Tag Archives: nostrum

Homeopathic Horsefeathers

In 2014 CVS Pharmacy was rightly lauded for its decision to stop selling tobacco products. Recently the president of CVS pharmacy announced that there would be no manipulation of photos used in the marketing and promotion of their house brand of beauty products. Helena Folkes made the announcement at a retailer’s convention. She said “unrealistic body images are a significant driver of health issues…” She will also hold other brands of beauty products sold by CVS to the same standard by 2020.

CVS is one of the largest marketers of beauty products in the country, so this decision will have a far-reaching effect in the industry. Now if they just had the same concern with honesty in drug marketing. Among the brands sold at CVS is Boiron. They are the world’s largest marketer of homeopathic products. Boiron sells dozens of nostrums meant to treat a range of symptoms, including the flu. One product in particular stands as a model for all the others. Oscillococcinum is sold as a treatment for the flu (actual wording: for the treatment of flu-like symptoms.)

This prepartion begins with an extract of a Muscovy Duck liver. This extract is diluted one to ten, 400 times! It is hard to describe just how dilute this is. Imagine taking one ounce of this extract and adding it to 10 ounces of water and mixing thoroughly. Then take one ounce of this solution and add it to 10 ounces of water, and on and on.

Doing this just 25 times produces a solution whose concentration is the same as taking that first ounce of extract and pouring it into the combined oceans of the world. But you’re not done, you have to repeat this dilution process 375 more times. At the end, the probability of finding a single atom from the original preparation is nil.

Homeopathy was created by Samuel Hahnemann in 1796. This medical modality was based on what he called the law of similars. Substances that cause symptoms in “normal doses” can cure those same symptoms when given in infinitesimally small doses. In the age of Hahnemann, a “cure” that had no side effects, or any effect for that matter may have been an improvement over the dangerous medical practices of the time. President George Washington died in 1793 from bleeding to death. Bloodletting was de rigueur.

Back to the foolish dilution scheme. According to Hahnemann, The more dilute the ingredient, the stronger the remedy. So you buy a bottle of homeopathic Arnica, diluted only 60 times for this preparation. That might not be strong enough for you so what to do? Take two pills? Nope, you cut one in half and get twice the strength. Cut it again and then again (etc). The resultant minuscule dose is much more potent than the original pill. Nonsense, pure bunkum. There is no scientific support for this whatsoever. It doesn’t even make sense logically.

Recently the FDA has said it will begin to access the risk but not efficacy of Homeopathic remedies. Every other drug, whether prescription or OTC is regulated by the FDA for both safety and efficacy. Good luck, you’re on your own with homeopathics.