They are wheeled out every time the Medical Establishment or the lobby section of Big Pharma feels it’s time to put the boot into homeopathy again. To me they always sound grim and oddly threatened, rather in the way of those Politburo spokesmen when they feared some grass-roots rash of perestroika was about to break out. They claim to be heavyweight scientists and pronounce that their research studies reveal homeopathy to be entirely ineffective. I think of Dr Johnson’s response when he kicked the stone to rebut Bishop Berkeley’s contention that everything is immaterial.

I mean, to someone who has actually benefited from a wide range of homeopathic medicine for forty years, the most generous explanation is that these hardheads have as yet failed to catch up with the science (quantum-related, I think) that demonstrates that observations are conditioned by the viewpoint of the observer… In this case, a viewpoint that won’t stand for anything that threatens its monopoly, and one whose cynical self-protectiveness is sufficiently virulent to fidget or fudge the findings of the research. Their objective wits seem so numbed by this fear that it doesn’t occur to them to question how the placebo effect could be so selective, targeting homeopathic cures while leaving drug-related cures entirely unaffected!

The internet… My old laptop and I have come late to this expanding universe, but now on any pretext I run to have my wonder reaffirmed. So to today’s relevant research: I enter, “Prescription drug-related death”. My laptop barely stutters… Maybe its age accounts for the entries being a bit dated. First: “In 2004 a team of scientists reported, ‘A definitive review and close reading of peer-review journals and government health statistics shows the total number of deaths from medical treatment is 783,936 in the USA. It is evident that the American medical system is the leading cause of death and injury in the United States.’” And then from way back in 1994 a study in the journal of the American Medical Association reported that modern medicine causes 180,000 deaths each year in the USA (most of these from prescribed pharmaceutical drugs). Homeopathy can’t compete!

But if forty years of kicking the stone, or the gnosis of actual experience counts for truth, here is one who knows it works. Not in every case, but often enough. Where to begin? I like this one because it reads like a parable: I’m deep-stabbed at the foot-of-the-thumb by a noxious rose-thorn. The poison moves so fast that I dash to the doctor for an antibiotic. I complete the course: it seems to have worked. But within an hour of swallowing the last antibiotic there are alarming red ‘threads’ moving up my arm. Fast. Not what one wants to see. It has to be Saturday night… Out in these sticks there is nowhere to turn. Unless… I take a dose of Hepar sulph 30. Another after half an hour. I actually watch the red threads begin to draw back, then draw right back; in a couple of hours they disappear.

Parable? We are being told that the threat from bacteria becoming increasingly resistant to antibiotics, due to overuse, misprescribing and indiscriminate addition to animal feeds (“Each year in the United States, at least 2 million people become infected with bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics and at least 23,000 people die each year as a direct result of these infections.” – Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) could, as one leading medic on the radio put it the other day, “take us back into the Dark Ages”. No more routine hip-replacements, for a start. Given such a situation, you might expect even the hardheads to be swallowing the homeopathic placebo! Any port in a storm… We’ll see.

But, come on, how could it all be placebo? What, with animals? Surely not. Salome, the cow, her stubborn mastitis cured by Pulsatilla, the vet left scratching his head? The retrievers, within seconds calmed from thunder-terror by Arnica? True, they’re dotty enough to fall for a placebo – but not the more earthed Salome. From the endless list my favourite, the Lazarus in the collection, is Masher. I returned to find him laid out on the mat, mostly dead, eyes dilated, a terrible foam dried round the mouth, rigor mortis from the neck down, a goner. But you do what you can, which is to ring Mrs Robinson; she has no truck… not even with death.

“Describe his character,” she says. “He’s big,” I say. “A bit of a wimp. He cries on walks if he thinks he’s being left behind.” “Sulphur 200,” she says. I don’t know how I manage to get this stiff, almost lifeless thing to swallow the pill. An hour later I am down the far end of the kitchen from where he lies. By chance I’m opening for lunch a tin of pilchards. The tin half-opened, and there he is back to life, staggering the length of the kitchen. So he’s up for my lunch. He never looked back.

This article was John Moat's last Occasional Didymus column for Resurgence & Ecologist.

John Moat was a poet and painter. His final novel, Blanche, was published by The Write Factor.