Secret Shopper Homeopathic Homework

We at ‘Skeptics With A K’ (currently the only podcast officially endorsed by the Merseyside Skeptics Society… watch this space) like to keep out listeners on their toes – issuing the odd homework assignment to get you ‘orrible lot involved a bit (we love you really). In the past, we’ve asked you to sign up as an organ donor, sign the Sense About Science libel reform campaign, and to tell everyone you know about the Skeptics With A K podcast. All worthy, noble causes, I’m sure you’ll agree.

In Episode 10, we set you our most challenging and ambitious homework yet. And I can tell it was particularly challenging, and particularly ambitious, through a very simple metric – next to no bugger did it. Or at least, if they did, they didn’t tell us about it. Well, just like at school, don’t think you can get away from homework quite so easily! No, no – we SwaK-kers (as we never, ever want to be called) are harsh taskmasters, and so we’ve left this particular homework open-ended.

For those of you who were talking amongst yourselves at the back of the class and missed the homework assignment, we asked you to heal Mike’s poorly poorly cough. You see, he’d had his irritating cough for a while, and normal medicine hadn’t seemed to shift it. Boo hoo. This is where you, our helpful readers/listeners/friends come in – you’ve all heard that homeopathy can be handy for such niggling coughs, but alas you’re no homeopathic experts, you wouldn’t know where to start when it came to finding an effective remedy! Which is why we urge you to visit your local pharmacy, and ask their sage advice on which homeopathic medicine will be best to fix Mike’s poorly poorly cough. Explain the symptoms, explain your inexpertise at all things homeopathic, and see what the pharmacists advise you. If they advise you:

‘Homeopathy? Nah, mate, that’s bollocks! It’s just water and sugar pills, you want some real medicine, or to see a real doctor’

that’s great! But if they advise you:

‘Ah, yes, good question – I recommend your friend takes two 30C arnica/sulphur/bullshit tablets four times a day until he is healed/dies of undiagnosed lung cancer’

then it’s not so great, and we’d like to know about it. And, most importantly, for reasons that will become apparent in the fullness of time, tell us what you find out!

Happy secret shopping, our homeopathic homeworkers!


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  1. #1 by Stu on December 16, 2009 - 21:17

    I was sat staring out the window (not having any friends) when this assignment was set. But I’m more than happy to throw myself into into it with gusto!

    Any chance we can have a bit more on the symptoms of the cough though? I’d feel a bit of an idiot walking into a phamacy saying poorly poorly.

  2. #2 by Mike on December 16, 2009 - 22:01

    It’s a chesty cough, bringing up nasty sticky green gunk. It’s worse first thing in the morning and last thing at night. It’s actually very painful to cough first thing in the morning – like my lungs have dried out. I’m also mildly asthmatic. Non-smoker.


  3. #3 by Marsh on December 16, 2009 - 22:40

    I think you missed ‘total wuss’ from that list… 😉

  4. #4 by Alex on December 17, 2009 - 00:11

    I did my homework the other day. Gavin will be bringing the “medicine” to you tomorrow. I’ll tell you what, I’ve lost all faith in boots. She never asked for symptoms. I guess it’s my fault I did ask for a homeopathic solution to the problem, she did however tell me it’s ok to dilute the tablets. Can you Imagine that? If the laws of infinitesimals was right you would overdose. She’s a bloody maniac! Hang on, ohh, thank Sagan, Its all crap. Someone might have gotten hurt

  5. #5 by Gavin on December 17, 2009 - 00:23

    Got a lovely bottle of ‘New Era for Coughs, Colds & Chestiness’ in my pocket containing 450 tablets. It contains (no) Potassium Chloride – which is lucky, because that really doesn’t help coughs at all (in fact, the only medical use for it seems to be lethal injections & induced abortions).

    No idea what to do with it now, but I’ll bring it along tomorrow!

  6. #6 by Gavin on December 17, 2009 - 00:28

    Since there’s 450 tablets, I suppose I can spare 50 to overdose on tonight. If I’m found dead tomorrow you’ll know what killed me.

  7. #7 by Mike on December 17, 2009 - 16:29

    I’ve occasionally been asked that if I’m so sure homeopathic remedies (I keep typing rememedies, don’t know why), then why don’t I take a whole bunch of pills to prove it, Randi-style. Well, I just think it’s generally a bad idea to take a shedload of pills. Based on the literature I am very confident homeopathy is a load of rubbish, but that’s not to say that the pill I am taking is actually homeopathic, or doesn’t contain small amounts of something else like mercury.

    Anywho, I might have something interesting, I’m gonna see if I can do this in a few places in Spain, and see what differences there are between the UK and here (it’s advertised at nearly every pharmacy I’ve seen). Although I really don’t want to actually buy any, I’ll have to see if I can find a way of wriggling out of it at the last second.

  8. #8 by Mike on December 22, 2009 - 02:29

  9. #9 by Dionigi on December 23, 2009 - 10:17

    Niggly coughs are usually caused by a tickle in the throat. Feathers cause tickles so take a drop of water from a bird bath mix it with 1 litre of distilled water and dance around for a few minutes to mix it up correctly. Take one drop of this elixir and mix it with 1 litre of water and do the hokey cokey again. after 2 or so of repertitions the resulting mixture will be so strong that it will probably cure the cough just by thinking about buying it. Must work because it’s been made correctly

  10. #10 by Stu on December 23, 2009 - 19:39

    Well I’m lucky! I live in Ormskirk and there’s only one dispensing chemist other than Boots and they don’t sell woo. I’m going to Skem over the next few days so I’ll have a go there.

(will not be published)