So, I had the piece I’d written about my mom and alternative medicine go up on Huffington Post last week and it really irritated some people which upset me at first but I got over it in about 24 hours. Many people missed the point and zeroed in on my lack of understanding of homeopathy and argued that shark cartilage was not considered homeopathy. Evidently, these don’t count:

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(Yes. I am this petty.)

One of the homeopaths who said shark cartilage wasn’t homeopathic sells it on her website. They had all sorts of arguments like, “well, it’s not indicated for cancer” (except by the guy who wrote that book  I guess). Or then, “she shouldn’t have self-prescribed.”  Then why is it sold over the counter? They all agreed that I don’t understand homeopathy. And guess what? I probably don’t and- I DON’T CARE. (Yes, I’ve read up on the concept and it sounds stupid unless you think water cures everything.)

As far as I’m concerned, homeopathy falls into the same category as all unproven supplements and herbal “medicine” and everything else under the alternative umbrella. I think it’s all bullshit but I’m not trying to ban it. If people want to buy magic water and pretend it does something, then by all means, they should knock themselves out.  But why not label it correctly?  Slate had an awesome article about homeopathy the other day where chemist and author, Yvette d’Entremont, makes this  great observation:

My biggest concern with homeopathy is the labeling. I’m a scientist and science writer who wants consumers to understand what they’re buying, but what do any of these homeopathy labels mean? “200C.” “10x.” “3C.” “Humulus lupulus.” “Arsenicum alb.” “Natrum Muriaticum.” What language are they even written in?

This sounds like it should be sold to Hufflepuffs in a Harry Potter apothecary  instead of to nonfiction people at Walgreen’s.

I had several points that I clearly failed to make in my HuffPo piece. One, is that the FDA is considering applying truth in advertising laws to homeopathic products like it does to other things you buy and put in your body, as they should. Because, if the company who makes Kind Bars has to remove the bar’s “healthy” label then it’s not unreasonable for corporations that sell homeopathy to remove the “medicine” label from their products if they’re just water. Or the FDA could require them to at least make their label comprehensible, especially if the products contain alcohol or heavy metals.

The second point is that alternative medicine is held up as an entity that is all peaceful incense and tinkling music and could never be motivated by something as ugly as money. It’s not. It’s a very big industry. And alternative medicine, including homeopathy, is weakly regulated so it’s able to make all sorts of ridiculous, unproven, and sometimes dangerous claims. So, while the FDA is busy involving itself in whether or not mayonnaise is mayonnaise without the egg, the quack brigade is getting away with selling fake cures for everything from ADHD to cancer.

And the final point I failed to make is that there is a lot of pressure put on people with cancer to fight and survive. My mom was very much a Type A personality who took dying of cancer as a personal failure. Somehow, torturing herself and “fighting” until the very end made her feel like she wasn’t giving up. Alternative medicine takes advantage of that desperate pressure to fight and profits nicely from it.

I know that I’m Monday morning quarterbacking about how everything went down with my mom. I guess I just look at how hospice was able to come in and make her life as peaceful and comfortable as possible. I wish end-of-life care was something that we hadn’t been afraid to discuss. Or that going into hospice care wasn’t considered giving up because we might have had more time and she could have had a more gentle passing.

As far as the homeopathic shark cartilage nonsense goes, it sort of makes me laugh to see how much is sold on the Internet after getting yelled at that it wasn’t homeopathy. Then again, it’s not that funny since sharks are being slaughtered for no reason. (Well, I guess one shark could go a long way since homeopathy is mostly water.) Or it could be that sharks aren’t being slaughtered at all (except they are). They could be selling Jell-O water in those bottles.  How would we know?

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