Wednesday 11 June 2014

DocBastard's Fantastical Homeopathy Journey, Part 2

In case you missed Part 1 of my fantastical journey through homeopathy, what the hell are you doing here?  Go back and read it!  This post won't mean a whole lot unless you've read it, so go read it.  Now.  Seriously, go away and read it.

If you're still here that means you either completely ignored what I just said and like to fly by the seat of your pants, or that you've read Part 1.  In either case, I'll do a quick recap in case you've forgotten:

  1. I have chronic back pain
  2. It sucks, but ibuprofen works pretty well
  3. Homeopathy is bullshit
  4. I'm sick and fucking tired of homeopathy zealots claiming that because I've never used it, my science-backed opinion that it is bullshit is invalid
  5. I am trying homeopathy because I'm an idiot
  6. I filled out an approximately 4,492 page questionnaire by Dr. Homeopath (not her real name)
  7. I was just called back to her consultation room

Right.  Now with that stupid and probably unnecessary summary out of the way, let's move on to . . .

Day 1 (continued)
The homeopath came in and said, "Hello Mr. Bastard (not your real name), I'm Dr. Homeopath (not my real name)" with a big smile on her face.  I resisted the urge to scream "WHAT IS THIS BULLSHIT!" at her and shook her hand, which she returned warmly.  She then sat down and quietly reviewed my intake questionnaire with a determined and knowing smile on her face, nodding every now and then and saying, "Mmm hmm" as if experiencing an epiphany from the fact that on a scale of 1-10, my fear of animals is a 1, my sensitivity to criticism is also a 1, but my irritability is a 6 (yes, those were also actual questions).

She then did what I think was the smartest thing she could have done - before asking anything else, she asked what I knew about homeopathy and if I had any preconceived notions about it.  I told her that I was familiar with the concept of "like cures like" and with the dilution of remedies, but I didn't tell her I was a doctor and I didn't tell her about my disbelief in her entire profession and everything she does.

"That's good," she said.  "The fact that you're here means you believe in what we do.  There are a lot of sceptics out there."

Really?  I hadn't noticed. 

After pretending to do a physical examination (I didn't have the heart to tell her that she did the lung exam all wrong and that my heart is actually in the middle of my chest, not directly under my nipple), she seemed to have a conversation with herself about the different remedies we could try - Rhus toxicodendron, Kali carbonicum, Ledum, Hypericum, Bryonia alba, Nux vomica, Gnaphalium.  I was not impressed that all the names were in Latin - it seems a way to make ordinary things look extraordinary.  Natrum muriaticum, for example, is plain old ordinary table salt, but gosh, natrum muriaticum sure sounds more sciency and mediciny!  She then hemmed and hawed, apparently having another internal debate about which would be best, finally deciding on Rhus.  Apparently (according to her) Rhus works best on back pain that is violent and relieved by motion or bending backwards.

Ok, that makes sense.  Sort of.

"It also works best on patients who have a dry mouth but are often thirsty," she continued.

Ummmm . . . what?  What does that have to do with anything?

She then told me is that it is derived from poison ivy that is harvested at night, because the toxic oil in the plant is supposed to be at its most potent at night. 

Wha . . . wh . . . what are you . . . I don't even . . .

I asked her how, according to the "law of similars", poison ivy would be effective for back pain.  She looked at me like I was the dumbest man on the planet.  "Because, you cretin, the provings showed that when the toxic oils are applied to the skin of healthy individuals, it causes ulcers and excruciating pain.  So of course it will treat pain!  Imbecile!"  Ok, I admit those may not have been her exact words, but that was definitely the gist.  It's entirely possible that she may have been very polite and gracious while spouting her complete rubbish.

What she didn't tell me (that I found out during my post-experiment research) is that Rhus purportedly causes over 11,000 symptoms in healthy individuals, so it can supposedly cure all those symptoms in sick people and is therefore one of the "biggest" homeopathic remedies.  Wow, one medicine that can cure 11,000 things!  Amazing!  Not only that, poison ivy is supposedly a restless plant (because it grows so rapidly), so it is also supposedly a great remedy for restless patients.  Uh, yeah.

Ok then, Rhus it shall be, 30C globules (pellets, pills, tablets, sugar pills . . . whatever).  It just so happened that Dr. Homeopath (still not her real name) had some Rhus for sale, and it was only {price redacted}.  Such a deal!  I paid the fee for the initial consultation and for the bottle of 250 Rhus tablets, and as I handed over the money the only thing I could think of was this:
The dosing was as follows: I was to take two placebos globules and dissolve them in a cup of water.  Then I was to take 5 ml (one tsp) of that "solution" up to three times a day and start to taper once my pain improved.  This seemed entirely ridiculous to me - diluting an already-ridiculously diluted "medicine" even more?  Seriously?  Taken this way, the 250 tablets would last me approximately 982 years.

Now before I hear anyone say, "But you already admit that you think this stuff doesn't work!  You aren't giving it a fair chance!"

Well, I don't have to believe that ibuprofen works.  I just put it in my mouth, and whether I want it to work or not, 30-40 minutes later my pain (whether it's a headache, back pain, joint pain, champagne, or propane) starts to improve.  Any real medicine shouldn't need me to believe in it.  I don't want to have to worry about hurting my medicine's feeling by not believing it works.

I wanted to take the first dose right there in my car, but Dr. Homeopath told me I was not to eat or drink 15 minutes before or after taking it.  I'm not sure why that should make a difference to magic water and magic sugar pills, but I dutifully complied nonetheless.  I figured that after my 65 minute appointment, it would take me at least 15 minutes to drive home and regain my sanity anyway.

As soon as I got home, I wrote down in my handy dandy Homeopathy Journal exactly how my back felt:
"Hot poker in left lower back . . . like always"
Now that I had established my baseline, I took the first dose.  I tried to figure out the strength of the "solution" as I dissolved two of the little pills in a cup of water.  As I swirled the water vigorously to get them to dissolve, I wondered if I was somehow deleting the water memory.  Was I somehow "un-succussing?"  Was that even possible?  Whatever, I thought.  Fuck it.  I then took one teaspoon while thinking, "This is such bullshit" and sat and waited for it to work.  So I sat.  And I waited.

And I waited.

That is the end of Part 2.  I do apologise for splitting this into three parts, but whatever - Peter Jackson did it with "Lord of the Rings", so I'm doing it too.  The final chapter will be posted in a few days.


  1. 15 ml is one Tablespoon (not teaspoon)

    1. Right you are. The dose was 5 ml, or one teaspoon. I have edited it accordingly. Thanks.

  2. I once allowed a nurse to pour a mustard gas derivative into my veins and I'm not believing that you actually took that stuff.

  3. I am just wondering are the homeopathic baby teething know the ones you rub on the baby's gums b.s. also? Or, do they have some kind of plant or something in them that does have a numbing affect?

    1. Homeopathic *anything* is rubbish. There are plenty of products that are safe for babies and that actually work.

  4. I used to instruct Self-Aid Buddy Care in the US Air Force and put a nose hose up my own nose because a class bet me I wouldn't... I did. Wait...that's NOT the same as what you've done here.

    I did a real thing. ;)

    Also, it hurt... as I'm sure your back continued to do.

  5. I once bought some ear drops for horrible earache. They didn't work, at all, and I wondered why. I decided to look more closely at the label, and in the tiniest lettering ever, it said "homeopathic". Obviously explained why it didn't work! I don't think pharmacies should be allowed to sell this crap next to real medicine.

  6. C30 is a dilution of one part in 10^60. * That's roughly taking a teaspoonful, diluting it to a pint, stirring and then repeating the process 29 more times.

    There are something like 10^80 atoms in the observable universe. For practical purposes all of those are hydrogen so the total weight of the universe is approx 10^80 hydrogens.

    The active agent in poison ivy is "Urushiol". That's a very real mixture of organic allergens weighing in at around 320 hydrogens per molecule. So, at C30 dilution, you need 320 x 10^60 hydrogens of other stuff for every molecule of poison ivy oil. There is enough universe to dilute 10^80 / (320 x 10^60) = around 3 x 10^17 molecules of Urushiol.

    A drop weighs around 50 mg and would contain around 10^20 molecules of Urushiol. That's about 300 times as much as we could dilute to C30 with all the matter in the universe.

    So, in round numbers, your C30 Rhus tablets are just about equivalent strength to one threehundredth of a drop of poison ivy oil diluted into all matter in the observable universe.

    That ain't much!

    * I can't do superscript in this comment box, but that's 10 to the power of 60 - 1 with 60 zeros after it. That's a pretty big number. To give you an idea, there are around 10^46 molecules of water on earth.

  7. PS - love the idea of "tapering" off the dose! It can have a nasty effect that "nothing" if you stop taking it too suddenly! It's a great way to imply that it's really potent, however.

    You will let us know when your pain improves and you start your taper, won't you!

  8. I don't know if you've covered this in another blog post, but have you ever seen James Randi's stuff on Homeopathy?

    He'll be doing a speech, seemingly having nothing to do with Homeopathy, but he'll take a whole bottle of pills before he really gets into talking. About 15 minutes into his speech, he'll reveal that he overdosed on homeopathic sleeping pills, and that he just took enough sleeping pills for 6 years. Obviously, nothing ever happens to him, and then he tells the mechanism of homeopathy, about people believing that the more diluted the pill is, the more effective it is.

    He then tells a solid homeopathy joke: Did you hear about the guy who overdosed on his homeopathic sleeping pills? Yeah, he forgot to take them.

  9. How did you keep a straight face? My eyes would have rolled out of my head. And my back, of course, would have quickly reminded me of the idiocy of the outing and i would take me the rest of the day to get the pain under control... using what I know works: a little ibuprofen (occasionally, I've had gastric/duodenal ulcers because of it), one or two Vicodin ES, Skelaxin if there's a spasm component, and ice. If I'm still miserable 8 hours later, I break into my special stash of oxycodone.

    I'm not very patient when it comes to back pain...

  10. Lord of the Rings was always a trilogy. I assume you meant The Hobbit, a short children's book he's turning into approximately 9 hours of movie time.

  11. Do you also believe that herbalism is bullshit as well?

  12. Great article. Homeopathy treatment is best. no side effects !

    Homeopathy Doctors in Chennai

    1. Nasrin Banu, that would be because it has no effect at all.


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