Homeopathy for Pregnancy and Postpartum Issues
FoxNews.com just pulled a Brian Williams by publishing an article on the supposed benefits of natural homeopathic remedies for symptoms of pregnancy such as morning sickness, heartburn, insomnia, hemorrhoids, constipation, and back and ligament pain, as well as for preparing the uterus for childbirth, inducing labor, dilating the cervix, and starting contractions and making them for effective. Additionally, the article claims that “homeopathic remedies can heal bleeding, bruising and vaginal tears, and help women recover from both vaginal and cesarean section deliveries. In the postpartum period, remedies can help increase breast milk, unclog milk ducts, and benefit mood, postpartum depression, anxiety and fatigue.”
After reading the above hyperboles, could I really be blamed for thinking that a meeting of homeopathy supporters must be like those SNL “Bill Brasky” sketches? By the way, did you know Bill Brasky wears a live rattlesnake as a condom? The article did get something right, and it’s that “homeopathic remedies are deemed safe by most experts.” According to the Skeptic Dictionary, homeopathic remedies “are probably safe because they are inert.” Inert. As in dormant, inactive, passive, powerless, asleep, inanimate, dull, idle, and so on and so forth. That means homeopathic remedies are no more dangerous – and no more effective, may I add – than a placebo. In fact, they are nothing more but a glorified placebo and any effectiveness they may have is precisely due to the placebo effect.
“The main risk is that the remedy doesn’t do anything for you. It’s either not the right match or the right one your body needs,” the article quotes Pina LoGiudice, a naturopathic doctor and licensed acupuncturist with Inner Source Health based in New York City. But is it really, though? Actually no, that isn’t the main risk. We already know that the remedy will not do anything for anybody. As James Randi’s Encyclopedia of Claims, Frauds, and Hoaxes of the Occult and Supernatural points out, homeopathic doses “are extremely attenuated solutions or mixtures, so attenuated that not a single molecule of the original substance remains. In fact, the homeopathic corrective is actually pure water, nothing more.” A more clear and present danger is that homeopathy may promote self-diagnosis and treatment, and lead patients to neglect proper treatment by a science-trained physician.
Homeopathy “works” on the basis that doses of substances that produce certain symptoms will relieve these symptoms. Or as homeopath, master herbalist and an international board-certified lactation consultant who works in New York and Los Angeles Sara Chana Silverstein explains in the article, “the same substance that can create illness in its energetic form can very often cure it. We always look at symptoms as not something we necessarily need to eradicate but something we need to understand and work with.” From the Skepdic.com: “it is a belief in magic that connects this list of symptoms with the cure of a disease with similar symptoms. In logic, this kind of leap of reasoning is called a non sequitur: It does not follow from the fact that drug A produces symptoms similar to disease B that taking A will relieve the symptoms of B. However, homeopaths take customer satisfaction with A as evidence that A works.”
The article helpfully included a brief, brief history of homeopathy. “Developed in Germany more than 200 years ago, homeopathic medicine is a way to treat disease, conditions or symptoms with small doses of natural substances that help your body function better and heal itself naturally.” This comes to show brevity is not always the soul of wit. No mention is made of the facts, though, that homeopathy’s creator – Samuel Christian Friedrich Hahnemann (1755-1843) – a) believed chronic diseases were caused by ‘miasms’ – from the Greek word for taint or contamination – for which there is absolutely no evidence; b) that he thought that vigorous and methodical shaking could release “immaterial and spiritual powers” in his medicines, which in turn help vital spirits work their magic; c) that he drew metaphysical conclusions that were empirically unverifiable; or c) that his testing methods were flawed – they involved testing the medicines for their effects on healthy people rather than for effectiveness on sick people, and his subjects were all subjective disciples and relatives who Hahnemann questioned himself.
“Most of us don’t understand how homeopathy works, but we see the results,” Silverstein said. Perhaps the reason that most homeopaths claim not to know how their own trade works is that those who do claim to know often come across as crackpots. Take for instance French immunologist Jacques Benveniste (193-2004) whose debunked theory was that altering its structure allowed water to retain a memory of the structure of the homeopathic substance which has been completely diluted. As for results, hundreds of studies have found no value in homeopathic remedies. “Homeopathy has been the subject of at least 12 scientific reviews, including meta-analytic studies, published since the mid-1980s....[And] the findings are remarkably consistent:....homeopathic "remedies" are not effective” (Ramey, David W. "The Scientific Evidence on Homeopathy," Health Priorities, Volume 12, Number 1, 2000.).
The way I see it, homeopathy works just like Lisa Simpson’s tiger-repellent rock. Does it work? No, it doesn’t; it’s just a stupid rock. But I don’t see any tigers around here, do you? Also of note is that the article says that “because there have not been double-blinded, placebo-controlled studies conducted on homeopathy, some conventional medical experts do not consider homeopathy to be a legitimate form of medicine.” But why should they? And why should homeopathy get a pass from an essential tenet that applies to all fields of science? If homeopathy is exempted from the rules of science, then it really isn’t science, is it?