Survey: 23 percent of Zurich doctors prescribe homeopathy, but many of them believe it to be a placebo

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How would informed consent work in this case? If you tell someone you’re prescribing a placebo then wouldn’t that negate its effectiveness as a placebo?

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Isn’t it the other way around with homeopathy, compounds that do the opposite?

i.e. Non-existent coffee would be a sleeping potion. A poison would be a cure, etc.

Of course, it’s all water, so it doesn’t matter if they’re consistent in their quack mumbo-jumbo. (I wonder how many of them laugh and fill the vials with tap water?)


a discredited medieval quack remedy that involves giving water to patients that is supposed to “remember” having been in contact with molecules of allegedly helpful compounds that have been diluted out of the dose

I used to date a Reiki master and her beliefs in some of this stuff led to a number of arguments–definitely some small part of why it didn’t work out. I certainly am not a believer. But. This keeps getting repeated as “lowering the dose increases the strength” or some variant, but that’s actually quite different than how it’d always been explained to me.

The compounds themselves are not the active ingredient, and as far as any Reiki practitioner I’ve met, none have claimed that (for example) Dandelion flowers had some chemical that was of medicinal interest. Instead, the idea is that everything has an energy that is constantly in fluctuation, “vibrating” if you will, not unlike how electric lines have a certain amount of inherent line noise. The way these essences are supposed to work is that the water and alcohol mix captures some of the “vibrations” of the ingredient, which then when ingested in water or food will impart its specific vibrations to your own energy (chakra? aura? whatever it is called), and thus have some sort of therapeutic effect.

By all means criticize the woo factor, but at least get their stated claims correct.


Not necessarily:

Personally, I take chewable vitamin C when I feel a cold coming, or when I feel crummy, because mom used to give them to us, so the flavor is nostalgic and comforting. Plus if I can harness that placebo effect, it’s even better.



As long as they prescribe placebos for colds and a runny nose I’m fine with it. I received homeopathic “medicine” as a child numerous times and I believe it helped me get over small sicknesses in a purely mental way. I know other children who received antibiotics on a regular basis to treta insignificant things and I wouldn’t want to trade with them.

I assume these doctors wouldn’t prescribe placebos for serious illnesses.


Prescribing a placebo is perfectly ethical if it doesn’t displace a more effective treatment. My dad, an internist, told me that 60% of his practice was psychology; people would get attention from a doctor and feel better even when he couldn’t do much about their complaint (e.g., arthritis pain that didn’t respond to conventional medication).


Considering placebo is more effective than actual medication in some circumstances, it may be the most ethical choice.


Actually more of an Early Contemporary quack remedy since it was created in 1796 by a German physician.


As long as they accept homeopathic anesthesia when they go for major surgery, I’m fine with this.

You hate homeopathy, huh?

If a placebo works, then I’m not too fired up. The real issue as far as I’m concerned is if people are given placebos (of any kind) in place of a verified treatment. This happens a lot in cancer patients, if I recall even Steve Jobs tried “natural” stuff for too long, I suspect they are susceptible because the fear makes them blind to really confronting it.

But if clinicians are using homeopathy as an adjunct or placebo, and if they are seeing results, I’d leave a little room for mystery – not that I think homeopathy works, but I’d want to know if something is working, what is it, and how better to replicate that for patients.

And let’s not turn our noses up at folk wisdom – metformin (which is now being studied heavily for anti-cancer effects and longevity, and has been used to treat diabetes for years now) was derived from research into goat’s rue. A traditional medieval treatment for symptoms of diabetes.


Just for the record, everybody outside Switzerland might be surprised in how well-received homoeopathy is, but I invite you to do some field research on how widespread anthroposophy is in bella Helvetia.

Don’t get me even started on how this relates to anti-vaxxers.


Have a look at

In particular this bit:

But what if you just come right out and tell somebody, without any ambiguity, that they are taking a placebo? One classic study from 1965 offers a clue, although it was small and without a control group, so once again, buyer beware.

They gave a pink placebo pill three times a day to patients they termed “neurotic”, and the explanation given to the patients was startlingly clear about what was going on.

Here is the standardised script which was prepared, and carefully read out to each patient:

“Mr Doe … we have a week between now and your next appointment, and we would like to do something to give you some relief from your symptoms. Many different kinds of tranquillisers and similar pills have been used for conditions such as yours, and many of them have helped. Many people with your kind of condition have also been helped by what are sometimes called ‘sugar pills’, and we feel that a so-called sugar pill may help you, too. Do you know what a sugar pill is? A sugar pill is a pill with no medicine in it at all. I think this pill will help you as it has helped so many others. Are you willing to try this pill?”

They got good results. Go figure, or rather: go buy shares in the homeopathy industry. Sugar pills are the future, if only there was a way to give them with integrity, and a straight face.

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