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Stupidity Won't Protect You Against Malaria
Fiona Macrae writes for the Daily Mail that a bunch of vacationing morons from Great Britain are eschewing modern medicine to take essence of tree bark and swamp water to prevent malaria:

The medical experts condemned the practice of prescribing pills and potions made from tree bark, swamp water and rotting plants as 'outrageous quackery' and 'dangerous nonsense'.

Their warning follows an undercover investigation which found that alternative medicine clinics readily sell travellers homeopathic protection against malaria, despite clear Government advice that there is no evidence such treatments work.

It also comes after a study published in the Lancet suggested that the benefits of homeopathy are all in the imagination, with alternative remedies performing no better than dummy pills in clinical trials.

Homeopathy, which has won the backing of Prince Charles, claims to prevent diseases such as malaria by using dilute forms of herbs and minerals that in higher concentrations could produce the symptoms of the condition.

In the investigation, scientists and researchers who pretended to be about to embark an African holiday, contacted a variety of homeopaths around the country. These include one recommended by high street pharmacist Superdrug.

Worryingly, all of the homeopaths recommended they take alternative remedies over conventional anti-malaria pills.

Among the remedies, which ranged in price from £3.75 to £75, were Malaria officinalis (CORR) tablets. Also known as Malaria nosode, they are made from African swamp water, rotting plants and mosquito eggs and larvae.

The homeopaths also recommended China officinalis or China sulph, which is made from tree bark which contains quinine, and Natrum Mur - or salt tablets.

One practitioner said the homeopathic medicines fill a 'malaria-shaped hole' in the body that would usually be targeted by mosquitos.

They also gave little or no advice on how to prevent mosquito bites and several claimed the herbal treatments had stopped other travellers from coming down with the disease which can kill within two days of the first symptoms.

Last year, 1754 Britons caught the mosquito-borne parasitic infection and 11 died.

Many of the deaths were caused by the holidaymakers either not completing the course of tablets given by their GP, or relying on other medicines, which could include homeopathic treatments.

British doctors said they are appalled by the results of the investigation, which was carried out by the BBC's Newsnight and the charity Sense About Science.

More on homeopathy at Quackwatch.com and Homeowatch.com. Here's an excerpt from the mission statement over the top of Homeowatch:

Homeopathic "remedies" are usually harmless, but their associated misbeliefs are not. When people are healthy, it may not matter what they believe. But when serious illness strikes, false beliefs can lead to disaster.

Daily Mail link via Respectful Insolence

Posted by aalkon at July 16, 2006 9:21 AM

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Comments

I would like to thank those brave Brittish Guinea pigs who will act as test subjects in the greater study of "Why conventional medecine works".

Now, if we can only find Druids able to do lucky-charms against Influenza...

Posted by: Toubrouk at July 16, 2006 10:22 AM

Ahem. Quinine is a drug which is made from the bark of the Cinchona tree. It was first used to treat malaria in Rome in 1631.

Not everything natural is "homeopathic", and therefore useless.

Posted by: Radwaste at July 17, 2006 4:43 PM

Of course not, Raddy. Many drugs are made from plants. If you read about homeopathy on Quackwatch, you'll note that homeopathic drugs are so diluted that there's little or no medicine in them. They joke about the $20 million liver -- the single duck liver that's been used to make all the doses of Oscillococcinum, a homeo remedy sold mainly in France, by Boiron.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at July 17, 2006 5:00 PM

Hey, is that the stuff that they have TV commercials for in the US, now? My husband is from South America, and he swears by it...I had no idea it was "homeopathic." Hmm...maybe there's something to be said for the placebo effect.

Posted by: Brenda at July 18, 2006 4:24 AM

There is nothing wrong in using the placebo effect, Brenda. The problem with homeopathy is the fact that the placebo effect is the only effect that is, well, in effect. (SCNR :-) The placebo effect works just as well with real medication, though. Plus, the patient gets the effect of the medication, as it really works.

A lot of people over here in Germany swear by homeopathy like your husband does. Ignoring, of course, that homeopathy has not only been unproven for more than 170 years, it's also in direct contradiction to well-proven facts of physics. So much in contradiction that it's like believing in a flat earth. (I'm not kidding.)

The real danger of quackery is not the use of it against a relatively harmless problem like the common cold, for example; but things get really uncomfortable when someone you love (your husband, for instance) still swears by quackery when he has a serious medical problem; in that case, some "true believers" skip real therapy in favor of the quackery du jour, just as their homeopathetic "therapist" advises them to. According to polls I have read about some time ago, the sheer number of people who actually believe this crap is still darn high. I figure that the cemeteries must be crowded with these poor fellows. And that's as sad as it's unnecessary, isn't it?

P.S.: A joke I've heard a long time ago: "Believing in homeopathy is like pouring a shot of liquor into a lake and expecting to get drunk..."

Posted by: Rainer at July 18, 2006 8:05 AM

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