A batch of homeopathic medicine is being recalled because it might be contaminated by traces of genuinely effective medicine, specifically the antibiotic penicillin.
Homeopathic remedies aren't supposed to contain actual active ingredients; instead, homeopathy is based on the erroneous belief that water can not only hold or “remember” the qualities of anything diluted in it, but actually intensify those qualities, so that the more you water something down, the more potent it becomes.
(At least, that is the belief about homeopathic medicine; thus far, no homeopathic practitioners have tried applying their stated principles to food and ending world hunger by, for example, using a lone soybean, cabbage leaf and bouillon cube to transform the Nile River into a 4,000-mile-long trough of homeopathic beef stew.)
Might contain penicillin
But last week the FDA noted in a press release that the Terra-Medica company is voluntarily recalling various batches of homeopathic liquids, capsules, tablets, ointments and suppositories which might contain penicillin or penicillin derivatives.
The release went largely unnoticed until Wired UK reported it a week later, explaining to its mostly British readership that America's FDA regulates homeopathic medicines only for packaging and purity standards (i.e., making sure there's no penicillin contaminating what's supposed to be an antibiotic-free substance). However, homeopathic drugs are not expected to meet FDA effectiveness standards — in other words, unlike regular drugs and medicines, homeopathic remedies may legally be sold without proving that they actually work.
Indeed, if effectiveness tests were required for homeopathic remedies, most probably wouldn't be sold at all; as the National Institute of Health notes on its website, there is “little evidence to support homeopathy as an effective treatment for any specific condition,” most likely because “several key concepts of homeopathy are inconsistent with fundamental concepts of chemistry and physics.”