My own personal hell.

Greetings, my lone reader! I’ve been on a bit of a sabbatical, what with  life and work and all, but I’m here again. But none of that matters now, because I have news! I went (sound of drumrolls please)… to a homeopathy ‘lab’! Yay for sarcastic semi-apostrophe things!

As I wandered through my own private version of hell the ‘facility’, I took stream-of consciousness notes on my cell phone. I will relay these to you now, adding only a little editing, but please feel free to skip to the conclusion:

  1. It’ s a fucking factory. Attached to what seems like an old office complex.
  2. The first thing the main tour guide guy mentions is the companies local market share. Literally. As in, “Hi, I’m So-and-So. This is company X, which has a 60% market share. So, on this tour you’ ll be looking at…”
  3. Apparently, our expectations are going to be ‘stretched and expanded’. Tour guide guy’s ponderous English is the result of a German upbringing, we are told.
  4. Have been herded into the seminar room to get the presentation.
  5. Market share mentioned again.
  6. Standard ‘what is X’ presentation doled out on homeopathy. This includes a hilarious ‘misconceptions about homeopathy’ page (hilarious because the whole ‘does it actually work?’ thing is never addressed).
  7. Apparently, ‘traditional’ medicine only treats the symptoms of disease, whereas ‘holistic medicine’ treats each patient as an individual snowflake. So if you wander in with a cough and a bad attitude, you will get a different bottle of water than sunshine bob who also has a cough.
  8. Oh, and homeopathy works by stimulating the the bodies’ own healing process. Whatever the heck that means.
  9. Also, it is based on the concept of ‘like cures like’, which is apparently some sort of medical universal law. Basically, a substance that causes the symptoms of a particular disease in a healthy person will cure those same symptoms in the sick. Mechanisms for this are not discussed. Also not discussed is the fact that those substances have no effects at 30C dilutions (which will be delved into further down)
  10. The talk moves to the history of homeopathy. These guys are very much ‘traditional’ homeos.
  11. Dilution and knocking (percussing?) gets a long defence. The term ‘biophysics’ is used. Shaking/knocking/whatever is needed to introduce energies unknown into the extremely diluted solution. Each step introduces more ‘biomechanical’ energy into the solution ‘potentiasing’ it.
  12. I can’t go on. This shit is just too retarded. The guy actually gives an example where a symptom he never treated for was ‘cured’ in a patient who never disclosed it to him, chalking it up as a win for the ‘totality’ of the treatment paradigm. Apparently, even the side effects of homeopathy are always beneficial under all circumstances thanks to the homeopath listening to how your day was before prescribing your bottle of dilute alcohol.
  13. One thing homeopathy most definitely isn’t, is herbalism. Most definitely. So stop asking already.
  14. Guy goes to great length to seem like he’s not impugning his herbalist brothers, but warns us that they may be idiots who don’t know what they’ re doing, especially as herbal medicines can have ‘side effects’. I almost fall out of my chair suppressing laughter.
  15. Guy says it like it is: Homeopathy can be used on anyone because it has no chemical activity whatsoever.
  16. Guy warns us about unlicensed homeopathic charlatans and do-gooders with no idea about how ‘it really works’ setting up practice under false pretences. We are urged to check the credentials of our local homeo and report fakers to the homeopathic council or some such.
  17. Talks over and we’ re off to see the three sections of this ‘facility’. Have now moved beyond seeing this as funny and into mild depression at the earnestness of it all. It really is a charade, but everyone involved takes it so goddamn seriously.
  18. We’ re in the dispensing lab, putting on dust-gear: lab coat, mop cap and booties. Like I said, deadly serious.
  19. Everything is also weirdly accurate. Only 73% alcohol can be used for sterilization. Only 96% alcohol can be used to make certain types on tinctures.
  20. Got a look at the ‘mother tincture’ storage room. Mother tinctures are the initial alcohol-soaked samples that then get diluted down to nothing. I would never have guessed that so many parts of a ‘free range organic’ cow could be involved in such a hippie-friendly type of woo. Lung, brain, eye, pituitary glands… these guys must have gone at the thing with with an axe or something. Especially as the samples have to be taken directly after slaughter.
  21. Yet more loopery: some of the solutions they make are for registered homeos only. Paraphrasing guy: that shit will, no kidding, make you jump off a bridge if taken under the wrong circumstances. So much for ‘no bad side effects’.
  22. Someone asked about a specific disease (liver failure, I think). The answer was that homeopathy has no effect on dead tissue, only live tissue that’s behaving abnormally. So treating cancer with it is just fine, I guess.
  23. These guys are very proud of their new R 20 000 000 factory. They keep mentioning the cost of everything. Air filters: That’s part of R 5 000 000 you’re looking at.
  24. They’ re also keen to get international accreditation, whatever that means in this context.
  25. At quality control now. There is not a hell of a lot of actual lab equipment here, just a fume hood and a few forlorn centrifuges. Oh, and a millipore (a machine that makes small quantities of high-purity water) with a label saying ‘aqua distilla’ and a product code slapped on it. Which means, I guess, that my lab was sitting on a fucking gold-mine of homeopathic product all these years. Silly buggers us, using it for resuspending purified DNA and such.
  26. The other equipment is dedicated to testing tablet and capsule quality. They have a dissolution bath, gel consistency tester and brittleness tester, to name a few.
  27. We have been taken to another room containing an auto TLC spotter and HPLC system. The tame lab monkey doing this part of the tour goes on about quality control testing of the raw samples and I have my epiphany: This place is a version of hell for me. To so carefully and seriously do something, such as testing a plant sample to make sure that the compounds it contains are within the standard parameters, only to have it go off and be rendered into something useless. Worse yet, the lab monkey seems entirely unaware that the sophisticated tests he’s just carried out are pointless when the sample is diluted until not an atom remains. He could be throwing in grass clippings instead and get the same end product.
  28. The correct term for all of this, of course, is pseudoscience
  29. Feeling less sorry for the monkey now. When asked about if he wanted an NMR machine or MS, he waxed lyrical about the potential market for new products that owning one would open.
  30. Running through the production area now, we’re a bit late. Same deal as the dispensing lab, with dust gear and clean rooms. Only here it is appropriate as stray hair or dust in the products will lead to complaints.
  31. Pill making is a genuinely interesting business. The sample has to be mixed, dried, packaged in pills, the pills packaged in bottles and the whole lot sealed and shipped. Pity we’re out of time.
  32. Saw the pill maker in action. Its like a Gatling gun working in reverse, spinning rods and cams that spit pills out of the end. Awesome.
  33. The filling and capping operation is also nice. I wonder if the extra percussion from the machine that hits the cap on makes the pills magic for cars as well.

And that’s the lot. The only positives I could draw from the experience were that the place at least employed some folks. Even then, they could all have been doing something useful (as opposed to filling bottles with water and lactose powder pills) instead.

Going back to the lab, however, now feels like the first day of spring.


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