You Couldn’t Make It Up: Paper Remedies

February 10, 2011 at 5:19 pm (Homeopathic Remedies, Homeopathy) (, , , , )

Let’s face it, homeopathy is ludicrous…

The magical thinking behind the law of similars, the fact that remedies above 12C are unlikely to contain a single molecule of the ‘active’ ingredient, the banging of homeopathic products on a leather bound board to “succuss” the contents (water or alcohol, since you ask), the memory of water, the ‘remedies’ made from Berlin Wall or a bit of wood taken from a shipwreck – the whole thing is simply daft. One of the amusingly daft ideas I’ve come across is that of the paper remedy.

There are some fun forum posts on paper remedies that I thought were worth sharing with you.

The Other Health forum has a thread on paper remedies. Here is what the opening post claims:

I remembered the idea of the paper remedy, so I wrote down my constitutional remedy and the potency one higher than my regular potency, placed in under a plastic cup and left it for ten minutes. I then drank the water and within ½ hour my symptoms subsided much to my surprise.

I was amused to note that a couple of the posters in this thread identified themselves as being skeptical. One of them apparently believes in the value of muscle testing for allergies and the other, despite their skepticism of muscle testing and paper remedies, states that homeopathy “works wonderfully on animals who know nothing about placebos or paper remedies”.

Even better is this thread on hpathy.com – the OP attempts to provide an explanation for how writing the name of a homeopathic product on a bit of paper might cure you:

A word vibrates, and a word with the name of the remedies vibrates too and programms this vibration into the water. A thought is also vibration.

Cosmic. I’m not sure how a word written on a piece of paper can vibrate its healing energy into water (I wasn’t even aware that ink and/or paper had healing energy).

This goes beyond the memory of water – apparently ink is now psychic and can receive information from the absent ‘remedy’ and then transmit this information to the water through whatever material the water is contained within.

Maybe I’m wrong – maybe the ink and the absent homeopathic product both contain the same amount of healing information. Homeopaths might disagree, but I think it is plausible that the ink and the homeopathic product contain exactly the same amount of healing information – none at all.

Or perhaps there is an unconscious realisation that the only thing that differentiates one homeopathic product from another is the name given to it. After all, Kate Chatfield of the Society of Homeopaths told the Select Committee on Science and Technology it was possible to distinguish between homeopathic products “only by the label”.

The OP goes on…

Knowing all this I decided to test it myself, fully convinced it works, because I know the principles. And guess what ! It works !

Remarkable? I don’t think so. Someone fully expects something to work and they then perceive an effect. The thought that the perception may be false apparently does not cross the mind of the OP. The idea that expectation can affect perception of severity of symptoms seems to be alien to this poster. It’s almost as if they’ve never heard of the placebo effect.

One forum discussion even touches on whether orgonite can affect the efficacy of a homeopathic paper remedy. To prove that I’m not making this up, here is a link to the thread in question. Sample quote:

Homeopathic remedies come in various forms – granule, pellet or liquid form is how we usually buy them. But you can also invoke the energy of a remedy by simply writing the name of it on a piece of paper. We call that a “paper remedy.” (Not everyone is comfortable with that yet, so remedies that you can actually put in your mouth are still available). But the paper remedy is essentially the same information being conveyed. And in that case, it’s easy to see that putting orgonite or any external energy source in physical proximity to the piece of paper wouldn’t change the energy of the information contained in it.

More

Links to forum posts / threads as PDF: here, here, and here.

ETA: link to Berlin Wall post (note: there’s some Quantum Bollocks in the comments there).

EDIT, 10/2/12: a blog post on homeopathic paper remedies from someone who apparently believes in their efficacy on the word of this blogger.

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27 Comments

  1. Martin said,

    I was thirsty, so I wrote ‘not thirsty’ on a piece of paper, stuck it in a cup of water and…

    …well, it worked for me.

  2. Tweets that mention You Couldn’t Make It Up: Paper Remedies « Stuff And Nonsense -- Topsy.com said,

    [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Andy Lewis, Dave Cross, Dianthus Medical, Prateek Buch, Rod Boyle and others. Rod Boyle said: Psychic paper #drwho>>RT @lecanardnoir: You knew homeopathy was mad, didn't you? It is madder than a box of bollocks… http://bit.ly/i6KyUN [...]

  3. John said,

    I assume that water speaks English? And what if you have bad handwriting?

  4. Sean Ellis said,

    I wonder, does the same word in different languages vibrate the same?

    What about words that are spelled the same but mean different things? (A dog’s lead may be nice and positive, but lead piping probably has a strong negative “vibration”.)

    Why not combine the two and think about things that are spelled the same but mean different things in different languages?

    Oh dear. I’m making a fundamental category error here – I’m trying to apply logic to this.

  5. Devlumbo said,

    So if I set a glass of water on a copy of the Daily Mail for ten minutes and then drink it will that give me cancer?

  6. Sean Ellis said,

    Found a wonderful cross-language homograph – “gift”. In English, a nice, positive meaning. In Swedish, poison! (And “marriage”, but that’s another story.)

  7. Riffler said,

    Not everyone is comfortable with paper remedies because no one has worked out how to use them to separate fools from their money.

    Yet.

  8. Nescio said,

    This is very similar to magical ideas that still persist in some parts of the world. A few years ago I met some people in Egypt who would write words from a sacred text (the Bible or the Koran) on a piece of paper, burn the paper then mix the ashes with water and drink it to cure illness, lift curses etc. Good old fashioned magical thinking.

    It’s also similar to the ideas of Masuru Emoto, who claims that if you put water in a container with “bollocks” written on it, and then freeze the water, it will make ugly, asymmetrical, hairy crystals.

    To be fair, I see no reason to believe this would be any less effective than traditional homeopathy ;-)

  9. Nik Halton said,

    Paper remedies sound like powerful stuff. However, they have to be put in the hands of experienced and trained practitioners. Imagine the consequences – killed by a typo.

  10. mike3k said,

    How come water only remembers the “active” ingredient? Why doesn’t it also remember the glass bottle it was stored in, or the fish that pooped in it?

  11. suirauqa said,

    A word vibrates, and a word with the name of the remedies vibrates too and programms this vibration into the water. A thought is also vibration.>/blockquote>
    Imagine that! Countless dollars spent on vibrators and such like, and all it needed was a paper and pen. No wonder they say that the pen is mightier than the…

  12. Matt said,

    You couldn’t make it up? I thought they already did!

  13. Wen said,

    I used to do this – until you all taught me the error of my ways.

    This practice is very common in some groups. Medics at the Homeopathic Hospital wouldn’t. Many of the classical (probably more Indian) trends wouldn’t.

    This will be very prevalent in the British lay tradition (disciples of Thomas Maughn). Currently that is the prevalent tradition in Britain. Probably most people in that tradition learn it and do it. It is part of the magical cult. Yes – they also believe ‘intention’ or thought can heal too – ‘intending’ the remedy or even saying it (sub-liminal homeopathy) can heal. Ashamed to say that I did all of them.

    For all the rational reasons that skeptics offer it is possible to delude yourself that they help. I know because I did.

    I don’t know how you can ever persuade people that these are wishful thinking once they have the ‘belief’ switch on. There is the additional factor that placebo really can help. It’s all in the mind and these people are just tangled in some appalling mind-games, in a pyramid scheme where they are ripped off, and I don’t see how you can ever break them out of that.

    Another aspect is that the writing, speaking, thinking forms of healing are about your personal healing powers. That is very appealling to many who feel put down or unrecognised in some way. In fact, you’ve given away any real power you have to the cult. A big part of the ideology is that homeopathy is about freedom. If you are in a cult you are not free.

    Sometimes I get sad that I bought into that inhumanity and the people I knew there. I got out – thanks to all of you, but they are trapped in that world and I can’t reach them. They were women like me; they didn’t just lose their money, they lost their independence of mind and their humanity. .

    To summarize, these practices are actually very widespread but you don’t see the SoH publicizing it do you? There’s professional honesty for you.

  14. Wen said,

    After a moment. The good money would go that any of the homeopath members running the SoH do paper remedies. That is how common this practice is.

    Next time there’s a select committee or something, or one of them is defending the scientific basis of homeopathy it might be worth asking them directly – it could lead to an ‘interesting’ debate.

  15. apgaylard said,

    It’s all very “Dr” Emoto, expecting a high degree of literacy from water. It also seems to presume a familiarity with homeopathic terminology. Cleaver water! Fascinating post.

  16. PreviousChemist said,

    Hmm. This means that only one remedy is needed. Simply write the word ‘Panacea’ on the paper, and it works for all illnesses. No need for years of training in homoeopathy. I wonder why homoeopaths don’t do this?

  17. Neuroskeptic said,

    This is very worrying. How literal-minded is water?

    For example, if I write down:

    “Belladonna”

    Will it also spot that this contains the word “bell”, and cause me to start ringing like one? Or maybe it’ll give me tinnitus?

  18. Neuroskeptic said,

    Also, I’m a bit worried now. If I print out an article about “homeopathy”, and leave my glass of water on top of it on my desk, will my water start to contain bullshit?

  19. jace said,

    as soon as words like “energy” and “vibrate” and “transmit” come into things, and if it’s not about acoustics and sound, i roll my eyes…

    my “mom” did the whole “new age” thing a bunch of years back. in fact, she tried every damn thing. several religious groups, etc… she’s just desperate for magical things because she doesn’t like to think critically. that she has the ability to do so just makes it all the more shameful.

    she’s the primary reason i’ve shunned mysticism and religion. actually… the primary reason is that that stuff is nonsense, but she made it very personally obnoxious…

  20. Wen said,

    I forgot to mention ‘acting homeopathy’. There are those (in the Practical homeopathy tradition) who believe that acting back someone’s words or statements or behaviours can heal them. I have witnessed this. It induces a state where the individual can not tell what is real and what isn’t. They think they are mad. It is very dangerous stuff indeed, but it has been practised in Britain and with the knowledge of the Society of Homeopaths.

    Another one they wouldn’t like to talk about.

  21. jdc325 said,

    @Wen

    Thank you for the interesting comments on the prevalence of paper remedies and acting homeopathy. Some food for thought there, I think.

  22. Homeopathic Anecdote On The One Show « Stuff And Nonsense said,

    [...] are the same people who think writing the name of a remedy on a piece of paper can cure you – homeopathic paper remedies – and have produced ‘remedies’ made from Berlin Wall and a bit of wood taken from a [...]

  23. Kadir Buxton « Stuff And Nonsense said,

    [...] superficially plausible (but unproven or disproven, nonetheless), but some are just plain bonkers: Homeopathic Paper Remedies (pretty much everything about homeopathy is bonkers, but for me paper remedies take the biscuit); [...]

  24. Why Write About Alternative Medicine? Part Two: Entertainment « Stuff And Nonsense said,

    [...] are based on the light of Saturn, the Berlin wall, a shipwreck, or twiglets, and (my favourite) the paper remedy: I remembered the idea of the paper remedy, so I wrote down my constitutional remedy and the [...]

  25. Bree said,

  26. jdc325 said,

    Hi Bree,

    Masaru Emoto makes up silly (if rather fun) stories about water and sells products with the help of these stories. Rather like the homeopaths. Did you read the ‘criticism’ section of the Wikipedia page you link to? See also Harriet Hall’s article on Emoto. I’m not saying that this stuff isn’t fun or entertaining. I am saying that it isn’t science, though.

    Cheers,
    jdc

  27. Homeopathy - how you know when someone has failed highschool science Insufferable Intolerance said,

    […] the same people who think writing the name of a remedy on a piece of paper can cure you – homeopathic paper remedies – and have produced ‘remedies’ made from Berlin Wall and a bit of wood taken from a […]

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