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Fri 19 Jun 2020

Why homeopathy is so popular in India?

Tags: pseudoscience homeopathy ayurveda india

I recently came across a Youtube video of Genelia Deshmukh, famous Indian actress, promoting homeopathic products. Along with her husband, they have invested in a startup called Welcome Cure. Science has repeatedly dismissed homepathy as quakery or at best placebo, but that has not deter government of India to fund & research homeopathy under AYUSH ministry.


Allopathy vs Homeopathy

As a kid I usually heard about two types of medicine. One was allopathy which is a pejorative term for modern science. It was always blamed for side effects. “Only if you are really sick”, my uncle used to say, “should you take allopathy”.

Other was alternative medicine, which is an umbrella term for Ayurveda, homeopathy, yoga, acupuncture, etc. “They don’t have any side effects”, I often heard, “they should be recommended first”.

What’s homeopathy?

It was developed by Samuel Hahnemann in 1796. During this time modern germ theory of disease was not prevalent. Most scientist believed in miasma theory of disease. Also unconventional methods like bloodletting was also prevalent.

Homeopathy in a nutshell has two theory

  1. Like cures Like: the notion that a disease can be cured by a substance that produces similar symptoms in healthy people

  2. Law of minimum dose —the notion that the lower the dose of the medication, the greater its effectiveness. Many homeopathic products are so diluted that no molecules of the original substance remain.

What does the science say?

None of the claims of homeopathy has been scientifically proven. In fact, homeopathy has been dismissed as quackery, pseudoscientific, placebo, etc1.

Some homeopathic practitioner uses scientific jargon to legitimize homeopathy. “For the first time in the world, we are using homeopathy for genetics”- Mukesh Batra2. Such claims are nothing but baloney.

No side effects?

One of the myths of Homeopathy is that it has no side effects3.

A 2012 systematic review of case reports and case series concluded that using certain homeopathic products (such as those containing heavy metals like mercury or iron that are not highly diluted) or replacing an effective conventional treatment with an ineffective homeopathic one can cause adverse effects, some of which may be serious.

The FDA has warned consumers about different products labeled as homeopathic. For example, in 2017 it alerted consumers that some homeopathic teething tablets had excessive amounts of the toxic substance belladonna; in 2015, it warned consumers not to rely on over-the-counter asthma products labeled as homeopathic, because they are not evaluated by the FDA for safety and effectiveness.4

Celebrities & Politicians in India

Celebrities & Politicians are powerful influencers in any country. The product they endorse usually have huge impact on consumer buying behavior. List of politicians endorsing homeopathy products:

Press Information Bureau, government of India, suggesting homeopathy for coronavirus


Shashi Tharor is the Indian politician, writer, former Under-Secretary General of the United Nations.


Shatrughan Sinha, Indian film actor & politician.


Nita Ambani is the chairperson and founder of the Reliance Foundation.


Vice President of India, M. Venkaiah Naidu, said, "Homeopathy should become a mass movement".


Mukesh Batra is recipient of Padma Shri award from the president of India. It’s 4th highest civilian award in India.

DD News is a Indian government funded news channel. It reports how homeopathy can treat respiratory problems

Claims that homeopathy can cure genetic disorders.

Conclusion

I always believed there were two system of medicine. Modern medicine & traditional medicine. However, I have realized that there’s only one system of medicine - Medicine that works.

If an herb in Ayurveda can cures an illness, it becomes part of modern medicine like Sarpagandha is used in treatment of systolic hypertension. Artemisinin inhibits malaria parasite has been part of Chinese Traditional Medicine. Yoga has been demonstrated to increase mental and physical benefits.

Many countries are discontinuing funding to homeopathy for example France will end reimbursing of homeopathic patient by 2021, Spain in 2018 plans to ban homeopathy, etc. I was surprised to find homeopathy medicine in CVS, a common drugstore in the US. I came across the news that a lawsuit has been filed by the Center for Inquiry (CFI) against this practice5.

It’s unethical for the government of India to continue to promote hemeopoathy. Indian budget 2019 allocated ₹ 62,398 crore for healh sector. AYUSH ministry got ₹ 1,939.76 crore which is 15 per cent more than the previous fiscal6. It’s a boon for politicians as they can delude India masses by providing them substandard healthcare with less expense. It’s ironical that most of Indian politicians continue to go abroad for their medical care.

Investing in modern science requires both capital & extensive research in R&D. Successive Indian government have tried to use ancient past to hide their failures. Vedic Mathematics, documentary by K. Jagjivan Ram, won the 48th National Film Awards for the best scientific film by the government of India. Vedic mathematics has nothing do with either mathematics or vedas7. Promotion of yoga is great, but obsession on research on cow8 is unwarranted. Instead of splurging money on researching on Ganga water’s9 miraculous properties, it would be prudent for the government of India to clean the river first plagued by serious pollution10. Homeopathy is one such tomfoolery which India must get rid sooner for her own good.


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