Saturday, April 2, 2016

Homeopathy - medicine or superstition?

In the second part of the documentary "Enemies of reason", Richard Dawkins evaluates the scientific basis of Homeopathy. I am surprised to learn that Homeopathy believes in "like cures like". This is exact opposite of what Ayurveda believes (like increases like) and what modern medical science knows. Dawkins explains that this is not the same concept as a "vaccine" which introduces a diminished form of a virus to provoke the body's immune system. Instead, Homeopathy believes that "what causes similar symptoms cures those symptoms". So diluted poison ivy cures skin rash because undiluted poise ivy causes rash! To cure streaming eyes, the medicine is, you guessed it, diluted red onions!
Even more curiously, Homeopathy believes that "the more the active ingredient is diluted, the more potent it becomes". Most Homeopathic medicines are marked 30c. This is, hold your breath, 1 part medicine : 100^30 parts water! This is so huge a scale that for a single drop of medicine, not even the entire water on earth is enough to dilute. Homeopaths acknowledge that there is not even a single molecule of active ingredient in the medicines sold, it is just water!
So how does it work then? Enter another theory which says "water in the bottle of medicine has memory of the active ingredient" even though there is not even a single molecule of the active ingredient present. It is worth noting here that this "water memory" theory is also believed by some non-Homeopaths. For example, here Sadhguru (of Isha Foundation) says the same thing. Unfortunately, there is no scientific basis for this theory. Dawkins points out that Homeopathy has consistently failed to generate any positive outcome in the controlled scientific experiments. It is only as good as a "placebo".

But it must be said that many people vouch for the effectiveness of Homeopathy. Even I have a "homeopathic cream" at home which helps a lot in pain relief. Is it just placebo effect? May be. Or may be not. Homeopaths are trying their best to convince people that there is a scientific basis which "scientific fundamentalists" like Dawkins are refusing to acknowledge. This article makes a very strong case. But if we then read this article, we get a different picture.
In the end, one has to make a personal choice. It is a bias surely and my bias is towards science. I feel it is always better to be on the side of science than on the side of mysticism. So my current view, given the facts, is that Homeopathy is indeed a placebo but possibly a harmless and useful one.

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