Many theories have been proposed to explain how homeopathic remedies seem to work, ranging from misapplied quantum theory to the “doctrine of signatures” and other kinds of alchemical mystique. Many homeopaths feel that “science” may never solve the mystery. So, as a result of information that is incomplete without a generally accepted and unifying theory , the homeopathic practitioner tries to develop and work with a variety of eclectic “rules of thumb”.
Faced with over 200 years of empirical experience, we must continue to try to find a common ground and unifying basis in theory. Modern chemistry and physics sprang from the common ground that was atomic theory. Why should homeopathy be any exception?
My thesis is that “science” has been looking for the answer to homeopathy in the wrong place.
We have been looking either on the quantum scale (sub-atomic or small molecules) or on the statistical-mechanics scale (millions of molecules). But there is a no-man’s land (in between) which contains matter on a scale of 10 to 1000 angstroms … i.e. bigger than a simple molecule but smaller than a living cell.
For example, (Blakeslee, 2001) reports:
“At this level, things do not act according to well-described theories of chemistry and physics. Rather, systems this size seem to obey a unique set of rules that cannot be deduced from studying their individual components…..There are too many atoms in the systems to be described by electromagnetism and quantum theories but too few atoms to handle statistically.” (My italics.)
Research on this ‘nano-scale’ is very pertinent to a working theory of how homeopathic remedies work within the organism. For example, what if we were to look at the ‘nano-scale’ structure of the solvent (water) versus the usual focus on the solute (the dissolved remedy)?
It turns out that recent research supports the idea that the unusual physical chemistry of water may offer a unifying theory for homeopathy not only in terms of the actual nature of the remedy as it is prepared, but in terms of its bioactive interaction with the organism.
The goal of this article is to offer an overview of a new theory that can be tested in the research lab and supported by clinical experience.
Review of Current Theory
To be useful to the practitioner, any theory should try to meet some practical utility criteria as a minimum, besides lending some scientific credibility to the homeopathic paradigm. Here are five suggestions:
1) The theory must offer principles that the homeopath would find useful in daily practice.
There have been many ‘meta-theories’ that seek to explain everything but predict nothing. For example, how can Conte’s quantum ‘white hole’ theory help us choose between one potency over another? If a theory can not predict practical outcomes, then it becomes scientifically untestable and, therefore, unuseable in practice.
2) The theory should be parsimonious.
Truth is elegant. Assumptions should be simple, testable and the number should be held to a minimum. The assumptions should reflect the basic experience that is already generally held to be known.
Parsimony is not simplistic. For instance, those theories that promulgate ‘energy’ or ‘frequency ‘ of a remedy are usually just didactic metaphors and not concrete, operational explanations. An example would be (Sharma 1990). He presented some interesting experimental observations and explained them on the basis of the energy of ‘resonant unpaired electrons’. But I think that most chemists would not agree with his claim that molecules of ‘equal’ energy are equivalent biochemically.
3) The theory should show how the bioactive moiety interacts with the organism to effect change.
This means that a biological mechanism needs to be identified that represents the action-reaction homeostasis of what is called the ‘vital force’. The phenomenon of ‘aggravation’ should be accounted for, as should size of dose and potency effects.
4) The theory needs to be testable through future research.
Given a working theory, there is much more research to be done to improve our understanding of disease and lend wider credence to the homeopathic paradigm. The theory needs to offer predictions that can be repeatedly and conclusively proved or disproved in the laboratory and in the clinic.
5) The theory should facilitate the systemization of ongoing clinical experience.
A problem with the current Materiae Medica in finding the simillimum for a case is that the data for a particular remedy tends to be consolidated without source differentiation. Toxicology, clinical experience and all results for all potencies used during a proving are treated as equivalent. Referring to the original provings can help somewhat but, by this point, the intuition and prejudgement of the clinician are often biasing factors in seeking “confirmation” of the remedy selected.
So it seems that, in the Materiae Medica, idiopathic uniqueness is implicitly denied, which seems contrary to the concept of fitting the remedy to the individual case. Of course, we feel we allow for this by crossing other rubrics but it still comes down to a trial-and-error approach for the remedy and potency selected in the individual case.
The Proposed Model – Development and Discussion
This section will outline some general clinical evidence relating to the nature of potency, the in-vivo ‘measurement’ of potency effects, the puzzle of why ‘diluting’ a remedy increases its power to heal and possible reasons why succussion is an important part of that puzzle.
We shall also examine why alcohol could be more than just a preservative and how ‘dry’ lactose or sucrose pellets could stabilize and be carriers of the remedy.
Finally, we shall take a look the relationship between the Vital Force and the bioactivity of the symptom-remedy and how remedy action within the organism seems to proceed.
What is our case experience in working with different potencies?
Observations on size of dose and number of succussions…
“One of the keys to Hahnemannian homeopathy is the size of dose and the number of succussion given to the medicinal solution.” (Little, 1998)
Further observations on number of succussions…
“Homoeopaths using the 1842 LM methods have recorded many case histories where a certain remedy did not act with a certain number of succussions [but] that immediately showed curative responses after adding more succussions to the same remedy bottle.” (Little, 2001)
And some observations on selecting potency that seem to come from an entirely different perspective…
The Banerji family of physicians in India provide a unique experience and methodology. They make about 2000 prescriptions per day at their clinic in Calcutta, with a staff of 12 doctors. Behind this family’s methods there are about one hundred years of experience. They largely prescribe on an organ ‘syndrome’, or group of symptoms, rather than the ‘totality’ of symptoms. They use one remedy in one potency for one syndrome. Based on hundreds of cases, (Banerji, 1985) shows that a Lycopodium constipation is sensitive to potency as follows:
* 6C and 30C showed no significant percentile response;
* 200C showed 75 percentile response, but
* 1000C (1M) showed no percentile response either!
A corollary of the Banerji family’s experience is that they see each potency having its own unique subset of symptoms. Both observations are in accordance with Hahnemann’s clinical experience, as (Little, 2001) notes:
“Although Hahnemann spoke about raising the potencies from lower to higher in the Organon, the microfiches of the Paris casebooks often show him searching up and down the potencies until he found a harmonic degree. After finding a harmonic degree he would then work up from there. Because everyone is truly an individual it is hard to make clear and fast rules about what potencies are best. Sometimes you have to search for the most harmonic potency.”
These observations illustrate the important role of succussion in determining potency and the efficacy of the remedy which the theory needs to explain.
How is potency measured?
The problem is that potency has not yet been measured directly, only indirectly and subjectively. For example, it’s the interaction of the remedy and the prover that together produce the symptom, not the remedy alone. There’s no way you can remove the prover from the relationship unless the same remedy were to produce the same effect in every prover. We know that not to be true, so the theory needs to offer a way to redefine this problem.
How can a remedy have any biological effect when it’s been diluted beyond recognition?
The quick answer lies in this question itself, plus a little more. The high potency remedy has indeed been greatly diluted but it has also been ‘succussed beyond recognition’.
Some theoreticians say that succussion is a way of imparting ‘energy’ to the remedy. This is a truism which really tells us nothing. So perhaps a better suggestion is that the process somehow transfers information to the remedy solution. (Beneviste, 1999) seems to hold this view, but he does not answer the question of ‘how’ in a way that is helpful to the practitioner.
Nonetheless, we shall now explore the idea of ‘potency as information’ as the basis in developing a theoretical model.
Redefining Potency and Dose as “Information”
(Anick , 1998) has proposed a concept of a liquid structure involving zwitterion (charged) water clusters which could carry remedy information. There is some published experimental support for this view, from (Jongma, 1998) who for the first time identified the existence of neutrally charged (‘unprotonated’) water cluster ions.
In searching for possible bioactive species in the remedy using nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) methods, the evidence has been inconclusive. An experimental and critical survey showed that Conte’s results were due to soda glass contamination and could not be reproduced using regular silica glass vials
(Milgrom, 2001). And there was an excellent review of NMR work published as a guest editorial in the British Homeopathic Journal (Demangeat, 2001).
On the other hand, using newly developed infrared analytical methods, there has been considerable study of molecular clusters in a variety of liquids. Some of this research, using FT-ICR spectra (Jongma, 1998) confirms the existence of stable molecule clusters in water using technologies involving surface impact. In other words, they demonstrated creation of water clusters, using sudden adiabatic expansion to create plasma-like conditions. These conditions will be shown later to be akin to the cavitation conditions created by succussion.
(Andersson, 1997 and 1999) has created individual clusters, using sudden evaporative cooling, which average up to 4,000 water molecules in the molecular size spectrum. The cluster size distribution curve goes up to 14,000 molecules/cluster. These clusters were directed at a graphite surface at a velocity of 1,380 metres/second. Large cluster fragments of “several thousand” water molecules were found to survive these high collision velocities, which underscores how extremely stable these water clusters can be.
Figure 1. Icosahedral Water Cluster Isomers
Cluster mixtures can generate many different isomeric forms: for example, a cluster of 21 molecules can exist as one of 18 different geometric isomers or represent 18 unique ‘bits’ of information. To illustrate the subtle ways in which a molecule can exist in different unique identities, Fig.1 (above) shows two isomeric forms for a icosahedral type cluster having 280 water molecules.
If each isomer represents one item of information, and if they turn out to be the bio-active species in homeopathy, then millions of different information ‘bits’ can carried in a mixture of isomeric water clusters.
Interestingly, alcohol forms clusters with water also (Wisniewski, 2001) although one author (Yui, 2000) , using mass spectrometry, claims some mutual destruction of cluster ions (not neutral clusters). Being an associative liquid, i.e. having hydrogen-bonds between molecules, one is not surprised that alcohol can form its very own clusters, but note that alcohol is never entirely anhydrous: 95% v/v ethanol is usually the purest one can get for remedy preparation.
Later, it will be seen that the presence of alcohol actually favorable to the moderation of succussion energy (by increasing vapour pressure), which means that succussion is not inherently destructive but , on balance, creates the water clusters that represent the remedy.
So, if it is given that the water clusters are the moieties that carry remedy information, what is the role of succussion and dilution in their preparation?
The Nature of the Succussion Process
It’s actually quite easy to create cavitation conditions by succussion. If you crack your knuckles, the popping noise you hear is cavitation. Similarly, rapping a remedy vial on the spine of your repertory creates cavitation, demonstrated by the small bubbles you often see.
Figure 2. Cavitation Bubble Collapse
Fig. 2 shows an imploding cavitation water -vapor bubble (Suslick, 1989).
The imploding cavity (about 150 microns in diameter) is captured in a high-speed flash photomicrograph, where the implosion heats the vapor inside the cavity to 5,500 degrees Celsius (plasma conditions). Since this cavity formed near a solid surface, the implosion is asymmetric, expelling a jet of liquid toward the surface of the container at roughly 400 kilometers per hour. Both the heat and the jet’s kinetic energy contribute to a unique chemical environment in the liquid.
Similarly, in industrial applications, mechanical cavitation (succussion) can also generate plasma conditions which usually tend to destroy molecules. A plasma is a gas-like state where molecules can be disrupted to an atomic and/or ionic state. The plasma constituents can also reform into different molecular arrangements, particularly on liquid or solid surfaces.
Using FT-ICR spectroscopy, (Jongma 1998) showed that the cavitation is moderated by dissolved air or alcohol, so that the lower attenuated cavitation energy actually creates quite large stable clusters in water. In Fig. 3, below, a typical water cluster size-concentration distribution spectrum is shown for distilled water.
Figure 3. Typical water cluster size-concentration distribution spectrum
Remedy Preparation – The Creation of Water Clusters
The creation of a potentized remedy finds a parallel in the semiconductor industry where a pure germanium crystal is impregnated or “doped” with a tiny amount of impurity, which entirely changes the germanium crystal properties and makes it a semiconductor.
In similar fashion, each remedy starting-tincture (or triturate) is theorized as “doping” an alcohol/water mix to create a spectrum of different sized and shaped water clusters, such a spectrum being unique to that starting remedy material.
At the same time , the “doped” water cluster mix engages in a series of chemical reactions of its own where each water cluster is exchanging energy and water molecules with its neighbors, until a mix of stable sizes is developed and a characteristic “mass spectrum” of cluster sizes is obtained which, again, is expressive of the fundamental nature of the starting remedy.
Every chemical reaction is “reversible” to a greater or lesser degree.
One can drive many reactions “backwards” given the right
chemical/physical conditions. Having reagent feedstock (fresh dilution water) in
stoichometric excess can accelerate the “forward” formation of new
product (specific water clusters), just as a catalyst might also facilitate this “forward” process. Some reactions could also be autocatalytic, that is, the products (i.e. clusters) themselves speed up the process.
When the cavitation energy of succussion is applied, all the reactions in the cluster mix are accelerated until the entire solution approaches a stable spectrum.
Note that, in order be self-consistent, different methods of preparation use differing “standard” numbers of succussions. According to our cluster theory, however, different degrees of succussion results in different degrees of approach to a final stable state and hence differences in observed efficacy for a given “potency”. (Thus the Jenichen remedies of the nineteenth century may have been “preferred” because a large amount of succussion energy was applied throughout remedy preparation.)
Now let’s look again at the role of dilution when the next stage of potency is being prepared:
As you add fresh water, you are restoring the original stoichometric “excess” of this reagent and “driving forward” all the creative (and competing) reactions that form clusters. This time, however, note that the starting conditions have changed……. now there is much less starting “doping” material and, second, we have starting clusters that were not there in the first preparation stage.
This changes the cluster spectrum and narrows it towards a different preferred configuration. Just like distilling alcohol, this dilution/succussion process is the
typical “fractionation” process of separating and concentrating components in a mixture. Fractionation is well known in other processes, e.g. freeze-drying of coffee.
Figure 4. Concentration(Dose) and Cluster Size Distribution as a Function of Potency.
Now, in the simplest example, suppose that each unique water cluster carries the information corresponding to a unique remedy symptom. (In fact, several isomers/cluster types may be necessary to represent a symptom). Then Fig. 4 (above) shows that the remedy mixture becomes more symptom-specific (narrower range) when the potency is raised and represents a higher concentration in the mix (greater height) of those specific clusters.
This may accord with your own clinical experience of ‘going high’ and why lower potencies and more frequent dosing may be better in acute cases if you are not sure of the exact remedy to prescribe.
A corollary of this model is that, at lower potencies, the symptom ‘picture’ of two (or more) remedies appear to overlap. Figure 5 (below) illustrates how this may be so. Thus either remedy A or B may “cure” symptom 2.
Figure 5. Overlapping Lower Potency Cluster Size Ranges for Remedies A and B.
With further succussion and dilution of each of the remedies, as shown in Fig. 6 (below), Remedy A may be the only one that “cures” Symptom 1 whereas Remedy B may only “cure” Symptom 3. With the narrowing of each remedy spectrum as potency is raised, neither has now much effect on Symptom 2.
Figure 6. Higher potency Cluster Size Ranges for Remedies A and B.
Besides explaining the Banerjis’ experience (above), this model theory explains Borland’s observation that:
“It is sometimes said that certain drugs are effective in high potency and certain drugs only effective in low. I do not think this is so. The reason certain medicines have been found effective more commonly in low potency turns on the point of general similarity. Most of the drugs which are use exclusively in low potencies have not been fully proved; we have no knowledge of their finer differentiating points, we only have a knowledge of their broader effects. So when you use one of the these drugs in a higher potency you cannot accurately match the finer differentiating symptoms of the case. The higher you go, the more accurate the prescribing must be; in low potency a general similarity is enough to give an effect.” (Borland, 1939)