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5% Discount on Legal Highs, Salvia Divinorum and Everything Else From The Coffeesh0p

Homoeopathy vs the Internet

By John Clarke

The fun­ni­est thing has happened. The inter­net has managed to make Neal’s Yard Rem­ed­ies look like a com­plete tit.

Neal's Yard Remedies

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.

(my emphasis)

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:

@ all

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?

[link removed]


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..

6 Responses to Homoeopathy vs the Internet

  1. PoisonedV says:

    Oh man, this is beau­ti­ful. Now to find some way to do this to the local ‘altern­at­ive’ medi­cine store that opened up in my own town

  2. ben says:

    Have there been sci­entific studies done on all the products you sell? How are these studies con­duc­ted? Where can we find this inform­a­tion? Are you 100% sure that there are no longterm side effects to using any of your products? Are there any long term side effects to using salvia divinorum, just one of the products you sell? You may say that it has been used for thou­sands of years, but i saw a video from psy­che­delics con­fer­ence, and a women was told by a mazatec shaman while on an exped­i­tion to oaxaca that they prefer to use mush­rooms as with salvia “some people dont come back” you may say this is anec­dotal evid­ence, but im sure the people of this region know alot more about the plant than we do.

    Dont get me wrong, i dont think its wrong to sell any of the products you do, i think it should be the respons­ib­il­ity of the user to do their own research and assess the risks themeselves before trying a product. But your stance on this “Neal’s Yard Rem­ed­ies” issue seems com­pletely hypo­crit­ical to me.

  3. ben says:

    about the video, im sure its this talk by kath­leen har­rison. im not sure if its in part 1 or 2, either way its very inter­est­ing

  4. Synchronium says:

    Hey Ben, good point — you’re com­pletely right.

    Only kidding!

    Here’s why:

    1. The products I sell do some­thing if they’re con­sumed, unlike homoe­opathic “medi­cines”. I’ll remind you (and every­one else) that homoe­opathic doesn’t mean “herbal” or even “altern­at­ive” — it means there’s no fucking medi­cine in their medi­cine, and not sur­pris­ingly, no results to show it works better than placebo.
    2. The products I sell aren’t to heal people. No one would buy Salvia divinorum from me instead of vis­it­ing a doctor, for example.
    3. Whenever I talk about any of the products I sell, it’s always from a phar­ma­co­lo­gical per­spect­ive, or I mention what the culture that ori­gin­ally used it believed it did. I make no mention of any kind of “Energy” (that can’t be quan­ti­fied in Joules) or any­thing else unsub­stan­ti­ated.
    4. I know what I sell isn’t 100% safe — I don’t see myself as an altern­at­ive to medi­cine, like these guys do. Instead I see it like working in a pub or off licence (a shop that sells booze, if you’re not from the UK). Alcohol and tobacco are much worse for you than most illegal drugs, never mind the legal ones. Please read JWH-018, Spice & Me for a bit more in-depth dis­cus­sion about my opin­ions on the rel­at­ive safety of these things. (That pissed off a lot of kratom vendors, btw, despite everything I said being a fact. I like to think that makes me a bit more trans­par­ent than most, includ­ing Neal & chums.)
    5. I know more about the products I sell than most people. Not because I’m big headed, but because not every­one has a phar­ma­co­logy related degree. As such, if anyone asks me about a product, I’ll answer as best I can. Even if I have to go away and do some research first, I’m capable of sifting through lots of crap to find the rel­ev­ant stuff. Neal ‘n’ pals have nothing to say about their own products.

    Hope that clears things up a bit. If not, please comment again.

    Not watched that video yet, but thanks for the link.

  5. David says:

    Yeah reminded me of a con­fer­ence I went to were they tested homeo­pathic rem­ed­ies vs anti­bi­ot­ics for mast­itis (infec­tion of udder). Research done by New Zea­l­ands leading cow researches. The figure I remem­ber was that homeo­pathic remedy(s) pro­duced a 44% cure rate. [the anti­bi­otic rate was higher about 60 – 70% but exact level I forget).

    I asked the ques­tion: What is the normal self cure rate for mast­itis when left untreated? The answer.…. about 40%. Sud­denly a product that was looking ok, turned into some­thing that was com­pletely useless.

    However I would point out the ques­tions that were asked of NYR you could ask of tra­di­tional western medi­cine.…. only about 13 — 12 of medical pro­ced­ures have good science backing them up  — the others are just done this way because it has always been done this way.….. and if you track it back there is no evid­ence for why people do it this way.….

    So as much as I loath quack­ery in the health field we must main­tain the same stand­ard between “tra­di­tional” and “com­ple­ment­ary” medi­cine.

  6. Bexley says:


    You are correct that at least some of stand­ard medi­cine entered prac­tice without the tests that would now be required. Partly because some inter­ven­tions are dif­fi­cult to do RCTs to test (for example surgery) and also because some inter­ven­tions predate recent ideas on how products should be tested. Hope­fully we will fill in some of these gaps over time.

    However there is no reason to give homeo­pathy a free pass solely because we havent tested all con­ven­tional medi­cine as fully as we would like for the fol­low­ing reasons:

    1. Unlike untested pro­ced­ures homeo­pathy HAS been tested — and shown not to work better than placebo in well con­trolled trials.

    2. Homeo­pathy doesnt even have any prior plaus­ib­il­ity to back it up — it would require a lot of what we know about physics and chem­istry to be wrong and yet it offers scant evid­ence that we should accept it.

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