Brian Boyd: Goodbye and good riddance to the nonsense of homeopathy
US law will hopefully also spell the end of aromatherapy, reiki and mindfulness
Snake oil? Homeopathy was always the dodgy second-hand car salesman of the alt-medical world. Photograph: iStockphoto
Who’s for the last of the gluten-free orgasms? Get them while they’re hot. Time has just been called on the alternative/holistic/complementary/integrative fringe medicine world and, by extension, its gluten-free and organic fellow-travellers.
In what can only be described as an “intervention”, the US government ruled this week that homeopathy treatments will now be held to the same advertising standards as other products claiming health benefits.
This ruling means that, shortly in the US, all homeopathic products will have to include the statements “There is no scientific evidence backing homeopathic health claims” and “Homeopathic claims are based only on theories from the 1700s that are not accepted by modern medical experts” if they are to be stocked in chemist’s shops.
One nutcase “medicine” down, just 999 to go. With the wind in our sails, we can now proceed to shine the light of medical proof and scientific rigour into the eyes of other magical treatments: aromatherapy, reiki, chiropractic, reflexology, acupuncture etc.
If homeopathy having its feet held to the fire means this whole supernatural house of cards collapses, then maybe we can reclaim autonomy over our health and wellbeing and govern ourselves by the principles of universally accepted expert medical and scientific knowledge – all washed down with lashings of common sense.
You’d make a better fist of it selling magic carpets on O’Connell Bridge than trying to back that sort of insanity up in a sales pitch. If you really want to rewrite the rules of chemistry, biology and physics and assert that water has a memory, maybe set aside your homeopathic treatments for a while and have a good, long talk with a psychiatrist instead. Just don’t tell your water – you know how it bears grudges.
Despite every sane medical expert welcoming these thorough new strictures on homeopathy, the evidence suggests that it won’t substantially dent its snake-oil sales, as a belief in the supernatural powers of homeopathy usually runs in tandem with a belief that Big Pharma is out to get you. Once they correct their psychic energy imbalance by drinking their magic memory-water, expect homeopathic “truthers” to raise a feeble finger in protest.
Sadly, no amount of fact-based medical data can counter a belief system that is constructed around “evidence” such as “it works for me” or “but people have been using this for hundreds of years”.
So ridiculously in thrall are we to anything that’s “ancient” and “natural”, that mindfulness classes – in which you can “access your secret inner garden” (gosh) are now being used in workplaces, hospitals, the military and prisons.
Funny but when Kim Jong-un forces this type of nonsense on the North Korean workforce it’s seen as being another example of his despotism; but here mindfulness is the new kale.
Mindfulness, in the sense of stepping back and having some internal time to yourself, is a very good thing. But why the need to travel somewhere to receive instruction from a beatifically smiling mindfulness practitioner as to how to execute this most basic of principles? And be expected to pay for the privilege as well?
The boring truth here is that the three things we can effectively control about our health and wellbeing are all simple, easy and free. Eat real food, get some exercise and don’t smoke.
You don’t have to get your credit card out, you might meet some interesting new people if you exercise with a group and you can use your mindfulness to reflect on the fact that you are engaging in sound, time-honoured, globally-recognised best medical practice for health and illness prevention.
And don’t worry about the gluten-free orgasms. They’re so 2015 anyway.