Friday, December 24, 2010

Homeopathy: proudly advancing science into the 1800s

EoR has been browsing through Homeopathy: Medicine for the New Millennium (1985, 26th edition copyrighted 2000) by George Vithoulkas in which he "Describes the foundations upon which this seemingly miraculous method is built". As the cover proudly declaims, Vithoulkas was:

Awarded the Alternative Nobel Prize for Health 1996.

His biography inside also emphasises this achievement:

In 1996 his untiring endeavours to spread classical homeopathy were acknowledged internationally when he received the Alternative Nobel Prize for Health in the Swedish Parliament for his 'Outstanding contribution to the revival of classical homeopathy.'

This just demonstrates how homeopaths like to skew results to claim any thin legitimacy they desperately crave. The Right Livelihood Awards are, indeed, known as the Alternative Nobel Prize, but that is not their official designation and it seems like desperation to splash the 'Nobel' word across the front of a homeopathic book. The claim that it was awarded in the category of 'Health' also seems spurious:

Unlike the Nobel Prizes (for Physics, Physiology/Medicine, Chemistry, Literature, and Peace), the Right Livelihood Award has no categories. It recognises that, in striving to meet the human challenges of today's world, the most inspiring and remarkable work often defies any standard classification. For example, people who start out with an environmental goal frequently find themselves drawn into issues of health, human rights and/or social justice. Their work becomes a holistic response to community needs, so that sectoral categories lose their meaning.

Regardless of its millennial claims, the book is replete with phrases such as "we must look back again to the days of Hahnemann". Perhaps EoR misread, and the millennium referred to was the previous one? Like any good text on homeopathy, there are invocations equally to God and Einstein so that those who believe in religious cures are catered for, as well as those who demand science (even if it's magical science). Quoting nineteenth century homeopath J T Kent (who features prominently throughout the book as an authority for the New Millennium):

They will tell you that the bacillus is the cause of tuberculosis. But if man had not been susceptible to the bacillus he could not have been affected by it... The bacteria are results of the disease... the microscopical little fellows are not the disease cause, but they come after... They are the outcome of the disease, are present wherever the disease is, and by the microscope it has been discovered that every pathological result has its corresponding bacteria. The Old School considered these the cause...but the cause is much more subtle than
anything that can be shown by a microscope.

There's also a lot about vital forces and miasms. And the true believer will, of course, not use any real drugs at all (not least because it seems homeopathy is so fickle and weak, almost anything can interfere with it):

Allopathic drugs are among the most powerful interfering factors. An occasional aspirin for temporary aches or pains is generally no problem, but consistent use of analgesics, tranquillizers, antibiotics, contraceptive pills and especially cortisone can completely counteract the action of homeopathic remedies. In some instances, even dental work can produce the same effect. Therefore, homeopathic patients should refrain from all other therapies except for true emergencies and, if possible, only after consulting the homeopath.

Of course, the anecdote is required evidence (indeed, the only evidence), and there are plenty of them, many involving cancer cures. The best is this one, about a woman with serious metastasised lung cancer who Vithoulkas initially refuses to treat (because he considered the case too 'serious'!). The tale is long, but EoR felt that any editing would reduce the overwhelming crescendo of madness and improbability:

She then started pleading with me to at least listen to her symptoms. Seeing my insistence in refusing to take her case, she told us a story which made me change my mind. She said "One night I prayed to God to help me with my health, and then I heard the voice of God telling me, 'Go to Vithoulkas, he will cure you'" and this was the reason why she was insisting so much to see me. I said to her again: "I do not know what God told you, but what I do know is that with homeopathy it is impossible to cure such a case". She kept on pleading so much that I finally agreed to listen to her case. As it came out it was one of the strangest stories I have ever heard in my whole career. She was a 43 year old woman from a very rich family in Australia. Her father had died several years before but the strange thing was that her mother had developed a really vicious hatred for her, to the extent that in one of their fights she had wished openly that her daughter, the patient, would die from cancer. Two years after the mother's vicious wish, the daughter actually developed cancer of the lungs, which was soon metastasized to the bones and then to the brain. The patient had also developed an equally strong hatred for the mother, to the extent that she also wished her dead. The complication for the patient was that in spite of the fact that the family was very rich, the wealth was controlled totally by the mother in Australia, who provided very little to the daughter. She, in turn, mixed with the high society of London, borrowed money from her affluent friends to cope with living in the style of the rich and in the hope that when the mother died - she was already approaching her eighties - she would be able to pay them back. As I progressed with the taking of her case, listening to all the symptoms, I found out that the indicated remedy - strangely enough - was clear in this case, something that happens very rarely and indicates that there is really hope for the patient. Homeopathy has different ways of evaluating the strength of the defence mechanism which is actually stimulated and brings about the cure. Therefore, after 3 hours of taking her case, I had come to the conclusion that there was actually a possibility for an improvement in this woman. I then told her this but the problem was that she was taking many strong painkillers and the homeopathic remedy would not work together with them. I explained the situation to her, to which she answered immediately that this was not a problem, she could stop the painkillers right now! I said that this would be impossible as the pains on the bones would be so intensely aggravated before the homeopathic remedy could act that she would not be able to stand them even for a few days. She left for London the next day. After a week I received a telephone call from her. Her first words were: 'I am well.' I asked what she meant, had she really stopped the painkillers? She said, "Yes, the same day I started your medicine". "And there was no pain?" She said none! I could not believe my ears. Anyhow I gave further instructions and forgot about the case. In three months she telephoned to say that she had been back in the hospital in London where they monitored her case and she told them how well she was. She said, "I danced in front of them in order for them to believe that I could walk again without pain". I still could not believe my ears, but anyhow I gave further instructions for the medication. A month later I received a telephone call in my house, very early in the morning, about 3 a.m. in London and 5 a.m. in Athens. She was on the phone screaming that she most probably broke her ribs during her sleep in the night and the pain was excruciating, unbearable. She could hardly speak from the pain. I told her that these pains were a relapse from the metastasis and not from a broken rib! I thought that's it, I could never control the pain again, but all the same I instructed her to try a remedy and to phone me in the evening. Sure enough she telephoned to say that there was no more pain any more! These relapses happened another three times in the 11 months of treatment, and were always controlled by the homeopathic remedy. One day she telephoned in a panic saying that the right eye was bulging out and could not see. There was also a severe pain in the head. Again the homeopathic remedy controlled the symptoms. After a year she considered herself cured and stopped telephoning. Three years later I inquired from the lady in charge of the clinic in London who had initially phoned me about the patient to know what had happened with this case. And she told me the most amazing story I could have heard. The mother in Australia had died but before her death, she gave all her property to a foundation in Australia, leaving the daughter with all her debts. The patient despaired so much that she went to an expensive restaurant in London, ordered a luxurious meal and took with it enough pills to kill herself. I mention this case here though I cannot know to what extent the improvement really was, whether after a year or two the cancer would have come back and killed her, as the case was monitored from the London hospital and I had no access to their findings. But this case really shows the extent to which homeopathy can be effective if it is practised properly. For many decades, homeopathy was practiced in a very bad manner. Instead of trying to find the indicated remedy for each individual case, which requires a lot of time, doctors would prefer to give ten, fifteen or even twenty remedies together hoping that the right one would be within these twenty. With such a practice results were very poor and people got the impression that this method was good only for simple ailments like common colds and headaches.

You can't make this sort of stuff up.


  1. Oh! How can we have been so stupid?
    Homeopathy doesn't work because it is badly done, or over done.
    Well that explains everything ...... in an incoherant rant.
    The laureates list for the "right livelihood awards" reveals a few interesting names.......
    I bet they don't put that at the top of their CV's!

    P.S. Keep up the good donkey work, and a merry Cthulhumas to you.

  2. I've seen apologists for homeopathy and other "alternative treatments" mention Semmelweis as they insist that medicine doesn't know everything.

    They remind us that Ignaz Semmelweis was ridiculed by the mainstream medicos of his day because he promoted hand washing as a means to reduce cross infection by doctors. "Experts" of the day still believed in the four humours.

    Oddly, by supporting Semmelweis against the mainstream, homeopaths are supporting germ theory against the prevailing belief in more-fanciful causes of disease. Despite this, they deny germ theory as they promote causes of disease more akin to the beliefs of mainstream medicine in Ignaz Semmelweis's day.



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