Berlin Wall Remedy Illustrates 'Ridiculous' Homeopathy

Peter Russell

August 29, 2019

An expert in alternative medicine who triggered newspaper coverage of homeopathic pills based on ground up fragments of the Berlin Wall on sale at a pharmacy backed by the Royal Family, said he was underlining the "ridiculousness" of homeopathy.

The Berlin Wall remedy, reputed to aid feelings of separation and boost relationships, is offered for sale by London-based Ainsworths, a pharmacy by appointment to the Queen and Prince Charles.

Ainsworths, which makes no health claims about the product on its online site, sells Berlin Wall in a wide variety of forms and strengths, including £18.60 for a 50g bottle of pills, and £108.00 for 100ml in medicating potency of 96% alcohol.

The remedy, and its connection with the Royal Family, featured in media coverage this month, attracting headlines such as 'Berlin Wall pills: a cure for emotional trauma – or royal-endorsed quackery?' in The Guardian.

Those press articles started with comments given to the Science Media Centre by Edzard Ernst, emeritus professor of complementary medicine at the University of Exeter. Prof Ernst had been invited to give a briefing to coincide with publication of his new book, Alternative Medicine: A Critical Assessment of 150 Modalities.

Prof Edzard discussed evidence behind alternative therapies including kinesiology, radionics, and placentophagy, as well as diagnostic tests, such as hair analysis and live blood analysis.

However, it was the Berlin Wall remedy that piqued the attention of journalists attending the briefing, who were apparently surprised that ultra-diluted preparations of concrete from the infamous barrier that separated East and West Berlin could be offered for sale as a viable treatment for various health conditions.

In The Times, Prof Ernst said that such remedies were "not only bonkers but also ineffective", and questioned the use of royal warrants for giving a sense of credibility to homeopathy.

Prince Charles, who gave his royal warrant to Ainsworths, is renowned for his support for homeopathy, which is no longer funded by the NHS.

Tony Pinkus, director of Ainsworths, is quoted in The Times as saying Prof Ernst was "an arch sceptic of homeopathy" and that there was high quality research to back the efficacy of homeopathic remedies. Medscape News UK approached Ainsworths for comment but none had been received at the time of publication.

We asked Prof Ernst to elaborate on his views.

Q&A

What did you tell journalists about Berlin Wall in your briefing?

There were about a dozen journalists invited, and I had prepared a dozen slides of things that they might have never heard of in terms of alternative medicine, and Berlin Wall appeared on one.

The journalists were amazed to see Berlin Wall as a homeopathic remedy, and I explained that anything can be made into a homeopathic remedy, even non-material stuff like X-rays, vacuum, the sun, whatever. And I explained how the preparation is prepared, and they were just aghast, and they couldn’t believe it.

Then they went home, did some research, found that it was marketed by Ainsworth.

Then they found the royal connection.

I got some emails asking me what I thought of the warrant. You can see in the press what they wrote about that. I was truly amazed that what was for me a press release about a new book then turned out to almost entirely focus on Berlin Wall.

What do you think about that particular product?

It shows how ridiculous homeopathy is.

According to the 'like cures like' principle, the Berlin Wall separated people, inhibited communication, etc. So, if you suffer from any of these, you take Berlin Wall.

It's ridiculously simplistic, and wrong.

You have been critical that Ainsworths has royal warrants. Why?

A royal warrant I would have thought is a sort of distinction for something positive, and I don't see anything very positive about marketing stuff like they do.

On a wider picture, you have said these homeopathic medicines are often placebos. Do you think that perception of Berlin Wall in particular could have turned people off alternative medicines?

Yes, I think this is why the press picked up on it so strongly.

It just highlights the ridiculousness.

Anybody who reads that medical treatment is composed of Berlin Wall a thousand times diluted realises that this cannot be effective, and in fact is misleading the public.

And people who dig a little bit deeper must realise that it's not just misleading the public, it's endangering the public because if somebody takes that seriously and treats a serious, treatable condition with that sort of 'medicine', he or she will lose time to treat it effectively, or in a worst case scenario, would lose their life.

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