Tuesday, 24 May 2011


I've been getting very stressed out about exams lately. Not the usual slightly panicky stress, but full-blown nausea and splitting headaches type of stress.

One kind soul was good enough to offer me something called Rescue Remedy, part of Dr. Bach's flower remedy range. I looked at the ingredients in the spray and noticed '5X dilution of...' written on the side. Alarm bells started ringing, so I decided to explore how this remedy is supposed to work.

The site features all the hallmarks of typical homeopathy pages: anecdotal evidence, personally-tailored remedies and an overpriced shop. I ventured into a page explaning how the rememdies were supposed to work and it's almost a carbon-copy of the rubbish spewed by homeopaths on their sites:
There are many theories about the mechanism the remedies use to achieve this. Most believe the active ingredient in the remedies is a kind of energy or vibration that is transferred from the living flower to the water during the process of making the mother tinctures. Some believe the energy forms a pattern in the water; others talk of quantum mechanics and spiritual vibrations. Attempts to capture this energy have produced beautiful Kirlian photographs showing distinct patterns and colours for different remedies - but little hard research has been done. Any firm conclusions are just speculation.
Those mysterious and conveniently untestable energies have returned! I don't think I'll ever be able to read a paragraph about mysterious energies without sighing, it's becoming very unoriginal these days.

This 'explanation' was one of many objectionable points made on this page. Here's one to annoy fellow physicists and science-fans:
There are only three basic colours (red, blue yellow), yet every visible colour can be produced when they are combined. In the same way there are 38 basic states of mind. Combining them gives hundreds of millions of variations.
If these people don't understand the basic idea that colour is made up of green, blue and red I have a lot of worries about their understanding of more complex ideas in physics. Their analogy still works, but it's not scientifically accurate. I won't even go into that part about 38 states of mind, you know as well as I do that's rubbish.

They also have the best excuse I've ever seen for avoiding clinical trials:
We don't see it as our role to 'prove' that the remedies work, then - instead we simply demonstrate how to use them and let people prove the effect on themselves.
Simply breathtaking. Absolutely no mention of regression to the mean or the placebo effect, funnily enough.

The remedy does taste a lot like Baileys though, which is a huge plus. The science behind it might be complete bullshit but I'm happy enough taking advantage of the placebo effect for a month or so - I can't take a kitten into the exam room with me so this will have to do. It'll be worth it when I get those grades.

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