News / South Africa

6 minute read
7 Sep 2018
1:56 pm

Homeopathic medication cannot cure rabies


A dangerous tweet emerged on Thursday evening from a supporter of homeopathic medication.

Rabies under a microscope. Image: Twitter/@nypost

We all know someone who has a miracle pill that can cure anything by simply dissolving it under your tongue. Homoeopathy has divided many members within the medical community for centuries.

“It’s all fun and games until someone gets hurt” is the general sentiment that comes to mind when looking at Twitter user Deepak Singh who proclaimed on Thursday that homeopathic medication can cure rabies. Yes, rabies, an incurable disease that can be put on hold by getting a vaccine. A disease that causes inflammation of the brain, and affects both humans and animals. And a disease that ultimately results in an inevitable death within hours of being bitten if you do not seek medical attention.

ALSO READ: Free rabies vaccination campaign taking place in KZN

Deepak goes on to guarantee those interested in using homeopathy that this is not a hoax and that using homeopathic medication instead of getting yourself to a hospital is definitely the way to go. He insists, despite being told off by virtually everyone who stumbled across his tweet.

So as much as no one that saw Deepak’s revelations will ever have the slightest belief that homeopathic medication can cure rabies, among other serious diseases, this does shed light on how some people opt for homeopathic remedies, rather than seeking proper medical attention. However, this raises another contentious issue – Western vs. alternative medicine, and what we deem ‘proper medical attention’.

By all means, if a person wants to test this theory, they are more than welcome, but we do all know what the outcome will be. But that is exactly the point – there are certain serious medical conditions that can only be cured by using tried and tested medical procedures, such as vaccinations, insulin for diabetics and ARVs for HIV/Aids. Other conditions are arguably up for debate, such as cancer treatment and using homeopathic medication instead of prescription medication for ailments such as stress and anxiety.

Let’s delve a little deeper into the world of homeopathy.

What is homeopathy?

Homeopathy’s mantra is ‘like cures like’. It was created in the 18th century by Samuel Hahnemann, who believed that small doses of a range of substances could essentially heal the body, explains Berkley Wellness. It is the most widely used herbal medicine in the world, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said.

In those times, it was understandable that such a concept would come about, as the alternative to this would be brutal ‘medical’ procedures such as bloodletting, blistering, and purging.

Those who study and practice homeopathy claim that, in diluting a substance to create a solution, one molecule’s ‘essence’ is left intact in the liquid, pill, ointment or sugar pellet. It is this solution, they believe, that will ultimately cure your body of whatever sickness you are taking it for.

Is it a science?

Homeopathy does not qualify as a science, as many flaws have been identified in its alleged abilities to cure people. It also goes against the countless discoveries in biology, psychology, physics, and chemistry. It is because of this that homeopathic medication cannot be used as a standalone treatment system.

This does not take away from the fact that it has helped numerous people battle everyday ailments. However, it does point to the fact that if a person requires serious medical attention and treatment, these things cannot be substituted by homeopathic ‘treatment’.

Quality control

The WHO has expressed concern at the number of inconsistencies found in the preparation of ‘general’ homeopathic medication. Also, because homeopathic medication uses such a wide range of ingredients, from plants to mercury, mistletoe and dolphin milk, this process should understandably be regulated. Unfortunately, the WHO’s studies on two of the same homeopathic medications from different sources prove that this process is not as rigorously adhered to as it should be.

The WHO also discovered that in plant materials, concerns arose regarding possible “contamination with microbes, insects, pesticides, heavy metals, fumigants, mycotoxins and radioactivity, adequate control of source material, storage and processing.”

In light of this, the organisation has appealed to homeopathic manufacturers to “follow exemplary standards and provisions regarding identification of source material, limit tests, and complementary tests,” just like all other medicines readily available on the market must do. Homeopathic medication cannot be exempt from these essential standards just because it uses natural ingredients in minuscule doses.

This may not seem like an important step if a material is so diluted, but an incident that took place in Canada earlier this year may change your mind.

In February, The Guardian reported that a four-year-old boy was recommended a homeopathic pill by a naturopath, Anke Zimmerman, for his behavioural problems. This pill was allegedly made using saliva from a rabid dog. The pill is called Lyssinum or Hydrophobinum and is apparently used around the world, according to Zimmerman’s blog.

This logic followed the ‘like treats like’ mentality, as the neuropath claimed she suspected the boy had suffered from a dog bite earlier in his life, and that his behavioural issues resembled “a perfect picture of the rabies state.”

Zimmerman stands by her diagnosis of the boy, explaining that there was no way he could have contracted rabies from the Lyssinum, in an attempt to calm the inevitable storm caused after using this medication.

“After the process is repeated 12 times it is basically impossible to have even one of the original molecules left in the solution, which is ultimately often used to medicate lactose or sucrose pellets … Therefore there is no single molecule of rabies in the remedy. Again, you can’t catch rabies from the remedy.”

Zimmerman concluded by saying that the focus should not be on the derision of the ‘cure’, but that a boy’s life was saved.

“I have news for you folks, homeopathy either works or it doesn’t. If it doesn’t, what does it matter what it’s made of, dog saliva, elephant’s dung or badger’s pubic hair, it’s so diluted that it’s only water after all, or a placebo, a sugar pill.”

We may not know enough to agree with or disprove the beliefs associated with homeopathy, but one common finding is that it may be best to use these remedies in conjunction with prescribed medication if you are suffering from a serious condition such as cancer, HIV/Aids, diabetes, or intense psychological disorders. However, if you are like most people and consider yourself relatively normal, there is absolutely nothing wrong with popping a few natural pills to get by, if you feel it helps.

It either works, or it doesn’t, but one thing is certain – it cannot, and will never, cure rabies.

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