Monday, August 30, 2004

Quackery

Our little market in this West Ireland village sells three kinds of homeopathic remedies: atropa belladonna, arnica montana, and aconitum napellus. The first is commonly known as deadly nightshade, a highly toxic plant.

Dangerous? Nah. At the homeopathic level of dilution one can be virtually certain that the tiny bottle of pills contains not a single molecule of nightshade. Nor indeed would a whole truckload of the stuff.

In fact, all three "remedies" contain exactly the same sugar pills, their supposedly distinctive substances having been diluted out of existence. At six euros (about seven bucks) a bottle, this makes caviar look cheap.

Hey, if people want to spend six euros for a thimbleful of sugar that's their business. Homeopathic "remedies" won't do them any harm. Certainly less harm than my six-euro bottle of wine might do to my liver.

But at least I'm getting some actual alcohol molecules for my money.