Homeopathy Awareness Week 2009: Zicam!

Its homeopathic awareness week!

Were you aware that homeopathic nasal cold remedies can burn out your sense of smell? The FDA wants you to know about it.

Zicam make popular homeopathic products such as nasal sprays. Two of their products, Zicam cold nasal gel and and Zicam cold nasal swabs, were recalled by the FDA this week after they were found to destroy people’s sense of smell.

There is more to homeopathy than the snake oil gambit of diluting a compound so much that not a trace of the original remains. The philosophy of homeopathy is, rather,  The Law of Similars, or ‘like cures like’. If a chemical causes a certain set of symptoms, then treating a disease that produces those symptoms with said chemical will effect a cure.

Hence Zicam, et hinc illae lacrimae.  The homeopathic (active) ingredient in Zicam is Zincum Gluconicum, or zinc gluconate, which was approved by the Homeopathic Pharmacopeia Convention in 1997. It was ‘proven’ to produce cold like symptoms in healthy individuals, and added to the The Homœopathic Pharmacopœia of the United States (HPUS) that year. HPUS dictates the maximum strength that a compound can be for over the counter use, although based on what criteria I know not. For Zinc Gluconicum it is a 1x dilution, that is, one part compound to nine parts water. Zicam actually used a higher dilution, 2x, where the previous dilution is taken and diluted a second time. The final dilution is 1:100. Bear in mind that Avogadro’s limit is not reached until around 24x dilution, and many homeopathic over the counter preparations are diluted beyond that, and you can see Zicam’s mistake: their homeopathic cold remedies actually contained ingredients.

Not only that, the effect of using actual ingredients in Zicam neatly disproves the concept of the Law of Similars and the essential philosophy of homeopathy. Sticking harsh chemicals up your nose, it turns out, has potentially life threatening consequences. It doesn’t cure congestion or sinus pain; it causes sinus pain and the loss of smell.

Why did Zicam do it? Probably because, by labelling an over the counter treatment as homeopathic, they avoided the regulation and safety testing that would be demanded for proper drugs.

Remember, homeopaths, Avogadro’s limit is your friend. Make sure that your treatments contain nothing at all and you will avoid these unpleasant lawsuits.

The FDA can’t regulate a placebo.

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