Life Wellbeing Tim Ferguson: why homeopathy is plain loopy
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Tim Ferguson: why homeopathy is plain loopy

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‘Dear Friend, I am writing to inform you of the amazing discovery of a treatment for relapsing/remitting Multiple Sclerosis (MS). You may have heard of homeopathy…’

Yes, as a person with MS, I have heard of homeopathy. Repeatedly. There is not a week that goes by without receiving an urgent email, tweet or personal approach about it.

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I also regularly receive entreaties from Reiki practitioners, Helminthicists (hookworm vendors), berry evangelists, paleo-pushers, anti-vaccinators and, God help me, vegans. Their suggested treatments and diets always exist ‘outside of conventional medical practices’ where intensive trials are compulsory.

Tim Ferguson has been accused of having a closed mind.
Tim Ferguson has been accused of having a closed mind.

The untested remedies are usually offered with good intentions, and don’t come with an immediate price tag. But I reject them like I spurn the Ethiopian prince (also my ‘friend’) who repeatedly offers to give me $350,000,000.

When I’ve rejected the freely-given and friendly advice, I’ve been accused of having a closed mind. (Perhaps that’s a symptom of MS?) They mean well, but whoever pokes their nose in my private health affairs can expect a sharp reply. I have reason and science on my side.

MS is open territory for bunkum ‘cures’ because neurologists have yet to identify its root cause/s or cure. For MS patients, lesions occur when their autoimmune system attacks the myelin coating nerves in the central nervous system.

So when someone suggests an unconventional cure for MS, it’s impossible to know what could be the basis of their prescription. Boosting the auto-immune system won’t train it to work smarter. Subduing it may cause other problems, like infections.

New tested drugs like Tecfidera and Gilenya are proving effective in reducing MS relapses for hundreds of thousands of patients. But declarations of a cure for relasping/remitting MS are specious because one never knows the cause of its remittance. It comes, it goes, and in some cases it never returns. Claiming responsibility for its remittance is like claiming a storm dissipated because you did a Macarena rain dance. The two events may have been simultaneous, but there is no scientific reason to connect them.

The claim of homeopathy is that it ‘treats like with like’. To cure insomnia, a homeopath puts one drop of the stimulant caffeine into ninety-nine drops of water and shakes it.

One drop of this ‘centesimal’ is added to another ninety-nine drops of water, producing a two-centesimal (2c). Solutions can be as diluted as 30c. That’s one part in ten to the power of sixty, or one part in 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000. But wait – there’s more (of less).

Are the answers in the vial?
Are the answers in the vial?

British registered homeopath, Grace DaSilva-Hill has written to homeopaths urging them to ‘heal the oceans’. She suggests a simple process: ‘Just mix one or two drops [of Leuticum, a homeopathic preparation of the syphilis bacterium] and offer the remedy to the ocean wherever you happen to be…’ If you don’t have a syphilis solution – and there’s no nightclub bar handy – DaSilva-Hill suggests you ‘speak the name of the remedy to a glass of water, and the water will memorise the energy of the remedy.’

Dump that glass of water in the ocean and, hey presto, the ocean is healed. Don’t overdo it – homeopathy is based on miniscule amounts that go a long way.

It may seem unfair to highlight such dingbattery as DaSilva-Hill’s water-talking. But this practice shows that once you believe the medical and scientific establishments are wrong about homeopathy’s effectiveness, loopy practices become acceptable.

The US National Center for Homeopathy announced homeopaths have offered to travel to West Africa and use their potions to prevent and treat Ebola. They claim their cocktails-of-nothingness have been effective in containing epidemics of hepatitis, cholera and diptheria. They have worked alongside conventional doctors who administer vaccines and cures have occurred. Perhaps they all danced the Macarena? The Ebola offer was rejected.

Of course, small quantities of chemicals do matter. The active ingredient in a couple of aspirin tablets, a medically-proven treatment for pain, is hundreds of times less than even one per cent of the average adult’s body weight, and even smaller concentrations of many poisons, like Sarin gas, are lethal.

But aspirin and Sarin have tested and proven effectiveness.

Talking to water has not.

Despite its size, the worldwide homeopathy industry has not released conclusive scientific peer-reviewed results of clinical trials proving its case.

Homeopaths may need to reach for their over-diluted brandy when they hear this, but a 2014 draft paper by Australia’s National Health and Medical Research Council assessed research into the effectiveness of homeopathy on sixty-eight health conditions. They concluded “there is no reliable evidence that homeopathy is effective”. (Cough…)

When a homeopath advocate offers a cure for my incurable condition, I say, ‘No way. Homeopathy gave me MS.’

When they say that can’t be true, I respond ‘prove it.’

I wouldn’t mind hearing about such treatments as all of the above, even water-talking, if they were clinically-proven. But I don’t need an unproven treatment for my complex and unpredictable condition when modern medicine is discovering new clinically-trialed ways of containing the advance of MS.

With friends like homeopaths, who needs science?

Me.

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