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Herbalists and Homeopaths - Allies or intrinsically different?

Posted by eric_oh 6a (My Page) on
Sat, Apr 25, 09 at 0:32

Occasionally we see suggestions in this forum that homeopathy is a respectable branch of herbalism, and that homeopathic herbal remedies work for various conditions. Naturopaths are among those practitioners with a foot in both camps.

It may be surprising then, to hear that there are herbalists who object to being lumped in with what they feel is the pseudoscience of homeopathy.

"Herbal medicine is NOT homeopathy. Herbal medicine and the use of pure chemical constituents from plants still subscribe to dose-response pharmacology: that the biological response varies in direct proportion to the dose or concentration of the remedy. While some medicinal plants are used as a source for homeopathic treatments, the rationale for dosing in medicine vs. homeopathy are diammetrically opposed. Lumping together herbal medicine with homeopathy gives the former practice the same air of impossibility and detracts from the demonstrated benefits and future promise of using plants as a source of novel therapeutic molecules."

Does embracing the idea of homeopathic herbal medicines detract from herbalism's credibility and promise?


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Herbalists and Homeopaths - Allies or intrinsically differen

"Does embracing the idea of homeopathic herbal medicines detract from herbalism's credibility and promise?"

Possibly it would, in those that think simplisticly. Most of those people probably don't know what homeopathy is, though.

The "either or" mentality does keep many from seeing the full range of possibility.

I personally prefer to use herbs in a homeopathic way--just a few to stimulate a reaction. Taking massive amounts of material that has been inadequately studied is a bit more than I am prepared to do.

Herbalism will never go totally out of style, because one of the appeals is the feeling of self sufficiency in emergency or disaster situations. The feeling of safety may be a bit misplaced, but it is comforting.

The other attraction is the herbs themselves, and the unlimited new things that can be learned about them. Their histories are all interesting, and there is constantly new information coming out regarding their properties. There is the gardening interest, and also the connection with the esoteric through what is now called magical herbalism.

As far as using herbs as medicine, nothing can stop that--the companies will find their extractives and do their research. They can make good money on the ones needing special processes to segregate the useful principles, and those processes can be kept secret or patented...comfrey will be a great one for them, because it is a big, rough plant which returns reliably and produces a lot of biomass.

Herbalism's credibility and promise is not really an issue. It has already proven both through its regular contributions to modern medicine, and independent practitioners that continue to do research still have plants attributes left to discover. Modern medicine does not appear able to keep up with them.

Whether to utilize herbs or modern medicine as an individual can be a rigid lifestyle choice for some, but for others it is more a matter of preference or availability. Users range from those in developing countries with no other options to those who frequent health food stores and eat only organic foods.

When alchemy was abandoned for modern chemistry, aspects of
psychology were left behind until Carl Jung went back and took another look. That did not, you might notice, cause anyone to feel that chemistry had been invalidated.

Herbalism merits the same treatment.


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RE: Herbalists and Homeopaths - Allies or intrinsically differen

Do you know what specifically homeopathy is eibren? It is one very specific characteristic.


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RE: Herbalists and Homeopaths - Allies or intrinsically differen

I think there's misunderstanding among users of herbs as to how different herbalism and homeopathy are. Awhile back we had a poster going off about "allopathic" medicine being opposite to herbalism, not realizing that both traditional and modern evidence-based herbalism (as well as mainstream medicine) are "allopathy", the opposing belief system being homeopathy.

Both herbalists and physicians prescribe medications to counter diseases/symptoms, with the goal being to alleviate them by countering a harmful process with a substance(s) that blocks or otherwise works against that process. Homeopaths believe that vanishingly small amounts of a substance that mimics or causes the harmful effect diminish that effect in the human body.

"Hahnemann declared that diseases represent a disturbance in the body's ability to heal itself and that only a small stimulus is needed to begin the healing process. He also claimed that chronic diseases were manifestations of a suppressed itch (psora), a kind of miasma or evil spirit. At first he used small doses of accepted medications. But later he used enormous dilutions and theorized that the smaller the dose, the more powerful the effecta notion commonly referred to as the "law of infinitesimals." That, of course, is just the opposite of the dose-response relationship that pharmacologists have demonstrated...Homeopathic products are made from minerals, botanical substances, and several other sources. If the original substance is soluble, one part is diluted with either nine or ninety-nine parts of distilled water and/or alcohol and shaken vigorously (succussed); if insoluble, it is finely ground and pulverized in similar proportions with powdered lactose (milk sugar). One part of the diluted medicine is then further diluted, and the process is repeated until the desired concentration is reached. Dilutions of 1 to 10 are designated by the Roman numeral X (1X = 1/10, 3X = 1/1,000, 6X = 1/1,000,000). Similarly, dilutions of 1 to 100 are designated by the Roman numeral C (1C = 1/100, 3C = 1/1,000,000, and so on). Most remedies today range from 6X to 30X, but products of 30C or more are marketed.

A 30X dilution means that the original substance has been diluted 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 times...

Oscillococcinum, a 200C product "for the relief of colds and flu-like symptoms," involves "dilutions" that are even more far-fetched. Its "active ingredient" is prepared by incubating small amounts of a freshly killed duck's liver and heart for 40 days. The resultant solution is then filtered, freeze-dried, rehydrated, repeatedly diluted, and impregnated into sugar granules. If a single molecule of the duck's heart or liver were to survive the dilution, its concentration would be 1 in 100200. This huge number, which has 400 zeroes, is vastly greater than the estimated number of molecules in the universe (about one googol, which is a 1 followed by 100 zeroes). In its February 17, 1997, issue, U.S. News & World Report noted that only one duck per year is needed to manufacture the product, which had total sales of $20 million in 1996. The magazine dubbed that unlucky bird "the $20-million duck.""

What I asked about in the opening post was not whether herbalism is a valid field increasingly grounded in solid evidence-based practice - it is.
The question is whether its linkage to homeopathy in the minds of many herb users (and non-herb users) does harm to the image and reputation of herbalism.

I believe it does.

Here is a link that might be useful: Defining homeopathy


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RE: Herbalists and Homeopaths - Allies or intrinsically differen

>> ... not realizing that both traditional and modern evidence-based herbalism (as well as mainstream medicine) are "allopathy", the opposing belief system being homeopathy.

Your thinking reflects a false dichotomy. Some herbalists are allopathic, others are naturopathic, and there are various other schools of herbalism (ayurveda, Appalachian bush medicine, etc etc) that do not fit neatly into any of the categories of allopathy, naturopathy, or homeopathy. I believe that most western herbalism is closer to naturopathy, which is one reason that many allopaths bristle at the very idea of herbalism.


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RE: Herbalists and Homeopaths - Allies or intrinsically differen

There are some systems of medicine that may employ herbalism in part, but the typical traditional uses of herbs in our culture are indeed "allopathic" and not homeopathic.

If many "allopaths" (funny how this came to be a pejorative term for physicians) "bristle at the very idea of herbalism", it's because it's allied to some extent with quackery like homeopathy and espoused by people who are more interested in magical/spiritual influences than in evidence-based practice.
Acceptance of herbalism as complementary medicine can be enhanced if users discard outmoded thinking and demand the same proven effectiveness, purity of products and safety from herbalism that they rightfully expect from mainstream medicine.


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RE: Herbalists and Homeopaths - Allies or intrinsically differen

For your specific question, Eric; Yes, I do think that lumping Herbalism and Homeopathy together, as viewed by the average person, is detrimental to the acceptance of medicinal herbs as a viable mode of healing.

Though both modalities rely on plant materials, they have very different approaches to treating illness, as you've illustrated. I am not well versed in homeopathy, but know the principles, and, know the herbal use of the same plants well. I'm open-minded to homeopathy, even though it goes against the grain of my scientifically-raised mind, because I have had good experience of it actually working. Despite not "believing" in it's tenets.

But, at this point of acceptance with alternative medicine, you have to choose your battles, and I'd rather have medicinal herbs separated from homeopathics, which can't be studied for active components. I want medicinal herbs to be responsibly studied for active components, and, hopefully, not just isolated patentable ones, but synergetic components of the whole herb. Again, hopeful, but the ability to measure the complexity of plants is now becoming possible.

To add to the misperception fray, I have seen Herbalism, Homeopathy, and Holstic modalities all lumped together as "Teh Crazy Woo Woo" on some otherwise intelligent message boards, with no distinction or understanding as to the differences in the terms. Ya know, all them H words. But, it's quite easy these days to get a quick basic understanding of those differences, barring any huge mental blocks.


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RE: Herbalists and Homeopaths - Allies or intrinsically differen

Appalachian "bush medicine"??? Think we could find Dr. Livingston in a holler? The lost tribes of Scotland? Coal miners who have tunneled in from China?

"Herbal medicine and the use of pure chemical constituents from plants still subscribe to dose-response pharmacology". Wrong from the start. Just a complete fallacy of a statement. The reason: Everybody's different. The same dose that works on me, might not on you. Or may send to the hospital with an overdose. We herbalists start with the smallest possible dose... or should.

Next, you do not use herbs "to counter ... a harmful process with a substance(s) that blocks or otherwise works against that process." I'm surprised, if anyone reading this is a practical herbalist, that they would believe that.

Herbs are always used to to bring the body back into balance, not by "countering" or "attacking" an issue but by bolstering the body's natural defenses or stimulating the body's natural response so THE BODY does its own healing work. You only ever want to use an herb that will work WITH the body. To do otherwise is counter-productive & will cause more problems you'll have to deal with.

There's a whole different modality with the way you use herbs than with the way you use medicine-- or any other healing method-- & that's the problem with trying to compare the two (or three or four)-- you use them differently & they work differently. They can work synergistically with one another or be counter-indicative. We don't live a world where everything gets along.

Regarding homeopathy-- again a different modality. A different approach, a different effect and essentially a different purpose. Just because herbalism and homeopathy use the same basic components does not necessarily link them.

For example, I can cut down a tree & use the wood for a boat, or to make paper. Different processing of the wood in each case. Different purpose. Different outcome. And while I can draw on a boat, I cannot necessarily float on paper. And, frankly, why would I want to draw on a boat?

Another example: I am trained as both an aromatherapist and as an herbalist (and as a botanist & a lot of other things that have to do with plants) In my line of work I use infused oils and essential oils. They are not the same thing. While they may come from the same base, they are not made the same way and while they have similar purposes, they must be handled differently with a great deal of regard for what each can and can't do. I can make an infused oil of pennyroyal which at 2 oz in a spray bottle will comfortably keep fleas off my dog for a whole season, but if I suggested ingestion of an equal amount of essential oil, hell, I could probably kill half the adult population of neighborhood in about a half hour.

Maybe the general public needs better education as to what different types of healers do. But then again, we Appalachian Woo Woos have been around a long time & we wouldn't be so successful or so enduring if an intelligent population didn't exist to carry on the art. If anybody ever did confuse me with a homeopathist, I would have to correct them for the same reason I would not try to buy a ship at a paper mill. I'm not going to find what I'm looking for there.


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RE: Herbalists and Homeopaths - Allies or intrinsically differen

Thanks for your response, phylla. While homeopathy has zero hope of ever being demonstrated to be more than placebo (and those instances of anecdotal "success" with homeopathic drugs are placebo effect in action), it's good to hear from someone else who is concerned about homeopathy's reputation casting a shadow on herbalism.

For simplemary: I can't speak to how things are done in every corner of Appalachia - but the reading I've done on the history of herbalism in North America (for example) suggests that people have historically used herbs to counter and relieve unpleasant symptoms. I've seen this repeatedly discussed in works on Native American use of herbs. Some may want to categorize this as "bringing the body back into balance", but there's nothing unique about plant-derived drugs in this regard as opposed to other medicines.
And try as one might, it would be extremely difficult to link historic use of herbs by Native Americans and the colonists who first adapted those ideas as akin to homeopathy. You just don't see accounts of people in those days diluting down an herbal preparation to the point where there's not even a molecule of active substance left. It was Hahnemann and his followers in the early 19th century who got homeopathy going and accepted by a number of medical practitioners of the time. Medicine long ago abandoned homeopathy, but it still has an appeal for some that's hard to fathom.


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RE: Herbalists and Homeopaths - Allies or intrinsically differen

I think it's interesting that the Chinese and the West both have systems of healing based on the elements...Earth, Air, Fire, and Water for us, and a similar system with Wood and Metal in the Chinese system, which has five elements instead of four.

It's also interesting to me that India has an extensive database of homeopathic practice, similar to that of the West.

I always feel that where there is smoke, there is fire.

This whole conversation reminds me of a cartoon I once saw, though, where a family trying to give away some puppies, which they were showing to another family, had the enormous parent dog hidden away in another room.

Eric wants to hide the other aspects of Herbalism.

:o(

I am not all that invested in transforming Herbalism into a scientific discipline. To me, the other aspects are where the interest and the fun are. I don't see why my fun has to be abandoned to meet Eric's needs, ....

I realize Herbalism can be an exact science, but when people like Eric get done with it, that is all it will be--a bunch of chemical studies with no spirit to it. The numinousity will all be drained away.

:o(

Dead and dried up herbs will never take the place of the real thing.


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RE: Herbalists and Homeopaths - Allies or intrinsically differen

The problem is that herbalism, like it or not, is no longer solely an amateur preoccupation. It's big business, to the tune of billions of dollars a year in sales, with various practitioners elbowing each other to get in on the action. Scams and false promises abound.

Evidence-based herbalism enables us to see through the smoke screen to whether there really is fire out there - or just a bunch of smoke.

The fascinating history and do-it-yourself aspects of herbalism are not threatened by scientific research. Herbalism to me is enhanced by the knowledge that a given portion of it is research-validated.

To paraphrase eibren's last line: in regard to homeopathy, a dilution taken to the point where there is not even a single molecule of an herbal compound left, will never replace real herbs.


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RE: Herbalists and Homeopaths - Allies or intrinsically differen

Where there is smoke there is fire, but the fire isn't necessarily burning on what you think it is. It might be working, or it might be preying on confirmation bias.

All around the world people used to push on the bellies of women giving birth to speed the process, while it doesn't make it go faster it does kill quite a few babies. Smoke all over, fire all over, not the fire of success.


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RE: Herbalists and Homeopaths - Allies or intrinsically differen

"The problem is that herbalism, like it or not, is no longer solely an amateur preoccupation. It's big business, to the tune of billions of dollars a year in sales, with various practitioners elbowing each other to get in on the action. Scams and false promises abound."

Just because amateurs are making big money at it does not make them professionals.

Most of us can see the difference, even in the quality of the websites themselves.

I think you have been tilting at windmills, and at times throwing the baby out with the bath water.

There is room for all interests in this forum.


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RE: Herbalists and Homeopaths - Allies or intrinsically differen

Hahnemann, the father of Homeopathy, got his self a statue in Philadelphia - not sure if still there.
Some currently marketed preparations, bearing homeopathic brand labels, are not classical titrations - but have measurable compounds in them.
Buyers not versed in the jargon do not know if getting the real deal or some real plant matter.
Call it adulteration of a homeopathic remedy with herbal doseage - product trying to have it both ways.


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RE: Herbalists and Homeopaths - Allies or intrinsically differen

"Just because amateurs are making big money at it does not make them professionals. "

I call that the worst of both worlds. Big profits for some one, but a dodge of the ethics regulations.


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RE: Herbalists and Homeopaths - Allies or intrinsically differen

gringojay is correct that some products marketed as homeopathic actually have been found to contain substances in non-homeopathic dilutions.
The real health problem associated with these products is typically not that they cause harmful effects/side effects (after all water, which is what these drugs actually consist of, is pretty non-toxic) - but that people forego useful treatment in taking them. Homeopathic drugs have been touted for serious conditions ranging from malaria to cancer.

One example of a herbalist (and former homeopath) who now warns the public against homeopathy is Edzard Ernst, professor of complementary medicine at Exeter University (UK). Ernst is offering a 10,000 prize to the first person who can demonstrate that homeopathy works (haven't heard of any takers yet). The author (with Dr. Ernst) of a book on fraudulent treatments, Dr. Simon Singh, thinks even greater rewards await the person who validates homeopathy:

"'If homeopathy could be proven to be effective it might earn the researcher a Nobel Prize in Medicine,' he said.

'He or she would also deserve Nobel prizes in chemistry and physics because the laws of science would need to be re-written.'"

The chances of that happening, similar to the active ingredient in a 200C dilution, are infinitesimally small.

Incidentally, trusting in a supplement company's professionalism based on the quality of their website is a very risky proposition. Lots of people have been taken in by marketers with a slick promotional site.


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RE: Herbalists and Homeopaths - Allies or intrinsically differen

Eric forgot to bring up the black side of the Western medicalism. O f greedy doctors and hospitals raising prices so people are forced to do without care or shaving safety for a little more profit as in several water sources from pharma companys Where FDA has found enormous quantity of drugs in local water supplies. Strangely the same drugs these local companys are making. Yes eric please do tell us how this could possibly have come about from your wonderful medical people.
How about these good doctors and nurses that set up fly by night clinics that charge outrageous prices for illegal IV chelation treatments said to cure blood vessal blockage. These are medical doctors and nurses folks! Not herbalists or homeopaths.

How about a good medical doctor that got hooked on drugs and kept being reinstated by the medical board. Untill he killed a patient and is now in prison. The medical board people should be in prison with him.
Eric can easily see the problems of what he seems to consider the peons in the medical field.herbalists and homeopaths but overlooks the problems (Of which there are many)in his own field. To add injury to insult he does it on an herbalism forum.
It would be so nice if someone in the medical field would try to solve the problem of getting health care from the good medical doctors to everyone in this country. That is the #1 reason the US HEALTH CARE system is ranked #37 by the World health Care org. AND FALLING EVERY YEAR.
Oh- Cuba is #38 right behind us and France is #1. They have Universal health care and it does'nt cost near as much per capita as ours does. They also stress care for everyone and not money fron everyone. Does that say to anyone this medical system better wake up and learn some medical ethics. Oh BTW France also works side by side with herbalists and homeopaths and they are respected members of the medical family. Today the US is not the leader in medical research, Europe is. India and China are fast coming upwards in healthcare and research. Personally i think they ought to fire all american medical personel and bring in europeans to teach new people. Eric said once that other countrys send students over here to learn. ACTUALLY THEY DON'T. Except the ones who want to stay here and get rich. So don't let him kid you. the medical field is as bad or as good as herbalism or homeopathy. There's not a dimes worth of difference between them.
Grow your own medicine and know what you are getting after getting a check up by a doctor. They have enough equipment now to make a half way guess at what is wrong with you. In other words don't take anything for gospel.
And i am not a doctor.


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RE: Herbalists and Homeopaths - Allies or intrinsically differen

There are quacks in every profession. The difference between herbalism and homeopathy (and between mainstream medicine and homeopathy) is that the entire field of homeopathy is quackery.

The big thing now in homeopathy is attempts to exploit fears about swine flu. We are seeing nonsensical claims that homeopaths successfully treated flu in the pandemic of 1918 and that current nostrums are good for flu.

The bright side of this (if you can call it that) is that if people who get sick with swine flu go to their homeopaths for glorified water. that'll leave more genuine antivirals available for the rest of us. One hopes these people won't rely on homeopathic "drugs" once their kids fall ill.


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RE: Herbalists and Homeopaths - Allies or intrinsically differen

The medical field and the media keep feeding the fears of people by compareing this outbreak of flu with the 1918 flue outbreak. And of course the medical offices are full of patients giving up their hard earned money for nothing.
Maybe they aught to look to an herbal answer. It's cheaper. LOL


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RE: Herbalists and Homeopaths - Allies or intrinsically differen

We had a thread recently on swine flu which mentioned common sense precautions that can be taken against it, without visiting a doctor's office.

As of now, buying homeopathic nostrums to prevent flu will only cost you money for nothing. If a person comes down with a deadly strain of flu, the price for depending on homeopathy will be higher.

Here's one recent tragic case involving faith in homeopathy.


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RE: Herbalists and Homeopaths - Allies or intrinsically differen

I am not a fan of homeopathy; I think the theories are nonsense and I don't use anything that is strictly homeopathy (I do use some zinc lozenges billed as homeopathic, but they contain 5-10 mg of zinc each, which is not homeopathic). A few thoughts:

People turn to homeopathy for a variety of reasons. Some would say ignorance is the biggest reason. But there are others.

There was an interesting study titled "How do parents of child patients compare consultations with homeopaths and physicians?" from Norway recently. What did they find?

Homeopaths spent more time with their patients. Homeopaths were described as people who listened to their patients. Homeopaths were seen as focusing on the whole person and health, not just symptoms. There was more positive interaction between homeopaths and their clients than between doctors and their patients. A doctor's office was far more likely to be seen as cold, impersonal, and the process of visiting a doctor was seen as more unpleasant or dehumanizing.

Given these differences, is it surprising that people continue to visit homeopaths? Especially when the conditions that compel them to go are often mild or self-limiting, so that they getter better regardless? And is it surprising that these people tell their friends and family that homeopaths are great?

I suggest that blaming the stupidity of the patient is not the best place to start - maybe humanizing medicine would do more than demonizing homeopathy??


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RE: Herbalists and Homeopaths - Allies or intrinsically differen

Hi apollog,
Curious patients' interpretation that Homeopaths are not focused on symptoms; it shows how misunderstood it is in the modern mind.
The whole theory is that "likes" cures "likes". The founder dosed himself with everything conceivable to record his induced symptoms cataloging what it was "like".
The practitioner is supposed to parse the finer circumstances of when symptoms occur to match the exact remedy "like" what patient reports.
This is why the consultation is so endearing, because it becomes intimate as to when does what occur, & makes the patient feel every thing about them is significant.
Technically the traditional Homeopath is just cross referencing symptoms they hear a patient report in response to probative questions. The dosages, permutations & sequential program of remedies are probably run on computer programs by some.
Old school practitioners claim that an inappropriately selected remedy is capable of setting back the course of cure. A wrong prescription not only makes the case more confused, but also itself induces symptoms.
The modern commercialized over the counter products, aside from the "Rescue Remedy", would be malpractice under pure Homeopathic rules.


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RE: Herbalists and Homeopaths - Allies or intrinsically differen

The one thing homeopaths do right is spending a lot of time with their patients, that is fantastic for patient confidence and satisfaction.

Homeopaths tend to avoid the fact that their modality is entirely based on symptoms, and I have several times been criticized by homeopathy supporters for supporting western medicine which "just tries to treat symptoms instead of the root cause". I think that the fact that homeopaths say that is the reason that people repeat it and accept it. Its the same thing with Biodynamic farming, they have a byline ("Treats the farm as an organism") and they claim to be the first to put together all of the ideas of modern organic farming, but in the end rudolph strener just took organic agriculture, and added a bunch of magic and the magic was his sole contribution, but since they claim more supporters bitterly defend it, someone doing a search might be kind enough to swing by this thread and berate me for calling magic magic.


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RE: Herbalists and Homeopaths - Allies or intrinsically differen

"Given these differences, is it surprising that people continue to visit homeopaths?"

If you've got far fewer patients, no emergencies, less pressure to perform and no concerns about fighting with insurers to get care for your patients funded, of course you've got more time to spend with an individual patient (even if the practical results are inversely proportional to the time spent). Don't forget as well that one of the characteristics of con men in general is lavishing attention on the victim to make them feel special, but who ultimately come out the loser. Physicians do need to pay attention to qualities that enhance their interaction with patients; what they don't need to do is espouse quack treatments.

"I suggest that blaming the stupidity of the patient is not the best place to start "

Strawman. No one here is doing this - I am pointing out the false nature of homeopathy - and the faults of homeopaths who are not willing to admit that what they preach is (to use your word) nonsense.

Congratulations on coming right out and saying that about a type of nonsensical woo. I think it's a first. :)

"Supporters (of homeopathy) claim that there are no risks from homeopathic treatment. They say that the ultra dilute remedies are safer and cheaper than most prescription drugs. First, it has been shown that several homeopathic remedies for asthma actually were contaminated with large amounts of artificial steroids. Second, some remedies do contain measurable amounts of the critical substance. If a patient takes 4 tablets daily of mercury (D4), he would receive a potentially toxic dose. And a dose of D6 cadmium exceeds the safe limits. Finally, a D6 or less dose of Aristolochia contains significant amounts of this cancer-causing herb. Therefore, we cannot easily and quickly claim that homeopathic remedies are always safe.

There is an additional risk of seeking homeopathic treatment. If someone is ill and requires immediate medical treatment, any delay could have serious consequences. This is the risk that is present with all alternative medical care."

Link.


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RE: Herbalists and Homeopaths - Allies or intrinsically differen

>> Congratulations on coming right out and saying that about a type of nonsensical woo. I think it's a first. :)

Another error on your part, eric. I won't spend all day looking at what I have said here, but it doesn't take long to prove that your opinion is wrong. One example of a previous post of mine: ("I don't consider homeopathy to be effective,")

But it would be foolish of me to assume that you read my posts for any reason other than to pick them apart, or that you really want to characterize my positions fairly.

Having browsed the quackbuster/skeptic sites over the past few days, I see now that you get much of your information third or fourth hand from those sites. More importantly, your posts here are typically an attempt to replicate those sites ... you are less about herbalism than about promoting the doctrines of the anti-woo crowd. Rather than actually looking at the research on a topic, you typically turn to skeptic sites for information, and simply repeat what you find there (even when it is laced with factually incorrect statements).

The fact that I don't believe in homeopathy and occasionally say so is not enough for you; I am apparently guilty of serious sins for not denouncing the heresy frequently enough or emphatically enough. It doesn't matter that I think that I think that relatively few people actually use homeopathy, and that when they do, it is mostly for minor, self-limiting conditions (like allergies) or as an adjunct to other care. It doesn't matter that I prefer to spend my time promoting things like herbs that do have some scientific evidence for them - you have also labeled that "woo" and are here to crap on anyone that doesn't think the same way you do.

>> Don't forget as well that one of the characteristics of con men in general is lavishing attention on the victim to make them feel special, but who ultimately come out the loser.

Don't forget that one of the biggest determinants of whether a patient will sue their doctor is whether they think the doctor listens to them or not!


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RE: Herbalists and Homeopaths - Allies or intrinsically differen

There's a wee bit of difference between saying "I don't think homeopathy is effective" (italics added) and coming right out and labeling it nonsense. Congrats in any case. Though you're incorrect in believing that relatively few people go for homeopathy. The homeopathic products market hit $230 million in sales back in 1995 and has been rapidly expanding. Somebody's buying all that stuff.

And of course homeopaths do promote their diluted drugs for far more than minor complaints - including for arthritis, heart disease and other major chronic ailments, and cancer. When your allergies don't improve on homeopathic drugs, it's not usually an acute health crisis - the same can't be said for a cancer neglected while the patient is given homeopathic remedies.

"Having browsed the quackbuster/skeptic sites over the past few days, I see now that you get much of your information third or fourth hand from those sites. More importantly, your posts here are typically an attempt to replicate those sites ... you are less about herbalism than about promoting the doctrines of the anti-woo crowd."

Demonstrably false, as you know that in addition to linking to and quoting original research frequently, including articles from people like Professor of Complementary Medicine Edzard Ernst (a noted herbalist and former homeopath), I cite the NIH, CDC and various professional health organizations on a frequent basis. Regardless of your sudden interest in "quackbusters", I link to sites like Quackwatch on a minority of occasions (they do have good reviews with references to quality research and news articles).

I will continue to promote herbs such as butterbur, echinacea, St. John's wort etc. that have solid evidence backing their use. I will continue to challenge unproven claims and exaggerations about herbs or supplements that are based on testimonials or research in rats and cows. Sorry if that irks you.

In conclusion: The biggest determinants in whether a patient gets well is the effectiveness of the treatment. On this score, homeopathy falls way, way short. Herbalism has a much better track record, and we need to recognize the differences between these two modalities and not let them get confused in the public mind.


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RE: Herbalists and Homeopaths - Allies or intrinsically differen

>> I will continue to challenge unproven claims and exaggerations about herbs or supplements that are based on testimonials or research in rats and cows. Sorry if that irks you.

Are you irked by the fact that the National Institutes of Health (via the ADAM encyclopedia on their web page) says that there is good scientific evidence that elderberries may reduce the intensity or duration of influenza?? How did such an authoritative source come to that conclusion, which was very different from yours?? Answer: you are not just looking for scientific evidence, you demand an iron-clad body of evidence, a complete lack of any ambiguity, and your decision making is based on this binary 0-1 level of thinking. For you, either it is 100% sure and we call it proven, or it is unproven and cannot be spoken of positively.

Other, less retentive types might say "there is some decent evidence elderberries might help with flu, there is no evidence it is any more dangerous than blueberries, so I can make a decision based on that 75% level of certainty that it might be helpful and worth trying."

For me, the idea of a convergence of evidence is useful when there is incomplete information - and given the funding for herbal research, that is most areas of herbalism. You would rather stick to your binary theory of certainty, 100% proven, or unproven. Great if that works for you. Appropriate in some conditions where risks are high. But quite unnecessary or impossible in other cases.

What is irksome is that you want to define the terms of discussion in this forum by your standards, which few of us share. Most herbalists place some value on the tradition of herbalism, the historical/clinical uses of herbs, and our personal experiences. And in my case, yes, lab and animal studies, or studies that may not have 10,000 subjects in them and therefore could be described as 'small.' I am quite aware that such evidence has limitations. But it is evidence, and it can often tell us something quite useful.

Zum beispiel, when the traditional use of an herb like kudzu is for headache, and we combine that fact with lab studies showing that compounds unique to kudzu affect serotonin metabolism in a particular way known to be beneficial to some types of headahce, and then one (and then many) cluster headache patients I know who suffered with daily headaches for years suddenly became pain-free within a day or two after they start taking kudzu, I see a strong convergence of evidence that kudzu can help some with cluster headaches. And when my remission for cluster headaches ended recently, I used kudzu and experienced the mildest cycle I have ever had, which I see as more evidence that it is effective. In a previous discussion on this topic, you simply dismissed this type of understanding as a delusion or placebo effect.

To me, your way of thinking might be appropriate science in the context of a regulatory committee that decides on applications for new drugs, less applicable for a committee that makes decisions on orphan drugs, and quite irrelevant to individuals interested in herbalism.


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RE: Herbalists and Homeopaths - Allies or intrinsically differen

Apollog, do you think people should be choosing to sue their doctor based on how well they were listened too or how well they were treated? In other words, if there are two doctors, one who pretends to listen and gives dangerous treatments, and another who doesn't spend much time on dilly dally and provides treatments that tend to be both safe and effective who deserves most to get sued?


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RE: Herbalists and Homeopaths - Allies or intrinsically differen

>> Apollog, do you think people should be choosing to sue their doctor based on how well they were listened too or how well they were treated?

I didn't say that at all ... my point is that there is widespread dissatisfaction with the way doctors interact with their patients, and that this affects many things, from the number of people that go to alternative medical practitioners to the number of people that sue their doctors when they are injured ...

The appropriate treatment is of course essential, but a patient that doesn't feel he can communicates with his GP or be taken seriously is much less likely to schedule an appointment in the first place unless something is quite urgent.

Furthermore, in a discussion about homeopathy, I would ask if it is ethical for doctors to prescribe a placebo? I know doctors that do so - they are convinced that certain patients are merely hypochondriacs who are somatasizing (although in one case, one these 'hypochondriacs' later proved to have actual conditions that were simply difficult to diagnose). In such cases, communication with the doctor is a key factor, and I would say that people should definitely avoid GPs who have poor human skills. Maybe it doesn't matter with a proctologist who works an assembly line, as the patient isn't fully conscious when they interact with that doctor and it doesn't matter if


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RE: Herbalists and Homeopaths - Allies or intrinsically differen

Omigod, what happened to apollog? Did the evil Big Pharma minions get him? ;)

Perhaps apollog is unaware that there is a controversy in mainstream medicine over whether it is ever ethical to give placebos (there is no such ethical agonizing taking place among homeopaths). And it would never be tolerated for any physician to give a placebo for a life-threatening condition - while as we have seen, this is done by homeopaths.

If I had a primary care doc who didn't listen to me adequately and had rotten people skills, I'd find another primary care doc. I wouldn't go to a homeopath who didn't know squat about medicine, no matter how nifty their interpersonal skills were.


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RE: Herbalists and Homeopaths - Allies or intrinsically differen

There's a new history of homeopathy posted online - in cartoon form.

Very readable, concise, entertaining and eye-opening.


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