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Homeopathy doesn’t poison your body, it poisons your mind

Often that is true. Not always though. Homeopathy is worse than just a cultural poison if you die of malaria as a result of advice from a homeopath.

The Newsnight TV programme exposed the fact that many UK homeopaths advise homeopathic pills for prevention of malaria. This strikes me as nothing short of criminal, and it was condemned roundly by more responsible homeopaths like Peter Fisher.

Bur a correspondent has pointed out that there are even more dangerous fantasies around. Direct claims to cure malaria with homeopathic ‘funny water’. [See postscript for some of the US rules.]

He spotted an entry in Facebook that is nothing more than an advertisement for a book, by a Kate Birch.

Kate Birch and malaria treatment

The book being advertised is called Vaccine Free – Prevention and Treatment of Infectious Contagious Diseases with homeopathy. This prompted my correspondent to write to Kate Birch, thus.

3 August 2007


I am planning to work in Nigeria (rather I’m returning to work in Nigeria). I am not keen on subjecting myself once again to anti malarial drugs. I have looked at your facebook page and I am curious as to what Homeopathic remedy would be suitable for Nigeria.
I know that Dr Peter Fisher of the University College Homeopathic Hospital states that Homeopathy is not suitable for prevention or treatment of Malaria. You obviously disagree, and I would like to follow your approach.
Can you advise me please.

He got a long reply to this query (reproduced without copy-editing). The emphasis is mine.

“Thank you for your inquiry. There is a complete chapter on malaria in my book. and Homeopathy is more effective that any western medication.There is a protocol to follow. I have attached it below. however if you need more information I would recommend the book as it goes ointo more detail on the specific remedies and also deals with Yellow fever, dengue, hep A, typhoid etc. just in case. a small remedy kit can get you very far with many of these conditions. check out Washington homeopathics for their travel kits or 50 C potency kit. just watch that the remedies don’t go through the x-ray at the airport or sustain too much heat. both will ruin the remedies. Not only can you help your self but once you get used to understanding the remedies you can help many people.There is a clininc in Tanzania that treats 35,000 people a year with homeopathy. most of their caes are malaria and they have tremendous success rate. get the book and tell your doctor that his information is incomplete.Good luck,

Happy travels,

What? “Homeopathy is more effective that any western medication”? There isn’t of course the slightest bit of reason to believe that sugar pills cure malaria. There follows a long quotation from her book. It is, of course, all fantasy, so I won’t reproduce it. But to give you a feel for the style, just try this bit of high grade new-age boloney from her publisher’s web site.

“Miasmatic influences can accumulate in an individual or in select populations based on their exposure to pathological agents and the ability of the individual to develop immunity. There is a pre-miasmatic state that exists prior to incarnation. It is described as a state of bliss and connection to the universe.”

Who is it who is giving this dangerous and irresponsible advice? Kate Birch is not a back-street quack. ” Since 1990 Kate has over 1900 hours in homeopathic and clinical education”. She is vice president of the North American Society of Homeopaths (NASH). The mind boggles.

Legal and ethical stuff

The North American Society of Homeopaths (NASH) has a code of ethics. It includes this.

“3.01 Where the homeopath considers that the treatment is beyond his/her capacity or skill, the patient with the homeopath’s consent shall refer to or consult with a homeopathic colleague or appropriate health care practitioner.”

and their Standards of Practice Guidelines say

“Do not claim that you can treat any disease, condition or ailment or imply that you can do so.

Be extremely careful when speaking or writing about the treatment of particular diseases or conditions (and never offer or claim to help anybody). “

If you consider that Ms Birch is “acting beyond her capacity” in recommending treatment for malaria, contact NASH at NashInfo@homeopathy.org

The UK Society of Homeopaths made the following statement, after the Newsnight TV programme.

The Society of Homeopaths, the UK’s largest register of professional homeopaths, acknowledges that malaria is a serious and life-threatening condition and that there is currently no peer reviewed research to support the use of homeopathy as an anti-malarial treatment.

The North American Society seems to take a very different view.

The American Association of Homeopathic Pharmacists (AAHP) says

“Remember, although homeopathy has been shown to treat symptoms of infectious and epidemic diseases, Federal law prohibits the sale of products for these symptoms as OTC products. Accordingly, the AAHP makes clear its position that websites and marketers selling homeopathic medicines as OTC products for epidemic and infectious diseases may be in violation of Federal law.”

Question for US readers. Does this mean Ms Birch is breaking the law?

Kate Birch replies

Soon after posting this, I got this email from Kate Birch, vice president of the North American Society of Homeopaths. She has also posted a comment below.

Believe it or not, I don’t really like the ad hominem stuff at all.
But there are limits, and one limit is when people are given advice that is likely to kill them.

Thanks for all the publicity. I hope books sales will go through the roof now seeing as every homeopath around the world is following what you are up to. We know what we are doing even if you don’t understand it. You must be really bored, preoccupied, or need attention in order to spend your time instigating controversy, hype, and slander.What you resist will persist.
Kate Birch

PS I didn’t appreciate being set up for your antics. And it is a good thing you didn’t post the excerpt from my book or you would be liable for copy write infringement. And FYI the letter you posted (as below) isn’t the letter I received. The doctor was never named in the letter I received. You could be liable for fraud too as this is not the letter I responded to. Therefore my comments were taken out of context and made to look like I was disagreeing with Dr Peter Fisher. “I know that Dr Peter Fisher of the University College Homeopathic Hospital states that Homeopathy is not suitable for prevention or treatment of Malaria. You obviously disagree,” This sentence was not in the original letter and has been added in your blog to inflame the situation. get your facts strait before you go making such accusations.

I’m trying to establish exactly what letter was sent to her (it wasn’t sent by me), but it really hardly matters whether the sentence about Dr Fisher was in it or not.Yes, I presume the original letter was designed to elicit Ms Birch’s opinions about the treatment of malaria. And it did. “There is a complete chapter on malaria in my book. and Homeopathy is more effective that any western medication“.Here is part of my reply.

Peter Fisher, as I imagine you know, is clinical director of the Royal London Homeooathic Hospital (which will probably close soon), and homeopathic physician to the Queen (our royal family, I fear, is better at pageantry than intellect). On the occasion when it was revealed that London homeopaths were recommending homeopathic pills for prevention (not even cure) of malaria, Fisher’s words were

“I’m very angry about it because people are going to get malaria – there is absolutely no reason to think that homeopathy works to prevent malaria and you won’t find that in any textbook or journal of homeopathy so people will get malaria, people may even die of malaria if they follow this advice.”

You can read this on the BBC report.

At least it seems that there is very radical disagreement between one homeopath and another.

Now let’s get back to the clinic in Tanzania that has achieved such miracles?

Sham cures in Africa

Use Google to search for ‘homeopathic malaria Tanzania’ and you will get an astonishing number of direct claims to cure malaria with sugar pills. Claims are all you will get though, no evidence that any of them work.

For example, The Abha Light College in Nairobi, Kenya, refers to a report about homeopathic malaria prevention in 152 Tanzanian patients. This “study” had no control group with which to compare the effects of homeopathic neem leaves, and comments “Considering the exploratory nature of the study, no statistical significance testing was planned”.

It is not worth the paper it’s written on.

The same “study” is cited by the Global Resource Alliance, Inc., based in California. This seems to be a well-meaning organisation which, through its devotion to quackery, is helping to spread malaria in Africa.

Demal 200

A company called giftofafrica says of its homeopathic malaria treatment.

“Demal 200 is highly effective in treating all types of Malaria even the strains that have developed a resistance to chemical based drugs.”

This direct claim of effectiveness is mind-bogglingly irresponsible.

This “remedy” contains nothing whatsoever apart from 15% alcohol, It is a 200C homeopathic preparation. That is a dilution if 1 part in 10 to the power 400. There would not be a single molecule in a volume vastly larger than that of all the water on the earth (a mere 13 times 10 to the power 21 litres).

There is, of course, the usual small print at the bottom of the page, that contradicts the claims in large print.

*Malaria is a serious and sometimes fatal disease. Any form of self-treatment or alternative health program necessarily must involve an individual’s acceptance of some risk. It is advised that you consult your doctor before making any health decision. Demal 200 is primarily sold as a malaria treatment, it’s prophylactic qualities are secondary to it’s intended use which is to treat chronic or acute malaria.

. . .

Because Demal 200 has not yet been conclusively scientifically tested, it is not licensed for medical use in European Union; North America and Australasia. Please note: The staff of Shoponlion Ltd and their families have successfully used Demal 200 as a prophylactic but are not in a position to guarantee the efficacy of this medicine.

The company selling this stuff is based in Wolverhampton, UK. It costs £31.99 (or $56.40) for 30 ml of 15% alcohol. That is an £1066 per litre: expensive way to get drunk (which is all this stuff will do for you).


Of course no evidence at all is offered that it works. Just the usual list of testimonials from people who didn’t happen to get malaria.

If you like anecdotes, you can read here the stories of some people who were less lucky.


“Quackery hinders AIDS treatment efforts” is the title of an article in Science in Africa.

And let’s not forget the efforts of Patrick Holford for health in Africa.

FDA rules about homeopathy

The FDA’s rules include the following statement.

7. Health Fraud: The deceptive promotion, advertisement, distribution or sale of articles, intended for human or animal use, that are represented as being effective to diagnose, prevent, cure, treat, or mitigate disease (or other conditions), or provide a beneficial effect on health, but which have not been scientifically proven safe and effective for such purposes. Such practices may be deliberate, or done without adequate knowledge or understanding of the article.*

Federal Trade Commission

The FTC is running Operation Cure All. This encourages reporting of health scams

Unfortunately, consumers spend millions of dollars every year on unproven – and often useless – health products and services. Health fraud trades on false hope. It promises quick cures for dozens of medical conditions – from arthritis and obesity to osteoporosis, cancer and AIDS.
. . .
The Federal Trade Commission is targeting false and unsubstantiated health claims on the Internet through Operation Cure.All – a law enforcement and consumer education campaign.


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48 Responses to Homeopathic “cures” for malaria: a wicked scam

  • The homeopathic community appears to be in a complete confusion over malaria. Dr Peter Fisher of the London Homeopathic Hospital is on record as saying:

    “I’m very angry about it because people are going to get malaria – there is absolutely no reason to think that homeopathy works to prevent malaria and you won’t find that in any textbook or journal of homeopathy so people will get malaria, people may even die of malaria if they follow this advice.”

    The Society of Homeopath weasel words around the issue.

    But the body of homeopaths, their journals and practices just get on with believing they can cure malaria as if there is no issue. Dangerous delusions.

    I have written about the export of this ‘lethal trust’ in homeopathy to Africa here…

    Lethal Trust

  • Crikey, excellent digging here…

    Just as an aside, I liked the comment that ‘Homeopathy is better than any western medication’. Since homeopathy is largely based on the work of Samuel Hahnemann, a German physician, homeopathy IS western medication. Or at least western.

  • Oh dear. More of the same modern medicine-loathing (really, one suspects, just a manifestation of “modern world-loathing”) balderdash from the Homeopathic nutjob farm.

    Why they can’t just admit they are practising “stealth talking therapy”, and have done with it, who knows…

    Or rather we do know – it would presumably then force them to restrict themselves to “treating” conditions where people would think tallking therapies were useful. I suspect few people even on the nutjob fringe would think this applies to malaria prophylaxis.

    – Unless a good aura can keep the mosquitoes at bay.

  • Everyone’s entitled to their opinions. But what has all this emotive language got to do with good science? If it were all so cut and dried, then why is it that so many scientists investigating CAM think the jury is still out?

    Even if alternative therapies are all ‘placebo effect’, the fact that they seem to do something for so many people, a large proportion of whom have tried everything conventional medicine has to offer (and for which the placebo effect should surely be far more powerful than for CAM), says there’s something going on here that the biomedical model isn’t accounting for. Trying to write off roughly one third of the population of western society as poor deluded idiots speaks of closed mindedness (not to mention arrogance) on a grand scale, and closed mindedness is the greatest enemy of good science.

    It may not have anything approaching the vast resources of the pharmaceutical industry to finance expensive trials, but CAM has a large body of case history to show that there’s something that warrants further investigation.

    Personally I’m hoping that good open-minded rational science, rather than opinionated prejudice — on either side of the fence — will prevail.

  • I’m afraid it is a misapprehension to say “so many scientists investigating CAM think the jury is still out?” The fact is that almost all scientists get on with their job and ignore entirely things like CAM. Not surprisingly, it seems like a waste oif time to investigate whether you can cure malaria with drops of water.

    By and large, the only people who investigate CAM are CAM people who make their living from it. Financial pressure distorts truth on BOTH sides. The CAM industry is huge (and their research costs next to nothing).

    It really doesn’t help to say that large numbers of people believe in it. Lots of people believe in Islam, lots believe in Christianity. They can’t both be right (neither is right in my view, but that’s another matter).

  • You might well ask why I spend time on this blog! Most real scientists just ignore the deluded. I try to answer that question in a piece called “Science in an age of endarkenment” (should be on the Guardian science web site sometime next week).

    It’s one think when people claim to cure a cold in 7 days when it would otherwise have taken a week. It is quite a different matter when they endanger lives (as in the malaria case).

  • Rhys’ son

    The problem is that almost all the evidence adduced by CAM people to support CAM turns out to be utterly unreliable. Lots of it is just opinion surveys – “were you happy with your homeopathic treatment?”. Other trials have no control group. Others are too small to be reliable.

    For most (not all) CAM therapies and treatments, the bigger and more carefully controlled the trial, the less the evidence that CAM therapies do anything at all.

    This is so common that many scientists regard CAM, if they think about it at all, as being based entirely on the placebo effect or the power of wishful thinking.

    As Edzard Ernst


    – has said, if a therapy (mainstream or CAM) works, a properly constructed experiment will show that it works. If the experiment shows it doesn’t work, then it doesn’t.

  • I believe in order to disagree with, not believe in, or deny something, you must first be able to define what it is you disagree with. For all of you that are so infuriated about the supposed hogwash you think homeopathy is I would first ask you to try to understand it and define it for us. If your ability to understand it is marred by speculation and theories about the supposed mechanisms at play and if you are not able to understand it nor define it, then you have no business discussing whether it is true or not. So far the comments all but Rye’s son’s are clearly laced with ignorance about the mechanisms at play in homeopathy.

    True understanding of homeopathy takes a leap in intelligence and an expansion in comprehension of the universe we live in. If you think you are going to find the answers to the mystery of life, healing, and medicine in a petri dish you will be busy for a long time. Experience is the truest teacher. There are those that have experienced nothing with homeopathy and there are those whose lives have been saved and transformed. Are only those individuals whose experience is in line with yours, the ones that are non-delusional? I think not.

  • More reply (but no evidence) from Ms Birch above at http://dcscience.net/?p=24#reply

  • Kate, so we are all stupid because we take issue with the claims of homeopathy, because we don’t accept that it is possible for Homeopathy to re-write the the fundamental principles of science. but I have noticed you didn’t try and enlghten us with how it actually does work.

    Now I don’t deny that homeopathy makes many people feel better, but it is whether it makes you better that us poor deluded sceptics doubt.

    Please can you tell us exactly what leap in intelligence we are to take? Science has taken many such leaps in our history- but these have all been backed by evidence rather than rhetoric.

  • Katebhom

    Many scientists that comment about homeopathy, like David Colquhoun and Ben Goldacre, and even me for that matter, have spent many, many hours reading about exactly what homeopaths believe, and examining point by point what science can tell us about these claims.

    If by “not understanding [homeopathy]” you mean “not being able to believe, without any evidence that stands up that the laws of chemistry and physics can be arbitrarily suspended because the homeopathic system of belief says they can” then we would plead guilty.

    The point is that there are sensible scientific, medical and psychological explanations for everything that homeopathy claims to be able to do in “healing”. These explanations are, inter alia, time-limited illness, spontaneous improvement, regression to the mean, and the power of the mind to shape how people perceive their state of health or illness.

    What homeopaths do is, as I said above, a kind of “stealth talking therapy”. This, I suspect, is what the medically-trained homeopaths like Peter Fisher all believe deep down, although they rarely say so out loud for fear of alienating the patients or the loony mystic homeopathic fringe-ers.

    However, while this stealth talking therapy / “empowerment” approach may indeed help someone with (e.g.) back pain that they have to learn to cope with, taking a sugar pill “made with belief” emphatically will NOT stop a malarial mosquito biting you, will NOT stop plasmodia completing their life cycle in your blood stream, and thus will NOT stop you getting malaria and possibly dying.

    If you believe it will, then you are deluded. And if you assure other people it will, then you are both a fool and a dangerous charlatan.

  • Rhys’ son said, “Everyone’s entitled to their opinions. But what has all this emotive language got to do with good science?”

    You might like to look at exactly who is using emotive language.

    For example, who said, “I’m very angry about it…”?

  • “True understanding of homeopathy takes a leap in intelligence and an expansion in comprehension of the universe we live in.”

    Quite right.

    And most of us who read this blog have made that leap in intelligence and now have a true understanding of homeopathy. And that understanding is that homeopathy is a pile of unmitigated rubbish. And thanks to David Colquhoun, Ben Goldacre, and others like them, I now have the further understanding that it can be very dangerous rubbish, a point which we should all publicise at every opportunity.

  • http://www.fda.gov/opacom/backgrounders/problem.html#online gives details of how to report ‘non-emergency’ issues to the FDA. Probably not useful in this instance, but it may be worth asking them if they are aware of Ms Birch’s activities. Maybe they will advise whether she is breaking federal law?

  • Thanks for the suggestion. I just did that (and the CDC too). Watch this spot for the outcome.

  • Never mind the science. How the hell is one to

    “just watch that the remedies don’t go through the x-ray at the airport or sustain too much heat. both will ruin the remedies.”

    in the current security arrangements at UK airports???

    Unless of course that’s deliberate mis-information, rather than merely pseudo-pharmaceutics….

  • I think it is worth quoting the Society of Homeopaths in full on their statement on malaria treatments:

    “At present, there is no large scale research evidence to support the use of homeopathy in preventing malaria. However, the historical use of homeopathic remedies to strengthen the individuals immune system, with the intention of helping prevent infectious diseases, is well documented.”

    This second sentence is important. The first sentence is designed to appease ‘science types’ and make them think that SoH do not advocate homeopathic malaria treatment.

    The second sentence is for homeopaths. We know that homeopaths pay no attention to the lack of “large scale research evidence” for any ailment. What they do take notice of is homeopathic tradition and practice. The second sentence gives them the green light to carry on as they were.

    Far from condemning the practice of homeopathic malaria treatment, the statement by the SoH is a cynical, weasel worded ploy to deflect criticism of their dangerous and irresponsible practices.

  • Well the Advertising Standards Authorty say they can do nothing about Demal 200.
    They suggest http://www.tradingstandards.gov.uk/
    and Citizen;s Advice Bureau
    Have a go

  • I’ve tried the MHRA on Demal 200.

  • Excellent. Me too, It would be an opportunity for the MHRA to restore its tarnished reputation. The more complaints they get the better.

  • Here is a reply to my complaint from the Internet Response Team, National Center for Infectious Diseases Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (Sigh)

    “I forwarded your email to one of our staff scientists; his response was
    as follows:

    —–Original Message—–
    FDA regulates medicines, vaccines, and drugs. States regulate the
    practice of medicine. Charlatans and quacks can be reported to these
    regulatory agencies.

    However, the Constitution guarantees freedom of the press and authors
    can write all kinds of wacky stuff that is bad for your health. “

  • Complained to NASH under 3.01, 3.03, 3.04, 5.04 and 5.05 of the Code of Ethics and Rules of Practice. Email was 300+ words, so won’t bore everyone by posting in full here. If anyone would like to see it they can email bad.scientist@yahoo.com and I’ll fwd.

  • So far. I’ve complained to the CDC, FDA and NASH in the USA (CDC reply above), And in the UK to the ASA (no help), SoH, MHRA and OFT. Once I get a few more replies, I’ll put them all in a new post. Glad to see that jdc325 had a go too. The more the better.

  • Gentlemen: 

    I wish to point out a misconception promulgated in your post regarding Homeopathy.  Your quote is misleading. 


    The FDA’s rules include the following statement.

    7. Health Fraud: The deceptive promotion, advertisement, distribution or sale of articles, intended for human or animal use, that are represented as being effective to diagnose, prevent, cure, treat, or mitigate disease (or other conditions), or provide a beneficial effect on health, but which have not been scientifically proven safe and effective for such purposes. Such practices may be deliberate, or done without adequate knowledge or understanding of the article.*”

    Homeopathic Drugs have from the the inception the US Food Drug and Cosmetic Act of 1938 (FDA origination) have been approved both as OTC drugs (over the counter remedies) as well as prescription drugs, and thus considered safe and effective. As such, label structure function claims are legal for Homeopathic Remedies. 

    A Vitamin, Mineral, or Herbal, supplement which made such claims (label, advertising, or if a URL was on the label, claims on a website) would be considered fraudulent under FDA regulations short of a NDA (new drug applications) and 4 stages of clinical trials, and FDA approval. 

    By FDA definition, a drug approved by the FDA is considered safe and effective.

    Your arguments losses some validity if you employ quotes either taken out of context or use deception to prove a point.  

    I will assume the mistake is out of ignorance of US Federal regulations, which a smidgen of research online would have prevented.  As to FDA rules and regulations on Homeopathy, the FDA website regulations follow.

    Actual Rules by the FDA:


    “B. Human Drug Products (homeopathic).”

    The agency considers homeopathic products as drugs. These drugs may be either prescription or OTC products.” 


    In your defense, Dr. Samuel Hahnemann established Homeopathy in the 18th century after an overdose of Quinine induced a fever. Hahnemann was the first Doctor to write that Quinine would be a remedy for malarial fevers (based on an intuition), but without the evidence based medicine standards that would substantiated such a claim today. Hahnemann believed that Jenner’s introduction of vaccinations was confirmation of his principle, another error on his part.

    As a medical researcher I have read through a number of  Homeopathic Materia Medicas. Many list remedies for malarial fevers, but to date I haven’t come across a reference to prevention.  Preventative ingestion of Homeopathic drugs is counter to the concept of Homeopathic practice of actual diagnosis symptoms and  the corresponding prescribing diagnosis to treat the symptoms.

    Cordial regards,


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