Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Killing my dog with homeopathy

We woke up early, and found the big puppy munching on rat poison. It was shocking, but pretty much exactly how you would expect this D-student dog to spend his time.

Before we called the vet, we (naturally) looked at Google. The internet told us to make him puke with peroxide (boy, did he ever) and then get him some activated charcoal. I was off to the drugstore.

The clerk pointed me in the right direction, and I found the supplement. Reaching for it, though, I froze. Homeopathic, it said on the front of the bottle. Standing there, with my hand hanging in front of the shelf, my heart rate was up, and I actually had some adrenaline running through my veins. I felt as if I had almost touched a hot pan, or peed on an electric fence. I was a little angry for a moment, and then I took a deep breath, and grabbed the bottle to the right of that one.

What is homeopathy? Briefly, a homeopath will take a substance that is supposed to produce a certain symptom, dilute it greatly, and then use the dilution to treat the condition that it, in greater concentrations, would cause. So, (and this is my own assumption) if you grabbed some ipecac, and diluted it down into a homeopathic solution, following the correct steps, you could treat nausea with it.

Now what do I mean by a homeopathic solution? Well, with homeopathy, the thinner, the better. As in, if you mix a homeopathic solution with water, so it's 10% solution, and 90% water, what you end up with is supposed to be more potent than the original solution. An 8X homeopathic solution, for instance, would be the result of diluting a substance to this extent eight times. The amount of the original substance in the water shrinks exponentially with every new "potentization."

So, if you look at a solution of 30X potency (very potent, and very thin), one dose, which is about a sip, which equals maybe an ounce, has about this many water molecules in it:

10,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000
And the amount of original substance in the 30X solution is 1 over:
1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000

The visible length difference between these numbers tells us something. You're not going to get a particle of original substance in every dose of your medicine. In fact, to come across that elusive particle, in a 30X solution, you'll have to take about 100,000 doses, or drink something like 781 gallons of water, which could fill an Olympics swimming pool to a little more than one foot deep with virtually pure water. And in that whole giant wading pool, there would be maybe one particle of the thing that isn't water, maybe floating at the far end, hopefully not caught in the filter.

The flowers make the pills look natural
These kinds of criticisms are not new to homeopathy. But, it is said, this practice is not about actually consuming the substance. It's about the water. The water, believers say, has a memory. (For more on this way of thinking, take a look at The Hidden Messages in Water, by Masaru Emoto.) If you "succuss," or shake in a particular way, the water container correctly, it is said, you will instill the properties of the substance in the water. When you get to higher potencies like 30X, it won't matter if the substance is present, only the water. Look at this post on making your own homeopathic remedy for more info.

And, having said all this, I can't think, for the life of me, how one would make homeopathic activated charcoal.

Well, to be honest, the dog probably would have been fine without the charcoal. We'd gotten him to puke (a lot, I'm telling you), pretty early on in the process of him poisoning himself. I was angry, though, that I almost treated a canine medical emergency with a medicine that seems, at very best, iffy. Not only that, but the word "Homeopathic," instead of being in a starburst on the package, was in a thin, black, sans_serif font, almost like it was embarrassed. If things had gone a little different, (discover the poison later, grab the homeopathic charcoal) I fear they would have gone very badly, indeed.

But who am I to criticize this thing that I've never tried? And to listen to scientific studies that could, very well, be biased? I know how to make a homeopathic remedy now, so I'm going to do it. I'll get something that causes weight gain (sugar is a simple choice) and make a weight-loss syrum. I'll make it 30X, so that the results will be very obvious, if they are there, and then I'll take daily measurements of my "total inches" (something I read about in a Tim Ferriss book.) It sounds like a lot of work, of course (succussing 40 times 30 times adds up to beating my hand 1,200 times, hoping I don't lose count) but I'll try (m)anything(s) once. And since I don't expect it to work, I don't have to worry too much about the placebo effect, an effect I'm not too offended by, in the first place.

And how conclusive is a (not too) scientific study with a sample size of 1? Well, it's not. But I'm going to do it anyway, and likely prove nothing that the reader didn't already believe. So wish me luck.

The dog's doing fine, by the way.

Thanks for reading.

2 comments:

  1. Hahaha, nice article. And did you know, Masaru Emoto wasn't even a scientist? His statements are nothing but pseudoscience, because if it's true, then it violates our laws of physics. He is a controversial figure you know, there's so many woo-woo stuff about him. I also wrote an article on homeopathy. Well, it's my first article. Hope you can comment on it. Thnx.

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  2. Its really amazing - I have two learned guys out here who know nothing about Homeopathy but are proud skeptics who are out denouncing a safe practice of the healing art. The power of the web when misused leads to such baseless articles getting published.

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