I am annoyed at my gym. In general it's pretty good; clean, well maintained, new equipment; so I'm giving them a pass by not including their name. In the interests of Earth Day they published their own version of (in this case) 40 "small things each of us can do" to help the earth. I was browsing through it to see if they included the one I've been doing for 35 years (cloth dinner napkins instead of paper - they missed it; they did get the cloth towels for spills), and when I got to #32 I'm afraid I blew my stack. Number 32 said,
"Use homeopathic remedies rather than synthetic drugs - it's healthier for you and the planet."Well, I can't deny that homeopathic remedies are healthier for the planet. Being composed entirely of water, you could pour them into storm drains with no visible impact on the environment. But - healthier for you?? I don't understand how an organization that regularly sends me emails about exercise, good nutrition, etc., can possibly suggest to me that I should stop taking the "synthetic drugs" which are currently managing my thyroiditis, my rheumatoid arthritis, and my osteoarthritis, and replace them with expensive homeopathic remedies compounded according to the "law of infinitesimals" (I am not making this up), which suggests that the less of something there is, the more powerful an effect it has.
Homeopathic medications are composed along the principles used by the man I once read about who liked his martinis extremely dry - he locked the gin in a closet at the back of the house, and walked past it once a month, carrying a bottle of vermouth. The dilutions commonly used in homeopathic remedies are so extreme that it is physically, chemically, impossible for any molecule of the advertised substance to be in the bottle they sell you. But because they shake it up really hard before diluting it again (and again, and again...), they argue that
the vigorous shaking or pulverizing with each step of dilution leaves behind a "spirit-like" essence—"no longer perceptible to the senses"—which cures by reviving the body's "vital force." Modern proponents assert that even when the last molecule is gone, a "memory" of the substance is retained.Sure it is. This is pure medievalism: as above, so below. I shudder to think of the effect should some innocent take this advice seriously and quit taking something they really need, like blood pressure meds, or nitro for heart trouble. Or prednisone for any of the really nasty conditions that appalling drug gets prescribed for. The idea that homeopathic remedies are "less harmful" comes from the fact that they were developed in the 19th and early 20th century and, because they have no effect at all, were less harmful than many of the 19th century's orthodox medical practices, thereby allowing patients to recover naturally, in some cases, from conditions where the medical doctor's standard treatment would have killed them.
You don't need to take my word for all this. I've found a wonderful site called Quackwatch, which I recommend in general; and in specific, I recommend their feature article on homeopathy. The author, Stephen Barrett, is a retired M.D., a man of impressive scientific credentials, and a fellow of CSICOP. All the details above (except the story about the martini drinker) are excerpted from Dr. Barrett's excellent feature article; please go and read all of it. And don't, if you ever did, pay the prices charged for what is effectively a small bottle of water.
Oh, and the "evidence of wonderful results"? Just remember, double blind studies have shown that the placebo effect, from a sugar pill, can produce a recovery rate in the 30-40% range. Homeopathic remedies are placebos, nothing more.
I have filed a (signed) comment card with my gym suggesting that it was irresponsible of them to include this suggestion in their list.