Homeopathy and Cows
Dec 19, 2016
By Trevor Shewfelt, Pharmacist at the Dauphin Clinic Pharmacy
In a Donald Trump post-truth world, all that matters is belief and negotiation. Emily routinely calls me the worst parent in the world. One reason is I make her walk to the DRCSS. During last week's cold snap, she was looking for a ride to school. I couldn't because I had to take Eric to Breakfast Club for a skate. So, Emily turned to Doris. Doris said she'd drive Emily to school if Emily took out the garbage. Instead, Emily threw a minor hissy fit about how unfair it was that she had to take out the garbage and stomped to her room. I don't think The Donald would be impressed with her negotiating tactics. Or maybe he would.
Negotiating my way through the Twitter the other day, I found some compelling click bait titled: "Homeopathy Doesn't Work on Cows Either". It was an article from Popular Science lamenting that some holistic and organic farmers who were using homeopathic remedies on their cattle. This is despite the FDA, the World Health Organization and the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council saying homeopathy doesn't work. Instead of piling on, I think I might see homeopathy doing some good for us humans, if not for the cows. And this would be the second time homeopathy accidentally helped the human race.
Homeopathy has been around for a long time. It seems to have been invented in the late 1700's by Samuel Hahnemann. Over the years, it has been practiced by European monarchs and all sorts of famous people. I first heard about homeopathy in University. One of my pharmacy classmates did a homeopathy talk for the class. One of the principles of homeopathy sounded odd to me. The Law of Infinitesimals said the more you dilute the homeopathic product the more potent more potent it gets. In fact, it seems that some of the homeopathic formulations were diluted so much they may not have any active ingredient in them at all.
Homeopathy came back on my radar 5 or 6 years ago, when I heard the about people intentionally overdosing themselves on the news. As a pharmacist, this terrified me, but obviously peaked my interest. This group of people were taking entire bottles of homeopathic medicines to prove that there was no actual medicine in homeopathic products. This overdose campaign started with a group out of the UK called the 10:23 campaign. They came up with the idea for people to take "overdoses" of homeopathic medicines to prove they don't work. The original mass overdose was January 30, 2010. As interesting as this sounded, please don't go overdosing on anything to prove any point, okay?
So why 10:23? It refers to Avogadro's number which is 6.022 x 1023. That is basically 6 with 23 zero's after it. Avogadro's number is the number of atoms or molecules it takes for the atomic or molecular mass to equal the mass in grams of that substance. So 6.022 X 1023 caffeine molecules, which has the molecular mass of 194.19, will weigh 194.19 grams. But here's the rub, in homeopathy they dilute things a lot. If you took one drop of caffeine and put it in 100 drops of water, that would be a 1 to 100 dilution. In homeopathic speak it would be a centesimal, or 1C. If you took 1 drop of that and put that in 100 drops of water, it would be 100 times more diluted, or 2C. The problem happens when you pass 12C. 12C means 100 times itself 12 times or 10012. 10012 is the same as 1024 which is greater than Avogadro's number of 6.022 x 1023. So even if you started with 194.19 g of caffeine (which is a fairly large amount), by the time you get to 12C dilution, you have a good chance of having zero molecules of caffeine left in the dilution. Many homeopathic preparations are labeled as 30C. At a 30C dilution you have a better chance of winning the lottery several times in a row than having a single molecule in the dilution. Another way to look at 30C is like putting 1 drop of active ingredient in the entire ocean. Then stir the ocean well. Now scoop a random bottle of water out of the ocean. Do you think you would get any active molecules in your bottle?
I don't believe in homeopathy. Usually in adults, I leave well enough alone as homeopathic medicines are placebos. They have no active ingredient to harm you. If you want to spend your money on them, so be it. I do get very concerned when parents give their kids homeopathic vaccines instead of real ones. I believe that borders on parental negligence. But I think belief in homeopathy has accidentally helped humanity twice. The first accidental good thing homeopathy did for people was in the US Civil war. Less people died of infections in homeopathic hospitals than in regular hospitals. It turned out the homeopathic hospitals were kept much cleaner and the people who worked in them washed their hands more often. As obvious as this sounds now, those were radical ideas in the 1800's. Looking back, this was evidence for the germ theory of disease.
Fast forward to 2016. You've probably heard fast food commercials bragging about their burgers not having steroids or antibiotics in them. I could care less about the steroids, but antibiotics in livestock is a concern. A huge percentage of the antibiotics used on earth go into our livestock. Sooner or later that works its way into meat eaters like me. By the time antibiotics from the farm get into my system, they are at very low levels. That is perfect for developing antibiotic resistance. Antibiotic resistance is becoming a real problem. Imagine a world where 30-40% of people die in child birth, knee surgery or during cancer treatments simply from an infection. So, the second good thing homeopathy might do for humanity in general and infectious disease treatment in particular is reduce how much antibiotics are used in livestock. This belief in homeopathy in cattle is completely wrong. It probably will be harmful to the individual cows and producers who use homeopathic cattle treatments, but like hand washing in the 1800's it might be a boon to the rest of us.
Donald Trump believes Mexicans are rapists, Muslims are terrorists and climate change is a hoax from China. These beliefs are all untrue and harmful in a variety of ways. But the Donald might rip up the Trans-Pacific Partnership. The Donald doesn't care about Canada or probably even know we exist. But the TPP didn't look like a good deal for us, and tearing it up might work in our favor. Maybe I should hope Emily grows up to be like The Donald. Somehow, she did manage to both not take out the garbage and get a ride to school at -27C. Go figure.
As always if you have any questions or concerns about these or other products, ask your pharmacist.
The information in this article is intended as a helpful guide only. It is not intended to be used as a substitute for professional advice. If you have any questions about your medications and what is right for you see your doctor, pharmacist or other health care professional.
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Homeopathy Doesn't Work for Cows Either: Popular Science - http://www.popsci.com/no-homeopathy-doesnt-work-for-cows-either
DCP Twitter - @dauphinpharmacy