What sort of treatment would you think might be given to a four-year-old boy who doesn’t like bedtime and growls at his preschool classmates? Maybe just a couple more years on Earth so he can sort himself out? Teaching him that growling is rude? Nope. Rabies. Rabid dog saliva, specifically. That’s what a naturopathic “doctor” named Anke Zimmermann prescribed to a child in British Columbia, Canada after his preschool teacher complained about the boy “hiding under his desk and growling at people.”
Lyssinum, aka hydrophobinum, aka rabid dog spit, is accepted as a “legitimate homeopathic remedy” by the Canadian government. Seriously. It’s used by homeopaths and naturopaths to treat such symptoms as “fear of going mad,” dizziness at the sight of water, “desire to urinate on seeing running water,” dry mouth, frothing at the mouth, and a whole bunch of other oddly specific symptoms. All in all, the symptoms that lyssinum is purported to treat sound like drastically less extreme symptoms of rabies. Diluted rabies, if you will.
Zimmermann wrote about the treatment in her blog. She says that the boy’s “symptoms” were likely due to a dog bite he sustained in the past. Not a rabid dog. Just a dog. From her blog:
People who need Lyssinum, also known as Hydrophobinum, are often afraid of the dark, of dogs, even of water, have trouble falling asleep and are overly excitable. Aggression can also be a strong feature as can dreams of dogs, wolves and being attacked. This can even develop into full psychosis.
She continued on, defending the treatment and touting this case as demonstrating the efficacy of homeopathic remedies, apparently oblivious to how weird and irresponsible it looks from the outside:
Bottom line: Homeopathy can work wonders for children with behavioural disorders if the remedy can be clearly perceived. I have seen a number of similar cases over the years which helped me to recognize the remedy in this case so quickly. Lyssinum aka Hydrophobinum is only one of many remedies that can be helpful for children with rage, aggression and various behavioural disorders.
She writes that lyssinum could not possibly transmit rabies, because it’s a harmless sugar pill, and that the fire she’s come under shows ignorance in the medical community. She says that “homeopathy either works or it doesn’t.” If it doesn’t work and is only a 100% water placebo, then why does it matter what it’s made of? She writes:
Now it can’t be just water and toxic and full of live viruses at the same time, can it? You can’t have it both way[s]
Yes, Anke, that’s right. You can’t have it both ways. Choose wisely.
Unsurprisingly, medical practitioners are highly skeptical of lyssinum treatment. According to Bonnie Henry, B.C. health officer, in a statement to the Washington Post, there is no scientific evidence that supports treating childhood aggression with the saliva of rabid dogs.
Henry continued to express her concern with Zimmerman’s suggestion that Jonas’ behavioral problems were caused by a dog bite in the past. Henry says that, while she believes homeopathy has a “complimentary” place alongside accepted western medicine, she’s concerned that “people may delay or avoid proven effective treatments while relying on homeopathy alone.” Henry also says she’s going to request that government reevaluates lyssinum as an accepted treatment.
Zimmerman, also unsurprisingly, defended herself:
There’s no common consensus about how the remedies work, but that they work is pretty clear. There are literally hundreds of millions of people around the world using homeopathy.
I’ll just leave you with a list of logical fallacies.