Berlin Wall Pills and Other Homeopathic Quackery

Experts say homeopathy treatments such as pills made of Berlin Wall concrete or tablets containing X-rays are ineffective.

In 2019, the British royal family's chemist of choice, Ainsworths, came under fire for selling Berlin Wall pills, a homeopathy treatment giving false promise to cure loneliness and isolation.

The pills are derived from concrete taken from the Berlin Wall, a physical and ideological barrier that divided the city into areas controlled by the free Federal Republic of Germany and the communist German Democratic Republic. The wall collapsed in 1989, but its remains are still scattered throughout Berlin.

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However, the pills technically don't contain any pieces of the wall, as the concrete is diluted in water. This technology allegedly allows the water to preserve the memory of the Berlin Wall, causing patient's inner barriers to fall like the wall did three decades ago.

Despite the outrage, as experts called the treatment quackery, pills are still available online at Ainsworths' shop.

The Berlin Wall treatments are sold as granules, pills, tablets, and liquid, containing different ingredients like sucrose or lactose. Depending on the amount, the price ranges from £8.50 to £125.40.

In response to Healthnew's inquiry about the evidence of the product's effectiveness, Ainsworths' spokesperson said, "Professional homeopathy does not operate by making claims for a product; these would be antithetical to its very principles."

What is homeopathy?

Homeopathy, or homeopathic medicine, was developed by a German physician, Samuel Hahnemann, more than 200 years ago. The medical system is based on two theories. The first one, "like cures like," suggests that a disease can be cured by a substance that produces similar symptoms in healthy people.

The second notion, "law of minimum dose," involves the belief that the lower the dose of the medication, the greater its effectiveness. For example, many homeopathic products are so diluted that no molecules of the original substance remain.

Dr. Kevin Smith, a bioethics expert from the University of Abertay Dundee, says homeopathy is completely implausible, and its tenets oppose several fundamental scientific principles. Unsurprisingly, the body of published evidence does not support the idea that homeopathy could be effective.

The notion that grinding up bits of the Berlin Wall, diluting the dust, and consuming the resultant 'medicine' could ever be an effective treatment of psychological or emotional conditions is facile and ludicrous. Yet this is the basis for all homeopathic remedies.

Smith

A systematic evidence review conducted by the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council in 2015 concluded that there is no health condition for which reliable evidence exists that homeopathy is effective.

"Homeopathy should not be used to treat health conditions that are chronic, serious, or could become serious. People who choose homeopathy may put their health at risk if they reject or delay treatments for which there is good evidence for safety and effectiveness," the authors wrote.

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Smith says most studies on homeopathy's effectiveness are of low quality, and their findings cannot be believed. Meanwhile, any positive outcomes can best be explained by "false positive" results due to statistical anomalies.

Hand holding homeopathy prescription bottle in hand.
Image by Manish Namdeo via Shutterstock

Ineffective, risky, and widely used

In the United States, products labeled as homeopathic have not been reviewed by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for safety and effectiveness in diagnosing, treating, curing, preventing, or mitigating any diseases or conditions.

However, despite the lack of evidence, over six million Americans use homeopathy for specific health issues.

Dr. Edzard Ernst, a prize-winning physician and researcher, says people choose homeopathy over modern medicine because of misinformation spread by homeopaths and the homeopathic industry.

If people knew what homeopathic remedies are, that they contain no active ingredients, are utterly implausible and do not work beyond placebo, they would not use them.

Ernst

Ernst warns that believing in homeopathy can lead people to forfeit effective therapies for their illness, which can even be fatal.

Other risks of engaging with homeopaths include receiving incorrect diagnoses and being advised to avoid immunizations, including for the children, thus risking the future health of yourself, your children, and the community, Smith says.

"The production of homeopathic medicines is not in any way regulated in most countries, and many of the pills and potions on the market have been shown to contain dangerous contaminants such as heavy metals, "Smith adds.

Warnings over dangerous ingredients

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Berlin Wall pills are just one of the myriad of ridiculously-sounding homeopathy products. For instance, at UK-based Helios Homeopathy, patients are offered X-rays in the form of soft tablets, pills, granules, and oral liquid.

Although the product description doesn't mention what the product is intended to be used for, it describes the process of making X-rays.

Some other products, however, worry health regulators. In 2019, the FDA warned Red Mountain Incorporated for lacking quality oversight while manufacturing products containing potentially toxic ingredients, such as snake venom.

The agency also warned against using homeopathic teething tablets containing the poisonous plant belladonna, which poses an unnecessary risk to infants and children.

Smith says the more homeopathy is encouraged, such as permitted by governments, integrated within healthcare systems, or supported by celebrities, the greater the societal damage will be.

He says the high rates of delusional belief among the population is an intrinsically undesirable situation, which will inevitably cause medically bad outcomes wherever people adopt homeopathy instead of science-based medicine.

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