Today’s post is a guest contribution from a Canadian pharmacist who is writing under the pseudonym Sara Russell:
Every morning I open up Facebook and expect to see the usual sharing of my friends’ latest adventures in pseudoscience, but it wasn’t until this morning that I felt compelled to write about something. A friend had posted this video asking for feedback.
When I saw the title “The Story of Mozi-Q”, I remembered that Scott had discussed it in his post “Homeopathic Insect Repellent: Is there anything the Natural Health Products Directorate won’t approve?” Fast forward one year, and it appears the marketing machine behind Mozi-Q is getting their message out there.
My initial thoughts after viewing the video were that it was very cleverly done. They were obviously trying to capitalize on the popularity of Dr. Mike Evans viral “23 and 1/2 hours: What is the single best thing we can do for our health?” Others have successfully used this format, with my favourite being “One Minute Medical School” – I admit the artwork isn’t as cute, but the result is still a concise, effective teaching moment.
My next few thoughts were that it was catchy enough that I was inevitably going to be getting bombarded with requests for this product at the pharmacy where I work. After all, it sure sounds compelling, and my entire town would be considered easy pickings. While I knew right away that as a homeopathic remedy it couldn’t actually do anything, I searched the web for a quick summary of the evidence for Mozi-Q hoping that I could post a rebuttal. I only found advertisements disguised as news reports. So I am resigned to writing this post.
Who is Mozi-Q?
Erin Bosch, the narrator of the video, is the creator of this product. I assumed Erin was a homeopath but I haven’t been able to find any educational qualifications for her. She is listed as the owner and founder of Xerion Dispensary, Xerion Homeopathie – a homeopathic clinic, as well as the CEO and President of the Western College of Homeopathic Medicine, where her mother, a homeopath, is listed as “College Director”. It seems that Erin’s entrepreneurial spirit is what inspired her mother to become a homeopath. Is it possible that the creator of this product has no formal training in homeopathy or science herself? I can’t say for certain, but I suspect she has some business training.
What is Mozi-Q?
According to Health Canada’s product information listing, Mozi-Q contains homeopathic dilutions of:
Cedron 4.0 C, Grindelia 6.0 C, Ledum palustre 3.0 X, Staphysagria 4.0 X, Urtica urens (stinging nettle) 6.0 X
Non-medicinal ingredients are aqua, croscarmellose sodium, ethanol, lactose, magnesium stearate and sucrose.
Homeopathy has been covered expertly by Scott, so I won’t go into what those dilutions mean in this post. Suffice to say, Wikipedia compares a 4C dilution as the allowable concentration of arsenic in U.S. drinking water. By homeopathic logic, this is actually a relatively low-potency remedy, so one wonders why they didn’t formulate it with much higher dilutions.
The video claims that Mozi-Q prevents mosquitos, ticks, sand flies, no-see-ums, black flies, head lice and bedbugs from biting, and further claims that if you do get bit, it’ll reduce the symptoms. The focus then turns to the ingredient staphysagria, commonly known as Delphinium. She tells a story about how mosquitoes have always been known to avoid delphiniums, so therefore if you make yourself a Delphinium by taking Mozi-Q, the mosquitoes will be repelled by you. Nice, neat explanation. But where’s the evidence?
Evidence for Mozi-Q
This is the evidence they’ve provided. That’s right, a YouTube video of 13 people – friends and family – who spent 40 minutes standing in tall grass beside a pond. Because they didn’t think it would be ethical to catch mosquitoes for a proper trial. No placebo group. Well, if this counts as evidence, then count me as a placebo. I have spent many hours outdoors the past few months, and have swatted at many mosquitoes in the air. I’m pretty sure my rain barrels have actually hatched most of them. I have not yet used mosquito repellent of any kind yet this year and have not had a single bite. My anecdote counts too, right?
A search for actual scientific evidence for the use of staphysagria as a mosquito repellent comes up with nothing. Popular homeopathy websites list many potential and interesting uses for it, and itchy skin is indeed listed as a symptom for which one might consider using it – topically. But again, no evidence is provided. Toxicity prevents it from being used in higher concentrations as an herbal remedy.
A search of ledum and urtica urens turned up a few references. This study looked at a commercial homeopathic gel which contained both of these ingredients, along with Echinacea augustifolia and Hamamelis extract. Note the study was the effect of a topical remedy, not an internal one. It was also used after a bite had already taken place and not to prevent bites. No difference was found between the homeopathic gel and the placebo in terms of itching, but there was a small reduction in size of the erythema. It is not mentioned in this abstract what the composition of the placebo gel was. This case report was published in BMJ as evidence to support the importance of not relying on homeopathic remedies, in this case ledum, to prevent malaria.
In summary, there appears to be no scientific evidence to support Mozi-Q . The focus of the video on Delphinium appears to be a marketing strategy to try to present a plausible explanation for its inclusion in the remedy. But since there is no plausible way that sugar pills homeopathy can work, there is no possible way that Mozi-Q will prevent mosquitos, ticks, sand flies, no-see-ums, black flies, head lice and bedbugs from being attracted to you. For that, you need to stick with what the evidence shows to be effective.
Carrying on with the video, after trying to convince us that staphysagria turns us into human Delphiniums (at 1 part staphysagria per 10,000 parts water dropped onto a sugar pill), Bosch discusses mosquito sprays as “toxic chemicals”, complete with sounds of evil laboratory bubbles. Then the video crosses over from a clever advertisement to, in my opinion, a dangerous one. While careful not to claim that Mozi-Q will prevent diseases, she discusses malaria as the #1 killer of children in the world and lists other insect-borne diseases, with the implication that Mozi-Q could eliminate them. The take-away message is “People who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world are the ones who do.” Someone has a mighty high opinion of herself.
As for my friend’s request, I didn’t end up posting a rebuttal, and if you’ve read my most recent post here on this blog you know why. Hopefully someone will find this one and send it to her.
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