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Prince Charles’ Dabblings in Science

In 1990, Prince Charles launched "Duchy Originals", a company that promotes organic farming and sells various organic foods. Nothing wrong with that at all. But when the products sold include a “Detox Tincture,” then the Prince and his supporters are wading into muddy waters.

The description of "Duchy Originals" is as follows: “Duchy Herbals Detox Tincture is made from extracts of Artichoke and Dandelion, cleansing and purifying herbs to help support the body’s natural elimination and detoxification processes, and help maintain healthy digestion. Duchy Herbals Detox Tincture can be taken as part of a regular detox program.” 

What’s wrong with that?  To start with, the whole concept of a “detox program” is nonsense. It’s not as if the body were a network of pipes and tubes and storage compartments that become clogged with detritus and have to be occasionally cleaned out. But never mind the lame theory, where is the evidence for detox? What chemicals are being removed and how? What testing has been done to see that these herbs are “purifying?” Where are the before and after blood samples? The answer of course is nowhere.  Not only is Charles scientifically delusional, he is deluding others by implying that health can be improved with a tincture of artichokes and dandelions. And what is in those tinctures? How many studies have been carried out in terms of dosage or reproducibility?  Roughly as many as were carried out for snake oil in the heyday of patent medicines. 

But at least Dutchy Originals doesn’t sell homeopathic medicines. That isn’t because Prince Charles doesn’t believe in them. He does. As does the whole Royal family. Homeopathy is the ultimate “alternative” nonsense. The idea that molecular shapes can be imprinted on water by shaking and banging into a leather pillow, and that a pharmacological effect becomes more potent with dilution, is totally absurd. Such notions defy everything we know about science. Of course homeopaths argue that just because the theory makes no sense, we can’t conclude that homeopathy doesn’t work. They are right about that. We don’t conclude it doesn’t work because of the implausibility of the theory, we conclude it doesn’t work because dozens and dozens of properly controlled studies have shown that homeopathy is no better than a placebo. But it could be worse, because it can distract from possibly effective treatments. 

Two recent cases in Australia attest to this. A 45-year-old lady died when she treated her bowel cancer with homeopathy and a nine month old baby died of blood poisoning contracted from severe eczema when her parents treated her with a homeopathic “remedy.” Still, Prince Charles remains an advocate of homeopathy despite the UK’s National Health Service concluding after a thorough investigation that the NHS should cease funding homeopathy, that no further clinical trials should be conducted, that explanations for why homeopathy works are scientifically implausible and that evidence shows homeopathy doesn’t work. That’s pretty conclusive. Yet staggering amounts of money are being spent by people who think magically instead of scientifically. So, Prince Charles, stick to something you know about, like preventing ugly office towers from being built next to the Old Bailey.