Does Homeopathy Work?

Homeopathic remedies are promoted
as effective alternatives to conventional medicine. Is there any truth to that? Nope. In theory and application,
homeopathy just doesn’t add up. [SPLASH] Homeopathy is its own category
of “alternative medicine” that emerged some 200 years ago. Not all natural or herbal remedies in your pharmacy are considered homeopathic. Homeopathic medicines are based on
a few theories of disease distinct from conventional medicine, the most
famous being “like cures like.” That’s the idea that if something
gives you a rash, that same thing can be used to treat rashes. A German doctor named Samuel Hahnemann coined the term homeopathy in 1807. He thought medicine then was doing more harm than good. You can’t totally blame him, I mean,
bloodletting was still a thing. But that’s really all the credit you can give him. He started doing experiments on
a small group of volunteers as well as on himself, which is not good scientific practice. In one, he ate the bark of the cinchona (sing-KOH-nuh) tree, which in his day was used as a treatment for malaria. [Onscreen: we now know it contains
the antimalarial drug quinine]. After he ate a bunch, he got symptoms he thought were similar to malaria. That led to his first principle
of homeopathy: like cures like. He thought that when a substance
in large doses caused certain symptoms, in small doses it
could cure those same symptoms. Here’s an example. A homeopathic remedy if you
can’t sleep is coffea cruda. Which is just very, very, very diluted amounts of unroasted coffee beans. Dilution, aka reducing the
concentration of something, is the second principle of homeopathy. Hahnemann thought a sick person only needed a very small amount
of an active ingredient. He used a dilution scale that
increased by factors of 100, a scale denoted with a C. You can
see that on a homeopathic label. One way to make coffea cruda is to
put one drop in a vial containing nine drops of water, then take
a drop from that vial and put it in another vial with nine drops of water. 60 times. That was a pretty standard dilution for Hahnemann. The thing is, by the 60th vial you’ve
diluted your coffee so many times that there really isn’t any left. Statistically, beyond a 13 C dilution
you have zero chance of finding a single molecule of the
active ingredient in your vial. Now, keep in mind that in Hahnemann’s
age the concept of atoms and molecules as fundamental units of
matter hadn’t really been developed. So maybe he couldn’t know that
you could dilute something until it was effectively gone. Today, though, we know that full well. But homeopaths still insist that
dilution principle is sound. They also claim that water can somehow
remember what has dissolved in it, and pass the effects of those
absent molecules on to the patient. But to date there has not
been repeatable, convincing evidence of this phenomenon,
which violates some deeply held principles of physical science. So no, your homeopathic water
doesn’t remember the coffee that may once have been in it. The foundational ideas of homeopathy are bunk. The US National Institutes of
Health have said that “several key concepts of homeopathy are
inconsistent with fundamental concepts of chemistry and physics.” But what if, somehow, it still works, in some mysterious way we don’t yet understand? Well scientists tested that too. A 2015 report from the Australian National
Health and Medical Research Council (ANHMRC) considered the results of about 200
studies on the the effectiveness of homeopathy. After looking at the evidence, they
concluded that homeopathic remedies are no better than a sugar pill, a placebo. The studies that have shown benefits of homeopathic remedies, had flawed methodologies. The Aussies concluded, “There are no
health conditions for which there is reliable evidence that homeopathy is effective.” At best, homeopathic remedies are
a harmless waste of money. At worst, people might endanger
their health by skipping treatment or care they need. For example, there are homeopathic
asthma inhalers being sold. These aren’t any better at stopping
an asthma attack than a placebo. An untreated asthma attack can be fatal. And remember, homeopathic remedies
aren’t held to the same standards as U-S Food and drug administration- approved medicine, although that might change. That’s the science, but you
should talk to a medical doctor if you’re still curious about
alternative treatment options. Check out these videos on multivitamin
supplements and aspartame. Have an idea for a video? Leave it in the comments. Thanks for watching.

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