All thoughtful physicians I know consider the historical theory and philosophy of homeopathy to be rubbish, balderdash, preposterous, BS, or, politely, NOT PLAUSIBLE; thus, not even worth testing for safety and efficacy.
Then, why, when one asks Mr. Google by entering … Homeopathy … and clicking, does one receive 9.9 million results?
And, why does the National Health Service of the U.K. continue to fund homeopathic hospitals, clinics, and treatments?
And why are there researchers funded by the NIH to study homeopathy and publish papers in recent mainstream journals like The Lancet?
And, why did more than 4,000,000 Americans use homeopathy in a recent year?
Why is homeopathy rubbish?
In classical homeopathy, a physician, pharmacist, or chemist takes a chemical substance theorized to be possibly effective against a particular malady and dilutes it in water.
That solution is then again diluted and shaken repeatedly until the chemical initially placed into the water has been so diluted that none of its molecules can be found by chemical analysis.
That resulting water hypothetically retains a “memory” of the chemical which is therapeutically active with healing power.
This “memory water” is then administered to a patient by a healer who believes fervently that it will be therapeutically active, in fundamental violation of the laws of physics.
Safety in homeopathy would not seem to be a problem, save for possible delays to treatment for some serious malady for which allopathic medicine has effective, safe treatment.
The role of the healer still works powerfully. And the placebo is becoming recognized as an even greater force than we once thought.
Since the mere encounter by a person self-perceived as “ill” with another person perceived as a “healer” or with a perceived remedy of some sort, be it chemical, mechanical, electrical, magnetic, or physical, will often unleash internal forces in the “ill” person that will in fact heal … the vaunted healer/placebo effect.
Voila, the accidental genius of homeopathy thrives.
Deliver a competent-seeming, confidence-oozing, self-labeled healer who listens with empathy, communicates well, and radiates good will, who then doles out pretty, colored, distilled water. This formula is so successful that people will gladly spend their own insurance nonreimbursable money to get well.
What a deal for all the homeopaths and their related ilk.
The human brain is a wondrous and mysterious organ.
George Lundberg is a MedPage Today Editor-at-Large and former editor of the Journal of the American Medical Association.
Originally published in MedPage Today. Visit MedPageToday.com for more health policy news.