What exactly is homeopathy (and why it doesn’t work)

The homeopathy is based on the doctrine of the Saxon physician Samuel Hahnemann at the end of the eighteenth century proclaimed that like cures like. Thus, to treat a disease, according to this therapy, the same substance that causes its symptoms must be used, but diluted in water to infinitesimal proportions, as we explained in BuenaVida . Infinitesimal because most homeopathic remedies do not contain a molecule of the supposed healing agent , as the manufacturers themselves recognize.

“Homeopathy is based on the therapeutic effects of substances whose toxicity is suppressed using very small doses, up to the level known as ‘infinitesimal'”, explains Boiron, the leading homeopathic treatment company in Spain, on its website. “The effects are specific to the diluted substance, even when sometimes molecular traces are not detected in the drug .”

A real example: caffeine sparks . According to homeopathy, if it is taken in minute proportions, it does the opposite: giving sleep. Hence a sleeping preparation that is obtained by mixing a part of caffeine with 99 of water. It is stirred and the resultant is mixed again with another 99 parts of water. And so on. Each of these dilutions is called CH (Centesimal Hahnemanianna, in honor of its inventor). There are preparations with 6 CH, 10 CH, 30 CH … In some cases, the result is equivalent to pouring a drop of active ingredient into all the oceans on the planet.

For the purposes, it would be the same as filling a pot with five liters of water at home, pinching sugar, stirring. Then separate a teaspoon of the resulting liquid and dilute it again in a pot with another five liters of clean water. And repeat the operation as many times as desired to finish taking a drop of the preparation with the breakfast coffee.

However, the formula used by the homeopathic industry comes in tablets and, among other stores, is also sold in pharmacies. In addition, the Ministry of Health is about to present to the autonomous communities the ministerial order by which it will regulate its commercialization in our country . This is a legal process that dates back to the 2001 European Medicines Directive , which considers as such these sucrose pills, sometimes also lactose, and water, in which sometimes, as we have seen, there are no traces of active ingredient to be applied. Fernando Frías, founder of Círculo Escéptico, explains the entire process that this regularization has followed in his blog La lista de la vergüenza .

After years of lobbying by a more than lucrative industry – the main company that markets these products in Spain, Boiron, invoices 20 million a year in our country and 370 million a year in France – finally the regulations will be as follows .

Homeopathic treatment marketers will have to renew their marketing permit – despite the fact that they never obtained an authorization more than temporarily and it was repealed, but at the same time implicitly recognized in a 2013 regulation -, and for this they will pay an annual fee of about 90 euros if it is a “homeopathic medicine without a therapeutic indication”, that is to say that the product does not indicate which condition it intends to cure, and about 370 euros if it is “with a therapeutic indication”.

What does this mean? If the box of the preparation says that it is indicated to cure the flu, as is the case with Oscillococcinum , then it is a “homeopathic medicine with a therapeutic indication”. The latest development of the ministerial order, as expected, is that these compounds “with therapeutic indication” will have to prove their effectiveness with clinical trials at the level of those that are given to the rest of the drugs in the pharmacy.

Science closed the debate 13 years ago

Will be able? The scientific evidence against the efficacy of homeopathy is irrefutable and it has been 13 years since the most prestigious medical journal, The Lancet, ended the debate in an editorial titled The End of Homeopathy , in which it proposed to stop wasting Time and money trying to demonstrate the effects of a therapy that had failed in two centuries of history. “The more the evidence for homeopathy is diluted , the greater its popularity appears,” the editorial quips.

Still, studies and reviews continue to be conducted; the latest this month in Cochrane which concludes that ” the trials show no medicinal benefit from homeopathy when compared to placebo in the treatment of respiratory tract infections in children.” The Ministry of Health itself, which finishes processing the ministerial order, acknowledges that it does not cure .

Its defenders claim that water has a memory, but it is a selective memory : of all its vital journey it will only guard the active principles of the substance chosen by the homopath. But not only that: these substances can be anything. Dilutions of the Berlin Wall to fight against feelings of oppression, separation and isolation; mobile phone radiation to alleviate the (non-existent) damage of the waves emitted by these devices; TNT (explosive) against whooping cough; of Amazon water to harmonize emotional states; of dog poop to treat gastroenteritis, colitis and diarrhea … Among other real cases collected by Frías in his blog.

The only recognized effect of homeopathy is placebo, and until then there would be no problem if half of the Spanish did not mistakenly believe that it works and if many of these patients did not abandon treatments whose efficacy and safety have been scientifically proven to embrace these alternative treatments. , as happened with the seven-year-old boy who died in Girona from a respiratory affection that his parents treated only with homeopathy , according to the prosecutor of the case

 

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