Monday, February 7, 2011

Un-Homeopathic Sleeping Tablets

This past weekend, February 5-6, rationally-minded people all over the world committed homeopathic suicide.  But wait!  How could such an act be rational?  Well, it was part of activities organized by the 10:23 campaign to show people that there really is nothing in homeopathy.  To do this, skeptics gathered and consumed entire bottles of homeopathic pills.

With real medicine, such an action would be inadvisable in the extreme, likely leading to very serious adverse effects, including permanent disability or even death.  In short, a bad idea.  Homeopathy's different, though.  See, homeopathic pills are almost entirely sugar and, if proper procedures of dilution are adhered to, contain zero molecules of the active ingredient.

Well, I took a look at one such homeopathic product that was used this weekend: Calms Forte Sleep Aid.

Now, I wrote recently about how misleading homeopathic products are in their labeling. Calms Forte is no exception. Here is the list of ingredient:
  • Passiflora 1X | Triple Strength HPUS: For restless sleep from exhaustion
  • Avena Sativa 1X | Double Strength HPUS: For stress, nervousness
  • Humulus Lupulus 1X | Double Strength HPUS: For sleeplessness
  • Chamomilla 2X | HPUS: For nervous irritability
  • And the following biochemic phosphates for enhancing cellular function: Calcarea Phosphorica 3X HPUS, Ferrum Phosphoricum 3X HPUS, Kali Phosphoricum 3X HPUS, Natrum Phosphoricum 3X HPUS, Magnesia Phosphoricum 3x HPUS
So, what, exactly does all of that really mean? Here's the translation:

Passiflora is passionfruit. They used a 1:10 dilution (e.g., 1mL in 9mL water or ethanol).
Avena Sativa is oats. Again, a 1:10 dilution.
Humulus Lupulus is hops. Y'know, the stuff used in beer for antimicrobial properties and to add a certain flavor. Again, a 1:10 dilution.
Chamomilla is chamomile, a popular flower used in all sort of relaxing teas and infusions. They went wild on this one and used a 1:100 dilution.

The other ingredients are:
Calcarea Phosphorica is Calcium phosphate, found in cow's milk, cheese and products that use it as a rising agent.
Ferrum Phosphoricum is iron phosphate, often used in iron supplements.
Kali Phosphoricum is potassium phosphate, another food additive and mineral supplement.
Natrum Phosphoricum is sodium phosphate, a laxative which carries a risk of kidney damage.
Magnesia Phosphoricum is magnesium phosphate, another mineral supplement.

So, what this boils down to is small amounts of minerals and some flowers dissolved in water and dropped onto a sugar pill. Okay. All well and good, right? Well, recall the title of this post. "Un-Homeopathic" is up there. And the reason is quite simple.

These tablets first of all use what appear to be mother tinctures, which tend to be in the 1:1 to 1:100 range of dilution. According to homeopathy, that's not very potent and shouldn't be very effective. Not very good, but not why I call it un-homeopathic.

Take a look again at that list of active ingredients. According to homeopathy's idea of "like cures like", the proposed remedy should consist of substances that, if given to a healthy person, would cause the symptoms experienced by the person needing relief. So, for a sleeping aid, you would expect to find substance that, if given in full, undiluted form to a healthy person would cause sleeplessness. You might expect to see, for example, some dilution of caffeine or some other stimulant that keeps a person from falling asleep easily. Instead, we see a flower commonly known for soothing/calming effects, another flower used for calming effects, an antimicrobial used in beers and a grass that is used to make a hearty breakfast and, as I found out, as an alt-med aphrodisiac. Okay, maybe that last one could keep a person up (no pun intended), if alt-med claims are to be believed. But no. We have two supposed relaxants in there. According to homeopathy, then, Calms Forte Sleep Aids should keep the user from falling asleep.

This product is made by Hyland's, which, as you may recall, recently had their nightshade-containing teething tablets recalled due to the risk of infants being poisoned. If homeopathy is true, then Hyland's may be engaging in false advertising and fraud (selling a homeopathic stimulant as a sleep aid). Perhaps a complaint to the Federal Trade Commission is in order.

In the end, though, don't worry about all those skeptics committing suicide by taking entire bottles of Hyland's Calms Forte Sleep Aid. Despite the package warning:
In case of accidental overdose, contact a poison control center immediately. In case of emergency, the manufacturer may be contacted 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 800/624-9659.
They also state in their FAQ that overdose is impossible:
You cannot overdose on Hyland’s Calms Fort&eacute [sic]. Follow label directions for the correct dosage for your age.


  1. Good catch, Todd. It's pretty funny to think that they're not homeopathic because there is active ingredient left in them.

    BTW, did you hear about AoA being shut down on Facebook?

  2. Not just active ingredient actually being in there, but the wrong ones! At least, according to the principle of "like cure like".

    As to AoA, yeah, I heard. Don't know any details, though.

  3. Ren & Todd--

    The worry about adulterants is why the SF 10:23 event made their own "Coffea Cruda 30c" solution.

    And as to the AoA shutdown on Facebook -- some adults with autism complained mightily to FB about the AoA page and a couple of others. They were down for a day or so; back up.

    A huge tempest over very little.

  4. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  5. Are you stupid?

    Of COURSE non-drug remedies cannot harm you if you take large quantities. If they could, they would be regulated by the FDA because they would be drugs.

    You DO realize that the FDA can't just willy-nilly regulate commerce, right? They can only regulate things that harm people.

    You guys then think you are really something special for proving that products are correctly defined? I don't know what to say about the stupidity of that...

    It's true. Some products without harmful side effects do actually have positive properties that work. Do you question the effectiveness of glucosamine and chondroitin just because you can "take a whole bottle without killing yourself"?

    And why are "drugs" preferred by you? Is it better to use Ambien and then wake up in a daze and drive around while you are still asleep? That's better to you?

    Chamomile has long been known as a sleep aid, but getting a proper dose through tea can be difficult. If these pills just give a proper concentrated dose of that, then I can see why they would work in a non-harmful way.

    1. The whole point is they are UNconcentrated. They are diluted. That's the point of homeopathy.

    2. PRMan apparently didn't bother reading the actual post. If he had, he probably wouldn't have written that last paragraph. I mean, either that or he has no clue what homeopathy actually is.

  6. Amusing, because skeptics, while debunking many belief systems, end up creating a belief system of their own: dogmatic skepticism.
    Calms Forte is really an herbal preparation, as opposed to a homeopathic formula. If that's the worst that can be said about it, its not much to sneer at. Given the number of patients and consumers who get ill from prescription and otc meds, poking a stick at suppliers of homeopathic formulations is, well, a bit silly. Even if homeopathy is nothing more than the placebo effect in action, it does far less harm than allopathic medicines.

    1. If you fully read the article you would have seen the actual concentrations.

      "Even if homeopathy is nothing more than the placebo effect in action, it does far less harm than allopathic medicines."

      Tell that to the people who forego real treatment for sugar pills:

      The saddest story is about the baby girl, Gloria Thomas, who died from sepsis because her homeopath dad refused to treat her eczema with actual medication. He got jail time.


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