Popular Science

Homeopathic and natural remedies aren’t the same thing—and only one of them is total nonsense

Therapies from nature sometimes work, but diluted dog rabies does not.
herbs willow bark

Some herbal remedies, including willow bark (second from the right), actually do work. But most don't.

Willow bark has a long and storied history. The Sumerians used it 4,000 years ago to treat pains of all kinds. So did the Egyptians after them, and the Chinese and the Greeks, but it wasn’t until the turn of the 20th century that anyone bothered to isolate the active ingredient and begin manufacturing it into the pills we know it as today: aspirin.

We didn’t even really understand the mechanism by which aspirin works as an anti-inflammatory until 1971, and yet for thousands of years humans have been treating themselves with it.

In some ways, this sounds like a triumph of natural medicine. The humble willow tree contained one of the best pain relief drugs we have, and those silly

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