Homeopathy: Harmless Healing or a Sinister Scam?
As controversial as homeopathy is, it is the most popular alternative medicine. While some argue against it, others swear by its effectiveness. How does homeopathy work? How did it become what it is today, and what can modern medicine learn from it?
Before we proceed further, let us know, how does the Homeopathy works? Experts says, that there are two main principles on which homeopathy works.
How does the Homeopathy Works?
- Like cures like
This simply means that homeopathic remedies use the ingredients which cause the symptoms you want to cure. For example, Belladonna plant, which causes fever, can also be used to cure it. It kind of makes sense, and one might be tempted to compare this method to vaccination. However, vaccination is a special case and not a principle upon which the entire modern medicine operates.
This is a special method used to prepare homeopathic remedies. According to the theory of homeopathy, diluting and agitating the ingredients enhances their curative powers. To do this, homeopaths dissolve the active ingredient in distilled water or alcohol. They then take one part of this solution and dissolve it in nine parts of water, diluting it down to one-tenth of its original concentration. This solution is said to have a potency of 1X. They then take one part of this solution and dissolve it again in 9 parts of water and the process goes on and on, yielding solutions of potency 2X, 3X and so on until the desired potency is reached. The remedy can then either be ingested directly or by absorbing it in sugar pellets and then ingesting them.
Here’s where the things begin to get whacky. A 20X potency, which is usually the potency of everyday homeopathic medicines, is like dissolving one pill of Aspirin into the volume of the entire Indian Ocean. A 20X potency may sound extreme but it doesn’t hold a candle to a 30C potency. C indicates that one part ingredient is dissolved in 99 parts of water or alcohol. Repeat that process 30 times and you have a solution of 30C potency. It is like dissolving the same pill of Aspirin into a volume of water that would be contained in a sphere of diameter equal to the distance between the Earth and the Sun – one hundred and fifty million kilometers!
There is not even a single atom of the active ingredient into the bottles being sold at the medical store. It’s just water. Because of this, potentization is one of the most criticized principles of homeopathy. The homeopaths, however, believe that water has a memory and even though there might not be even one atom of active ingredient in the solution, a spirit-like essence of that ingredient is left. Taking into account all the animals and plants that have been living, fornicating, and defecating inside the water bodies, every sip of water we consumed would be a supercharged homeopathic cocktail.
How did homeopathy become what it is today?
In the eighteenth century, medicine was a lot different from what it is today. Medical procedures like blood-letting, which involved making incisions in the body to let out what was supposed to be infected blood, left the suffering person worse off than before. So a German physician named Samuel Hahnemann came up with a natural way of treating diseases and named it homeopathy. It soon became popular because ‘doing no harm beats doing harm.’ So even though homeopathy wasn’t healing anyone, it wasn’t harming them either and giving the body a chance to heal itself. Also, homeopathic doctors were more sensitive towards the plight of their patients and spoke to them for longer durations, consoling them that they’ll be alright. This induced “placebo effect” and the patients actually got better, popularizing homeopathy even further.
What can modern medicine learn from Homeopathy?
While Homeopathy might not be the most scientifically accurate method of treating diseases, and in all fairness might be a scam, there are pointers we can take from homeopathy and apply them into modern medicine. The first consultation with a homeopathic doctor can go on for hours and is very personal. To a patient who has already been on a pilgrimage from doctor to doctor, this level of attention and empathy can make a huge difference to their well-being. While the modern medicine is effective, it often alienates the patients and makes them feel like they’re being left-behind.
That being said, as important as empathy is, it is no replacement for actual treatment. Faith can move mountains, but sugar water cannot cure cancer.
- Amaan Abbas Zaidi is a Delhi based journalist. He writes on society, entertainment and cultures.