Field of Science

Mercola's bogus homeopathy treatments for the flu

I've just read Dr. Mercola's latest flu remedies, and I'm feeling scornful. I'm sorry, but Mercola is such an outrageous quack that he just leaves me astonished.
His latest "reliable and safe" treatments, posted just yesterday, are a set of homeopathic remedies for the flu. When I saw the headline, I couldn't wait to read on: one of my favorite quacks, endorsing the most laughable of all quack remedies - how delightful!

It's a short article, and almost every line is wrong. Given Mercola's recent scare-mongering about the flu vaccine, which I wrote about a few months ago, I'm not surprised that he continues to push his own "natural" cures - that's how he makes money, selling ineffective treatments after making bogus claims about them. Let's look at how he says we should treat our flu symptoms.


First, he writes that homeopathy "emphasizes adjusting medications and dosages in precise ways according to how each individual happens to feel." Wrong! Homeopathy starts with compounds that have no demonstrated effectiveness and then dilutes them so much that there isn't a *single molecule* of the original substance left. That's right, they're nothing more than water. I wouldn't call that "adjusting" - "removing" would be the correct term. (For example, a typical dilution is 20C, which is equivalent to a dilution of 1040. If you know Avogadro's number, you'll know that this dilution won't contain even one molecule of the original substance. For more reading on the pseudoscience behind homeopathy, and numerous references, see the excellent resource at Science-Based Medicine.)

So that's misleading, but wait, there's more! Mercola then presents a list of 6 different flu symptoms, and for each one he tells you the remedy that you need. I don't have time to discuss them all, so let me just administer a judicious dose of scorn to two of them:
(1) "Coldlike symptoms, such as exhaustion, anxiety, chills, diarrhea and vomiting, and thirst for warm water. Remedy: Arsenicum album. "
What the heck, you might ask, is Arsenicum album? It's a derivative of arsenic, which of course is a poison (ever seen the wonderful old Cary Grant film, Arsenic and Old Lace?). Among the side effects of arsenic: diarrhea and vomiting, thirst, convulsions, and death. Wow, that signs like a good treatment. Luckily, homeopathic preparations only contain water.
(2) "Sensitivity to both hot and cold temperatures, thick coating on the tongue, bad breath, raw and sore throat, excessive saliva production, and possibly profuse sweating. Remedies: Mercurius solubilis or Mercurius vivus. "
Really? Really? Mercurius solubilis just means liquid mercury, which is highly toxic. What is so appalling hypocritical about this recommendation is that Mercola has written dozens of articles on his own website (here and here and here, for example) with titles like "how the mercury in vaccines can kill your baby" and "avoid the destructive wrath of mercury in vaccines," and "new flu vaccine is loaded with mercury" - and now he is recommending mercury to treat the flu! How deliciously ironic. How extraordinary. I couldn't make this stuff up.

But I'm not being entirely fair to Dr. Mercola. You see, he just copied his list of recommendations, virtually word for word, from another quack: Mark Stengler, a naturopathic "doctor" who is almost a carbon copy of Mercola. On his website, he sells loads of natural products, books of advice, and a "natural healing" newsletter. So maybe Stengler is the real brains here - he recommends same six homeopathic flu remedies plus two more.

Mercola cites Stengler as his source (how scholarly!) but his website doesn't tell you that he simply edited down the list and used it word for word. But hey, Stengler probably doesn't mind.

Maybe I should have more respect for these guys. But why? They are trying to hoodwink the public, first by scaring them with misinformation about the flu, and then selling books, newsletters, and ineffective remedies to sick people. Scorn seems the most appropriate reaction.

26 comments:

  1. Even if you deal entirely with placebos you can adjust your placebos in precise ways according to how your individual patient reacts.

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  2. Homeopathy is art based on principle.
    I am sorry to say that writer Steven Salzberg has wrote this without a mere knowledge about homeopathy. Every medicine has its limitation. I have experience with homeopathy, it is a science and it does work.
    Anything can be poison if consumed in large amount. Arsenic & Mercury are excellent remedy. Need to know how to use it.
    Before commenting writer needs to learn about homeopathy. You can't just read homeopathy, need to spent more time in learning and experiencing it.
    Lutak

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    1. No, Anonymous, not EVERYTHING can be a poison. Homeopathic remedies, for one. People have done mass suicide attempts with homeopathic sleep aids, to no avail. Of course even water, the least toxic chemical compound andthe main and only ingredient of most homo "remedies," can be poison if consumed in massive quantities. But that does not apply to homeopathic medicine water, which is too expensive to consume in those quantities.

      Homeopathy is not only NOT a science, it has not even a nodding acquaintance with science, and its principles are so absurd that anyone who is aware of them and still, somehow, does not find the whole practice laughable, is … well, let's say less than astute.

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  3. in 1970, i came down with a malfunction that was incurable, the doctors at the time said they couldn't' help me, so i turned to alternative healing.
    that didn't' help me either, but at 59 years old, the doctors tell me my insides have the stats of a 30 yr old.
    alternative medicine works, but only if you try it. its easy to throw rocks and insults at a subject you have no knowledge of.
    and yes i go to and use doctors. but i go to them for the same reasons that others go to psychics, "to tell me what i already know about myself".
    thanks for reading this.

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    1. Well said. Medical doctors have their place, however it's vital that we all acknowledge the physician within ourselves. Our society has developed too great a dependance on medical doctors - thinking somehow that they are magicians or 'gods'. Medical doctors can only practice what they've been taught, which is very little, in particular with regard nutrition of which medical doctors have no training in whatsoever. Whatever your view, please don't disregard your own ability to THINK outside of 'standard of care'. You must take responsibility for your own life and your own well-being and NEVER leave your Life entirely in the hands of any one else outside of yourself. Do your own due diligence if you find yourself 'unwell' - seek advice from many sources and then carefuly choose the therapyor treatments that suit you best and that you feel confident about. TOo many people blindly accept 'standard of care' from MD's and this is unacceptable if you want to live a long and healthy life. MD's are able to prescribe drugs (often toxic/deadly with detrimental side effects). They prescribe these drugs because they need to abide by 'standard of care' otherwise their license is at risk. Many MD's are fully aware of the risks to their patients however they are only human and they also need to earn a living to feed their families and to survive. It's a sad and overwhelmingly confusing circle of destruction. AT the end of the day, YOU MUST walk confidently in whatever treatments or therapies you choose to heal or maintain your health. You can blame NO ONE outside of YOURSELF for any decision you make. It's your body. DO what works for you - no matter what it is. Don't allow yourself to be berated or laughed at, if you know that an 'alternative' therapy is working to heal you! Just quietly go about your therapies and distance yourself from negative people. Trust your instincts and trust the physician within you. Never, ever, leave your life in the hands of one other person outside of yourself. Never. I have a medical background and I have healed myself of a 15 year debilitating chronic and extremely painful illness, through my own research of the very best 'alternative' therapies I could find. I did this because the 'standard of care' was radical surgery and I was not going to accept this as the solution. I found my healing and I now live free of pain, and free of the torment of the thought that I may have had a vital organ slashed from my body if I had not had the strength of will to find another way. I found MY way out - and I am healed and whole. You can find your way too. Use what's out there and never give up. Keep the faith and stay strong. You must take responsibility for your life, regardless of what others have to say.

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    2. Sounds like this Anonymous is urging that we base our medical decisions on hunches. I urge you not to wire your house by the same approach; you're likely to awake surrounded by flames. It's true doctors are not magicians, some of them can by myopic or indifferent. But not most, I believe. I, too, have a medical background (whatever that may mean in Anonymous' case, which could be anything from medical equipment sales to CNA; I'm a nurse). I DO believe that our body takes care of a lot of its own ills, and that we need to do our own research when making critical decisions about our body. Bad surgery on my left eye left me with only a right eye. I don't wish, though, that I'd taken a homeopathic remedy when my retina began to detach instead of seeing a doctor; I wish I'd chosen a better doctor. But choose your treatments only from those based on science, which most "alternative" medicines are not. In medical terms, alternative medicines that work are called medicines.

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  4. Homeopathy is based upon the law of similars. If you don't know the very basics about homeopathy, don't bash it. I work with homeopathic medicine, and the remedy for the onset of the flu is made from a dilution of duck liver. Duck liver in itself causes flu-like symptoms. If you do the proper diluting of the original ingredient, it eventually becomes a remedy to cure the exact ailment that the original ingredient causes. It seems like the person who wrote this article did his/her scientific homework, except they forgot to check the origins, or even very basic principles of what they were bashing. You can say whatever you want about a certain person, but homeopathic medicine is safe and very effective in almost any case that you may use it for. Learn it.

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    1. The more one knows about homeopathy the more one feels compelled to bash it. It doesn't take long to learn the basics of homeopathy, if one stops short of bothering to learn which worthless and ineffective concoction is deemed by the homeo "materia medic" to be appropriate for which ailment. The "law of similars" is a form of sympathetic magic, like believing the ingestion of powdered rhino horn will cure impotence. There is, actually, no such law, so you may disregard it with impunity.

      As for the homeopathic remedy for flu containing duck liver (rotten duck liver, I believe), it so happens that I, as a vegan, could consume it with a clear conscience if I wanted to waste my money (it's rather pricey). "It's called Oscillococcinum is a complete hoax product. The method of production is to take an extract of duck liver and heart and dilute it in a 1:100 ratio with water, and to do that dilution over and over, 200 times. Wikipedia, in the article I linked up above, eloquently explains what this means: 'Mathematically, in order to have a reasonable chance to obtain one molecule of the original extract, the patient would have to consume an amount of the remedy roughly 10^321 times the number of atoms in the observable universe.'" http://jimmywales.quora.com/Homeopathy-Oscillococcinum-in-particular

      It was developed when perceptive French doctor believed he saw a vibrating bacterium in flu victims. He then concluded this buzzing bacteria was responsible for a whole HOST of viral infections, and cancer, too. But we should cut him some slack; that was in 1925; this is the 21st century and we have the benefit of way more scientific knowledge. C'mon, Anonymous. Really? You're really BUYING this nonsense? I don't blame you for staying anonymous. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oscillococcinum

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  5. Anon: I do indeed know the basics about homeopathy. I just wrote a post on the duck liver treatment, coincidentally - it's complete quackery (no pun intended!). Homeopathy was invented by Samuel Hahnemann, who didn't know about Avogadro's number (which was known at the time, but not widely), and he apparently didn't know that "infinite dilution" (his idea) was nonsensical.

    What's more, the "law of similars" isn't a law at all, it's just something that Hahnemann made up. It has no scientific basis. And don't start lecturing me on vaccines, that has nothing to do with it.

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  6. It's not just about the amount of something that you can measure, see, and feel, but moreso about the energy that that item may provide. Yes, once you dilute a substance down in homeopathy past a certain point, it can no longer be detected by machinery. However, the energy that was once there is still very much so active, and unmeasurable by our modern tests. Anybody who has ever taken a 30C dilution of arnica will know that it heals any bruising, muscle soreness, or inflammation very well and much more quickly than our bodies can do on their own. Or, possibly a 30C of allium cepa, which will stop a runny nose in a flash, when in fact it's a completely undetectable amount of onion.

    I agree that the law is not a law. Nowhere is it written in stone like gravity and such, but it holds true to what it says. I've seen labs take a fraction of a kidney stone in a patient, dilute it down with homeopathic energy, condense it into tablets, and cure his kidney stones with an undetectable dilution of his own stones.

    I'm not really sure what your take on vaccines in, nor why you brought it up. My take is that the idea is relevant, but uncontrolled. The viruses fed into our young are way too powerful for their undeveloped immune system to handle, or even know what to do with a that point. The aluminum shot into their bloodstream to "supress" their immune system is beyond me as well. Aluminum is gathered in the brain and collects into Alzheimers. The added formaldehyde, mercury, other heavy metals, and whatever else they put in there for immunosupressant properties doesn't impress me much either. The whole idea behind vaccines is to let our body create antibodies, but if we supress the immune system at the time of injection, how does that work out?

    I am not saying that any of these methods are wrong, or do not work. I just worry about the DNA and immune systems of our next generation that is being chemically altered, which seems to force the production of autism and other such diseases that are non-existant in communities without vaccinations.

    And Steven, I am not here to start a fight. I just enjoy speaking with educated people and get their take on modern issues. Thanks for reading!

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    1. Anonymous, why would any of us believe any of the silliness you're putting forth here? For that matter, why would you? Before we spend a dime on these supposed miracle cures or endanger our health, we need a little research. And some researchers have, for whatever reason, DONE studies on homeopathy, which have confirmed what our common sense would have predicted: NO effects at all. So, you're right, no side effects, either. (I'm sure homeopaths have done their OWN experiments, but totally without scientific rigor.)

      And I don't know what you're going on about, with aluminum and immunosuppressants and all. "Studies have shown that many aluminum-containing vaccines cause higher and more prolonged antibody responses than comparable vaccines without the adjuvant." That sound like an immunosuppressant to you? I AM not saying that any of these homeo methods are wrong, and do not work.

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  7. How is it that most of the pro Homeopathy statements are made in anonymous posts ? Secondly, one wonders if the person making those claims has studied high school science. Maybe modern medicine is not good enough, but surely one can't find fault with Physics, Chemistry and Biology in a single post! "Anonymous" seems to have done the impossible.

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  8. Elizabeth Rule: I'm a medical journalist and after twelve years in this field I am SHOCKED and SADDENED by what the socalled western medicine has become. I have reported about hundreds of premature and preventable deaths caused by medical doctors, specialists and pharmacies as a DIRECT result of unnecessary operations and medications - with fatal consequences. During a stressful time I was also diagnosed and urged by FIVE different socalled specialists to undergo an operation for a hernia, esophagus cancer, etc. Luckily I consulted a homeopath and a naturopath and with the SCIO they diagnosed and treated the CORE of the problem and today, ten years later, I have NEVER been back to ANY socalled DOCTOR and have saved tens of patients from horror side-effects of chemical drugs - they all are cured now. So PLEASE western doctors - stop prescribing killer drugs and help patients to HEAL themselves by natural ways as the body is MADE to heal itself! ENOUGH of this SICK pill and scalpel approach that treats the symptoms, but does NOT fix anything...and in the end the side-effects kill people or leave them as chronic pill poppers?@!!

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  9. Elizabeth Rule: You cannot argue the facts - people who avoid doctors and learn to adapt their diets to prevent/control high blood pressure, cholesterol and other common ailments by simple LIFE STYLE CHANGES and NATURAL foods and exercise are much healthier than those who first seek help from doctors and were immediately put on chronic medication ... for life and thus suffer all the side-effects for LIFE. People should empower themselves with knowledge and take responsibility for their own health BEFORE they become pill-popping addicts and thereby enriching pharmaceutical companies and killing themselves due to all the side-effects of those same pills! Blood pressure pills cause blood clots and we all KNOW it, but the doctors keep on prescribing it whilst there are MANY natural remedies to control blood pressure - even lemon juice and hot water in the morning will do more than those toxic pills...?! Western medicine has gone berserk and has stagnated on chemicals instead of using the body's own power to HEAL itself by stimulating the immune system and treating the body as a WHOLE entity - body, mind and soul are LINKED! Heart specialists precribe drugs that affect the kidneys and liver and vice versa - its Dark Age monstrosities and people should wake UP and look for themselves - the evidence is all over!

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  10. How terrible for you doctor, it seems your readers don't agree with you.
    What is a poor doctor to do. The public is going en mass for homeopathy and other natural treatments - so are some of the smarter doctors. My dentist gladly took my presc. for his cough. He was so pleased with his recovery.
    About 15 years ago I started talking to the dentist I had at that time - about homeopathy, etc. He thought I was really crazy. But then he started looking into these natural therapies and eventually became a holistic dentist - his family doctor: a homeopathic MD.

    Everyone in my family has a kit of homeopathic remedies - and if they don't know what to take for a particular condition, they call me.
    I'm not quite a classical homeopath. I will use multiple remedies sometimes. My daughter takes the kids to a classical homeopath and they are doing well. My granddaughter is getting strait A's in college - has had mostly homeopathic and also foods as medicine from birth.
    Yes, arguing against homeopathy is really a losing proposition - worldwide and now in the US,now too

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  11. So now we have a cure for the flu - just vaccinate! Huh?

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  12. The issue with modern medicine is it is controlled by the giant and extremely profitable pharmaceutical companies. They support doctors and hospitals that effectively continue to act as distributors to their very profitable products. The most profitable patient is one who is neither dead, nor fully living.

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    1. You left out some tokens in that game of Monopoly- Insurance and the FDA.

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    2. No, modern medicine is largely controlled by the insurance companies (too bad we don't have a single payer system on the way). Often I see doctor's prescription overruled and substitutions made to meet insurers' demands. But it's good to know that seeming predatory creeps like Mercola and Spengler are actually humanitarians who seek no earthly reward. If they WERE in it for the money they could make a bundle, what with all they would save on research and verification of their claims.

      And, you know what? Most of the medicines I administer are NOT all that profitable. Most of them—almost all, where I work—are generic; some of them are cheaper than name-brand vitamins. Many of the most familiar, least expensive medicines not only are the most reliable, new uses have been found for some of them unrelated to the uses for which they were originally formulated. I wonder why Big Pharm even bothered with testing them out for those uses, since the patents are expired.

      All these alternative tropes do nothing to justify the peddling of worthless medicines to a gullible public. Quack medicines USED to be illegal, as they should be. Those who sell them, thus endangering their users, are beneath contempt; those who endorse and promote them out of naiveté or cognitive dissonance aren't without blame, either, their ignorance notwithstanding. They COULD take some time to educate themselves, maybe study a little science.

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  13. I have taken care of myself through a truly healthy unprocessed diet for years, I exercise regularly, I do not take antibiotics or RX, I take homeopathics when needed and supplement with such things as bioavailable Vit D, healthy oils etc. I do not take ANY vaccines including the bogus flu vaccine and I completely believe in the bodies ability to heal itself if taken care of. Oh yea.. and I also have worked as a clinical medical professional for years and work in hospitals full time around doctors, surgeons etc. who promote main stream medicine. I see and evaluate sick people every day with the same lifetime lifestyles and the same diseases that ravage their bodies because they always did what the doc said. Our medical system is SERIOUSLY broke but individuals don't seem to care much until they become a patient and have to navigate the medical rabbit hole in this country. So don't knock living healthy if you have never experienced it..

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    1. What is a "clinical medical professional"? It's always a bit suspicious when people describe themselves as "medical professionals" without being more specific. Were you, perhaps, a CNA in a clinic? Nothing wrong with that; I have great respect for CNA's. But why not just say it. As for special insights you might have gained working around the doctors and surgeons you despise, well, I know a lot of nurses who smoke.

      Can't hurt to adopt a healthy lifestyle. You can avoid main stream medicine altogether with a healthy lifestyle and a lot of luck.

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  14. I work in a homeopathic clinic, and its pretty apparent you don't even know what it is. Try at least researching the things you plan to rant about, otherwise you come off looking ignorant.

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  15. Any amount of mercury is toxic because it bioaccumulates in the body. So, although a minute amount may seem to be non-toxic, over time, it will eventually acumulate to a toxic level in the body. This is a fact. How anyone who has had high school chemistry or biology doesn't know that, is beyond me.

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    1. RobertsDW50: your claim is simply wrong. The mercury in thimerosal (the preservative used in a few vaccines) is ethyl mercury, which DOES NOT bioaccumulate. Look it up: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ethylmercury.

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