Before anyone thinks I’ve gone over to the “dark side”, I haven’t been to see an actual homeopath. Rather, I just paid a little visit to the homepage of the New Zealand Council of Homeopaths (NZCH) to see what they say about themselves.
I was particularly interested in seeing if the NZCH made any attempt to explain how homeopathy works, particularly after several statements that were made by homeopaths to the media last year which included:
‘no one knows how it works’ and ‘how they work … is a mystery’
Not particularly enlightening. The same interview also provided the additional comments from the representative of the NZCH.
‘there is something happening in that remedy when it is potentized’ — rather vague if you ask me
‘We are waiting for science to catch up’ — really? sigh.
The NZCH website ‘explains’ homeopathy by stating that ‘homeopathic medicines stimulate the body to heal itself.’ Incredibly vague, which reinforces the point that homeopaths don’t know how it works — a somewhat refreshing admission, after years of pseudoscientific suggestions of ‘quantum’ effects, (mystical) ‘energies’ or of water having ‘memory.’
So without an explanation for how homeopathy works, homeopaths are relying on the fact that, in practice, it works.
The problem is that it doesn’t.
Over the decades, homeopaths have pointed to a large number of studies which they purport to show homeopathy having an effect. Unfortunately, when these studies have been held up to the light of the scientific method every single one has been shown to be flawed, misinterpreted or misrepresented.
So when it comes down to it homeopaths provide a treatment for which there is no identified mechanism and no evidence that it works, beyond the body’s ability to heal itself. This is clearly evidenced by the fact that homeopathic remedies are only used to treat conditions that the body can heal itself. It is only the most deluded and dangerous homeopaths that will claim that homeopathy can cure conditions such as AIDS, septic wounds and heart disease. Unfortunately, such homeopaths exist, and as most homeopathy organisations have no regulatory power over their members, they do little to stop such mavericks, even when they encourage their clients to forgo conventional medicine in favour of homeopathy. In the UK, homeopaths have recently been taken to task for supplying their customers with homeopathic remedies to prevent cholera. And several years ago I had to warn a colleague not to use a homeopathic treatment to ‘sterilise’ water while travelling in South America.
With no mechanism, and no reliable evidence that it works, homeopathy becomes purely a faith based health treatment, akin to reiki and faith healing. Yet, according to the NZCH website some homeopathic treatments may be funded by insurance companies including Accuro and Southern Cross.
Other gems from the NZCH website include:
‘Yes, pregnant and breast-feeding woman can safely take homeopathic medicines.’ They can safely drink a glass of water too.
‘Healing takes place in different ways and reactions to a medicine vary. Sometimes there is an immediate improvement. Sometimes healing begins with an increased feeling of well being, even though symptoms initially remain. In some cases, old symptoms recur as part of the healing process. Occasionally there is a temporary worsening of the symptoms prior to improvement. However, there are no toxic side effects from homeopathic medicines.’
The NZCH also takes a very cautious, fence sitting position with regards to vaccines.
‘Some Homeopaths support vaccination. Others are concerned that the long-term effects of vaccination on the immune system are not fully known and therefore not taken into consideration in cost/benefit calculations. There is evidence within the mainstream medical literature that vaccination may predispose towards auto-immune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis.’