Homeopathy, Revisited.

(UPDATE: here is a study provided by Skeptico suggesting that homeopathy is nothing more than a placebo, and here is a video of James Randi explaining homeopathy at Princeton University.)

Earlier today, I received an interesting response to my article about homeopathy from a prominent homeopath named Dana Ullman. Mr. Ullman’s response is as follows:

It is so easy to make homeopathy seem stupid when you describe it in an uneducated fashion, when you ignore the 200+ clinical trials, when you remain ignorant of the hundreds of basic science work done in homeopathy, hormesis, and nanopharmacology. It is a tad ironic that you are trying to be a defender of modern science, and yet, you maintain such an embarrassingly unscientific attitude. Whooops.

By the way, epidemiologists have determined that ducks carry many strains of influenza viruses in their digestive tract, and they are one of the carriers/reseviors of these viruses. The fact that homeopaths have used Oscillococcinum (made by duck’s livers and hearts) since 1926 shows that we have been in touch with modern research, and the fact that there have been three large (over 300 patients) trials testing this medicine, with each trial conducted by an independent investigator and each trial with statistical significance. Even the Cochrane Commission calls this research “promising,” but you probably don’t even know who or what the Cochrane Commission is. Whooops again.

First of all, I did not describe homeopathy in an uneducated manner. I used hyperbole to demonstrate just how absurd the entire notion of curing people with extremely dilute substances is. I did exaggerate and I did use hypotheticals. But I described the method the exact same way that Ullman would on his website. Homeopaths really do dilute a substance in ten (or one hundred) times as much water, and continue to dilute it until the chances of a finding a single molecule of the “active” ingredient become infinitesimally small. These people really believe that water has a “memory,” that even a tiny amount of ingredient will leave its “impression” so that the cure will work. I wonder how, if it takes such a small amount of dosage to create a potent cure, homeopathic medicines don’t become severely contaminated by all the different particles in the air? Surely, if an extremely trace (or non-existent) particle of onion can cure hay-fever, a bit of dust in the mix could change things drastically? But then I guess dust makes peoples eyes itch too. Maybe dust makes homeopathic hay-fever cures stronger? But wait, then the substance would become less dilute, because it would have more stuff that makes a person’s eyes itch, and then it would be weaker… and what about all the other particles that might have gotten to the water molecules first? Wouldn’t the water molecules be charged with dinosaur piss, bits of organic molecules, all sorts of germs, etc, well before the the onion or the duck liver or whatever had a chance to charge the water? And wouldn’t the dinosaur piss, or the unknown prehistoric bacteria be a lot more dilute, say several million times more dilute, than the onion or duck liver? So I assume, since more dilution equals more potency, that every homeopathic cure should yield the opposite effect of eating dinosaur piss. Or maybe all of these minor complications are fixed when the homeopath shakes his mixture up and down ten times? Or, maybe, it just doesn’t work.

Ullman continues on to imply that I am ignoring the whopping 200+ clinical trails (which I will return to) and that, for a defender of modern science, I am very unscientific in my thinking. First of all, I am in no way a defender of modern science. Science is progressively changing, and I am fully aware that paradigms do shift. What I am is a defender of scientific thinking, that means believing only in the presence of sufficient evidence. That means I am a skeptic. That means not buying into every bit of claptrap that new-agers and spiritualists throw at me, unless they present a very convincing case. Mr. Ullman seems to imply that while I am unscientific, he is. This seems a bit intellectually dishonest, doesn’t it? Homeopathic.com is not dedicated to discovering if Homeopathy is valid, it already “knows” it is valid, only upon insufficient evidence. And, whenever homeopathy comes under scrutiny people like Ullman grasp at straws and say things like “Haven’t you ever heard of the Cochrane Commision? It says our work might be promising!” That isn’t true, by the way: I don’t think there is a Cochrane Commision, but the Cochrane Collaboration concludes that “there is not enough evidence to reliably assess the possible role of homeopathy in asthma.” So, basically it doesn’t work. If it does, it works no better than a placebo.

As far as studies go, I decided to inquire with someone who might know better than I, and so I decided to contact famed skeptic and debunker of the paranormal, James Randi. Mr. Randi offers $1 million dollars to anyone who can prove the existence of the paranormal in a controlled circumstance. I emailed him saying:

Mister Randi,
I seem to have attracted quite a big fish in the Homeopathy industry, with my small blog. I published a very crude article, that I originally had printed in the student newspaper at Cal State Long Beach, On my blog… I received a rather angry comment from a “Dana Ullman, MPH,” who is apparently one of the leading purveyors of homeopathic medicine and educational videos. He runs http://homeopathic.com out of Berkeley, California. My article is a quite humorous explanation of homeopathy (explaining what homeopathic birth control might be like), and in no way masquerades as a scholarly work. Ullman’s reply is as follows:

(same as above)

I was curious what you might make of these claims. Nanopharmacology? I suspect that Mr. Ullman made this up. It seems to be a euphemism for homeopathic … I’d be willing to bet that Mr. Ullman’s alleged clinical trials showed statistical significance that was no better than placebo. I was particularly amused when he explained that homeopaths stay current with medical consensus, because they know that Ducks carry flu. This doesn’t change the fact that homeopathic cures contain absolutely zero ingredient! I must admit however, that I did make one very grave error in critical thinking – I assumed that Dana Ullman was a female. Whoops! I have been searching for scholarly articles on the matter, so that I can accurately dispute Ullman’s claims(for some, completely absurd just isn’t enough)… Perhaps I should suggest that he take your Million Dollar Challenge?

I wasn’t sure if Mr. Randi would respond, but he did (quickly, too) saying:

Ullman knows all about the JREF offer, believe me. He’s flatly turned it down…

When he says you ignore the “200+ clinical trials” – ask who did them – homeopaths. He doesn’t mention the definitive BBC/Royal Academy tests for which I offered the JREF million – it failed miserably. His reporting is selective, to say the least.

As for “scholarly articles” disputing homeopathy, recognize that real scientists dismiss it entirely, and don’t care about it any more than they’d care about “eye of newt and toe of frog”! Do you see “scholarly articles” about Santa Claus…?”

So, I put it to you Mr Ullman – why wont you take Randi’s Million Dollar Challenge? Surely, you could use an extra million bucks to throw around. And what about your “clinical studies?” Who wrote them? Even if they weren’t written by homeopaths, as Randi suggests, it seems that the Cochrane Collaboration does not come out in your favor. Not to mention the fact that Randi himself has shown at least twice that the effects of homeopathy are inconclusive at best. The egg is on your face, Mr. Ullman. Whoops.

32 Responses to “Homeopathy, Revisited.”

  1. Alan Says:

    Haha, nice work Sean.

  2. Mimi Says:

    I love seeing when lame people get punked!

  3. Anna Says:

    Ah, this is fantastic. I am proud, really and truly.

  4. Roy Says:

    Wow Sean, you just get hotter and hotter.

  5. Roy Says:

    Oh and there is an ‘i’ you didn’t capitalize somewhere in your post.

  6. Skeptico Says:

    Note she provides no direct link to the “200 studies”. As Randi says, they areprobably poor quality ones performed by homeopaths.

    According to this recent review of 110 homeopathy trials published in the Lancet, homeopathy is nothing more than placebo.

  7. livs Says:

    Hi,

    Wow, you really showed ‘em! I’ll bet you’re so hot right now that you’d light up like a nuke!!!

    Hey, I wonder how many people have died taking the stuff in comparison to say, people who have died from medicinal side-effects?

    And I bet vets who use Homeopathy are really good at convincing the animals that they are going to feel better after one of those remedies. (You know, the placebo effect!)

    And good ‘ole Randi is so unconcerned about Homeopathy, I mean come on, it’s sooooooooooooooooooooooooo diluted, that he decided to devote his precious time to lecturing on the circuit about what a waste of time it is. I really loved his “I took two bottles of remedies and had no side effects” story! I mean the Homeopath that prescribed that to him, d’uh !!
    Just freaken lucky it did’nt make him develop lactose intolerance!!!!!

    Well, I could just write all day on this, but gotta go, I’m going to log on to the quantum mechanics website and tell ‘em they’re no better than those Homeopaths!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  8. secularstudentslb Says:

    Livs, your post is oozing with so much stupidity, I don’t know where to start. I am sure your right, more people have probably died from the side effects of conventional medicine than from taking homeopathy. This makes sense, since homeopathy doesn’t do anything. But the problem with homeopathy is that, while it has no side effects, it also has no main effects. I wonder how many people have died from their untreated ailments, lulled into a false sense of security by homeopathic?

    Are you trying to suggest to me that Homeopathy works in pets? I doubt it. Proof please.

    Yes, Randi, and I, are concerned with it. I don’t know about you, but when I buy a product I would like for it to do what it says it does. I assume that the general public would feel the same way. It is consumer advocacy. This stuff is on the shelf, it doesn’t work, and it is a waste of money.

    I am not sure what you mean by your quantum mechanics jab, but I assure you, homeopathy and quantum mechanics are in no way related. Quantum mechanics deals with things on a level where an an onion no longer has any onionness, and a duck liver no longer has any duck liverness. We are talking sub atomic particles, here. And quantum mechanics is vastly different than homeopathy – it produces repeatable results.

  9. Moya Says:

    Very good. Can’t wait for the response.

  10. livs Says:

    The following was published by Oxford University Press …

    Although in recent years we have witnessed a renaissance of interest in homeopathy, the reliability of its main principles, the ‘simile’ and the ‘dilution/dynamization’ of medicines, has still to be demonstrated on the experimental ground and few studies have been conducted to understand the underlying mechanism(s). On the other hand, inspection of the literature and experiments carried out by the authors of this review show that the principle of similarity—brought back to its biological meaning, i.e. the inversion of effect of the same or similar compounds—can be found to be operative in various experimental and reproducible phenomena (1–4). Therefore, on the basis of the present knowledge of living systems and of modern techniques of investigations, a scientific reformulation of homeopathy and its action mechanisms can be proposed in order to construct reasonable models, which could be tested at the different levels of biological systems, from cells to animals and to human beings. Our general working hypothesis is that the modern immunological and pathophysiological knowledge should help to clarify at least some mechanisms of action of this traditional medicine.

    Over the past few years, there has been an increase in the number of preclinical (in vitro and in vivo) studies aimed at evaluating the pharmacological activity or efficacy of some homeopathic remedies under potentially reproducible conditions; however, in addition to major differences of experimental models, these studies have also highlighted a series of methodological difficulties and lack of independent replication (5).

    Many studies of the efficacy and possible mechanisms of action of homeopathic medicines have been based on tests involving experimental animals or isolated organs. They have included various models of the application of ‘similia’, and attempted to demonstrate the effects of low doses or high dilutions of biologically active compounds. The fields of immunomodulation and inflammation are particularly fertile from this point of view. Immunoallergology represents a bridge between homeopathy and modern medicine insofar as it is a field in which it is easier to apply concepts such as the effect of substances administered on the basis of the logic of the ‘similar’ and the great sensitivity of living systems to regulations.

    As it will become clear from the literature review, there are three different approaches to the exploitation of the homeopathic ‘simile’:
    The concept of ‘similia’, according to which there is a similitude between the symptoms evoked by the medicine and the symptoms of natural disease; in animal research, this modality has been pursued utilizing both the single medicines and the complex formulations, even if the latter does not follow the classical Hahnemann’s rules.

    ‘Isopathy’, according to which the same substance that causes the disease can be used in low doses or high dilutions to treat the disease; this concept is analog to the hormesis effect that was discussed in a previous article (6); when the preparation is from pathological tissues or microbial products the term ‘nosode therapy’ is also used.

    ‘Iso-endopathy’, where therapeutic effects are obtained from highly diluted endogenous molecules (hormones, inflammatory mediators).

    In the clinical practice, as in the scientific literature, it is possible to observe that the specificity and magnitude of effects are quite different between these forms of therapy. Therefore, the different concepts should be considered in the evaluation of the evidence coming from experimental studies and in the planning of appropriate experimental design.

    Below, we describe a series of experimental studies aimed at verifying the efficacy of homeopathic medicines as immunostimulants and immunoregulators, then we shall examine the effects of homeopathic dilutions—or of other substances utilized according to the ‘simile’ principle—on models of experimental inflammation. Finally, an overview of main advancements in veterinary homeopathy, i.e. on the fields where homeopathy is used with the aim to cure natural infectious diseases and diseases of immune system, is provided.

    All the literature available in Medline, conference proceedings and books was searched, we also report experiments done in our laboratory. As in the previous article reporting studies on cellular models, due to the relative scarcity of literature in this field, the lack of replication articles and the heterogeneity of experiments, we could not perform meta-analysis of data.

    Homeopathic Immunostimulation
    Top
    Abstract
    Introduction
    Homeopathic Immunostimulation
    Immunoregulation and Regulation…
    Other High Dilution Effects…
    Veterinary Homeopathy and Cure…
    Discussion
    References

    Bastide’s group (7) has shown the immunostimulatory effects in mice of endogenous compounds such as thymic hormones and interferons prepared in high dilutions according to homeopathic procedures. Of the many reported experiments, those describing the effects of high dilutions of –ß interferon (8–16 x 10–10 IU i.p.) and thymic hormones (8 x 10–8 pg i.p.) on parameters of humoral (the number of plaque-forming cells) and cellular immunity (allospecific cytotoxic T cell responses) are particularly interesting (8). The authors suggested that a good therapeutic effect could be obtained in immunodepressed patients by using extremely low doses of these immunity mediators. Another interesting result coming from the studies of this group illustrates one of the most significant problems of homeopathic research: the pathophysiological state of the experimental animal powerfully conditions the results of any given treatment. This prompted the investigators to assess the effect of homeopathic dilutions (from 4c to 12c)1 of thymus and thymuline on mice of the Swiss strain (which are considered to be immunologically normal) and mice of the New Zealand Black strain, which are considered to be immunologically depressed. The treatment caused significant immunostimulation only in the New Zealand Black mice, whereas the Swiss mice underwent immunodepression (which was particularly marked in the case of the thymus dilutions) (9). Another interesting point has to do with the importance of the chronological factor: a given treatment is perceived differently by the organism depending upon the time of day (circadian rhythm) or the month of the year (circa-annual rhythm) (8,10).

    Ultradiluted Antigens Still Prime Immune System

    Other immunomodulatory findings worthy of note are those reported by Bentwich’s group (11–13). After demonstrating that very small amounts (6c and 7c dilutions) of the protein KLH (hemocyanin) antigen are capable of specifically modulating antibody responses in experimental animals, they repeated and expanded their experiments by showing the immunostimulating effects of homeopathic dilutions of the same antigen in mice. The animals were preconditioned for 8 weeks with i.p. injections of dynamized dilutions of KLH antigen (from 10–14 M to 10–36 M) or saline (control), and were then regularly immunized with KLH dissolved in complete or incomplete Freund’s adjuvant. The serum levels of specific antibodies were determined by means of immunoassay and the results showed a significant increase in specific IgM response at all of the preconditioning dilutions, as well as a significant increase in specific IgG response in the animals pretreated with KLH 10–36 M. The authors concluded that extremely small amounts of antigen are enough for specific immunomodulation and, in particular, that homeopathic dilutions beyond Avogadro’s constant still have some effect. However, they also acknowledged that, in view of the vast implications of these findings, the experiments must be rigorously repeated and confirmed.

    Neuroendocrine Regulations at High Dilution

    The development of the chicken immune system is stimulated by homeopathic dilutions of bursin (7,14,15), a tripeptide (Lys-His-Gly-NH2) B cell differentiation hormone derived from the bursa fabricii. In these studies, chick embryos underwent bursectomy in order to make them immunodeficient (it is well known that the bursa of Fabricius is essential for the development of the B lymphocyte system). The in ovo administration of low doses and high dilutions of the hormone bursin (up to 10–40 g ml–1), which theoretically no longer contain any molecules of the original substance, restored the immune response as demonstrated by the normal antibody production of the adult animal in response to antigen stimulus (bovine thyreoglobulin). Moreover, an improved response of the pituitary–adrenocortical axis was shown by measuring adrenocorticotropic hormone. Moreover, in early embryonically bursectomized chickens, the plasma melatonin response to immunization by porcine thyroglobulin has found to be abolished (14,16). Conversely, administration of either minute amounts (100 pg, 100 fg) or highly dilute (5 x 10–27 g) bursin, with the exception of a highest dose (100 µg), to bursaless embryos induced recovery of normal antigen-induced melatonin response. The authors suggest that early in embryonic life, the bursa fabricii and its derived signal (bursin) are essential for normal development of pineal synthetic activity and underline the efficacy of very dilute bursin as an informative signal (17).

    Minerals and Nosodes

    A series of studies examined the action of high dilutions of silica on the production of platelet activating factor (PAF) by peritoneal macrophages in the mouse (18). The compound was added to drinking water at a dilution of 9c (corresponding to a theoretical concentration of 1.66 x 10–19 M) for 25 days. The peritoneal macrophages extracted from the mice showed an ability to produce PAF in response to a stimulus with yeast extracts that was 30–60% greater than that of control macrophages (untreated mice, mice treated with NaCl in a 9c dilution or with another homeopathic drug, Gelsemium 9c). Lower dilutions (5c) paradoxically had less effect.

    For centuries, homeopathic practitioners have claimed that serially agitated dilutions of infectious agents (called ‘nosodes’) are effective in the prevention of infectious disease. Following this idea, an experimental trial of the immunostimulating power of high dilutions of pathogenic substances was done by a team of American researchers (19,20). They produced the dynamized dilutions from reticuloendothelial tissue of mice infected with Francisella tularensis, the microbial agent of tularemia, obtaining three dilutions containing original tissue (3x, 7x and 12x) and three dilutions beyond the presence of original tissue (30c, 200c and 1000c). These preparations were administered orally to a group of mice (0.03 ml, three times per week) for 1 month before and after challenge, whereas another control group was treated with dilutions of ethanol. Animals were challenged with a potentially lethal dose (LD50 or LD75) of F. tularensis, then evaluated for time of death and total mortality. After 15 experiments the very high homeopathic dilutions brought about a significant increase in survival time and a significant reduction in total mortality compared to controls. Protection rates averaged 22% over controls compared to 100% protection by standard vaccination. A partial protection was thus obtained from a nosode of tularemia, in dilutions below those expected to have protective effects, but not as great as those produced by standard vaccination.

    Homeopathic dilutions of silica are widely used in homeopathy to treat sores, chronic ulcers and abscesses. An experimental animal model based on induced chronic wounds was used by a group of investigators in Rehovot (Israel) (21), who reported the therapeutic effects of homeopathic silica dilutions on the repair of holes pierced in the ears of mice. The holes were made using dental wire, which was then left hanging from the ear in order to cause persistent mechanical irritation. In each experiment, 3 or 4 groups of 10 mice each were treated by adding homeopathic dilutions of silica (10–10, 10–60 and 10–400) or saline (10–10) to drinking water for 4–20 days. The size of the holes was measured every second day and/or by means of an objective image analysis system. The results showed that, in 7 out of 11 experiments, the holes in the ears of the silica-treated animals were significantly smaller (P

  11. Biologist Says:

    livs, that rather epic post of yours details an alarming number of animal mutilations and deaths in what is essentially a coin toss between placebos.

    You are of course entitled to believe whatever nonsense you wish to believe, but killing mice in the pursuit of proving that which has been so thoroughly disproved: that is inhumane, outrageous, distasteful and base.

    Shame on you.

  12. livs Says:

    Biologist,

    You are, essentially shooting the messenger, I took no part in the above trials. However, if you truly are a Biologist, or, indeed have studied any science at High School, you will yourself have taken part in “animal mutilations”.

    ‘Secular student slb’ asked for proof and there it is in black and white. If however you choose to ignore the blatantly obvious you’re descending into the absurd and reasoned discussion is not possible, let alone scientific evaluation.

  13. Biologist Says:

    Shooting the messenger? Yes, I was, and I accept the rebuke. Forgive me but I simply find the sacrifice of animals in homeopathic experimentation highly objectionable.

    Am I a true biologist? Yes – and familiar with the the UK guidelines known, as the three Rs, for animal research: ‘refinement, reduction and replacement’. No animal should be sacrificed in research unless said sacrifice can be justified as necessary and indicated by an underpinning of good, prior research, where animal experimentation is the necessary next step. If an in vitro alternative is available, it should be used instead.

    I simply do not understand how the sacrifice of animals in homeopathic research can be justified.

    I know from experience that if I over-dilute a substance then nothing happens. Am I to believe that banging the test tube 20 times on a hard surface will make a difference and somehow the substance or it’s imprint remains? Far more likely is that the substance is gone, succussing or no, and the liquid that is left over, being chemically indistinguishable from just plain water, will behave exactly the same as water.

    I would not want to kill a bunch of mice to see what effects water and “homeopathic solution chemically indistinguishable from water'” might have on a disease or a wound.

    And that’s the problem right there. Homeopathic research of this kind is essentially comparing a placebo with a placebo. Water with water. In any experiment or series of experiments, one of these placebos will sometimes do better than the other. Sometimes heads comes up more often than tails, in a coin toss. Do enough experiments and the difference disappears – this is why meta-analyses find that homeopathy is no better than placebo. It just doesn’t work.

    I also have a suspicion that animal studies offer a distinct advantage to the homeopaths; that of an observer bias, coupled with a fuzzy measurement. If one performs an in vitro test, one can control a lot of variables and isolate an effect of a substance, in highly quantifiable terms. If one is measuring wound healing rates, or tumour size, the potential for observer error is so much the greater, as there is a larger element of subjectivity involved.

    To really justify homeopathic experiments on animals, first, please, prove an effect in vitro. And not just once, but lots of times. If something is true, it is repeatable (Benveniste’s memory of water, for example, was not). There is a distinct lack of these most fundamental data.

    Once again, I would reiterate that I believe homeopaths are entitled to their beliefs. But if they want to be taken seriously, drop the fuzzy measurements and the killing of animals. Prove the most basic things first. Prove that it isn’t just water.

  14. livs Says:

    Biologist,

    If what you are saying would actually become a reality, then very little of anything new would actually make the grade.

    O.K. here’s repeatable…

    From New Scientist magazine:

    Belfast homeopathy results

    MADELEINE Ennis, a pharmacologist at Queen’s University, Belfast, was the scourge of homeopathy. She railed against its claims that a chemical remedy could be diluted to the point where a sample was unlikely to contain a single molecule of anything but water, and yet still have a healing effect. Until, that is, she set out to prove once and for all that homeopathy was bunkum.

    In her most recent paper, Ennis describes how her team looked at the effects of ultra-dilute solutions of histamine on human white blood cells involved in inflammation. These “basophils” release histamine when the cells are under attack. Once released, the histamine stops them releasing any more. The study, replicated in four different labs, found that homeopathic solutions – so dilute that they probably didn’t contain a single histamine molecule – worked just like histamine. Ennis might not be happy with the homeopaths’ claims, but she admits that an effect cannot be ruled out.

    …And here’s the difference between water and solution with Homeopathic remedy…

    In 2003 Swiss chemist Louis Rey published a peer-reviewed paper claiming that, even though they should be identical, the structure of hydrogen bonds in pure water is very different from that in homeopathic dilutions of salt solutions (Physica A, vol 323, p 67). As yet, we simply don’t have the final answer.

    Homeopathy reduces arsenic poisoning in mice
    18:05 22 October 2003
    NewScientist.com news service
    Shaoni Bhattacharya

    A homeopathic remedy based on arsenic oxide has shown “highly promising results” in mice poisoned with arsenic, say Indian scientists.

    The homeopathic antidote reduced the liver toxicity induced by arsenic in mice, where distilled water did nothing, and alcohol actually exacerbated the poison’s effects.

    Anisur Khuda-Bukhsh and his colleagues at the University of Kalyani, West Bengal, believe the remedy, called Arsenicum Album, might provide a safe, cheap and easily available remedy for the hundreds of millions of people around the world who are at risk from arsenic-poisoned water. It is a particular problem in some parts of West Bengal and neighbouring Bangladesh. Even if efforts to make drinking water arsenic-free succeed, contamination could still come from other sources, the researchers say, meaning other approaches are needed.

    Khuda-Bukhsh told New Scientist the homeopathic remedy “can very well ameliorate the toxicity produced by arsenic oxide in mice”. If the success could be repeated in humans, it would be “a boon to society”, he says. However, other scientists remain sceptical.
    Serial dilution

    The researchers took groups of five mice either with or without arsenic poisoning and drop fed them Arsenicum Album, distilled water, or alcohol that had been through the same preparation procedure as the homeopathic antidote.

    Two different dilutions of the homeopathic remedy cut the levels of two liver enzymes – ALT and AST – which are indicators of liver toxicity and are boosted by arsenic poisoning. This positive effect occurred within 72 hours and liver lasted for up to 30 days, they report in their journal paper.

    Distilled water had no effect on either enzyme. And alcohol actually enhanced the activity of AST.

    Homeopathic remedies are based on the serial dilution of a medication – to the extent that extremely little, if any, of the original substance remains. Khuda-Bukhsh says the preparation used was so dilute that it should not have contained even one molecule of the active ingredient.

    He says his team is striving to understand the mechanism of action of homeopathic drugs, which despite being used for over 200 years has remained elusive to science.

    Khuda-Bukhsh’s group aims to test the drug in human trials, subject to funding. “We think this would open up another avenue for others to either confirm or refute,” he says.

    Journal reference: BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine (vol 3, p 7)

    Both you, and I, and every other living sentient being, knows that 99.9% of all research is funded by big Pharma. Because Homeopathy could never be a big earner for them they won’t fund it, so, very little research, relatively speaking, is done. Homeopaths don’t make the big bucks pharma do, and when we do the research everyone screams bias.

  15. Biologist Says:

    “If what you are saying would actually become a reality, then very little of anything new would actually make the grade.”

    That is exactly the case! Very little research does make the grade, because negative results often don’t get published, and the process of working toward finding positive results is one of time-consuming trial and error. If you mean the constraints on using animals in experimentation impedes progress, well, the 3R’s policy has been in place for decades now, and is an established part of the biological sciences.

    The New Scientist paragraphs that you quote come from an article called “13 things that do not make sense”. It’s a report on something that, well, didn’t make sense. Ennis’s results certainly fit the description. What doesn’t fit the description is Ennis as the ‘scourge of homeopathy’. To be clear, she may have been so once, but is now on the editorial board of the journal ‘Homeopathy’. Her opinions on homeopathy at the present time are not well publicised, so I will refrain from alluding to vested interests. She may well be a skeptical member of that editorial board.

    The paper in question “Histamine dilutions modulate basophil activation” was certainly interesting, and is a good start. But of course the work needs repeating. Things that are true tend to be readily repeatable, and I wait for the confirmation. One study does not and cannot prove homeopathy. Multiple studies using different tests also do not prove homeopathy. BUT multiple studies, repeating the same tests, can provide strong evidence that homeopathy was effective in a particular application. I am not aware that homeopathy, even after these 200 years, has such a body of evidence. Single studies, pilot studies, preliminary studies, these are all useful waypoints but they are not enough. Studies have to be repeatable and repeated. Especially when it doesn’t make sense!

    Same goes for Louis Rey’s rather extraordinary research (Abstract: Ultra-high dilutions of lithium chloride and sodium chloride (10−30 g cm−3) have been irradiated by X- and gamma rays at 77 K, then progressively rewarmed to room temperature. During that phase, their thermoluminescence has been studied and it was found that, despite their dilution beyond the Avogadro number, the emitted light was specifc of the original salts dissolved initially.)

    If it’s repeatable, its revolutionary. Really. And speaking as someone who has routinely used 77 K in the course of research, potentially problematic. So I wait for the follow-up studies, either from L. Rey himself, trying to further elucidate his discovery, or from other labs, confirming the paradigm shift. It would be extraordinary if he was right.

    You signed off with “Both you, and I, and every other living sentient being, knows that 99.9% of all research is funded by big Pharma. Because Homeopathy could never be a big earner for them they won’t fund it, so, very little research, relatively speaking, is done. Homeopaths don’t make the big bucks pharma do, and when we do the research everyone screams bias.”

    Speaking as someone that has had the privilege to work mostly in academia, with non-Pharma funding, I feel fairly certain that the 99.9% figure is a little off. I would add that while homeopaths certainly don’t make the big bucks that big Pharma makes, they certainly do make money. Homeopathic products can be found in pharmacies, health food stores, supermarkets, and with their low production costs and limited regulatory requirement, I am sure that the homeopathic industry could invest a lot more money in basic research (provings not included). In fact, Louis Rey was assisted by Boiron Labs, and M. Ennis by The French Institute for Homeopathic Research. I view this source of funding as a positive thing.

    Homeopathy needs to climb out of the comforting small peaks and valleys of the experimental noise; after 200 years, it’s time.

  16. Gary Sincalir Says:

    As a user of homoeopathic remedies it makes me laugh when people say they have no effect – you take a high potency and you know about it although it often isn’t pleasant!
    Why does the scientific community insist on proving the method of action for homoeopathic medicines when conventional drugs don’t always have demonstratable methods of action – or even have to prove this to get a licence?

  17. Dana Ullman Says:

    Sean,
    You chose to not publish my email response, and instead, you chose to post it on Randi’s website. Despite my efforts to create intelligent conversation and to quote high quality basic science and clinical studies, not one person chose to respond in a similarly intelligent way. I hope THIS teaches you and your fellow students a lesson.
    I honor true skepticism, but name-calling doesn’t place the name-caller in a good light, and it again shows the unscientific attitudes of the “Randi-aholics.” Sad but true.
    Please don’t be frightened to post my previous email to you (and this one too)…and I sincerely hope that you and your group will choose to maintain intelligent conversation and references to and discussion of real research.

  18. HCN Says:

    If you aren’t answering my questions on Orac’s blog, I’ll try them here:

    Which is more effective for influenza: Prevention with a vaccine or using very very diluted duck bits ((Oscillococcinum)?

    One of the “miasms” Hahnemann was claiming to cure was syphilis. What was his success in curing syphilis two hundred years ago? What is the standard of care for treating the actual bacterial disease known as syphilis? How effective would modern homeopathy be with actual syphilis?

    Cardiac conditions are another big killer of Americans… so your magic potions should work great for them also. My oldest son as a genetic condition known as hypertrophic cardiomyopathy with obstruction. He presently takes the beta-blockers (Atenolol) to reduce the pressure on his already damaged mitral valve. My question is how would your homeopathic treatment be better for him than Atenolol?

    Also, how does your Masters in Public Health (MPH) give any credibility? Does this mean you have actually learned the value of sewage disposal, clean water supplies, pest control in food preparation areas, and vaccines? Are you the one who shows up in a disaster area (flood, hurricane, earthquake, etc) giving out homeopathic remedies instead of clean water, toilet facilities and vaccines for tetanus?

  19. HCN Says:

    Well, Dana Dana Dana has replied to me (weakly) on Orac’s blog.

    If he is really upset that this discussion was revealed on JREF (James Randi Educational Foundation forum at forums.randi.org) he should join and defend the practice of treating people with ridiculously diluted “remedies”. While Rolfe is busy trying to get her new house in order, she would love to play with a new cat toy!

  20. Dana Ullman, MPH Says:

    Friends of this site…
    I sent the below email to this site and to Sean directly over a week ago, and he has chosen to protect you from it by not posting it. Do you want this type of protection from information and research? Why?

    –Dana

    It is EASY to assume that homeopathic medicines are akin to placebos if one has a superficial understanding of what homeopathy is and what good research has been conducted to evaluate it.

    I actually think that skeptics of alternative medicine can and should separately understand and evaluate homeopathy if you wish to honor good scientific thinking. Mixing various subjects together is just sloppy, and I know that skeptics don’t like or honor such undisciplined thinking.
    Further, it is necessary for skeptics of homeopathy to do their homework on the subject. I am amazed to have debated skeptics of homeopathy who know virtually nothing about it and have only a very superficial knowledge of the basic science and clinical science research on the subject. Such sloppiness is common amongst people who think of themselves as defenders of “science.” There is more than a tad amount of irony here. The references to the 200+ clinical studies and the several hundred basic science studies are at my website (www.homeopathic.com) and in the ebook that I’ve written…as well as some of the high quality books on homeopathic research that we sell (i.e. one by Drs. Bellavite and Signorini as well as Dr. Michael Dean are good examples).

    If you don’t want to spend a dime, you can read the article at my website called ” Why Homeopathy Makes Sense and Works.” I will be curious if those of you who choose to be skeptical of homeopathy even know much about what it is.

    Some new research on the silicates in water provide some very provocative possibilities on how the structure in water can change and how these nano-sized “silica chips” and the nano-bubbles can influence the water. I can tell you that later this week a new study on homeopathy and water will be published by two internationally respected professors of material sciences: Rustum Roy, PhD (of Penn State University) and Bill Tiller, PhD (former head of material sciences at Stanford). If any of your fellow skeptics can claim greater understanding of water than these two gentlemen, please publish your work.

    I will be the first to acknowledge that not all of homeopathic research has positive results, though most meta-analyses show that there is more evidence that the “placebo explanation” for homeopathy is inadequate. Please also know that the 2005 comparison of homeopathic and conventional studies that was published in the Lancet was embarrassingly bad science. Here’s a short review/critique of it:

    In 2005, the representatives of World Health Organization (WHO) were working on a report on homeopathic medicine, and one of the skeptics of homeopathy who was asked to review this report for comment complained bitterly about it because it was too “positive” towards homeopathy. He then leaked it to other skeptics and to the Lancet, a usually highly respected medical journal. In response to the potentially positive report on homeopathy from WHO, the Lancet published an article attacking this “report” that had not even been completed or published (Critics, 2005), and further, the Lancet rushed to publication a “study” that compared homeopathic and conventional medical treatment (Shang, et al, 2005).

    The idea for comparing clinical studies of homeopathic and conventional medicine is certainly a good one, but actually doing so in a fair and accurate way is more challenging than it may seem. The lead author of this comparative study, however, was not the ideal physician or scientist to evaluate homeopathy objectively. Dr. M. Egger is a Swiss physician who is notoriously and actively anti-homeopathy. Before he completed his study, he informed the editors at the Lancet that he had planned to submit his study to them and that he fully expected the results to show that homeopathic medicines didn’t work.

    Egger and his team first found 110 placebo-controlled trials evaluating the efficacy of homeopathic medicine. Next, they selected 110 “matched” placebo-controlled trials. Finding “matched” trials usually means finding experiments that sought to treat people with a similar disease, in a similar population, and who were treated for a similar period of time, but the researchers never explained how or why they included or excluded any of the conventional medical trials. And needless to say, finding matched experiments is much more difficult than it sounds. Although it is easy to question if these researchers found matched experiments or not, let’s give them the benefit of the doubt and say that they were successful in doing so.

    Next, the researchers choose to evaluate the “quality of research design” and how each trial was conducted. The researchers determined that only 21 of the homeopathic studies were of a “high quality,” and yet, ironically, they found only 9 (!) of the conventional medical studies to be of a similar high quality.[1] Then, without adequate explanation, the researchers decided to only evaluate those studies that were both “high quality” and had large numbers of patients in each trial. The researchers found 8 homeopathic studies that fit these characteristics and only 6 conventional medical studies. Only two of the eight homeopathic studies used homeopathic medicines that were individualized to each patient, with the remaining studies giving the same medicine to everyone (this method may make research easier, but it is not necessarily a good test of the homeopathic methodology).

    Of the remaining 8 homeopathic studies and 6 conventional medical studies, the studies were not matched in any way. How or why the researchers would or could claim that these studies were comparable requires “creative thinking” and logic (or illogic). Further, the researchers never provided the analysis of the results of the 21 “high quality” homeopathic studies as compared with the 9 conventional studies.
    What is also interesting is the fact that the researchers acknowledged that they found eight homeopathic studies in the treatment of people with acute respiratory tract infections and that these studies found “substantial beneficial effect” and that this effect was “robust.” However, without adequate evidence or explanation, the researchers asserted that these studies could not be “trusted” and that eight trials is simply not enough to provide an adequate analysis. And yet, these same researchers evaluated 8 other homeopathic trials and concluded that they showed no obvious better treatment than the 6 conventional studies.

    If the above concerns were not enough to lead readers to the conclusion that this is “garbage in, garbage out” type of comparative research, there are still even more concerns about this study. For instance, the researchers did not even reveal which studies were selected until many months later. And when the studies were finally announced, it was shocking to note that they had selected a study testing a single homeopathic medicine in the treatment of “weight-loss” (this study bordered on the preposterous because homeopaths assert that there is no one single remedy to augment weight-loss), another study evaluated the use of a homeopathic formula in the prevention of influenza (while there have been at least three large studies verifying the efficacy of homeopathic medicines in the treatment of influenza, only one of these three large studies was selected, while the study that evaluated its prevention was selected even though it was simply an exploratory investigation, not one that homeopaths necessarily expected to have a positive outcome).

    As for some good studies in homeopathy…
    COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) is the #4 reason that people in the US die. A study conducted at the University of Vienna Hospital found “substantially significant” results from a double-blind placebo-controlled trial using homeopathic doses of potassium dichromate. This study was published in the most respected journal in medical respiratory health, CHEST.
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/query.fcgi?CMD=search&DB=pubmed

    50% (!) of people in hospitals who experience severe sepsis die, and yet, the below study found that there was a 50% reduction in these deaths in those people with severe sepsis who were individually prescribed homeopathic medicines, as compared with those patients who underwent the same homeopathic interview process but who were given a placebo. There study was also double-blind, placebo controlled and randomized.
    Adjunctive homeopathic treatment in patients with severe sepsis: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial in an intensive care unit.

    When skeptics of homeopathy assert that there is “nothing” in homeopathic medicines, they seem to assume that they know everything there is to know about the physics of water. I want to remind skeptics that good and serious scientists maintain a high level of HUMILITY about what they know and what they don’t know. I am proud of my humility of what I know and what I don’t know.

    I am perfectly familiar with Mr. Randi’s silly offer. He was involved in the intellectually dishonest study conducted by ABC’s 20/20 program. If Randi was serious about science, he would have supported my critique of Mr. Stossel’s junk science. For details about this junk journalism/science, go to: http://homeopathic.com/articles/media/index.php

    I honor conventional medicine for its integrity to consistently and repeatedly disprove itself. What treatments have lasted 50 or more years? That’s consistency! Homeopaths have expanded considerably its use of various medicines, but we have maintained the use of our past medicines too because 200 years of clinical experience has verified it.

    Dana Ullman, MPH

  21. secularstudentslb Says:

    Dana, don’t even think of accusing me of censorship. If I wanted to censor you I would delete this and all previous comments. What exactly don’t you understand about “I will get to it after finals week.” I am not going to publish your email without a proper response.

  22. Dana Ullman, MPH Says:

    Sean,
    You seem to have the time to post my comment at randi.org, to read the various comments there, as well as to place your own further comments. The fact that I sent you the post (just above) and it didn’t get posted suggested that you spent extra time taking it off-line than if you simply let it get posted (My apologies if I misunderstood something here).

    Please know that I simply want civilized conversation, and I thought that you were purposefully deleting my comments (I’m glad to know that this isn’t your intent).

  23. secularstudentslb Says:

    Posting your email on randi.org is much simpler then writing out a detailed response, something I simply could not balance with writing research papers and studying for final exams.

    I didn’t take your post offline, it is wordpress policy to send posts containing 2 or more links to the moderator for approval.

  24. HCN Says:

    Brave Sir Dana… he quit Orac’s blog when the questions got too detailed!

    Especially since the vaulted study on sepsis from the Institute of Homeopathy in Graz, Austria that was conducted in the hospital at the University of Vienna showed that 75% of those with homeopathy survived after 180 days versus 50% on the “placebo”. He neglected to mention that conventional meds were being used, and that the average age of the “placebo” group was several years older… oh, and that the sample size was very small.

    A couple of the studies he submits as “proof” were conducted by an Institute of Homeopathy in Graz performed at the University Hospital in Vienna. Warning to all travellers: do not get sick in either Vienna or Graz in Austria. Neither of them showed any real statistical difference… and the quacks from Graz might make you sign consent forms!

    One interesting thing is the large plaza in Vienna that has monument to those who died during the Bubonic Plague. This same disease still exists… even in the United States. Especially in the American southwest with contact through rodents. Yet, some folks think that it is gone… and do not realize that it is a bacterial disease that can be treated with antibiotics (if caught early enough). You can buy a stuffed version of it here:
    http://www.giantmicrobes.com/us/products/blackdeath.html

    By the way, for those who want to travel that part of Europe… Salzburg is a much better deal than Vienna (especially since an Austrian enamel jewelry store charged for “seconds” or flawed pieces in Vienna the same price for “firsts” or perfect pieces in Salzburg… in other words, it was cheaper and better in Salzburg!).

    Oh, and just check out nearby Switzerland. Basel has a museum devoted to pharmacology… and Rhein am Stein just satisfies anyone wanting a quiet old-fashioned romantic fairy tale spot (with vicious swans!).

  25. Dana Ullman Says:

    I’ve never called the sepsis study “vaulted,” though any treatment (especially safe treatment) that reduces mortality by 50% (as compared to placebo and/or placebo plus conventional Rx) should be appreciated. Both the homeopathic treated patients AND those given a placebo were also given allopathic drugs, thoughh ONLY those who were given a homeopathic medicine experienced substantial health improvements (remember, this was a double-blind, placebo controlled trial). This study strongly suggested a benefit from the homeopathic medicine (if you believe in double-blind and placebo controlled research…if you don’t, please say so!).

    It is strange that you would consider this reduction in death rate to be unimportant, and it is strange that you don’t seem to understand that this was a double-blind and placebo controlled trial.

    That said, I agree with you on something. Saltzburg is a much more lovely city than Vienna (you see, we CAN agree on something).

    People on this list questioned whether homeopathic doses can have any effect and seemed unfamiliar with any studies. The COPD study is but one of several hundred. Some ill-informed skeptics have questioned the design of the COPD study, and yet, they have provided NO clear or adequate critique (if you want to be a good skeptic, be a good scientist). This study is available online. Published in CHEST in 2005 by Frass.

    As for the flu trials, they too were double-blind and placebo controlled…and all 3 trials found statistically significant results. Do you believe in scientific research or not. These studies were shown replicability.

    There are various theories about how homeopathic medicines work, but it was not until somewhat recently that scientists figured out how aspirin worked…and I do not know a single MD (or not) who didn’t use aspirin just because we didn’t know how it worked.

    Once again, if you are going to be a good skeptic, be a good scientist first. Stop the name-calling, the parternalistic and arrogant attitudes, cites real studies, and be humble…and I’ll do the same.

  26. Joe Kane Says:

    Mr. or Ms. Ullman,

    Take the Paranormal Challenge and we can all be enlightened, one way or the other. Why Not?

    YOU create the protocol to use to prove your claim and, if it is a legitimate process with no chance for cheating or ambiguous results, would be accepted.

    My guess is that the following stipulation may be your main concern (from the application):

    4. Applicant agrees that all data (photographic, recorded, written, etc.) gathered as a result of the setup, the protocol, and the actual testing, may be used freely by the JREF.

    again, WHY NOT, because I am certain you will find some way to avoid this “silly” chance at a million bucks.

  27. HCN Says:

    The sepsis trial was very unimpressive. The reduction in deaths after 180 days between the “homeopathic” and “placebo” patients were statistically in the noise range. The numbers showed out of a TOTAL of 35 patients the “homeopathic” patients had a 75% survival rate, and the “placebo” patients it was 50%.

    Compare this to a standard drug trial that uses THOUSANDS of patients… which may not actually find all the side effects! Well, do you see where I’m going with this?

    Ugh.. no matter. Dana Ullman has joined the debate at the James Randi Educational Foundation forums. He is now a participant in a thread started by Sean at:
    http://forums.randi.org/showthread.php?t=82393 … under the username “JamesGully” (and if you can’t recognize my username, go back and return all of your high school chemistry credits!).

  28. Dana Ullman Says:

    The BBC TV and ABC’s 20/20 programs both said that they were doing a real replication of a previous homeopathic study testing homeopathic doses of Histamine and its effects on basophils (a type of white blood cell). However, both TV shows hired a “lab tech” who did not replicate the high quality studies (that were previously conducted at FOUR universities by PhD scientists).

    For a detailed critique of this “junk science” and “junk journalism,” go to:
    http://homeopathic.com/articles/media/index.php

    It is interesting to note that James Randi was informed of these junk science criticisms, and yet, he seemingly has sided with the lab tech and his junk science experiment (GIGO). I hope that Randi will take the side of real science one day.

  29. brother sister in bed Says:

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  30. Idetrorce Says:

    very interesting, but I don’t agree with you
    Idetrorce

  31. jay Says:

    Well “Life is a perception” isn’t it?

    Sean I think homeopathy is kinda like religion in that it is every mans right to believe or not to believe.

    Your comments seem to be suggesting that all homeopathy does is dilute, dilute, dilute. I am sure there is a great more to it than that and it is up to the individual to try it if he wants to.

    What do you think of “accupuncture” or is that a Quackery that the orientals have been praticing for thousands of years? Well maybe we better not go there?

  32. Science-Based Medicine » Fun with homeopaths and meta-analyses of homeopathy trials Says:

    [...] have been attacking Shang et al beginning the moment it was first published. Indeed, they’ve attacked Dr. Egger as biased and even tried to twist the results to claiming that homepathy research is higher quality than [...]

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