In February 2011, 1,600 people in 28 different countries deliberately took massive overdoses of homeopathic treatments for insomnia and other ailments.(1) This second annual worldwide action, organized by the 10.23 campaign, was meant to debunk the validity of homeopathy. In fact, it’s gotten to the point where a private individual, magician James Randi, has promised to pay $1 million if a double-blind study can prove the effectiveness of homeopathic remedies.
Homeopathic insomnia remedies include arsenic album, made from elemental arsenic; belladonna, ground from the deadly nightshade plant; and the mineral compound calcarea phosphorica.(2) During the 10.23 2011 challenge, one Australian participant took a lot of homeopathic insomnia potion and then piloted his boat around Antarctic waters, with no drowsiness or experience of falling asleep.(3)
The majority of other, more scientific research on homeopathic treatments has found very little evidence to support the medicine’s marketing or grassroots believers claims.(4) What’s more, what little research has been done is often severely flawed.
Still, not all research can be discounted. Some randomized placebo-controlled trials as well as laboratory research has shown that these treatments can show benefits, and that the compounds or solutions in question do in some cases possess unique physical and-or chemical properties.
Homeopathy was developed in Germany in the 18th century and made its way over to the United States in the early 1900s. Adoption remains relatively low in the U.S.; only a few million adults and around one million children use homeopathic treatments each year. For the most part, Americans still rely on manufactured pharmaceuticals.
Insomnia treatments and other homeopathic products are governed by guidelines that were added in 1938 to the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act. But the major, lasting argument made by skeptics against homeopathic treatments is the usually minuscule presence of a base compound. For insomnia treatments and other products, the first questions to ask is what is the active ingredient, and how much of that active ingredient is present in a single dosage.
(1) NPR – “Homeopathic Medicine Overdosers Survive Unscathed”, February 7, 2011, Retrieved July 13, 2011 from http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2011/02/08/133569580/homeopathic-medicine-overdosers-survive-unscathed?ps=sh_sthdl
(2) NaturalNews.com – “Homeopathic Remedies Treat Insomnia”, September 19, 2010, Retrieved July 13, 2011 from http://www.naturalnews.com/029771_insomnia_homeopathic.html
(3) NPR – “Homeopathic Insomnia Remedy No Match for Antarctic Summer”, February 8, 2011, Retrieved July 13, 2011 from http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2011/02/09/133600714/homeopathic-sleep-remedy-no-match-for-antarctic-summer
(4) National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine – Homeopathy: An Introduction, Retrieved July 13, 2011 from http://nccam.nih.gov/health/homeopathy/