MD, PhD, FMedSci, FRSB, FRCP, FRCPEd.

I first wrote about Dr Grams when, 5 years ago, she published her book HOMOEOPATHIE NEU GEDACHT (which has recently also been published in English under the title HOMEOPATHY RECONSIDERED). In it, she explains that, after having practised as a homeopath in Germany for several years, she did some research. Her initial intention was to prove critics (like myself) wrong. As she read more and more of the original research, she arrived at the conclusion that the critics of homeopathy had been correct all along.

At the time, my post concluded with the following remarks:

When reading her account, I could repeatedly feel the agony she must have felt through her discoveries. Eventually, she had no choice but to agree with most of the arguments of homeopathy’s critics and disagreed with practically all of the arguments of her fellow homeopaths.

I predict that Natalie’s painful ‘journey’ has not yet come to an end; she now argues that the 200 year old assumptions of homeopathy are all obsolete and homeopathy is certainly not an effective drug therapy. However, it may turn out to be a valuable ‘talking therapy’, she believes.

I hate to say it, but I am fairly certain that she will have to go through further agony and find that her discovery is not truly workable. It might have some theoretical value but, for a whole number of reasons, it will not function in real life heath care.

My hope is that Natalie will find her way back to what she calls ‘normal medicine’ (there is, of course, the danger that she does the opposite and wanders off into even more esoteric grounds). We need doctors like her who have empathy, compassion and understanding for their patients. These are qualities many homeopaths who I have met have in abundance – but these are qualities that belong not into the realm of quackery, they belong into real medicine.

Today I must admit that my predictions were mostly wrong. Yes, Dr Grams had to go through further agony, I am sure, but she certainly did not wonder off into further eccentricities of esoteric medicine. On the contrary, she has become one of Germany’s most vociferous sceptic with many feathers in her cap:

Unsurprisingly, Natalie has, during the last 5 years, become a thorn in the flesh of homeopaths and their supporters. One German firm even went as far as sending her a desist letter demanding she never again to claim that homeopathy does not work beyond placebo, or else she would be heavily fined.

The argument homeopaths most regularly use for their attacks is that, as a clinician, she was an under-qualified, unexperienced homeopath who failed and thus turned against her trade in anger and frustration.

I have always been intrigued by this argument and want to take a minute or two and scrutinise it a little closer:

  • Dr Grams had all the qualifications needed for practising as a homeopath.
  • She had practised as a homeopath for around 6 years.

This means the often-voiced claim that she was under-qualified, unexperienced, etc. is truthful only in homeopathic doses.

But let’s have a little fun and assume it is true. Let’s disregard the ad hominem attacks. Let’s just for a moment agree with the German homeopathy lobby that Dr Grams was a very poor and utterly ungifted homeopath. Let’s assume that therefore her experience with homeopathy became more and more unsatisfactory, and that consequently she turned into an anti-homeopath.

And now, let’s take a step backwards and think. If all this were true, what would follow from this line of reasoning?

Clearly, it would follow that homeopathy does not need any homeopathic skills for generating a loyal following. Because the facts are demonstrably clear: as a homeopaths, Dr Grams was highly successful.

  • She had a full practice.
  • She enjoyed a good income.
  • Her patients were satisfied and loyal.
  • There even was a waiting list for getting an appointment.

So, if (in the view of homeopaths) an under-qualified, unexperienced clinician can practice homeopathy with such outstanding success, what does that tell us about homeopathy?

It tells us, I am sure, that Dr Grams’ conclusions stated in her first book are true: the effects of homeopathy do not rely on the specifics of the skilfully chosen remedy, they rely on placebo and other non-specific effects.

In other words, those homeopaths who attack Dr Grams for being not up to the job, tacidly concede that homeopathy is a placebo treatment!

HOMEOPATHY = THE ART OF SHOOTING SPECTACULAR SELF-GOALS!

 

 

31 Responses to Natalie Grams, the intriguing story of an ex-homeopath. Or: HOMEOPATHY = THE ART OF SHOOTING SPECTACULAR SELF-GOALS!

  • @EE

    In it, she explains that, after having practised as a homeopath in Germany for several years, she did some research.

    That sentence struck me as funny. Several years of practice and she finally did some research!

    Seriously, though, good for her. Is it me or does this story sound a little familiar? 🙂

  • “the effects of homeopathy do not rely on the specifics of the skilfully chosen remedy, they rely on placebo and other non-specific effects.”

    Put another way then, might it be considered a form of faith healing? Because the practitioner and the patient both believe it will work, therefore it will (or must).

    Mein Deutsche ist sehr nicht gute, but I may have to bite the bullet on this one and dig in to a copy if the translation doesn’t come out soon.

    • Homeopaths have difficult cases where they give several remedies consecutively with no results. Presumably the patients faith and confidence in homeopathy and their homeopath is waning by this point. Then the homeopath finds a skillfully chosen remedy that matches more closely the symptoms of the patient, and suddenly they respond and heal.

      As a newbie homeopath I took Belladonna for malaria and thought it was working because every morning I would wake feeling much better, but by afternoon I would feel as bad or worse and take more of it. After several days of this I was developing a bad headache along with the previous symptoms. So I went to a homeopathic MD in a nearby city. He had to ignore the headache because it was a proving symptom of the wrong remedy taken repeatedly. He gave me the skillfully chosen correct remedy once, and three days later I was cured with no relapse. It was reported that ten thousand died in that epidemic

      Would anyone expect this kind of process from a placebo? I dont think so.

      • Roger

        In your first paragraph, you’ve just given a textbook description of Regression To The Mean.

        In the second, you’ve given a beautiful description of the natural progression of a disease as a patient recovers.

        You do not demonstrate here the miraculous powers of homeopathic remedies. You do, however, demonstrate the almost limitless powers of self-delusion that homeopaths posses.

        • Lenny,

          A complete cure of a chronic disease is not Regression To The Mean.

          The natural progression of Malaria is not to just spontaneously heal.

          You are wrong on both counts. Demonstrating your shortsightedness and unwillingness to look at the evidence.

          • Roger

            You didn’t have chronic malaria.

            The natural progression of certain types of malaria is for recovery.

            Which is what you did.

            And were any other antimalarials used?

  • Five years have passed. This former homeopath still has had no worldwide influence. Skeptics of homeopathy are not influencing the paying (out of pocket or through taxes) health care consumers. The practice of health care is a business. As such, its consumers will continue to dictate its future positive growth. Refer to link below.

    https://www.who.int/traditional-complementary-integrative-medicine/GlobalReportBriefingbyWHOServiceDeliveryandSafetyDepartmentDirector.pdf?ua=1

    • she had a lot of national influence; perhaps that’s enough for her.

    • Sandra

      When you speak of “Skeptics of homeopathy”, you refer to those of us who are active on Social Media and the blogosphere.

      You rather conveniently forget each and every medical professional who works outside the nonsense of AltMed. They all regard homeopathy as nonsense. If they didn’t, they’d be using it and homeopathy would be part of proper medical care.

      That it isn’t is DIRECTLY because of Skeptics of homeopathy. Who are, therefore, hugely influential.

      That people continue to be deluded by quacks, as you were, is part of life. It’s a shame.

      • @Lenny

        That it isn’t is DIRECTLY because of Skeptics of homeopathy. Who are, therefore, hugely influential.

        Ya, doesn’t she know who I think I am?

    • Aren’t you in the US? Isn’t Natalie in Germany? Isn’t Edzard in the UK? Yet here we all are talking about her 😉

      I first heard of Natalie because of the pushback she helped to create against the homeopathic company who were trying to sue her (and others), another example of the Streisand Effect. Me already having heard of her is why I clicked on this particular post.

      People don’t have to be household names to have an effect, nor do movements – plenty of people won’t necessarily know or care that skeptics have been working to raise awareness of homeopathy’s problems. But they may now find themselves more aware of those problems.

      In general I’d suspect that skeptics of homeopathy (and I’d agree with Lenny’s clarification on who that actually includes) would not focus strongly on influencing consumers as it’s not particularly effective (that’s not to say that we don’t want to //also// influence consumers, it’s just not the best strategy to lead with). The better point of leverage is in regulation and what can be sold, claimed or reimbursed.

      With that strategy we’ve collectively had rather a lot of success, for example here in England the NHS’ funding for homeopathy has plummeted over the last 20 years – and the idea that the NHS shouldn’t fund homeopathy is largely treated as the default position in news reports. It wasn’t always the case. Homeopathy is no longer presented as ‘harmless’ or a ‘let them get on with it’ thing.

      Other countries also have doctors, scientists and activists who raise awareness and who have changed the local regulatory landscape for homeopathy, in line with the evidence rather than with homeopaths’ opinions or wishes.

      What was your link supposed to show about homeopathy? Perhaps I missed other instances but I could only find one mention of homeopathy on page 19 of 25 slides.

      Jo

      • @Jo Brodie wrote:

        In general I’d suspect that skeptics of homeopathy (and I’d agree with Lenny’s clarification on who that actually includes) would not focus strongly on influencing consumers as it’s not particularly effective (that’s not to say that we don’t want to //also// influence consumers, it’s just not the best strategy to lead with). The better point of leverage is in regulation and what can be sold, claimed or reimbursed.

        I agree and my experience fighting Big Tobacco tells me that regulatory change is the most effective approach. (Another good approach is to make it too expensive. That has proven, without a doubt, to be the most effective way to bring down tobacco consumption rates.)

        Having said that, I think advocates miss a major opportunity by not appealing to the public directly.

        In marketing, we have what we call a push/pull approach. In this case, change would be pushed by government regulation, etc. but also demanded (pulled) by the public. This approach also serves to educate the public and make them more accepting of governments that shove legislation down their throats.

        Another reason to speak directly to the public is that as people become better educated, the more likely they are to make good choices. You know, the ones based on facts. 🙂

        But you are right, that approach mustn’t lead.

      • Great points, Jo. Making my point that the SS (so-called skeptics) want to introduce their totalitarian medicine forcing everyone to take only the medicine that the SS approve of. You cant let adults make their own decisions about health care, because then people might abandon conventional medicine in droves since it cant cure chronic disease. Better to close off other avenues than fix your broken vehicle.

  • I dont think being successful or unsuccessful as a homeopath would impact her thinking as much as having a direct personal experience of homeopathy. Even after 6 years of success she could rationalize it as her patients were all just having a strong placebo effect responding to her charisma or whatever. Thats why I encourage people to have a personal experience by either getting treated themselves or doing a homeopathic proving. Once one has experienced an intense response to a remedy its difficult to deny the power of homeopathic remedies. Until then our power of rationalization is stronger.

    • read her book before you state more nonsense

    • @Roger – This reasoning is naive. If you do not understand why you need to educate yourself about the risk of heuristics and the philosophy of science.

    • @ Roger

      Please stop with the “you gotta try this” nonsense. Rather than rewrite what has already been eloquently written, I encourage you to read this by the esteemed Dr. Harriet “SkepDoc” Hall:

      https://www.skepdoc.info/why-trying-it-for-yourself-is-a-bad-idea/

      Enjoy.

      • Her article doesnt apply to what I am trying to urge you to do. I am not saying to do a homeopathic proving so that you will have some sort of one-off, miracle cure. I am saying do a proving so that you can personally experience the power of a homeopathic remedy, that it really does have a profound effect on your mind, body and emotions.

        You have the typical mechanistic paradigm that says “its so diluted, there are no molecules left therefore it cant work.” EVERYONE has that point of view when they first hear about homeopathy, including myself. That is as far as the wikipdedia editors got in their understanding of homeopathy.

        Science, despite our worship of it, has not answered all the questions of the universe. What is life? What is consciousness? Do you believe you are just a bunch of chemical reactions, nothing more?

        • @Roger

          Science, despite our worship of it, has not answered all the questions of the universe. What is life? What is consciousness? Do you believe you are just a bunch of chemical reactions, nothing more?

          Although you’ve likely heard this before, I’m sure it will still be news to you. But that’s okay. I have patience (no, I don’t) and I will explain it to you again.

          Science is a process. It is not a “thing” that professes to have all the answers. Science, when done properly, is a self-correcting process of learning.

          Science has helped us learn the answers to many, many questions we have. It has not answered all of them. Yet. Considering the relatively short period of time we’ve been using this process called science, however, things have gone quite well and we have many, many more answers than we did, say, one hundred years ago. You can bet that because of science, we will know even more one hundred years from now. We might even know the answers to some of the questions you pose.

          I know it’s not easy, Roger. But don’t stop trying. Like science, however, you’ll find more answers (and your life will be much easier) if you try to learn from your mistakes.

          Class dismissed.

          • Ron,

            So do the scientific experiment that is at the basis of homeopathy: a homeopathic proving. Do the process, instead of just reading about it and dismissing it because it doesnt fit with your paradigm.

            We may not have a known mechanism for homeopathy but like many other natural phenomena without a known mechanism (consciousness, particle interactions, dark energy to name a few) it is known by its effects. Homeopathy is known by its effects on living beings – plants, animals and microorganisms.

          • @Roger

            Why do I bother. . .

            So do the scientific experiment that is at the basis of homeopathy: a homeopathic proving. Do the process, instead of just reading about it and dismissing it because it doesnt fit with your paradigm.

            At best, a proving would be an anecdote. In case you haven’t heard the news, anecdotes are not evidence. Here’s why:

            Anecdotes (credit to McGill University’s Office of Science and Society for this definition) are dirty data. That is to say they contain many variables. Some of the variables are obvious, many are not. As well, anecdotes often happen in a less-than-ideal setting. If you do not control the variables and the setting, you have what I like to call junk science.

            Simple, no?

          • simple yes – but only if you can think straight

  • Such a waist of her medical talent and time! She would do much more good to work as family doctor. But she will probably never go back to patients or to “normal” medicine.

  • I have met _many_ _many_ conventional doctors that have become homeopaths. They got tired of pushing the same drugs that only palliate or suppress symptoms instead of curing like homeopathy. Of course if they published and self-aggrandized they would get drummed out of the medical profession for not following standards of medical practice due to the power of the medical labor union, the AMA, and its influence on all the USA state medical boards.

    Edzard, every homeopathic proving is research, which you would know if you did one. Its a very arduous process.

    Every conventional drug that I have investigated has as its “side effects” the symptoms that it is supposed to treat. CON-MED unintentionally uses homeopathy but improperly so they only palliate and suppress symptoms instead of curing.

    Homeopathy is the latest and refined method of treating patients economically and nonviolently. Governments must encourage and patronize it in our country. Late Dr. Hahnemann was a man of superior intellectual power and means of saving human life, having a unique medical nerve. I bow before his skill and the Herculean and humanitarian labour he did. His memory wakes us again and you are to follow him, but the opponents hate the existence of the principles and practice of homeopathy, which in reality cures a larger percentage of cases than any other method of treatment, and it is beyond all doubt safer and more economical and the most complete medical science… Mahatma Gandhi

  • Dr. Grams recently published the article “Homöopathie in der Pädiatrie – eine kritische Analyse” in the popular monthly (German) journal “Monatsschrift Kinderheilkunde”.
    https://link.springer.com/content/pdf/10.1007/s00112-019-00837-3.pdf

    The article was a response to a previous article in the same journal, written by Dr. Sigrid Kruse, a homeopathic enthusiast, which basically was an unscientific PR article, promoting homeopathy for childcare.
    https://link.springer.com/content/pdf/10.1007/s00112-019-0747-8.pdf

    Kudos to Dr. Grams and her co-authors for this important response article. It is a mystery to me why the (usually quite reputable, as I was told) journal decided to publish the rubbish from S. Kruse in the first place, but thanks to Dr. Grams, this pseudo-scientific nonsense is no longer undisputed in this journal.

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