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“Homeopathics also work on babies, toddlers and animals. So it can’t be a placebo effect!”
This or similar arguments are often used when it comes to whether homeopathy is effective in children or not and whether homeopathy is a pure placebo therapy. But what exactly does the placebo effect mean?
“I will help you”
Originally, placebo literally means something like “I’ll please”, a bit more casually translated “I’ll help you”. On the one hand, it means the placebo, i.e. the sham drug, which contains no active substance but can nevertheless trigger a reaction in the patient because he thinks he is getting help. So the effect is not made possible by a pharmacological ingredient, but by the importance attributed to the tablet (the globules). Nevertheless, this reaction can be measurable and objectively comprehensible.
On the other hand, it also refers to the act of devotion. Every mother performs placebo therapy when she affectionately blows her child on an “ouch”, sticks on a consolation patch or when she weighs it in her arms. In fact, such an action doesn’t “work”, practically everyone knows that the child usually jumps off again after a few minutes of comfort or falls asleep calmly. So it has helped.
Babies have very sensitive antennas
Homeopathy is now particularly skilled at using these two mechanisms. On the one hand, it gives tablets without active substances and often combines this with a ritual of devotion, empathy and the power of good experiences. The globules thus carry the meaning “I give you help, dear child” without this necessarily being expressed in words. The mother radiates that she can help, that she can do something, that she expects help from the globules. The child gets something to help him, he perceives that he is not left alone with his problem. That is good. Both. The mother/father calms down and this is good for the child as well as for the parents. That doesn’t have to be a blatant change in behaviour, children and babies intuitively feel the slightest change. They are so dependent on us that they are equipped with the finest antennas.
Of course, other rituals (warm tea, reading aloud, etc.) also help, but the explicit medical orientation of homeopathy reinforces the “I can and will help you” effect very positively. You don’t just do something, but something that (supposedly) makes medical sense.
Also, the following waiting for recovery is no longer mere perseverance, but a “let’s wait and see how the globules work”. There is hope that something will change for the better – and behold, it does change. Felt also faster than without the possibility to have done something good. If the first globules do not “work”, the therapist looks again into his repertories, gives other globules and waiting again becomes easier. Finally, however, the disease heals on its own, the complaints disappear on their own and we are convinced that the globules have performed a small miracle – and therefore give them next time with a new, even stronger conviction. We quickly forget the occasions when the globules did not help or excuse them with “We didn’t find the right remedy in time”.
A practical and helpful system. But we are subject to an insidious error of confirmation.
The placebo effect – The “kiss my owie – make it better” of medicine
It becomes problematic when we are so convinced of homeopathy that we no longer blame the above explanations for the effect, but rather “information” or “energy” in the globules. Of course, you could say that the globules actually contain information: the information “I will help you”. But that’s not what the homeopaths mean. They mean incomprehensible or inexplicable information, which could not be found so far, nor can it be found in the future. It also becomes problematic when the belief in globules is established through such supposedly positive experiences and one thinks that even serious illnesses can be treated “naturally” in this way. No, serious illnesses can have serious consequences and these can perhaps be tolerated more easily by the effects mentioned, but they are not cured by it. And we must not impose this on our children.
Of course, it is not acceptable to prescribe every child with a small cold immediately an antibiotic. And it is difficult to simply wait and see if banal viral infections improve. Especially if one used the possibility of homeopathic “therapy” and the waiting became easier. But it is nevertheless fortunate that we have the medicine and effective medication for severe cases. For the easier cases, it may also be the “magic globules”, if we are aware of the fact that we are only singing an extended “kiss my owie … ” – or something completely different, which has the potential to cause exactly the same effect.
There are miracles again and again…
For animals that also have very fine antennas for their pet owners, the same applies of course. For example, there are dogs that can feel the epileptic seizure of their owners even before they do it themselves. This shows how subtle many animals are and how much they can adjust to their owners. With less sensitive animals such as hares, turtles or cows, the time gone by, the natural course of the disease and chance or luck may simply play a role, even if it is difficult to understand. A miracle cure simply does more than these sober reasons. Miracles can often be easily explained – ask a professional magician.