Homeopathetic

I am now officially sick of homeopathy.

We visited the pharmacy recently to purchase some colic medicine for the new little bundle of joy. Renette went to the lady positioned behind the prescriptions counter — the one wearing the white coat that usually indicates someone who’s endured an obscenely long period of rigorous study — and asked her advice about a certain brand. The woman looked distrustfully at the bottle in question, and advocated instead the homeopathic option. Renette then asked what the active ingredient in the mixture is, or why in general it is preferable. The woman responded:

“This one [the homeopathic mixture] is natural. That one is medicine.”

Now I can only assume that this person was a serial killer and, having just brutally dispatched the real doctor, now took on her victim’s identity. But this represents a common perspective, and a huge victory for what a friend of mine calls ‘the march of unreason’.

Before there existed what she sneeringly referred to as ‘medicine’, homeopaths ruled doctoring. Seeing as people had no idea whether or why certain ‘cures’ worked, there was no way of testing or improving upon ‘received wisdom’. And so in the early days, to release the evil spirits that were causing your migraines, you had a hole delicately drilled into your skull (presumably causing a different kind of headache). In more enlightened times, you might have been subjected to leeches or blood-letting, or, more mercifully, a good dose of fish oil.

Now, science has been able to study, test and isolate what works as a cure for certain problems (and what doesn’t), as well as to concentrate it and synthesise it. As a direct result, human life expectancy in countries where medicine is practiced is at an unprecedented high. We have surgery that works and that is painless. And, importantly, we have colic medicine that is backed up by research (even if your baby still screams nearly as often, and the research tells us that it causes paralysis in rare cases).

But now, scaremongers have somehow convinced us that science is evil (a recent Dove soap ad says, ‘”Who would rather believe, a scientist in a white coat, or real women?”), and that the wonders of nature can be harnessed for your eternal wellness. How do we know that weaselroot is good for toothache? Are you sure that there are no side-effects to Red-knob Devil-thorn, simply because they’re not catalogued on a paper insert? Let’s look at some of the things that are also ‘natural’:

  • Marijuana
  • Opium
  • Black Mambas
  • Poison Ivy
  • Oleander, Hemlock, Snakeroot and countless other deadly plants.

And so it goes on. Nature is not always so friendly. Eating almost anything will get you vomiting. While you’re busy vomiting, almost everything else will eat you. If homeopathy can’t demonstrate its value rationally and experimentally, then we might as well go back to drilling holes in our heads. Please can I have the medicine?

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