You may have heard the news this week – a new study has found that Arnica, the popular homoeopathic remedy, is no better at wound-healing than a placebo. Don’t waste your money, said the research leader, Dr Edzard Ernst, of Exeter University.
So how scientific was this scientific study? In the first place, it is clear that Ernst and his colleagues have a real problem with homeopathic potency and its dilutions. As Ernst points out in the study, ‘according to Avogrado’s number, with potencies beyond 12C (12 centesimal dilutions), the chance of a single molecule remaining in the final solution tends to the infinitesimal’.
He accepts that there have been a number of favourable anecdotal reports about Arnica, but ‘there is little scientific evidence of its efficacy’. That’s surprising, because Arnica has been well researched, and has been the subject of a number of proper scientific studies and, indeed, Ernst quotes six as positive examples. So who says there is ‘little scientific evidence’? Why, it’s a certain E. Ernst, who said so in a paper published in 1998. So could it be one and the same? Surely not, because to quote yourself in support of your supposition is circular and, well, unscientific.
So, what of the idea that homoeopathic remedies are so diluted as to be worthless? Interestingly, six people in either of the two Arnica groups reported adverse reactions compared with three in the placebo group, a large enough variance to be valid, suggesting that there must be something in homoeopathy’s nothing after all. It has also been well documented that Arnica must never be applied to broken skin, as people have reacted badly to this.
So perhaps the findings aren’t so definitive, after all, and your next purchase of Arnica may still be justified.