The funniest thing has happened. The internet has managed to make Neal’s Yard Remedies look like a complete tit.
Neal’s Yard Remedies sells “ethical skin and bodycare products” including a range of homoeopathic “medicines”. In what is being hailed (by me, at least) as the worst marketing move in all time, they asked readers of the Guardian to ask them questions — anything we like! Here is the post on the Guardian website:
Following last week’s spotlight on Fairtrade and food, this week we turn our ‘You ask, they answer’ series to look at organics and beauty. For the next four days, ethical skin and body care products firm Neal’s Yard Remedies will be doing its best to answer your questions below.
Neal’s Yard Remedies started life back in 1981, with a focus on using natural herbs for health and beauty. Since then, it’s grown to 38 stores across the country, and started a range of green initiatives, including a number of certified organic products, bought carbon offsets to reduce its emissions and encouraged customers to recycle and reuse old packaging.
This is your chance to grill them: from the controversy surrounding the chain’s removal of a homeopathic malaria remedy to the benefits and reasons to switch to organic beauty products.
To get the debate rolling, just post your questions below.
Wow, what a great opportunity! An alternative therapy business is opening itself up to questions — this is certainly a rarity! Unfortunately for Neal & friends, no one wants to hear more info on why we should switch to organic beauty products. Everyone is farrrr more interested in the science behind their wacky claims. What follows is five pages of quality comments and not a single reply from Neal et al. A pretty interesting occurrence for a “You ask, they answer” feature…
Eventually, following a couple of promises from Guardian staff that they were cooking up some solid replies, we get this:
have just had a chat with NYR.
Unfortunately, despite previous assurances that they would be participating in this blog post, I’ve now been told they ‘will not be taking part in the debate’.
So yes, as several people have pointed out, this has become something of ‘You Ask’, rather than a ‘You Ask, They Answer’. I’m still hoping NYR will reconsider.
Alas, Neal & pals didn’t reconsider and the comments were eventually closed.
For your amusement, here are some of the best comments & questions:
Have you ever been offered a natural remedy that was so obviously without any merit that you refused to bottle it and sell it to your gullible customers, or does pretty much anything go?
Do you see no problem with trying to be ‘ethical’ while at the same time selling snake oil for a living?
you sell a multitude of products for a wide variety of medical conditions, some of which are serious or life threatening.
Please could you explain what level of evidence of efficacy you require before stocking any product?
If, as I suspect, the level of evidence of efficacy is poor then will you tell us what, if any, studies are done to look for harmful side-effects? How are these studies conducted? Furthermore please show us the power calculations for these studies.
Surely you don’t view it as ethical to sell products which are of unproven benefit and which you don’t even know are safe?
Linked below is a book on ‘Homoeopathy for Mother and Baby’. Given that homoeopathy has never been shown to have any effect distinguishable from placebo, do you regard it as ethical to profit from publications which seek to exploit the anxiety of new mothers to sell pseudo-medicines?
Your website states:
The correct homoeopathic remedy will stimulate a sick person’s vitality to send healing energy where it is needed, thus rectifying mental, emotional and physical imbalances.
Could you please explain how the ‘correct homoeopathic remedy’ is decided on and describe the qualifications of the people who make these decisions?
I’d also be grateful for a biological definition of ‘healing energy’ and an indication of where I can find the scientific evidence for its existence
I’m posting this, not only because it’s hilarious, but also to show the importance of being skeptical. If this business had answers, they’d have replied, but since they didn’t, I think it’s pretty obvious that even they think their products are bullshit. How ethical of them! While some alternative remedies are certainly effective (even if untested), homoeopathy has been shown time and time again that it is no more effective than a placebo.
Medical science tells us why drugs work the way they do. If something works, we’ll find out how and why, and it’s always understandable within the confines of our current scientific knowledge. If homoeopathy worked, we’d have to rewrite physics, chemistry & biology to try and understand it, because it just does not fit. If our understanding of these fundamental fields is so wrong, how the hell have we got this far as a species?
Remember, extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. Homoeopathy is certainly an extraordinary claim, but their evidence is non-existent..