Naturopathy on Skeptic North

There is a new post on Skeptic North about homeopathy naturopathy in the Maritimes (Edit: I wrote this incorrectly the first time, had homeopathy on the brain). I have this to add:

This is what I hear most often from acquaintances who see naturopaths: they are awesome, nice people who spent oodles of time with them. They are responsible and make sure to tell patients that if anything worsened they should go see a doctor. I have 3 points to make about these observations:

1) When someone gives advice and then says to go see someone more qualified if the problem is really serious, what is the difference between that and saying “What I am doing is completely superfluous. For real help, see a real doctor.”? They are essentially admitting that you’re seeking help for a non-problem (in which case they can help) or it is a problem they are not qualified to address (in which case, see a doctor). I applaud them for being open about their limits, but: If the body heals itself, why the middleman? If a doctor helps with serious problems, why the middleman?

2) It’s unfortunate that doctors in Canada can’t/don’t spend more time with their patients. One trade-off of never having to worry about surgery vs. mortgaging a house is that our health system is stressed and overworked. Naturopaths don’t have the responsibility of being the backbone of the health care system like doctors and nurses, so I think it’s an unfair comparison. Time spent with patients is something that certainly needs to be addressed within our health system, but it’s a false assumption to say that naturopaths are objectively effective or subjectively better because they have more time to spend than doctors.

3) It’s also a false assumption that naturopaths are knowledgeable and qualified regarding serious health issues simply because they care and are nice people. Caring doesn’t equal knowledge, even though I’m sure lots of them genuinely want to help. Their relative lack of training combined with advocating dangerous unproven treatments is unacceptable, friendly or not. Also, we can’t hold all of mainstream medicine responsible because some doctors might be less friendly than the neighbourhood naturopath. It is a fallacy to assume that the doctor is wrong just because we don’t like what he/she is saying and how he/she is saying it.

Aside: Naturopaths make use of homeopathy. How many patients would choose homeopathy if they truly understood what it was? I have tried to explain it to people before without success because they refuse to believe it’s that ridiculous (just water). They didn’t distinguish between homeopathy and “herbal medicine”, even though they are two different things, and assumed I was exaggerating. But read the description (and ad populum appeals) from the horse’s mouth.

8 responses to “Naturopathy on Skeptic North

  1. James Pannozzi

    You seem to think that Homeopathy is nonense – fine if that is your opinion, but would it not be more…scientific if you were to admit that your opinion, like that of PalMD, or Orac or many other anti-Homeopathy bloggers is based on 1930’s era ball and stick chemistry models and a view of pharmacology which is completely based in commonly accepted receptor docking conceptions. That some other possibilities might exist seems to be rejected, completely, in advance as though no other theory were possible. Rather curious for people who claim to value science and “evidence”.

    Were there absolutely no research suggestive of such alternatives, one might understand the persistent attempts to make two completely contradictory attacks against Homeopathy – first, to claim it as unscientific nonsense and second, to belatedly acknowledge its by now blatantly obvious curative effects but then quickly sweep that under the carpet with a “placebo” rationalization.

    But such research does exist, it is in the forefront of scientific research and the researchers are genuine scientists. That must be why the experiments of M. Ennis (Inflammation Research, vol 53, p181), which demonstrate a solution in which all the molecules have been diluted away but which still manages to cause a biological effect as though the missing molecules were still there, are studiously ignored. Likewise the pro Homeopathy remarks of Nobel prize winner Brian Josephson, or the recent research of a French 2008 Nobel prize winner clearly showing differentiation of “high dilutions” (he was quite careful to avoid the “politically incorrect” word Homeopathy).

    To have an opinion in opposition to the validity of Homeopathy is perfectly fine, but to attempt to maintain this position without looking at both sides of the issue and to, in effect, turn Homeopathy into a politically “incorrect” topic in scientific circles does far more harm to genuine science. The attackers against Homeopathy are not just stating their opinion without supplying justification – no, it gets much worse, they are engaging in ridicule, bullying, innuendo and complete misrepresentation in order to support their position and then arrogantly assuming their opinion as fact while demanding and cajoling everyone to go along with them. This is not science but instead it is the worst sort of ant-intellectual descent into pseudo-scepticism.

    Ennis set out to prove the “water memory” theory but instead got positive results from her experiment and published them admitting that there was no current scientific explanation of her results.

    Materials scientist Dr. Rustum Roy, author of an internationally famous textbook on Crystalline Chemistry, claims to have demolished the “it’s just water” argument against Homeopathy by pointing out that carbon and diamond are very different substances, but… “it’s just Carbon”! Roy points out, correctly, that it is structure, not just composition that determines properties.

    Relying on ignorance and the laziness to look into a search engine on Homeopathy research and then publishing condemnations, refutations and “exposures” of Homeopathy based on that ignorance is hardly “scientific”. It would appear to be more useful to investigate and encourage research in the cases of people cured of sometimes deadly diseases by Homeopathy and uncover the nature of the Homeopathic curative effect, or lack thereof.

    And, last but not least, the irrational attacks against Homeopathy are a slap in the face to the hundreds of thousands of dedicated MD’s and other dedicated health professionals who use Homeopathy, routinely and successfully as a valuble therapeutic adjunct, often curing their patients faster, cheaper and with no “side” effects.
    In fact, the only “side” effect of a Homeopathy remedy is the cure. I believe their experience, reports and case histories are more useful than your presuppositional assertions and that is MY opinion.

    • It’s not my opinion, it’s scientific consensus. People who like homeopathy (or anything really) can always find a handful of studies that say what they want, the problem is they ignore the mountain of other studies that don’t way what they want.

      You assume that I don’t believe homeopathy works because of ignorance. Surely if I bothered to look it up, I’d have to agree that it’s the bees knees. False. I have looked at it from all sides. I’m unconvinced. It’s adorable how you try to insult me personally by calling me ignorant, lazy, anti-intellectual, and pseudo-skeptic in order to make your point, but that’s ultimately irrelevant to the effectiveness of homeopathy.

      The thing you apparently misunderstand is that we cannot place people’s lives at risk for the sake of opinion. What I am primarily concerned about is patient safety. You claim there is no harm associated with homeopathy. That is just not true. There is the “side effect” of not seeking effective treatment and dying from, say, cancer because they were putting all of their eggs into the water basket while it kept growing inside them. So if we’re going to critique Google searching techniques, methinks you might want to look inwards with that constructive criticism as well.

      As for insulting MDs. 1) They aren’t absolved from criticism just because they get to be called doctor. 2) Have any evidence to back up those numbers? *Hundreds of thousands*? Really? (incidentally, have you heard of the argument ad populum – Google it) and 3) Those MDs deserve a slap in the face if they are using unregulated and potentially dangerous treatments on their patients for serious medical conditions.

      Your opinion really doesn’t matter. My opinion really doesn’t matter. The evidence matters. Patient safety matters.

    • Incidentally if “MDs believe it” is an argument for homeopathy, then why is Orac ignorant? He is an MD. Many other MDs also don’t use homeopathy. So their “opinion” (based on evidence so not so much an opinion as a conclusion) doesn’t matter just because it doesn’t agree with yours? That’s very telling of the quality of your argument.

  2. James: Has anyone replicated the results of the Ennis study?

  3. Mojo: No. Absoutely not, though they have tried.

    Pannozzi: bafflegab and logical fallacies do not reality make.

    Pannozzi, I will only touch on a few points.

    You use Madeleine Ennis’s controversial research to bolster your claims, even though her research cannot be duplicated and she herself remains skeptical of her results. I think that’s what can be called a fail.

    Your remarks on the carbon and diamond bit are truly laughable and only show a remarkable lack of science knowledge, or common sense. Such foolishness would only be valid if one were able to remove all traces of carbon from a block of carbon, then compress the now carbon-free block of X into a carbon diamond. Ha, ha, ha. Alchemy anyone.

    You state: “The attackers against Homeopathy are not just stating their opinion without supplying justification….”

    In fact, quite the opposite is true, skeptics and others who legitimately attack the woo meisters of Homeopathy have, in argument, pointed to several studies that show quite clearly that Homeopathy is nothing more than wishful thinking and placebo effect. It is the pro-homeopathy crowd who willfully refuses to look at legitimate research and focusses attention on charlatans, scams, and faux research in a vain effort to support the unteneable position.

    Pannozzi, you make several unsubstantiated, unproveable, and logically inconsistent claims. Among others, you state: “…such research [supporting Homeopathic validity] does exist, it is in the forefront of scientific research and the researchers are genuine scientists.”

    That is patently false. Nonetheless, because it is you who makes the extraordinary claim, it must be you who provides the evidence. So, here’s the challenge: Provide at least three links to independent, valid, reproducable, peer reviewed and accepted research that presents any credible evidence that Homeopathy is anything other than wishful thinking and placebo effect, and skeptics will listen.

  4. Still waiting for a homeopath to explain the following:

    – how does the homeopathic effect wear off? How is it eliminated or metabolized? If “more dilute= stronger effect”, won’t any homeopathic remedy kill me, given enough time?

    – why is every homeopathic remedy always five tablets, three times per day? Surely there must be some variation in the duration of these magic effects. Oh yeah, right – because every homeopathic product is exactly the same thing – a placebo.

    – how does the expiry date on homeopathic products get calculated? Does the remedy get stronger? Given there are no active ingredients, how is the degradation of this magic water measured?

  5. Wow. I’m surprised that the widely-discredited studies of Ennis were mentioned as evidence for homeopathy.

    Ennis did set out to find water memory, and claimed that he did. When Randi and a team from the journal Nature tried to replicate the data/results with proper blinding controls , they could not. It was later revealed that Ennis deliberately fudged the numbers and hid facts from Benviniste, and no one said ‘boo!’.

    The Ennis study has been so widely discredited I’m surprised to see it mentioned. Well….not THAT surprised.

  6. James Pannozzi

    Attacking Ennis? Making claims that her research was not duplicated? Referencing that famous “scientific” researcher the “Amazing” Randi??
    Claiming that her research was “discredited” based on that BBC documentary, the one in which, after some months of inquiry, Ennis was finally able to get the name of their researcher and learned that they had altered her protocol and included Ammonium chloride, which killed the cells under test thus rendering their experiment worthless from the outset?

    It would seem that the Homeopathy pseudo-skeptics are lacking in some basic science themselves.




    1: Lorenz I, Schneider EM, Stolz P, Brack A, Strube J.
    Influence of the diluent on the effect of highly diluted histamine on basophil activation.
    Homeopathy. 2003 Jan;92(1):11-8.
    PMID: 12587990 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]

    2: Sainte-Laudy J, Belon P.
    Use of four different flow cytometric protocols for the analysis of human basophil activation. Application to the study of the biological
    activity of high dilutions of histamine.
    Inflamm Res. 2006 Apr;55 Suppl 1:S23-4. No abstract available.
    PMID: 16705375 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]

    3: Sainte-Laudy J, Boujenaini N, Belon P.
    Confirmation of biological effects of high dilutions. Effects of
    submolecular concentrations of histamine and 1-, 3- and 4-
    methylhistamines on
    human basophil activation.
    Inflamm Res. 2008;57 Suppl 1:S27-8. No abstract available.
    PMID: 18345504 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]

    4: Sainte-Laudy J, Belon P.
    Improvement of flow cytometric analysis of basophil activation
    inhibition by high histamine dilutions. A novel basophil specific
    marker: CD 203c.
    Homeopathy. 2006 Jan;95(1):3-8.
    PMID: 16399248 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]

    More – related research:

    2003 Bell I., Lewis D., Brooks A., Lewis S., Schwartz G. Gas Discharge
    Visualization Evaluation of Ultramolecular Doses of Homeopathic
    Medicines Under Blinded, Controlled Conditions. Journal of Alternative
    and Complementary Medicine, Volume 9, Number 1, 2003, pp. 25-38.

    2004 Belon, P., J. Cumps, M. Ennis, P.F. Mannaioni, M. Roberfroid, J.
    Sainte-Laudy, & F.A. Wiegant (2004) “Histamine dilutions modulate
    basophil activation”, Inflammation Research, 53(5):181-8

    Exposure of the documentary errors from the BBC supposedly “discrediting” Ennis’ research on her key experiment (mentioned above in the Inflammation Research reference)…