Homeopathy: How it Really Works

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Prometheus Books, 2004 - Health & Fitness - 319 pages
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The popularity of homeopathy has been increasing dramatically both in America and worldwide. Annual world sales of homeopathic remedies are approaching two billion dollars. In this thorough examination of homeopathy, physicist Jay W. Shelton analyzes the history, the remedies, the logical inconsistencies, and the effectiveness of this popular alternative medicine.
Invented by German physician Samuel Hahnemann (1755-1843), homeopathy is based on two key principles: (1) the law of similars—symptoms induced in healthy volunteers after ingestion of a substance are the same symptoms in sick people that this substance will cure; and (2) the concept of "potentization"—the most diluted remedies have the greatest curative power. Shelton clearly shows that although these principles may have had the ring of science in the early 19th century, they are not well supported by today's science.
And yet, most patients who visit homeopaths are better afterwards. Homeopaths assume the remedies are the cause. Shelton finds explanations based on known science to be better supported by the evidence. Unassisted natural healing, changes in lifestyle urged by the homeopath, the placebo effect, and cessation of harmful treatments are more probable causes of improved health.
This being the case, he pursues the question why so many people continue to believe that the remedies themselves are responsible. Among the contributing factors Shelton notes: the plausible-sounding explanations of homeopathic theory, a fundamental misunderstanding among homeopaths of science and its methods, and, ultimately, the poor quality of education in critical thinking and science.
This reasoned, balanced, and in-depth assessment will interest both homeopaths and conventional medical practitioners, as well as consumers curious about a well-known and much-publicized alternative medicine.

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This is an excellent book which should be required reading for anybody who wishes to practise or use homeopathy. It dissects in minute detail the inferential errors which cause people to believe that homeopathy works, even though there is no reason to suppose it should, on way it can and no proof it does.
Most importantly, it explains how apparently intelligent people can get sucked into the intellectual black hole and conduct study after study each of which appears to show it works but none of which actually prove what their authors believe that have proved.
If you have a genuinely open mind, this book will inform and entertain you. If your religious beliefs forbid you from even considering the possibility that homeopathy does not work, it will infuriate you. I believe this is a feature, not a bug.

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There have been at least 89 double-blind, placebo-controlled, studies of homeopathic remedies which have proven the efficacy of homeopathy and that the effect is more than placebo.
For example, in a
double-blind placebo-controlled study conducted in Britain in 1980, 82 percent of those receiving the homeopathic remedy enjoyed improvements in rheumatoid arthritis vs. 21 percent of the control group on placebo.
Another study by David Taylor Reilly compared the effects of a homeopathic hay-fever remedy with placebo. He found that those who received the remedy had six times fewer symptoms than those with placebo.
Several studies on animals and infants -- who don't know what they are receiving -- show that homeopathic remedies do work. So how does Shelton explain the effects of the homeopathic cure of a baby's colic or an aging pet's incontinence?
We are not completely sure how homeopathy works. Quantum physics says that water has memory. This might be part of the answer. Cognitive neuroscience does not know how the brain thinks. Shall we then not believe in thinking?
A recent nuclear-magnetic resonance study showed that 23 different homeopathic remedies, tested at different potencies, had distinctive readings of subatomic activity while the placebo did not. This demonstrates that homeopathic function is not so much chemical but energetic.
Shelton suggests that remedies can't work because we cannot identify the molecules left, if any. I suggest that Shelton is looking in the wrong direction. The answer isn't chemical -- it is energetic.
Medical science has not been able to unravel the mystery of the mechanism of sense perception. The process of neurons cannot answer the question of what is mind, what is soul and where they are located. How are the signals from the brain processed and conveyed to the mind? How does the mind decipher and interpret these signals?
Does Shelton believe in the existence of love, anger, depression or cynicism? They cannot be proven or measured. Do we then conclude they do not exist?
Shelton did not bring rigorous thinking to his exploration. His conclusion seems to be based on very little evidence -- his own trying of two remedies and not having any results.
This same thing occurs in allopathic medicine. Often antibiotics do not work until the right one is prescribed. Shelton, obviously, did not get the right remedy either time.
Fortunately, homeopathy is being increasingly recognized for its ability to effect deep, gentle, long-lasting cures without the side effects or expense of allopathic medicines. Homeopathy is the national medicine of India today -- all hospitals there are homeopathic.
I believe homeopathy could be the solution to our nation's financial dilemma with prescription medicines. In the hands of a well-trained homeopath, homeopathy acts as preventative as well as curative medicine and the cost of health care diminishes tremendously.
Hannah Eagle is a classical homeopath in practice in Tesuque, NM.”


Introduction to Classical Homeopathy

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About the author (2004)

Jay W. Shelton, Ph.D. (Santa Fe, NM), is a Harvard-educated physicist, a teacher of physics and physical sciences at Santa Fe Preparatory School, and president of Shelton Research.

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