Homeopathy not the solution for Ebola (or anything else)

By Michael Edmonds 30/10/2014

A petition calling for the World Health Organisation (WHO) to “test and distribute homeopathy as quickly as possible to contain the (Ebola) outbreaks” is unlikely to gain much traction, given that the WHO, in August 2009, made statements indicating that homeopathy was not an effective treatment for diseases such as tuberculosis, malaria, diarrhoea or HIV infection.

Unfortunately, Green MP Steffan Browning does not seem to have been aware of this when he signed an on-line petition, asking the WHO to consider treating Ebola with homeopathy. Since this revelation the Green party has distanced themselves these comments with Greens co-leader Russell Norman stating that “There are many New Zealanders who use homeopathy but I think even they would say it’s not the right thing to use for Ebola. It’s not something we support and it’s not Green Party Policy.” Mr Browning has also back pedalled his position suggesting it was “unwise” to sign the petition. However, it is noticeable that both Mr Browning and Dr Norman have been very careful in how they have worded their response so as not to offend those who believe in homeopathy.

The petition demonstrates a naivety about medicine and homeopathy with the petitioners requesting

We call on those within WHO in positions of authority and influence to:

1. Look at homeopathy’s record in the treatment and prevention of serious epidemic disease

2. Engage with qualified representatives from the homeopathic profession to formally identify the best-indicated remedies

3. Test those remedies to determine which are best for the treatment and prevention of Ebola

4. Obtain supplies of those remedies from waiting and concerned homeopathic pharmacies

5. Bring the outbreaks under control by distributing these remedies as quickly as possible throughout the affected areas.

Finally, please end the suffering of those in the Ebola crisis by using the tried and proven homeopathic option.


Repeated studies of homeopathy have already demonstrated that when it is tested properly it has no noticeable effect beyond the placebo effect, and when it is used instead of effective medicines it can put people’s lives at risk. Many of those who accept homeopathy may also be doing so under the misapprehension that it is a herbal medicine. It is not.

Homeopathy is based on a series of nonsensical suppositions. First, that a disease can be treated by using a substances that causes the same symptoms. Second, that by diluting this substance to the extent that none of the existing material remains, it creates a cure, and the more you dilute it the more effective it is as a treatment. Third, that between dilutions the striking (succussing) of the container in a certain way somehow transfers curative properties to the water.

Homeopathy arose 200 years ago, when medicine was still developing and was steeped in myth rather than science. At a time when doctors prescribed toxic concoctions such as mercury and arsenic salts and regularly bled patients, a magical bottle of water may have indeed been your best option for survival. However, modern medicine has now advanced to treat many diseases, diseases which homeopathy has not managed to treat in spite of having 200 years to do so.  To now suggest that homeopathy is an appropriate way to combat Ebola is naive and dangerous.

0 Responses to “Homeopathy not the solution for Ebola (or anything else)”

  • Naive implies a lack of understanding or capacity to understand. I do not accept this at all in the case of both the originator of the petition or Mr Browning.

    Lets not beat around the bush here – anyone supporting the use of homeopathy as a primary treatment for a virulent and often fatal disease is a dangerous fruitcake. Far from being naive, they are in active denial.

  • “I don’t think most of those pushing homeopathy understand what it truly is, nor are they consciously supporting a therapy they know will not work.”

    With Fran Sheffield, you are wrong on both counts. She is far from naive – more manipulative, cunning, and commercially grasping with a strong narcissistic streak and a great line in self-promotion.

    Steffan Browning is no babe in the woods either, and, given his business interests, backing homeopathy would definitely appeal to his client base. Deliberately or not, a shrewd move.

    So no. Naive as in lacking experience, wisdom, or judgement – I don’t think so. Certainly as in innocent, unknowing, guileless, unsophisticated or unworldly is well wide of the mark…

    Lets call it how it looks eh. Softsoaping just makes them bolder.

  • Hi Mark – according ot his bio on the Greens website, he has been employed by the soil and health association (organics umbrella group). He is/was also involved with Biogro NZ (organics certifier where he was a director until 2011) as well as membership in other green related organisations.

    Which is not to say that green is bad, but to face the fact of a high correlation between a green constituency and supporters of alternative health practises including homeopathy.

    Odd really given that the green party has quite a strong grasp on scientific method and concepts in some fields eg climate, ecology.

  • Okay, I was worried he might have some business interest directly related to homeopathy in some way. Thanks for clarifying that Ashton 🙂

  • Here:
    “But more importantly, tolerating pseudoscience in medicine is an insidious and pernicious thing. Tolerate magical treatments for symptomatic relief of self-limiting problems, and the infrastructure of nonsense you allow to thrive will then want to waste time and resources trying to treat a deadly infectious disease with their magic potions.”

  • My own post is now finally up (now the server issues have been resolved). Browning also features in a newspaper piece in the Guardian. He’s drawing an international response to this. My concern for this spokesperson roles for genetic engineering, forestry, etc. Just my opinion, but if the Green Party really want these to follow evidence I feel they need to review his roles in these, too.

  • Oh Dear. Trace Hodgson(?) has blown his cover in the cartoon today in the DomPost.

  • Just thought it’s worth clarifying, I don’t mean to say diet and exercise aren’t science-based. These aren’t things that should be considered alternative and naturopaths certainly don’t have a monopoly on sensible diet and exercise advice. It’s the other aspects of naturopathy, such as homeopathy, that are all too often no more than pseudoscience.