Saturday 14 June 2014

DocBastard's Fantastical Homeopathy Journey, Part 3

This is the final installment of my journey through the wild world of homeopathy.  If you haven't read Part 1 and Part 2, please go back and read them, because this won't mean a whole lot if you don't.  Unless you're just here for the punch line, of course.  But what kind of fun is that?  You're skipping the appetizer and entrée and going straight to the dessert!

Fine.  For you meal skippers (and those of you who already forgot what happened in Parts 1 and 2), here is a quick recap:
  1. Homeopathy is a joke
  2. I'm trying it anyway
  3. Dr. Homeopath sold me Rhus tablets for my back pain
  4. I took the first dose and am waiting to see if it works
And now . . . the exciting (read: stupid) conclusion of DocBastard's Fantastical Homeopathy Journey!  Strap yourselves in!  Or just continue siting there in your underwear while you lie in bed wasting time before going to sleep.  That's right, I know all about you.

Anyway, while I waited for my miracle potion to work, I looked up the price of Rhus tablets online.  I was not surprised to find out I paid Dr. Homeopath almost double what I could have paid on Amazon.


Still I waited.

While I was still waiting (and killing time on Amazon), I decided to see what other people had to say about the magical healing powers of Rhus via their comments on the site.  Here are a few excerpts:
  • This one, however, DOES work as well as ibuprofen {Hell, that sounds good}. 
  • Really helps my osteoarthritis. Starts to work right away and after a few doses I can move quite easily.{Well these first two reviews sure sound promising!  Maybe this stuff really works!}
  • Works for poison ivy. Takes a few days to clear up symptoms completely {But . . . poison ivy clears up in a week or so anyway . . .}
  • it was helpful (especially with the itching and weeping) and the worst was over in a week {uh . . . see above.}
  • I've had poisen (sic) ivy, oak...numerous times. This did not work for me. {Damn it.}
  • I usually give a product like this at least 90 days to take effect. It's been only 30 days, but so far can't report a noticeable difference in pain levels, jury is still out. {Wait, you've waited 90 days for it to work and you're still taking it??  Are you insane?  My back hurts NOW!  I'm not waiting 90 fucking days!}
  • So far it hasn't helped my husband or myself. We are on our 4th bottle. We will continue taking what we have as maybe it takes longer. {Each bottle lasts about 982 years, and you've taken *4 bottles*?  And you're STILL giving it a chance??)
That was exactly the bullshit I was expecting.  So I waited more.

And waited.

Much to the surprise of no one with an IQ higher than a newt's, I felt no difference in my back by the time I went to bed that night.  While staring longingly at my bottle of ibuprofen, I took another teaspoon of the stuff, hoping (but not expecting) that I would wake up feeling like a nimble, lithe teenager again.  My bottle of ibuprofen seemed stunned and saddened that I was rebuking it.  Unlike homeopathy though, I was pretty sure that it would forgive me and still work when I went crawling back to it.  It did seem odd that I was supposed to take just a teaspoon of the magic stuff at a time, but according to Dr. Homeopath, more dilute is more effective.  BULL. SHIT.  Before bed, I wrote this in my journal:
"Ow.  Still fucking hurts.  God damn it, want ibuprofen.  I think it misses me."
Day 2
"Had to crawl out of bed.  Need actual medicine."
I woke up, took another teaspoon of bullshit Rhus, and thought that at this rate, the bottle of Rhus should last me until scientists have invented nanorobots which can heal anything instantly (come on you smart scientists!  Nanorobots!  Get on it!).  I looked again at the bottle of ibuprofen, and I realised that when I take ibuprofen (which is a few times a month), it usually is starting to work by the time I'm done with my morning coffee.

My morning coffee . . .

Coffee . . .

NO.  NO morning coffee.  Dr. Homeopath had told me very specifically that any caffeinated beverage, especially coffee, was off limits.  But . . . but . . .


So instead of my morning coffee and a couple of ibuprofen, I had to rely on a single teaspoon of magic water.  Eight hours later I took another dose, and eight hours after that I took another.
"No change.  This sucks."
I went to bed that night feeling like a samurai sword had been lodged in my back for 100 centuries.  But I was still hopeful I would wake up feeling like . . . oh, fucking forget it.  I had no hope at all.  My magical medicine wasn't so magical, much to the surprise of NO ONE.  But I was resolved to continue taking my stupid goddamned water three times a goddamned day.

Day 3
No change.
Day 4
Day 5
Day 6 
Whatever.  Fuck this.  You already fucking know.

Day 7
I had a follow-up appointment with my homeopath, and I almost gleefully told her it wasn't working.  At all.  It took every bit of restraint not to yell in her face at the top of my lungs "I KNEW THIS STUFF WAS COMPLETE BOLLOCKS!!"  With a smile, she calmly advised me to stick with the Rhus, as it often takes weeks to start working.

FUCK THAT.  If I'm having pain, I'm not waiting weeks for something to work, especially when that something has no plausible mechanism and flies in the face of biology, biochemistry, anatomy, physics, physiology, and pharmacology.  As soon as I got home, I took two ibuprofen tablets, and what do you know - exactly 34 minutes later (yes, I timed it), my back pain started easing up.  And exactly 12 minutes after that (YES, I TIMED IT) I was able to bend over and touch my toes for the first time in a week.

I absolutely, unreservedly, categorically refuse to believe in a system of medicine that requires you to believe in it for it to work.  I don't have to believe that removing an appendix will cure appendicitis - it does.  I don't have to believe that ibuprofen will help with pain and inflammation - it does.  Unlike Samuel Hahnemann and his followers in the 1800's, we understand pharmacology, pharmacokinetics, physiology, pathology, and the dose-response.  Unlike homeopathy, not only do we know that modern medicine works, we know how it works.

Of course I realise that any case study like this has an N of 1, so I shouldn't extrapolate this personalised treatment failure to mean that homeopathy in general is a failure.  But fuck it, I will anyway: Homeopathy is, was, and always will be utter, complete, downright, 100% twaddle.  Its very premise, that like cures like, is based on a flawed, incorrect hypothesis from the 1700's (when no one knew jack shit about anatomy and physiology) that has never been shown to be true for any condition ever.  Like, quite simply, DOES NOT CURE LIKE.  That alone should be enough to blow homeopathy out of the water, but there's plenty more.  The concept of "provings" is so ridiculous as to be laughable.  Moreover, thinking that higher dilutions makes a more potent remedy is preposterous and flies in the face of everything that we know about how medicine works (ie the dose-response relationship).  Transferring the memory of a substance into water by striking it vigorously on a surface (succussion) is nothing more than magical thinking.  And two hundred years of research on homeopathy, mostly low-quality, shoddy, and non-reproduced (or non-reproducible), has elucidated exactly jack shit.

So to make a long story short (TOO LATE!), those that peddle homeopathy are scam artists, and those that believe in it may as well get a tattoo across their foreheads that says


  1. The only use for homeopathy that I can think of is just for pyschological symptoms... Especially if a patient has chronic pain syndrome or something like that, and absolutely nothing works. Provided they're not paying an extortionate amount for what is just a sugar pill, if they say that homeopathy gives them a better state of mind, then I guess that's all that matters.

    So I'm only for homeopathy when its used as a last resort for psycho-somatic symptoms perhaps. Otherwise, completely against.

    1. As a person with chronic pain the only things that help are, wait for it ... actual medicine. I understand that you are not in pain every day of your life, however inferring that chronic pain is just a mental thing is fucking insane. I normally don't wish pain on anyone, however, I will make an exception for you: I wish that you could feel (for just a week) the amount of pain I feel every day of my life. I assure you, you won't think it is psycho-somatic after that.

    2. But an actual medical doctor can prescribe sugar pills, AFTER determining that there really isn't some underlying medical condition.

  2. Doc you need to make some DocBastard swag! Like an uncle Sam pic with the caption "Your a bastard" or "say no to homeopathy and say yes to drugs" I would definitely buy them!

    1. Interesting idea. I'll get right on that. Maybe.

      Probably not.

  3. Hey Doc, what are your feelings about chiropractors? I think 99.9999% of homeopathy is utter bullshit, but I actually have had luck with Arnica gel. As a trial, when I smashed both my shins into a metal bar (long story) I tried putting arnica on one and nothing on the other, and in the morning one leg was swollen and purple and the other was slightly red and tender. The Arnica appears to work. But I wonder if massaging cool gel reduced swelling more than the actual gel. Both shins were hit with what felt like the same amount of force as well.

    1. See below.

      As for the arnica gel, that was most likely a coincidence. There is nothing in the world that can "cure" swelling or bruising quickly. Bruising is bleeding into the soft tissue, and the only thing that can improve it is time, allowing the body to break down the blood cells and reabsorb them. That's why bruises turn colours as time goes on (red to black & blue to green to yellow) - the breakdown products are different colours.

    2. Arnica gel usually contains 7% to 10% arnica montana, so it is a herbal concoction and not homeopathic - although some homeopaths say that because it's been twerked, it is homeopathic. However, even then, I believe the best evidence shows that it does nothing - for the reasons DocBastard says.

  4. Chiropractors scare the devil out of me. I look at them as medical school drop outs that have ego's and want the title, Dr. I, honestly believe they made my pain condition worse. Went to an Orthopedic and we tried everything before surgery. The surgeon was extremely honest with and told me, once I cut you will most likely be a back patients the rest of your life.

    Had a completely successful back surgery in 1999, and now 14 years later, this is the first time I'm experiencing any back pain at all.

    My primary care doctor is an OD so he has some training in manipulation etc. He would be the ONLY person that'd is trust if the need arose.

    1. Chiropractors are not so much medical school drop-outs as they are medical school never-got-intos. The belief of chiropractors is that all disease is caused by misalignment of the spine which causes the body's energy to get out of whack. This is more magical thinking, not based on actual anatomy or physiology. The manipulation that osteopaths do is similar, but they train in allopathic medicine as well. Manipulation is no better than placebo, and it can be dangerous.

    2. Never been able to get a cogent explanation from either a chiro or an osteo what the difference is...all I get is gibberish about what they 'focus' on.

    3. My experience in dealing with him has been fantastic. He practices traditional medicine. He's never once tried to get me to take anything other then true pharmaceuticals when needed.

      No magic potions and lotions.

      In the States many people don't even they're being treated by a D.O,, vs an M.D. California some time back converted all DO's to MD's.

    4. I've always been highly skeptical of chiropractors, but after hearing one too many friends (including several nurses) tell me they really helped I decided to give it a shot.

      I went in with an attitude like Doc's, thinking it would do no good for my decades of back pain. My eyes glazed over as he talked about how different parts of the spine affect different diseases.

      However, the manipulations...ok let's be honest and call it "back cracks" he did have improved things a lot. I went from bad back pain about 75% of days to less than 10% of days. I'd had my girlfriend crack my back daily but that never provided more than a few moments of relief.

      In a way I'm frustrated by this. I wish I'd tried this years ago. I still think 99% of chiropractic is bull, but he's caused changes in my spinal alignment I can see on his x rays, and I was 1/4" taller at my last checkup because the curvature in my lower spine has been reduced.

      I don't care why it works, it did for me and that's all that matters. I'd urge Doc to try it like he did homeopathy. He won't have to quit taking ibuprofen, either!

  5. Alan, in my state, Illinois a DO is the exact same as an MD. He prescribes, he hospitalize, he refers to specialists...anything your MD does, he does.

    Unlike homeopaths, you will see them in every field of medicine. They are ER docs, orthopedic surgeons etc. They take the same state boards that M.D.'s take.

  6. it is utterly fitting that the proposed tattoo is in Comic Sans. clear, readable, and emphasizing idiocy.
    also, homeopathy is why I never tell anyone when I have a migraine; I've had them since I was seven, I've been seeing a neurologist since I was sixteen (sixteen and seven years, respectively), but wouldn't you know! there are several simple cures out there that neither I nor my doctor with an official doctoring license, specially for the head bits, know about because "blah blah Big Pharma blah". it makes me all kinds of stabby. it's worse than the people who say "so what? it's just a headache. everyone gets headaches. you just want to seem special." (yes, those are both direct quotes. essentially.)

    1. The opthomologist looked in my eye and saw the migraine begin before I saw the aura or started feeling pain. I'm not wanting to be special. If I chose to be special I'd want to never get headaches.

    2. I've tried so many meds over the years for my chronic migraines and the ONLY thing that has helped was botox (not a massive improvement but I can get out of bed most days now... Yay!) however I did try acupuncture and a herbal thing where I was to take 8 of these funny little herbal balls 3 times a day.... It didn't work (obviously)

    3. having had an occasional migraine, I am sympathetic to those who have chronic migraines.

    4. I'm a fellow chronic migraine sufferer and, unfortunately, those idiot comments are occasionally made by actually medical doctors. I thankfully have an amazing family doctor, but I'm terrified whenever he goes on vacation. I finally lost my temper with his (then) partner, and told him, "I may be an only child, but if I were attention-seeking, don't you think I'd try to enjoy it?! How can I act 'like a princess' when I'm stuck in bed?!"

  7. I still say that the best thing that you can do for your back is to strengthen your core muscles. This is coming from a cancer patient whose six pack was sacrified to reconstruct a breast. The stronger your core muscles are the more they support your back. Take up yoga, pilates, or go to the gym...just stand up straight and walk. Your best bet is strong muscles.

  8. Doc, what are your thoughts on Kinesiotape? I've been in and out of physical therapy for the past six months or so due to a pulled psoas (which has since morphed into tendinitis in the hip flexer), and the tape is popular with the therapists. Exactly how well it works is up for debate, but it seems to be effective in reducing subcutaneous edema.

  9. To plagiarize someone who was, at least at the time, more creative than I:
    NURSE: doctor, the patient has a gunshot wound in his upper Torso.
    HOMEOPATHIC DOCTOR: fetch some prep wipes and my .38 special."

  10. I have chronic pain/discomfort, and I have had it since I was 19 (I'm now 26). I have interstitial cystitis/pelvic floor tension.

    At one point, I tried homeopathic medicine, because nothing else was working (I had bladder instillations, cystoscopies, was on Elmiron for 3 months, etc). The homeopathic doctor brought out all these vials, and has me hold each one individually. While I held a vial, she would push down on my arm. If I could hold my arm up, I wasn't allergic to what was in the vial. If I couldn't, I was allergic.

    She determined I was allergic to corn syrup. She gave my drops to put on my tongue twice a day, and tablets to dissolve on my tongue (I could take those as frequently as 5 minutes apart). I gave it a try, even though I thought it was bullshit immediately, because I am in pain, and nothing else was working.

    Needless to say, it did not work.

    1. You never know... She could have been right! Never underestimate the power of homeopathy!

  11. You should see a chiropractor and have your next post be about your experience. ouo

  12. I worked for a "holistic" dentist in Southwestern WV for a very short period of time in the early aughts. She had nervous patients hold a vial of nonsense and crystals to calm them. To find out which tooth was causing the patient pain, she'd place her finger on a tooth and hold her other arm out; I was instructed to push on her arm. If I wasn't able to push her arm down, then the tooth was deemed healthy. If I was able to push her arm down, then the tooth was unhealthy and in need of treatment. She actually told me that I was "doing it wrong" i.e. pushing on her arm incorrectly. Ugh, any wonder why I worked there for 3 weeks before hightailing it out of there? Yikes.

  13. Doc, what's your say on acupuncture? My mom took me to have it done once, and what the guy said made enough sense to me (he did seem a little overly "spiritual" at times, but included none of that in his explanations for why it supposedly works). I don't remember very clearly, but after repeated appointments I noticed I was feeling a little better (less tense in general, etc.). Unfortunately as I look back now I realize that my "feeling better" might have merely been me wanting to believe that I was (or wanting my mother to be right about it). I'm not sure though. Could there possibly be any reasonable science behind acupuncture?

    My mom had also been seeing a chiropractor, but I've never heard of any chiropractors who preach the magic medicine stuff that has been mentioned in these comments... Perhaps she just found one of the good ones? From what I remember, the idea with this lady was simply that if my mom had back pain and tension, chiropractic massage and (for lack of a better term) "back cracking" could help with it. From what she said, it worked for her.

    1. Acupuncture is another ancient (read: pre-scientific, mystical, and/or magical) treatment that has little-to-no evidence base. The data on it is mixed at best, and as with all other "energy treatments", there is no reason that it should work since there is no evidence that qi (or life force or vital force or whatever the charlatan decides to call it) exists.

      Chiropractics is ALSO magic medicine, as you put it. It is based on the completely 100% debunked belief that "subluxations" cause disease. Subluxations don't exist and they never have. How chiropractics has been able to survive is a complete mystery to me. People do tend to feel better after a chiropractic "realignment" because of the temporary release of tension or massage or whatever. Durable cures are fleetingly rare, which is great news for the chiropractors since their patients keep coming back.

  14. Insurance will pay for chiropractic visits not massage therapy to help manage pain. I go to a chiropractor very other year or so to realign my spine. My legs tend to become drastically different lengths which makes it hard to walk. It gets corrected and I go on my way till it gets bad again.

    Haven't said this yet but I love your blog.

    1. Thanks very much. I'm glad that chiropractic works for you, but I have some bad news: your legs do not become different lengths, and your spine does not get out of alignment. I hope your chiropractor didn't tell you either of those things, because both are flat-out lies.


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