Guess the Fake Cure – Reveal

Last week we asked you to consider a list of homeopathic remedies, each more absurd than the last, and identify the one that was faked. In this context, ‘fake’ means “not a remedy available for sale from certain homeopathic retailers”. Sadly, only one was completely made up by us – I wish I could say they all were. Thank you to all who participated. I really enjoyed reading the reasoning behind your picks. Here’s how you voted:

  • Water 30C (30%, 123 Votes)
  • Sleep 1M (12%, 48 Votes)
  • Stonehenge 200C (9%, 38 Votes)
  • Crayola Crayon (Burnt Sienna) 30C (5%, 19 Votes)
  • Berlin Wall 200C (5%, 19 Votes)
  • Shipwreck 30C (4%, 18 Votes)
  • The colour red 1M (4%, 16 Votes)
  • Boa Constrictor 6X (3%, 14 Votes)
  • Brillo Pad 6C (3%, 12 Votes)
  • Photocopying powder 30C (3%, 12 Votes)
  • Clarinet and Sax Reed 30C (3%, 11 Votes)
  • Colon (Ascending) 30C (3%, 11 Votes)
  • Hoover Dust 9C (2%, 9 Votes)
  • Air Cabin Pollution 30C (2%, 9 Votes)
  • Light (Energy Saving Light Bulb) 6C (2%, 9 Votes)
  • Nasal Mucosa 30C (2%, 8 Votes)
  • Mayonnaise 6C (2%, 7 Votes)
  • Sausages 3C (1%, 6 Votes)
  • Human Dandruff 30C (1%, 6 Votes)
  • Soap 30C (1%, 5 Votes)
  • Bacon Fat 30C (1%, 5 Votes)
  • Weeds and Shrubs 30C (1%, 4 Votes)
  • Mixed Nuts 30C (1%, 3 Votes)
  • Cigar Smoke 9C (0%, 1 Votes)
  • Canary Feathers 12C (0%, 1 Votes)
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Are you suprised that this is the fake?

Only 19 of you correctly identified Crayola Crayon (Burnt Sienna) 30C as the faked homeopathic remedy. If it exists, I was unable to find it. It was surprisingly difficult to come up with something that sounded both ridiculous and plausible in the context of the other remedies. We used several sources, mostly this list from Ainsworth’s: “The First Name in Homeopathy and Bach Flower Remedies”. A few were also sourced from this list from Helios Homeopathic Pharmacy.

Clearly, many of you felt that Water (30C) was just too dumb sounding for even the most irrational of homeopaths. It’s on the Helios list as Water (Guild), just under Walking Tree (in Vodka) and above White Tailed Deer Fur. I wasn’t able to find any information on its use, so what it’s supposed to cure is a mystery. The Guild that’s referenced might be the Guild of Homeopaths, an organization that doesn’t seem to have a web presence. In case you’re thinking that this remedy is an outlying case, know that it has company. You can also purchase Aqua Marina, Aqua Pura Bottled Water, Tap Water, and so on. There is plenty of water on water action happening.

Sleep was placed on the list because I thought it was (somehow) a dilution of the act of sleeping. Apparently ‘sleep’ is also a term for what I call night time eyeball snot. The remedy might be neither of these. Online I was able to find a remedy called Sleep 30C that is a combination of different dilutions of substances and then itself diluted to 30C.

Many of you reasoned (quite logically) that it would be at the very least difficult to obtain a piece of the Stonehenge monument for dilution. They don’t need to folks. This remedy is a dilution of the emanation from Stonehenge. But let’s not stop the face-palming there. This remedy was tested via a meditative proving: “The remedy pictures and symptoms were intuited, channelled or experienced physically, emotionally and spiritually”. This is a homeopathic remedy based on even more imagination than the norm.

We’ll continue the sightseeing with the Berlin Wall.  This remedy actually was made with a piece of concrete. What can the Berlin Wall do for you? I’m not really sure: “The major theme that is profoundly archetypical of this remedy centres on an essential question of survival with integrity and the coping strategy evolved to meet this profound problem of survival”. What?

The homeopath that conducted the proving on the Shipwreck Helvetia confirmed its utility for us. She did this by identifying watery phrases spoken by her subjects, such as: “washed out” and “bubbly tummy”; and also identifying symptoms reported in watery parts of the body, such as “sore fanny”. The method is flawless.

The Colour Red, probably refers to homeopathic remedies linked to chakras.Yes you can have your pseudosciences combined! This remedy is made by wrapping a glass of water in red cloth and placing it on a mirror in the sun for 4 hours or so before diluting. I’m so glad someone took the trouble.

I agree that the coolest remedy on the list of Boa Constrictor. I was a little underwhelmed that it ended up being a remedy for confusion, mixing things up and forgetting. It apparently also causes you to crave beer, bread and mustard. I should have my tap water tested for Boa.

Only one lonely vote for Cigar Smoke. I found a forum thread where the process for trapping cigarette or cigar smoke is described – basically putting a glass of water in a cardboard box with a lit cigarette. Considering whether cigar and cigarette smoke could end up being a remedy, a homeopath commented “After all we even have (proved) remedies such as X-ray!” Yeah, X-ray is on the list too.

Canary Feathers also only had one vote. While I was unable to find specific information about its use, I was able to find out that birds are becoming increasingly popular in homeopathy. Read about bird remedies here.

If water has memory, then homeopathy is full of hoover dust.

By now you see the pattern. I was unable to find any information on the other remedies, not even my favourite: Hoover Dust. I don’t know how they ended up being stocked as remedies for sale, but there they are, ready for purchase by anyone who may come across them or worse, by anyone to whom they are prescribed.

Confused about how any of these remedies could be thought to work? There is no restriction on what makes sense in homeopathy. If something seems to violate a law in homeopathy then the remedy is said to not work on that law. For example,isopathic remedies aren’t based on the law of similars, rather they’re based on the law of “sameness”. Can’t get a sample of what you want to test as a remedy? No problem, just get the emanation. It goes on and on. As for me, I’ll be waiting for the day that I google Crayola Crayon (Burnt Sienna) 30C and find it on a list of homeopathic remedies. It will happen sooner or later.

Special thanks to Erik Davis and Scott Gavura for their assistance with this post.

17 Responses to “Guess the Fake Cure – Reveal”

  1. Chip says:

    I was going to explain why I thought that the crayon was the fake (1 point for me!) but my reasons could equally apply to many of the other stupid remedies.

    One question about the hoover dust. Hoover is a brand of vacuum cleaner. Does that mean that my Dirt Devil preparations are just a placebo?!

    • Dianne Sousa says:


      I’ve sat in meditation for a little while and the emanations from your Dirt Devil have affected me greatly. I believe that the remedy picture is strongly reminiscent of archetypical demons or maybe poptarts.

  2. Bryan says:

    The original survey ran head-on into poes law (by intent, I’m sure): “Without a winking smiley or other blatant display of humor, it is impossible to create a parody of Fundamentalism that SOMEONE won’t mistake for the real thing”

    I voted for water, cause how can you ‘C’ the thing that stuff is ‘C’d in. . .guess I’m not crazy enough to be a homeopath. I’m still trying to wrap my head around how you make a 30C of water . . . with water. I guess the essence of the water is somehow maintained.

    My head hurts.

    • Everett Abbott says:

      Probably using a site specific water and dilution via “purified” or some other named type of ‘C’ing water… yeah, there goes the head pain. Thanks for nothing, Brian.

      • Dianne Sousa says:

        I think I’ve aquired a tolerance to the head pain that results from trying to understand homeopathy.

        These lists include things like water from certain sulphur springs, waterfalls, lakes, and holy water. With enough effort you can come up with an explanation that would seem to fit with homeopathic principles. If you already have a headache I wouldn’t try it though.

  3. John Greg says:

    “This remedy is a dilution of the emanation from Stonehenge. But let’s not stop the face-palming there. This remedy was tested via a meditative proving: ‘The remedy pictures and symptoms were intuited, channelled or experienced physically, emotionally and spiritually’”.

    That is just too funny for words. Triple kowtow faceplant!

  4. Michael5MacKay says:

    From @lecanardnoir’s recent tweets to Dana Ullman, it appears that dolphin sonar is also a homeopathic remedy. As well I recently read a journal article on the homeopathic “proving” of EMF as a remedy. When you read a description of a homeopathic proving, you see it’s just one enormous case of post hoc ergo propter hoc: everything a prover feels for weeks after taking the remedy is attributed to the remedy, not anything else. For instance, indigestion is caused by the remedy taken weeks ago, not the 26 tacos you ate last night.

    • Dianne Sousa says:

      I’d add that homeopaths doing the provings also sometimes include how they themselves feel through the proving, what they and the provers feel before the proving begins, significant news events that occur prior and during the proving, astrological charts, and stories from classical literarure.

      Provings also do not need to be planned, they can also be accidental. For example: a homeopath in his youth ingests too much marijuana, writes about his experience in his diary at the time and then reinterprets his experience in a way that gives him ideas on how to use homeopathic marijuana.

    • Alex says:

      Actually, I rather like the idea of a “EMF” remedy. Next time some nut starts petitioning against cellphones or wireless routers, just offer him a homeopathic EMF formulation, guaranteed to get rid of all his symptoms. The only way to fight crazy is with more crazy!

  5. Chip says:

    Michael, It’s absurd to think that EMF would be a good homeopathic remedy. Hell I’d take Miami Sound Machine or Dee-lite over EMF!

    Um… I think I misunderstood.

  6. Kash Farooq says:

    Now that the result is out, I can reveal my project: The Weird Homeopathy List

    A humorous look at ridiculous remedies.

    We’ve covered no less than 2 types of water remedy. Plus light from astronomical bodies, Berlin Wall and a Thunderstorm.

    If anyone wants to contribute a guest post, please contact me!

  7. Iain Martel says:

    For those who found Stonehenge too improbable a basis for a homeopathic remedy, I heartily recommend the epic tale of the “Mt Roineabhal Summit Rock” proving for an example of quite how imaginative homeopaths can be:
    It’s long, but well worth reading the whole tale. Just strap a pillow on your head before you start, to avoid concussion.

  8. Nancy says:

    Great article, but leaves me torn between laughing and crying!
    Maybe I need essence of theatre.


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  • Dianne Sousa

    Dianne holds a degree from the University of Guelph in criminal justice, public policy and social psychology. She became involved in the skeptical movement after becoming disillusioned with the addictions counselling field. Skeptical topics of interest include alternative medicine and it's regulation in Canada, pseudoscience and the law and skeptical activism. She also crochets extensively and enjoys bad film, usually at the same time. Follow me on twitter: @DianneSousa. All views expressed by Dianne are her personal views alone, and do not represent the opinions of any current, former or future employers, or any organizations or associations that she may be affiliated with.