The FTC Is Very Much Done With Your Homeopathy Obsession

Photographed by Jessica Nash.
Scientists have known for quite a while now that homeopathy just doesn't work. But now, finally, the government is taking a major step to prevent homeopaths from selling you straight B.S.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) released a new statement of policy on the subject earlier this month, stating pretty unequivocally that homeopathic manufacturers often make marketing claims that lack scientific merit. In the statement, the FTC says that it will now require people who sell homeopathic remedies to provide scientific evidence that backs up any health claims they're making. (What a novel concept!)

The basic philosophy behind homeopathy is that "like cures like." So, if you're sick, those who believe in homeopathy say that taking a very diluted sample of something that causes symptoms similar to those you're experiencing should, somehow, encourage your body to defeat your illness — without the need for actual science-backed medicine.

One example, courtesy of Vox, suggests that someone with a cold may want to take a diluted onion extract because onions, like a cold, cause your eyes to water and your nose to run.

Of course, the major problem with all of this is there's no evidence that homeopathy works. But that hasn't stopped Americans from spending nearly $3 billion per year on various homeopathic remedies.

You'd expect someone, maybe the FDA, to get involved, right? Well, it turns out there's a bit of a complicated history between that agency and homeopaths, Forbes reports. Essentially, the FDA agreed back in the '80s that homeopaths could regulate themselves as long as their products included a disclaimer saying that the FDA hadn't evaluated their claims.

For instance, the marketing for this bottle of diluted hepar sulphate calcium — plus a little sugar for good measure — claims that the stuff "treats croup [an upper airway infection] with rattling of mucous, certain head colds, sore throats, and laryngitis." But again, there's no scientific data to support these claims at all. This trickiness is one major reason why the FTC is stepping in to crack down now.

All this said, if you still want to pay for your onion water, you'll be glad to know this doesn't mean homeopathic remedies will be disappearing completely anytime soon. The new policy just refers to any marketing claims that homeopaths make about their products, meaning it only serves to help make sure consumers know the truth about what they're buying. So if you're certain homeopathy is worth the try, you'll still be able to purchase it. Just don't say we didn't warn you that it could be totally useless.
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