inFact with Brian Dunning inFact with Brian Dunning



Many people believe homeopathy is a natural, herbal supplement like any other. But is it?

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What is a homeopathic drug?

"All natural."

"I would say it's an herbal supplement that is prescribed by a doctor."

"Just a little bit of active substance."

Stop! You're all wrong. By definition, a homeopathic drug is one that contains no active ingredients at all. None! Not a single molecule. That's what homeopathic means.

But look at the ingredients. This one shows a 30C amount of Kali Bichromicum Powder. It's listed, so it should be in there, right? Wrong. The only things actually in this product are the inactive ingredients, lactose, sucrose, or cellulose. Note the amount shown of the supposedly active ingredient: 30C.

What does that mean? 30C means roman numeral C, or 100, raised to the 30th power. It means they took a solution and diluted it to 1/100th, or 1%, and they did that 30 times. According to the laws of nature, this leaves you with 1 part trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion. Think of one molecule of the original compound in a sphere of water the size of the Earth's orbit. (This particular product dilutes it a further 103, or 1000, times.) Homeopathic means none of the original compound remains.

What's their defense of this? They say that water has memory, and that if shaken properly at each step of dilution, the water will retain the spiritual essence of the original compound.

But here's the real kicker. Look, it's dry! There isn't even any of this allegedly spiritually charged water in there. So does sugar now have a memory of the spiritual essence of water that has a memory of the spiritual essence of some mystery compound?

But if all these criticisms were true, why would they be allowed to sell it? Look right here. So long as you include the FDA disclaimer admitting your product hasn't been shown do anything, you can sell basically whatever you want, as long as you call it a supplement and not a drug.

Don't buy it. It's a ripoff. It's on the store shelf because the manufacturer can take advantage of the law to sell sugar at exorbitant pharmaceutical prices.

— Brian Dunning

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References & Further Reading

BBC. "Homoeopathy's benefit questioned." BBC News. BBC, 26 Aug. 2005. Web. 20 Mar. 2007. <>

Kleijnen J, Knipschild P. "Clinical trials of homoeopathy." British Medical Journal. 9 Feb. 1991, 302(6772): 316-23.

NCAHF. "NCAHF Position Paper on Homeopathy." National Council Against Health Fraud. The National Council Against Health Fraud, Inc., 1 Feb. 1994. Web. 22 Mar. 2007. <>

Shang, A., Huwiler-M√ľntener, K., Nartley, L. "Are the clinical effects of homoeopathy placebo effects? Comparative study of placebo-controlled trials of homoeopathy and allopathy." The Lancet. 27 Aug. 2005, Volume 366, Issue 9487: 726-732.

Singh S., Ernst E. Trick or treatment: the undeniable facts about alternative medicine. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2008. 91-144.

Willis, P., et. al. Science and Technology Committee. Evidence Check 2: Homeopathy. London: Stationary Office Limited., 2010.


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