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Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...

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January 25, 2011

Homeopathy is (Mostly) Hogwash

By Mark Sisson
205 Comments

On the docket today: a meaty, slippery, jam-packed can of worms. Makes you just lick your lips in anticipation, doesn’t it? Last week’s direct to consumer health testing post got this one going. I mentioned this do-it-yourself health trend comes with both the good and the bad – as yet unproven and unsound alternative therapies like homeopathy being such a potential snare. From that point, a healthy and robust debate ensued in the comment board. Yes, that’s exactly the way it should be. I always appreciate and, indeed, relish the active discourse of our comment board. Folks offer up their experiences, questions, and perspectives in ways that thoughtfully challenge and extend the discussion of the post itself. It’s the beauty of a blog – and the “Internets” as a whole, wouldn’t you say? At times, I find these conversations stand by themselves. Other times, I’ll pick up on a certain thread that I think could use more Primal-based clarification and a further targeted discussion. Today I’m taking up the homeopathy debate and giving the full of my two cents. I’m up for it if you are. Let’s roll up our sleeves and dig in, eh?

First, what homeopathy isn’t. It’s not herbal medicine, Traditional Chinese medicine, or even flower essences. It’s not naturopathy or isopathy (pus anyone?). It’s doesn’t include nutritional supplements, energy work, or body manipulation. It’s not a catch-all term for all of CAM (complementary and alternative medicine). I say this because the term is sometimes mistakenly used in these ways, and I want to be clear about what I have on the dissection table today.

Here’s, in a nutshell, what it is. First, key caveat… In the space of a reasonable blog post, I cannot tell the entire history of homeopathy or touch on every study ever performed. I’ll go out on a limb and say that my decision to do so does not, by its own merit, discredit my critique. I’ve read many more books and many more individual studies and reviews – from both conventional and CAM journals –than I’ll mention here. Anyone else is free to similarly delve in while forming their own opinion about homeopathy or any other subject. (PubMed is a fantastic, thoroughly addictive site that I spend entirely too much time perusing.)

O.K. now what it is. First, the historical basics. Homeopathy is a medical practice first envisioned and designed by Samuel Hahnemann in the late 18th Century. As a philosophy, it fit within the vitalist framework and held that illnesses were the manifestations of disturbances to an individual’s life force. Effective intervention, according to Hahnemann, necessitated the rousing or provocation of the life force with a small (understatement) amount of a single, relevant substance. In the spirit of that approach, homeopaths today assess both a patient’s symptoms and overall mental and physical condition – usually through an extensive interview and a varying physical examination. Based on the findings, they determine a particular “remedy” that has been prepared according to homeopathic principles.

We could chat for long, languorous hours about all of Hahnemann’s principles. (PrimalCon, anyone?) Today, let me give particular attention to a few central tenets.

“Law of Similars” (a.k.a. like treats like)

Hahnemann believed that the ideal treatment for a patient’s symptoms was a substance that elicited the same physical signs in healthy individuals. The assigned homeopathic remedy is an artificial means intended to stimulate the disturbed life force into a self corrective mode – based on the similarity of symptoms, yes. In this process, the body will supposedly defuse the observed illness and rid itself of it. (Yeah, I don’t get it either really.)

“Law of Proving”

Because he believed like treats like, Hahnemann focused his proving (i.e. testing) on healthy subjects. He used large groups of volunteers, instructed them on lifestyle restrictions and recommendations during the testing period, and asked them to keep exhaustive journals of any and all symptoms or sensations they experienced. From this standpoint, he initiated early characteristics of the modern controlled clinical trial. (Hat tip.) He then matched these tested substances with diseases that displayed similar symptoms. (See above.)

“Law of Potentization”

Long story short, along the line Hahnemann decided that diluting the original substance would make it more potent. (Yes, do the double take.) He even developed his own scale for diluting his remedies – the centesimal or C measure. Each C indicates dilution by a factor of 100. Given Hahnemann’s penchant for a 30 C dilution, you can imagine – well, actually you probably can’t imagine – how dilute that would be. We’re talking exponentially diminishing here – as in there may or may not be a single molecule of the original substance or not. Ummmm…?

“Entanglement”

The power of a homeopathic remedy solution allegedly resides not simply in the remedy itself but in the full relationship and dynamic interaction among the homeopath, patient, and remedy. (This is one of the reasons those in the homeopathic field reject the applicability of conventional “blind” clinical trials.)

O.K., let me start by saying this. Compared to the rather brutal approaches of the medical community in his time, Hahnemann’s new take on treatment must have felt downright civilized, enlightened, and sophisticated. I’d rather take a small diluted remedy than have my blood let any day. And as irrational as his belief in super ultra mega diluting was, it must have seemed remarkably, even comfortingly precise when held up against the generally sloppy, arbitrary, and clueless practices of apothecaries.

In a system where most of us are lucky if we get five uninterrupted minutes with our physicians, I appreciate the extensiveness of the repertory interview homeopaths undertake with patients. Finally in a very generalized way, I even loosely sympathize with the idea that treating a condition with conventional medications can simply mask it and drive it deeper into the body. (Granted, I see it more as metaphor in these modern times, but it’s a good one. We do a lot of ineffectual “band-aid” work in Western medicine.) Oh, and the life force thing sounds pretty groovy.

I’m afraid that’s pretty much where I part paths with Hahnemann and homeopathy. Call me too close-minded, but I stand with homeopathy’s critics when it comes to its shortfall in the scientific principle department. Let’s say you momentarily accept the life force concept as metaphor and just put aside the law of similar out of sheer frustration. (The alleged vaccine comparison, I’ll simply say, is another ball of wax entirely and fodder for another day.) Even then, there’s still the ginormous elephant in the living room (yes, the one that every critic focuses on because it’s kind of important) – the dilution issue otherwise known as active ingredient-free medicine. Yes, recall that it’s supposed to not simply be present but be more potent. Yes, homeopathy supporters claim that the original substance leaves a residual energy imprint of sorts in the remaining diluted solution (a.k.a. water memory). Theories have been put forward regarding movement and cohesion at the molecular level, “dynamic ‘ordering’” of the water’s intermolecular bonds and the like. (Random thought: if water that contained a homeopathic agent still can retain an active, potent energy imprint, does my waste water treatment plant do a good enough job of removing the imprint of sewage, industrial chemicals, and other refuse particles?)

In all seriousness, I realize that science is still evolving, particularly in the area of nanophysics and the like, but everything about this potentization concept flies in the face of scientific principle, defies all known laws of chemistry and physics, and appears to exist primarily in the hazy, moving shadows of ambiguity. I’m all ears if it’s ever pinned down, but it’s no dice right now.

A few readers last week said it was ironic that I was badmouthing another health related area subjected to the same rejection as many tenets of the Primal Blueprint (e.g. the dietary fat boogeyman.). It’s true that the PB gets its share of quackery accusations. I wholly support being skeptical when the establishment dismisses a health philosophy out of hand. Nonetheless, I don’t see homeopathy in that situation. I’ve read many studies over the years and paid attention to the reviews that have been conducted. When it comes to research, homeopathy just doesn’t bear out.

Reviews suggest that the evidence is inconclusive at best for a myriad of conditions like asthama, anxiety, dementia, migraine, ADHD, cancer, and cancer treatment side effects.

Yes, there’s the claim that true homeopathy can’t be accurately assessed within the current clinical trial system. There’s the issue of individualization of remedy – that an individual’s treatment also is influenced by their overall well-being, personality, etc. Then there’s the concept of entanglement – that dynamic, misty interaction among the perceived triad of homeopath, patient, and treatment. I don’t know how you’re going to overcome those hurdles. Right now it’s a deadlock, but I’m going to have to side with hard science for now.

I’ve given my critique. Here’s what I think works about homeopathy, and – mind you – I’m being wholly earnest. I know what you’re thinking: placebo. Well, yes, but let me explain. The placebo effect, ladies and gentlemen, is nothing to shake a stick at. As mentioned before, it can claim a 30% effectiveness rate, and that number can go higher based on the people receiving the treatment. Some of us are more likely to experience physical effects from a placebo not because we’re gullible saps but probably because we’re more in tune with our mental power, so to speak. Some of us, for example, can creatively visualize our way through the intense physical pain of a medical procedure or the pain of childbirth. Some can’t as much. The placebo effect is such a force that a recent study showed the pretense isn’t necessary. And if your doctor believes that the “placebo” is actually an effective treatment, the effect is even stronger.

Much has been made lately of the therapeutic impact of the doctor-patient relationship itself – the connection, the empathy, the listening, and the basic human touch of the physical exam. Imagine the result if your caretaker took two hours instead of ten minutes to listen to your concerns, asked about your general well-being, and inquired about your life overall. Is it much of a stretch to see that there would likely be a more intensive healing element to this relationship itself?

My final thought on homeopathy is this. I can’t accept it as a medical practice given what is currently known. I leave room for the effectiveness of a few substances when given in a non-traditional formula (actually present in the solution). Furthermore, I respect the humanistic elements of homeopathy practice and wish conventional medicine would learn a thing or two in this department. I understand why people might be interested in its therapies and experience suggested relief from the idea of a gentle treatment that gets them thinking about the power and essential balance of their bodies. The truth of its impact, however, lies outside the bounds of medical science.

The floor is now open. Good Primal ladies and gentlemen, please avail yourself of the comment board.

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205 Comments on "Homeopathy is (Mostly) Hogwash"

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Graham
Graham
5 years 8 months ago
I don’t get it either. From what’s been explained to me, they dilute these mixtures down to the point where theoretically there shouldn’t even be an atom from the original active ingredients. Its gone, but its “essence” is still there, hence its effectiveness. Delving a little deeper, the scientific claims are that the photons emitted from the active ingredient’s molecules (intermolecular bonds)stimulate the water molecules in the mixture. After the original active ingredient is taken away, the water molecules are still stimulated, and ready to “relay the message” to you. The quantum physics kind of makes sense, but why don’t… Read more »
Sean
5 years 8 months ago

Oh dear God, they are really attempting to justify this with quantum physics?

It doesn’t make sense, it makes no sense at all. Take a class in quantum physics and get back to me.

Sean
5 years 8 months ago

You do realize that photons are everywhere. Light, radio waves, etc, etc. A glass of water is bombarded with billions of photons per second. So what would make the photon “stimulation” from the original active ingredient that has such an extremely low concentration unique?

Photons are, by definition, interchangeable, except for wavelength they are identical according to quantum theory.

Where does the quantum physics “kind of make sense”?

Ellen
Ellen
5 years 7 months ago
All that we can truly know is that which we have experienced. It is easy to intellectualize almost anything, even to convince ourselves that we are “right” based on our thoughts. Thoughts which we fuel according to information which we are able to see and understand based on the narrowness or expansiveness of our belief systems. However, if it does not bear fruit in reality, then we are not living in a grounded way, we are living an illusion. Think about it, how about those who believed the earth flat, people of certain skin colors inferior, etc? They intellectualized their… Read more »
Sean
5 years 7 months ago
Ellen, There’s a big difference between something *you* don’t understand but millions of others do, like the internal combustion engine or logical fallacies, and something that doesn’t even remotely have a justifiable basis in science but people attempt to explain anyway by cherry-picking terms from a real science like physics. Like homeopathy. “The criteria here seems to be that if we cannot understand it then it cannot work, cannot be useful.” No, not at all. But what the hell is wrong with wanting to understand something? It helps if an alleged treatment makes some sort of sense, either because it… Read more »
Jessica
Jessica
5 years 7 months ago
Bravo to this reply, Sean. I am bothered by the suggestion of a quasi experiment towards the end of Ellen’s post. Too often people with very little basis for their own claims dismiss science and then fall easily back into trying to use its tools to defend their position without even seeing the hypocrisy. I challenge her to consider the value of exactly what she’s proposing here: “Mark, here is a challenge to you. Consider posting a few good, basic articles on how to use simple homeopathic remedies for some simple, basic issues. Homeopathic medicines are FDA approved and can… Read more »
Ellen
Ellen
5 years 7 months ago

Seventeen.

Ellen
Ellen
5 years 7 months ago

Sorry, that did not come through in totality. I’ve participated in seventeen experiments regarding the placebo effect. My background is in traditional medicine. I switched to homeopathy, as M.D.’s sometimes do, because it made more sense when it came to the bottom line of actually restoring health.

Neal Bowhay
Neal Bowhay
5 years 7 months ago

Good on you Ellen, your obviously have a lifetime of experience in what you are speaking about, rather than the armchair critics.

Shary
Shary
3 years 10 months ago
Great comment from Ellen. I just love the way people who know nothing about homeopathy and have never tried it claim it can’t possibly work. And why is that, do you suppose? After all, custom-formulated noninvasive homeopathic remedies use real medicine. Could it be because homeopathy actually cures as opposed to simply medicating symptoms (something most people can’t understand)? Is it because there are no nasty side effects to deal with (something else most people can’t understand)? Is it a dyed-in-the-wool, brainwashed belief that allopathy knows everything there is to know about the science of the human body (which it… Read more »
Lolo
Lolo
2 years 8 months ago
I agree completely with Ellen. I believe homeopathy is more than just a placebo; however, if I am incorrect and it is just a placebo, that’s just fine with me!!! The results I’ve seen are nothing short of amazing. I have seen with myself (and others) MANY conditions that could not be treated by physicians (and even a naturopath in one instance) improve drastically and even completely disappear. It’s funny how I thought the doctors could help with such conditions, but the placebo effect never came into play then. I must point out that I see a practitioner and that… Read more »
Sean
5 years 8 months ago

Do they actually use quantum entanglement to justify the alleged efficacy of homeopathy?

Tom
Tom
5 years 8 months ago

Great critique, Mark. Outside of the placebo effect, I find homeopathy to be very dangerous, in that it invites patients to forgo scientifically proven treatments for serious illnesses.

Google “homeopathy randi” for a good video from James Randi, a prominent skeptic.

pieter d
pieter d
5 years 8 months ago

Tom, indeed, Randi has some very good videos.

Neal Bowhay
Neal Bowhay
5 years 8 months ago
Ever walked into a room and felt an emotional disturbance immediately you arrive. Felt someone being angry before they even face you. Hang on, can’t be because the version of science referenced here says no molecule of anger is present. Science has no explanation for gravity. Does that mean it doesn’t exist? This attack on homeopathy is just trial by speculation. There is a lot of investigation on vibrational medicine that does accord with quantum theory. Quantum theory puts the rational mind on its head, positing for example a zero point field which (like Buddhist emptiness) is the potential of… Read more »
Neal Bowhay
Neal Bowhay
5 years 7 months ago
Just realised that my statement about gravity was not accurate. The theory of relativity addresses gravity, but the point I wanted to make is that gravity operates through a vacuum and has no materiality. Show me a molecule of gravity! Yet it is one of the most powerful forces (or whatever you want to call it) in existence. Light is sometimes a wave and sometimes a particle, etc etc. Rationality is not king. Homeopathy either works or it doesn’t but the way to discover it is not by argument, otherwise we could argue away virtually everything. Just as the church… Read more »
Sam
Sam
5 years 7 months ago
Good grief. For the love of non-existent gods, will you people STOP trying to invoke modern physics when you know nothing of it better than a half-forgotten memory of a PBS popular science show? Neal, your understanding of the vacuum ground state is not even wrong. Your understanding of gravity is not even wrong. In the classical view (ie, general relativity), gravity is a manifestation of curved spacetime. Quantum gravity – an area of ongoing research – indeed involves a gauge boson exchange (called the graviton). And for crying out loud, gravity is NOT powerful. It is the weakest of… Read more »
imogen
imogen
5 years 7 months ago

Thank you for addressing the very unscientific methodology so sadly presented as science because so-called (and self-proclaimed)scientists said it.

An appeal to authority is a logical fallacy.

Neal Bowhay
Neal Bowhay
5 years 7 months ago

The point I was making about gravity, which you chose to overlook, is that you can’t find a molecule of it. Yet it keeps the universe together. Even your graviton is an conceptual supposition. Therefore using the argument presented against homeopathy would prove the non-existence of gravity. Anyway, to be really scientific you have to notice that science turns on its head its best ideas, very regularly. So next week vibrational medicine could be in. The point is to test the hypothesis, as it seems Ellen above has, and you have all ignored in your rush to be clever.

MikeEnRegalia
5 years 7 months ago

@Neal: Your definition of “science” is so screwed up … it saddens me. But it also explains how concepts like homeopathy can survive for centuries … there’ll always be plenty of gullible people.

Ray Butlers
Ray Butlers
5 years 7 months ago
Yes, I’ve walked into a room in which there was an emotional disturbance. But it ain’t magic. Red faces, wide eyes, sweating, two people on opposite ends of the room, over-compensating cheerfulness. It has nothing to do with the molecules of air being disturbed. Air doesn’t have emotions. Further, you really need to learn about quantum theory before you start using it for ammunition for irrational thinking. Get yourself a book on science please. And for what it’s worth, homeopathy often achieves the miraculous when the miraculous is expected. Psychosomatic illnesses work that way. What was it? Meloncholy? Fatigue? Poor… Read more »
Neal Bowhay
Neal Bowhay
5 years 7 months ago
I can see that there is no winning argument here. You guys got religion, not science. Religion is when you argue something out of existence. In the science of my life I have experienced the effectiveness of vibrational medicine. You can try and placebo that out of me just as much as I can science it into you. All I am saying is test it empirically, not mentally. The argument as to why something shouldn’t be would prevent all of existence. How could everything be? Allow for the limits of thought, please rather than turning it into a despot. By… Read more »
Glenn
Glenn
5 years 7 months ago
Scientifically proven expermiments? I don’t know if Homeopathy is the real deal, i’m yet to decide either way. I do however find it misleading of Jessica to post the external link highlighting the dangers of alternative medicine. Newsflash! People still die of cancer, despite chemo, drugs, radiation and other frankenstein like experimentation. For heaven sake, anyone who gets put under before an operation starts, puts their life at some risk. How many mal-practice lawsuits are there each year? How many people get paid out of the vaccine injury fund each year. There should be acknowledgement of the considerable downfall of… Read more »
Ray Butlers
Ray Butlers
5 years 7 months ago

The problem with alternative medicine is that it is no alternative at all. It is utterly and completely ineffective and therefore – conveniently – rarely harmful.

Caitlin
Caitlin
5 years 8 months ago

Interesting.

I definitely agree that some more one on one time with doctors/nurses and patients would be beneficial. Maybe someday soon!

Jared
5 years 8 months ago
That would be nice, but do you really think the outcomes would change a considerable amount? Do you REALLY think your MD will promote nutritional interventions (besides CW) and exercise instead of statins because he’s stuck in the room with you a bit longer? I highly doubt it. Any honest MD will tell you they don’t even receive any training whatsoever in regards to nutrition! He’s still going to parrot conventional wisdom and allopathic dogma, recommending drugs and surgeries before advocating lifestyle change. The ONLY thing that will change that is a complete paradigm shift within the medical profession. With… Read more »
Brian Radvansky
Brian Radvansky
5 years 8 months ago

Fact check: Many (if not most) medical school curricula do include training in nutrition.

Also, medical schools around the U.S. continue to implement CAM into their programs as elective courses of study.

Be careful making blanket statements about all doctors.

Caitlin
Caitlin
5 years 8 months ago
While you make a point, it still doesn’t dispute the point that Mark made about having the one on one physical contact in itself is beneficial, regardless of what your doctor is telling you. Mark wasn’t talking about nutritional advice from your doctor, he was talking about personal attention and physical contact. Both proven to be helpful, especially when you are sick. Here in Canada, things are a little different with health care. There isn’t the same pressure from pharmaceutical companies on doctors. Our doctors are paid by the people. And I think some MD’s do receive some nutrition training.… Read more »
imogen
imogen
5 years 8 months ago
It’s not just a little concerning that you consider requisite/extorted taxation voluntary payment by the people… 🙁 The other thing is that my partner used to work for a doctor, and I have had several doctors offer me a specific rx because, as they put it, the company gives them “perks” such as points toward 2-week vacations in Hawaii (for a half-day conference), straight out payments for “support” and the like. I have also had several doctors admit that they have no training in nutrition, and that there was an elective option in med school, but it was not a… Read more »
Dune
Dune
5 years 8 months ago
I recently went to my pulmonologist and was very very pleased to get S.O.A.P. charting by the nurse before the doctor came to see me. The acronym for those unknowing is Subjective Objective Assessment and Plan. The Subjective portion is a long interview asking about your life and changes going on and if anything comes up, then follow up questions until they have an overall picture of your life. This way they may catch connections between things you never thought had something to do with each other. This was done more back when I was a child, and also is… Read more »
Minxxa
Minxxa
5 years 8 months ago
There are practices which do take the patient into consideration and spend much time with them… you just have to REALLY look and do some interviewing. My current doctor’s office is wonderful. I have never been made to wait for my appointment, I’m ALWAYS in on time. I normally spend between 15-30 minutes with the PAs, and then have a 5 minute chat with them AND the doctor, but I also always have 1-2 appointments with the doctor himself which last about 30 minutes and he asks and answers any and all questions I bring to the table. He also… Read more »
Bob
Bob
5 years 8 months ago
A few annoying points. (1)If water has some kind of “memory” of a substance even after dilution down to zero molecules, and “Like cures like,” doesn’t that mean that (a) we are all drinking powerful pterodactyl urine, and, more importantly, if I drink one of those new Starbuck’s coffees that is bigger than my stomach, just before bed, shouldn’t I be able to save a tiny sip of it, pour it in a bucket of water, and put my entire town to sleep? And, if I dilute that, do I have something more powerful than methamphetamine? It makes no logical… Read more »
Jenny
Jenny
5 years 8 months ago

For number 3 there… Couldn’t your undiscovered reason be placebo effect?

Ray Butlers
Ray Butlers
5 years 7 months ago

Can I get a list of treatments that fill patients with toxic chemicals? What exactly do you expect medicine to do with difficult-to-treat conditions? Patients vary in their response and it always takes effort to determine the best course.

Tim
Tim
5 years 8 months ago

The only reason homeopathic products made from things like mercury and arsenic don’t kill people is that there isn’t any of the original ingredients left.

If it were true, it would be dangerous, but fortunately it isn’t true.

Kelda
5 years 8 months ago

I suspect there is an inverse therapeutic effect when scaled against the cost of the consultation.

Now, anyone for making the Emperor’s new wardrobe 🙂

Erik C.
Erik C.
5 years 8 months ago

Where are my science books?

Alhaddadin
Alhaddadin
5 years 8 months ago
Ohhhh man. I was waiting for this post after last week’s free-for-all, and I must say, Mark, you’ve done a terrific job delineating homeopathy from naturopathy, CAM, traditional non-Western medicine, etc (I feel like there are even a number of people who call themselves Homeopaths who really aren’t, and would much better conform to one of the above descriptions). The way you lay it out, homeopathy seems like an elegant theory of the body that would correspond to the equally elegant theory of the planet encompassed in Lorenz’s idea of the Butterfly Effect. And while the Butterfly Effect is indeed… Read more »
Duke
Duke
4 years 10 months ago

you mean like the complete control we have over our bodies from CAM right? we already know it all. hell, a few decades ago acupuncture was akin to voodoo but is now readily accepted and scientifically proven. vibrational medicine is quite real contrary to marks assumptions. if you disagree, simply try having your electrons stop bouncing around and see how well you feel.

Marc
5 years 8 months ago
I really like the tone of this post. Respectful, insightful, open to possibilities yet firmly grounded in logic and opinion. No need for anyone to get upset about it. Thank you Mark! Back in the early 90’s I experimented with some homeopathic remedies. I was very open minded and believed fully some of the literature available at that time. I can tell you that NONE of the remedies ever did anything for me. Or maybe better stated; I never got any type of relief from the “homeopathic medicine”. The human/doctor part of the placebo equation is a HUGE factor…most likely… Read more »
Duke
Duke
4 years 10 months ago

or you simply had some bunk sugar pills.

Brian
Brian
5 years 8 months ago
Cj
Cj
5 years 7 months ago

HAHAHHAAHAHA! Good one! Now, where did I leave mine?

Leanne
Leanne
5 years 8 months ago

“I really like the tone of this post. Respectful, insightful, open to possibilities yet firmly grounded in logic and opinion. No need for anyone to get upset about it. Thank you Mark!”

+1

I think it is very important that people understand the difference between “Homeopathy” and “Natural and Preventative Health and Wellness Practices” such as Chiropractic, herbalism, or acupuncture.

Bob
Bob
5 years 8 months ago
From what I understand, while obviously there are many herbs that are effective in treating lots of problems, acupuncture is a bit dicey, as some studies show it to be more effective than placebo, and others the opposite (even putting needles in “randomly” as one of the control groups), and that Chiropractic got its start claiming that spinal manipulation could cure almost anything, and even now has yet to PROVE that what they do is as good as or better than a Ph.D. level Physical Therapist; I am continually amazed by people who swear by their chiropractor with the statement,… Read more »
Dune
Dune
5 years 8 months ago

I had a bruised rib once, given to me by my martial arts instructor. It wasn’t going away. I knew western medicine would prescribe pain medication I didn’t really want. So, although I knew it was a stretch, I went to a chinese medicine practitioner and had cupping done on my back, which helped for several days to eliminate the pain. The a week later, acupuncture with electricity. Cured. All in my mind? Don’t care. 50 bucks. I would have paid more than that for a prescription pain med.

Dune
Dune
5 years 8 months ago

I will add though that if it hadn’t worked, I was going for the pain meds next.

Lisa
Lisa
5 years 8 months ago

Yeah, my brother sends me links to skeptic and quack websites about acupuncture with similar information. My reply was the same as yours – I had injured my periformis (sp?) muscle to the point where I couldn’t dress myself. A treatment with an acupuncturist was all I needed. Placebo? perhaps…but for $50 and no drug side effects, I really don’t care.

And remember that many of these alternative treatments aren’t “proven” by studies because of the money…drug companies fund most studies either directly or indirectly through our universities.

Joshua Pepping
Joshua Pepping
5 years 8 months ago
First off I take major offense when someone trashes something they obviously know nothing about. You probably have not done any research yourself on what chiropractic truly is. The specificity that is involved in an adjustment is what sets chiropractors apart from other who “just manipulate”. And there are studies showing the effectiveness of chiropractic. As far as people who have to continually get adjusted they most likely have lifestyle issues as a causative factor. I only ask that before someone forms an opinion about something they do the research objectively first. As far as it being a cure no… Read more »
Kelda
5 years 8 months ago

Agreed. My repeat trips were only during my period as a single-minded endurance iron athlete. A good chiropractic is awesome and he kept telling me if I wanted a permanent solution I should look at the lifestyle!

Since I gave up chronic cardio I’ve been back only twice I think both when I’d fallen off my bike (pleasure riding) and misaligned everything again!

Mike
Mike
5 years 8 months ago

That’s my problem with chiropractors. Now, I love the adjustments; I feel pumped leaving. The first time I literally felt a high.

But I really wanted to figure out specifically what I am doing to myself physically to prevent my having to return.

My best guess, I think a good part of it was bad posture instigated by my shoes and my motorcycle boots.

Joshua Pepping
Joshua Pepping
5 years 7 months ago

Mike,
There are so many factors that can effect your back it would be hard to specifically pinpoint. One thing I feel people don’t understand is that they spend sometimes decades “training” there body to hold the vertebrae in an incorrect pattern, our jobs as chiropractors is to correct that. This is something that takes time, we are working to essentially retrain the body to hold a better pattern. This takes time. Which is why people need to go back a number of times.

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[…] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Mark_Sisson, Cynthia LaLuna, Alex Shalman, Roy Crockett, FitnessDoc and others. FitnessDoc said: Homeopathy is (Mostly) Hogwash [Mark's Daily Apple] http://bit.ly/gb3g2H […]

DaiaRavi
5 years 8 months ago

… well mark, you “paid” for your off-the-cuff remark honorably – on the whole, a balanced-with-opinion post – thanks for that –

i’m not going to jump up and yell foul but on the other hand, i have seen and experienced effects of Rescue Remedy and Bach flowers when no logical other explanation -except that they DID work- was there. Anecdotal i know – but ya know what they say, the mind is like a parachute – ain’t workin ‘less it’s open…

Tom
Tom
5 years 8 months ago

They also say “keep an open mind, but not so open that your brain falls out.” 😉

JQuarta
5 years 8 months ago

Research is an important factor. Logic and science have to be factored in. All claims of cures have to be evaluated without emotion, some people are better salesmen than others in touting illogical claims.

Primal Palette
5 years 8 months ago

“The art of medicine consists of amusing the patient while nature cures the disease.” – Voltaire

DaiaRavi
5 years 8 months ago

amen…

MikeEnRegalia
5 years 8 months ago
Nicely done. I agree 100%, and it’s nice to see you taking a stand for science and against pseudo science. Now, your next targets along this line should be Deepak Chopra and Bruce Lipton. The latter I have some respect for, and I read Biology of Belief and it obviously has some chapters that are just way beyond reason, while others are perfectly fine and essentially deal with epigenetics, and I guess that this was why you included both of them – to show that our genes might not be carved in stone – the genes themselves are, but we… Read more »
Mark Sisson
5 years 8 months ago

Mike, I use quotes from a bunch of people in the PB, but I wouldn’t say I am “referencing” them all. Like Devo for instance. I’m not a fan of Chopra, but that quote about how long our organs will last had nothing to do with quantum physics or holograms…it was a simple observation that any doc will agree with. As for Lipton, I do like the way he thinks, even if he’s a bit fringe.

MikeEnRegalia
5 years 8 months ago

Hey Mark,

sure, that’s also how I understood it, but there are some who simply see those names mentioned and conclude that you’re endorsing their pseudo-scientific views – I’ve read some of the few negative reviews of the PB on Amazon where exactly that was happening.

DaiaRavi
5 years 8 months ago
I reaaaaly think that science-y types (i’m on the fence – had traditional science/pre-med schooling but have seen some other things with these eyes) have to be a bit less anxious to slap the “pseudoscience” label on anything that does not fit THEIR scientific criteria/world view – please consider, for example, that some of the most astounding physics discoveries of the last 20 years have driven that discipline a hell of alot more towards the “esoteric” than imaginable just 30-50 years ago. i completely understand and concur with the need for good investigative research/testing of theory – but do keep… Read more »
MikeEnRegalia
5 years 8 months ago

And another thought specifically about homeopathy: It’s telling that when you go to the store and buy some homeopathic remedies, the guy behind the counter will typically recommend that you only take them along with “real” medicine … at least that’s what I heard from some relatives. Personally, being the rationalist-atheist-skeptic that I am, I never spent any money on them.

BTW, speaking of skeptics:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c0Z7KeNCi7g

James Randi, debunking homeopathy at TED. Very entertaining 🙂

Arlo
Arlo
5 years 8 months ago

I was worried for a second when I saw the title. Good post.

Homeopathy seems to be like a lot of these other alternative treatments. Somebody sat in a room and pulled an idea out of the air, and every time new science (or old science) shows it couldn’t possibly work that way, people try to justify it using other or newer science. Repeat. Hence quantum mechanics, since, as I think Feynman once said, “If you think you understand quantum mechanics, you don’t understand quantum mechanics.”. 🙂

oliverh
oliverh
5 years 8 months ago
David Csonka
5 years 8 months ago

If you haven’t watched it already, you must view this hilarious video by Mitchel and Webb (a UK comedy show) –

That Mitchell and Webb Look: Homeopathic A&E http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HMGIbOGu8q0 (sfw)

Consequently, homeopathy seems to be entrenched within the UK public health service. Kind of nuts…

slacker
slacker
5 years 8 months ago

Agree with Mark broadly here, but have to agree with Bob’s points 2, 3 and 4, as well.

Some compounds will have physiologic doses in the parts per million or billion.

Grace
Grace
5 years 8 months ago

On the flip side – many of us have seen astounding results with homeopathy and our pets. Pretty sure my dog doesn’t fall for the placebo effect.

I think a great deal of the efficacy of homeopathy is on the shoulders of the practicioner and how good they are. If you choose the wrong remedy nothing will happen.

I have had little to no results self medicating with homeopathy however I have seen results in my dogs. Something interesting to contemplate…

Tim
Tim
5 years 8 months ago

However there is something called the investigator effect, where if the person testing something believes strongly in its efficacy, this will cause them to unconsciously sway the results in its favor. This is why good trials are both blinded and placebo controlled.

Trav
Trav
5 years 8 months ago

Yeah, I believe it’s also referred to as confirmation bias.

Griffin
Griffin
5 years 8 months ago

I don’t know a great deal about homeopathy, but I believe it is perfectly valid (or at least plausible) to view this through the lens of quantum physics. It’s not about “life force,” but about the electromagnetic fields (EMF) that exist around every single atom, affecting every cell in our bodies. It is much more complex than body chemistry and the amount of substance used; it is about agitating the EMF of the substance. Check out Savely Yurkovsky’s work. Here is a wiki link http://www.wisdomwiki.com/wiki/Savely_Yurkovsky

Griffin
Griffin
5 years 8 months ago
The reason I am putting up a fight for homeopathy is because my girlfriend is undergoing major digestive problems (and no, she does not eat sugar or grains or PUFAs). The only thing that has even come close to helping her are the treatments from Dr. Yurkovsky. I had a chance to read a lot of his book, and it lays out very clearly the misconceptions about homeopathy. The big kicker, though, is that after most remedies, she’s not supposed to use electricity (EMF interference). Every time she breaks that rule, she gets an excruciating EMF headache. There’s gotta be… Read more »
Trish
Trish
5 years 8 months ago

@Daia, did you even read the post? Or do you know what BACH’s is? It’s Floral therapy, and Mark clearly states this is NOT what he’s talking about in this post. Jeeze….I’ve never posted but you and your uninformed, need to bash posts really have me sickened. If you don’t like it here…don’t play here!

Mark Cruden
Mark Cruden
5 years 8 months ago

I don’t think he (she) was bashing the post. Order some Primal Calm.

DaiaRavi
5 years 8 months ago
Thank you Mark Cruden, Trish, i am sorry, but who is uninformed here? Please go to the Wiki entry for Mr. Bach whose HOMEOPATHIC-styled dilutions of flower essences are part of our family’s arsenal against sicknesses and disorders. But thank you for helping me make my point – Bach WAS a homeopath and his remedies DO involve many of the same principles of high dilution that are attacked by science people as bogus concepts. Bach diverges from typical homeopathy in that his remedies don’t go with the “law of similars” so in fact, to say that Bach Flower Remedies ARE… Read more »
Kristen
Kristen
5 years 8 months ago

I stand resolute. My body, my choice. Don’t try and regulate my medicinal decisions. Why don’t you stick to what you know from your own experience, that being diet & exercise, & leave what you have no experience with alone? Anyone can argue against something they have never tried.

HillSideGina
HillSideGina
5 years 8 months ago

There are many things I’ve never tried that I can make reasonable arguments against.

Yours is a typical argument of the belief-biased.

Tim
Tim
5 years 8 months ago

Yes, I could argue strongly against eating cow-dung to cure headaches, but that doesn’t mean I’ve tried it.

Tom
Tom
5 years 8 months ago

Even what Mark knows from experience he has backed up with research. That approach is far more convincing than if he had simply offered PB based on his own personal success.

In fact, supporting an argument with research is superior to individual experience every time.

Kristen
Kristen
5 years 7 months ago

Thee is a reason that people in the homeoptathic field call it going beyond flat Earth medicine.

Emily
Emily
5 years 8 months ago

What about the fish that change sex because of hormones in the water from birth control medicines? By the time it gets to the fish it should be really dilute, especially after going through the water treatment plant? I haven’t actually read the research on this one so don’t take my word for it, but I don’t think water treatment plants are a fix all, which is kind of how we view them.

Hil
Hil
5 years 8 months ago

The processes in water treatment plants can’t break down hormones and lots of pharmaceuticals. Hence the news about low levels of prozac in the water in certain areas. And when lots of women are peeing out lots of hormones.. it’s enough to bother the fish.

Suvetar
Suvetar
5 years 8 months ago

Prozac in drinking water? The water that comes out of our fossets? They put it there on purpose like Fluoride?

Whoa…

Uncephalized
Uncephalized
5 years 8 months ago

That kind of stuff isn’t diluted to anything like 100C dilution. There can be pharmacologically-significant levels of hormones and so on in water where lots of people live and work. People make lots of mess; it’s one of the things we’re good at.

HillSideGina
HillSideGina
5 years 8 months ago

Nicely written and to the point, Mark. Thank you.

It’s about time Homeopathy is put to bed as an old, loopy theory that does not stand up to science.

I don’t know why most “Holistic” or “Alternative” health practitioners persist in clinging to this. And “Natural” food and health stores still have large sections devoted to Homeopathic potions. (I think I just answered my own question – it makes a lot of money and there are no ingredients – pure profit!)

Carl
Carl
5 years 8 months ago

Homeopathy is obviously absolute bunk snakewater and it’s kind of annoying that Mark had to waste a post on it. But I guess I’m glad he did. The most important thing on the topic is – as Mark addressed – there is a lot of terminology confusion between homeopathy and genuine herbalism. Heck, up until a few years ago I used the terms interchangeably. There’s definite education that needs to happen.

Bennett
Bennett
5 years 8 months ago

http://news.yahoo.com/s/yblog_thelookout/20110125/ts_yblog_thelookout/attorneys-question-whether-what-taco-bell-calls-beef-is-actually-beef

Maybe a little lobbying can get their stuff classified as ‘homeopathic beef’. Just enough of it in the grist to contain the memory of meat.

wilbur
wilbur
5 years 8 months ago
I have tried professionally (by a practitioner) a few times over the last 25 years with good results. I have also used some over-the-counter (OTC) homeopathic products scores of times over those years with good results as well. I include homeopathic remedies in my home “pharmacy” along with western herbs and chinese herbs. I have always been far less interested in whether something “makes sense” or satisfies “logic” – and especially whether it is “scientifically sound” or not, and much more interested in whether it actually WORKS for me – and believe me, I am as skeptical as the next… Read more »
DeyC3
DeyC3
5 years 8 months ago

This argument is actually upside down. Galileo and Copernicus WERE science that was dogmatically repressed by those who “knew” from personal experience that these observations were wrong. Homeopathy would be widely embraced if it could live up to a double blind study. It can’t.

Dino Babe
Dino Babe
5 years 8 months ago

It is truly wonderful that you have found success in homeopathy, and although anecdotal evidence doesn’t usually rank highly in terms of proving a treatment (compared to a clinical trial for example), there is certainly great merit an anecdotal proof approach to self-care. And as such, it is certainly helpful to have a number of treatment options available to an individual.

However, I think that it is important to point out that, although the substance itself may be ‘harmless’, potential delay of proven treatment in favour of less proven, or unproven treatments may not be so harmless.

fritzy
fritzy
5 years 8 months ago
Glad homeopathy has worked for you. That said: “Science” (in quotation marks) may be “cocksure.” Science, in it’s proper practice is not. There is nothing dogmatic about science. You remarked it “always” changes it’s mind. That’s because of it’s very undogmatic nature–that’s a strength of science, not a weakness. When new evidence comes along, the theory changes accordingly. You kind of contradicted yourself there. As far as science not being part of “cutting edge throught”–well that depends on what you mean by “cutting edge.” If you mean any alternative idea that might get tossed into the social milleu, then yes,… Read more »
DaiaRavi
5 years 8 months ago

“The art of medicine consists of amusing the patient while nature cures the disease.”
– Voltaire

… jus’ sayin….

DaiaRavi
5 years 8 months ago

…creds to Primal Palette…

collin237
collin237
10 months 4 days ago

I’ve read that they also hit the tube of water against a Bible. So yes, it’s a religion!

Edward
Edward
5 years 8 months ago
I’m kind of on the fence with Homeopathy since the principle of symptoms generated in your body from a disease could be an outward appearance of your body trying to regain homeostasis therefore a substance that produces those same symptoms in an otherwise healthy individual could in a smaller amount help the body better gain homeostasis. Take for instance the fact that many drugs that help with conditions may actually cause them in much higher doses. It’s interesting that you are so fired up about this though Mark. One area I wish you were as fired up about would be… Read more »
Uncephalized
Uncephalized
5 years 8 months ago

The dubious (read: ludicrously stupid) claim homeopathy makes is that water can somehow remember what used to be in it and that dilution makes things stronger. This is simply false (read: tested rigorously and debunked many times) and can lead to people not getting real help for serious problems, and thus dying.

Ruben
5 years 8 months ago
Sam Hahnemann was dissatisfied with the tools available to heal the sick, meaning leaches, mercury, lead, etc. He refused to practice this medicine, but continued his search for a better healing system. He eventually discovered the mechanism of “Like Cures Like” Although i like homeopathy as an alternative modality and, is in common in medical usage today; homeopathy has yet to find scientific instruments with enough sensitivity to measure and thereby prove homeopathic efficacy. The Law of Similars is used in vaccination, and let it be stated i am tottally aganist vacciness 95% of tge time it is also used… Read more »
DeyC3
DeyC3
5 years 8 months ago

So why doesn’t the water retain the memory of the myriad other compounds that are super diluted within it? e.g. contaminants, the containers it was processed in, and everything else it ever contacted.

fritzy
fritzy
5 years 8 months ago

“Extraoridnary claims require extraoridnary evidence.” Until then, it’s just a claim.

-Unicorns that phase between this universe and another are my personal guardians
-Invisible Fairies make my dinner every night by guiding my hands at the stove.
-My teeth talk for me without a thought from me–I just sit and marvel at their words.

These are claims that science has not developed strong enough instruments to measure. How come no one is taking my claims seriously?

jdwilson
jdwilson
5 years 8 months ago

I don’t have any problem with “like treats like”; think of smallpox vaccinations or the Salk polio vaccine. Here, the mechanism is to introduce something similar (but less harmful) which triggers the patient’s immune response system.

Of course none of this will help after you’ve contracted smallpox or polio.

On the other hand, I can’t follow the dilution idea at all, in fact it (to my mind) is utterly absurd.

If I want Arnica I’ll go for something that’s 10%, not 10xE-3000

Sabrina
Sabrina
5 years 8 months ago

Trish, take a deep breath. I do think you’re
overreacting. Daia’s post was perfectly
civil, even though may disagree with its
content.

rob
rob
5 years 8 months ago

Some people swear by drinking their own urine. People are going to believe what they want to believe and there is nothing you can do to convince them otherwise.

Marcy
Marcy
5 years 8 months ago

I was under the impression that the cure for malaria, quinine, is a homeopathic compound. Also I had great success with Zicam when they first came out with the nasal swabs. Neither of these is diluted – they definitely have ‘active’ ingredients that would cause malaria or cold symptoms if you took them when healthy, but they are both homeopathic.

Uncephalized
Uncephalized
5 years 8 months ago
No, they are not. Quinine is a plant compound distilled from acacia bark. It is a legitimate herbal remedy, not a homeopathic one. It is not diluted to insignificant concentrations and acts like any other drug, eliciting observable physiological effects which block infestation by malaria flukes as well as reducing malaria symptoms. If it is not diluted, it is not homeopathy, strictly speaking. Mark made this very clear. People are misusing the label if they use to describe things like Quinine. Also, Quinine does not in any way cause malaria or malaria-like symptoms. It’s an anti-inflammatory and a pain-killer, for… Read more »
Uncephalized
Uncephalized
5 years 8 months ago

My apologies. I should have said cinchona bark, not acacia. I was under the mistaken impression that cinchona was a member of the acacia family, but it’s not.

HillSideGina
HillSideGina
5 years 8 months ago
In 2006, Matrixx Initiatives (makers of Zicam) paid $12 million to settle 340 lawsuits from Zicam users who said that the product destroyed their sense of smell (medically termed anosmia). As of 2009 hundreds more such suits have since been filed. It appears that some of the active ingredient (zinc) in Zicam was not diluted to the degree that “homeopathic” remedies are normally done. This shows that manufacturers can co-opt the term “homeopathic” for their remedy, even if it is not technically a homeopathic formula, since it is not a regulated term, further confusing the public about what the heck… Read more »
Ina Gawne
5 years 8 months ago
Okay, looks like I will be on the opposite side of the fence here. 15 years ago, I went to a registered Homeopathic Practitioner who came highly recommended. I had HUGE HUGE success for a number of issues. Depression, hormonal issues, and best of all, allergies. I have not tried a liquid homeopathic, only in the form of a tiny sugar ball. For me, it put my body, and mind back into balance. I would not hesitate to use homeopathic treatments again. I was lucky to find a practitioner who was well respected in his field, and will always be… Read more »
Ray Butlers
Ray Butlers
5 years 7 months ago

All of your ailements are cyclical in nature. And no offense, but depression and “hormonal issues” require a medical diagnosis, which I suspect you never received. I too have allergies, but they ebb and flow, not with how much homeopathic care I get, but with the pollen count. Sometimes I go years without symptoms.

shannon
shannon
5 years 8 months ago

The homeopathic remedies that you can buy at a health food store don’t work at all from what I can tell. BUT…when I had a systemic candida yeast infection, homeopathy was the ONLY thing that worked. It took several weeks, and I was very, very tired a lot of the time, especially near the beginning of the course of treatment. But my yeast symptoms went away by the end of this course of treatment. I had to get the candida medicine by mail order, and I’m not sure you can still get it.

fritzy
fritzy
5 years 8 months ago

Or, your immune system finally did it’s job and got rid of it. Correlation and causation are two different things. Either way, I’m glad you’re well!

juliemama
juliemama
5 years 8 months ago
To the earlier posts on Chiropractic, I have great success with a Chiropractor I trust. I broke my neck when I was 19 in a bad accident (C-3 and C-4), and had bone fragments kicking around in there from a previous accident the year before. After many years of brutal spasms that would leave me with NO mobility (couldn’t turn my head) and numbness in my arm, hand and fingers..And the only offer of help was a prescription for pain killers, anti-inflammatory drugs and muscle relaxers, I was pretty desperate for relief. I was too young to be in constant… Read more »
Katie
5 years 8 months ago
I’m going to remain neutral on the homeopathy issue… I just haven’t done enough personal research to decide, and it’s not something I use, so it isn’t a priority. What does worry me is when people use homeopathy in place of nutrition of healthy habits. I know some use it in place of conventional medicine, but I don’t think that is the biggest issue. Take, for example, some members of my extended family: They still eat grains, sugars, and PUFAs because they are “less expensive to buy” but use over $1,000/month of supplements, homeopathic remedies and herbs. I think supplements… Read more »
Kelda
5 years 8 months ago

Absolutely! I have so many people around me like that.

Jesse
Jesse
5 years 8 months ago

Anyone heard of Masaru Emoto?

He has done some interesting(and very questionable!) research on our thoughts and their effects on water.

http://www.masaru-emoto.net/english/ephoto.html

Trevor
Trevor
5 years 8 months ago

Mark,

I appreciate the information and I was completely uninformed about homepathy. But after reading your post, I can say the principles behind it just doesn’t make sense to me. Starting at light force and then dilution, anytime someone saids diluting something makes it stronger I know their science is horrible. I think I figured that out at 8 when I tried to dilute Coke to make more Coke (yes in my sugar addict days).

Stephanie
Stephanie
5 years 8 months ago
My anecdotal experience has proven to me that homeopathy does work at times. My daughter used to suffer from horrible growing pains that nothing seemed to touch until I found a homeopathic remedy and tried it. I suspected it was a placebo effect until I ran out of that remedy one night and subbed another that looked exactly the same and she kept screaming her head off. I restocked and again had very positive results. I’m working very hard with my daughter on primal eating and primal supplement recommendations but will continue to use the occasional homeopathic remedy.
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Gary
5 years 8 months ago

Homeophaty is basically an alternative medicine. This is why it is not being recommended by physician per se. However, when the patient would like to try something outside of the traditional ‘western’ medicine, it can be tried out i.e. similar accupuncture and others.

Harry
5 years 8 months ago

I continue to find the term “hogwash” offensive.

There is no scientific basis for homeopathy. Nevertheless, I believe in it. I also believe in astrology, faith healing and reincarnation. Flame that.

fritzy
fritzy
5 years 8 months ago

Belief can lead to some dangerous actions. The fact that anyone finds the term “hogwash” offensive does not detract from it’s appropriateness at times.

MikeEnRegalia
5 years 8 months ago

So you believe in hogwash … bunk, huey, baloney. And now you’re criticising others for merely pointing that out?

This isn’t about “flaming”, it’s about being rational.

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Lizzychan
Lizzychan
5 years 8 months ago

I think homeopathy is just as effective as those silly holographic power balance wristbands.

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