Cottle on Homeopathy

By Tamara Cottle

The campaign known as 10:23 has been gaining popularity in its anti-homeopathic agenda. This campaign, created to raise awareness of the supposed falsity of homeopathy, was formed by a non-profit organization called the Merseyside Skeptics Society of Liverpool.

They believe that homeopathy is a form of quackery and that pharmacies are misleading people by selling these remedies.

This cynicism fails to critically consider homeopathy.

German physicist Samuel Hahnemann created homeopathy 200 years ago. Disillusioned by the leaches and purging in widespread use which did just as much harm as good, Hahnemann retired as village doctor out of a sense of duty to his patients. He resolved to investigate the problems concerning the practice of medicine by embarking on research and translation of medical documents.

Hahnemann discovered that some herbal medicines caused symptoms similar to the diseases they treated. For instance, cinchona — peruvian bark — treats malaria, but also mimics symptoms of malaria when taken by healthy people. This principle of ‘like’ cures developed into the “law of similars,” the cornerstone of homeopathic medicine.

Ingesting substances to experience their effects, Hahnemann learned that the substances often produced toxic effects, so he began to explore dilutions.

After much exploration, Hahnemann specified that one must ‘succus’ the remedies through vigorous mixing in addition to his dilutions, rendering many of his remedies absent of the original pharmacologically active compounds.

To a medical sceptic, homeopathy has all the makings of a fraudulent pseudoscience, yet it is the second most widely used medicine in the world after herbal medicine.

Many people, particularily the advocates of 10:23, dismiss homeopathy as being no more than a placebo, as if such a claim was enough to prove it wrong. It is true that our present science has failed to shed substantial light onto the workings of homeopathy, but that again doesn’t prove it wrong. New advances in scientific exploration are happening every day. Who is to say homeopathy doesn’t contain scientific mysteries yet to be discovered? The fact of the matter is that many people use homeopathy and it is an inexplicable boon to their bodies. Whether that boon was placebic or beyond the comprehension of present science is shadowed by the marked effect in many peoples’ well-being.

Doctors have traditionally taken the hippocratic oath — “primum non nocere,” first do no harm. 10:23 says that homeopaths cause harm by replacing doctors as sources of medical advice. With 106,000 deaths per year in America alone, attributed to improperly prescribed drugs, it’s no wonder people choose homeopathy, which has caused no deaths to date.

In an era where it is too easy to be cynical and dismissive, we fail give many things the attention they deserve. Homeopathy has increased the well-being of many people, and still deserves our serious consideration.

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