OpEd: Hey, Whole Foods: Stop Selling Snake Oil

Take two drops of histaminum, mix them in Lake Tahoe, then drink. Don't you feel better?
By Paul SanGiorgio

Another day, another mild headache from the incessant humming of the fluorescent lights in the office. Fortunately, there’s a Whole Foods on your way home from work. Aspirin can upset your stomach, so you decide to choose a gentler natural or maybe herbal remedy for your pain. No harm in that. After all, some of these products have been used for centuries so they’re probably effective and almost certainly harmless. Conveniently located at the checkout counter, there are boxes with the words “Homeopathic Headache Remedy” and some pictures of plants on them. It’s probably what your great grandmother would have taken, just gussied up a bit and put in a box, right?

Wrong. What you’ve actually bought is a box of sugar pills with absolutely nothing herbal or natural in it whatsoever. It is not a safer or more natural alternative to modern pharmacology, except to the extent that sugar is both safe and natural. Your headache will disappear eventually, but certainly not due to the contents of the box.

How can this happen? Why does Whole Food sell sugar pills? As an allegedly responsible company concerned with their customers and the planet, why would they possibly be involved in such a fraud?

Homeopathy is an anti-scientific fraud masquerading as natural medicine

Homeopathy is generally considered to be an “alternative medicine,” like herbal cures, traditional Chinese medicine, or vitamin supplements. As herbal and traditional medicines have generally been part of folk remedies for centuries, one naturally assumes that the same is true of homeopathy, but it is not. Homeopathy was invented whole cloth by Samuel Hahnemann, a German physician, at the end of the 18th century. It is not based on any previous medical tradition. Instead, it’s based on three basic principles Hahnemann came up with:

  • Like cures like. Substances that produce adverse outcomes in healthy people will cure those same conditions in unhealthy people.
  • Dilution increases potency. Solutions of the original substance are systematically diluted, with each dilution increasing the effectiveness of the cure.
  • Succussion. At each stage of dilution, the mixture is “succused” – i.e. shaken – by a patented shaking machine.

The first principle may sound scientific since it’s sort of how vaccines work. But, the difference between introducing a small amount of a virus to your immune system and ingesting a small amount of a random harmful substance is actually quite big. For example, one homeopathic remedy for indigestion with nausea is made from antimony. Antimony is a highly toxic metal that causes vomiting if ingested. The homeopathic argument is that by diluting the antimony, it will therefore cure vomiting. But, what about all the other things that cause vomiting? Could I just as easily make a dilution of toxic brake fluid and use that to cure nausea? According to Hahnemann’s principles, why not?

The second principle – the idea that a homeopathic remedy becomes more effective the more it is diluted – is almost too much to believe. In fact, most homeopathic remedies sold (such as the above-mentioned antimony cure) are diluted so much that there is not even a single molecule of the original compound remaining. Think of that: the “antimony” pills that you might buy to cure nausea are virtually guaranteed not to contain any antimony. Literally everything that we know about physics, chemistry, biology, and science in general tells us that this idea is nonsense. Homeopathic believers will argue that the water in which the chemical is diluted retains a “memory” of the original chemical and that this memory becomes stronger with successive dilutions, hence the effect. It goes without saying that this effect has never been observed by any scientist in any reputable experiment, yet even if water memory were true, why on earth would it become stronger with further dilutions?

As for the principle of succussion, well, it is hard to take seriously. Remedies are systematically shaken in things called potentizers and without this vitally important and silly step, all potency would be lost. Here’s a video showing how a homeopathic remedy is shaken, not stirred:

Presumably, when people hear about these principles, they must assume that there is a great deal of evidence behind them, as no one would believe something this utterly bizarre if there weren’t.

The proof is not in the pudding

There have been many experiments, studies, reviews, meta-analyses, reviews of reviews, and comparative studies done on the efficacy of homeopathy. A recent review from The Lancet concluded that, “the clinical effects of homoeopathy are placebo effects.” A scientific study committee reporting to the British Parliament found that, “the evidence base shows that homeopathy is not efficacious” and that “further clinical trials of homeopathy could not be justified.” Virtually every other large scale scientific study has reached the same conclusion: homeopathy is no more effective than a placebo, which is to say, no better than any other sugar pill.

So why does Whole Foods sell snake oil?

Homeopathy does not come from traditional medicine and should definitely not be confused with herbal medicine, although both are commonly referred to as “alternative medicine.” It is not based on any plausible scientific theory. It has not been proven to be effective at anything. And yet, it is readily available for sale in many upscale grocery stores and pharmacies such as Whole Foods and Pharmaca. Why do they do this?

When confronted by Big Picture Science about their decision to sell homeopathic products, Whole Foods responded that, “because homeopathic remedies are safe and believed to by many to be effective, we will continue to carry them in our stores.” In other words, as long as homeopathic remedies are effective in separating people from their money, they will continue to be sold. Despite the overwhelming preponderance of evidence, Whole Foods cherry picks the record to suggest that there is “disagreement in the scientific community” regarding homeopathy and that, of course, “there is a clear need for further research in this area.” Where have we heard that before?

You’d think that a company that claims to be in favor of environmental protection and customer health might also try to avoid fleecing consumers. Perhaps I’m too optimistic.

Paul SanGiorgio is a physicist currently living in Berkeley, California, who loves fresh organic produce as much as the next guy, but wishes that he didn’t have to implicitly support pseudo-science every time he bought avocados.

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35 responses

  1. I have mixed feelings about this. First, make sure people are not confusing “herbal remedies” with Homeopathy. As you mention, the term “homeopathy” is very specific – but many people actually think it’s just another word for “natural” or “alternative medicine”.

    Second, even though homeopathy (and many herbal remedies for that matter) are pure placebo, there is scientific evidence that a happier emotional state will actually help cure many ailments and lead to a healthier disposition in people over all. And if placebos make people happier then what’s the problem? Maybe I’m being too generous :-)

    1. My issue is the price- If these sugar pills were cheaper, I’d be more inclined to agree with you. But these sell for prices that rival real medicine. Uninformed consumers can _easily_ gouge themselves thinking they are taking a remedy that might actually make a difference.

  2. I’m an analytical kind of guy. I also regularly eff up the Meyer’s Briggs and other type tests. I’m a thinker, but my thoughts are based on my gut “feelings” about things. Intellectually I do not think that homeopathic remedies will help me, but in my gut, they feel right.

    I will say that I have had nothing but good results with homeopathy, personally. It greatly aided in my recovery from some issues that an onslaught of modern medicines failed to touch.

    …and I did not expect it to.

    That said, I’m with you Nick. I think people need to better understand what homeopathy is. Just because they use the term “remedy” doesn’t equate it with an “herbal remedy”, et all.

    1. I second Jeffrey’s position. Having been brought back from a major life threatening illness and using it for my primary, sole health support, I can attest to its effectiveness, numerous times with me.

      Perhaps for those that haven’t found results when they’ve used it, such as the casual purchaser at Whole Foods, I can see them having a bad experience. Without the trained knowledge and recommendations of a Homeopath, it’s highly likely they’d choose the wrong remedy. That, coupled with the fact that a host of foods can antidote a remedies effects. Mint, alcohol, hemp, turmeric and all manner of common things people eat or consume can cause the potential effects to be zeroed out.

      1. I’m very happy to hear you’re alive Paul. I’ve got to say I find it surprising that after reading the evidence in the article above you’re not willing to even consider the fact that something besides homeopathy ( time, or a move, or a life change) had some impact on your cure. The placebo effect actually has science behind it.

  3. Thank you for distinguishing between homeopathy and herbal medicine and Chinese medicine. Japan and China together spend about a billion dollars a year researching herbal medicines and acupuncture based treatments.

    Unfortunately, some herbal remedies are snake oil, too. There is not way to tell the difference between a remedy that is the result of modern science, a traditional remedy that works but is less effective, and a traditional remedy that has been found to be ineffective and/or dangerous.

  4. The healthiest mind is an open one. Homeopathic remedies cost about $8. Do an empirical piece of research on your self.
    Check out customer reviews for Oscillicoccinum (a homeopathic flu remedy) on Amazon. Lots of very positive feedback.
    Be sure to match your symptoms carefully to the best matching remedy.
    Be well.

  5. With all due respect to Paul SanGiorgio, his assessment of the scientific literature with regard to homeopathy is inaccurate and misleading and represents a terribly superficial review of the body of literature that exists. Things are not as black and white as he would have us believe. While there are negative studies of homeopathy, there are also positive trials of homeopathy, including well-designed trials. There is even a relatively large body of data from the field of materials science, completely unrelated to homeopathy, investigating the properties of ultra-diluted solutions. This data strongly suggests that ultra-diluted solutions, the type ridiculed by Mr. SanGiorgio in his op-ed, are biologically active. Counter-intuitive, yes, anti-scientific, no. Millions of people world-wide utilize homeopathy and not all are so easily duped or separated from their money, as Mr. SanGiorgio asserts. If he is not inclined to try homeopathy, he is certainly entitled to his opinion. In the meantime, I encourage him to continue to enjoy his fresh organic produce and not worry so much about what the rest of us choose to do when it comes to our health. As for Jen Boyton’s comment about cost, I am only puzzled. Hyland’s homeopathic headache remedy costs $10, not even in the same cost universe as “real medicine.”

    1. You can by a lot of Advil for $10!

      I’d be curious to see links to these studies. Everything I’ve seen suggests homeopathy is pure placebo. Which doesn’t mean it’s a fraud, per-se, but it also implies little magic sugar pills could do the same thing if administered with the right hocus pocus :-)

      Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for positive attitude and I think it really can help cure many illnesses, but having your friends get you to do a song and dance and run around in the fresh air might work just as well if you set your mind to the right tune!

    2. I’m sorry to disagree, but I actually do have quite a bit of knowledge about material science. I can assure you that no reputable university or lab in the world takes ultra-diluted solutions seriously and the idea that they would be biologically active is ridiculous. Yes, I am aware of the work of Benveniste and, no, it is not serious.

      If Benveniste’s work on “water memory” were correct, why hasn’t it been replicated? The apparatus is cheap, it doesn’t require expensive materials, and anyone can do it. If it were true, it would completely overturn every thing that we know about physics, chemistry, and biology in general. Someone who could successfully demonstrate this effect in a controlled setting would not only win a Nobel Prize but would have made a breakthrough unheard of since Newton. I guess it must be that most scientists just aren’t interested in Nobel Prizes or being the next Newton. Must be all that big pharma money we all swim in.

      And, as for the price, $10 should get you at least 20 lbs of sugar, not the ounce you get in a homeopathic vial.

  6. Regardless of actual effectiveness, these products don’t appear to be hurting anyone. Why then should you expect Whole Foods (a heart, an organic grocer) to form an independent, scientific opinion on the efficacy of homeopathic products?

    If we can agree that a fool and his money are soon parted, we can also agree that Whole Foods is not the cause of the problem, nor are they the solution.

    And as for your avocado purchases supporting homeopathic remedies…based on a back of the napkin profit margin analysis, I strongly suspect it is actually the other way around: Without sales of homeopathic products, that avocado would be even more expensive than it already is…

    1. I think it would be a bit unreasonable for Whole Foods to commission a scientific research subdivision, but on the other hand, I don’t think it would be asking to much for someone there to read the Wikipedia entry on homeopathy and find that, “The collective weight of scientific evidence has found homeopathy to be no more effective than a placebo” and that, “Use of homeopathy may delay or replace effective medical treatment, worsening outcomes or exposing the patients to increased risk.”

      What if Whole Foods started selling assault rifles in the store? Should I just be quiet about that as I’m not in the market for weapons and their high profit margins keep avocados cheap?

      1. Re: Whole Foods + Wikipedia –> From Whole Food’s perspective, your logic is a slippery slope. To wit, the Wikipedia entry for Organic Food: “There is widespread belief that organic food is significantly safer for consumption than food grown conventionally, based mainly on anecdotal evidence and testimonials rather than scientific evidence…Reviews of the available body of scientific literature…have found neither to be significantly more safe than the other.”

        Following this logic, Whole Foods should probably stop selling marketing organic avocados as “better” than conventional produce. But, I firmly believe (irrationally, it seems) that there are health benefits associated with organic produce, so I don’t take offense to their marketing campaign.

        What I hope to convey is that it is the responsibility of the consumer to make consumption decisions that they believe will best serve their needs. If someone desires access to alternatives to Western healthcare practices (and I can think of several reasons this decision would be rational), why do you view it as the responsibility of Whole Foods to dissuade them from their choice?

        As for the assault rifles…are you suggesting that we protest all high-margin/dubious-benefit products on the shelves at Whole Foods? Vitamins? Spring water? VitaminWater?

        Whole Foods is not perfect, but I think the values it operates by represent a sensible, ethical way to conduct business in the 21st century. And the fundamental rule of consumption has been true since Roman times…Caveat emptor!

        1. I agree with most of what you say, but I guess the point of my writing is not to shame Whole Foods into changing their behavior through the powers of logic and Wikipedia, but rather to inform the readership of 3p that: there is a difference between herbal medicine and homeopathy; homeopathy is totally unscientific and not at all what people might assume it to be; and that maybe they should consider supporting stores that are more reality-based.

          As for the values that Whole Foods operates by, well, that’s a completely different can of worms. They are rabidly anti-union and their CEO is a major global warming denier and actively fights against healthcare reform. They project a very progressive, conscientious facade, but it is hard to see them as an ally of any socially responsible movement.

          To be fair, though, they have done a lot of good work for animal welfare. Nothing is all bad or all good in this world.

  7. How handy that the remedies require specific shaking. Otherwise plain old tap water would be a cure-all, if it retained the memories of all the substances ever swirled around in it.

  8. Brian wrote, “Regardless of actual effectiveness, these products don’t appear to be hurting anyone.”

    Given that homeopathic remedies are just sugar pills, it is undoubtedly the case that taking them will not hurt anyone and in placebo-responsive conditions they may help those who don’t know they are sugar pills.

    But there have been a number of tragic deaths caused by people placing their faith in homeopathy, when they should have been getting real treatment. They include babies like Cameron Ayres and Gloria Thomas, who had no choice in their treatment and were effectively condemned to death by their parents.

    Google Penelope Dingle (or see youtube) for details of the horrific case of a woman who died a slow, agonising and needless death from cancer because she put her faith in homeopathy and rejected the proper treatment that could have saved her life. She even refused painkillers in case they ‘interfered with homeopathy’ and, tragically, realised too late that she’d sacrificed her life because of her misplaced faith.

    Janeza Podgoršek relied on homeopathy to protect him against malaria and, when he caught malaria, he relied on homeopathy to cure him. He died. (There are other examples on the What’s the harm? website).

    Why did they believe so passionately in homeopathy? Presumably for the same reason given by commenters above – they believed that it had worked for them in the past. As Whole Foods says, they are “believed by many to be effective”.

    The problem with promoting a pre-science cult therapy as an alternative ‘medicine’ is that sometimes people take you seriously. They attribute their recovery to homepathy even though the remedies contain no active ingredients, even though they are scientifically implausible and even though the totality of evidence available to us demonstrate that don’t work.

    (As for any herbal remedies on sale directly to the public in any retail outlet, I’d put money on them being just as ineffective as the homeopathy but for different reasons.)

  9. Sustainability circles tend to be infested with this particular set of irrationality. It is good to see Triple P at least talking about it.

    Tim Minchin said it best here:


    “Do you know what they call alternative medicine that’s been proved to work?


    “It’s a miracle…Take Physics and bin it. Water has memory and whilst its memory of a long lost drop of onion juice seems infinite, it somehow forgets all the poo its had in it.

  10. If those flourescent lights are humming then there is something wrong. Get in touch and lets remove the source of the headache and you wont have to worry about the symptom anymore.

  11. The article is wrong on all counts. Aspirin was used for quite some time without knowing how it worked – was it snakeoil?? Should it have been banned??

    Another wrong headed idea – that a flawed article in the journal Lancet by Shang et al which based it analyses, on 110 trials, but, after reading the article we find that its CONCLUSION is based on a grand total of eight (8 !!) trials – a sweeping conclusion that Homeopathy = placebo. Clever. Acknowledges the curative effect but then tries to write it off as “placebo”.

    Another wrongly criticized idea – the utterly “preposterous” idea that a substance can have stronger effects in higher and higher dilutions leaving less and less of it present. Yet, hormesis in Toxicology tells exactly that, that for certain situations the dose-response curve gets inverted – genuine science as real as can be.

    OK, sure enough, some of those homeopathic remedies, many of them, have all the molecules of the curative substance diluted away. Is there any experiments claiming that such high dilutions could still have biological effects? There is, several, such as the one by M. Ennis (Inflammation Research Vol 53, pg 181), repeated in International labs, mostly with the same results and it remains unexplained. It was not, however, repeated in the widely mentioned BBC documentary which changed the chemicals used and which was never published in any scientific journal.

    What does that leave? The “amazing” Randi and his challenge or shall we leave the issue of homeopathy working and its possible mechanisms to real scientists doing real scientific research before writing it all off based on somebody’s presumptions, high school chemistry, and inability to look up other Lancet published analyses which came to exactly the opposite conclusion to the one cited? Which shall it be?

    1. The Lancet study is one of several meta analyses which have been done over the last 150 years, all of which conclude that the effect of homeopathy is no stronger than a placebo. And, I’m not sure where you got the number “8” from, the Lancet study eventually winnowed down the 65 homeopathy studies to 19 “high quality” studies, and found that those were no better than placebo.

      The Ennis paper does in fact find that ultra-dilute histamine solutions might inhibit basophil activation, and in general represents one of the very, very few studies ever done which actually shows something happening and was done at reputable labs. I would note that it very distinctly does NOT confirm (in fact it quite clearly contradicts) the principle that the more dilute solutions are more powerful — the effect is roughly constant across all dilutions. So, if this is the greatest hope for “scientific” research into homeopathy and it actively contradicts one of the three basic principles, I would hardly call it a rousing success.

      Homeopathy has lots of believers. They will swear that it “works.” So do faith healers. And shamans. And psychic healers. And witch doctors. And acupuncturists. Etc. None of these people have ever made a single polio victim well, let alone eradicated the disease, yet they all have millions of followers who will swear that they are effective and will cure all of your hard to diagnose problems and mental issues if only you believe.

      1. Thanks for acknowledging the Ennis experiment, few skeptics are willing to do this and it improves your credence in my opinion. There are other experiments, for example one involving frog thyroid, and the common denominator is that, somehow, a substances with all the molecules of something dissolved away is still causing biological effects as though the missing molecules are still there. It is a RED FLAG for continued scientifc research and, yes, it does not prove Homeopathy or anything close to it, just an indicator.

        The Shang meta analysis? Should we pay much attention to an agglomeration of studies which somehow are supposed to be of more significance when considered together, in their various equivocations, than when considered individually? I’ll leave that to the theorists, but the criticisms and condemnations against the Shang study, including one published in the Journal of Epidemiology by Ludke, are damning.
        Two other things, you forgot to note that the supposed matching of trials was lost in the course of Shang’s mad disposal of some tests, arbitrarily, to get to his predetermined “conclusion” that homeopathy=placebo. Also, you stated “over the last 150 years, ALL of which conclude that the effect of homeopathy is no stronger than a placebo”… Please look again, right in Lancet in the early 1990’s I recall seeing several studies whose meta analysis concluded otherwise.

        True believer? Not a chance. I’m more skeptical than the skeptics. Homeopathy theories have more holes than Swiss cheese – but, alas for the skeptics, that has nothing to do with if it works or not and if it is more than placebo. The evidence is overwhelming that it is.
        What evidence? The same that is used by conventional medicine – the case reports, analyses and journal articles reporting real results on real patients for real diseases. You don’t think every time a medical procedure is done, the MD runs to check how many double blinded tests have been done, do you?

        The bottom line is that too many skeptics are falling right into the trap of SCIENTISM, the pseudo-intellectual cult of favor among armchair scientists, “professors of alternative medicine” book writers and would be amateurs passing themselves off as “science” writers and bloggers. “Scientism”, as characterized by chemist and homeopath Lionel Milgrom. As you are, apparently, one of the better “skeptics” I most strongly suggest you, and others, read Milgrom’s essay, “Beware Scientism’s Onward March” easily found on the web or at the link below, paying particular attention to the logical positivist foundations of this anti-intellectual cult and the cabal behind it. Be sure to pay particular attention to the criticisms of the double blinded placebo controlled as the sole “gold” standard and to the numerous evidentiary cites he makes regarding homeopathy.


  12. Homeopathy works. Just because science cannot prove how it works (although a recent nobel peace prize winner indicated we were close) doesn’t say anything about homeopathy but has a lot to say about the limitations of our science at this point. I use it all the time for colds flu minor injuries and more serious stuff. To say it is just sugar pills – well I will say it like Dr. Weill reportedly said to his students. If you don’t think there is anything in them take 30c belladonna for a week and then say there is nothing there. People who say it doesn’t work haven’t tried it.

    1. A recent Nobel peace prize winner? Well, I will wait with baited breath!

      Even if “science” could not explain how it works, you would think that it would be able to at least see that it is effective, no? “Science” just means looking at evidence in an unbiased and rational way. It means setting aside personal biases, experiences, and anecdotes and looking at the data without prejudice. If it “worked” than scientists would have seen this decades ago and it would be big news. If 1% of the claims of effectiveness of homeopathy were true, anyone who could prove this in a clinical experiment (which should be blindingly easy given how effective homeopathy claims to be) would be an instant Nobel prize winner. And not just the peace prize!

  13. Outstanding conversation. I agree that homeopathy is a placebo, but its popularity is directly proportional to legitimate problems with traditional medicine that both tacitly encourage “alternatives” and hurt public health.

    The current tendency of pharmaceutical companies and the mainstream healthcare providers is to shove drugs down the public’s throat with manipulative ad campaigns, fake illnesses (google “shift disorder syndrome”. you can now get a drug for it!), and most importantly little to no care for the patient as a systemic human being who also has emotional needs.

    This lack of systemic thinking and addressing of emotional needs drives many people away from mainstream healthcare and into all manner of alternatives. Whether such alternatives simply make people happy, healthier or actually “cure” diseases obviously depends on the disease and myriad personal circumstances. But when you’re treated like a number its no wonder desperate people search elsewhere.

    Mainstream medicine and science in general would do better for themselves to start thinking more holistically and addressing the reality of human and societal complexity. Doing so will win people back – and the snake oil will disappear on its own.

  14. I’ve used homeopathy for many years for serious health issues like chronic insomnia, acute issues like bronchitis, warts and poison ivy and injuries to skin and nerves. It has been so successful, so safe and so inexpensive (and also green) that I use it as my primary form of medicine.

    My friends and family have seen what it’s done for me and tried it themselves. They were as pleased as I am and told their friends.

    There are 100’s of high quality studies showing homeopathy achieves significant to substantial health benefits. They’ve been published in 82 respected, peer-reviewed national and international journals like Int. J. of Oncology, Cancer, Rheumatology, Archives of Emergency Medicine, Phlebology and Pediatrics.

    You can see some of them at:


    One recent study done at the respected M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, Texas U., shows that four homeopathics kill breast cancer cell lines.

    See: http://www.spandidos-publications.com/ijo/36/2/395

    It is the second study by M.D. Anderson to show that homeopathics kill cancer cells.

    For some of the science about homeopathy, see:


    Homeopathy is famous for its cures of chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes (see http://www.hpathy.com search “Dr. Bhatia diabetes”, “clinical cases”, “Ask the Doctor”)

    or just google “homeopathy cured cases”

  15. I have, in the past, loved Triple Pundit for its well-researched articles regarding sustainability. However, this article makes me want to unsubscribe permanently. There is plenty of research proving the efficacy of homeopathy, but that is not shown here. This article has nothing to do with sustainability. It is simply an outright attack on something the writer has done only surface level research about. And instead of agreeing to disagree and leave it at that, launches an attack against a retailer that does not agree with them. By launching this attack, the author has sided with the pharmaceuticals and current medical system to keep us from choosing our own methods of healthcare. If homeopathy was such a financial scheme, then why are their products so cheap compared to the financial scheme of pharmaceutical companies? And if nobody is being harmed by homeopathics, why fight against it. This is purely infuriating to me and I hope Triple Pundit will be more discerning with articles in the future.

  16. Like many other folks replying, I know from multiple, first-hand experiences that this is an not an uniformed article. Rather, the author who implicitely claims to have real knowledge by the way he substantiates the article, actually does the scientific method a great disservice. The author’s bias and typical “lets-kill-homeopathy” stance shows the 3P did not do their homework in peer reviewing the credentials of this author. Both 3P and the author should go to europe, spend some time in the multitude of medical clinics using what he likes to call Snake Oil, talk to the doctors, patients, and families to learn *objectively* first hand the *clinical* evidence for the efficiousness of these medications. Just because you and current science does not *yet* understand how these medications work, does not invalidate their real effect. You, like the Flat-Earthers of Yore, need to take off your blinders and look more carefully. Thank you. (PS One more like this one and I’m unsubscribing!)

  17. Placebo is a name given by people more interested in measurement than healing. This term tends to cover a huge area from a person’s attitude toward treatment to his/her belief in him/herself to spiritual aspects of healing. What the article above doesn’t mention is that the so-called placebo effect is a very, very powerful force for regaining health and balance. Is it not worth asking the question: how do we explain people reporting healing and scientific reports inability to find what makes the difference? Is it not possible that science hasn’t found a way of measuring the efficacy of homeopathy? How can you measure faith or love? Are they not also vital in healing?

    1. Indeed. But that doesn’t change the fact that it’s a placebo! It’s dishonest to sell a placebo as anything other than what it really is. People like to put their heads in the clouds and believe in magic – but ultimately that’s a destructive path to superstition.

      It is much wiser to recognize what you’ve said but still be smart enough to call a spade a spade :-)

  18. Another thing… think about other “placebos” like Psychics, Tarot Cards, Horoscopes and so on…

    All of that stuff is pretty silly and obviously unscientific, but it doesn’t mean it’s useless. A skilled “psychic” may actually be a person with fantastic emotional intelligence and intuition who can really help people work out their problems…even nonsense like astrology can be useful if it provokes people to think about thing in new and productive ways.

    I call it nonsense because I don’t personally need to take those metaphors literally and I’ve seen too many really dumb people get way too wrapped up in this stuff to the point where it’s obviously unhealthy.

    But even though I dismiss it literally doesn’t mean it can’t be part of the emotional dance (as long as people understand it’s all just metaphor!)

  19. It is interesting to me to read your column. I am a consistent user and advocate of Arnica, a homeopathic remedy, and have found it to be most useful in pain relief and faster healing. I will continue to advocate for it and am happy that places such as Whole Foods makes these available to me. The consumer decides what they want and it is the smart business option to provide the goods we use.

  20. I have to disagree with the comments above about “one more of these” and I’m ending my subscription. One more of these and I’m checking this site more often! While I do not advocate a lifestyle of pharmaceutical dependence, I find it difficult to ignore the massive contributions vaccines and antibiotics have made to modern society. To ignore the number of lives these advancements have made would be lunacy. However, if someone wants to self medicate with unregulated herbal remedies I have no complaints. I prefer my placebos in the form of M&M’s and Diet Coke.

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