Is a homeopathic laugh really funny?

Or is it just a watered down joke?

I found a small package of “medicine” recently in the desk drawer of a former employee and was about to toss it aside as I cleaned out the desk for a new employee. Then I noticed the small word “homeopathic” on it and couldn’t resist looking it over a little more closely.

At first glance, you see this very medicine-like name: Oscillococcinum. Then the “Flu-Like Symptoms” listed at the top, followed by those symptoms: body aches, headache, fever, chills, fatigue.Boiron2


It lists the benefits: non-drowsy, no side effects, no drug interactions, and works naturally with your body. The words “homeopathic medicine” is subdued, but in all caps. But the fascinating thing here is the claim the package makes: “reduces duration and severity of flu symptoms.”

That has to be worth trying. What can a medicine that “reduces duration and severity of flu symptoms” be worth? Walgreens sells this very package for $15.00.

So why is that bad? If it truly relieves the symptoms, can you put a price tag on it?

Well… it’s pure pseudoscience. Essentially, you’re buying confectioner’s sugar for for $2.50 per gram. That should really have been the title of this post: “Walgreen’s sells confectioner’s sugar for $2.50 per gram.” Except it isn’t just Walgreens. CVS sells it. Walmart sells it.

So what’s in it? Let’s look at the back of the package.


“Active ingredient” is listed as “Anas barbariae hepatis […] to reduce the duration and severity of flu-like symptoms.”Boiron1

The amount of this “active ingredient” is listed as 200CK HPUS. That translates to¬†1 part in 100^200 -that is a 1 followed by 400 zeroes.

Let me be clear: that’s 1 part in a solution that is larger than our solar system. In fact, for one single molecule of “Anas barbariae hepatis” to be present, the solution would need to be much larger than the known universe! And that’s a good thing if you can read Latin. “Anas barbariae hepatis” is essentially a Barbary duck heart that has rotted in a jar mixed with pancreatic juice and glucose.

But if ever taken this “medicine” I promise you ingested no Barbary duck heart -so if you vomited a little in the back of your throat reading this, you needn’t worry about swallowing it twice!

The tell-tale sign that it’s all good is the “inactive ingredients” and the “Other information” sections. Listed are lactose and sucrose and a note that “each 0.04 oz does (1 g) contains 1 g of sugar.”

It’s just sugar. Nothing else.

And it costs $15.00 at your local chain pharmacy.


About Carl Feagans 312 Articles
Professional archaeologist that currently works for the United States Forest Service at the Land Between the Lakes Recreation Area in Kentucky and Tennessee. I'm also a 12-year veteran of the U.S. Army and spent another 10 years doing adventure programming with at-risk teens before earning my master's degree at the University of Texas at Arlington.