Tonight’s Show was about Alternative Medicine (Alt. Med.)

We defined it at those healing approaches that lie outside the medical mainstream and in some cases are reported as being viable alternatives to science-based medicine.

Perhaps one of the key concerns is the fact that some people who are in need of  ‘proven’ medical interventions are distracted from receiving the treatment they need by the spurious claims of less than ethical alternative practitioners.

In discussions which follow the opinions expressed are not those of Penwith Radio or Supernatural world but are the opinions of the Rational Mystic (Alan Jones) or the people who express them.

The comments from Skeptoid (Brian Dunning) are used with permission of and other trailers and comments have been taken from referenced sources within the public domain.

Apologies for the low sound quality in portions of this recording as we were trying to correct a ‘channel’ issue on the mixing desk.

Homeopathic  treatments  or But there’s nothing in them – is there?

"Father of Homeopathy"Let’s hear about the genius of Hahnemann; Christian Frederick Samuel Hahenemann  who was born 10th April 1755 in Saxony and died 2nd July 1843.

Wikipeadia informs us that…

Hahnemann studied medicine for two years at Leipzig. Citing Leipzig’s lack of clinical facilities, he moved to Vienna, where he studied for ten months.

After one term of further study, he graduated MD at the University of Erlangen on 10 August 1779, qualifying with honors. His poverty may have forced him to choose Erlangen, as the school’s fees were lower. Hahnemann’s thesis was titled Conspectus adfectuum spasmodicorum aetiologicus et therapeuticus. [A Dissertation on the Causes and Treatment of Cramps]

Hahnemann claimed that the medicine of his time did as much harm as good:

My sense of duty would not easily allow me to treat the unknown pathological state of my suffering brethren with these unknown medicines. The thought of becoming in this way a murderer or malefactor towards the life of my fellow human beings was most terrible to me, so terrible and disturbing that I wholly gave up my practice in the first years of my married life and occupied myself solely with chemistry and writing

In 1748 Hahnemann gave up his medical practice to make a living translating books, he was multi-lingual. During this period he was engaged to translate William Cullen’s A Treatise on the Materia Medica. It inspired him to create the first principle of what was to become the practice of Homeoptahy.

“that which can produce a set of symptoms in a healthy individual, can treat a sick individual who is manifesting a similar set of symptoms.”

In other words like cures like.

So if a particular substance caused a rash that substance could be used to not only ‘cure’ the rash it caused but all other rashes that were similar in appearance or symptomology.

His early research saw him noting the effects a particular treatment had on a healthy individual and attempting to work out from this the range of illnesses or diseases they would cure. Of course there was a problem of toxicity in that some of the treatments used had toxic and hence detrimental effects upon his volunteers. To overcome this he explored the idea of creating dilutions of the substance… He developed the technique of succession (systematic mixing through vigorous shaking) and the concept potentization.

In essence the more dilute the mixture of ‘active ingredient’ the more potent it is.

Now before we go any further let is look at what the state of medicine was at the time Hanhemann was working.

Well at that time medical practices and the healing arts was based upon the notion of humors.

Essentially, this notion suggested that the human body was filled with four basic substances, called four humors, which are in balance when a person is healthy. The four substances were blood, phlegm, black bile, and yellow bile

All diseases and disabilities resulted from an excess or deficit of one of these four humors. These deficits could be caused by vapors that were inhaled or absorbed by the body.

From this notion practices of blood-letting, cupping, emetics, purging and tonics were developed.

So against this backdrop perhaps any development in medical treatment would be welcome.

The ‘theory of Humors’ fell out favour in the light of new intuitions, discoveries and findings and by the 1858 these notions were replaced completely by theories of cells and cellular pathology.

The fact that medicine, or indeed any science, adopts its paradigms, practices and approaches based upon new findings, discoveries and assertions is a good thing.

Many so called ‘traditional healing’ modalities do not. This is true for Hahenmanns notions of Homeopathy.

Perhaps the biggest stumbling block in the idea of Homeopathy, apart from the assertion that like cures like, is the notion of potency.

As Brian Dunning on Skeptoid reminds us…

Dilutions of homeopathic products that are sold today usually range from 6X to 30X. This is homeopathy’s system for measuring the dilution, and it doesn’t mean 1 part in 6 or 1 part in 30. X represents the roman numeral 10. A 6X dilution means one part in 106, or one in one million. A 30X dilution means one part in 1030, or one followed by 30 zeros. A few products are even marketed using the C scale, roman numeral 100. 30C is 10030. That’s a staggering number; it’s 1 followed by 60 zeros, about the number of atoms in our galaxy.

Any secondary school student aufait with Chemistry will be familiar with the Avogadro’s constant – it’s a figure of  about 6 × 1023

That’s six with 23 noughts after it – a big number.

It refers to the maximum dilution of any substance – a point beyond which nothing of the original substance remains in that dilution. Many Homeopathic remedies are beyond this limit. In essence there is nothing of the original ingredient in the treatment purchased – in chemical terms.

Let’s put that another way..

3C potencies are diluted to 1 part in a million (diluted by 1 in 100 three times). To get this in perspective, if we take a standard medicine spoon (5 mL) we would have to dissolve this in 4,999,995 mL of water to achieve a 3C equivalent dilution. That’s the same as dissolving 1 spoonful of medicine in 26 standard-sized baths full of water.

A 30X dilution means that the original substance has been diluted 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 times.

Assuming that a cubic centimeter of water contains 15 drops, this number is greater than the number of drops of water that would fill a container more than 50 times the size of the Earth.

Robert L. Park, Ph.D., executive director of The American Physical Society, has noted that since the least amount of a substance in a solution is one molecule, a 30C solution would have to have at least one molecule of the original substance dissolved in a minimum of 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 molecules of water. This would require a container more than 30,000,000,000 times the size of the Earth.

Many Homeoptahic practitioners suggest that the absence of any active ingredient, as it were, is not a problem. They claim that the succession and dilution process actually leaves an ‘imprint’ within the water which carries the ‘essence’ of the original.

The concept was proposed by originally proposed by Jacques Benveniste.

Now my preliminary research on this idea has proven to be more challenging than I first thought. Some of the skeptic sources simply say it’s ‘nonsense’ and then give little or no direct links to papers or evidence..

But the readily findable, shall we say, supporter sites all do seem to be linked to some water-based treatment product. And the alternative community accuses scientists of being linked to Big Pharma.

The most balanced reference I have found to date, which seems to provide a neutral position maintains that “research” has not yet been able to substantiate the claims of water-memory research, but, has published the suggestion that some experimental research proposes that:-

To summarize this short overview, one can say that water is a ‘complex’ liquid with many fascinating, sometimes unique aspects. Except for some academic aspects concerning supercooled water, the structure of the liquid is well known. In particular, it is certain that:

(a) There are no water clusters in pure liquid water, but only density fluctuations.

(b) The longest life of any structure observed in liquid water is of the order of 1 ps [one millionth of a millionth of a second]

Maybe the water memory issue for me at least is ‘unproven’ because I may not have researched BUT even assuming it is true then water would of course carry memories of everything that has been ‘bounced through it’.

Surely if water memory is a viable mechanism, and I remain skeptical (in true sense of the word – open, questioning and ready to consider opinions, ideas and evidence) then its ultimate therapeutic purity must be questioned.

In a homeopathic remedy the ‘homeopathic ingredient’ would exist with a memory of  the rocks and minerals through which it percolated, the pipes through which it was pumped, the ocean minerals it absorbed prior to evaporation, the chemicals in the atmosphere in which it condensed and the last few urine tracts it passed through.

Homeopaths who claim that their preparations ‘act’ like a vaccine are indeed misunderstanding either their own techniques or some basic medical knowledge.

Brian Dunning points out that..

One explanation made by some homeopaths is that it works the same way as a vaccine: putting a tiny amount of a disease-causing agent into the body — not enough to cause the disease, but enough to stimulate the body’s natural defenses into fighting off that disease. Well, this is indeed the way a vaccine works, but it’s got nothing to do with the way Hahnemann defined homeopathy

Vaccines are used to prevent an illness which does not yet exist in the body by triggering the production of preventive antibodies; and homeopathy is used to fight a disease already in the body, in which case any antibodies would already be in production. The number of the antibodies triggered by a vaccine can be measured in the bloodstream, whereas homeopathy is not intended to, and does not, produce any measurable reaction. Vaccines insert inert versions of the disease-causing agents into the body, where homeopathic substances are the same as that which causes the disease.

About the medical research..

Despite a lot of research the medical evidence supporting Homeopathy just doesn’t seem to be there. Double blinded trials and analysis of these trials reveal results that are no better than placebo. Some of the trials which initially proved promising, including the work by Jacques Benveniste has not proven to be replicable or has shown some serious experimental errors. In one case there is the suggestion of fraud, not perpetrated by Beneveniste directly, but by one of his ‘supporting’ laboratory assistants.

The UK Society of Homeopaths has stated “It has been established beyond doubt that the randomized controlled trial is not a fitting research tool with which to test homeopathy.”

Which seems to be saying, well it works but you can’t test that it works, because it doesn’t work when tested in clinical trials.

This brings us back to the nature of evidence for so many alternative healing modalities.

Adherents say that they work.

They have personal experience, anecdotal evidence and a belief in the modality. .. but it can’t be tested by medical science.


Some interesting news items, news reports and references

2006 and Homeopathy Regulation

Since 1992 manufacturers have been allowed to sell homoeopathic remedies without evidence of efficacy, if they could show that they were produced safely and hygienically. But they could not list what they were supposed to treat.

The MHRA has now taken advantage of a new EC Directive to amend the way homoeopathic products are sold. The changes were introduced by way of a statutory instrument.

The new regulations say: “An application for a national homoeopathic product is not required to comply with the requirement to submit the results of pre-clinical tests and clinical trials.”

Applicants must supply data on pharmacology, pharmacokinetics (how the drug is handled by the body) and toxicology. On safety, “the applicant may submit data other than scientific data” if reasonable attempts are made to obtain scientific data or the applicant is satisfied that none exists. And efficacy data need consist of no more than homoeopathic provings, which are “the administration of a substance to a human subject to ascertain the symptoms produced by that substance”.,,174-2337904,00.html

Homeopathy will not be banned by the NHS despite critical report (26/07/10)

Health minister Anne Milton said complementary and alternative medicine “has a long tradition” and very vocal people both in favour of it and against it.

A report by a group of MPs said homeopathic medicine should no longer be funded on the NHS and called for a ban on the medicines carrying medical claims on their labels.

The Commons Science and Technology Committee said there is no evidence the drugs are any more effective than a placebo – the same as taking a sugar or dummy pill and believing it works.

Last month, doctors attending the British Medical Association (BMA) annual conference backed this view, saying homeopathic remedies should be banned on the NHS and taken off pharmacy shelves where they are sold as medicines.

The treatment was described as “nonsense on stilts” and that patients would be better off buying bottled water.

Ms Milton said the Government welcomed the MPs’ report but “remain of the view that the local National Health Service and clinicians are best placed to make decisions on what treatment is appropriate for their patients”.

These decisions should take account of safety, and clinical and cost effectiveness, she said, adding that the Government remained committed to providing good-quality information on the treatments.

Homeopathy, which dates back 200-years, has been funded on the NHS since the service’s inception in 1948.

It differs from herbal medicine in that it relies on substances being diluted many times, something the MPs said could not be scientifically proved to work.

There are four homeopathic hospitals in the UK, in London, Bristol, Liverpool and Glasgow.

Estimates on how much the NHS spends on homeopathy vary, with the Society of Homeopaths putting the figure at £4 million a year including the cost of running hospitals.

Former Liberal Democrat MP Evan Harris, who was a member of the Science and Technology Committee when it published its report, said: “This is not a good start for the new Health Secretary when it comes to evidence-based policy.

“How does the Government justify allowing treatments that do not work to be provided by the NHS in the name of choice, when it allows medicines which do work to be banned from NHS use?”

Homeopathy is “witchcraft”, the British Medical Association (BMA) has said, adding: “If people wish to pay for homoeopathy that’s their choice but it shouldn’t be paid for on the NHS until there is evidence that it works.”           May 16 2010

Icy claim that water has ‘memory’

…. Aware of homeopaths’ claims that patterns of hydrogen bonds can survive successive dilutions, Rey decided to test samples that had been diluted down to a notional 10-30 grams per cubic centimetre – way beyond the point when any ions of the original substance could remain. “We thought it would be of interest to challenge the theory,” he says.

Each dilution was made according to a strict protocol, and vigorously stirred at each stage, as homeopaths do. When Rey compared the ultra-dilute lithium and sodium chloride solutions with pure water that had been through the same process, the difference in their thermoluminescence peaks compared with pure water was still there

Other references for this episode


Tachyon Energy and Homeopathy – Grid Keeper

Deepak Chopra and Dawkins

Dan Carne – Bi-Aura Specialist

Steve Eddy – Naturopath

The Mystery Voice….

Dara O’Briain

Here’s the video clip (explicit language warning)

The Music in tonight’s show:

  • Adrenalizer  : The Hunter
  • Callel : Our Final Eight
  • Adrenalizer : Living on the Knife Edge
  • Callel : I’d like to see your Brain
  • Adrenalizer : Two Hearts

All of the music can be found at Aardvark Music.

Their on-line store can be found here : Aardvark Music

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