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View Full Version : A case study in the efficacy of Homeopathy



Sticks
2009-May-06, 03:52 PM
I found this tragic case on (http://news.sky.com/skynews/Home/World-News/Homeopathy-Parents-Charged-Over-Baby-Daughter-Glorias-Death-In-Australia/Article/200905115276109?lpos=World_News_First_Home_Article _Teaser_Region_3&lid=ARTICLE_15276109_Homeopathy_Parents_Charged_Ov er_Baby_Daughter_Glorias_Death_In_Australia) Sky News


A couple in Australia have gone on trial charged with manslaughter after their nine-month-old baby died of septicaemia and malnutrition.

Baby Gloria's life could have been saved if her parents had sought conventional medical treatment for her even days before her death, a court has heard.

Thomas Sam, 42, and his 36-year-old wife Manju apparently shunned conventional treatment for their daughter's severe eczema in favour of homeopathic remedies.

The couple have pleaded not guilty in New South Wales state Supreme Court.

The Indian-born, university-educated pair face a maximum of 25 years each in prison if convicted.

For the record the efficacy of this treatment is something I agree with Phil Plait and James Randi on

Gillianren
2009-May-06, 05:17 PM
Oh. That poor child. "Alternative medicine" just makes me so angry. Test it properly before letting your child use it. And if it's tested, and if the medical community properly accepts it, it's not alternative medicine anymore.

nauthiz
2009-May-06, 07:07 PM
For the record the efficacy of this treatment is something I agree with Phil Plait and James Randi on

Is it something to the effect of "JREF maintains that homeopathy is a safe and effective treatment for temporary relief of symptoms associated with mild thirst"?

kleindoofy
2009-May-06, 07:35 PM
Many supporters of homeopathy say "never underestimate the power of the mind."

I agree with them totally, in my own way: never underestimate the power of the stupid mind to do as much damage as possible. :wall:

Fazor
2009-May-06, 07:45 PM
Test it properly before letting your child use it. And if it's tested, and if the medical community properly accepts it, it's not alternative medicine anymore.

Ah, but that's half the attraction to these people; a cure that is not bogged down by all that "pointless" red-tape that is testing and studies. Blah.

But there's been similar cases here in the States. I don't know the specifics off the top of my head, nor do I feel like looking for them (:) sorry) but I think the last case I read about was a couple in Texas or out thereabouts.

Fazor
2009-May-06, 07:48 PM
Just because I haven't fulfilled today's "Rant Quota";

The other argument I always hear is, "But these are natural remedies that have been around for hundreds of years!"

. . . do these people completely ignore the mortality rates then compared to now? I mean, it's not like the numbers leave much up for interpretation.

AndreasJ
2009-May-06, 07:54 PM
Just because I haven't fulfilled today's "Rant Quota";

The other argument I always hear is, "But these are natural remedies that have been around for hundreds of years!"

. . . do these people completely ignore the mortality rates then compared to now? I mean, it's not like the numbers leave much up for interpretation.

There is a considerable overlap between people with that sort of ideas and people who don't believe in statistics. Of course, both also correlate with utter cluelessness concerning conditions a few hundred years ago.

tdvance
2009-May-06, 08:02 PM
Just because I haven't fulfilled today's "Rant Quota";

The other argument I always hear is, "But these are natural remedies that have been around for hundreds of years!"

. . . do these people completely ignore the mortality rates then compared to now? I mean, it's not like the numbers leave much up for interpretation.

They do have an answer, of sorts--I know a homeopathic-ite mathematician--I said to her, we live longer than ever before. Her response? yeah, but the quality of life has gone way down.

tdvance
2009-May-06, 08:04 PM
There is a considerable overlap between people with that sort of ideas and people who don't believe in statistics. Of course, both also correlate with utter cluelessness concerning conditions a few hundred years ago.

Unfortunately, my example above kind of shows that even believers in statistics aren't immune! (and it's clearly not stupidity either--there is some other explanation somewhere....somewhere....)

Fazor
2009-May-06, 08:05 PM
They do have an answer, of sorts--I know a homeopathic-ite mathematician--I said to her, we live longer than ever before. Her response? yeah, but the quality of life has gone way down.

Really? And your head didn't explode? It's a shame we don't have a time-transporter to zap them back to, hell, even the mid 1800's.

AndreasJ
2009-May-06, 08:09 PM
They do have an answer, of sorts--I know a homeopathic-ite mathematician--I said to her, we live longer than ever before. Her response? yeah, but the quality of life has gone way down.

The lesson would seem to be that quality of life kills.

Edit: More seriously, sounds like your acquaintance might fall under the cluelessness heading.

kleindoofy
2009-May-06, 08:10 PM
... Her response? yeah, but the quality of life has gone way down.
Ask her for an example.

I bet she'd just *love* to live as a peasant in the middle ages.

HenrikOlsen
2009-May-06, 08:13 PM
Just because I haven't fulfilled today's "Rant Quota";

The other argument I always hear is, "But these are natural remedies that have been around for hundreds of years!"

. . . do these people completely ignore the mortality rates then compared to now? I mean, it's not like the numbers leave much up for interpretation.
Yep, the answer to that one is: those hundreds of years ago you'd be lucky if half your children survived long enough to get married.

schlaugh
2009-May-06, 08:53 PM
This thread reminded me of a very good book by Ben Goldacre, who works for the NHS in London, writes the Bad Science column for The Guardian in the UK, and maintains web site (http://www.badscience.net/) of the same name. In the book (also called Bad Science) he spends a chapter demolishing homeopathy and its methods.

Very good read. And very scary in its own way.

kleindoofy
2009-May-06, 08:57 PM
... he spends a chapter demolishing homeopathy ...
If he just diluted it, maybe they wouldn't mind. ;)

closetgeek
2009-May-06, 09:39 PM
This thread reminded me of a very good book by Ben Goldacre, who works for the NHS in London, writes the Bad Science column for The Guardian in the UK, and maintains web site (http://www.badscience.net/) of the same name. In the book (also called Bad Science) he spends a chapter demolishing homeopathy and its methods.

Very good read. And very scary in its own way.

The problem is, they would never read it because they've already read the books written about homeopathy and call you uninformed or brainwashed.

[
B]Fazor[/B] Just because I haven't fulfilled today's "Rant Quota";

The other argument I always hear is, "But these are natural remedies that have been around for hundreds of years!"


Would this be from the time they were exercising epilepsy; sending women to the edge of the village, monthly; bloodletting? They are the informed ones now?

Gillianren
2009-May-07, 04:20 AM
You know, I can see how being in constant pain would increase the quality of my life.

geonuc
2009-May-07, 11:26 AM
Every time I see the word 'homeopathy', I think 'natural medications', which I know is not correct.

My pharmacist advocates herbal and other natural products, but I don't think he'd go for homeopathy.

Gillianren
2009-May-07, 05:13 PM
I once explained how homeopathic remedies were made to someone pressuring me to take them for my bipolar. Her response? "Sure, the disreputable ones!"

Grashtel
2009-May-09, 08:50 PM
I once explained how homeopathic remedies were made to someone pressuring me to take them for my bipolar. Her response? "Sure, the disreputable ones!"
Remind me again why its illegal to beat people like that with a cluebat please.

Euniculus
2009-May-09, 10:30 PM
Homeopathy, when it works, is due to a placebo effect. The actives are much too dilute to be of any real use.

Herbals are another story entirely, many are junk, but there are some that are recognized by many industralized countries as relatively safe and effective.

The best example is Germany, they have been using some herbals as effective treatments for a long time, doses are standardized, and the country's health plan pays for them as well.

Some herbs shown to have decent potential for medicinal use: black cohosh, saw palmetto, bilberry, st john's wort, and chamomile.

While I'm not going to recommend anything over the net, if one chooses to use herbal products, look for brands that have been standardized according to either German or Australian standards. That way one knows how much their getting of what. Additionally keep your physician and pharmacist in the loop, as some herbals do interact with other medications, food, or themselves.

Sticks
2009-May-09, 10:37 PM
Add to that ginger for sea sickness, as discovered by Mythbuster's Grant Immahara

Euniculus
2009-May-09, 10:40 PM
Add to that ginger for sea sickness, as discovered by Mythbuster's Grant Immahara

Oh yeah, my list is not compehensive. :)

Ginger is good for nausea in general and it added awesome flavor to the Cantonese chicken and rice hotpot dish I ate earlier too.

Gillianren
2009-May-10, 12:37 AM
For the record--St. John's wort has been shown to be effective for mild depression. Maybe even moderate. If you have severe depression, or bipolar disorder, or any other depression-like condition, it can worsen it. (And, yes, I've had a lot of people tell me to go on it anyway.) There are clinical studies which show this, which puts it far above most herbal remedies.

nauthiz
2009-May-10, 03:39 PM
Folks used to always tell me to go on St. John's Wort back when I was taking antidepressants. Of course, when I tried to explain that i had taken it and it had not worked and my shrink and I had pretty well determined that I needed something with a little more firepower than the entire class of drugs to which St. John's Wort belongs, I would often be informed that that was just what my shrink wanted me to believe so he could sell me more expensive drugs. :rolleyes:

Euniculus
2009-May-10, 06:44 PM
St John's Wort and antidepressants don't play well together.

As Gillian mentioned, it can be useful for mild depression, but again don't start taking it unless one is under medical supervision.

Gillianren
2009-May-10, 06:49 PM
But the whole point of herbal medication is to stay out from under the finger of The Man, man! You're just buying into the pharma-medical establishment. You don't need to be a doctor to know anything about diagnosis and treatment of mental illness!

HenrikOlsen
2009-May-10, 06:53 PM
While I'm not going to recommend anything over the net, if one chooses to use herbal products, look for brands that have been standardized according to either German or Australian standards. That way one knows how much their getting of what. Additionally keep your physician and pharmacist in the loop, as some herbals do interact with other medications, food, or themselves.
One of the problems with herbals that you don't get with synthesized drugs is that there are often multiple active compounds in the same herbal concoction, and even if the concentration has been standardized for one of them, variations in growth and harvesting means the relative concentrations of the different compounds is more difficult to hold constant.
As a result the effect of the herbal remedy can vary uncontrollably from batch to batch even with standardized brands.
You should only try them where the difference between effective and harmful dosage is quite big.

Sticks
2009-May-10, 06:55 PM
I tend to use herbs mostly in my cooking

Euniculus
2009-May-10, 09:22 PM
One of the problems with herbals that you don't get with synthesized drugs is that there are often multiple active compounds in the same herbal concoction, and even if the concentration has been standardized for one of them, variations in growth and harvesting means the relative concentrations of the different compounds is more difficult to hold constant.
As a result the effect of the herbal remedy can vary uncontrollably from batch to batch even with standardized brands.
You should only try them where the difference between effective and harmful dosage is quite big.

This is why I said look for herbs that have been standardized to either the German or Australian standards.

Germany has the strictest standards when it comes to herbals and the variabilities between batches because they classify them as medication, and the country's health system pays for them as therapy.

I'm not as familiar with the Australian system, but my understanding is they follow strict standards as well.

kleindoofy
2009-May-10, 09:37 PM
Considering the blatantly obvious efficiency of certain "herbs" as (socalled) "recreational" drugs or deadly poisons, I can't imagine why any intelligent person would doubt the merit of some herbs in defined medicinal or pharmaceutical applications.

If someone tells you herbs are useless, just take away his coffee for a few days. ;)

Homeopathy on the other hand ... Put it this way, I doubt a crackhead would be happy about receiving a 1:100,000,000,000 dilution of his drug of choice.

Ivan Viehoff
2009-May-11, 10:39 AM
For the record--St. John's wort has been shown to be effective for mild depression. Maybe even moderate.
I think it is a case of good news and bad news for the clinical effectiveness of SJW.

The good news, according to my understanding, is that there are (large) studies that found no statistically significant difference between SJW and certain commonly prescribed drugs for mild/moderate. But the bad news is that there are also there are (large) studies that have not found a statistically significant difference between those drugs and placebo for mild/moderate.

Another interesting study found that placebo treatments are more effective if they cost more, provided the patient knows the prices of the options.

Since SJW is surprisingly expensive (obviously it is pretty cheap by the standards of many drugs, but for a substance extracted from a plant that is an invasive weed in my garden I thought it surprisingly expensive), this final fact persuaded me to give it a go.

nauthiz
2009-May-11, 01:55 PM
I think maybe the placebo effect doesn't work quite the same way if you approach it that way.

Gillianren
2009-May-11, 05:33 PM
The good news, according to my understanding, is that there are (large) studies that found no statistically significant difference between SJW and certain commonly prescribed drugs for mild/moderate. But the bad news is that there are also there are (large) studies that have not found a statistically significant difference between those drugs and placebo for mild/moderate.

I strongly suspect that's because not every drug works for every person. Brain chemistry is complicated stuff that we don't really understand. That's why there's so many antidepressants. They're trying to find ones that work for everyone, either by finding ones that work for the treatment resistant or by finding ones that literally work for everyone. (I hope they got on that with bipolar disorder--and, oddly, none of the drugs I've been prescribed were developed for it. A lot started out just as anticonvulsants that also happen to work for bipolar.)

Salty
2009-May-11, 06:09 PM
So, could somebody tell me the distinguishing differences between homepathy, herbal and natural?

nauthiz
2009-May-11, 06:29 PM
Homeopathy is a modality based on two major principles. The first is that "like cures like", that is, if you're trying to treat a given symptom complex, you should administer herbs that have been observed to cause similar symptoms in healthy individuals. The second is the law of infinitesimals, which says that if you dilute the active agent to extreme levels (traditionally using either water or, for things that are not water-soluble, lactose) then you can magnify the therapeutic effects while removing any aversive side effects. The amount of dilution is extreme. A common level is 30C, 30 serial 1:100 dilutions - take a 1% tincture of the agent, dilute one part of that in 100 parts water, then dilute one part of that in 100 parts water, and so on through 30 times. (By my calculations that's equivalent to a single dilution of 1 milliliter of active agent in over a cubic light year's worth of water.)

Herbal is just using herbs or herbal extracts for their medicinal qualities.

Natural is a fuzzier term, it tends to get used to describe most any alternative modality. That includes the above, but depending on the person it could extend to non-herbal traditional Chinese 'pharmacology' (tiger penis and rhinoceros horn and bear bile and whatnot), or acupuncture, therapeutic touch, chiropractic, and the like. Usually anything mainstream is excluded, regardless of whether it could reasonably be called natural. Whether a dietary modification counts seems to depend on whether it was recommended by a physician or dietician, or if it instead came from a naturopath or nutritionist.

Ronald Brak
2009-May-12, 01:40 AM
This discussion about herbs is a little confusing. In Australia many herbs are medicine. A variety of non-woody plants are grown and then processed to extract compounds which are made into pills, capsules or put into little glass vials. For example, a large portion of the world's morphine is produced in the Australian state of Tasmania from a small flowering plant. Australia's standards for using medicine made from herbs are subsumed under its standards for medicines. It has no other standard for herbalism. Australia does have laws against poisoning people however. In Australia anyone can call themselves a herbalist, natropath or hypnotherapist if they want. There are various organizations that will give you a piece of paper if you give them money and meet their standards.

Ronald Brak
2009-May-12, 01:57 AM
So, could somebody tell me the distinguishing differences between homepathy, herbal and natural?

Homeopathy involves giving people water to make them better. Herbalism involves giving herbs. I don't know what natural is.

Homeopathic solutions are supposed to be very dilute concentrations of what ails you with the idea that this is supposed to make you better. But generally they are so dilute they don't contain a single molecule of whatever they started with, so it's just water.

Herbalism involves giving people herbs in the hope that the compounds in them will help people. Medical professionals do the same thing except they generally use compounds that have been extracted from plants and purified. This enables the dose to the carefully controlled.

AndreasJ
2009-May-12, 12:48 PM
Considering the blatantly obvious efficiency of certain "herbs" as (socalled) "recreational" drugs or deadly poisons, I can't imagine why any intelligent person would doubt the merit of some herbs in defined medicinal or pharmaceutical applications.

The issue isn't about herbs - certain mainstream medicines are extracted from herbs, but you won't hear herbalists recommend those - but about typically under-studied substances applied in poorly or non-regulated dosages.

nauthiz
2009-May-12, 02:02 PM
certain mainstream medicines are extracted from herbs, but you won't hear herbalists recommend those
I've noticed that herbalists' indications for an herb frequently differ markedly from pharmacists' indications for the active ingredient in that herb. It seems like the only things they can agree on are salicylin and cannabis.

Salty
2009-May-12, 04:58 PM
Homeopathy is a modality based on two major principles. The first is that "like cures like", that is, if you're trying to treat a given symptom complex, you should administer herbs that have been observed to cause similar symptoms in healthy individuals. The second is the law of infinitesimals, which says that if you dilute the active agent to extreme levels (traditionally using either water or, for things that are not water-soluble, lactose) then you can magnify the therapeutic effects while removing any aversive side effects. The amount of dilution is extreme. A common level is 30C, 30 serial 1:100 dilutions - take a 1% tincture of the agent, dilute one part of that in 100 parts water, then dilute one part of that in 100 parts water, and so on through 30 times. (By my calculations that's equivalent to a single dilution of 1 milliliter of active agent in over a cubic light year's worth of water.)

Herbal is just using herbs or herbal extracts for their medicinal qualities.

Natural is a fuzzier term, it tends to get used to describe most any alternative modality. That includes the above, but depending on the person it could extend to non-herbal traditional Chinese 'pharmacology' (tiger penis and rhinoceros horn and bear bile and whatnot), or acupuncture, therapeutic touch, chiropractic, and the like. Usually anything mainstream is excluded, regardless of whether it could reasonably be called natural. Whether a dietary modification counts seems to depend on whether it was recommended by a physician or dietician, or if it instead came from a naturopath or nutritionist.

I use herbs (aspirin and tobacco) and have been to chiropractors and massuese's; I also take vitamins and that's about as far from AMA approved procedures as I go.

LaurelHS
2009-May-12, 09:18 PM
I take valerian for anxiety and it seems to help but I often wonder if this is a placebo effect. And I drink peppermint tea if I'm feeling nauseous; it works very well, I like the taste, and it's inexpensive.

Regarding the original post, isn't it really rare for people to die from eczema? I know from personal experience that it's very unpleasant, but I've never heard of someone dying from it.

nauthiz
2009-May-12, 09:46 PM
I take valerian for anxiety and it seems to help but I often wonder if this is a placebo effect.

I don't know much about research on whether it is good for anxiety, but I think it's on the list of herbs that it's important to mention to your doctor because of the risk of drug interactions so it's at least known to be pharmacologically active.

HenrikOlsen
2009-May-13, 03:07 AM
I don't know much about research on whether it is good for anxiety, but I think it's on the list of herbs that it's important to mention to your doctor because of the risk of drug interactions so it's at least known to be pharmacologically active.
But so's grapefruit and broccoli, so that doesn't say much in itself.

Appleblythe
2009-May-13, 04:20 PM
That's sad. And I was even considering to include homepathy in my lifestyly change. Thanks for sharing this, it's informative.

nauthiz
2009-May-13, 04:31 PM
But so's grapefruit and broccoli, so that doesn't say much in itself.

Good point.

Gillianren
2009-May-13, 05:04 PM
That's sad. And I was even considering to include homepathy in my lifestyly change. Thanks for sharing this, it's informative.

Bluntly, so would have five minutes' research, including just reading the Wikipedia page. (Which is the first result of a Google search. The second is a homeopathy website. The third is Quackwatch.com.) I honestly can't understand why anyone would consider adding anything into a health regimen without doing the research.

Sticks
2009-May-13, 05:25 PM
Bluntly, so would have five minutes' research, including just reading the Wikipedia page. (Which is the first result of a Google search. The second is a homeopathy website. The third is Quackwatch.com.) I honestly can't understand why anyone would consider adding anything into a health regimen without doing the research.

But the problem is that this is marketed in such a way that the average person may not be aware of how it is supposed to work.

I have to watch my words now as here in England the proponents have won an important libel victory over one of our sceptical heroes Simon Singh

Gillianren
2009-May-13, 06:43 PM
I think I read that book a few months ago.

No, the issue is that the marketing should not be what makes your decision for you. My psychiatrist encourages me to research the medication he prescribes. This includes that I should not just read the manufacturer's website. Of course, most of the other stuff is from those imbeciles who don't think I should be on anything, but I do what I can.

geonuc
2009-May-13, 06:57 PM
Bluntly, so would have five minutes' research, including just reading the Wikipedia page. (Which is the first result of a Google search. The second is a homeopathy website. The third is Quackwatch.com.) I honestly can't understand why anyone would consider adding anything into a health regimen without doing the research.
Considering the flood of spam-like posts Appleblythe laid across the board (including the one you quoted), I wouldn't take it too seriously.

Gillianren
2009-May-13, 11:00 PM
I'm operating on the hope that the flood of "me, too!" posts will ebb if s/he is drawn into conversation.