When it comes to prescription drug approval, Health Canada does an excellent job. Extensive documentation about safety and efficacy of a medication is required before a drug is allowed on the market. But when it comes to natural products, the story is very different. This is the domain of the Natural Health Products Directorate, which one would think would also have stringent requirements because, after all, these products really are drugs. However, when it comes to herbal remedies, the evidence required is pretty skimpy. It can be some scientific publication without much attention being paid to quality, it can be an unpublished clinical trial or just some reference to approval in another country or some account of historical use. Skimpy, but at least something.
When it comes to approving a homeopathic product, the requirement is essentially nothing. One can argue that this is not an issue because of course homeopathic products contain nothing, so what is there to approve? It is true that safety is not an issue, but the implication with any homeopathic medicine is that it will have some sort of beneficial effect on the body. No evidence for this is required unless a specific claim is made for the product. But generally labels don’t make specific claims, they just list the substance that was diluted to prepare the final product. And only products that have been diluted to the extent that they contain nothing of the original can be approved as homeopathic medicines. No evidence of efficacy is required, it is enough that the medicine, if we can call it that, appears in some homeopathic pharmacopeia somewhere. It really is a joke. A bad one.
The array of homeopathic medicines that have been approved in Canada is staggering. Let’s start with homeopathic boar testicles and homeopathic dog’s milk. Then you have homeopathic rabbit anus, homeopathic skim milk, homeopathic corn, homeopathic Cuban spider and homeopathic digestive fluid of live lobster. If that isn’t ridiculous enough, how about homeopathic oxygen? That takes the cake. How does one dilute oxygen and put it into a pill? We also have homeopathic gunpowder. When would you use this? Well, according to one source it is just the right remedy if you have a pigeon injured by a dog. The report states that the bird was in shock and seemed terrified. As a standard treatment, the “rehabilitator” immediately administered “Aconitum napellus,” a homeopathic remedy made from monkshood, followed by homeopathic arnica and then Hypericum. The rehabilitator was also concerned with the potential risk of infection from the wound. So she decided to give the Gunpowder 200c since it could help prevent infection. Within a couple of days, the wounds healed with no signs of infection. The bird was released when he was able to fly effectively. Now do we need any more evidence for the benefits of homeopathy? Incidentally, the homeopathic gunpowder does state that it is not for use in guns. Useful advice. Finally, there’s also homeopathic mineral water. But wouldn’t every homeopathic pill have this anyway since all the wtare used to dilute the remedies contains minerals. But let’s not confuse the homeopaths by trying to use logic.