Have you ever had a conversation with someone that was so intellectually painful you got an actual headache?
I’m not being cute, I’m not speaking figuratively; I mean a literal headache of the kind that requires aspirin or caffeine or trepanation. That’s what I’ve experienced at least twice in the past year, when attempting to explain to people why Homeopathy is bullshit.
And what was so traumatic about these conversations that they caused me physical pain?
They didn’t even know what the word Homeopathy actually means.
What is Homeopathy?
For starters, and the most concerning facet of this issue, Homeopathy is a billion dollar industry. In 2007, which was the last year the federal government tracked data for it, as much as $2.9 billion spent on homeopathic products.
Homeopathy is based on the ideas that water has memory and that the more you dilute a substance, the stronger it gets; both of which fly in the face of basic chemistry, neither of which has any convincing evidence to support it. Many homeopathic products do not have any significant quantity of their own active ingredients. And those ingredients themselves are based on nonsense, because they are selected on the principle that “like cures like”, which is tantamount to saying that a punch to the head will cure a black eye.
What do Homeopathy supporters think “Homeopathy” means?
That’s the catch. Explaining the principles of homeopathy will often get you a blank stare –because its supporters are often completely unaware of them. Instead, they confuse the term with Holistic – an approach to medicine that treats the person as a whole, or Naturopathic – the branch of pseudoscience under which homeopathy falls, but also includes herbal folk remedies. The fraudulent marketing is so strong for Homeopathy that the word itself, in the minds of some, carries credibility as an alternative form of medicine. Unfortunately, for Homeopaths and Naturopaths and the scientifically ignorant in general, the adage applies: “alternative medicine that actually works, is called medicine“.
The good news
Recently, the Federal Trade Commission has stepped in where the Food and Drug Administration has failed to act, issuing new requirements for homeopathic products, which include the need to carry a statement to the effect that there is no scientific evidence to support the claims that homeopathy works.
Whether this will make any difference in the amount of these products sold each year is dubious, especially given that people don’t bother trying to understand the pseudoscience, let alone actual science, behind them.