December 6, 2015


Homeopathy won't cure you - unless you have a little faith (Eva Wiseman, 6 December 2015, The Guardian)

More and more, I realise our lives are based on faith. Not in a goddy sense, more a domestic, personal, dull-edged way. Relationships, for example: faith. The economy: faith. Health: faith. I come to this having spent some time recently thinking about placebos, as I watch ministers consider whether homeopathy should be put on a prescription "black list". I don't believe in homeopathy, and I say that as someone who really loves little sugary sweets.

Every ounce of science says there is no way it works, there is no way that diluting an ingredient until there are no molecules left, diluting it so extremely that it equates to one molecule of the substance in a sea whose diameter is "roughly the distance from the earth to the sun", will cure what ails you. There is no evidence that homeopathy will help your eczema, or your hay fever, or your ear infection.

But as I read the scoffing responses to the conversation - that people who do choose to spend their cash on placebos are fools - I'm surprised to disagree. [...]

If we call something medicine, then often it works. Our human bodies are dying to believe. In many cases, placebos have been shown to work. It's the taking of the pill, the conversation, the little bottle, the kiss on the bruise. Because simply believing in a treatment, scientists agree, can be as effective as the treatment itself. People who suffer from headaches will associate the shape, the colour and the taste of a pill with a decrease in pain. Recently, a study suggested that even if you know the pill you're taking is a placebo ("I shall please" in Latin), it will still benefit you. Even if you know it's sugar, your body will read the ritual around it as a cure.

Posted by at December 6, 2015 6:22 PM