Hocus Pocus, Mumbo Jumbo and Balderdash


Recently I was on a panel at a public event and warming up nicely to one of my favourite rants. The evils of nutritionism. That is the folly of ascribing all the ills of the modern diet to any one nutrient like fat or sugar. I was liberally plagiarising Dara O’Briain’s brilliant line about nutritionists – “Dietician is to nutritionist as Dentist is to Toothyologist” – and had suggested that some nutritionists were really no better than Homeopaths.

Right in front of me a hand shot up into the air and its owner declared herself a nutritionist and a homeopath. She didn’t like “Mister Arr-Tee-Eee’s” tone and informed everybody present at great length of how much she didn’t like my tone. Apparently what people like me didn’t realise is that the combination of “homeopathy, good nutrition, science and energy” would restore all our fortunes. Or some such.

This wasn’t the forum to take her to task and play the grand inquisitor. Much as I really wanted to say to her that if she believed in Homeopathy and she was a Nutritionist as opposed to a Dietician she had no business offering anybody any kind of advice. Least of all nutritional advice, and that she should stop. Sorry to be boring and probably one of the few people in the blogosphere saying this but – nutritional advice, even the simplest, even if it’s offered with the best of intentions should only be given by somebody who really knows what they’re doing.

Not saying anything was the right call because if I had waded straight in I probably wouldn’t have checked out her business after the conference. An oversight which would have deprived me of the knowledge of vast new vistas of quackery and utter nonsense.

Not untypically for naturopaths she offers treatments from a range of different disciplines. A little bit of homeopathy, some Applied Kinesiology, a smidgin of aromatherapy … and Iridology. “Iridology” now this was a whole branch of pseudo-medical mumbo jumbo that was new to me. And I have spent a few side splitting weeks reading about it since then. But I really want to save the best to last so let’s deal with the others first.


The Irish Society of Homeopaths has according to its website “over 400 members”. Typically they will charge somebody visiting their practices €70 or €80 for an initial consultation and €60 for every visit thereafter. The cost of each “homeopathic remedy” varies but will be in or around €10. Several health insurers operating in the Irish market will even subsidise the cost of your visit to a homeopath. All of this is carried on in broad daylight as if it was a legitimate business with some provable basis in scientific fact. Which of course it is not. The research dismissing homeopathy is beyond the scope of this blog but if you need to satisfy your curiosity about how far out of the ball park of credible treatments homeopathy has been thwacked you can find links here, here, here, here and here.

All you really need to know about homeopathy can be deduced from the actions of the FDA in America. Several dozen homeopathic products had been approved for sale but by the 1970’s as research into Homeopathy’s lack of benefits was established all of those approvals were withdrawn. So in other words none of them are “effective for its intended purpose”. Yet we have no problem with their sale and distribution in this country.

Let’s wake up and smell the 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 coffee dilution. This is a multi million euro industry that is being subsidised by the health insurance premiums that 90,000 people in the last two years have found too expensive to pay. The Irish Society of Homeopaths helpfully lists all the insurers who are willing to let their members claim for homeopathic “treatment”. The next time your health insurer comes looking for a hike in your premium you might suggest to them that they first dispense with spending your premium on fripperies which have absolutely no basis in provable scientific fact whatsoever.

Moving swiftly along then to Applied Kinesiology – a pseudoscientific system of muscle-testing and therapy invented in the 1960’s. The basic idea is that every organ dysfunction has a corresponding muscle weakness. So a problem in your liver will manifest itself as muscle weakness in the chest. Palpating your muscles for weakness therefore allows Applied Kinesiologists to diagnose and treat organ failure, or so they would have you believe.

Although the claims of applied kinesiology are so far removed from scientific reality that testing them might seem a waste of time, some rigorous (and very patient) scientists have subjected it to a lot of controlled tests and demonstrated what should be obvious to anybody of a rational disposition. It’s all balderdash. But if my word is not enough you can read the scientists dismiss Applied Kinesiology herehere, here, here and here as “no more successful than random guessing”


Aromatherapy …. Oh please  …   here,  here here and here if you really think it actually needs debunking. It’s probably very nice having smelly oils rubbed into your body but its not medicine.

And so to Iridology.

I get a little bit giddy when I come across woo-woo talk. I look around and can’t believe that everybody else isn’t also seeing the emperor prancing around with his dangley bits on public display. There are quite a few Iridologianistarians (or whatever name they made up for themselves) practicing in this country. Apparently they all believe that the key to diagnosing all manner of illnesses from colo-rectal cancer to hearing loss in adolescents requires nothing more than looking in somebody’s eyes. Iridology is the study of Iris Diagnosis which was invented by a man who noticed that something about the iris of the Owl whose leg he broke changed. I’ll bet…. they must have gone flame red with fury.

Iridololiolioliginistinarianists will for an appropriate fee map your eyes and tell you what is wrong with you or what will go wrong with you. They can do this because each minute area of the iris corresponds to another part of the body, they say. They also say that if one of those areas is not working they can tell because the iris contains nerve fibers connected to various parts of the body through a previously unknown nerve pathway in the cranial nerves. Each dysfunction of the body registers as a lightening or colour change in the iris.



The bad news for the Iridologinitwits is to be found herehere, <a href="http://www.


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5 responses to “Hocus Pocus, Mumbo Jumbo and Balderdash

  1. Here’s a way to make homeopathy a matter of informed choice: http://colummccaffery.wordpress.com/2011/01/05/homeopathy-making-choice-meaningful/

    I did some work on health insurers paying quacks and thereby giving recognition to woo. Here are the details: http://colummccaffery.wordpress.com/2010/09/13/alternative-health-insurance-well-pay-for-anything/

    Now, if we must have woo, then at least let it be national woo: http://investmbsireland.wordpress.com/2010/03/30/invest-in-training-the-miracle-that-is-rearology/

  2. Ellen Cranitch

    Hello …I really enjoyed that, ! Check this out if you have time,,,very funny…http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HMGIbOGu8q0

  3. I feel I need to add some commentary about ‘energy’ and ‘toxicity’. The words are often used by both alternative/complimentary practitioners and the public, but rarely challenged.

    We hear about Chinese Qi energy, to light ‘energy’ and all sorts of energy-heavy nutrients and they amount to nothing more than a gut feeling. “There’s a great energy about this place/person” family relatives often declare!
    There are about 16 types of energy defined by the physical universe and alternative practitioners (APs) cannot ignore the reality of gravity, electricity, magnetism, heat, light and kinetics. However none of these seem to refer to the ’energy’ of APs. I have challenged an AP to explain their ‘energy’ and whether it was electromagnetic. Alas the closest explanation I understood was that energy = patient suggestibility x feeling of wellbeing of caring human contact.
    Or E = S x W

    Anyone seeking support or treatment for a disorder will obviously feel better from a bit of TCL. And TLC from a respected practitioner is even more powerful – E = (S x W)2

    De-tox diets, books, regimes, workouts, drinks, elixirs amount to a multi-billion dollar industry.
    However all mammals have natural detox mechanisms: The liver, kidneys, digestive system and Cytochrome P450 that chemically break down harmful stuff.
    There is and always has been only one detox chemical known to help: H2O.
    Water hydrates, dilutes, carries and mediates many chemical reactions in the body.
    And water is fairly cheap.

    So why not detox and energise with a tall glass of water and open up with someone you respect. It will save you money.

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