Why homeopathy is complete nonsense

The economist explains why homeopathy is complete nonsense, and something only hippies and Green MPs believe in.

VISIT any health shop and you are likely to see them: packages of homeopathic remedies claiming to cure whatever ails you, from coughs and fever to insomnia and asthma. Flip the package of medicine, however, and you may be confused by the listed ingredients. Some claim to contain crushed bees, stinging nettles and even arsenic, as well as sugars such as lactose and sucrose. Americans spend some $3 billion a year on homeopathic medicines. What are they thinking?

The history of homeopathy?literally, “similar suffering”?dates to the late 18th century. Samuel Hahnemann, a German doctor, was unimpressed by contemporary medicine, with good reason. Doctors used leeches to let blood and hot plasters to bring on blisters, which were then drained. In 1790 Hahnemann developed a fever that transformed his career. After swallowing powder from the bark of a cinchona tree, he saw his temperature rise. Cinchona bark contains quinine, which was already known to treat malaria. Hahnemann considered the facts: cinchona seemed to give him a fever; fever is a symptom of malaria; and cinchona treats malaria. He then made an acrobatic leap of logic: medicines bring on the same symptoms in healthy people as they cure in sick ones. Find a substance that induces an illness and it might treat that illness in another.

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Ebola clocks up case 20,000 as the epidemic celebrates its first birthday

Ebola remains the most deadly disease on the planet. ?Once you get it, you have about a 1 in 5 chance that you’ll make it out the other end


More than 20,000 people have been infected by Ebola in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea since the outbreak of the virus began, the World Health Organisation has said.

The WHO said in a statement on Monday that there have been 20,081 cumulative cases of infection in the three worst hit countries, and?more than 7,842 Ebola-related deaths recorded.

The virus is still spreading intensely in Sierra Leone, the organisation said,?with 315 new confirmed cases reported in the week to December 21. These included 115 cases in the capital Freetown.

In Guinea, 156 confirmed cases were recorded during the same period, “the highest weekly case incidence reported by the country in this outbreak”, it said.

In Liberia, where case incidence has been declining for the past month, 21 cases were reported in the week to December 21.

If there is one good thing about Ebola is that it has not been (more or less) exported to the rest of the world. ?Yet. ? Read more »


Please let Steffan prove this wrong

Steffan Browning thinks that homeopathy can save people from ebola.

Perhaps he might like to comment on this:

International Development Minister Desmond Swayne has dismissed concerns that Ebola is spread by zombies.

The Tory front-bencher told the Commons he had to enlighten a constituent who believed zombies were responsible for the escalation of the killer virus. ? Read more »

So how bad is this Ebola thing anyway?

Well, pretty bad if you catch it, but what are the chances of that?

Again not high. Look at this map:


It comes from an article in the Washington Post about the mis-conceptions about ebola.

Ebola is a frightening, unpredictable disease. Nearly 5,000 West Africans have died from the current outbreak with more than 13,000 people thought infected.

However, so far the problem remains largely limited to Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone. Two other countries, Nigeria and Senegal, have had cases, yet are now Ebola-free. The DR Congo had an outbreak of a different strain of Ebola that now looks like it might be contained. And while there has been one case of the disease in Mali, the patient died and no others have been confirmed at the time of writing — though that may well change. Read more »

Why did we ever think the Greens weren’t mad?

You have to give Russel Norman credit: ?he’s managed to make us forget just for a moment that the Greens are nothing but a collection of flat earth idiots. ?To a person, they tend to be single issue nutters that identify with the Greens because they are the party that provides a home for them (although Labour has been creeping in on that territory)

Steffan Browning is the Green MP that got in because of the final count of special votes. ?It cost National its outright majority. ?This is what we got for our money:


Prime Minister John Key has dismissed a Green MP’s suggestion that health officials should consider homeopathic remedies to treat the deadly Ebola virus as “barking mad”.

Green Party MP Steffan Browning made the suggestion, regarding World Health Organisation (WHO) options for treating Ebola, while acknowledging “some people will see it as wacky”.

This week Browning signed an online petition on Change.org, which calls for the WHO to end the suffering of the Ebola crisis by testing and distributing homeopathy as quickly as possible to contain the outbreaks.

Homeopathy is a system of alternative medicine, based on a doctrine of ?like cures like?, which means the patient is treated with a very diluted form of the substance causing the symptoms of the disease – in this case, a diluted version of the Ebola virus.

Key said he thought the idea was “barking mad”.

“Let’s be honest, this is a serious global issue, and if he really thinks that’s the answer I’d love to see the medical research.”

Browning said ?it was probably a bit unwise? to sign the petition, which he also shared on his Facebook page encouraging other people to sign it.

When asked, Browning also supported the US continuing to use Homeopathic Questioning Methods on Al Qaeda.

Here is a secret conversation we recorded by “industry insiders” about a whole different problem Browning should probably look into. ? Read more »

Hey, for once Otago Uni is in the news in a non-health-troughing way

Question is – can they turn this into a commercial product quickly enough?

A Dunedin-developed device could be the breakthrough health workers need in the global fight against the deadly Ebola virus.

Freedom 4 is small enough to sit in the palm of your hand, but the device packs a lot of punch.

Dr Jo-Ann Stanton and her University of Otago team spent six years developing it.

Freedom 4 can do on-the-spot tests for bacteria and viruses, like the much-feared Ebola.

“In the case of Ebola, it could be that we could look in a blood sample and see whether Ebola virus is present or not,” says Dr Stanton.

That means those with the Ebola virus can be identified more quickly, instead of their tests having to go back to a lab.

That would be handy.

“We’ve been able to basically run a very complex diagnostic in the palm of your hand, and you can be anywhere you need to, to run that test,” Dr Stanton says.

What I love about these sorts of machines is that when the automation experts get a hold of it, they reduce it to about 15% of its size, 5% of its power consumption, and may even be run from a smartphone.

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Stuff happy to start a panic


That’s quite a spectacular headline. ?Ebola’s method of transmission has thus far required contact to infected bodily fluids. ?If it can spread through the mail, imagine the potential for it to spread world-wide.

Luckily, it’s a typo. ?Fears hundreds are exposed to Ebola in Mali.


Headlines can be fun by themselves, especially when they go wrong. ? Read more »


Is this how Ebola will spread around New Zealand?

Doesn’t matter how many people are ready for Ebola. ?It doesn’t matter how well trained they are. ?It doesn’t matter if we have the facilities and equipment.

It’s going to come down to something like this


As a demonstration of how well-drilled New York City officials are in how to deal with Ebola, it left a lot to be desired.

Two New York City police officers who attended the Harlem apartment building of Dr Craig Spencer – the first confirmed Ebola case in the city – were observed afterward dumping their protective gear and caution tape in a garbage bin on the street.

While it was not immediately clear if the two officers had been inside Dr Spencer’s apartment, the episode had many people asking if the equipment should not have been disposed of in a biohazard bag – even if only as a precaution.

The other day it was the “clipboard guy” that walked up to fully biohazard suited people transporting a suspected Ebola patient, and now we have this. ?If there is going to be a failure to contain the disease, it won’t be because of a mistake made by front line people. ?? Read more »


Jonathan Coleman happy with our Ebola preparedness as the world counts its 10,000th patient

Health Minister Jonathan Coleman says a meeting of 20 government agencies to discuss New Zealand’s response to the threat of Ebola, reflected a “high level of preparedness” within the Government.

The Inter-Agency Pandemic Group includes police and the ministries of Defence, Civil Defence Emergency Management, Foreign Affairs and Trade and Primary Industries.

The group met in Wellington today – a yearly meeting, but with attention squarely focused on Ebola, Coleman said.

The Ebola outbreak in West Africa has already killed over 4500 people, mostly in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone, since it emerged 10 months ago. Experts have said the world could face 10,000 new cases a week in two months if authorities don’t take stronger steps to fight the deadly virus.

Cases have since been confirmed in the United States and parts of Europe.

Coleman said the risk of the infectious disease reaching New Zealand was remote, but New Zealand had to be prepared for the worst.

Actually, at this stage ?I think the risk of Ebola reaching New Zealand is a certainty, ?The disease is still spreading in an expansionary fashion. ? Read more »

People have been taking the Ebola risk quite lightly, but who is laughing now?


Ebola’s going to hit you in the pocket personally.

Chocolate prices could soar by up to 20 per cent as a result of the Ebola outbreak in Africa, experts have warned.

The cost of cocoa beans is already up 18.5 per cent year on year and there are fears the health crisis could spark further increases over the coming weeks.

Manufacturers of chocolate will decide how much of the price hike they pass on to the consumer, but it is inevitable that prices of products on shop shelves in Britain will rise.

The problem is the fear factor, according to analysts as the crop is good, supply is high and the countries which produce most of the world’s beans have not been hit by Ebola. Read more »