Fallacious Conflation of Homeopathy and Herbalism

The British Homeopathic Association has turned to celebrity endorsement of their sugar pills. Presumably as a distraction from the lack of any real evidence that they work.

An interesting point about these endorsements: the slebs are all waving pretty flowers around and banging on about how natural homeopathy is. Those who do not know how homeopathic remedies are actually made could be forgiven for believing that they are some kind of herbal remedy.

If you want some clue as to the true nature of homeopathic nostrums you have to click a link at the bottom of the page and from there click another link which gets you to this.

How are homeopathic medicines made?

Homeopathic medicines are manufactured by repeatedly diluting and succussing (shaking) a preparation of the original substance, mainly plants and minerals, in water and alcohol. After dilution the medicine is added to lactose tablets or pillules.

The strength of the medicines

Over-the-counter homeopathic medicines that you can buy in high street shops tend to be in either the 6c or 30c potency. 6c means that the substance has undergone 6 steps in a series of dilutions, where each step involves diluting 1 part medicine to 99 parts alcohol/water.

The more stages of dilution and succussion the preparation has gone through, the more potent the medicine is – so a 30c medicine is more potent than a 6c medicine.

Although this is opposite to the way most conventional medicines manifest their effects, where a greater dose has a greater physiological impact, there are some conventional drugs that have paradoxical, or inverse, effects at lower doses. An example of an inverse dose-response relationship is the net vasodilator effect of adrenaline which, toward the lower range of the dose-response curve, increases with more dilute doses of the drug.

What they fail to say is that something that has gone through 30 stages of 1% dilutions will contain no active ingredient whatsoever, a point I previously covered here.

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.

The hand-waving woffle concerning adrenaline can be ignored because, even if true, it does not involve doses of adrenaline that have been diluted to non-existance.

One can only speculate as to why the BHA are not open about all this, if they actually believe it, rather than bang on about the naturalness of their remedies. You would almost think that they were deliberately trying to conflate homeopathy and herbalism in the minds of the general public.

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2 Responses to “Fallacious Conflation of Homeopathy and Herbalism”

  1. Andysnat Says:

    It’s called deception.

  2. A Fifth Year of Steam « Letting Off Steam Says:

    [...] on electrosensitivity in the Evening Standard, antivax nonsense from Natural News, homeopaths conflating homeopathy and herbalism and the dead tree version of pseudomedical website What Doctors Don’t Tell [...]

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