Update, October 2011: I stand by everything I wrote 5 years ago. Guy Chapman wrote a more detailed account of the preparation of Oscillococcinum in January 2011, which I recommend to you: Oscillococcinum: The canonical quack remedy
Can Homeopathy Cure or Prevent the Flu? No, although homeopaths continue to misrepresent the research and insist that homeopathy is effective. (FYI, Oscillococcinum is dilute rotten duck meat, Dolivaxil and Influenzium are alleged to be prepared from influenza strains but no research has been published. They could easily be prepared from nothing other than pure water.)
The homeopathic trade association launched The National Center for Homeopathy Influenza project:
January 22, 2004
We shall provide regular summaries about the effectiveness of specific homeopathic remedies in each flu season and where those remedies are helping. The Influenza Project is so new we don't have any data yet but please come back soon!
Well--if the remedies don't work you certainly can't have any data. No wonder there were no updates.
The North Texas Skeptics had an article on remedies stealth-marketed to the public: " A recurring theme I've noticed in articles published in Homeopathy Today is an ongoing search to find more effective ways to sell homeopathic theory to the general public.
The internet makes selling useless products all that much easier: Lifematters makes claim that homeopathy can eliminate the influenza virus
Using Homeopathy for Colds & Flu--In the world of conventional medical practice, there is no real help for the suffering caused by the common cold and flu. One can only use a chemical to mask the symptoms for a few hours and wait for the virus to run its course.
In Homeopathy, however, there is the possibility of actually fighting the virus.
No proof is offered for this bald assertion. I haven't been able to find any homeopath other than one Michele Iqbal who makes that claim. Iqbal calls herself a "doctor" but she has no medical education licensing recognized in North America.
The Boiron Homeopathic Company has a patent on the use of a particular bacterium which used in homeopathic form can actually give immunity to viruses.
Oscillococcinum is not claimed by Boiron to be a bacterial preparation. No bacterium can give blanket immunity to viruses. The "bacterium" --Oscillococcinum--doesn't actually exist. It was an artifact of the tools used by an early 20th-century reseacher, Joseph Roy. He originally thought it would be a panacea for cancer (more below).
The use of a disease causing entity is called a nosode in homeopathy. Nosodes have a wide range of uses, ranging from relief of symptoms where the provings match the individual, to immunity.
Some people confuse "nosodes"--preparation of infected or diseased tissue administered to "cure" a like disease-- with vaccines.. There are a number of differences: for one, vaccines have to be proven to work; the nosode can be made up of anything thought by the homeopath to affect disease. No proof of efficacy is required of homeopathy. I'm not sure how Oscillococcinum is actually a nosode, as it is an extreme dilution of rotten duck meat and blood.
In general, a virus helps fight bacteria, and a bacteria helps fight a virus.
Another completely ridiculous statement that has no basis in reality. Even if the homeopathic "remedy" or "nosode" was not diluted to the vanishing point, positing that a virus affects immunity to a bacterium and vice versa reveals a complete ignorance of how the immune system works. .
The Boiron Company markets their bacteria in a 200c potency nosode under the name "Oscillococcinum". If taken just at the beginning of symptoms for the flu or a cold, just as the aching or sore throat is beginning, it can completely offset the progress of the virus.
Absolutely no proof of this extraordinary assertion is offered. Even a pro-homeopathic page, Homoeopathic oscillococcinum for the prevention and treatment of influenza, admitted that the remedy showed: no significant differences between homoeopathy and placebo for fever, runny nose (rhinitis), or aches.
This is just one woman's wishful thinking that "Oscillococcinum" can help with the symptoms and duration of influenza. Too bad that this nonsense is being spread arouond by the wonders of the internet.
Lifematters is the online presence of a pair of marriage and family therapists in California. Note that they have no medical training.
1275 4th Street
Santa Rosa, CAU.S.A. 1-888-255-9757 - PST Monday - Friday 9am-5pm
Michele Iqbal, who calls herself a doctor, has no medical qualifications recognized by the state of California. Iqbal admits that homeopathy can't treat serious, real illnesses.
"The best time to go to a homeopathic practitioner is when your regular doctor says, 'I can't do anything for you,' " Iqbal said. "If you have a serious problem, such as cancer, HIV, things you need surgery for, do not go to a homeopath.
"These remedies aren't meant for the times in life when the biochemistry breaks down," she added, but "to keep everything in balance throughout your life so that those things won't develop."
And, from a retail purveyor of this "remedy":
"Oscillococcinum" (O-SILL-O-COX-SEE-NUM) is commonly claimed to reduce flu symptoms This homeopathic medicine has been shown in clinical studies to decrease the duration and intensity of flu symptoms.
Well, the duration is reduced by about 6 hours on average (how could you tell?), and the impact on the intensity of symptoms depends upon the symptom. Fever was reduced by about 1/3 of a degree--note that you need a digital thermometer to even percieve that amount of reduction. In general, the strength of the statement is not matched by the evidence.
Origins of Oscillococcinum In 1918, a French physician named Joseph Roy, using the feeble microscopes of the era, thought he saw a unique microorganism: a bacterium that consisted of two unequal balls that performed a quick vibratory motion (the oscillations). The science of the time supported the notion that "oscillococci"--vibratory bodies found in many bodily fluids--caused disease.
Roy believed that an abundant source of "oscillococci" could be passed through homeopathic "reinforcement" and thus would become a panacea for many types of disease. Roy selected as a source the muscovy duck ( Cairina moschata), which was widely available in France as it was preferred for culinary uses. (Muscovy ducks are the only domestic ducks that are not subspecies of Anas platyrhynchos, the mallard. This renders the latinate name for the rotten duck tincture, "Anas Barbariae, Hepatis et Cordis Extractum", incorrect.)
Since 1925, Oscillococcinum has been prepared as follows. Into a one litre bottle, a mixture of pancreatic juice and glucose is poured. Next a Barbary duck (that's the "Anas Barbariae") is decapitated and 35 grams of its liver and 15 grams of its heart are put into the bottle (that's the "Hepatis Et Cordis"). After 40 days in the sterile bottle, liver and heart disintegrate into a kind of goo, which is then diluted with water into the entire world production of Oscillococcinum for the year.
There's no logical reason to believe that anything in duck liver or heart will be an effective flu remedy. But even if there were some magic substance, the manufacturing process guarantees that it will not be in the finished product. The laws of chemistry indicate that after the 12th dilution, it is unlikely that a single molecule from the original organs will remain. Moreover, at the dilutions that Boiron indicates on their packaging (that's the "200 CK HPUS" part) the concentration of the original substance would be 1 part in 100^200, which is a 1 followed by 400 zeroes. A 1 followed by 100 zeroes is called a googol. The estimated number of particles in the universe that we can see is a googol, give or take a few zeroes. So in order for one of the original duck molecules to be present in a container of Oscillococcinum, the mass of that container would have to be about a googol googol googol times our world, which would be incomprehensibly larger than the visible universe.
Here, from New Zealand, is an overview of all the research published to date:
Homoeopathic oscillococcinum for the prevention and treatment of influenza
The flu (influenza) is a highly infectious viral disease. Homoeopathic preparations, such as oscillococcinum or similar products, are often prescribed by homoeopaths for the prevention and treatment of the flu. This evidence summary identified one systematic review and seven clinical trials (with a total of 3,459 patients) on the use of homoeopathic oscillococcinum for the prevention and treatment of the flu. In three clinical trials (involving 2,265 people) homoeopathic oscillococcinum taken on a regular basis did not prevent the flu, although the development of fever and muscle aches and pain was reduced slightly. In four clinical trials (involving 1,194 people) taking homoeopathic oscillococcinum once the flu was contracted shortened the duration of the illness by about a quarter of a day (on average) and reduced the severity of some of the symptoms experienced. Mild but reversible side effects (such as headache or skin rash) can occur when taking homoeopathic oscillococcinum. Some people also experience tiredness, dizziness, diarrhoea or a temporary worsening of symptoms when using homoeopathic remedies. No serious side effects have been reported with the use of homoeopathic oscillococcinum.
Scientific quality of the trials was generally poor [prevention of flu] ; Combined results from all trials [for suration] with relevant data showed no significant differences between homoeopathy and placebo for fever, runny nose (rhinitis), or aches.
It is important to note that all the homeopathy/influenza studies have been funded by the homeopathic companies.
Studies funded by pharmaceutical companies have been found to have bias in favor of the efficacy and saftey of the drug being studied (Lexchin J, Bero LA, Djulbegovic B, Clark O. Pharmaceutical industry sponsorship and research outcome and quality: systematic review. BMJ 2003;326:1167-70; " The totality of the evidence reported in our meta-analysis of a subset of homogeneous studies suggests that there is some kind of systematic bias to the outcome of published research funded by the pharmaceutical industry.")
The Natural Foods Merchandiser urges its readers to put aside their scepticism and stock fake remedies:
If you think homeopathy sounds like hooey, consider that the recent popularity of everything natural has given the sales of homeopathic remedies a tremendous boost. U.S. sales of the homeopathic remedy Oscillococcinum®, the No. 1-selling flu medication in France, increased 40 percent from 1997 to 1998, according to San Francisco-based consumer data company SPINS/AC Nielsen.
"The primary benefit of Oscillococcinum is that it stimulates the body's own immune mechanisms," says Fabienne Pugnetti-Boiron, public relations manager at Boiron in Newtown Square, Pa. "Clinical studies have shown that Oscillo actually shortens the length of time a person suffers [from] the flu symptoms."
What they neglect to say is that the "shortening" is a mere six hours: Oscillococcinum shortened the duration of the illness by about a quarter of a day
(The other widely-flogged homeopathic "remedies" for influenza are Dolicoccil (which has the dilute rotten duck meat as above, and copper); Dolivaxil, which claims to be made from extremely dilute flu strains.)
Dolivaxil is a homeopathic preparation of viruses predicted by the World Health Organisation to be those most likely to cause the flu this year. Dolivaxil is desined to safely and naturally prevent and reduce the development of flu symptoms
The following appears widely, and I would imagine is the boilerplate put out by the Dolisos organization:
What makes this product so effective is its simple ingredients. It is a homeopathic dose of the MOST RECENT STRAINS OF THE INFLUENZA VIRUS! This particular remedy was prepared exclusively for the use in hoemapthic manufacture by the Pasteur Institute.
This present formula is for the 2004-2005 flu season! Ingredients: Active Ingredients: Influenzinum 9C 5 Single Dose Tubes (about $2.25 a tube) Complete formula to resist the onset of all flu symptoms using all natural, homeopathic medicine.
Flu shots are a way of increasing your odds on preventing the flu. A Flu Shot is an injectable preparation for the flu season. The Flu Shot is generally considered to be 68.2% on all people. A ten-year study in France in collaboration with 23 French homeopathic doctors effective at a 90% effective rate using Dolivaxil™. Flu shots are traditionally for older adults (55+), whereas Dolivaxil™ is for the entire family - ages 2 and up.
Safe and Effective
No drug interactions - can be used with Rx and OTC medications
The traditional flu shot can cause allergic reactions - Dolivaxil™ - Flu Season Defense® does not Dolivaxil™ Flu Season Defense®
The difference between a real vaccine and bogus products such as Dolivaxil: Many proponents claim that homeopathic products resemble vaccines because both provide a small stimulus that triggers an immune response. This comparison is not valid. The amounts of active ingredients in vaccines are much greater and can be measured. Moreover, immunizations produce antibodies whose concentration in the blood can be measured, but high-dilution homeopathic products produce no measurable response. In addition, vaccines are used preventively, not for curing symptoms.
I have not been able to find any published research on Dolivaxil or Influenzinum. I would appreciate any research being forwarded, so I may correct this account.
Reliable tips for fighting the flu virus: mostly it is common sense--don't get germs on your hands, and don't transfer the germs to your mouth.
Another list: 12 hints for Natural Flu Prevention:
I haven't lined up for an injection, and I won't. I'll follow the 12 steps above. Interesting new proposal: Herd Immunity--preventive vaccinations in schoolchildren--to slow the spread of influenza in a community.
#1 Wash Your Hands
#2 Don't Cover Your Sneezes and Coughs With Your Hands (use your elbow).
#3 Don't Touch Your Face
#4 Drink Plenty of Fluids
#5 Take a Sauna
#6 Get Fresh Air
#7 Do Aerobic Exercise Regularly
#8 Eat Foods Containing Phytochemicals
#9 Eat Yogurt
#10 Don't Smoke
#11 Cut Alcohol Consumption