Here they come to save the day! Homeopaths vs. Ebola, again


If there is one thing that the ongoing Ebola outbreak in Africa has revealed to the world, it’s the full extent of quackery that is out there and advertised as being able to treat deadly diseases such as Ebola. The deadlier the disease, the more quackery is out there, amplified by the scariness of the disease. And, make no mistake about it, Ebola is scary. No, it’s not scary here in the U.S., where the odds of the average person catching the disease, particularly if he’s not a health care worker who’s directly cared for a patient with Ebola, is vanishingly tiny. If you happen to live in west Africa, it’s a different matter entirely. If I lived there, I’d be worried. But here in the U.S.? Not so much. Even so, we have a veritable cornucopia of quackery that, or so its proponents say, can cure Ebola. Examples include quackery like essential oils, “natural biopreparedness,” high dose vitamin C, drinking one’s own pee, and, of course, The One Quackery To Rule Them All, homeopathy. Indeed, one homeopath, Ken Oftedal, had the temerity to actually propose a homeopathic remedy in which he recommended taking actual blood, saliva, or other bodily fluids from patients with Ebola and doing homeopathic dilutions, a proposal that was too quacky even for Mike Adams.

I had a lot of fun ridiculing homeopaths claiming that their magic water can cure a viral disease as deadly as Ebola. Indeed, one of my favorite go-to jokes was a riff on Doctors Without Borders (Médecins Sans Frontières). Basically, what I and others have pointed out is that, if homeopaths have so much faith in homeopathy, why aren’t they heading over to west Africa in droves in order to help patients with Ebola. I admit that it was a joke, a schtick meant to call out homeopaths for promoting their quackery from the safety of the U.S. or European countries in which the threat of Ebola is minimal or nonexistent. There is an actual group that calls itself Homeopaths Without Borders, patterned after Doctors Without Borders, a group that I made fun of when they invaded Haiti after the devastating earthquake a few years ago. As much fun as tweaking homeopaths was, I never expected that any of them would actually be crazy enough to actually put their quackery to the test. Apparently, I was wrong. Apparently, a team of homeopaths have actually arrived in west Africa to peddle their magic water and try to find a cure. So sayeth the National Center for Homeopathy:

The Ebola epidemic raging through West Africa has become a humanitarian crisis of great proportion. Homeopaths worldwide have been mobilizing their efforts toward gaining entrance in those countries affected, in order to provide homeopathic medical intervention to those individuals stricken with Ebola. The overriding goal is to investigate Ebola firsthand, and thereby determine which remedy or remedies are best for treating this disease.

The homeopaths there are so deluded that they actually state:

While there is ample reason to expect that such a remedy can be found for Ebola, to date our homeopathic world community has not yet determined what that remedy or remedies might be. Once such a remedy is found and administered empirically to patients, if it is shown to be effective, we will have in our hands both a treatment for Ebola victims and, very likely, an effective remedy to help prevent or dramatically diminish the spread of the disease to those exposed or at risk of contracting it (homeoprophylaxis). Discovering such a remedy and applying it successfully for Ebola is still unproven, though completely in line with our historical experience with epidemic diseases, both for their treatment and prevention.

The good news is that a small international team of experienced and heroic homeopaths have arrived in West Africa, and are currently on the ground working hard to examine patients, work out the “genus epidemicus,” and initiate clinical trials. This work is being done alongside the current conventional supportive measures and treatments already in place. We applaud and congratulate this team’s dedication and courage in joining the front lines in treating Ebola with homeopathy. The answer to whether homeopathic medicine has an important role in the Ebola epidemic could be forthcoming quite soon.

“Heroic”? I wouldn’t use that word to describe these homeopaths. “Deluded” is much closer to the mark. Don’t believe me? Check out this article by a homeopath, Ebola Virus. It is not an untreatable disease!:

But I am also aware of much discussion going on at the moment within the homeopathic world about the treatment of this ‘new’ killer disease. One homeopath has undertaken an extremely valuable, and quite exhaustive repertorisation of the known symptoms of Ebola, and she has come up with another remedy, Cinchona Offiicinalis. Looking at the known symptoms of both Cinchona and Crotulus, they could both be useful in the treatment of the disease.

  • So, if the conventional medical establishment has no treatment for Ebola, can the homeopathic community expect a knock on its door, in the near future, asking for assistance?
  • Will the Media, in search of anything that can avoid the dreadful scenario they are painting, be interested in publicising this possible treatment?

The answer to the first question is, “No.” Actually, it’s closer to: “Hell, no!” Why would science-based medicine have any interest in vitalistic magic to fight a real disease caused by a real virus? In any case, I’ve discussed the incredibly dubious “reasoning” that homeopaths use. Ebola virus causes bleeding and other symptoms? So does the venom of Sicarius (Six-Eyed Crab Spider)? So obviously Sicarus venom must be a homeopathic remedy for Ebola. After all, homeopathy is all about the symptoms, contrary to the claims of homeopaths that homeopathy treats the root causes of disease.

The Ebola outbreak in west Africa is a humanitarian crisis. it’s truly depressing to behold how willing quacks are to glom on to a humanitarian crisis such as what is occurring right now, taking advantage of the fear of a disease in order to ply their quackery. Remember, homeopathy is based on two major principles. First, homeopaths believe that “like cures like.” In other words, to treat a symptom requires the use of something that causes that symptom. Second, diluting a remedy makes it stronger. of course, as I and many others have pointed out, homeopathic dilutions involve diluting remedies to nonexistence.

to be honest, I’m actually a bit concerned. Homeopaths heading into a zone where Ebola is running rampant are unlikely to help a single person with the disease, nor is their adventure likely to end well. That’s putting it mildly. Think of it this way. Here are a bunch of inexperienced purveyors of magic water and sugar pills (many homeopathic remedies are pressed into sugar pills), with no experience dealing with outbreaks or even taking proper precautions against infected bodily fluids heading into the heart of an outbreak in Africa, where medical resources are tight. If they actually come into contact with patients ill with Ebola to the point of vomiting and bleeding, what is most likely to happen is that they will join the list of Ebola victims. Worse, any patient who relies on their magic rather than the best supportive care that can be provided is likely to suffer the consequences of relying on fantasy medicine rather than real medicine. Real medicine might fail to save Ebola patients half the time, but think of it this way. As we’ve learned before, untreated Ebola has a case fatality rate of around 90%. Any Ebola patient who is fooled into believing the homeopaths will go from a 50-50 chance of dying to a 90% chance of dying. That’s a rather big deal.

I’ll never understand how anyone can take the delusion that is homeopathy seriously, but its believers produce real world consequences.