The item on Homeopathy below was written in January 2006. It should be sufficient and easy enough to understand by any member of Parliament responsible for voting on legislation affecting the National Health Service. However, these days we cannot assume even a basic level of intelligence as a given when it comes to those who sit in the House of Commons, sincere and hardworking though they may be. Many doctors and scientists appear to have little upstairs too when it come to this subject. See:

The critics of Homeopathy all admit the extraordinary power of the placebo effect (which I cover below in some detail). They then say that if Homeopathy makes use of the placebo effect, this is unethical!!  That is equivalent to saying that to make use of the placebo effect is, in itself, unethical, in spite of admitting its extraordinary powers. The critics object to the NHS spending even a modest amount of money on Homeopathic consultancy and treatment, even though they admit it is effective, because they dispute the science. They claim the treatment is not 'evidence based'. But in fact, it is entirely evidence based precisely because there is no accepted orthodox science to explain it. The evidence is its success, which has no explanation in orthodox science so far other than the placebo effect. The track record is impressive. This is what one would expect. It has been impressive for many years..

The only known way to effectively engage the full power of the placebo effect is to give patients a diagnosis and medicine they trust. There are only two ways to do this: One is to give them a pill with nothing but sugar and tell them it is an Allopathic medicament. The other is to give them a pill with nothing but sugar and tell them it is a Homeopathic treatment. The first is certainly unethical and a plain lie. The second is the truth and, since it spares them a useless allopathic treatment providing they have gone to a qualified practitioner, is to be greatly preferred. Far from costing the NHS money and getting patients addicted to dubious medicines, it saves the NHS a great deal of money and enhances the health of patients. If it does not work, they will abandon it anyway.

In June, there was extensive lobbying and many MPs caled for the abandonment of homeopathic treatments funded by the NHS
29 June 2010 Last updated at 14:39

Doctors call for NHS to stop funding homeopathy

By Nick Triggle Health reporter, BBC News
Homeopathic remedies often contain few or no active ingredients

The NHS should stop funding homeopathy and it should no longer be marketed as a medicine in pharmacies, doctors say.

But I am delighted to report (see the link below to the PULSE website):

Government defends right to homeopathy on the NHS Jul 10

By Ian Quinn

The Government has strongly rejected demands by MPs for the funding of homeopathy on the NHS to be withdrawn, claiming it would fly in the face of patient choice and local decision-making.

In its response to a report from the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee, which issued a damning verdict on the practice and called for GPs to be barred from referring patients under the NHS, the Department of Heath said it would not be stepping in - despite MPs' concerns over the lack of evidence and regulation of homeopathic treatments.

By George, I think they've got it!

DECEMBER 29th 2011
Oops!  People supposed to be very senior scientists are fighting back. They certainly DON'T get it

A podcast of the edition of Material World with my comments is downloadable at:

Look for the one headed:

Permafrost; Space Worms; DNA Barcoding - 01 Dec 11

Thu, 1 Dec 11

If due to the passage of time it is not locatable there, try clicking HERE.

After the introduction which hints at the comments on the previous program [24 Nov 11: Scientists on risk] to come, lean on the fast-forward arrow of the Podcast to a point about half-way through - on my android phone-screen it is just before the 'l' of 'Material' on the podcast title window.

I didn't really mean to call their Lordships 'silly' but they were on this particular point, as they had gone to some lengths earlier to concede that political and social considerations could sometimes mean that scientific advice might not have priority when it came to taking decisions. Yet not only was this was a classic case when this was true, we can even agree that Homoeopathy is not science at this stage. It may, or may not, be purely based on placebo effects. The point is that when it works, it is effective. If it doesn't, patients and doctors look elsewhere. However it is more usual that people have turned to homoeopathy when conventional medicine has failed.

So battle is joined!!

The following can be used as either alternative or complementary
JANUARY 06 2006 - FEB 07 2006

HOMOEOPATHY (or HOMEOPATHY - take your pick)
Homeopathy operates at least on the same principle as the Placebo Effect. Whether it has an additional subliminal 'chemical trigger' effect is difficult to prove or disprove.

The common Placebo effect engages the brain and brainstem of an individual in general and specific ways to accelerate a healing process. It should be born in mind that an injured, poisoned or infected human being may react in a number of different ways, with different results. Getting specialist help may assist an individual to recover when on their own they might have succumbed. Allopathic medicine uses substitutes for the individual's own defence and repair mechanisms. In so doing they may weaken the individual's own defence and repair mechanisms. Placebo and Homeopathy stimulate the individual's own defence and repair mechanisms.

The above is established, uncontested scientific knowledge.

What is up for debate is whether the mental suggestion and encouragement given by a neutral placebo allied to the avoidance of allopathic medicine (which will also have a positive effect*), is enhanced in the case of homeopathy by a 'chemical suggestion' that can trigger the brain and brainstem at a level below or beyond the input of the conventionally recognised senses of sight, smell, touch, hearing and taste. The Homeopathic theory is that not only does the chemical used (which may be toxic) stimulate the body's defences, but that it can do this even when diluted beyond the level when a single molecule of the substance can be guaranteed to be present in any given daily dose. There are too many interpretations of the physics to go into here.

Due to the power of effective placebo treatment and the power of suggestion that can be attributed to highly qualified diagnosticians who convince the patient that they have understood their symptoms, it may be impossible to design tests that differentiate between homeopathy and placebo treatment. This means that tests have to be restricted to babies and animals. Even then, it is rarely possible to find many babies and animals with identical problems and subject some to placebo and some to homeopathic treatment. Ethical considerations make this difficult in the case of babies in all but minor complaints, and environmental controls are extremely difficult. There are, however, a number of animal breeders and trainers who are of the opinion that homeopathy is very effective.

The most sensible conclusion is to accept that Homeopathy is the best way to harness the placebo effect, particularly as Homeopaths are medically trained, are dedicated to the highest level of diagnostic skill and do not have fundamentalist beliefs that would cause them to deny the use of allopathic medicine to their patients if obviously required. Because it enables patients to have a proper consultation and to avoid unnecessary allopathic treatment which may easily cause dependency, Homeopathy is to be encouraged.

It may well be that in some cases, where the diagnosis is very precise and the homeopathic remedy appropriate and the 'chemical suggestion' that I have mentioned as possible turns out to be a reality, that the effect is spectacular. Then again a 'course' of homeopathic pills, for example, might contain a dose of (e.g.) arsenic or nux vomica that was measurable. If it works spectacularly on an animal, this could be the reason.

*[A classic allopathic remedy is Aspirin. Very useful in specific instances, not a good idea if used regularly. Habitual aspirin used to reduce the risk of arterial or veinous problems will cause dependency, that's OK if there is no alternative but, on principle, it is a last resort. Allopathic medicine to lower a temperature will NOT help the body to deal with an infection. Better to let the temperature rise. Antibiotics should be avoided at all costs unless the body is losing the battle or the circumstances are such that the patient's benign environment cannot be guaranteed. They weaken the immune system and the digestion and encourage the development of resistent bacteria.]

The above is the situation as it has been clearly understood for many years. The only new knowledge concerns some of the mechanisms through which the placebo effect operates, though none of these has come as a surprise and, since we can use the effect without this knowledge, it is of academic interest only. What counts is: can an individual with a dis-ease go to a doctor who can give them a good diagnosis and the best treatment? The more qualified homeopathic doctors there are the more the answer to this question will be yes.   JB Jan 06 2006

JANUARY 30th. An article in today's Independent may shed light on the basic Placebo Effect

Scientists discover chemical link that may explain the 'placebo effect'

By Steve Connor, Science Editor, The Independent

Published: 30 January 2006

Scientists may have discovered a possible cause of the "placebo effect", where a sham medical treatment results in a genuine benefit to the patient. A study has found production of a chemical "messenger" in the brain appears to play a critical role.

Jon Stoessl, professor of neurology at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, believes the placebo effect could be caused by the production of a chemical in the brain called dopamine, which is involved in triggering the expectation of pleasure and reward.

Professor Stoessl carried out a study on patients suffering from Parkinson's disease, which is known to result from a lowering of normal levels of dopamine.

Normally when Parkinson's patients are given a chemical precursor to dopamine they show an improvement in levels of dopamine produced naturally, which makes them feel better. But when Professor Stoessl injected six of his patients with a simple saline solution he found that they too showed an improvement in levels of dopamine - the average increase was more than double.

The patients given the saline solution were told they were to be given the actual treatment and as a result they were expecting to feel an improvement, Professor Stoessl said.

Details will be shown in Alternative Medicine: the evidence at 9pm on BBC2 tomorrow.

FEBRUARY 7th 2006     


Faith healing is, as has been concluded by Kathy Sykes in her Alternative Medicine series, not unconnected with the 'placebo effect'. It can certainy involve more than dopamine (see Jan 30th entry above) but it is the healed person, not the healer, who does the chemical work. The healer is the source of inspiration and the trigger-motivator


The problem of modern manufactured imitation drugs can be laid at the door of Fritz Hoffmann-La Roche who thought that the pure chemical extracts, rather than the natural cocktail, was the future of medicine.

Benedictines from Salerno in X-XI century contributed enormously to herbalism. Their work was Regimen Sanitatis Salernitanum, which contained not only valuable information about medicinal herbs, but dietary recipes as well.

This master-work was borrowed and mysteriously returned without permission by (according to my information) the founder of Roche, Fritz Hoffmann-La Roche, who was convinced that the future belonged to branded pharmaceutical products. He was among the first to maintain that the industrial manufacture of standardised medicines would be a major advance in the fight against disease.

This led him to found F. Hoffmann-La Roche & Co. on October 1st 1896. From the very beginning, Fritz Hoffmann attached great importance to product information as the link between the pharmaceutical manufacturer and doctors, pharmacists and patients. Shortly after the foundation of the company, affiliates were opened in Germany, Italy, France, the US, Great Britain and Russia.

Since then, Roche has grown into one of the world's leading healthcare companies and one of the most important in Europe

That Nature is a better manufacturer than Roche or Bayer or Glaxo, and the 'natural cocktail' in the whole herbs themselves, which we cannot replicate, has a more synergistic effect has been known for years. If you understood the meaning of the parable of the tree of knowledge, you will have understood all this without having to have me explain it. Once again Kathy Sykes of the Open University has been telling us that this has just been discovered. To her satisfaction, maybe, but many never doubted it in the first place.


On BBC2 on Tues 24 Jan we had  Kathy Sykes 'discovering' the completely obvious, and claiming it was extraordinary. Three quarters of the way though the programme she came to what was for her an amazing conclusion: that pain might have something to do with the brain, not the body which she thought, it seems, feels it.  The limbic system is known as the pain-experience mechanism.Without it, we cannot feel pain. If pain is going to be relieved, deactivation rather than enhanced activation is the surely by definition the only possibility. Acupuncture is not the only way the limbic system can be deactivated, though it is a relatively direct one.

If one is aware how many Chinese people there are, and how long (compared with Europe) they have had an advanced civilisation with a medical practice, it is clearly perverse, to put it mildly, to believe they would have settled on a completely useless practice. If it works at all, western science and logic suggests that that is how it works unless a placebo effect on the level of deep self-hypnosis is responsible which would also have to affect the limbic system..

It does not really matter if the charts showing lines of sensitivity for acupuncture have any accurate meaning or not. The fact remains that it they seem to enable practitioners to use acupuncture safely and effectively. Now that magnetic resonance scans have shown it affects te limbic system in the brain, a further insight into the mechanism is evident; but in the final analysis, if it works for the patient, it works.

SEPTEMBER 18th 2011
Another reminder that unless we find an alternative approach and prepare it soon, our antibiotic defence is approaching its 'Waterloo'.