MD, PhD, FMedSci, FRSB, FRCP, FRCPEd

S.O. Hansson from the Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm, Sweden recently published an interesting comment on the law regulating the labelling of homeopathic products. In it he points out that, in the European Union (EU), all pre-packaged food products must contain a list of ingredients and their quantities. The list should be “accurate, clear and easy to understand for the consumer.” Similar requirements apply to pharmaceutical drugs and products – with one notable exception: homeopathic preparations.

For such products, the ingredients need not be disclosed on the label, which should instead specify “the scientific name of the stock or stocks followed by the degree of dilution.” The degree of homeopathic dilutions is, in turn, given in an understandable jargon, such as “C60”, which actually describes a dilution of 1:10120.

The point Hansson is trying to make is that very few health care professionals and even fewer consumers would understand such abbreviations and jargon. This means that, manufacturers of homeopathic products are legally permitted to hide the fact from their customers that their remedies typically contain no active ingredient at all. Considering that homeopathic products are typically bought ‘over the counter’ (OTC), i.e. without interference from a health care professional, just like food products, the exemption seems most surprising.

The most OTC homeopathic remedies are in the “C30” potency; this signifies a dilution of 1: 1 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000. The likelihood that any potency higher than “C12” might contain a single molecule of active ingredient is very close to zero. In order to comprehend the degree of dilution in homeopathy more fully, a visual approach might be best: for it to have a reasonable chance to contain just one single molecule of active ingredient, a homeopathic pill in a “C30” potency would need to have a diameter roughly equal to the distance between the earth and the sun. Homeopathy is truly impossible to swallow.

If homeopathic manufacturers were obliged to provide a description that is “accurate, clear and easy to understand for the consumer”, it would need to state that any dilution beyond “C12” contains no active molecule. It seems clear that such accurate, clear and understandable information would discourage most consumers to spend their hard-earned money for such nonsense. It seems thus to be obvious that the EU exemption of homeopathic remedies from honest labelling protects the interests of the homeopathic industry.

But surely, this is deeply wrong. Regulations in health care are not supposed to protect commercial interests, they should protect the consumer. In my view, it is time to change such profoundly misguided EU-regulation – in the interest of honesty, single standards, transparency and foremost in the interest of the patient and the consumer.

74 Responses to Why homeopathy is so hard to swallow

  • My favourite is oscillococcinum: “Active ingredient: Anas Barbariae Hepatis et Cordis Extractum (extract of Muscovy Duck liver and heart) 200CK HPUS 1×10−400 g Inactive ingredient: 0.85 g sucrose, 0.15 g lactose.”

    I’d love to see the assays they use to prove that it’s exactly 1×10−400 g or the proof that the 99.99999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999% that’s sugar is somehow the “inactive” ingredient.

    Compared with this, simple facts like the non-existence of oscillococcinum or flu being caused bya virus not a non-existent bacterium pale into insignificance.

    • The world is not finished yet, you can ask that there is no scientific invention till today which can see active ingrediants in 200c potancy. my be it possible in future,
      Before 150 years there was no instrument which you used to see RBC WBC or any kind of BACTARIA, so whats it meens there was no RBC WBC in past.

      • We have no instrument that can see fairies at the bottom of the garden either. Why do you think that is?

        • when we cut the onion in small pieces,why tears come from eyes and sneez, is there any active ingredient between eyes and onion, absolutely nothing just smell.
          i think that is the concept of bach flower remedies.

          • are you for real? or just trying to excel in stupidity?

          • shakir said:

            when we cut the onion in small pieces,why tears come from eyes and sneez, is there any active ingredient between eyes and onion, absolutely nothing just smell.

            No active ingredient between the eyes and onion – apart from the volatile sulphur compounds that are released from the onion and drift into our eyes, causing them to water, that is.

            i think that is the concept of bach flower remedies.

            Nope.

          • @shakir:

            What do you think smells are?

          • they must be some sort of vital force that emanates from things like homeopathic remedies!!!

          • Edzard said:

            they must be some sort of vital force that emanates from things like homeopathic remedies!!!

            Maybe that’s what qi is…

          • you might be on a winner there!!!

          • According to one of the resident trolls who claims (s)he knows the hidden magic of the alternative world (oriental version), the “Qi” leaves the body after death. Maybe that is the pungent smell that emanates from rotting flesh?

          • “Maybe that’s what qi is…” Your perseverance is inspiring, and endlessly amusing. It’s like watching Clouseau try to sneak into the castle.

          • Bjorn – of course “qi leaves the body” (as you say) after death. Otherwise, the dead would be breathing, thinking, feeling, moving. Everyone knows that dead bodies don’t move. Otherwise, there would be a specific term in Chinese medicine for movement or change in the physical body after death…and that is ridiculous, of course.
            (oh, and the pungent smell you’re talking about might be from the second life force that Edzard discovered or invented, from his recent acupunture post)

          • dear adzard,
            I know you believe on avidence ,its right also its every body right.when you investigate 1c to 23c any kind of homoeopathic pottency with atomic microscope you will find molecules of ingrediants which its made from,
            uper then 23c 30c 200c 1M 50M your atomic microscope is failed,thats why i say again the world is not finished yet,stay and wait for more powerful microscopic inventions. Homoeopathy is the science of future and future in open for more inventions and research.its also the system in any kind of medication. every day we see new [ research products] than why you chew only homopathy,
            other hand you don,t want to understand,just make propaganda ,there is a good remedies in homoeopathy for mental symptoms .

          • shakir said:

            I know you believe on avidence ,its right also its every body right.when you investigate 1c to 23c any kind of homoeopathic pottency with atomic microscope you will find molecules of ingrediants which its made from,
            uper then 23c 30c 200c 1M 50M your atomic microscope is failed,thats why i say again the world is not finished yet,stay and wait for more powerful microscopic inventions.

            Alternatively, there really are no molecules of the mother tincture left to see.

          • 😀

            In Nordic cultures there is a saying:

            “Speak of the trolls and they will stand in the hall”

      • shakir said:

        there is no scientific invention till today which can see active ingrediants in 200c potancy.

        Is that because there isn’t any?

  • Precisely why homeopaths such as Ullman were so keen to prevent those easy comparisons of dilutions appearing in the wiki article on homeopathy.

  • I’m not sure that clear labeling would make much difference to the cultish–after all, it’s the MEMORY of the water, don’t you know?

    • yes, that’s true; homeopaths do not seem to need molecules, physics, chemistry etc. but consumers might be different; they might think twice to pay something for nothing.

      • Do you mean to say..The best way is to close ua eyes when a homoeopathic medicine treats a patient, and criticise them when the medn. Do not act?
        May be u are unable to look out for the progress n astonishing effects of these valuable medicine!
        Consumers know about what they are buying n administering as a medicine in search of health…
        May be u didn’t ever had any homoeopathic medicine till now..afterall its your bread n butter to criticise THE HOMOEOPATHY…

  • Potentized homeopathic drugs are not ‘nothingness’ as you imagine. Active principles of homeopathic drugs potentized above 12C are MOLECULAR IMPRINTS of chemical molecules that were part of the crude drug substances. These MOLECULAR IMPRINTS can act as ‘artificial binding sites’ for pathogenic molecules having spacial conformations similar to the drug molecules, so that they can bind to them and relieve the biological molecules from pathological molecular inhibitions. If you study MOLECULAR IMPRINTING and supramolecular properties of water carefully, you will realize that this proposition is not improbable.

  • Dr. Chandran KC Mit says:
    Dear EDZARD ERNST, potentized homeopathic drugs are not ‘nothingness’ as you imagine. Active principles of homeopathic drugs potentized above 12C are MOLECULAR IMPRINTS of chemical molecules that were part of the crude drug substances. These MOLECULAR IMPRINTS can act as ‘artificial binding sites’ for pathogenic molecules having spacial conformations similar to the drug molecules, so that they can bind to them and relieve the biological molecules from pathological molecular inhibitions. If you study MOLECULAR IMPRINTING and supramolecular properties of water carefully, you will realize that this proposition is not improbable.
    When a homeopathic drug is labeled SULPHUR C12 or C30, it means that the active ingredients of the drug is MOLECULAR IMPRINTS of SULPHUR, prepared through a 12 step or 30 step molecular imprinting process known as potentization..

    • Hats off… SIR Dr. CHANDRAN KC…

    • the proposition is entirely improbable. where is the evidence?

      • Sir ernst…
        If you want some evidences right at the time, just buy a homoeopathic medicine.. ‘Tuberculinum 10M’, and repeat the doses thrice a day…for 5 days, and wait for the results!
        Whereas..
        according to you..
        its just a homoeopathic preparation that contain no medicinal substance,
        and the potency i have suggested is ‘ten thousand’, 300 times more dilution than the normal 30c potency!
        I have seen many people trying to prove this medicine..they developed tuberculosis ryt after few days!
        Its just a suggestion, don’t blame me if it happens…
        Homoeopathy has its own efficacy even at the higher attenuations..

        • you write like a true cult-member.

        • Hemender pratap said:

          If you want some evidences right at the time, just buy a homoeopathic medicine.. ‘Tuberculinum 10M’, and repeat the doses thrice a day…for 5 days, and wait for the results!

          And in those few words, you demonstrate all that is wrong with closed-minded homeopathic thinking.

  • When a homeopathic drug is labeled SULPHUR C12 or C30, it means that the active ingredients of the drug is MOLECULAR IMPRINTS of SULPHUR, prepared through a 12 step or 30 step molecular imprinting process known as potentization.

    • that’s a nice thought (one they taught me too when I was learning homeopathy) but where is the evidence that this naïve concept bears any relation to reality?

  • Chandran K C and Hemender pratap

    If only you were able to provide good evidence for your fantastical notions.

    • All these statements and facts are entirely based on practical experiences, studies of biochemical substances, ultra high dilution effects, molecular imprinting, structural studies of alcohol and water, comparative studies of substrate n enzymes, all these things will describe the uprising phenomena of the fact, How a ‘HOMOEOPATHIC MEDICINE’ works…

    • My favourite homeopathy product is the Silent Healing CD, which claims to contain 30,000 homeopathic remedies. The audio tracks contain no audio information whatsoever (i.e. they are totally silent).

      I suspect the CD was created as a joke (the instructions for use are amusing). It is interesting that, after many years of being sold, no one has yet managed to show that it does not contain homeopathic remedies therefore it should not be advertised/sold.

      There are many testimonials for it being effective. It obviously cannot work by molecular imprinting so perhaps Chandran K C and Hemender pratap would kindly explain the science of how this CD records the remedies and delivers them to the listener’s body cells.

      • Dear I would love to explain the fallacy of those mongrel sacts who have created a new way of treatment(mp3 remedies), it may somehow can act psychologically but calling that nonsense a part of Homoeopathy is itself a nonsense…
        Homoeopathy is neither a joke and nor any unexplainable science!
        Every substance in this universe have an influence on other..
        Likewise the Homoeopathic medicines are based on molecular imprint theory,
        you can follow the links i have posted above..to know more about what Homoeopathy actually is..and how it works!

        • Here is the answer to all your quests and wizards!
          http://dialecticalhomeopathy.com/all-articles-on-scientific-homeopathy/

          • Thank you for the link. I particularly enjoyed this paragraph by Chandran K C:

            “Proponents of all those ‘modern’ ENERGY MEDICINE models and practices of homeopathy and CAM, amounting to sheer occults such as ‘vibrations’, ‘resonance’, ‘wave theory’, ‘frequencies’, ‘EM signals’, ‘bio-photons’, ‘bio-magnetism’, ‘distance healing’, ‘hair transmission’, ‘photo transmission’, ‘PC resonance remedies’, ‘paper remedies’, ‘water remedies’, ‘mp3 remedies’, ‘radionics’, ‘reflexology’, ‘meditation proving’, ‘dream proving’, ‘trituration proving’, etc etc seek their solace of ‘scientific’ foundation in the ‘DIGITAL BIOLOGY’ of BENVENISTE. It is almost like a BIBLE to them. In my opinion, the REDUCTIONIST and PSEUDOSCIENTIFIC speculations of benveniste, which he called ‘Digital Biology’, is actually the ‘MOTHER OF QUACKERY’ in homeopathy as well as everything known as CAM practices.”

            I think that has more than adequately answered my quests and wizards! However, I’m certain I’ll learn a lot more about quackery in CAM by reading his other 168 articles.

        • this is just nonsense

    • Dear there z nothing remaining to be revealed now…
      all you have to do is just wait and watch, what are those scientific explainations and theories that describe ‘How HOMOEOPATHIC MEDICINE works’…

  • You can better follow Chandran kc mit on facebook..for further explaination of molecular imprints n how homoeopathy works!
    dynamic influence of medicine revealed..

  • Its a link for the blogs n article for recent findings n studies on homoeopathy..go through it… http://dialecticalhomeopathy.com/all-articles-on-scientific-homeopathy/

  • More conjecture, guessing, wishful thinking and gobbledegook.

  • Whatever you say..cannot change my mind and views!
    All i got to manipulate is ur curiousity about how actually do it work!
    Better u just wait n watch..
    no explaination can be made in just one blink..
    I will keep you people and ur belief in mind..b’coz i have to break all ur mirrors of confusion and curiousity!
    Just stay in touch mr. Ernst…

  • Hemender pratap, addressing me as Dear instead of Pete is condescending (having or showing an attitude of patronizing superiority).

    Much more importantly, addressing Professor Ernst as “mr. Ernst” implies that you are unable to determine the difference in expertise between a Professor and a Mr.

    Homeopathy is ‘rubbish’, says chief medical officer:
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health/healthnews/9822744/Homeopathy-is-rubbish-says-chief-medical-officer.html

    Professor Dame Sally Davies is highly qualified to make that statement. When you have achieved her level of expertise then you might have something useful to say on this website to refute her statement.

    • Its alryt..but don’t be so happy, it is still continued as a choice of treatment in NHS programme by its true believers, and decisions are still to be made!
      And another issue is about ‘clinical trials’ so it should also be commited homoeopathically…
      b’coz no two or more patients are same constitutionally, there is a term in Homoeopathy for this..’INDIVIDUALISATION’!
      Trials should also be done on the basis of symptom similarity, not according to what they actually do…
      For example:according to clinical trials done till now..if there are 10 cases of headache, they are all administered with Belladona30 at the same tym..this is itself a rubbish way of observing and commencing clinical trials…
      Because actually every person with headache may have a different cause, different susceptibility to a most similimum medicine selected on the basis of
      1.causation
      2 sensation.
      3. Character of pain
      4. Modalities
      5. Concomitants
      etc.,
      There is no any specific medicine for any disease in homoeopathy,
      keep a watch dog over the action of antidotes during dietry, envirnmental influences.
      removal of maintaining cause, exiciting cause,of disease.
      Record of complete mental symptoms, if the disease is induced by any other drug or suppression of disease..
      all these kind of methods and instructions should be followed while making clinical trials..There is no such specific remedy for any disease!
      Go through any and many books on Homoeopathy, u will be able to understand the real factors on which the homoeopathy depands and works

      • are you sure you are real?
        I am beginning to suspect you are a spoof.
        or someone who wants to discredit homeopathy [if that were possible] by uttering nothing but nonsense?

        • Indeed, Prof Ernst. Or someone with no understanding of science or the scientific method.

        • Prof. Ernst..
          i may not be real or you may never believe in homoeopathy throughout your whole life..
          But definitely you may come to know the real sense or efficacy of immaterial, dynamic dose of homoeopathic medicine…
          i wish you to follow my suggestion and bring out some changes to your thoughts about Homoeopathy..

  • I may regret asking when so far we have nothing but unintelligible babble…but everyone deserves a chance

    Hemender said

    Because actually every person with headache may have a different cause, different susceptibility to a most similimum medicine selected on the basis of
    1.causation
    2 sensation.
    3. Character of pain
    4. Modalities
    5. Concomitants
    etc.,

    I will suspend disbelief for a while and ask, on what evidence is the “medicine” selected for each of the factors you list?

  • Whatever…
    I don’t think you all deserve any of these explaination regarding Homoeopathy, but because you all eagerly want to know if homoeopathy is really effective or not…
    I again want to suggest you all(who are criticising homoeopathy) to perform a simple experiment…
    Just buy a homoeopathic medicine from any homoeopathic medical store..
    Tuberculinum 10M, take it thrice a day for a week…
    you will definitely get to know, what Homoeopathy actually can do!
    You will face the basic law of therapeutics of homoeopathy.. ‘SIMILIA SIMILIBUS CURENTUR’ !!
    And also the definition of homoeopathy..
    Its just a suggestion and is very easy to be followed,
    as you all consider this much higher potency as nothing but a placebo, and i think a placebo cannot produce phthisis or phthisiacal symptoms!
    Thats all..

    • Dosages: 3-4 drops, at tongue..
      30 mins before or after meal..

    • If Tuberculinum 10M caused phthisis symptoms it would have to be prescription-only medication. It would, at the very least, have to include instructions for use plus warning information based on the results of scientific testing — as does even the humble paracetamol.

      I’m very willing to test Tuberculinum by taking a large overdose to see if it will put me in hospital. What potency and dosage would you recommend for this test, Hemender? I suggest 5 drops of 200C taken every 30 minutes as a starting point.

      If it does put me in hospital I shall share the diagnosis with the readers of this website. Note: The probability of this happening is about the same as being injured by a massive dose of N-rays. If it does make me seriously ill then, when I recover, I shall start designing a cold fusion reactor based on scientific homeopathy.

  • Hemender pratap said:

    I don’t think you all deserve any of these explaination regarding Homoeopathy

    That might imply you have a explanation, but we’ve not yet seen it and you have provided no indication that it even exists.

    I again want to suggest you all(who are criticising homoeopathy) to perform a simple experiment…
    Just buy a homoeopathic medicine from any homoeopathic medical store.

    And by that, you demonstrate, yet again, that you have no understanding of science and biases. Can I suggest you read and understand this simple introduction to Experimenter’s bias.

    You will face the basic law of therapeutics of homoeopathy.. ‘SIMILIA SIMILIBUS CURENTUR’ !!

    It is not a law other than in the minds of homeopaths.

    Its just a suggestion and is very easy to be followed

    …and utterly meaningless.

    as you all consider this much higher potency as nothing but a placebo, and i think a placebo cannot produce phthisis or phthisiacal symptoms!

    No. You completely misunderstand why homeopathy doesn’t work.

    • All these words exhibit your fear towards my suggestion…a fear of what if you proved the symptoms..
      All you have learnt is to criticise and nothing else!
      Carry on..
      gud nyt..

      • Hemender pratap said:

        All these words exhibit your fear towards my suggestion…a fear of what if you proved the symptoms..

        Again, you couldn’t be more wrong. You really need to think about opening your mind, rather then continuing to blindly follow dogmatic beliefs.

        All you have learnt is to criticise and nothing else!

        By criticising what you present as your dogmatic beliefs, I keep my mind open to being convinced by your answers. However, you have utterly failed to present anything that has shown any willingness to consider your beliefs are wrong. Instead, you have reinforced the perception that homeopathy is a belief system, not founded in science or robust evidence.

  • And you didn’t answer my question, I have to say as I expected because homeopaths never seem able to answer any specific question other than with distractions, dogmas or “it just works”. Nothing new here then.

    Most people have already treated themselves with homeopathy as most people have drunk water or ingested lactose. No medicinal benefit would be expected as a result though.

  • Thanks Edzard for your support. Having read the above debate, let me just emphasize again that my proposal is simply that homeopathic products should be treated in the same way as other products in terms of labelling: The consumer should have a right to know what a product contains, and any claims about its contents should be possible to substantiate.
    As to the molecular imprints I have what I consider to be a fair proposal: Those who claim the presence of molecular imprints should be allowed to use whatever methods they want to determine whether a product contains or does not contain molecular imprints. If someone can find some reasonably reliable way to distinguish between a homeopathic product and a similar product with the same molecules but without the molecular imprint (of course without knowing beforehand which product is which) then it is OK to mention molecular imprints on the list of contents. Otherwise it is not.

  • …. but still somebody should explain why ‘molecular imprints’ of a substance are more effective than the substance itself and why the imprints of the imprints are more effective than the imprints
    and then that the imprints of the imprints of the imprints are more effective than the imprints of the imprints
    and then ….

  • The substance of homeopathy

    The substance of homeopathy, which the researchers are still looking for, is part of each matter. People have known the essence of matter for several millennia since the first pyramid was built. On the Golan Heights there were 8000 megalithic structures built, mainly dolmens, some had the top cover plate of a different type of rock. On one of the dolmens I will try to indicate the essence of homeopathy and more. All megalithic structures were built in energetic places where the energy source is a water flow, underground springs or other features. Four previously unknown properties of static electricity have emerged from our research. These allow to guide research in another direction (for details on http://www.miroslavprovod.com).

    The matter of dolmens interacts with the source and obtains energy from it. Different kinds of rocks create different “zoning codes” that characterise the properties of each dolmen. The mutual contact of auras, or zones of both charges is to balance their energy potential while moving chemical properties. People could spontaneously transfer chemically modified energy from the dolmens. It follows that different health problems were cured with different energy and chemical values.

    The above text can deduce the nature of homeopathy. Its secret is not hidden in a dilution of the molecules, but in water treatment. Simple experiment can be done with a plastic soda bottle – shaking the water augments the aura and the water charge. Static electricity of water creates something unknown and tempts to wonder if the same feature transfers something from the megalithic structures to organisms and materials. The hundreds of menhirs and dolmens that were built on the Earth tempt us to wonder if the builders did not use more energy for other purposes.

    I believe it is important to note that a similar phenomenon in which there are changes in the original code matter described in the bible EX 20.25. “And when you build a sacrificial altar, do not build it from blocks (ie. The hewn stones), because you have him raised his (iron) and desecrated the tool you are (ie. The stones).” It is inconceivable, but it can be demonstrated experimentally,
    Today, homeopathy treats 400 million patients around the world and it is practiced by around 300,000 physicians. Homeopathy is used for this purpose in approximately 100 countries. Patients do not know the nature of homeopathy, but it is sufficient for them that it works.
    It is not easy to understand the high level science of the megalithic culture, but “Caucasian antigravity” clearly indicates that we missed something in history. That text presents another line of research, from which some further information can emerge.

    Miroslav Provod

    • Is that supposed to be an example of why homoeopathy is so hard to swallow? I think it might go down better with a vinaigrette dressing.

    • Miroslav Provod,

      Likewise, it is impossible for you to begin to understand the theoretical science, applied science, knowledge, expertise, critical thinking, and humility, that goes into producing such awesome things as our space and terrestrial telescopes and the robotic probes exploring our Solar System — let alone the Internet, mobile devices, and a plethora of other modern domestic appliances. I very much doubt that you properly understand, and can adequately explain, how a television, a microwave oven, and a digital camera actually work. Without this basic technical understanding you cannot possibly begin to claim to understand reality, let alone your alternative version of reality!

      You wrote “The substance of homeopathy, which the researchers are still looking for, is part of each matter.” That is totally incorrect. Researchers have more than adequately demonstrated that homeopathy is rubbish. Homeopathic researchers are still being employed to use a combination of pseudoscience and anti-science in order to provide increasing levels of bullshit to promote this rubbish by confusing the general public for the sole purpose of exploiting both the gullible and the vulnerable members of society. Homeopathic research is not science, it is detestable exploitative psychology. Quackery is a totally apt term for this age-old vending of snake oil.

    • Wow, man! It’s like the ‘Summer of Love’ all over again. Whatever it is you’re on, can I get some?!

      “Caucasian antigravity” – Genius!

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