Homeopathy Hoax

Mother Jones is the last publication I would expect to spread questionable information in support of a scam. But Michael Castleman’s puff piece, “The .02 Percent Solution” (Well Being, September/October), regarding a possible physical basis for homeopathic medicine puts you squarely in that role.

First, if Shui-Yin Lo (upon whose research Castleman bases his argument) is a “disinterested third party” who “wants no part of” homeopathy, why did he speak at the annual convention of the National Center for Homeopathy in March?

Second, Lo is not a respected researcher. While the article mentions that Lo is a “former visiting associate in chemistry at California Institute of Technology,” it fails to mention that he is currently director of research and development at American Technologies Group (ATG), which has been responsible for marketing the Laundry Solution globe (to clean without detergent) and The Force, an “airborne fuel additive” for your car. Both of these products are based on Lo’s IE crystals, and both are highly questionable, to be kind. Oregon’s Department of Justice has prohibited the marketing of both products after testing them and finding that neither had any effect.

Third, your article should at least have mentioned that the existence of IE crystals has been called into question by researchers — including Ji-Chen Li, whose investigation was funded by ATG.

Surely Castleman must have run across some of this information. And while he mentions a survey and a study that support the efficacy of homeopathic treatments, he fails to put this information in context: Larger surveys and better-controlled (i.e., double-blind) studies have failed to find reliable, repeatable therapeutic effects of homeopathic treatment.

James K. Nelson
Ann Arbor, Mich.

My studies with water containing IE crystals have revealed that such preparations have an immunostimulatory activity on the peripheral blood in tests performed in vitro. The studies, while interesting in their own right, have not explained the basis of a mechanism of action of homeopathic preparations. I have found no evidence indicating the existence of any relationship between water with IE crystals and homeopathic preparations. Therefore, I am in complete disagreement with Castleman’s inference that the work with IE crystals explains scientifically how homeopathy works.

Benjamin Bonavida
Professor of Immunology
University of California at Los Angeles
Los Angeles, Calif.

Please cancel my subscription to Mother Jones. I’ve been advised that a subscription to Astrology Monthly, UFO Week, or Cold Fusion Today might be more appropriate. However, my new subscription to Homeopathy Monthly will be even better. It involves no newsprint, no walking out to the mailbox, no leafing through a magazine. In fact, it requires no reading at all. Yet I am told that two recent studies almost guarantee that I’ll get absolutely astounding mental and physical benefits from this subscription. With all that from nothing at all, who needs the more conventional publications?

Gene Cook
Escondido, Calif.

Michael Castleman responds: Everything I’ve ever written about homeopathy has generated controversy, so I was not surprised by these letters. Personally, I’m still skeptical about homeopathy because it violates the laws of pharmacology. But I also honor randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trials, and as I stated, plenty of them have shown that homeopathic medicines significantly outperform placebos. Anyone who would like a bibliography of journal articles in support of homeopathy may contact me through Mother Jones.

I was unaware of ATG’s legal problems. What interested me was Bonavida’s study showing that IE crystals, which appear to develop in extremely dilute solutions similar to those used in homeopathy, stimulate the immune system. Bonavida is no friend of homeopathy, as his letter clearly shows. But I never said Bonavida’s findings proved anything. All I said was that his results hint at a possible mechanism for homeopathy and are therefore intriguing and newsworthy. The weight of the evidence shows that homeopathy has effects beyond placebo. I, for one, would like to know why.