A Letter From A Chemist To Homeopaths
The following letter is from Professor Mark Lorch of the University of Hull to all Homeopaths. This work is licensed by Newslytica under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
Homeopathy awareness week is here again. And I’ve got some questions about this most popular of alternative therapies. The answers to which I’d very much like to be aware of.
Homeopathy, as I understand it (please correct me if I’m wrong), is based on a idea that ‘like cures like’. So if your hayfever causes runny eyes then onions may be be able to help (because onions cause similar symptoms). Or maybe you suffer from insomnia, in which case caffeine may be the solution. However a cup of strong coffee is likely to keep you wide awake. So you get around this through massive dilutions. This way, you claim, the beneficial effects are retained whilst the unpleasant side-effects are removed.
Now before we go any further let’s make sure I understand the dilution process, again using the caffeine example. You might start with a solution of caffeine that’s about the same concentration as coffee. Then you perform a 1 in 100 dilution. The solution is shaken, often by hitting it against a leather bound surface (a process known as succussion). The result is known as a 1C solution. You perform another dilution, shake etc. resulting in a 2C solution. The process continues often 30 or more times. The net result is a solution that will not contain a single molecule of the original. In fact it might be the equivalent of diluting the cup of coffee in sphere of water the size of the solar system.
So far I hope we can agree. But it seems rather unlikely, to me, that this process might result in an effective remedy. Although you have explanations e.g. ‘water is capable of storing information relating to substances with which it has previously been in contact’. Or to put it another way the water can remember what was diluted in it.
There is no sound scientific evidence that water has any such memory storage capacity. However, homeopaths often tell scientist that we should be more open minded and not to be so wedded to the dogma that we have been taught. So here I am, putting my education and experience in chemistry to one side for a moment.
Nevertheless, even without everything that chemistry might tell me, I’m still left with what seems to be some logical holes in your therapy. Hence my questions for you, and I really am interested in the answers.
How come the water remembers the starting substance (e.g. the caffeine) but not impurities?
The gold standard for water purity (used by analytical chemists, but not homeopaths) is just 10 parts impurity to 1 billion parts water. The concentration of these impurities is equivalent to a 4C solution. So in dilutions made beyond this point the impurities will outnumber the original substance. How then can the homeopathic solution know which molecules it is supposed to store information about?
How do you make an oxygen based homeopathic remedy?
There appear to be quite a few remedies based on oxygen. But oxygen from the air will continually dissolve in the water you use to dilute your solutions. So how do you actually manage to make a 30C dilution of oxygen, when at every step along the way you are just adding more of it to your remedy?
How is the power of a remedy transferred from water to a dry pill?
You make pills by dropping a water remedy onto a sugar tablet and then drying it. How is the stored information (supposedly in the water) retained in the pill after the water has evaporated?
Why can’t I find a homeopathic contraceptive?
I looked and you don’t seem to make or sell any.
If the potency of a remedy increases the more it gets diluted why can this never be perceived as a strong taste?
If a remedy is to work then it must interact with our biology. Why does this never manifest to our sense of taste?
Why was homeopathy so ineffectual at combating infectious diseases before the advent of vaccines?
Your theme for this years homeopathy awareness week is infectious disease. Vaccinations have reduced the spread of infectious diseases to a tiny fraction of what they once were. Homeopathy was around long before most vaccinations were commonplace, so why did it fail to reduce the incidents of infectious diseases?
I hope by answering these you might be able to give me a greater awareness of how you believe your therapies work.
Dr Mark Lorch