The case for and against homeopathy

A leading novelist who swears by it. A science expert who thinks it's tosh. Read these two fiercely opposing views of homeopathy - and you may find your own opinions suddenly change.

THE BELIEVER: JEANETTE WINTERSON Picture this. I am staying in a remote cottage in Cornwall without a car. I have a temperature of 102, spots on my throat, delirium, and a book to finish writing.

My desperate publisher suggests I call Hilary Fairclough, a homeopath who has practices in London and Penzance. She sends round a remedy called Lachesis, made from snake venom.

Four hours later I have no symptoms whatsoever.

Dramatic stuff, and enough to convince me that while it might use snake venom, homeopathy is no snake oil designed for gullible hypochrondriacs.

Right now, though, a fierce debate is raging between those, like me, who trust homeopathy because it works for them, and those who call it shamanistic claptrap, without clinical proof or any scientific base.
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THE SCEPTIC: BEN GOLDACRE Homeopathic pills are made by taking a substance, such as arsenic, and diluting it in water by one part in 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000.
A drop of this water is put into a jar of pills, which are then sold at great cost, and prescribed by homeopaths.

Homeopaths claim that their pills make people get better. This is a very easy claim to test, and it has been tested, exhaustively.

The pills perform no better than ordinary everyday sugar pills which have never been given the magical treatment by a homeopath: no better than placebo pills, if you will. But is there anything wrong with using the placebo effect? No, and it's fascinating. The placebo response is about far more than the pills - it is about the cultural meaning of a treatment, our expectation, and it has been studied extensively by medical science.

We know that four placebo sugar pills a day will clear up ulcers quicker than two sugar pills, we know that a saltwater injection is a more effective treatment for pain than a sugar pill, we know that green sugar pills are more effective for anxiety than red, and we know that brand packaging on painkillers increases pain relief.
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Source - Daily Mail

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