The term “medicine” is sacred. Generally, for something to be considered medicine, it has to help cure or fix some type of problem. People depend on it. It’s why it’s why you can’t walk into your backyard, find the first piece of bark you see, and call it medicine. It’s not. It’s bark.
When someone has anxiety – or any mental health issue for that matter - they depend on medicine in many ways for survival, and that’s why it is both unethical and potentially dangerous to refer to “Homeopathic Medicine” as anything other than what it is: literally and unambiguously glorified water.
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What is Homeopathic Medicine?
Homeopathic medicine is everywhere. It’s sold in the medicine aisle. You’ll find homeopathic medicine available for common ailments such as the common cold and flu, as well as for other more serious issues such as anxiety, depression, and even cancer.
You may have even bought and taken homeopathic medicine without realizing it. It is in all the major retailers and is often sold in the pharmacy aisle, adding to its legitimacy. Some cold and flu medications are labeled “homeopathic medicine” in fine print.
You can commonly find homeopathic medicine for anxiety across natural food stores, as well as drug stores across the country.
For those with anxiety that are not ready to take drugs that change brain chemistry, the idea of homeopathic medicine may be appealing, even for the skeptic. Those with anxiety often find themselves desperate for help and are willing to turn to something that isn’t pharmaceutical to see what it can do. But homeopathic medicine is not something to support.
- You may know that homeopathic medicine is considered “natural medicine.”
- You may know that homeopathic medicine is not evaluated by the FDA.
- You may know that homeopathic medicine is considered controversial.
What you may not know, however, is that homeopathic medicine is, quite literally, water.
The History of Homeopathy
Homeopathy was created by a man in the 1700s that quit medicine to become a writer. He was translating a document that stated that a bark can cure malaria. He tested the bark on people, found that it caused symptoms of malaria, and then without any further testing or theories decided on the principle “like cures like:”
The idea states that things that cause the same symptoms as a disease can cure the disease. For those looking at homeopathic medicine for anxiety, the idea would be that ingredients that cause nervousness, sweating, rapid heartbeat would then cure anxiety.
That is why the actual ingredients of homeopathic medicine include:
- Snake Venom
- Poison Ivy
- Crushed Bees
Yes, there is arsenic in homeopathic medicine, and it is not rare. In fact, there is arsenic in homeopathic children’s cold remedies.
Many of these ingredients are also hidden with unusually complicated names, like “arsenicum album” for arsenic, and “Apis” for the crushed bees. These medical-sounding names give them the impression of legitimacy, but they mean the same thing.
Now, if you were told that your illness could be cured by arsenic, you would probably be skeptical. And you should be. There’s no science or reason to believe that something as deadly as arsenic or snake venom would be able to cure a cold. But the problems with homeopathy do not end there.
Since some of the ingredients of homeopathic medicine (like cures like) are deadly, they can’t be sold in stores as is, and giving them to others is opening you up for serious lawsuits (and possibly murder charges). So to get around that, homeopathic medicine relies on what’s known as “water memory.”
It Gets Weirder: An Introduction to “Water Memory”
According to the people that believe in water memory, if you take a small amount of a potentially harmful substance and dilute it in gallons upon gallons upon gallons of water, the water will retain a “memory” of the harmful ingredient.
That memory, according to homeopathic believers, then provides all of the benefits of homeopathic medicine with none of the deadliness or negative consequences.
If that sounds suspicious, it should.
Let’s start with the obvious: Natural water comes into contact with essentially every mineral, chemical, and substance on the earth. If water really kept a memory, AND homeopathic medicine worked, drinking water you find in a fresh water ocean would cure every ailment in the world.
But even that doesn’t matter, because water memory does not exist.
If you take a drop of a liquid substance and then dilute it in gallons of water, studies have shown that the molecules of that small amount of substance break apart, to the point where there is no measurable amount of the substance left. They are not being remembered by the water. They are simply diluted to such a degree that it does not exist in any measurable amount anymore.
In addition, the belief in water memory is inconsistent with itself.
Does it cause the same symptoms as the harmful agent?
If so, wouldn’t people get very sick if they took a homeopathic medicine when they’re not sick?
Does it cause none of the symptoms of the harmful agent?
If so, how does anyone know it has any memory?
Studies have tried to follow it up regularly, and no study that used proper scientific principles was able to find any sign that water has a memory of any kind. Once it dilutes something, it’s just water.
Similarly, no studies have ever shown that "like cures like."
Homeopathic Medicine: A Placebo Based Con
Never underestimate the power of Placebo. If you believe, consciously or subconsciously, that something will work, you can often feel it working even if scientifically it does nothing.
The idea behind homeopathic medicine is strange enough. If you have a skin problem, you’re probably not going to go out, kill a bunch of bees, crush them, and rub them on your body. But that’s what homeopathic medicine believes. Literally.
But then these ingredients are then placed in very tiny doses in massive vats of water or alcohol, which studies have shown breaks all of the molecules of that ingredient apart until there is nothing left but water.
And that water is not, nor will it ever be, medicine.
Author: Micah Abraham, BSc Psychology, last updated Apr 03, 2018.