8.6 Boffin questions

More about homeopathy

  1. In response to the Science and Technology Committee, the British Homeopathic Association concluded that ‘the randomised control trial is not an appropriate test for the effectiveness of homeopathic treatments’. What are the implications of this for testing homeopathic treatments?
  2. A popular homeopathic preparation is made from the seeds of Aesculus hippocastanum. The active compound is aescin and it makes up 30% by weight of the seeds. If a 10 mg ml1 preparation of ground Aesculus hippocastanum seeds is diluted 18 times (homeopathy-wise) for a homeopathic preparation, how many molecules of aescin would you expect to find in a 1 ml aliquot? (The molecular weight of aescin is 1,131.26 g mol1.)


Side Bar – A placebo is a sham treatment or medication which is known to have no therapeutic value e.g. sugar pills. This is an important control in blind trials where one experimental group unknowingly receives the placebo instead of the treatment. There is a well-characterised psychological effect of receiving treatment which often results in patients perceiving a decrease in symptoms unrelated to the treatment itself and some illnesses will spontaneously resolve themselves in the absence of treatment. A change in the placebo group is known as the placebo response and the difference between no treatment and the placebo treatment is known as the placebo effect. It is important to be able to distinguish real therapeutic effects of a medical intervention from the placebo effect or spontaneous remission.


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