I have suffered from the odd migraine for years. Sometimes they get a little more frequent, (mostly due to a stressful life), which is when I generally seek help. No big deal.
Several years ago I noticed a leaflet for a registered homeopath pinned to the board in my local GP's surgery. Like many others, I believed a homeopath was a practitioner of herbal medicine.
Although I remain sceptical about some herbal treatments, some have been scientifically proven to have bio-active properties and effects on the human body in double blind trials. St. John's Wort, to give one example. Aspirin was originally from willow bark, wasn't it?
So I trundled along to see this lovely lady. She took a detailed 'history' (which felt nice to have 'me' time and pay some attention to myself for a change). She prescribed me some little pills to take for my migraines and stress, I paid her £50 for the consultation, another £20 for my specially designed for me 'pills' and off I went.
More fool me. I am blushing and embarrassed about this now, knowing what I now know about homeopathy and the 'theory' behind it. But back then, I thought it must be OK.
If the NHS and people who went to medical school condone it, have a leaflet on their noticeboard, it must work... right?
Surely if my health cash plan provider would pay half the fees if I went to a registered homeopath, it must give me some benefit? Otherwise why would they pay it?
Wrong. So very wrong.
So what is it, if it's not herbal medicine? Er... Are you ready for this? I will tell it how it is, but you'll probably laugh and won't believe me. I kid you not.
If you dilute a substance, according to homeopathic theory, the stronger it becomes. Most homeopathic 'remedies' are sold at a dilution of, take one example, one part caffeine (to cure insomnia?!) diluted with....
Wait for it... a million million million million million million million million million million parts of water.
But it's okay. That caffeine supposedly in it that might have kept you awake instead of helping you sleep? By the time you buy 30C dilution "you have more chance of winning the lottery five weeks running than you have of finding a single caffeine molecule in your homeopathic sleeping draft. It's just ordinary water, dripped onto ordinary sugar"
Please read more about this embarrassing 'treatment' on The 10:23 website, set up to raise awareness of homeopathy. After all, I didn't know, and many I speak to don't either.
But who cares if people want to take sugar pills? Isn't the placebo effect proven?
Yes... but unfortunately people do come to harm. Registered homeopaths are offering them as malaria prophylaxis instead of conventional medicine, as Simon Singh writes. Seriously?
Even more scary, children who have no choice in the matter are being put at risk of death from lack of vaccinations. Yes, I did say death.
Singh writes that in a survey carried out in 2002, out of 77 registered homeopaths that responded to an email by researchers, only two advised a mother of a one year old child to give their child the MMR vaccine.
So why has this been allowed to be condoned by the NHS and other big companies like my health plan provider? Just pure ignorance in most cases by the policy makers? Or are they scared of the 15% of the population who believe it to be a valid treatment?
I see the tide turning. Are we going to stop listening to Prince Charles and Jeremy Hunt - and start listening to Britain's chief medical officer who declared homeopathy as "rubbish" the other week?
Let's hope so. Recently the NHS Choices updated its website to be rather scathing in my opinion about homeopathy.
I'd hate to see more people throw their 70 quid down the drain (how diluted would it be now?) as I did.
Contemplate this scenario: A UK child dies of measles because their parents thought homeopathy worked just as well as a vaccine. How would we all feel if that decision was made because it was partly paid for by a health plan or given credence by the NHS?
Can we please wake up and smell the coffee on homeopathy? Or are we going to dilute so many trillions of times we can't?
It's nothing more than mysticism, snake oil, call it what you like. It's laughable and it doesn't work. Ignorance isn't bliss as far as homeopathy is concerned. Let's make sure more people know about it.
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