Sometimes my blog posts write themselves. NFL quarterback Aaron Rodgers decided to forgo COVID-19 vaccines and chose homeopathy to build antibodies against it. As you can predict, he tested positive for COVID-19.
There are two things here that need to be debunked. First, homeopathy, although I know that almost any scientific skeptic knows that homeopathy is pseudoscience. Second, building antibodies without vaccines – can’t be done, but we’ll get to that.
I’m writing this not for you science geeks out there – nothing I’ll write will cause you to exclaim, “Oh my, and I thought homeopathy worked!” But this is for those who may come here to find out if Aaron Rodgers knows anything about vaccines, COVID-19, or homeopathy. He doesn’t.
Who is Aaron Rodgers and why does he hate COVID vaccines?
Aaron Rodgers is a well-compensated quarterback for the NFL’s Green Bay Packers football (real football) team. He has had a fairly successful career and had avoided controversy in his life. He could best be described as nondescript with occasionally funny press conferences after games.
The NFL has a fairly strict policy that all players need to be vaccinated against COVID-19. They do allow some exemptions, but the league decides whether they are acceptable or not.
This past summer, Aaron Rodgers, in response to a question on whether he had received one of the COVID-19 vaccines, said that he was “immunized.” At the time, no one thought much about it, because to most of us, immunization equals vaccination, although they are technically slightly different.
Rodgers then appealed to the NFL to be exempt from the vaccine policy by stating that he had raised his antibody levels with homeopathy. He thought he was so clever by doing this, trying to avoid scrutiny. Except, as I stated, he caught COVID-19, and now can’t play for at least 10 days.
Sadly for Aaron Rodgers, homeopathy doesn’t work, and the only way to raise antibody levels for COVID-19 is with vaccines. These two states are about as scientifically sure things as anything I’ve ever written.
Homeopathy is pseudoscientific quackery
Any scientist with even a microgram of integrity (so that leaves out Joe Mercola, Sherri Tenpenny, Andrew Wakefield, and others) realizes that homeopathy is nothing more than water, very expensive water.
As I have written before, a lot of people, mostly Americans, conflate homeopathy with natural medicine, like herbal medicine. It isn’t. Basically, homeopathy, known as the “law of similars”, relies on the belief that “let like be cured by like”, and is a term coined by Samuel Hahnemann, a German physician who was appalled by the state of medicine at the time, the late 1700’s.
And frankly, the state of medicine at that time was pretty bad, so any new idea might have been worth trying. Unfortunately, when Hanneman was alive, basic scientific knowledge was missing – cell theory and germ theory were a few decades from even a basic understanding of those scientific principles.
Homeopathic potions are prepared by serially diluting the original substance (could be anything from diseased tissue to arsenic to snake venom plus mercury) with shaking and forceful striking on an elastic body, which they term succussion.
Each dilution followed by succussion is assumed to increase the effectiveness. Homeopaths call this process potentization. So far, it’s just merely diluting and shaking, so nothing special there.
This dilution process is such that there is only a tiny possibility of any molecule of the original substance showing up in the solution. That’s why it’s just water.
The dilution methodology is precisely described by Hahnemann. The first dilution is one part to 99 parts water. Then, one part of that first dilution is then diluted in another 99 parts water. Each of these dilutions is called 1C, so two dilutions would be called 2C, with one part of the original similar diluted in approximately 10,000 parts water.
But it doesn’t stop there. Homeopathy uses 30C dilutions, which means that the original substance is diluted 30 times. Now that might not seem like much, but if you look at the math, there is no chance that even a single molecule of the original substance exists in this solution.
So let’s look at the math. At 30C, the dilution is now 1 part substance to 1060 (or 10 followed by 60 zeroes) parts water. You would need to drink 1034 (or 10 followed by 34 zeroes) liters of water (which is about 10 billion times the amount of water on earth) just to get one molecule – one single molecule of the original substance.
Since water poisoning is a thing, you probably should not consider this.
Now diluting substances to create a physiological response is a well-known, evidence-based method in medicine. For example, allergy hyposensitization uses extremely diluted antigens (say cat dander), while slowly increasing the concentration to build a tolerance to the immune response. But the dilution is substantially reduced, maybe 1-2C at most.
Moreover, this methodology is based on the science of immunology, not magical processes. We know why this works to reduce allergies.
A meta-analysis (which is the pinnacle of quality science) of over 225 medical studies and 1,800 peer-reviewed papers has found no evidence that homeopathy has any credible medical effect. Moreover, this study found 57 other systematic reviews of homeopathy that supported this conclusion.
In other words, homeopathy is the antithesis of science-based medicine. In fact, the authors state that people who choose homeopathy may put their health at risk if they reject or delay treatments.”
Here’s what we know about homeopathy:
- There is no reliable evidence that homeopathy is effective for treating health conditions.
- Homeopathy should not be used to treat health conditions that are chronic, serious, or could become serious.
- People who choose homeopathy may put their health at risk if they reject or delay treatments for which there is good evidence for safety and effectiveness.
- People who are considering whether to use homeopathy should first get advice from a registered health practitioner. Those who use homeopathy should tell their health practitioner, and should keep taking any prescribed treatments.
I know that is a lot of science, but homeopathy is quackery, it cannot and does not have any clinical effect. Well, I guess it could quench thirst, but there are cheaper ways to do that.
Aaron Rodgers went with pure medical quackery to “immunize” himself against COVID-19 when we know only vaccines can do that. And he has a $134 million contract to play football, and he risks it all on quackery. How can a seemingly intelligent man be so stupid?
Raising antibody levels
OK, I think I put to rest any notion that homeopathy can do much of anything. It can’t.
But is there a way to raise your antibody levels outside of vaccines? Without writing a term paper on the immune system (which you can read if you want), antibodies are very specific. They attach to antigens on the various pathogens that might attack a person, which starts the whole cascade of activities that causes the immune system to destroy that pathogen.
Antigens are unique to each pathogen – even if there were a way to force your body to make more antibodies unless it actually recognizes and destroys the pathogen, it would be useless. And most antibodies are not generalists – there are no antigens that are common to every virus in the world.
Thus, the only way to create antibodies against a pathogen is for the immune system to encounter the pathogen and its antigens. This happens in one of two ways – becoming infected by the pathogen (and being subject to all of the risks of that infection) or through vaccination which introduces the antigen without the medical risks of the infection.
That’s it. No homeopathy, herbs, blueberry-kale soy milk smoothies, supplements, or magic potions are going to make antibodies against COVID-19. Boosting your immune system against COVID-19 or any disease is a ridiculous claim made by scamming pseudoscience-pushing quacks, not by real scientists with expertise in immunology.
The ONLY way to boost your immune system is with vaccines. And it does that in a very selective manner, against the pathogens coded for in the vaccine. Boosting the immune system or raising some random antibody levels actually could be dangerous since runaway immune systems can lead to chronic inflammation, autoimmune diseases, and other serious conditions.
Like I have written on so many occasions, your immune system, unless you suffer from some immune-suppressing chronic condition, runs perfectly well. You can’t make it any better than it already is. Except with vaccines.
Rodgers, you’re a fool
A lot of professional athletes fall for quackery, in their desire to stay healthy and at peak performance levels. Certain things, such as carefully monitoring their nutrition levels, are based on relatively good science.
But in this case, Aaron Rodgers fell for pseudoscience and quackery to think that homeopathy is a valid replacement for COVID-19 vaccines. And to think that anything, including homeopathy, can do boost the immune system is risking one’s career.
Rodgers deserves to be mocked for this. A smart guy who falls for a scam – well, I guess it happens all the time, and mostly we wouldn’t care. But Rodgers thought he really was immunized, so he didn’t wear a mask (against NFL protocols) around teammates, the press, and staff. He could have passed the disease to any of them (and who knows, he may have).
I hope the NFL fines him for as much as they are contractually able to do. Because the other vaccine deniers in sports (there are a few trying to get around the rules), need to know there are consequences to their actions.
- Linde K, Clausius N, Ramirez G, Melchart D, Eitel F, Hedges LV, Jonas WB. Are the clinical effects of homeopathy placebo effects? A meta-analysis of placebo-controlled trials. Lancet. 1997 Sep 20;350(9081):834-43. Erratum in: Lancet 1998 Jan 17;351(9097):220. PubMed PMID: 9310601.
- Maddox J, Randi J, Stewart WW. “High-dilution” experiments a delusion. Nature. 1988 Jul 28;334(6180):287-91. Erratum in: Nature 1988 Aug 4;334(6181):368. PubMed PMID: 2455869.
- National Health and Medical Research Council. 2015. NHMRC Information Paper: Evidence on the effectiveness of homeopathy for treating health conditions (pdf). Canberra: National Health and Medical Research Council; 2015.
- Stub T, Musial F, Kristoffersen AA, Alræk T, Liu J. Adverse effects of homeopathy, what do we know? A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Complement Ther Med. 2016 Jun;26:146-63. doi: 10.1016/j.ctim.2016.03.013. Epub 2016 Mar 26. Review. PubMed PMID: 27261996.
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