WMAM blogspace

Trebly Impossible

Posted on: December 3, 2009

The homeopathic potion Oscillococcinum is impossible stuff.

First of all, it’s impossible to pronounce (and almost impossible to spell). In fact, it may be the unpronounceablest product on the market today. (Please let me know if you can think of another contender for the honour.) In Hungary, one of the countries where it’s popular, they give up halfway through, and call it “ostsillo”.

Secondly, as you should be aware by now, if not from Ben Goldacre or Simon Perry, then from Paul Bennett of Boot’s, homeopathy is bollocks. Homeopathy isn’t herbal medicine, it’s a sugar pill, and the only reason it works is because of the placebo effect. The product – it isn’t a medicine! – doesn’t contain any of the “active ingredient” shown on the product information. None. (Really the producers shouldn’t be allowed to call it an ingredient at all, unless we want burger makers to start putting salmonella on their list of ingredients.*)

Thirdly, homeopathy does not “work” preventatively. Symptoms of an illness are required in order to decide on a treatment. And yet Oscillococcinum is widely recommended (mostly by people who clearly should know better, e.g. the manufacturer) as a prophylactic. A Google search provides plenty of interesting reading…

There’s a fourth interesting thing to say about Oscillococcinum, but it isn’t impossible, just ridiculous. Do you know what it’s made from? Well, it’s 85% sucrose and 15% lactose monohydrate, which those of you who haven’t been paying attention will be surprised to find adds up to 100% sugar. But the active “ingredient” is Anas Barbariae hepatis et cordis extractum. (The Latin scholars among you have probably just spat their tea out over the keyboard.) That’s duck offal. What a sad waste.

Simon Perry’s talk in Birmingham on Monday 7th December about the “Quacklash” now seems even more appropriate!

(Thanks to Marti Bailey for her help with this post.)

Related articles:

Jan Willem Nienhuys’s short history of O

If a heavy wallet causes the flu, Oscillococcinum is as good a cure as any

Pharmacology Weekly report on O

Oscillococcinum Wikipedia page

Muscovy duck Wikipedia page

*Alternatively, why not let me sell biscuits “made of gold” if I drop my wedding ring in the mixing bowl?

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2 Responses to "Trebly Impossible"

The disturbing conclusion of the idea that water retains a memory of what has been in it is that mostly what has been in it is an awful lot of excrement.

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