Feb 13, 2020

By Trevor Shewfelt, Pharmacist at the Dauphin Clinic Pharmacy

He set his own alarm and got out of bed on his own! You don't seem impressed. Here is how 90% of mornings go. I go into Eric's room at 7. I turn on the light and nicely say, "Eric it's time to get up". Eric pretends not to hear me. I go back in a couple minutes and less nicely ask him to get up. This repeats until I'm screaming at Eric to get out of bed and he is screaming back how unfair it is that I come in his room every morning and turn on the lights. To which I reply he should set an alarm on his phone and get up before 7 am. I'm taking Eric setting an alarm and getting up on his own as a parenting win.

Homeopathy in a health care win is like the history of dogs riding bicycles. Odd, an interesting back story, usually harmless, but with some occasional tragedies. 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 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 15 or 16 years ago, when I heard 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 speaking 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, go ahead. I do get very concerned when parents give their kids homeopathic vaccines instead of real ones. These pretend vaccines are called nosodes. They protect against nothing. They put children at risk of preventable diseases with serious consequences. I believe using nosodes on your children borders on parental negligence. But I think belief in homeopathy has accidentally helped in the past.

Back 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. Like a stopped clock being right twice a day, homeopathy has had a couple victories. Hand washing was an effective tool for infection control in the 1800's. Today homeopathic remedies are generally harmless placebos. But convincing parents to put their children at risk of serious diseases by convincing them to use nosodes has made those victories hollow.

My wake up routine victory with Eric was hollow as well. Within minutes of getting out of bed he had used the toaster oven in a way that makes his mother crazy, eaten all the snacks in the pantry we bought the day before for a trip next weekend, and started cursing and swearing about being asked to unload the dishwasher. I started yelling. He continued yelling, and morning bliss and tranquility evaporated. But I'm still going to cling to: He set his own alarm and got out of bed on his own!

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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