Homeopathy preaches that the more you dilute the mixture, the stronger the treatment becomes, and the most common homeopathic dilution is called 30C, which is very diluted indeed.
How dilute? Is it one in a thousand?
Is it one in a million?
Is it one in a hundred million?
Is it one in a thousand million?
Is it one in a trillion?
Not even that.
Is it one in a trillion trillion trillion trillion?
No. You’re not even nearly there.
A dilution of 30C means that there’s one molecule of the remedy for every
molecules of water, sugar or whatever else is used to dilute it.
Since all the water in the oceans contains only about 4.4×1046 molecules, it means you would need to drink all the oceans of the Earth, not once, not twice, not even a hundred times, but
22 million million times to be certain of finding a single molecule of the remedy.
I saw a calculation which appears to be pretty close. To deliver a single molecule of the remedy to a single patient, at this level of dilution you would have to give two billion doses per second to six billion people for 4 billion years.
Here’s an interesting list of remedies with the required dilutions. Remember, 30C is something that has been diluted by a factor of 100 thirty times, while 30X means dilution by a factor of 10, thirty times.
It means you’d probably only have to drink a medium-sized lake to get your single molecule of 30X medicine. The problem is, would one molecule be enough?
Probably the most extreme example of this is oscillococcinum, or duck liver, used to relieve flu symptoms. This dilution — 200C — has four hundred zeroes. It means that in order to have a chance of finding a single molecule of the remedy, you would have to consume the entire visible universe millions of times over.
Quite a task, when a week in bed would probably see the end of your flu and you could catch up on your reading instead of eating galaxies and black holes.
In fairness to old Samuel Hahnemann who dreamed up this idea at the end of the 18th century, he was working at a time before the concept of molecules had been properly set out or agreed upon. In his time it was common to regard substances as infinitely divisible and he wasn’t to know that after his dilutions, nothing remained except water. He was also working at a time when medicine was primitive and often dangerous to the patient. However, when he dreamed up succussion, which involved banging the bottle of water against a leather cushion, he was drifting into the region of magic and belief. Admittedly, this was probably no worse than some of the barbaric medical practices of the time, but that was 200 years ago and science has moved on. We now realise that you can shake water all you like and it won’t know a damn thing about it because it’s just water.
Hahnemann was also on dodgy ground by claiming that the more a substance is diluted, the more powerful it becomes. Following that logic, once it’s on the point of disappearing completely, it would be almost infinitely powerful.
This all gives rise to an interesting question. Homeopathy makes no effort to remove whatever has been previously dissolved in the water. And since the dilution is so minute, even a single drop of water containing the substance would be more than sufficient to make all the water on the planet into a homeopathic remedy. Furthermore, it seems reasonable to assume that everything has been dissolved in water at some time since the formation of the planet, and therefore the waters of Earth already contain traces of every single homeopathic remedy in concentrations far greater than 30C.
The water of the Earth is constantly mixing and mingling and it seems reasonable after all these millions of years evaporating, falling as rain, churning around in the Gulf Stream and so on, that it’s pretty well mixed up. Therefore, it seems to me that all the water on Earth must already be a homeopathic remedy for every conceivable disorder.
So the question I want answered is this: if the water remembers what was dissolved in it, how does it know which one to remember for the patient and how does it forget all the others?
Do homeopaths hypnotise water by aqua-mesmerism? Hydrohypnosis. Who knows?
The homeopathy industry uses faux-scientific words like succussion and potentization in the same way that Scientology does, without ever explaining the underlying processes it claims to describe. Although Hahnemann doesn’t begin to approach L Ron Hubbard for cynicism, the industry he spawned rapidly attracted chancers and charlatans as well as those drawn to the idea of healing through unexplained magic. Believing in magic is easier than thinking. It’s all about mystifying the gullible, and there’s no shortage of them.
I will say this however. Many of the tests quoted in favour of homeopathic remedies claim that they are not more harmful than conventional (for which read “tested”) medicines. This is true. They are not more harmful because all homeopathic remedies are just water.
People often confuse herbal remedies with homeopathy. They are not the same thing. Herbal remedies are often effective in treatments because they contain active ingredients, even if those ingredients are not administered in a measured dose. Homeopathy, on the other hand, is based on 18th-century superstition. It’s hard to see much difference between the fake science of homeopathy and the fake science of Scientology.
The British Homeopathic Association has a website which offers, at best, ambivalent answers to the concerns of patients.
I quote from it as follows.
Is it safe?
The patient’s first concern is whether homeopathy is safe. There are two aspects to consider here; is the medicine itself safe (intrinsic toxicity) and is it safe to use homeopathy in the circumstances presented (extrinsic safety). Homeopathic medicines are very dilute, containing minute quantities of active principle, in some cases such small amounts that we cannot detect them with methods that we have available today.
Let’s be clear about this. The only methods available are the ones we have today. Therefore, the final sentence should be stripped of irrelevancies to read as follows:
Homeopathic medicines are very dilute, containing minute quantities of active principle, in some cases such small amounts that we cannot detect them.
Why can’t we detect them? Because they aren’t there. Relying on non-existent detection methods is not science. It’s bunkum.
What can it treat?
The conditions that lend themselves to OTC treatment are mainly acute self-limiting conditions including coughs, colds, allergies, etc.
This is semantic ducking and diving to avoid prosecution under the British trades descriptions acts. It doesn’t say that homeopathy can treat anything because to do so would be to make a false claim.
The site goes on to say as follows:
homeopathic medicines are not strong enough to eliminate invaders to the body and so cannot be used alone in the direct treatment of infections
This is correct. The reason is that homeopathic medicines are water and nothing else.
Does it work?
This is a difficult question and one for which there is no answer brief enough to include here.
The answer is brief enough: No. It doesn’t work, because it’s only water.
How does it work?
The honest answer is that we really don’t know exactly how homeopathic medicines work.
Nearly honest. Homeopathic medicines are known to cure one disorder and one only: dehydration. They also alleviate smelliness if applied with soap.
And finally …
What potency and dosage should I use?
The 6c potency is the most readily available OTC potency and the dosages below refer to this strength, but for first aid and acute use the 30c potency can also be used and indeed is preferable if available.
I’ve already explained what 30C potency is. To get a single molecule of the active ingredient, you’d have to drink all the oceans of the world 22 million million times.
Now that’s what I call dilution.
6C is more benign. It means that the thing you seek is in the bottle in the ratio of one part to 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000.
If you really want to hear undiluted nonsense at source, you could visit the Irish Society of Homeopaths, or the British Homeopathic Association. They’ll both be delighted to defend their point of view.