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Op-Ed: Is homeopathy a form of quackery?

The Ontario Homeopathy Act, which has been in the works since 2007, was officially passed yesterday, April 1, 2015, as a means for Ontario to “regulate the field of homeopathy in a way similar to how it governs doctors and nurses,” as explained in an article published by The Global News. And many would agree this is a noble attempt, as regulation will prevent or at least lessen the chance of harm if certain homeopath products are purchased. The problem some see is that with regulation comes legitimacy; “if products are approved by Health Canada and the people ‘prescribing’ them are regulated by the province, the public can be forgiven for thinking homeopaths are as legitimate as physicians who prescribe prescription drugs,” which writer of The Globe and Mail, Andre Pircard, calls “aiding and abetting fraud.”

But is regulation the answer for Canada and other countries like the U.S. who already have regulatory bodies in place for other substances, materials and practices? And is homeopathy a “form of quackery” (as noted by Picard)? This all depends on who you ask, and of course not all homeopathic forms of medicine are created equally. Most forms of homeopathic cures got their beginnings in the 1800s and early 1900s before regulatory bodies or modern scientific testing was even around, and many claims from ancient practices use evidence dating back hundreds of years. These ancient practices included “bloodletting, leeching, purging, and other medical procedures” intended to “balance the body’s humors’ by opposite effects.”

But some of these ancient practices have been adapted, which includes more modern methods like cupping. Cupping is a more well-known trend, featured on popular television shows and by celebrities, that involves pulling the skin up and away from the body to increase blood flow to the area. This method typically involves heating glass bulbs that are suctioned to the body (and there is dry and wet cupping, where sometimes blood is actually drawn from the skin).

For any of these modern forms of homeopathic approaches, or any of the hundreds of other forms of it, there is little strong, medical evidence of its effectiveness, but can it hurt? Probably not. And when it comes to the question if it’s a form of quackery, whether you would agree or disagree, many would argue that whether you agree with it or not, regulation can lead to increased safety, even if it does increase its legitimacy.

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