Edzard Ernst

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

Camilla spent ten days at the end of October in a sophisticated meditation and fitness center in southern India. Life has recently been hectic for the Queen Consort: at 75, she has been in a non-stop succession of various ceremonies for the funeral of Elizabeth II, always one step behind her husband, not to mention her new status as sovereign… Enough to block her chakras in no time.

She came to the resort with her bodyguards and a handful of friends and was able to take advantage of the tailor-made treatments concocted for her by the master of the house, Dr Issac Mathai, who created this high-end holistic centre on a dozen hectares of scented gardens near Bangalore. The program includes massages, herbal steam baths, yoga, naturopathy, homeopathy, meditation, and Ayurvedic treatments to “cleanse, de-stress, soothe and revitalize the mind, body and soul”, as the establishment’s website states.

Guests are required to follow an individualized, meat-free diet, with organic food from the resort’s vegetable gardens, based on lots of salads or soups – Camilla is said to be a fan of sweet corn soup with spinach. Cigarettes and mobile phones are not allowed, although it is assumed that Camilla must have some privileges due to her status… and the basic rate for the suites, which starts at $950 a night – the price of the rooms varies between $260 and $760, the rate including a consultation with the doctors.

Charles and Camilla have been fans of the Soukya Centre in India for a decade. The place corresponds in every way to their deep-rooted convictions about health. Like her husband, Camilla is a follower of organic food, she also practices yoga and treats her face with creams made from nettle and bee venom. For his part, Charles has long been an advocate of alternative medicine, homeopathy, acupuncture, aromatherapy, and also hypnosis… He even set up a foundation to support complementary medicine by lobbying the British health service to include it in complementary therapies for certain patients, which caused an uproar among the pundits of traditional medicine.

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If you suspected I was (yet again) sarcastic about the royal couple, you are mistaken. The text above is only my (slightly shortened) translation of an article published in the French magazine LE POINT (even the title is theirs). I found the article amusing and interesting; so, I looked up the Indian health center. Here are some of the things I found:

The 1st impression is that they are not shy about promotion calling themselves THE WORLD’S BEST AYURVEDA TREATMENT CENTER. The doctor in charge was once a ‘Consultant Physician’ at the Hale Clinic in London, where he treated a number of high-profile people. As his professional background, he offers this:

M.D. (Homeopathy); Hahnemann Post-Graduate Institute of Homeopathy, London M.R.C.H, London; Chinese Pulse Diagnosis and Acupuncture, WHO Institute of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Nanjing, China; Trained (Mind-Body Medicine Programme) at Harvard Medical School, USA

The approach of the center is described as follows:

The fundamental principle underlying Holistic Treatment is that the natural defense and immune system of an individual when strengthened, has the potential to heal and prevent diseases. In the age of super-specialisation where human beings are often viewed as a conglomeration of organs, it is crucial to understand ourselves as multi-dimensional beings with a body, mind and spirit. These interconnected dimensions need to be in perfect harmony to ensure real well-being.

And about homeopathy, they claim this:

Homeopathy originated in 1796 in Germany, and was discovered by Dr. Samuel Hahnemann, a German scientist. Homeopathy is popular today as a non-intrusive, holistic system of medicine. Instead of different medicines for different parts of the body, one single constitutional remedy is prescribed. As a system of medicine, Homeopathy is highly scientific, safe, logical and an extremely effective method of healing. For over 200 years people have used Homeopathy to maintain their good health, and also to treat and cure a wide range of illnesses like allergies, metabolic disorders, atopic dermatitis, Rheumatoid arthritis, Auto-immune disorders.

At this stage, I felt I had seen enough. Yes, you are right, we did not learn a lot from this little exploration. No, hold on! We did learn that homeopathy is highly scientific, safe, logical, and extremely effective!

 

The question, however, is should we believe it?

Shiatsu is a Japanese form of so-called alternative medicine (SCAM) derived from Traditional Chinese Medicine using deep pressure on the paths of the postulated acupuncture meridians. Clinical observations on this topic are said to be encouraging, especially for the treatment of sleep and conduct disorders, but there is a lack of empirical data.

The objective of this study was to examine the possible therapeutic effects of shiatsu in a clinical population of children treated in child and adolescent psychiatry. It was designed as a qualitative descriptive and non-interventional study, conducted on children treated in day-care hospital units and outpatient clinical settings. Shiatsu was administered, at least during 3 sessions, to children with an autism spectrum disorder or other disorders according to ICD-11 criteria (such as conduct disorders with impulsivity or attention deficit).

The evaluation was performed by two independent researchers (a child psychiatrist and a psychologist who were not the caregivers) based on direct observation of children during the shiatsu sessions, combined with semi-structured non-inductive interviews with their parents, and data collected from focus groups conducted with the children’s caregivers. A phenomenological interpretive analysis (IPA) approach with Nvivo coding software was used to analyze the data.

Based on semi-structured interviews with 13 parents cross-referenced with data from 2 focus groups and direct observations of 7 children during 2 full shiatsu sessions for each observation, the results show that shiatsu has positive effects on

  • internal tension (a relief effect, notably on aggressive behaviors directed against others or self),
  • sleep (including improvement of sleep quality),
  • social interaction,
  • attention,
  • verbalization of affects and traumatic memories of early childhood,
  • perception of bodily limits.

As these children had several other treatments as well, it cannot be proved that the positive effects observed in this study are related specifically to shiatsu practice. Shiatsu may participate and facilitate the effects of other treatments. It is noteworthy that most of the children came willingly to the shiatsu sessions, ask their parents to repeat the shiatsu sessions at home, and indicate to the practitioner, from one session to the next, their elective body points where they wish to receive the application of shiatsu.

The authors concluded that the findings suggest therapeutic benefits of shiatsu, especially on externalize violence with a relief of aggressive behavior directed against others or self (knowing, moreover, that internal tension, sleep disorders and non-verbalization of affects or traumatic memories, all improved by shiatsu, are also all risk factors for externalize violence). These results highlight, therefore, the need to develop a daily practice of shiatsu in child and adolescent psychiatry. Further research is required to clarify the effects of shiatsu and ascertain better its underlying mechanisms based on this exploratory pilot study.

I do appreciate that, with a treatment that has not been submitted to many controlled clinical trials, researchers feel that they have to start from scratch, e.g. simple observations. However, they also must realize that their observations do not lend themselves to firm conclusions about the effects of the treatment. In the present case, the researchers do seem to be aware of this caveat but nevertheless make statements that go way beyond of what is warranted:

  • the results show that shiatsu has positive effects on …
  • Shiatsu may participate and facilitate the effects of other treatments
  • the findings suggest therapeutic benefits of shiatsu, especially on externalize violence
  • These results highlight, therefore, the need to develop a daily practice of shiatsu in child and adolescent psychiatry

I fear that these statements are not merely exaggerated but suspect they are also untrue. Testing them in properly controlled clinical trials would show whether my suspicion is correct. Meanwhile, I would like to remind

  • researchers,
  • reviewers,
  • and journal editors

of their duty to be truthful and not mislead the public.

 

I was fascinated to find a chiropractor who proudly listed ‘the most common conditions chiropractors help kids with‘:

  • Vision problems
  • Skin conditions
  • Bedwetting
  • Sinus problems
  • ADD/ADHD
  • Stomachaches
  • Asthma
  • Allergies
  • Loss of hearing
  • Ear Infections
  • Hip, leg, or foot pain
  • Constipation
  • Poor coordination
  • Breastfeeding difficulties
  • Arm, hand, or shoulder pain
  • Anxiety and nervousness
  • Colic
  • Scoliosis
The list is so impressive that I felt compelled to read on:

The birth process, even under normal conditions, is frequently the first cause of spinal stress. After the head of the child appears, the physician grabs the baby’s head and twists it around in a figure eight motion, lifting it up to receive the lower shoulder and then down to receive the upper shoulder. This creates significant stress on the spine of the baby.

“Spinal cord and brain stem traumas often occur during the process of birth but frequently escape diagnosis. Infants often experience lasting neurological defects. Spinal trauma at birth is essentially attributed to longitudinal traction, especially when this force is combined with flexion and torsion of the spinal axis during delivery.” ~Abraham Towbin, MD

Growth patterns suggest the potential for neurological disorders is most critical from birth to two years of age, as this time is the most dynamic and important phase of postnatal brain development. Over sixty percent of all neurological development occurs after birth in the child’s first year of life. This is why it is so important to bring your child to a local pediatric chiropractor to have them checked and for your child to get a chiropractic adjustment during the first year of their life. Lee Hadley MD states “Subluxation alone is a rational reason for Pediatric Chiropractic care throughout a lifetime from birth.”

As our children continue to grow, the daily stresses can have a negative impact on an ever growing body. During the first few years of life, an infant often falls while learning to walk or can fall while tumbling off a bed or other piece of furniture. Even the seemingly innocent act of playfully tossing babies up in the air and catching them often results in a whiplash-like trauma to the spine, making it essential to get your baby checked by a pediatric chiropractor every stage of his/her development as minor injuries can present as major health concerns down the road if gone uncorrected.

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On the Internet, similar texts can be found by the hundreds. I am sure that many new parents are sufficiently impressed by them to take their kids to a chiropractor. I have yet to hear of a single case where the chiropractor then checked out the child and concluded: “there is nothing wrong; your baby does not need any therapy.” Chiropractors always find something – not something truly pathological, but something to mislead the parent and to earn some money.

Often the treatment that follows turns out to be a prolonged and thus expensive series of sessions that almost invariably involve manipulating the infant’s fragile and developing spine. There is no compelling evidence that this approach is effective for anything. In addition, there is evidence that it can do harm, sometimes even serious harm.

And that’s the reason why I have mentioned this topic before and intend to continue doing so in the future:

  • There is hardly a good reason for adults to consult a chiropractor.
  • There is no reason to take a child to a chiropractor.
  • There are good reasons for chiropractors to stop treating children.

But let’s be a bit more specific. Let’s deal with the above list of indications on the basis of the reliable evidence:

I rest my case.

 

This study aimed to evaluate the number of craniosacral therapy sessions that can be helpful to obtain a resolution of the symptoms of infantile colic and to observe if there are any differences in the evolution obtained by the groups that received a different number of Craniosacral Therapy sessions at 24 days of treatment, compared with the control group which did not received any treatment.

Fifty-eight infants with colic were randomized into two groups:

  • 29 babies in the control group received no treatment;
  • babies in the experimental group received 1-3 sessions of craniosacral therapy (CST) until symptoms were resolved.

Evaluations were performed until day 24 of the study. Crying hours served as the primary outcome measure. The secondary outcome measures were the hours of sleep and the severity, measured by an Infantile Colic Severity Questionnaire (ICSQ).

Statistically significant differences were observed in favor of the experimental group compared to the control group on day 24 in all outcome measures:

  • crying hours (mean difference = 2.94, at 95 %CI = 2.30-3.58; p < 0.001);
  • hours of sleep (mean difference = 2.80; at 95 %CI = – 3.85 to – 1.73; p < 0.001);
  • colic severity (mean difference = 17.24; at 95 %CI = 14.42-20.05; p < 0.001).

Also, the differences between the groups ≤ 2 CST sessions (n = 19), 3 CST sessions (n = 10), and control (n = 25) were statistically significant on day 24 of the treatment for crying, sleep and colic severity outcomes (p < 0.001).

The authors concluded that babies with infantile colic may obtain a complete resolution of symptoms on day 24 by receiving 2 or 3 CST sessions compared to the control group, which did not receive any treatment.

Why do SCAM researchers so often have no problem leaving the control group of patients in clinical trials without any treatment at all, while shying away from administering a placebo? Is it because they enjoy being the laughingstock of the science community? Probably not.

I suspect the reason might be that often they know that their treatments are placebos and that their trials would otherwise generate negative findings. Whatever the reasons, this new study demonstrates three things many of us already knew:

  1. Colic in babies always resolves on its own but can be helped by a placebo response (e.g. via the non-blinded parents), by holding the infant, and by paying attention to the child.
  2. Flawed trials lend themselves to drawing the wrong conclusions.
  3. Craniosacral therapy is not biologically plausible and most likely not effective beyond placebo.

One of the numerous conditions chiropractors, osteopaths, and other manual therapists claim to treat effectively is tension-type headache (TTH). For this purpose, they (in particular, chiropractors) often use high-velocity, low-amplitude manipulations of the neck. They do so despite the fact that the evidence for these techniques is less than convincing.

This systematic review evaluated the evidence about the effectiveness of manual therapy (MT) on pain intensity, frequency, and impact of pain in individuals with tension-type headache (TTH).

Medline, Embase, Scopus, Web of Science, CENTRAL, and PEDro were searched in June 2020. Randomized clinical trials that applied MT not associated with other interventions for TTH were selected. The level of evidence was synthesized using GRADE, and Standardized Mean Differences (SMD) were calculated for meta-analysis.

Fifteen studies were included with a total sample of 1131 individuals. The analyses show that high-velocity, low-amplitude techniques were not superior to no treatment in reducing pain intensity (SMD = 0.01, low evidence) and frequency (SMD = -0.27, moderate evidence). Soft tissue interventions were superior to no treatment in reducing pain intensity (SMD = -0.86, low evidence) and frequency of pain (SMD = -1.45, low evidence). Dry needling was superior to no treatment in reducing pain intensity (SMD = -5.16, moderate evidence) and frequency (SMD = -2.14, moderate evidence). Soft tissue interventions were not superior to no treatment and other treatments on the impact of headache.

The authors concluded that manual therapy may have positive effects on pain intensity and frequency, but more studies are necessary to strengthen the evidence of the effects of manual therapy on subjects with tension-type headache. Implications for rehabilitation soft tissue interventions and dry needling can be used to improve pain intensity and frequency in patients with tension type headache. High velocity and low amplitude thrust manipulations were not effective for improving pain intensity and frequency in patients with tension type headache. Manual therapy was not effective for improving the impact of headache in patients with tension type headache.

So, this review shows that:

  • soft tissue interventions are better than no treatment,
  • dry needling is better than no treatment.

These two results fail to impress me. Due to a placebo effect, almost any treatment should be better than no therapy at all.

ALMOST, because high-velocity, low-amplitude techniques were not superior to no treatment in reducing the intensity and frequency of pain. This, I feel, is an important finding that needs an explanation.

As it is only logical that high-velocity, low-amplitude techniques must also produce a positive placebo effect, the finding can only mean that these manipulations also generate a negative effect that is strong enough to cancel the positive response to placebo. (In addition, they can also cause severe complications via arterial dissections, as discussed often on this blog.)

Too complicated?

Perhaps; let me, therefore, put it simply and use the blunt words of a neurologist who once was quoted saying this:

DON’T LET THE BUGGARS TOUCH YOUR NECK!

 

The authors of this article searched 37 online sources, as well as print libraries, for homeopathy (HOM) and related terms in eight languages (1980 to March 2021). They included studies that compared a homeopathic medicine or intervention with a control regarding the therapeutic or preventive outcome of a disease (classified according to International Classification of Diseases-10). Subsequently, the data were extracted independently by two reviewers and analyzed descriptively.

A total of 636 investigations met the inclusion criteria, of which 541 had a therapeutic and 95 a preventive purpose. Seventy-three percent were randomized controlled trials (n = 463), whereas the rest were non-randomized studies (n = 173). The most frequently employed comparator was placebo (n = 400).

The type of homeopathic intervention was classified as:

  • multi-constituent or complex (n = 272),
  • classical or individualized (n = 176),
  • routine or clinical (n = 161),
  • isopathic (n = 19),
  • various (n = 8).

The potencies ranged from 1X (dilution of -10,000) to 10 M (10010.000). The included studies explored the effect of HOM in 223 different medical indications. The authors also present the evidence in an online database.

The authors concluded that this bibliography maps the status quo of clinical research in HOM. The data will serve for future targeted reviews, which may focus on the most studied conditions and/or homeopathic medicines, clinical impact, and the risk of bias of the included studies.

There are still skeptics who claim that no evidence exists for homeopathy. This paper proves them wrong. The number of studies may seem sizable to homeopaths, but compared to most other so-called alternative medicines (SCAMs), it is low. And compared to any conventional field of healthcare, it is truly tiny.

There are also those who claim that no rigorous trials of homeopathy with a positive results have ever emerged. This assumption is also erroneous. There are several such studies, but this paper was not aimed at identifying them. Obviously, the more important question is this: what does the totality of the methodologically sound evidence show? It fails to convincingly demonstrate that homeopathy has effects beyond placebo.

The present review was unquestionably a lot of tedious work, but it does not address these latter questions. It was published by known believers in homeopathy and sponsored by the Tiedemann Foundation for Classical Homeopathy, the Homeopathy Foundation of the Association of Homeopathic Doctors (DZVhÄ), both in Germany, and the Foundation of Homeopathy Pierre Schmidt and the Förderverein komplementärmedizinische Forschung, both in Switzerland.

The dataset established by this article will now almost certainly be used for numerous further analyses. I hope that this work will not be left to enthusiasts of homeopathy who have often demonstrated to be blinded by their own biases and are thus no longer taken seriously outside the realm of homeopathy. It would be much more productive, I feel, if independent scientists could tackle this task.

The global interest in dieting has increased, and many people have become obsessed with certain fad diets, assuming they are magic bullets for their problems. A fad diet is a popular dietary pattern known to be a quick fix. This review article explores the current evidence related to the health impacts of (amongst others) detox diets (DDs). DDs are interventional diets specifically designed for toxins elimination, health promotion, and weight management. They involve multiple approaches, including total calorie restriction, dietary modification, or juice fasts, and often the use of additional minerals, vitamins, diuretics, laxatives, or ‘cleansing foods’. Some of the many DDs used today are listed below:

Diet type Duration Foods allowed Proposed claims
Liver cleansing diet 8 weeks Plant-based, dairy-free, low-fat, high-fiber, unprocessed foods are allowed. Epsom salt and liver tonics are also consumed. Improved energy levels and liver function Toxins removal Improved immune response Efficient metabolism of fats and better weight control
Lemon detox diet/Master cleanser 10 days A liquid-only diet based on purified water, lemon juice, tree syrup, and cayenne pepper. A mild laxative herbal tea and sea salt water is also incorporated. Toxins removal Shiny hair, glowing skin, and strong nails Weight loss
The clean cleanse 21 days Breakfast and dinner comprise probiotic capsules, cleanse supplements and cleanse shakes. A solid meal in lunch while avoiding gluten, dairy, corn, soy, pork, beef, refined sugars, some fruits, and vegetables. Toxins removal Improved energy, digestion, sleep, and mental health Reduction in joint pains, headaches, constipation, and bloating
Martha’s vineyard detox diet 21 days Herbal teas, vegetable soups and juices, specially formulated tablets, powders and digestive enzymes are on the menu. Weight loss Toxins removal Improved energy levels
Weekend wonder detox 48 h Protein-rich meals salads, detox-promoting superfoods, and beverages. Healthy lifestyle, spa treatments, and herbal remedies. Toxins removal Improved organ function Strengthen body Enhance beauty
Fat flush 2 weeks Large meals are replaced with dilute cranberries, hot water with lemon, pre-prepared cocktails, supplements, and small meals Toxins removal Reduced stress Weight loss Improved liver function
Blueprint cleanse 3 days Consumption of six pre-prepared vegetable and fruit juices is allowed per day. Toxins removal
The Hubbard purification rundown Several weeks Niacin doses along with sustained consumption of vitamin-A, B, C, D, and E. Daily exercise with balanced meals. Restriction of alcohol and drugs. Sitting in a sauna for ≤ 5 h each day. Toxins removal from fat stores Improved memory and intelligence quotient Better blood pressure and cholesterol levels

Currently, there is no good clinical evidence for the effectiveness of DDs and some evidence to suggest they might do harm. Many of the DD are liquid-based, low-calorie, and nutrient-poor. For example, a part of BluePrint Cleanse, Excavation Cleanse, provides only 19 g protein and 860 kcal/day which is far below the actual requirement. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) recommends a minimum of 0.83 g/kg body weight of high-quality protein and 1,680 kcal/day for an adult. DDs may also induce stress, raise cortisol levels, and increase appetite, resulting in binge eating and weight gain.

As no convincing positive evidence exists for DDs and detox products, their use needs to be discouraged by health professionals. Moreover, regulatory review and adequate safety monitoring should be considered.

In this paper, a team of US researchers mined opinions on homeopathy for COVID-19 expressed on Twitter. Their investigation was conducted with a dataset of nearly 60K tweets collected during a seven-month period ending in July 2020. The researchers first built text classifiers (linear and neural models) to mine opinions on homeopathy (positive, negative, neutral) from tweets using a dataset of 2400 hand-labeled tweets obtaining an average macro F-score of 81.5% for the positive and negative classes. The researchers applied this model to identify opinions from the full dataset.

The results show that the number of unique positive tweets is twice that of the number of unique negative tweets; but when including retweets, there are 23% more negative tweets overall indicating that negative tweets are getting more retweets and better traction on Twitter. Using a word shift graph analysis on the Twitter bios of authors of positive and negative tweets, the researchers observed that opinions on homeopathy appear to be correlated with political/religious ideologies of the authors (e.g., liberal vs nationalist, atheist vs Hindu).

The authors drew the following conclusions: to our knowledge, this is the first study to analyze public opinions on homeopathy on any social media platform. Our results surface a tricky landscape for public health agencies as they promote evidence-based therapies and preventative measures for COVID-19.

I am not clear on how to interpret this study. What does it show and why is it important? The authors state this:

… our study cannot lead to meaningful conclusions about homeopathy’s overall online landscape. We also enforced the English language constraint while analyzing the tweets which excludes the views and opinions of all the non-English speaking users, who constitute an overwhelming majority of the world’s population. However, our effort is a first step in the direction of examining the support for alternative medicines especially for homeopathy which has not been studied in the past. At least on Twitter, our findings indicate that negative opinions are gaining more traction in the context of COVID-19.

Opinions expressed on Twitter are influenced by an array of entirely different factors many of which are unpredictable or even unknown. Therefore, I am unsure what to make of these findings. Perhaps some of my readers have an idea?

Guest post by Norbert Aust and Viktor Weisshäupl

Readers of this blog may remember the recent study of Frass et al. about the adjunct homeopathic treatment of patients suffering from non-small cell lung cancer (here). It was published in 2020 by the ‘Oncologist’, a respectable journal, and came to stunning results about to the effectiveness of homeopathy.

In our analysis, however, we found strong indications for duplicity: important study parameters like exclusion criteria or observation time were modified post hoc, and data showed characteristics that occur when unwanted data sets get removed.

We, that is the German Informationsnetzwerk Homöopathie and the Austrian ‘Initiative für wissenschaftliche Medizin’, had informed the Medical University Vienna about our findings – and the research director then asked the Austrian Agency for Scientific Integrity (OeAWI) to review the paper. The analysis took some time and included not only the paper and publicly available information but also the original data. In the end, OeAWI corroborated our findings: The results are not based on sound research but on modified or falsified data.

Here is their conclusion in full:

The committee concludes that there are numerous breaches of scientific integrity in the Study, as reported in the Publication. Several of the results can only be explained by data manipulation or falsification. The Publication is not a fair representation of the Study. The committee cannot for all the findings attribute the wrongdoings and incorrect representation to a single individual. However following our experience it is highly unlikely that the principal investigator and lead author, but also the co-authors were unaware of the discrepancies between the protocols and the Publication, for which they bear responsibility. (original English wording)

Profil, the leading news magazine of Austria reported in its issue of October 24, 2022, pp 58-61 (in German). There the lead author, Prof. M. Frass, a member of Edzard’s alternative medicine hall of fame, was asked for his comments. Here is his concluding statement:

All the allegations are known to us and completely incomprehensible, we can refute all of them. Our work was performed observing all scientific standards. The allegation of breaching scientific integrity is completely unwarranted. To us, it is evident that not all documents were included in the analysis of our study. Therefore we requested insight into the records to learn about the basis for the final statement.

(Die Vorwürfe sind uns alle bekannt und absolut unverständlich, alle können wir entkräften. Unsere Arbeit wurde unter Einhaltung aller wissenschaftlichen Standards durchgeführt. Der Vorhalt von Verstößen gegen die wissenschaftliche Intergrität enbehrt jeder Grundlage. Für uns zeigt sich offenkundig, dass bei der Begutachtung unserer Studie nicht alle Unterlagen miteinbezogen wurden. Aus diesem Grunde haben wir um Akteneinsicht gebeten, um die Grundlagen für das Final Statment kennenzulernen.)

The OeAWI together with the Medical University Vienna asked the ‘Oncologist’ for a retraction of this paper – which has not occurred as yet.

I almost missed an article that Swiss Hugo Stamm (no, I don’t know him) has written about me. It is not entirely accurate but made me giggle quite a lot. Here are some passages that I translated for you:

… [Charles] wanted to obtain scientific evidence for the efficacy of homeopathy. It was therefore no surprise that Queen Elisabeth’s homeopath also sat on the appointment committee. The choice fell in 1993 on the German physician and scientist Edzard Ernst, who until then had taught and researched at the University of Vienna. The royal expectations were clear: Ernst was to produce the desired results.

But the professor was not prepared … to fulfill the royal expectations blindly. He first wanted to conduct research according to scientific standards and examine the available studies on homeopathy. In the process, doubts soon surfaced in his mind about alternative medicine. When he then set up randomized, placebo-controlled double-blind studies, he saw himself confirmed: The results were devastating and in some cases did not even reach the values of placebo effects.

Ernst felt obliged to his scientific conscience and published his studies against the will of his “client”. Charles was appalled and instructed his personal secretary to intervene. The latter wrote to the university administration that Professor Ernst had violated the agreed confidentiality. The university buckled after the royal scolding and opened disciplinary proceedings against the rebellious professor. The commission cleared him of all charges in 2010, but his department was closed.

“I was researching alternative medicine with my team; Charles, on the other hand, did not want to question it, but to propagate it. As I found more and more evidence that many alternative medicine procedures were not effective and sometimes even dangerous, tensions between me and Charles increased.” Edzard Ernst

Ernst did not allow himself to be muzzled by the prince and current king and, in 2022, published his book “Charles, the Alternative Prince”… In an interview with the Standard, Ernst said: “For as long as homeopathy has existed, the British royal family has been among the homeopathy advocates. However, Charles has not only promoted homeopathy, but also many other alternative medical procedures. What is striking about this is that he always picks out only the most bizarre and implausible ones and leaves aside those that are rudimentarily evidence-based. This may be because he always prefers the mystical and anti-scientific. Even as a young man, he was led down this path by Laurens van der Post, a South African-born esotericist and self-proclaimed guru.”

… For better understanding, it should be added that homeopathy grossly violates four basic scientific findings. It does not take an education in chemistry or medicine to recognize this.

  • Mistake number 1: Cure like with like. Example: Someone who has lead poisoning is given globules made from lead in a diluted form. So, according to homeopathy, lead cures blood contaminated with lead.
  • Mistake number 2: Dilution. The tinctures are diluted to such an extent that they contain only a few to no molecules of the alleged active substance. Nevertheless, a healing effect is attributed to them.
  • Error number 3: Potentiation: The stronger the dilution, the greater the effect. If a globule still contains many molecules of the active substance, it has less effect than if it contains no molecules at all.
  • Misconception number 4: Water absorbs information: By shaking the diluted liquid, information of the active substance supposedly jumps over to the water. This theory also contradicts all scientific findings. If water were to absorb such information, it would be so poisoned that we would no longer be able to drink it.
    What probably few consumers of homeopathic remedies know: Globuli are made from countless substances. For example, from whale droppings, stomped ants, highly poisonous black belladonna or from the poison atropine.

But back to Charles: A prince has become a king overnight. But his attitude towards complementary medicine will not change. As a king, he certainly cannot admit to having been wrong all his life. Even if the scientific facts are clear.

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In case you are interested in a full account of this story, you might try my memoir.

 

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