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The homeopathic treatment of burns: The ultimate in valuing symptomatic treatment over all else

I had been planning on either discussing a study or analyzing another cancer cure testimonial, but things have been (mostly) too serious around the ol’ blog the last few days. What with depressing posts about the return of whooping cough thanks to antivaccine idiocy, more evidence that Andrew Wakefield is a despicable human being, and evidence that there are equally despicable ideas prevalent in “complementary and alternative medicine” (CAM), I was starting to enter one of my periodic periods of depression brought on by contemplating the sheer scope of human gullibility and stupidity. I needed a break, or at least something that could turn my despair at human idiocy into laughter. Fortunately, ss I was rooting about for potential topics for tomorrow, what should I see in my e-mail in box but an e-mail from my good blog bud Mark Hoofnagle over at Denialism Blog. The e-mail contained a link that made me laugh out loud when I read it because it is one of the best distillations of the utter ridiculousness of homeopathy that I’ve ever seen. True, it’s not quite as ridiculous as the article I once found about homeopathic plutonium a couple of years ago or Aqua Nova (click on the link if you haven’t figured out what it is already). When I read it, I decided instantly that, even though Mark had already blogged about it and even though it was a nearly four year old article about homeopathy, I had to pile on too, particularly after I saw that everyone’s favorite homeopathic apologist, Dana Ullman, had graced the comments with his IQ-draining presence. After all, if I haven’t seen it, it’s new to me and possibly new to you too.

Maybe, if we’re lucky enough, Dana’ll show up over here too.

The article is over at Hpathy.com and entitled On The Treatment of Burns. Like Mark, I know a thing or two about burns. You can’t get through a general surgery residency without learning to care for burns, and the residency program where I trained was home to the main burn unit in northeast Ohio. During my rotations there, I dealt with numerous burn patients, with burns large and small. Some patients had burns over greater than 75% of their bodies. Doing split-thickness skin grafts became marathon endurance sessions in the operating room, particularly the children, for whom we had to keep the temperature set very high, leaving the operating room team drenched in sweat by the end of the case. So, having some knowledge about how burns are treated, I wanted to see how homeopaths treat burns.

My regular readers should be very familiar now with at least one principle of homeopathy, namely that diluting a remedy makes it stronger. That particular principle of homeopathy usually brings the most ridicule, violating, as it does, several laws of physics and chemistry, as well as not making any sense from an intuitive, common-sense point of view either. The other principle of homeopathy, which we discuss less is the principle of “like cures like.” In other words, to treat a symptom, homeopaths choose remedies that cause that very symptom in healthy individuals. As with the idea that dilution strengthens a remedy, it concerns homeopaths not in the least that there is no physiological or biological rationale to think that such a principle is true, much less generalizable to an entire system of medicine. With that background knowledge now, I bet you can see where this is going, and, predictably, it’s straight off the deep end:

How do you treat a burn? Almost everyone, if you ask them for the first response required in the treatment of a burn, will tell you, “Put it in cold water…”.

However…

In my first year of homoeopathic training a general discussion led the lecturer to describe a treatment for burns. He explained that he had been dining with a friend who had burnt herself and had immediately, to his horror, held the burnt area of her hand in the heat of a candle for a little while. The friend had then explained to him that the normal treatment of using cold water was ineffective, but that the application of heat to a burn meant that it would not blister, and although it did hurt more on the initial application it healed far more quickly and painlessly thereafter. This she demonstrated a little while later when he saw to his amazement that the burned area was not even red and she was experiencing no pain.

Surgeons and doctors out there can probably guess what this idiot did. Can you? Yes, my guess is that this homeopath, by holding the burnt area of his hand in the flame longer, converted a first degree burn to a third degree burn (full thickness) or a deep second degree (partial thickness) burn. And it’s true: Full thickness and deep partial thickness burns don’t blister. They don’t hurt either, because the nerve endings have been seared away. The reason we put cold water on a burn is to stop the process of thermal injury; what this homeopath did was to accelerate it so that the burn went all the way through the skin. Now, in the case of a tiny burn, as from a candle, a person can get away with this. Basically, the full-thickness burn in the skin dries up and forms a scab under which new skin forms. However, doing this in the case of a larger full thickness burn would be disastrous, leading to more scarring, a longer healing time, and possibly even the need for a skin graft. As one of the commenters pointed out, it’s not a good idea to convert a superficial burn to a deep one because they hurt less!

Only someone who has no knowledge of burn physiology would be able to propose such a treatment. What a lot of people don’t know about burns is that it is the more superficial burns that can often be the most painful and nasty-looking, even though they are generally not as serious. For example, first degree burns are very superficial and will heal on their own. However, because they don’t burn away nerve endings they are often very painful. They also look incredibly nasty when healing, because they will often blister up. However, underneath the blister, the underlying skin usually heals without incident. In fact, it’s usually best not to break the blister, because it’s an excellent biological dressing.

Homeopath that the writer is, he has no evidence to present, no science. He does, however, have a couple of more anecdotes, for example:

The theory was tested more thoroughly when, about year later, whilst working in a fish and chip shop, I slipped and my left hand plunged into the chip fryer up past the wrist. I ran (screaming!) into the kitchen and turned on the hot tap. The plug was in the sink and the sink began to fill. At the same time a couple of concerned customers had run into the kitchen to see if they could help. One of them noticed that I was running the hot tap and tried to ‘help’ by explaining that I had turned on the wrong tap and attempted to turn off the hot and on the cold. In my pain I had to prevent them and also explain what I was doing. This meant that my hand remained in the water for a longer period than it would perhaps, had I been left alone (this is relevant later…).
The next day, my hand had no evidence of the burn whatsoever! The customers who had witnessed the incident were amazed!

What happened here? It looks to me as though he probably only had his hand momentarily in the fryer. He pulled it out right away, not having left it in long enough to get more than a first degree burning (which no doubt hurt like hell) and the thin layer of hot oil, because it was thin, rapidly cooled once his hand was out of the fryer. The warm water soothed it and also further cooled it, even though it was warm water. In other words, he was very, very lucky. I highly doubt that the outcome would have been so good if his hand had stayed in the fryer a few seconds. If his hands were wet before he slipped, that might also have helped because the water on the skin would instantly vaporize upon coming in contact with the hot oil and temporarily form a thin later of gas around his hand, which could have helped insulate him from the extreme heat, at least over the span of a second. In any case, my guess is that he would have done the same or even better if he had used cool water.

The third anecdote involves the homeopath’s daughter, who scalded her hand with “double boiled water” (whatever that is). Whether he meant water from a double boiler or water that had been boiled twice, I don’t know, but in any event apparently her friend’s dog had started humping her leg while she was pouring water into a cup. (Folks, you can’t make stuff like this up.) She told her dad that she had tried the “hot water thing” but that it hadn’t worked. Her dad, being the homeopath that he was, gave her Caust 200C, which is a 10400-fold dilution of whatever Caust is, a dilution that is many, many orders of magnitude greater than the estimated number of molecules in the known universe. To everyone’s relief, it apparently made the daughter less hostile to the dog, but to no one’s surprise it did absolutely nothing for the burn. In any case, he includes a photo of the rather impressive blister his daughter developed and described her course after that:

I was concerned as the blister was ‘impressive’, although after the initial hot water treatment she was in very little pain. She described the sensation as a ‘discomfort’ rather than ‘pain’. There had been criticisms of my treatment of it, with various people suggesting that she should have taken it to hospital to have it ‘treated properly’. I sought support or advice from ‘Homoeopathy’ but could only find instructions to ‘immerse the part in cold water and seek medical attention’, in addition to the obvious remedies.

She heroically and carefully kept the blister whole and continued to ensure that it did not become dry.

In addition to the hot water I gave her a bottle of Canth 30c, in medicinal solution, from which she took a teaspoonful daily for a few days, after succussing the bottle 6 times.

Ultimately the blister started leaking, and his daughter pulled the skin of the blister off, and–guess what?–the skin underneath had healed! Is this a surprise? Nope. Remember what I said about the blister being an excellent biological dressing? This is exactly what I meant. I’ve often said that homeopathic treatment resembles the correct treatment of a condition by coincidence only. This was nothing more than one such coincidence. Leaving the blister intact and letting the second degree burn heal on its own were exactly the right moves. Homeopathy had nothing to do with it, although I do like the little bit of detail about succussing (shaking) the homeopathic remedy exactly six times. Nothing like a little magic to make the woo go down. I say “magic” because homeopaths will oh so solemnly tell you that just diluting a remedy isn’t enough. It has to be “potentized” by being succussed at each dilution step in order to imbue the potion with its magic powers. Actually, they don’t put it that way, exactly. That’s just my translation of homeopathic woo-speak.

At least now I know where the myth I sometimes hear that cold water is bad for a burn came from. It appears to have come from Samuel Hahnemann himself! It’s right there in an excerpt from a treatise on burns written by Hahnemann in 1816. We skeptics often joke about how homeopathy is nothing more than water, and indeed it is. However, it’s more than that in that it is an entire system of magical thinking applied to medicine. We often assume that homeopathy isn’t dangerous because it’s water, or that it’s only dangerous when people use it to treat or prevent serious diseases instead of science-based medicine. However, the homeopathic treatment of burns is an example of homeopathy being dangerous on its own, particularly for those who are so deluded to heat a burn with a candle and convert a superficial or partial thickness burn into a deep or full thickness burn. It’s also the ultimate example of treating the symptoms instead of the physiology in that the severity of injury is increased by turning a superficial or partial thickness burn into a deep or full thickness burn in order to decrease the amount of pain. In other words, if homeopathic principles are followed in burns, in order to decrease symptoms, you increase the severity of the injury.

By Orac

Orac is the nom de blog of a humble surgeon/scientist who has an ego just big enough to delude himself that someone, somewhere might actually give a rodent's posterior about his copious verbal meanderings, but just barely small enough to admit to himself that few probably will. That surgeon is otherwise known as David Gorski.

That this particular surgeon has chosen his nom de blog based on a rather cranky and arrogant computer shaped like a clear box of blinking lights that he originally encountered when he became a fan of a 35 year old British SF television show whose special effects were renowned for their BBC/Doctor Who-style low budget look, but whose stories nonetheless resulted in some of the best, most innovative science fiction ever televised, should tell you nearly all that you need to know about Orac. (That, and the length of the preceding sentence.)

DISCLAIMER:: The various written meanderings here are the opinions of Orac and Orac alone, written on his own time. They should never be construed as representing the opinions of any other person or entity, especially Orac's cancer center, department of surgery, medical school, or university. Also note that Orac is nonpartisan; he is more than willing to criticize the statements of anyone, regardless of of political leanings, if that anyone advocates pseudoscience or quackery. Finally, medical commentary is not to be construed in any way as medical advice.

To contact Orac: [email protected]

114 replies on “The homeopathic treatment of burns: The ultimate in valuing symptomatic treatment over all else”

I knew your take on this would be longer and more through than my brief poke at it ๐Ÿ™‚ (Admittedly, I was intentionally leaving space for some blogging colleagues that also wanted to cover it.)

As you say, itรขย€ย™s an example of homeopathy directly causing harm as opposed to indirectly via withholding sound treatment and the understanding of how different level burns hurt (or not) is a nice example of science explaining something that, taken superficially (no pun intended), might be confusing or inconsistent.

As for blisters being the best natural dressing – several years ago my mother burnt her hand with boiling water. Not very severely but the blister was huge. Anyway, she went to a doctor, who wanted to prick the blister and dress the wound. Being a nurse with a lot of experience, she disagreed, because she was afraid of scars. She treated the blister with crystal violet (pyoctanin) instead. And guess what? There is no scar. No homeopathy, no magic, pure medicine.

Holy-moley, after going through a fairly traumatic burn experience (young teenager, can of gasoline, matches – and BIG BOOM!) I was extremely lucky to have the head of the local burn unit living down the street – after the intial hospital stay, he even made house calls to monitor my progress.

It was one of the worst experiences of my life, but with the correct medical interventions, I got through it with minimal scaring. I can’t even imagine someone thinking that “homeopathic-anything” especially applying the thought process to burns would be a good idea…..morons!

Beyond cool/cold water, I seem to remember that ice and ice cold water applied for more then the few moments it takes to get the skin back down to normal temp is a bad idea. I think the reason mentioned is that you risk expanding the amount of damage in the tissue surrounding the area killed by the burn.

Am I remembering this correctly? Other then stopping the heat damage is there a best temp for healing burns? Temp ranges to avoid if possible?

Despite my attempts at education my mother and stepfather swear by aloe-vera as a burn treatment, would often thrust their gnarled hands in front of me and show me how well this or that burn was healing. Once I had kids I lived in constant fear of them getting burnt in their grandparent’s care, knowing full well that my stepfather would forgoe proper first aid just so he could show me up. What eluded them completely was the fact that he was a 50 year old farmer with hands like baseball mitts. They just refused to get it. Luckily, the kids have made it too almost-teenagehood intact.
My favourite burn anecdote is a story by Dr Fiona Wood, the doyenne of burns research in my neck of the woods. She was interviewed on a talk show here quite some years back:

ANDREW DENTON: Tell me, are you terrified of the thought of being burnt yourself?

DR FIONA WOOD: No, personally… but for my children. And one of the stories I tell when I’m teaching first aid is that when my eldest boy would be about five or six and I came out of the bedroom early in the morning and saw the black cup of coffee going down his chest. And I grabbed him in a half-nelson. We were in the shower and…cold shower. I was in my pyjamas and he’s screaming and carrying on, “Dad, she’s freezing me to death!” And…and my husband came out of the room, out of the bedroom, and he said, “That was last night’s coffee. We haven’t even put the kettle on yet.” So I was in overdrive, yeah.

When I saw the title of the post, I thought that treating burns was the one relatively sensible application of homeopathy: take your pure water that once was exposed to something or other, and pour it on the burn. Maybe not quite as effective as copious amounts of tap water, but the right idea. Silly me.

@daijiyobu:

The problem is all your ALLOPATHIC mindsets!

Really? Our “allopathic” mindets are somheow controlling how homeopaths treat burns? How exactly does that work?

So _that’s_ where it came from.

One of the worst nights of my life. I was 7 years old and my grandmother’s sister had taken us to the beach for the day. No such thing as sunscreen back in the early 50s. We had shocking sunburn from running around all day with no shade of any kind. (She was an awful woman and my mother hated her even more after that day.)

How was it treated? A hotter than usual bath was the way to go. I’ve always regarded this horrible event as peasant style medicine for stoics. It can only do you good if it smells awful or tastes worse or hurts more than the pain you started with.

Clearly the puritan notion that more suffering is the best response to suffering was backed up by ‘common knowledge’ that more of the same was a good thing.

Diabolical.

When burned, obviously not a huge burn that requires attention because of its scope, split a fat aloe vera leaf/spear and apply juicy inner flesh directly to burn. Burning sensation will abate. When the pain begins to return, repeat.
If begun soon enough, a blister may not even form.
Have used many times. Yes, I’m a klutz in the kitchen.

Only someone who has no knowledge of burn physiology would be able to propose such a treatment.

Or a professional chef who really needs to get through the rest of the shift… It’s apparently quite common for them to “treat” minor burns in this sort of way.

I am just recovering from my adventure in high temperature poultry grilling ( read substitute Tandoor oven for westerners): I barely brushed my wrist against the oven’s oh.. 600 degree F metal inner surface *et voila!* a rather deep but small burn. It didn’t hurt much and I mistakenly thought that it was merely blistered although there was something distinctly “odd” about it: a week later, I suppose the surface sloughed when I was washing my hands, and it began to bleed much more than I expected. After about two months, it is *finally* entirely closed up, not leaving much of a scar: white should blend right in with my usual skin tone.

I’m really glad I don’t believe in homeopathy because I most likely would have made it worse. However, if you know the basics of whimsy-based treatment and through tutelage, have come to believe that medical professionals are virtually useless and thoroughly despicable, you might be motivated to DIY.

The one situation where (cool) water is useful and homeopaths refuse to use it. What do they do for dehydration? Give concentrated salt?

OT- but are attention-grabbing antics by woo-spreading entreprenuers *ever* _truly_ OT @ RI?

Today Natural News “goes dark” in protest of SOPA & PIPA (Stop Online Piracy Act & Protect IP Act): which are “thinly-veiled” censorship, for if “SOPA becomes law, Natural News.com will be shut down” as an endagerment to public health or suchlike.

If only.

Quite right, Dunc, I’ve done it myself. On my left hand there’s a patch of skin about the size of a quarter that has no feeling as a consequence of it. Of course, chefs (and cooks) can be absolutely stupid when it comes to treating injuries.

I would certainly find it silly and pointless to hold a fresh burn in the warm to hot air around a candle flame. However, I can’t accept your repeated statement that the woman who did this (whose gender you repeatedly misstate) had converted a first-degree burn to a third-degree burn, when the only account of the incident says that “a little while later” the burned spot was “not even red.” To quote so many of your readers: “Evidence??” The alternative more consistent with the account – that she didn’t get enough direct exposure to the candle flame to worsen the burn, and that the candle had no effect – isn’t nearly lurid enough, is it? I guess we are supposed to assume not only that They are stupid enough to give themselves third-degree burns, but too stupid to SEE those burns – whereas We are so wise and perceptive that we know they are there even when specifically told otherwise.

Wow. That…it’s actually fascinating, how dumb that is. I mean, they’re not even trying to pretend like they know anything about the body, are they?

However, I can’t accept your repeated statement that the woman who did this (whose gender you repeatedly misstate) had converted a first-degree burn to a third-degree burn, when the only account of the incident says that “a little while later” the burned spot was “not even red.” To quote so many of your readers: “Evidence??”

@ Jane, for your illumination, see the bolded statement followed by the explanation of the physiological process that could also explain the homeopath’s observation.

Yes, my guess is that this homeopath, by holding the burnt area of his hand in the flame longer, converted a first degree burn to a third degree burn (full thickness) or a deep second degree (partial thickness) burn. And it’s true: Full thickness and deep partial thickness burns don’t blister. They don’t hurt either, because the nerve endings have been seared away.

Second degree deep burns and third degree burns are not red either, as blood vessels supplying the area have effectively been cauterized.

I work at a pediatric burn hospital, and I can tell you why you should *never* use ice on a burn – the skin has already been traumatized by a high temperature. Plunging the skin’s temperature too low will just cause further damage. Remember, a burn is caused by temperature extremes – hot *or* cold. Liquid nitrogen will also burn, and frostbite is a form of burn as well. You should only use cold (but not *too* cold – think just barely crossing from cool to cold) water on a burn.

The custom at our house for small burns on the hand was a bowl of icewater to first cool, then numb the pain. I never thought about the issue of causing more damage until I heard about not icing a burn.

MedTek: damnit, I don’t like starting my day by getting pissed off. I did learn that the “doc” who shat out that article has a bachelors degree in homeopathic medicine and surgery. Is it any wonder totally resistant TB is starting to show up in india?

I wonder if homeopaths also advocate rubbing frostbitten skin with snow.
No, very finely powdered dry ice 3x a day.

@gulliver – I’ve heard about this method, too, but remember that some people can be allergic to aloe vera and then its effects could be rather unpleasant. Don’t get me wrong, I believe natural remedies can be helpful but then again, cyanide in bitter almonds and strychnine in strychnos nux-vomica are also natural, aren’t they?

@ Denice Walter: When I am in a baking frenzy, turning the cake pans about and switching trays of cookies from one rack to the other…I invariably burn myself. Typically I ignore the burn, so as not to burn the yummy cakes and cookies. Later that same day, I notice a reddened 2″ narrow line on by hand or wrist and within a few seconds I “remember” what a klutz I am.

Paging Dr. Ullman, Paging Dr. Ullman…call for you on line 3 from Ho-Po…you missed this morning’s crank roll call.

Science Mom – At the end of the essay Orac speaks of “those who are so deluded to heat a burn with a candle and convert a superficial or partial thickness burn into a deep or full thickness burn”, thereby presuming that such deluded people exist, which has not been proven. If a third-degree burn is not red, it’s because it is some worse color, not because it is invisible to the naked eye! Google Images provides unfortunately convincing evidence to this effect.

I am always happy to see people convinced to abandon homeopathy, but this is not the way to do it. Arguing that one just knows that a minor burn reported to have disappeared quickly (as many do) must really have gotten worse would make one no better intellectually than those tragic people who insist that their cancer is being cured even though the tumors are growing.

@jane
I think that with a small burn like the one described, it would be possible for the burnt tissue to be dead without necessarily being destroyed – sort of like the skin on top of a blister, which is dead, but maintains its structure to some degree. The destruction of the skin and subcutaneous tissue is what makes the burns you see on Google images look really nasty – it exposes the underlying tissues, which makes ’em look all raw and visceral. All that a third degree burn requires to be classified as such is tissue death permeating through the epidermis and dermis, and reaching the subcutaneous level- a fairly shallow depth. Since the sensory nerves endings that pick up pain are located in the dermis, fairly close to the surface, it’s plausible that they could have been killed by the added heat, particularly if they were already damaged by the earlier burn.

I think what Orac was really trying to get at here isn’t that Homeopath-lady definitely fucked her hand up by doing what she did, but rather, that it would be possible to bump a mild burn up a degree using these methods, and that the signs cited by the homeopaths as “proof” that the technique works (no pain, no blistering) could sometimes actually be symptoms of an even worse burn/further tissue damage.

I have a friend who has fallen hook, line, and sinker for homeopathy, and she tried to “explain” this to me ages ago. I finally had to get quite brusque with her, and said, “Look, physics doesn’t work that way. If you’re burnt, that means there’s too much thermal energy in your skin. You don’t get rid of excess thermal energy by adding more thermal energy — that is, heat — you get rid of it by subtracting thermal energy — adding cold. I can’t believe you’d even think this way. I thought you were smarter than that.”

She’s a pleasant enough person to talk to in most areas, but sadly and weirdly deluded in that one. *sigh*

What really galls me in these cases is how the homeopaths like to claim their treatments are milder, and like to talk about how unlike doctors, they work with the body’s natural healing process.

That’s utter baloney, and a story like this is a case in point. The correct medical treatment for a superficial burn is to stop the burning by removing the heat source and then . . . well, nothing really. Maybe a pain reliever if it hurts, but otherwise let it take care of itself. The body knows how to fix that. For all the alties talk about working with the body’s natural healing mechanisms, they don’t seem to know a lot about what the body can do (or realize why so much medical care really does revolve around treating symptoms; in many cases, that’s actually all you need to do — keep the patient going while their body sorts itself out).

The Academic Woo Aggregator now takes us to the University of Maryland’s complementary medicine website, where we get the lowdown on homeopathy’s approach to burns, including the following:

“Although very few studies have examined the effectiveness of specific homeopathic therapies in the treatment of burns, professional homeopaths may consider the following measures to treat first and second degree burns and to aid recovery from any burn. Before prescribing a remedy, homeopaths take into account a person’ s constitutional type — your physical, emotional, and intellectual makeup. An experienced homeopath assesses all of these factors when determining the most appropriate treatment for each individual.”

See, the allopaths advocate a one-size-fits-all approach to burns, whereas homeopaths treat the individual, in a personalized approach.

My favorite treatment:

“Phosphorus — taken by mouth for electrical burns, especially if the individual is easily startled and excitable.”

ht_p://www.umm.edu/altmed/articles/burns-000021.htm

This makes sense – if you’ve just sustained a major electrical burn, you might be flopping around a bit and looking startled and excitable. No Canth 30C for you!*

(I suppose we should be grateful that the article also suggests placing burned parts in cold water rather than in a candle flame).

*wouldn’t it make more sense for homeopaths to give these patients a therapeutic carpet shock? Maybe Nancy Malik, the grande dame of homeopathic spammers can show up to clarify this burning issue (sorry).

“Phosphorus — taken by mouth for electrical burns, especially if the individual is easily startled and excitable.”

What, no lime-flower tea for hysterics?

From Narad’s link: remedies themselves choose when to be made -more evidence (if any was needed) that homeopathy is nothing more than magical thinking.

whereas homeopaths treat the individual, in a personalized approach.

Except when they’re putting their magic water OTC for anybody to use without even talking to a homeopath, of course. And advocating its use for anybody with a particular condition. (Zicam and oscillococcinum, I’m looking at you…)

Consistency is not their strong point, to say the least.

Science Mom – At the end of the essay Orac speaks of “those who are so deluded to heat a burn with a candle and convert a superficial or partial thickness burn into a deep or full thickness burn”, thereby presuming that such deluded people exist, which has not been proven.

@ Jane, you’re trying to pick at nits. It’s not like Orac said gravity didn’t exist. Not only did the woman indicate that burning it hurt more but small burns and depending upon where they are can appear almost “normal” in colour or a bit blanched. Most importantly, I think it’s perfectly appropriate to mock and deride such a stupid suggestion as burning a burn wound to heal it.

The friend had then explained to him that the normal treatment of using cold water was ineffective, but that the application of heat to a burn meant that it would not blister, and although it did hurt more on the initial application it healed far more quickly and painlessly thereafter.

I wonder if homeopaths also advocate rubbing frostbitten skin with snow.

I imagine the homeopathic first-aid kit includes a small pair of false teeth in case someone is savaged by a shark.

@Artk: Eeeeeeeexcellent.

(The homeopathic cure for Burns must be either a diluted ground-up liver spot, or one word of Green Grow The Rashes.)

Uh, I think I’m qualified to voice my opinion on that topic. Back in the days I held my hand over the flame of gas lighter on a dare (I was young, and stupid, and drunk, though that’s somewhat redundant). In fact it hurt only for the first couple of seconds. And when I finished – my reason finally kicked in and informed me using rather rough language that I’m not proving anything anymore at that point and just damaging deeper layers of tissue – I had nice round mark of whitish colour (a tone or two lighter than my natural skin colour). And it still didn’t hurt. Seems pretty consistent with what that candle lady reported.

Though, obviously I got a rather ugly wound there within 24 h and it took forever to actually heal (more than two weeks – I usually heal my scratches and burns unusually quick – within days), so… Don’t try it at home. Bad idea.

It appears that Jane thinks that all burns look like the google images. I know from experience that the quick burn from a stove element that turns white (and is not necessarily visible the next day) is less painful than mixed burns. One of the few things I remember clearly about being in emergency was the doctor trying to determine which burns were in which category. Good doc – being very reassuring but I did know that he was checking for third degree burns.

@Narad
#37

The article to which you linked mentioned homeopaths passing around Jamesons. Do homeopaths dilute that by 30C?

Narad, that’s article is such a case of #headdesk, it’s not even funny anymore. The author realizes that the preparation only produces distilled water, a fact known for 170 years. And still goes on to “produce” the elixir, and discussing the probable influence of unknown trace elements in Hahnemann’s original ingredients as the reason for the “failure” of some of his preparations. One is used to deluded people (YEC, thingy, voodoo economists) restating facts in a light only seen by them, but correctly stating the facts and then declare them irrelevant is a new level of willful ignorance.

My god. Sooo… how does a homeopath treat a stabbing? More stabbing?

More stabbing, pfffff… Not nearly homeopathic enough.

Try gunshots. Now that is a cure for stabbing!!

My god. Sooo… how does a homeopath treat a stabbing? More stabbing?

More stabbing, pfffff… Not nearly homeopathic enough.

Try gunshots. Now that is a cure for stabbing!!

I feel as though you are using some logical fallacies in this argument, and it definitely hurts you. As a person who falls further to the homeopath than the allopath side of the continuum, this post is ridiculous. If you were to ask someone who actually uses herbs and *things occurring in nature* to treat a burn, a true homeopath would recommend fresh aloe, straight off the plant.

I admit, I have no medical experience, as the author clearly does, but I’m also not an idiot. I burned myself, nearly second degree, with 375 F degree peanut brittle last Christmas. Treated it immediately by soaking it in cold water, and then dripped fresh aloe over the wound and wrapped it in gauze. I’m proud to say there isn’t even a scar. Because aloe is a natural remedy that works well with burns not needing skin grafting. Because I didn’t need to go to the burn unit to treat a burn on my hand.

So, before we start making broad generalizations about people who choose herbs over chemicals, AS A FIRST RESORT, let’s use our brains. Modern medicine absolutely has its place, but that doesn’t mean nature doesn’t offer all sorts of valuable remedies as well. It’s a continuum not an absolute. Nothing ever is.

10 years I had accidentally burn my hand badly. At the hospital, they cured the burn by having me keep my hand in a bowl of cold water (they kept changing the water to keep it cold) for quite some time. Followed, of course, by bandages and warnings to keep my hand dry.

Perhaps using lukewarm water would be beneficial in that you would be more likely to keep your burnt bits there after a minor burn than in what feels like freezing water?

“a true homeopath would recommend fresh aloe, straight off the plant.”

A true homeopath would dilute it to nothing and then drip the resulting warter on a sugar pill and tell you it is a cure.

Herbalism is not homeopathy, maria. Certain herbs do have real medical benefits. Homeopathic nostrums do not.

Maria — others have already pointed out that recommending aloe is definitely not homeopathy, but I’d like to point out that your treatment of your burn was pretty much exactly what mainstream medicine would recommend too. Most burns do not require heroic measures. In fact, there is very little you can really do to help a burn heal beyond getting out of your body’s way and letting it do the job of regrowing skin and tissue. As my general surgeon grandfather liked to say, the most important remedy for most injuries and illnesses is tincture of time. Homeopaths don’t realize that, and don’t realize that in most cases, all they’re doing is entertaining the patient while the patient gets better on his own.

Of course, for deep burns, time is not an easy thing to give. You might need a graft (which basically gives your body more spots to grow new skin from) and you may need serious supportive care — a great deal of critical care medicine revolves around keeping the patient alive long enough for them to get better. Now, there are illnesses and injuries that can be directly treated with drugs, surgery, or other therapy; but many times it’s all up to the body, and the job of the doctors and nurses is to keep the body going and give it the resources it needs to keep fighting.

So what am I saying? I’m saying there’s a good chance your hand would have healed that well without the aloe vera. I do use aloe vera on burns; if nothing else, I like the smell, and it might actually be helpful. I don’t have an aloe vera plant (it would be dead by now; I have a bad track record with potted plants) so I use commercial preparations; I’m not sure whether it’s the aloe vera or the gel base that’s doing any good. Gels may act as a moisture barrier, after all. It doesn’t seem to hurt, anyway, though I wouldn’t use it for a severe burn. (I’d be talking to an expert at that point.) But I’ve had about equal results no matter what I’ve done. (And yeah, I’ve inflicted a lot of minor burns on myself. I like to cook and I’m a klutz; it’s sort of inevitable.) The only really important thing seems to be cooling the wound down right away so it stops cooking. Same principle as plunging boiled eggs into cold water right after cooking them. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Maria, with apologies to Hawkeye Pierce, the homeopath would wave the aloe over a large glass of water to produce his cure.

As far as the 1st to 3rd degree burn via candle, I think that Orac is considering, IF the symptom of ‘pain’ is ‘treated’ thru the application of heat, then it’s probably because you’ve caused so much damage that you can’t feel pain anymore.
The other possibility is that the jerkwad holding their hand over a candle is too stupid to even realize that their pain is the same or worse. Kinda like how stupid a person’d’ve to be to plunge their hand, beyond their wrist, into a hot oil fryer!

Also, if Dilution gives effect, then wouldn’t a burn best be treated by a dilution of heat in water? You know, cold water. In fact a real homeopathic test would have to be that cold water, that’s been slapped around first, works better.

How in the world is this stuff legal, they’re claiming it’s a medecine, a drug, it should be regulated by the FDA, and since it doesn’t work, it should be illegal to put on the shelves.

@Schenck

How in the world is this stuff legal, they’re claiming it’s a medecine, a drug, it should be regulated by the FDA, and since it doesn’t work, it should be illegal to put on the shelves.

Thanks to lobbying back in the early 1900s when the Food and Drug Purity Act was first bandied about, homeopaths kicked up a huge stink to make sure their brand of magic was protected by law. If it is in the Homeopathic Pharmacopeia of the U.S., it can be sold as a homeopathic medicine, complete with claims to cure, treat or mitigate a disease or condition. There are some limitations, but not nearly as strict as even DSHEA, which ain’t sayin’ much.

So, before we start making broad generalizations about people who choose herbs over chemicals, AS A FIRST RESORT, let’s use our brains.

My brain tells me that a purified form of an active ingredient, in a known dose, with carefully studied safety and efficacy, measured therapeutic dose, known side effects to watch for, and tested for interactions…

is massively superior to whatever mix of miscellaneous stuff a plant happens to have produced that particular day in that particular soil.

a true homeopath would recommend fresh aloe, straight off the plant.

So a “true homeopath” is one who uses non-homeopathic treatments? This is like arguing that the only true Scotsman is one who DOESN’T DRINK WHISKY.

“This is like arguing that the only true Scotsman is one who DOESN’T DRINK WHISKY.”

I think this is more like arguing that a true Scotsman is one who was born outside of Scotland to parents of non-Scottish descent. parents. At least one can be a true Scotsman and a teetotaler. How is one a true homeopath without using homeopathy?

I think this is more like arguing that a true Scotsman is one who was born outside of Scotland to parents of non-Scottish descent.

OK. “A true Scotsman would speak Welsh as his first language.”

is it me, or do these blogs waste a lot of time bashing homeopathy? In terms of the way allopathics treat psychiatric illnesses, I’d put the smart money on experts looking back hundreds of years from now in horror at the current treatment of patients. Everything has its strenghts. Everything has its weaknesses. You chose to bash treating burns with burns, a glaring example that doesn’t make a lot of sense, true, but you also failed to examine every homeopathic treatment known to man, which is what you’d have to do to call the entire practice bullshit! Dr. E ๐Ÿ™‚

I just tried to read Narad’s linked page @37 The Mystery of Causticum:

“One of the drawbacks to the industrialisation of remedy preparations by large homoeopathic manufacturers, over the years, is the imposition of allopathic methods of quality control and analysis on raw materials in order to licence remedies as medicines for retail sale. This can impose strict testing of original remedy materials to prove identity, quality and the validation of potentisation methods which, of course, is a good thing.”

One of the drawbacks is a good thing? My head hurts from just these two sentences.

Dr. ErinKate, how can you call it “bashing” when it is just a description homeopathy’s basic silliness?

Hahnemann coined the word “allopathic” to describe anything that was not homeopathy. So it could include diet, herbal medicine, acupuncture, etc.

Of course we have examined every homeopathic treatment known to man. Since it includes diluting something to one molecule of the source in a solvent equal to the number of molecules that could fill a sphere with a diameter of this planet’s orbit around the sun! So every homeopathic pill is actually just milk sugar, and every liquid one is just water or alcohol. Nothing else.

I think we have figured out what happens with you treat someone with just sugar pills, plain water and/or alcohol.

Now, if you think you can tell the difference between a bottle of Nat Mur 30C and Nux Vomica 30C without the labels you can win a million dollars!

Dr. ErinKate:

but you also failed to examine every homeopathic treatment known to man, which is what you’d have to do to call the entire practice bullshit!

Of course we have examined every homeopathic treatment known to man (including the one on the Light of Saturn)! The reason is that the remedy is diluted so much, that all that is left is the solvent.

A 30C remedy is diluted to one molecule of remedy (like sodium chloride for Nat Mur) into a enough solvent that would fill a sphere that has the diameter of the Earth’s orbit around the Sun. The two common solvents are water and alcohol, and we pretty much know what those do. To create a pill a drop of the solution is placed on a sugar pill, and we pretty much know how sugar pills work.

@Dr. ErinKate

It’s you.

There is no need to examine every homeopathic treatment because the PREMISE of the entire practice is bullshit.

you also failed to examine every homeopathic treatment known to man, which is what you’d have to do to call the entire practice bullshit!

You mean every homeopathic treatment concocted over thousands of years? Phew, tall order.

Tu quoque, anyone? You completely fail to support homeopathy.

And when the principles of homeopathy are so grossly out-of-sync with everything known about physics, chemistry, and biology – plus there’s not a shred of credible evidence supporting them – is it not necessary to examine every possible treatment to declare the entire practice meaningless. Any homeopathic treatment which DID would would do so by pure chance, and would necessarily be one of the “weakest” such remedies (since the stronger ones are just water).

is it me, or do these blogs waste a lot of time bashing homeopathy?

It’s likely just you. The overall analysis of homeopathic claims is highly diluted with posts on plethora of other pseudo scientific treatments.

In terms of the way allopathics treat psychiatric illnesses, I’d put the smart money on experts looking back hundreds of years from now in horror at the current treatment of patients.

Perhaps. In fact, Psychiatrists and psychologists view with horror the way these illnesses were treated only 50 years ago. But most assuredly experts (in what?) will be more horrified with the practice of homeopathy should it still be around. At any rate what does any of this have to do with homeopathic treatment of burns?

Everything has its strenghts. Everything has its weaknesses.

There is a grain of phylosophical truth in that. Then again, you will be hard pressed to point out the strengths of exorcising demons as treatment for a mental illness? Weaknesses there are aplenty.

…but you also failed to examine every homeopathic treatment known to man, which is what you’d have to do to call the entire practice bullshit! Dr. E ๐Ÿ™‚

1. Analysis of individual remedies is pointless when they are all based on a fundamentally flawed concept. If I thought the way to cure disease was through waiving my hands in a particular way while chanting a spell, others don’t need to analyze every word combination and pattern of hand movement to comment on the efficacy of spell healing.

2, When everything known to men can be put forth as some potential remedy, your proposed analysis involves examining every substance known to man. Quite a bar you are setting when all you need is that one unexamined remedy to redeem millions or billions of failed.

3. One needs to show something works before its’ effectiveness can be challenged. The honus is not on everyone else to test the efficacy of every remedy in homeopathic arsenal, when homeopaths don’t bother to properly test any of their remedies.

Dr. ErinKate, the One Million Dollar Randi Challenge also includes being able to distinguish between two unmarked homeopathic remedies. For example could you tell the which pill was Nat Mur 30C versus one that was Nux Vomica 30C?

You may wish to read a JREF forum thread about that here.

Callie Arcale:
Thank you for your thoughtful response. My aversion to this article is that it applies gross generalizations, and generalizations are not good points of argument. And, I agree completely, the body is a wonderful thing, and heals magnificently, and is capable of amazing things.

Natural Remedies and using natural remedies to aid in the healing of the body is the basis of homeopathy. My MD (yes, our GP) is also trained in homeopathy, because she understands this tenet. Nature offers some amazing *catalysts* to what the body is already doing. It does not CURE, instead homeopathy is an accessory to the healing process. It aids in the BIOLOGICAL process, not the pathological.

Any person with a working brain understands that modern medicine is capable of miracles, and denying modern medicine in the face of absolute necessity, is imbecile. Homeopathy in no way replaces the need for science.

But, concerning minor ailments such as the common cold and burns, eucalyptus essential oil works better than Vick’s, and fresh aloe soothes a burn that doesn’t need medical attention. Homeopathy has its place in that setting.

It wouldn’t hurt any conscientious doctor to learn some natural remedies for minor ailments, to help relieve suffering, to use something natural before chemicals concerning the developing body. The maternity ward would be a wonderful place to start. Ask any midwife and natural birther and they will fill you with a list of *things occurring in nature* to induce and augment labour that aren’t a dangerous hormone cocktail. (Pitocin). Just sayin.

eucalyptus essential oil works better than Vick’s, and fresh aloe soothes a burn that doesn’t need medical attention. Homeopathy has its place in that setting.

Maria, if words mean anything to you, these examples are not homeopathy.

Natural Remedies and using natural remedies to aid in the healing of the body is the basis of homeopathy.

No one here disputes the effectiveness of natural remedies. May have been found effective, researched and had the active ingredient synthesized. Willow bark, quinine and even coca leaf are all good examples. Considering basic homeopathic principles makes it likely that the remedy is devoid even of the natural compounds the healing (or sickness inducing) powers of which it evokes.

Any person with a working brain understands that modern medicine is capable of miracles.

Nature offers some amazing *catalysts* to what the body is already doing. It does not CURE, instead homeopathy is an accessory to the healing process.

Not sure what you mean. There are many self limiting conditions that disappear without any treatment whatsoever.With the exception of an immobilizing device, fractures heal on their own. Most colds resolve themselves without any complications through natural processes involving our immune systems. If these are the only type of maladies that homeopathy claims to treat, then its unnecessary and better than inaction.

Ask any midwife and natural birther and they will fill you with a list of *things occurring in nature* to induce and augment labour that aren’t a dangerous hormone cocktail. (Pitocin)

Technically, pitocin occurs in nature as oxytocin. I don’t know why you credit naturally occurring compounds as somehow risk free? Everything carries a degree of risk, even the most natural and innocuous, although there is much in nature that is quite deadly to humans. Even if a natural remedy has shown to be effective in treating some conditions, it is often limited in quantity, has varying concentrations of the active ingridients when precise dosage is important, and may contain many other active ingredients that are either harmful or unnecessary. Noone here argues that natural remedies never work or shouldn’t be used.

At any rate, what does that have to do with homeopathy which uses dilutions of known poisons to cure symptoms they are known to induce?

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