Complementary/Alternative Medicine and the Evidence Requirement

Authored by: Kirsten Hansen , Klemens Kappel

The Routledge Companion to Philosophy of Medicine

Print publication date:  October  2016
Online publication date:  October  2016

Print ISBN: 9781138846791
eBook ISBN: 9781315720739
Adobe ISBN: 9781317519850


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Homeopathy is a paradigmatic example of a complementary/alternative therapy (CAM). Home-opathy relies on the premise that “like cures like,” so a homeopath uses the same substances, though extremely diluted, in the treatment of ailments, which are thought to produce the symptoms of the ailment in question. The basic idea in homeopathy is that a putatively active substance is diluted in water and administered to a patient. The distinctive feature of homeopathic medicine, however, is that the dilution is so extreme that at the end of the process it is unlikely that any molecules of the putatively active substance remain. A common remedy has strength of 30C. This means that the original substance has been diluted 30 times by a factor of 100 each time (called a 30C remedy). This implies that the original substance has been diluted by a factor of no less than 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000. Homeopaths argue, however, that the water in which the remedy is diluted (or the remedy itself) has a memory of the original substance, which is why the homeopathic remedy that may consist of nothing but pure water can nonetheless treat an ailment. There are readily available homeopathic remedies for a wide array of conditions such as anxiety, asthma attacks, broken bones, chicken pox, rubella, and many more ailments.

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