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How much Homeopathic medicines would be required (or considered) an overdose?

Every Homeopathic site claims the treatments are safe and have no side effects, it it even possible to overdose?

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Well, you could f*cking drown. –  Konrad Rudolph Mar 7 '11 at 21:09
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The dosage is the poison - you eat/ingest/inject/expose yourself to a compound in a high enough dose, it'll be fatal. –  Darwy Mar 26 '11 at 15:20
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Some interesting stats on homeopathy: youtube.com/watch?v=8KbLHii8M2A –  Chris S Mar 29 '11 at 21:48
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The best joke I ever read about Homoeopathy plays on the "fact" that a weaker dilution is considered to be more efficacious (so the more times it's diluted, the stronger the effect). Did you hear about the guy who forgot to take his homoeopathic medicine? He died of an overdose! –  Tom Chantler Mar 31 '11 at 12:46
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@Lagerbaer: Apart from legalese? Mainstream scientists also have legalese about water too. –  Andrew Grimm Apr 1 '11 at 12:17

7 Answers 7

up vote 24 down vote accepted

Yes, it is entirely possible to overdose on almost anything.

  • liquid (water) homepathic medicine can of course cause water intoxication
  • sugar pills can cause problems with blood sugar I presume, although I do not know in what amounts.
  • liquid (alcohol) we all know this one :)
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I think the question was really more, "Is it possible to overdose on the poisons they add to homeopathic medicines," to which the answer is no.... –  BlueRaja - Danny Pflughoeft Mar 7 '11 at 19:54
    
@BlueRaja-DannyPflughoeft: what would the poisons they add to homeopatic preparations? They are made 99.999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999% of water. And maybe 1 or 2 molecules of something else... –  nico Nov 1 '11 at 20:47
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An overdose of homeopathic medicine has been found to exhibit the same adverse effects as DHMO poisoning. –  Ates Goral Apr 19 '13 at 2:22

That all depends on the homeopathic "medicine." True homeopathic "medicines" are so diluted that they have no active ingredients, and so this would be impossible, assuming that there are no harmful inactive ingredients, and not taken in quantities associated with hyperhydration.

That said, there are some substances that are sold that are said to be homeopathic, and do contain active ingredients. Depending on the substance, it would be possible to over-dose on these. For instance, I know that there are some zinc lozenges that are marketed as homeopathic, and you can overdose on that.

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Also keep in mind that homeopathic medicine isn't regulated in all countries, so there's no guarantee that they even did the dilutions correctly! This is why a lot of us, at least in the US, who participated in the 10:23 events did NOT actually stage an overdose. –  Shinrai Feb 25 '11 at 15:13
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There is no such thing as a harmless ingredient. It's possible to overdose on anything –  Russell Steen Feb 25 '11 at 16:01
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I am assuming reasonable amounts, and even unreasonable amounts that aren't ridiculous. You can die of hyperhydration. It's not easy though. –  Ustice Feb 25 '11 at 17:23
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Assumption of "reasonable amount" is basically a tautology. A reasonable amount would be an amount by which you don't kill yourself. Thereby if you assume "reasonable amounts" then you can always claim that you can't overdose on arbitrary thing A. –  Russell Steen Mar 4 '11 at 21:08
    
@Russell Steen: Yes. I was leaving it to the reader to understand this, as each substance will have it's own toxicity level, but like water and aspartame, you have to consume quantities that would likely tire you out before you reached it. (We're talking gallons here.) Even drinking 2L of true homeopathic "medicines" would only cause you to have to urinate often. Therefore I think that it is safe to say that it is harmless under normal consumption situations. Even twice or three times normal. –  Ustice Mar 7 '11 at 14:29

You can certainly get poisoned by the solvant (water, alcohol, sugar, etc.), but for the rest... there is no rest!

Homeopathic medicines do not contain any active ingredient - this is universally accepted by both the science community and the homeopaths. Typical dilutions are 1 part in 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 (1 followed by 60 zeroes).

Homeopathy is supposed to work through some never seen, semi-magical "memory" in the solvent, which somehow gets "potentiated" through extreme dilution and some "succussion" (magical beating) on a bible (no, really).

So, mmm, no. :-)

Find more about it here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_topics_characterized_as_pseudoscience

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Avogadro number is around 10^24. 1 in 10^60 would be 1 in around 10^36 moles ; for water this would be around 10^30 tons, I think. That seems pretty huge to me. Where does this 10^60 number come from? –  subtenante Nov 1 '11 at 12:49
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the "preferred" solutions (C30) are diluted in 10 parts 60 times (hence the 1^60) factor. See: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homeopathic_dilutions#Potency_scales –  Ebenezer Sklivvze Nov 1 '11 at 13:55
    
Indeed, thanks. Impressive waste of resources to dilute so much. (I believe that you miscounted your pasting of 0's, though, you seem to have written 75 of them where you meant 60.) –  subtenante Nov 1 '11 at 15:12
    
@subtenante thanks, fixed. –  Ebenezer Sklivvze Nov 1 '11 at 20:34
    
@subtenante which is why "manufacturers" of homeopathetic "medicine" just fill bottles with tapwater and label them whatever they have an order for :) –  jwenting Nov 2 '11 at 8:06

Not every medicine marketed as homeopathy actually is.

For example, in Germany there’s an ointment on the basis of calendula, Calendumed. Despite the fact that it’s marketed as one, this is not a homeopathic treatment: it has an active ingredient in it and while its efficacy in healing wounds has not yet been proved1 the active ingredient is there, and it’s measurable. So you could overdose on it (then again, it’s an ointment so you shouldn’t eat it anyway). More specifically, the original tincture uses a potentiation of C1, which is a dilution of 1:100. Not much; enough to have an effect, certainly enough to overdose on.

Furthermore, if we accept that homeopathy exhibits a placebo effect then we must also accept that it exhibits a nocebo effect. If a person believing in its efficacy deliberately overdoses on homeopathic medicine it’s entirely possible that we could observe (severe) adverse effects. In fact, these adverse effects have been observed in various studies, e.g. Weissenfeld & al., 2010.


1 But there is evidence that it helps with radiation burns so it’s reasonable to suspect that it also works for the advertised indications.

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Whoever downvoted this, would they care to explain? I’d really rather know about any inaccuracies in my answer and would be happy to correct them than just getting downvoted. –  Konrad Rudolph Mar 7 '11 at 21:59
    
Zicam is also marketed at "Homeopathic", but contains real Zinc Gluconate. There have been mixed studies that zinc really has an effect on the common cold or not, but this is the "active ingredient". –  Jeffrey Mar 29 '11 at 17:58

It actually been try on purpose. The sceptiques du Québec organize a group suicide where everybody took overdose on homeopathy (according to the recommendation of ). Nobody suffer any effect.

As mention before, those pill does not contains any active ingredient.

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It IS possible to overdose on homeopathic pills! Really!

While there are no active ingredients in a homeopathic pills, there are inactive ingredients. The biggest one is Lactose. For those who don't know, Lactose is a form of sugar derived from milk.

I am one of the many that is Lactose intolerant. If I took enough of these pills then I will get very sick.

Here's a link to a seller of homeopathic medicine and what they have to say about the lactose.

If we believe what they say on their web site, then the average person would overdose at about 78 pills. While 78 pills sounds like a lot, this is less than what skeptics take for their homeopathic awareness events, like the 10-23 campaign.

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I don't know if that would be technically considered overdose. If you're sufficiently sensitive to a specific eccipient you need just one single pill to get sick. Also the "classical" homeopathic preparations are [in] water. –  nico Nov 1 '11 at 22:14
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@nico At the local "health food store", about 90% of the homepathic stuff is in pill form. And if you want to get "technical" then it isn't medicine either. But if I took more than the required dosage I could get sick from unintentional side effects. Call it what you want. –  user3938 Nov 1 '11 at 22:19
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@nico overdose is always personal, as it depends on the effects observed. For a severely lactose intolerant person, a single such pill can make them seriously ill, they've OD'd on lactose. For most people who aren't so intolerant, that number is far higher. Similarly with drugs like morphine, someone addicted to it has a far higher tolerance for it than others. My mother for example when she was morphine addicted in hospital would require doses several times a day that would kill you or me near instantly just to prevent withdrawal symptoms. She was cured of it by reducing the dose over time. –  jwenting Nov 2 '11 at 8:11
    
@jwenting: sorry, but overdose means that you ingested more than the recommended doses. So if you get sick after getting one pill it is not due to an overdose, it is just an adverse effect at normal dosage (just semantics, but important in this case). –  nico Nov 2 '11 at 10:38
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@David Kessner: I specifically talked about homeopatic preparations, not medicaments. As I said in my other comment, there is a difference between adverse effect at normal dosage and at overdose: the end result can be the same (you get sick) but pharmacologically and legally they are very different things. –  nico Nov 2 '11 at 11:58

Most homeopathic remedies are so far diluted that there just is not enough substance left to cause any kind of pharmacological effect. But there are some exceptions, the most well known was probably Zicam, which has been recalled by the FDA because is could destroy the sense of smell due to the contained zinc. One could argue that it is not a "real" homeopathic remedy, but it was marketed as such.

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