A Beginner’s Guide to Homeopathy

Homeopaths often bang on about how their remedies are “natural”. The result of this is that many people think that homeopathy and herbalism are the same thing.

Wrong. Herbal remedies are made from plants, some of which contain active ingredients. Willow bark tea contains the same active ingredient as aspirin, for example. The main problems with herbal remedies are that the amount of active ingredient varies and the presence of other ingredients can have a synergistic effect. Homeopathy is something else altogether. If you are not aquainted with the reality of homeopathy, you will be convinced that I’m making the following up. I assure you I am not.

First off, it “works” on the basis that “like cures like” so in order to get rid of a symptom, you have to treat with something that causes the symptom. It might seem a tad heartless to prescibe a laxative to someone suffering from diarrohea but the homeopaths get round this with their “Law of Infinitesimals” which state that the active ingredient becomes more powerful the more it is diluted.

Let us consider a case of a patient with hypertension. As we’re told often enough, this can be caused by too much salt in the diet. On the basis of “like cures like” therefore, a homeopath may prescribe salt to “treat” the hypertension. The prescibed remedy has to have been diluted from the “mother tincture”. A saturated salt solution contains approximately 350 grammes of salt per litre of solution. Our homeopath then begins her dilutions. If she has a litre of her mother tincture she draws off 10 millilitres and makes that up to one litre with plain water. This solution is one hundredth the concentration of the mother tincture. This is then “succused” ie shaken around and then “potentised” ie the container is banged on a leather covered board. If you think I’m making this up, see here http://www.hmc21.org/phdi/pl.nsf/supppages/2555?opendocument&part=4#potent . This is now a 1c remedy, in homeopath’s jargon. Ten millilitres of the 1c solution is drawn off, made up to one litre with plain water and the process repeated to make a 2c remedy. Homeopathic remedies are frequently 30c ie diluted by a factor of 100^30 (10^60, or 1 followed by sixty zeros).

Now comes the science bit. After Samual Hahnemann wrote the homeopathic bible The Organon, real scientists discoved that all substances are made up of molecules and any particular molecule is made up of atoms in fixed proportions. Common salt was found to be made up of equal numbers of sodium an chlorine atoms. Further investigation showed that it is made up of crystals containing equal numbers of sodium and chlorine ions. A salt solution is made up of Na+ and Cl- ions in the proportion 1:1 in water.

Proper chemists express the concentration of solutions in terms of molarity, the number og “gramme-molecules” of the solute in a litre of solution. A gramme molecule of a substance is a mass in grammes of the substance numerically equal to its relative molecular mass. In the case of salt, NaCl has a relative molecular mass of 58.44, so a 1Molar solution of salt contains 58.44 grammes of salt per litre of solution. One further piece of science, Avogadro’s Law tells us that one mole of a substance contains 6.02 x 10^23 molecules, so our one molar salt solution contains 6.02 x 10^23 Na+Cl- ion pairs per litre.

Our homeopath’s saturated salt solution “mother tincture” would thus contain 3.61 x 10^24 ion pairs. A 1c remedy contains 3.61 x 10^22 ion pairs per litre, a 2c remedy 3.61 x 10^20 ion pairs per litre and so on. An 11c remedy will contain 361 ion pairs per litre, or put another way, there is 2.77 ml of water per ion pair. A 12c remedy will have 277 ml of water per ion pair, a 13c remedy 27.7 litres of water per ion pair and so on until we reach the 30c remedy which will have 2.77 x 10^35 litres of water per ion pair. There are one thousand litres to the cubic metre and one billion (10^9) cubic metres per cubic kilometre. Thus our 30c remedy would have one sodium ion and one chlorine ion in 2.77 x 10^23 cubic kilometres – a sphere 81,000,000 kilometres across, one hundred times the diamiter of the Moon’s orbit! There is probably not that much water in the entire galaxy, of course. When our homepath dilutes down to 12c, there are only a handful of ion pairs left. After that the probability approaches certainty that the last of the actual ingrediant is thrown away during the dilution process.

Homeopaths try to get around this problem by claiming that their succusation and potentisation process activates a memory of the substance in the water. They sometimes invoke quantum physics to explain this. No reputable physicist has ever found evidence of this water-memory. Even if it did exist why does the water not remember everything else it has been in contact with, such as the contents of a dog’s bladder? Homeopaths claim that the potentisation only activates the memory of the substance of the remedy but they don’t explain how they can know that. This is a magical ritual, not science.

Often these days, homeopathic remedies are sold in the form of sugar pills, not liquid. What they do is place a drop of the remedy onto the sugar pill, allow it to evaporate and, according to the homeopaths, leave its memory behind. This is baldly asserted without any evidence whatsoever.

Of course, in the above example, the connection between salt and heart disease has been established by allopathic doctors so a true homeopath may wish to come up with her own remedies. To do that they pick a substance then administer it (often already diluted) to volunteers in a process called “proving”. The volunteers record their symptoms and, by homeopathic logic, these are the symptoms it will treat.

Here ( http://uk.geocities.com/veryscarymary/helvetiaproving.html ) is an example by a practising homeopath. She even appears to believe that homeopathic dilutions of pieces of Victotian shipwreck can cure being stuck in traffic! Words fail me.

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11 Responses to “A Beginner’s Guide to Homeopathy”

  1. hcn57 Says:

    Your link to the hmc21.org site failed. Might I suggest this:
    http://groups.google.com/group/misc.health.alternative/msg/8e13fd1b374ce84b ? I found it last year and have been using it to show the sillyness involved.

  2. jaycueaitch Says:

    I keep having problems with that link. It works when I put it in, then a few days later it doesn’t. I wonder if she’s blocking access from this blog? Anyway, thanks for the alternative.

  3. Prashanth Says:

    Hi

    I read your blog… Let me tell you something about myself..
    I have been on homeopathy all the 32 years of my life, and
    have been cured of practically every single ailment I have had
    through my life with the same.

    I am not going to try to Convince you about it…

    All I say is..

    Try it when your heath is disturbed and go to a good Homeopath.

    * If you get cured then you have a reason to believe it..

    It is easy to ridicule things about which we do not know sufficiently..
    But let me tell you few pertinent things..

    * Quantum Physics has no explanation, yet if you believe in it
    then you get the Proper results…There is no proof for the axioms
    of Quantum Physics and many people have termed it ‘a magical ritual’
    as you put it.. Read a bit of Quantum Physics to understand what I mean
    Science hasnt proved it either, yet we believe or are forced to believe in
    it as it gives the right results..

    * Further, Science is a process in evolution.. If you told somebody about wireless 100 years ago , he would laugh at it.. We dont neither can we
    claim to know everything about nature and hence it would be childish to
    laugh and more seriously ridicule it…

    * There are somethings for which Proof cant be given straight away, simply because our level of Science has not yet advanced to such an extent. The Proof for such things exist in their unfailing way in which they produce the results..

    So dont be arrogant.. Nobody is forcing you to believe it..
    If you get better by taking a homeopathic remedy then you yourself
    will believe in it… You wouldnt need anybodys words to convince you of it..
    Regards Prashanth

  4. jaycueaitch Says:

    Prashanth

    When homeopathy has cured a non-self limiting illness, then I might think there could be something to it.

    I studied physics at University, including quantum physics.

    I’m not aware of anyone laughing at wireless 100 years ago – the theoretical groundwork had already been done. Even if they had, it would be irrelevent to the issue of homeopathy.

    I’m not claiming to know everything about nature. No scientist does; we leave that to the mystics. However, what is known about nature indicates that homeopathy cannot work and trial have shown that it does not work.

  5. Jenz Says:

    Jayceuaitch wrote: “trial have shown that it does not work”.

    The problem is with the trials. These were the so-called “double blind placebo controlled” trials. Why homeopathy does not produce its effect in these trials is because, homeopathic medicines must be matched to the patient. In other words, there is no such thing as a homeopathic remedy for a disease “X”.

    The homeopathic remedy has to be matched to the patient’s condition and the patient’s disposition. This requires the intervention of the practitioner and observation, confirmation or alteration or dose, cessation, or substition. Homeopathy has to be ‘trialed’ not as individual remedies, but as a whole system or a process or a methodoolgy.

    This is where the so-called “scientific approach” fails to give homeopathy the passing marks. Homeopathy has worked wonders for people where other systems have failed. If that is not scientific proof, the fault lies with the way science is applied !

  6. jaycueaitch Says:

    homeopathic remedy has to be matched to the patient’s condition

    Really? What about the homeopathic remedies sold in Boots? I don’t recall the SoH et al taking Boots to court for fraud and misrepresentation.

    And I know of no case of a non-self limiting illness being successfully treated with homeopathy, whether individualised or not.

  7. Maah! Says:

    aw, Jay.

    Like Prashanth, i love homeopathy-it works great for me! And it’s so, so much cheaper than allopathy without those dangerous side effects and health-weakening chemicals.

    Prayer works too–isn’t that a mystery! And so does energy medicine.

    We digest but don’t know how; if understanding how a thing works is necessary before a thing works, we would all be dead of indigestion.

    We speak of having minds yet no one has ever seen the mind, only evidence of its effect.

    No one has seen the soul, yet when it leaves the body at death we say “He’s gone”. The body is laying there but the life force which no one has seen has departed. Just because it has not been seen with these defective, limited senses, what honest scientist will claim it does not exist?

    Fact: Homeopathy might not be the best way to go for everyone.

    Jay, If herbs work for you, stick with them, but it doesn’t seem very scientific nor polite to trash an entire system of healing which millions of people for hundreds of years have found successful.

    Keep well.

  8. James Pannozzi Says:

    Your arguments are fundamentally sound but at key points you manage to omit, avoid, or ignore essential information which drastically alters your presentation and our perspective.

    First, you MUST drop the arrogant attitude of dismissal, as though your “scientific” knowledge and opinions are so obvious and that everyone else is an idiot, quack and simpleton for not seeing it.
    The explanation of Homeopaty is unknown yet the effects are admitted even by the skeptics who attempt to rationalize them as “placebo”.

    Second, I see you find one Homeopath with some curious provings and manage to make hay with that. How about you focus on a more scientifically oriented Homepathy. Try Dr. Vitoulkas. YOU are advised to read his books and learn something of real Homeopathy.

    Third – So what is YOUR explanation of the effects that Hahnemann observed. He found that taking a certain substance, cinchonna bark, produced symptoms similar to those of Malaria.
    He found that tiny doses of that substance, shaken, reduce or remove entirely those symptoms. Many other substances were found to have similar effects for other symptom patterns.

    Fourth – What of the Homeopathic success during major epidemics such as the cholera epidemics of the 1850’s in England.
    We are told by the skeptics that the standard medical treatment of that era was so bad that the Homeopathic treatments, by essentially doing “nothing” provided a better mortality rate.
    Ah but the statistics refute that – doing nothing in those epidemics amounted to a 50-60% mortality rate. Goint to a standard doctor,
    if you found a “good” one, bought them a 30% mortality rate, or worse. Going to a Homepath, got the best results, mortality rates of 15% or less. Homeopathic “nothing”, it would seem, is more powerful than nothing nothing. And those cured by it in that epidemic might disagree that their cure was due to “placebo” effect.

    You may find details here:

    http://laughingmysocksoff.wordpress.com/2007/11/27/sock-horror-in-cholera-statistics/

    Do you see my point? Your arguments, quite good, STILL amount to just a series of rationalizations somehow attempting
    to dismiss something which remains to this day unknown.
    The insufficeny of your rationale will remain until we me may
    know more which will come from the very research which you
    seek to undermine and deny.

  9. jaycueaitch Says:

    I see nothing arrogant or dismissive in my suggestions that homeopaths produce some evidence to support their assertions. Such as proof of a non self-limiting illness being cured by homeopathy.

    There are plenty of homeopaths with curious notions. Mary English is one. Sue Young is another. Am I understand that you do not support their bizarre notions?

    Hanemann may have had malaria-like symptoms when taking cichonna bark but others did not. It is possible that he was experiencing an allergic reaction. In any event, it would not cure malaria when every last active molecule had been flushed away in the dilution process.

    The medics of 1850 knew little, granted but vastly more has been learned about disease since – especially in the field of preventative medicine and the discovery of the germ theory (denied by homeopaths) which led to the development of effective preventitive hygeine.

    The research I “undermine and deny” is the magical rituals of Mary English and her ilk. Do you agree this is typical of modern homeopathy?

  10. Rashid Says:

    The claims and counter claims establish nothing…But in India there are 100000 men who had amazing results with Homeopathic medicines. Those skeptical ones even got 10000 times diluted with self limiting results for them. Still, an unfortunate thing is that an Homeopath could not yet establish a scientific proof to take whole into confidence for their already practically proved practice. Let me suggest U all homeopaths to establish University for U that may help U stay united for advances research in ur field. Best wishes.

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