Homeopathy Papers Scientific Research

Is Homeopathy Quackery – The Theory of Dilutions

Ron Harris
Written by Ron Harris

Ron Harris presents a dissertation on the theory of dilutions, reflecting on principles of chemistry, Avogadro’s number, Brownian motion and more.

Ron Harris (Dadaji)

The Major criticism leveled at homeopathy is the theory of dilutions and how homeopathic remedies are prepared. It is common knowledge that both homeopaths and scientists use exactly the same process of dilution. Scientifically, in a given concentrated solution containing one part solute to one part solvent, as the quantity of a solvent is increased, while the quantity of a solute remains constant, it is called dilution.  We dilute a substance again and again.  Similarly homeopathic dilution is repeated serially.

Scientifically in each dilution, as the quantity of solvent increases, while that of the solute remains constant, the end product, called a solution is weaker. That is say the distribution of solute in proportion to the solvent has decreased. This is the concentration of the solution or molecules of solute in the given solvent.

Homeopaths claim that each dilution is meant to make the remedy increasingly stronger by which they mean more potent.

To question this, one must understand the concept of dilution. When a homoeopathic remedy is first prepared, a substance called solute is dissolved in alcohol or water called the solvent. This mixture is known as the ‘mother tincture’ denote by the symbol ɸ. This is then serially diluted usually by either 1 part in 10 (X potencies) or 1 part in 100 (C potencies). The following example uses C potencies for illustration, but the process is identical for both. If we start with 1,000 ml of remedy, then 10 ml would be taken from it and added to 990 ml of water.

As an example, let’s consider the compound Sodium Chloride (common salt). The molecular weight of Sodium Chloride (NaCl) is 58.44, therefore 58.44 grams of NaCl is one mole or 6.022 x 1023 molecules. A one molar solution is where one mole of substance is dissolved in a total volume of 1 liter of solvent. In our case 58.44 grams of NaCl dissolved in water to a total volume of one liter (1,000 ml) would give us our starting solution. That is one liter of water that contains 6.022 x1023 molecules of Sodium Chloride dissolved in it. This is the standardized mother tincture.

Now that we know how many molecules we have in the starting solution, it’s just a case of keeping track of the numbers as we serially dilute it.

In “C” potencies, there is a dilution of 1 in 100 at each step. That means that out of our 1 liter (1000 ml) starting solution we take 10 ml and dissolve it in another 990 ml of water. This means that the number of molecules present reduces by a factor of 100 at each step.

A 1C dilution would therefore contain 6.022 x 1021 molecules of NaCl.

A 2C dilution would contain 6.022 x 1019 molecules of NaCl.

A 3C dilution would contain 6.022 x 1017 molecules of NaCl.

And so on with the number of molecules present reducing by a factor of 100 (or 102) with each step.

A 10 C dilution would contain 6.022 x 1023 molecules of NaCl; in other words 6,022 molecules in the solution.

At 11 C we have 60 molecules present.

At 12 C we have 0.6 molecules present, or more strictly a probability of 0.6 that 1 molecule is present.

No argument, no contradictions as both homeopaths and scientists agree with this. The process fully obeys the laws of science. Both parties precisely follow this process.

A homeopathic remedy consists of 2 parts – a numerical number and a letter. Thus 1x means 1/10 dilution. That is 1 part homeopathic remedy and 9 parts of distilled water and alcohol. The chart below explains the process:

X=1/10, C=1/100, M=1/1000 and LM = 1/50,000 Further X is same as D and is same as DH. C is same as CH and is same as CK.

H indicates that the medicine was prepared according to the Hahnemann method. The Hahnemanian method uses 1 part of the homeopathic potency to 99 parts of alcohol in a new flask and succussed to make the next higher potency on the centesimal scale.  K indicates the Korsakovian method was employed to produce the higher potencies of 200 C and above. In the Korsakovian method the same container is used for each succession of the dilution step.

Homeopaths further prepare remedies in various ways. The process of adding water to a homeopathic remedy is known by practitioners as dynamisation or potentization whereby a substance is diluted with alcohol or distilled water and then vigorously shaken in a process called “succussion”.

According to homeopathy, the larger the quantity of water, the more diluted the solution.  The more diluted the solution, the much stronger is the solution. In other words, if we add 1 mg of NaCl (Chemical formula) or Natrum Muriaticum (Latin name) or Sodium Chloride (Chemical name) or Salt (Common name) to 1ml of water, the dilution is 1 to 1. If we add 1 mg of NaCl to 1000 ml (1L) of water, the dilution is 1 to 1000.

Scientifically a molecule commonly referred to as a mole, is the smallest quantity of a substance that may exist in nature.  To understand the concept, it is best to look at an example of a substance called Sodium Chloride as a solute and water being a solvent.

A molecule of a substance consists of three particles, namely protons, electrons and neutrons. Protons carry a positive charge, electrons carry a negative charge and neutrons have no charge. We are concerned only with electrons, since they carry an electric charge – a form of energy. Electrons are present in fixed numbers in each of the shells surrounding neutrons and protons.

A molecule of Sodium Chloride, commonly called salt, consists of a Sodium molecule and a Chloride molecule.  Sodium is a soft metal, easily cut with a knife that bursts into flame when it comes into contact with water. For this reason, obviously no one will consume pure sodium. It is in the first family of the periodic table of elements. Its chemical symbol is Na, which in Latin means Natrum. Its atomic number is 11 and its mass is 23. This means its configuration is 2, 8, 1. This is to say the first shell can hold a maximum of 2 electrons and is therefore complete. The second shell can hold a maximum of 8 electrons and is complete. The third shell can hold a maximum of 8 electrons, but only 1 electron is available, therefore it comes under the first family and we say a molecule of Sodium has 7 vacancies.  Science is supposed to be an exact and precise subject, yet Natrum with a precisely correct chemical symbol Na for some unknown reason is called Sodium.

Chlorine, a non-metal is a greenish-yellow gas at room temperature and atmospheric pressure. It is two and a half times heavier than air.  It has a choking odor, and inhalation causes suffocation, constriction of the chest, tightness in the throat, and—after severe exposure – edema (filling with fluid) of the lungs. As little as one part per thousand in air causes death within a few minutes. Chlorine falls under the seventh family. Its chemical symbol is correctly shown as Cl. However its Latin name is muraticum and again for some unknown reason we call it chlorine. Its atomic number is 17. This means its configuration is 2, 8, 7. Thus the third shell, which can hold a maximum of 8 electrons; it has one vacancy.

Na+1+ Cl-1 → NaCl means one molecule of Sodium reacts with one molecule of Chlorine to produce one molecule of Sodium Chloride (Natrum Muriaticum) or salt.

Sodium being a metal donated its single electron in the last shell to Chlorine.  Now Sodium 2,8 and Chlorine 2,8,8 are both complete and the neutral new substance formed is Sodium Chloride, which is very much consumed.

As mentioned above, in chemistry we use a measure known as a “mole” which is simply the molecular weight of a substance in grams. The convenience of using moles is that no matter what the substance is, one mole always contains the same number of atoms or molecules. This is known as Avogadro’s number NA 6.022 x 1023 objects per mole.

The Major Criticism

This has raised several questions. The major criticism leveled at homeopathy is that the remedies are so diluted that there is little chance of there even being a single molecule of the starting material left in the final remedy. Some scientists therefore claim homeopathic remedies can’t possibly work, because they contain no active ingredients.

Once we pass this dilution point, known as the Avogadro limit, there is no more starting material in the solution. Any dilution beyond 12C (or 24X) simply means that water is being dissolved in more water. This is why scientists claim homeopathic remedies that have potencies over 12C do not contain even a single molecule of active ingredient.  However the least diluted homeopathic remedies come in potency of 3C or below. This means that there may well be some of the starting material present in the final remedy.

The major criticism arises from calculations based on a starting solution that is a standardized 1 molar solution. In reality, homeopaths are unlikely to be starting with a 1 molar solution, especially with the more expensive materials they may use. This means that the point of diluting out all of the starting material may well be reached before the 12C dilution. In other words, the dilution has exceeded Avogadro’s limit. Rightfully, homeopaths may say what about homeopathic remedies that are less than 12C?

A further criticism arises when 3C potencies are diluted to 1 part in a million (diluted by 1 in 100, three times). To get this in perspective, one needs to dissolve 5 mg of a solute in 4,999,995 ml of water (solvent) to achieve a 3C equivalent dilution. That’s the same as dissolving 1 spoonful of medicine in 26 standard-sized bath tubs full of water!

One would accept the criticism, if the critique made it clear that the above process took place in one step. Unfortunately, or fortunately, that is not the case. The process involves a series of steps. In each step one part solute is introduced in 99 parts of solvent. All one needs is a small bottle and not a bath tub.

Instead of providing a validated scientific proof, homeopaths counteract that it is not merely dilution that makes homeopathic remedies increasingly stronger with each dilution. It is potentization that makes their remedies work and the lack of any molecules in their remedies does not invalidate the claims made for potentization.

A further complication arises by stating:

  1. It is the process of potentisation performed between each dilutionthat does that. ii. The potentization preserves and amplifies the healing properties of the original remedy whilst dilution removes its toxicity and iii., the intermediate remedy vigorously shaken (known as succussion) between dilutions transfers the essence of the remedy to the water. The reality of ingredient-free remedies is explained away by invoking ideas such as ‘water has a memory’.

From a rational, scientific point of view this is important as everything we know about how drugs work conventionally (dose-response studies, for example) means that according to scientists, homeopathy cannot work. It is not possible to dilute a substance out of existence and still expect it to have a physiological effect.

This is a contradiction in terms, because scientifically, neither can we have “nothing”, nor something can magically “vanish’. It is questionable whether the best micro-analytical methods could detect the amount of remedy molecules present in the solution, never mind whether they will have a physiological effect.

The 19th century is known for great scientists.  Avogadro was born 15 months after the birth of Hahnemann. Avogadro proposed that the volume of a gas at a given pressure and temperature is proportional to the number of atoms or molecules regardless of the nature of the gas. Johann Josef Loschmidt was the first to estimate the average diameter of the molecules in air by a method that is equivalent to calculating the number of particles in a given volume of gas. This latter value, the number density of particles in an ideal gas, is now called the Loschmidt constant in his honor, and is related to the Avogadro constant, NA. The French physicist and Noble Prize recipient for his work in determining the Avogadro constant by several different methods, proposed naming the constant in honor of Avogadro.

Accurate determinations of Avogadro’s number became possible when American physicist Robert Millikan measured the charge on an electron. The charge of a mole of electrons is the constant called the Faraday and had been known since 1834 when Michael Faraday published his works on electrolysis. By dividing the charge on a mole of electrons by the charge on a single electron the value of Avogadro’s number is obtained. Thus NA. Since 1910, newer calculations have more accurately determined the values for Faraday’s constant and the elementary charge.

Though Millikan formed some of the basis for modern particle physics, he was conservative in his opinions about 20th century developments in physics and did not accept Albert Einstein’s paper on the particle theory of light

Avogadro’s constant is amazing, in that it provides the relation between other physical constants and properties. For example, it establishes a relationship between the gas constant R and the Boltzmann constant kB, the Faraday constant F and the elementary charge e. The Avogadro constant also enters into the definition of the unified atomic mass unit, u.

Scientists have devised various methods to compensate for silver lost from the anode by mechanical causes, and conducted an isotope analysis of the silver used to determine the average atomic weight. Their value for the conventional Faraday constant is F90 = 96,485.39(13) C/mol, which corresponds to a value for the Avogadro constant of 6.0221449(78) ×1023 mol: both values have a relative standard uncertainty of 1.3×10−6.

The main limiting factor in the precision of the Avogadro constant is the uncertainty in the value of the Planck constant h = 6.626 068 96(33) ×10–34 Js, as all the other constants that contribute to the calculation are known more precisely. NA 6.022×1023 objects per mole as the result of the International Avogadro Coordination in 2010 is 6.02214078(18) ×1023 mol−1.

From the above discussions, it is safe to say that the precise value of Avogadro’s constant is yet to be determined. Therefore to condemn homeopathy on the basis of NA 6.022 X 1023/mole it not warranted.

Scientifically it has been shown that Avogadro’s constant is 6.025 x 1023particles/mole and e=4.809×10-10 electrostatic units =16.021 x 10-20 coulombs. It has also been shown scientifically that the energy can neither be created nor destroyed. It can only be changed from one form to another.

Twentieth-century experiments demonstrated that electric charge is quantized; that is, it comes in multiples of individual small units called the elementary charge, e, approximately equal to 1.602×10-19 (except for particles called quarks, which have charges that are multiples of ⅓e). The proton has a charge of +e, and the electron has a charge of −e. The study of charged particles, and how their interactions are mediated by photons, is quantum electrodynamics.

−4.80320451(10)×10-10 esu J.J.Thompson 1897 electron charge, (symbol e), fundamental physical constant expressing the naturally occurring unit of electric charge, equal to 1.6021765 × 10-19 coulomb, or 4.80320451 × 10-10 electrostatic unit (esu, or coulomb). In addition to the electron, all freely existing charged subatomic particles thus far discovered have an electric charge equal to this value or some whole-number multiple of it. Quarks, which are always bound within larger subatomic particles such as protons and neutrons, have charges of 1/3 or 2/3 of this value.

Consider a certain quantity of NaCl molecules

Consider a certain quantity of NaCl molecules confined to a fixed tight space. The molecules have potential energy (PE). This is the energy at rest and of no value. When these molecules are transferred to a larger space and water added, the molecular motion takes place. As the molecules are now in motion they bombard against each other and they perform work, releasing energy. This called KE energy. Homeopaths consider this additional space and addition of water to enable molecular motion as dilution.

This is well supported by the discovery of Brownian motion.  It took approximately 50 years for scientists to realize the origin of Brownian motion discovered by Scottish botanist Robert Brown, and to be convinced that it showed the ideas of the kinetic theory and the reality of molecules. Homeopaths consider that the change of PE to KE by molecular bombardment is potentization.  This is also well supported by Robert Boyle, an Irish scientist and a close associate of Robert Hooke, an English Scientist. Robert Boyle states that in a solid, the location of the molecules relative to each other remains almost constant. But in a gas, the molecules can move around and interact with each other and with their surroundings in different ways – there is always a random component of molecular motion. The entire fluid can be made to move as well in an ordered motion (flow). The ordered motion is superimposed, or added to, the normal random motion of the molecules.

The use of the term “dynamisation” by homeopaths seemed to have been derived from understanding of the molecular level. At the molecular level, there is no distinction between the random component and the ordered component. We measure the pressure produced by the random component as the static pressure. The pressure produced by the ordered motion is called dynamic pressure. Bernoulli’s principle and equation, which can also be derived directly from Newton’s 2nd law, tells us that the sum of the static and dynamic pressure is the total pressure which we can also measure. Boyle’s Law states that if the volume of a gas is decreased, the pressure increases proportionally.

The model, called the kinetic theory of gases, assumes that the molecules are very small relative to the distance between molecules. The molecules are in constant, random motion and frequently collide with each other and with the walls of any container. The kinetic theory of gases describes a gas as a large number of small particles (atoms or molecules), all of which are in constant, random motion. The rapidly moving particles constantly collide with each other and with the walls of the container.  Kinetic theory explains macroscopic properties of gases, such as pressure, temperature, and volume, by considering their molecular composition and motion.

About the author

Ron Harris

Ron Harris

Ron Harris is a gold medalist in Homeopathy and was founder of the Canadian Institute of Homeopathic Medicine. He has been honoured by numerous homeopathy organizations in Canada. He served two terms on the Health Canada Expert Advisory Committee on Natural Health products. Ron was educated in the fields of Medicine, Politics, Economics, Chemistry, Town Planning, Chemical Engineering and Medical Herbology. During the partition of British India he closely followed Mr. Gandhi’s philosophy and took keen interest in Homeopathic Medicine. Ron has worked to have Homeopathy fully recognized in North America since 1960 and was involved in getting Nova Scotia to allow Allopaths to provide homeopathic care. His most recent book is “The Science of Healing, According to the Principles of Homeopathy”. He set up the “Celebrate with Blind Children” project in India so those children to receive an education. Visit Ron at his Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/ron.harris.1916

4 Comments

  • Homeopathy is a very effective scientific method of treatment. I have seen many wonders in my practice as a Homeopath for the last 30 years.

  • DEAR DR,
    EVEN IF ONE DROP OF ANY CRUDE DRUG IS THROWN IN THOUSAND LITTERS OF WATER, THOUGH THE DRUG MAY NOT BE TRACEABLE BUT NO ONE CAN SAY THAT DRUG IS NOT IN THE WATER. THE FACT IS THAT TILL NOW THERE IS NO SCALE TO MEASURE A MOLECULE OF THE DRUG IF WE TAKE OUT A SPOON OF THAT WATER. AS IN THE BEGINNING THE SALT WAS NOT TRACEABLE IN THE WATER OF SEA. IT IS THE RIVERS WHICH CARRIED THE SALT IN THEIR WATER [ WHICH IS NOT TRACEABLE IN WATER OF THE RIVER] IN THOUSAND AND THOUSAND OF YEARS AND DEPOSITED THE SALT IN SEA. NOW THE WATER OF THE SEA HAS BECOME SO SALTY THAT NO ONE CAN DRINK IT.
    THANKS

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