical it is, you will hopefully use your new knowledge to advance the skeptical backlash against this witchcraft.

I will be interjecting my thoughts in italics.

Make Your Own Homeopathic Medicine by Elaine Lewis (not a doctor).

“What’s the value of knowing this

? It’s immense! If you’re sea sick, you can make a remedy out of sea water; if you’re sick from vacationing in Mexico, you can make a remedy out of the pathogen-infested local water. If the polluted air or pollens in the air are causing your problem, you can put a saucer of water outside for a few hours or days and let it collect whatever is in the air, and then make a remedy out of that. The list of possibilities is endless; in fact, when you’re desperate, and you’ve seemingly tried everything, there’s your own body to make remedies from: your discharges, your urine, your blood–you’re never really without remedies, are you?”

This whole first paragraph should be a HUGE red flag. According to the tenets of homeopathy, “like cures like.” I imagine that this is supposed to sound like the same way that vaccination works, but the body actually creates antibodies via your immune system to fight off these viruses and bacteria when vaccinated. There is no such mechanism for drinking diluted urine or sea water. Contrary to what homeopaths suggest, if you have an STD, you cannot cure it by diluting your own discharges and drinking it. There is no physiological mechanism for this to work, for any homeopathic remedy to work for that matter, and the whole notion of “like cures like” is not based on any science. By the same logic, are we supposed to cure cancer by diluting cancer cells in water and drinking it? What garbage.

“So now, if you’re ready, here are the directions:

Get a small bottle of spring water (any water will do). Pour half the water out (but save the water, don’t pour it down the drain).

Now you have half a bottle of water. Pour in a small amount of what you’re trying to make a remedy of–let’s say for the sake of argument that you want to make “Homeopathic Pepsi Cola”; therefore, your water bottle should now consist of a solution of 90% water and 10% Pepsi–there’s no need to be fussy about your percentages–just guess at what 10% might be.

‘Succuss’ this solution (pound the bottle into your opposite palm) 40 times and after having done that, get a piece of paper and write down “Pepsi 1X”–meaning that you now have Pepsi in the 1X potency, this means you’ve done a one-in-ten dilution with 40 succussions and you’ve done it just once.

Now pour out 90% of this solution–again, no need to be fussy– and refill half way with spring or distilled water, succuss 40 times, and write down “2X” (meaning you’ve now dumped out, refilled, and succussed 40 times, twice).

Now pour out 90% again and refill half way with water again and succuss 40 times again and write down “3X” this time. Keep doing this til you’ve reached either a 6X or a 12X or a 30X–depending on what potency you want. A 6X would have to be taken more often as it’s a lower potency–in a chronic case, two to four times a day; whereas, a 12X would be taken once or twice a day and a 30X as needed–one dose may be enough, depending on what’s wrong.”

The basic idea behind the recipe

The specifics here about “succussing”, dosage, and potency are irrelevant and are just part of the ritual. In this process you are basically diluting any ingredient that you put into solution out of existence. Even if like did cure like, there is nothing in the solution after so many dilutions. Let me put it to you this way: most homeopathic remedies are diluted in this fashion 60 times. At this dilution, you would have to drink 10,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 gallons of homeopathic remedy to get one molecule of active ingredient, this is 10 billion times the volume of the earth in liquid remedy. In the volumes that you would be ingesting, you will not get any ingredient. No active ingredient, no physiological response, no remedy.

“When your remedy bottle is no longer working, you’ll need to raise the potency. The way to do it is this: Pour out 90% of your bottle. Refill with bottled water half way. Succuss (pound the bottle into your opposite palm) 40 times. Again, for the second time, pour out 90% of the bottle. Refill with water half way. Succuss 40 times. Repeat one more time. You will now have raised the potency by 3 degrees. It should now start working again.”

Yes, you read that right; when the remedy is no longer “working,” pour almost all of it out and fill it up with pure water three more times. In the homeopathic mindset, this is how medicine is created. Again, try to figure out the logic behind this recipe. “Take something that will not have a therapeutic effect on your body, dilute it with water until not one molecule of ingredient remains, and drink it. When it stops working, dilute it some more.” I’ll save you the speculation, there is no logic behind it.

Homeopathy is Nonsense

Via XKCD--Click for site

So just to recap:

  • Homeopaths claim that you can make a remedy for yourself out of basically anything. Cat dander for cat allergies, sea water for sea sickness.
  • To make a homeopathic remedy, you take the following steps:
      1. Put the thing that you think makes you sick into a bottle of water.
      2. Pour out 90% of the water and then fill the bottle back up with more water.
      3. Repeat this process up to 60 times (sometimes even 200 times).
      4. Drink the solution as a remedy.
      5. When the remedy stops “working,” pour most of it out and fill it up with more water.

This is absolute gibberish. It flies in the face of everything that we know about pharmacology, physiology, and medical science. You now know how homeopathic medicine is made. Say whatever you want about the handful of shoddy studies which show random noise in the data which homeopaths purport to be evidence, the fundamental ideas behind homeopathy are simply pseudoscience, ranking up there with cranial excision of spirits.

Furthermore, the placebo effect (which homeopathic medicine has never been shown to work beyond) is not medicine, it is a self-reported subjective increase in well-being, not a physiological, objectively measured one. This is the only way that homeopathic treatments can “work.” Without any active ingredient, there is no chance for a physiological response, with no response, a medicine cannot be considered efficacious. And taking homeopathic medicine can actually be dangerous: you can feel better without actually being better. Your ailment will be left untreated, potentially getting worse as you rely on debunked snake oil. Sure, the placebo effect may help you weather the storm of minor cold symptoms this season, but it can do nothing for curable illnesses. In fact, it will never cure anything.

Like the placebo bands sold by the Skeptic Bros., which are a fun way to explain the pseudoscience that is the balance bracelet, knowing the recipe for homeopathic medicine would be a fun way for those of you more skeptically inclined to show your friends just how unfounded those pills they find in the pharmacy really are. The more hands on we can get with science the better. It would be hard for a person to argue that exactly zero molecules of active ingredient would constitute an effective medicine.