Only one statement in that attention grabbing headline is true! Can you guess which one?
OK, I’m a liar. They’re both true. I do in fact have a job, but the amount of actual work I do is negligible. Even so, I work approximately infinity percent more than HeadOn does.
In case you have no idea what I’m talking about, take 15 seconds to watch this:
There. Now you are infected by another internet meme, if you weren’t already.
So what’s the deal? What is HeadOn even supposed to do? It’s certainly not clear from that commercial. HeadOn is a homeopathic headache remedy. Here’s a valuable life lesson, from me to you. Whenever you see the phrase “homeopathic remedy” you may freely substitute the phrase “remedy that works no better than placebo, but costs 100 times more.”
Homeopathy is literally nothing but a giant swindle. There are two basic principles to homeopathy. The first is the “Law of similars”, which basically boils down to “like cures like.” Say you have allergies, and you’re sneezing a lot and have a runny nose. What you do is, you look for something that will cause those same symptoms in an otherwise healthy person. Hey, snorting a pinch of black pepper also causes you to sneeze and makes your nose run! So there you go, your active ingredient is black pepper.
But you don’t just take a big snort of pepper. No, that’d be silly! What you do is, you take some of that pepper, and you dissolve it in an equal part of water. So you start with 1 gram of pepper and disolve it in 1 cc of water, say. This is called your “mother tincture”. Then, you start the process of dilution. This is the second principle of homeopathy, the “Law of infinitesimals.” This states that the more you dilute something, the more powerful or effective it gets!
So now take 1 cc of your “mother tincture”, and dump that in 1 liter of water. You now have a 1:100 dilution of the original tincture, what homeopaths call a 1C or 2X preparation. The “C” stands for “centesimal”, and is a scale that indicates the dilution ratio–each step on the C scale is a further 1:100 dilution. The “X scale” is simply a different way of expressing the dilution ratio, in this case in powers of ten. So 1X is a 1:10 ratio, 2X is 1:100 (and equal to 1C), 3X is 1:1000, and so on. If you’re confused, just remember that you multiply the C scale number by two to get the equivalent X scale number, or halve the X scale number to get the equivalent C scale number.
We’ve got our 1C preparation, meaning we have one part of black pepper for every one hundred parts water. Are we done? Hells no. We’re just getting started. We take 1 cc of our 1C solution, and further dilute that in another liter of water. Now we have a 2C solution, which contains one part black pepper for every ten thousand parts water. That’s pretty dilute. You’ll probably still see some pepper flakes in there, but let that shit fall to the bottom and you wouldn’t taste the pepper in the water at this point if you took a sip.
But we’re not done. Not even close. Most homeopathic remedies are diluted to at least the 6C level. We’d have to perform our dilution four more times to get there. At this point it’s highly unlikely you’ll have any pepper left in the solution at all. But if you were using a substance that more readily dissolved in water, such as salt, there would at least still be trace amounts of salt in your 6C solution.
Homeopaths don’t stop there, though. In fact, 6C is considered a rather weak dose. Homeopaths prefer to keep diluting the solution to 12C and beyond, and the standard dilution level for many remedies is 30C. Here’s the thing, though. At the 13C level, if you’re using water as your solvent, there’s statistically no chance that even a single molecule of the active ingredient is left in the solution. Dilution beyond that point is meaningless. You’re just mixing water with water.
Looked at another way, a 13C solution is roughly equivalent to taking a third of a drop of your original mother tincture and diluting it in all the water on Earth. A 30C solution isn’t even comprehensible at this point. It corresponds to something like 1ml of mother tincture in more than a million cubic light years of water. It’s impossible to even wrap your head around things at this level.
How do homeopaths claim this works? Well, apparently water has some kind of mystical “memory”. It “remembers” the properties of the original solute, and somehow is still able to cause a reaction. Of course now, it somehow has the opposite reaction. Remember that we start with something that will cause the symptoms you are trying to cure in an otherwise healthy person. But once you dilute this substance in enough water, now somehow the water has the ability to cure those symptoms. Never mind that beyond the 14C level of dilution, it’s unlikely that there’s even a single water molecule left from your original mother tincture.
So what of HeadOn? Well, recall how the commercial doesn’t even say what it’s for. There’s actually a good reason for this. If a product makes some kind of medicinal claim, such as, say, “relieves headache pain” it has to be able to back that claim up. With actual science. Truth in advertising laws and the US FDA require that if you say your product can relieve pain, you have to have some actual scientific studies to show that your product works better than a placebo. And no homeopathic remedy, including HeadOn, can produce those studies, because they work no better than placebo. In fact, many homeopathic “remedies” would make great placebos in your average scientific study–because they contain no active ingredients. They literally are placebos.
There is, however, one claim you’ll often see homeopathic remedies making–that they are “completely safe.” You’ll never see this claim made by legitimate medicines. Acetaminophen (the active ingredient in Tylenol) is a pain reliever and fever reducer, and it actually works. But it’ll destroy your liver if you take too much of it. No amount of HeadOn will ever do anything more than give you a waxy forehead. The reason any homeopathic remedy can claim to be perfectly, 100% safe is because it contains no medicine at all. This is one claim they can confidently make!
All you people who think “Big Pharma” makes a fortune by unethically selling a pill that costs ten cents to make for ten dollars each, think about this. At least those pills do something. They have actual medicine in them. In quantities that have measurable effects, even. Homeopathic remedies can’t make that claim. An $8 tube of HeadOn is nothing more than a stick of wax. If it works, it only did so because you believed it would. Diabetics don’t have to believe their insulin shots will keep their blood sugar in check for it to work. Which of these things is less ethical? I say homeopathy by a mile.