Seen at reddit, user /u/papafree shares some stories from a homeopathic manufacturing plant.
Yes, there is always a starting material, however sometimes it can get really shady. Homeopathics are regulated by the FDA under CFR 211, so if you make stuff up (like lie about having a starting material), and they find out about it, you’re in big trouble.
For most herbals, the actual herb is purchased, then tested to make sure it’s the right variety. This can mean TLC (thin layer chromatography), which is what I was responsible for doing when I worked there. A lot of times we got in a different species of the herb, but used it anyway.
Sometimes a pathogenic starting material is used – in that case, we contacted out to a third party micro lab that keep strains in a controlled environment. We paid the micro guy a contract fee to do the dilutions himself which ended up being about $3500 because only he was licensed to deal with pathogens. We made 200 30 mL units out of that which sold for less than $1200 total. Such a waste.
Sometimes a material of animal origin is used. If it’s something weird, like bovine trachea, there really isn’t a good method to test it, so we kind of took the supplier’s word for it. Pretty shady.
One time we needed to do an extraction of “morning dew”, so we went outside in the morning, shook some water off of some weeds, weighed it, then did the dilution.
My favorite story is this one: We needed to do a dilution of uranium 200X. Problem, is you can’t get uranium (unless you’re Doc Brown), so we went to Hanford (this was a looong time ago) carrying a vial of water. When we got there and did a tour (the plant manager knew what we were going to do), we took the vial and held it up against a glass wall that was a close as we could get to the cooling chamber. That became our “1X” dilution. We went back to our lab and diluted it to 200X, in ethanol. We had a lot left over, and because it’s illegal in WA to dump large quantities of ethanol down the drain, we needed a disposal service. Unfortunately, when we tried to explain that it was a 200X dilution (and that there wasn’t even a single atom of uranium in there to begin with), they still wouldn’t take it, because it said “uranium” on the label. So we took a shovel and buried in the back of the plant, and never told anyone.
One time we needed to do a dilution of goldenseal. My lab partner dropped his pen in the mix. We didn’t want anyone to find out, so he reached in to grab it, covering his arm in goldenseal, a potent laxative. He spent the next several days with severe nausea.
One time a guy wanted us to make this product called singtu. It was a pretty standard herbal homeopathic, except at the end we were supposed to “sing to” the final product, using these chants that the customer prepared for us. At first we were like “no”, but money is money, so when he visited we sang the chants. After he left it became a joke to say the most vulgar things we could around it.
One time we needed to make a belladonna 1000X dilution. I had to sit there and make sure the compounder did it right. That was the most goddamn boring thing I have ever done. It took two solid days
If you look in the homeopathic pharmacopoeia under Teucrim Mar, you’ll see it as able to cure “anal itch” and “loss of smell”. We thought that was hilarious.
We made a product called “Feminine Tonic” that I don’t remember what was supposed to cure. Two of the ingredients were “Ovary Sarcode” and “Uterus Sarcode”. Sarcode basically means it’s from an animal. But which animal? No one knows.
Most everyone’s familiar with the family guy episode (it’s gross, but provided here for the curious who may not have seen it) where they imbibe ipecac and throw up all over the place. I was probably the only person who didn’t laugh at that scene because it brought back memories of when we decided to take a few drops of it on a dare. [Insert vulgar expression of total contempt here.]
We made lots of weird products, including:
Quietiva, to help children be quiet
Centaury, a product to help people who have a hard time saying “No”
Chestnut Bud, a product for people who don’t learn from past miskates
Elm, a product for people who are “overwhelmed with duties”. We put the label for this product in our bathroom right above the toilet.
Hornbeam, for that “Monday morning feeling”
Herplex: homeopathic herpes medication
These stories are funny, but there was a part of it that made me really sad. We also made the following products:
Vaccination Detox: to help with the toxic effects of vaccines (of which there are none)
Enviro-Chem: to detox chemicals from the environment. IIRC, it featured a 10X dilution of the following: toluene, methyl methacrylate, sulfur, petroleum, creosote, trichloroethylene, and some others
Gout: to alleviate the symptoms of gout
Parasites: to alleviate the symptoms of parasites
Weightloss: a tonic containing a dilution of Butter 7X
No-GMO: a tonic made with glyphosate 10X to alleviate the symptoms of consuming genetically modified foods
Spinaflex: to alleviate the symptoms of a stiff spine
Staph/strep remedy: this was one we contracted out to the micro lab
These are stories from an individual who worked in a plant that made products that people will use.
The dangerous thing is that these same people are taking water – because that’s all it is – to cure diseases that can have life-altering consequences if not treated. I don’t claim to know everything about every alternative medical treatment or therapy out there, but I do know one thing: A solution of nothing cannot produce an effect beyond placebo or nocebo. It’s just not possible.
Click through for some information on homeopathic dilutions.
The Old Wolf has spoken.