Homeopathy Papers Homeopathy Pharmacology

150 Years of Machine-Made Potencies

Last modified on August 11th, 2018

Written by Robert Muentz

The author describes the evolution of the potentizing machine, from the beginning of the nineteenth century to today. He includes analysis of the accuracy of the various devices.

The Beginnings

Since homoeopathy was developed by Hahnemann hardly anything has changed in principle. The Law of Similars, the development of remedies based upon healthy people and the Theory of Dosage have remained unchanged and still provide the basis of the therapy. However, homoeopathy has been extended by the use of remedies with degrees of dilution exceeding Hahnemann’s by far. No remedy higher than C30 has been found in Hahnemann’s estate (1).

Even though he always spoke of remedies potentized up to C30, he did not rule out the possibility of using higher dilutions on patients as well. For him the only parameter to do so was his experience with patients.

“It is only experience that can decide whether this tiny particle has become too weak to fight an illness, too weak to turn illness into health in this particular case. This is no matter of consideration based on theories but a matter of experience which is the only competent judge to make a decision.” (2)

This consideration made other homoeopaths deal with high potencies in more detail, manufacture them and test them in therapy.

The C200- Remedies

Still in the days of Hahnemann, Clemens Franz Maria von Boenninghausen (1785-1864) potentized remedies up to C200. In 1859 he wrote, “Just like allopathy, which used experience – because experience is the one and only means of deciding i.e. knowing to which degree the dose can be increased safely, homoeopathy also relied on experience to find out up to which amount the dose could be reduced to still have a healing effect.”

Boenninghausen also motivated Lehrmann, another of Hahnemann’s students, to manufacture C200 potencies following Hahnemann’s method. At each step Lehmann shook the vial vigorously 25 times. (4)

After all, the reason for using higher and higher potencies was the desire to reduce the initial aggravation of symptoms, which occurs in the course of any homoeopathic treatment. Before long it was realized that this goal could not be reached, but that a new effect occurred with these remedies:

The period of action was extended considerably and the remedy then developed effects which had been hidden in the range of lower potencies. (5)

Julius Caspar Jenichen

Jenichen was introduced to homoeopathy by Hahnemann’s student Gustaf Wilhelm Gross. He was one of those manufacturers who produced the first high potencies by hand. He was of the opinion that the shaking strokes in particular were responsible for the different potency levels of the remedy. For a long time he kept his method a secret because he wanted to manufacture high potencies of his whole stock of remedies and test them in therapy before publicizing his theory (6). This way of doing it was criticized by numerous of his contemporaries, but finally Berridge found out about the secret:

Jenichen started with the C29, he let the contents evaporate and thereafter refilled the vial with ethanol. Then he shook it using 12 shaking strokes for each potency step. The first 800 steps were diluted in a ratio of 1:300 and shaken 12 times each, then the ratio was 2:12,000 and the vial was shaken 30 times (7).

This method led to the development of various potentizing machines. Since the construction of such machines was based upon different attempts and considerations the results were similarly divergent.

Like the potentizing machines of those days, today’s potentizers also share the principle that only one vial is used for potentizing. At that time this single-vial method using the centesimal scale developed by Count Korsakoff , represented a revolutionary divergence from Hahnemann’s potentizing method. There is no evidence however, in reports of the year 1829 based on personal contacts with Korsakoff , that Hahnemann criticized this method.

Should a 10M be prepared today using the multi-vial method, the cost of the vials and tops alone would amount to approximately EUR 2180.- These vials would cover a surface of about 10 square metres if set down close to each other and would have to be disposed of after single use. This pioneering work also showed the homoeopaths of that time, that it was not only possible to prepare higher potencies than Hahnemann’s C30 remedies, but also to increase their efficacy by doing so. Then it was only a short step towards potentizing higher dilutions by machine. Mure broke the ice and built the first potentizing machine.

Potentizing by Machine

There are basically two types of potentizing machines: Fluxion potentizers, which potentize using turbulence in liquids, and succussion potentizers, which use shaking strokes for potentizing. In the case of fluxion potentizers, which work discontinuously, the vial is repeatedly filled and emptied (Skinner, Boericke, Kent); The continuous method measures the potency level from the amount of medicine carrier continuously passing through (Swan, Allen, Fincke). Due to the wide dissemination of the fluxion method at the turn of the century most case studies are about remedies manufactured in this way.

Benoit Mure (1809-1858)

A contemporary of Hahnemann is likely to be the first who built potentizing machines. It was in Palermo in 1838, when he constructed 3 machines for the manufacture of homoeopathic remedies using the succussion method. So far no comment by Hahnemann on their efficiency has been known, neither were those remedies to be found in Hahnemann’s pharmacy in Paris.(8)


Fig. 1

Bernhardt Fincke (1821-1906)

In the year 1865, B. Fincke published a paper on the invention of his potentizing machine with which he produced fluxion potencies. Earlier he had dealt with mechanical potentizing in a series of preliminary experiments, where he tried to use the force of a steel spring under tension. With his fluxion potencies, Fincke was also the first manufacturer who prepared far higher dilutions than C200.

The first machine, which he used until 1869, consisted of a thin tube, a glass and a graduated vessel. Tap water flowed through the tube into the vial. From there the water flowed into the measuring vessel whose graduation showed the respective potency level. With this system Fincke produced rather irregular potency levels such as 16C, 11M, 19M, 23M, 37M, 47M, 103M etc.


Fig. 2
In the course of time the inventor started doubting the efficiency of his method:

By injecting the liquid into the potentizing vial the remedy could easily be soiled.
The uncommon range of potency levels
The measuring of potency levels based upon the water passing through

In 1869 he therefore disposed of all his remedies prepared up to then and developed a machine with which he manufactured his well-known “Fincke High Potencies”: There it was essential to measure the volume of the medicine carrier before it would flow into the vial. (9) As he had his machine patented in 1869, it was not possible for a long time to find out closer details on the method of potentizing. Kent, however, reported on their properties, “The Fincke High Potencies never failed me; they act quickly, long and deeply”. (10)


Fig. 3
Fincke writes about his method, “It differs in many respects from the other methods known – but in one essential point the Hahnemanian mode of preparation has been preserved and perfected, and that is by adhering rigidly to the centesimal scale.”

And exactly there he was mistaken, because his method differed considerably from Hahnemann’s multi-vial method. He used the continuous method where the glass is continuously passed through, thus “steps” were simply out of the question. He did not use lactose for the trituration of the basic substances, because he thought it would have too much medicinal efficacy itself. Ethanol would evaporate too quickly and therefore increase the potency level unintentionally. Moreover, it would be too expensive because for a Fincke CM 5000 Drachmen ~ 17kg ethanol (1 Drachme = 3 Scrupel = 3.888g) would be needed.

He manufactured the initial potencies up to C30 with ethanol, then he worked with distilled water, which he soon replaced by Nassau-water from Brooklyn, i.e. tap water from his surgery, which was the cheapest way. The increasing success of his remedies was proof of his theory that by potentizing a C30 the spirit of the remedy becomes an integral part of the carrier to such an extent that it cannot be destroyed by external influences. Thus he was of the opinion that possibly existing contaminants in the Nassau-water would not influence the efficacy negatively. “Each water has an individuality of its own that does not interfere with the action of high potencies in using it as vehicle for potentization.”(11)
When potentizing the first steps, Fincke diluted with ethanol in a ratio of 1:100 and shook the vial 180 times in dactylus rhythm. Then he emptied the vial with two vigorous downward strokes and refilled the vial with 99T ethanol. In case of watery remedies he potentized up to C6 using this method and in case of fatty remedies, up to C30, which now represented his “initial potencies”.


Fig. 4
Now he continued working with the apparatus depicted above. It consisted of a stock vessel (500ml, 5l or 20l) with graduations. A glass tube was placed inside which extended to the bottom of the bottle and rose out of the bottle ending in a U-bend. It was used for emptying the bottle. It stretched beyond the bottom of the bottle by approximately 2.5cm and a rubber tube connected it to the regulator, a glass tube tapering considerably at its end.
This tube stretched to the bottom of the vial which was set in a wooden holding device on a draining channel. When starting, the outlet was filled with water from the stock vessel, the regulator tube was connected and put into the vial moistened with “initial potency”. When the potentization had been completed, Fincke emptied the glass with two vigorous shaking strokes and refilled it with 95% ethanol. After that he vigorously shook it two times in dactylus rhythm.
He sealed the vial with a cork and labelled it as follows:

6 Cm
Aconitum napellus.
? (F flor.rec.)
1871

Fig. 5

The square root sign stands for „parent substance”, F for „tinctura fortis” = original tincture, „Flor.rec.” stands for fresh plant. Fincke also took down the place where the plant had been collected. He manufactured the last remedy in 1905.

His remedies were always administered as globules.
In an article on the manufacture of high potencies Adolph Lippe wrote in 1868, “Lehrmann’s 200th potencies act very similarly to the 30th of Hahnemann, Jenichen’s act much more intensely, and Fincke’s far surpass them as to intensity.” (12)

With his method Fincke caused a sensation. In 1941 W.W. Robinson stated, “The discovery by Fincke that the “fluxion” or continuous flow of water through a receptable holding a fixed quantity, enabled attenuations to be prepared without succussion and produced wide contention on the part of those who saw in such an accomplishment a radical divergence from what had long been accepted as an indispensable part of the attenuating procedure. But whatever the opinions, the fact remains that machines for making high attenuations became a reality and the reports of their clinical application were uniformly satisfactory.” (29)

Dr. Lenth was the next to produce high potencies. He, however, never gave away his method and his remedies never gained any importance, either.

Caroll Dunham (1828-1877)

A visit to Boenninghausen’s in Münster in 1851, inspired the American Dr. Caroll Dunham to deal with high potencies. In order to test the medicinal efficacy of 200th potencies, Dunham developed an apparatus in 1851 with which he could manufacture high potencies quickly and effectively. He was particularly interested in the question of whether the powerful mechanical energy used for manufacturing would change the efficacy and/or whether the energy of the potentizing person would be of prime importance to the efficacy of a remedy. (13)
In a letter to Dr. Lippe he described the apparatus:
“A disused oil mill powered by water was used for potentizing. It consisted of 4 striking pins, each of them 20cm square, 2.5cm high and weighing more than 500kg. They were lifted 45cm and then dropped with each stroke. Close around the plunger a solid holding device made of oak was mounted for holding 120 vials. For each potency level the remedies were shaken 125 times as described. It was difficult to find a vial which was resistant enough to withstand this rough treatment. I used one vial for each remedy. After having been emptied, each vial still contained approximately 2 drops of liquid. I added 198 drops of ethanol and shook it again…” Later Dunham said that he was helped with his work by his father. The washing of the vials already took more than one week. (14)

After these experiments he noted that no “magnetism” of the potentizing person was essential for the medicinal efficacy, because otherwise his remedies could not be so highly effective. His remedies were used up to the 40’s of our century and were regarded with great esteem.

Thomas Skinner (1825-1877)

Thomas Skinner was born in Newington, Edinburgh, Scotland. There he studied medicine and graduated from university in 1853. In the following years he developed the Skinner-Mask, which proved to be a great success in the field of anaesthesia.


Fig. 6
After a fit of influenza he suffered from insomnia in 1871 and could not sleep for more than 2 hours per week. Two years later he met Dr. E.W. Berridge, who was on his way from England to Pennsylvania to study homoeopathy at the Hahnemann Medical College. He prescribed a single dose of Sulfur MM prepared by Boericke for Skinner, who was cured immediately. From then on Skinner was an advocate of homoeopathy.

In 1876 he came to the United States to attend the International Congress on Homoeopathy of the American Institute of Homoeopathy, chaired by Dr. Caroll Dunham. There he met all the important figures of his time, such as Hering, Lippe, HC Allen and Samuel Swan.

In 1878 Dr. Thomas Skinner developed the fluxion-centesimal potentizer, which was constructed to be placed on a small washbasin. It was powered by water and two vials were used for potentizing, one of which only served as a spare.


Fig. 7

The potentizing principle was the powerful flow of medicine carrier into the solution of the remedy. The water (simple tap water) was flowing out of a phosphorus-bronze nozzle, and the flow could be regulated. The machine was started up in the following way:

The potentizing vial was filled with the remedy to be potentized and shaken about 1 minute in order to moisten the wall. Then the vial was emptied with several downward strokes and attached to the holding device. After that the machine was started up and at each step 100 drops were injected into the vial which was emptied thereafter by swivelling the holding device. When the desired potency level had been reached, the vial was emptied into a new vial, this was emptied again and refilled with ethanol. Then it was shaken vigorously 25 times and thereafter crude globules were moistened. The remedies were specified as FC (Fluxion Centesimal) to distinguish them from Hahnemann’s centesimal potencies. Skinner always emphasized the discontinuity of his method in contrast to Swan’s and Fincke’s methods.

Skinner said about his machine, “It passes through 50 centesimal steps per minute, 3,000 per hour, 72,000 per day, 100,000 per about 33 hours and M in about 14 ½ days.” (15) In his letter to Dr. Hayes, James Tyler Kent states that according to him, Skinner’s machine is the only one in the world which manufactures high-quality remedies.

Shortly before the turn of the century Boericke & Tafel’s Philadelphia-based company “Penn Instrument Company” launched an advanced version of Skinner’s centesimal potentizing machine. The machine is set in a case with sliding doors of glass and has six holding devices for vials attached to one girder. Each vial in the case is separated from the others by a special partition, so that the remedies cannot contaminate each other. With an adjustable syringe the water is injected into test tube-like vials containing the remedy. Then the vials are tilted and emptied. One cycle takes about one second. (16)


Fig. 8
In retrospect one can say that Skinner’s remedies were the most widely used among the high potencies. Around 1960 there was no manufacturer in the USA who potentized remedies higher than C200. When buying a high potency then, it was most likely one from Boericke & Tafel, i.e. one from a Skinner potentizer.

Until recently homoeopaths wrongly believed that Skinner remedies, as advertised by Boericke & Tafel, were potentized using shaking strokes. Only when the attempt was made to include the machine as a standard method in the American Pharmacopoea HPUS, did this error become obvious. Since then these remedies have been less popular in the USA because they differ too much from Hahnemann’s method of diluting and shaking. Moreover, it turned out in the course of experiments with perfect copies of the Skinner potentizer, that it was not one hundredth of the remedy, as assumed, that remained in the vial, but only about one seventeenth. (17)

James Tyler Kent (1849-1916)

Only a couple of years later Kent constructed his own potentizing machine, which was used for the manufacture of remedies by Erhart and Karl in Chicago. This machine potentized up to CM, and it was the only one where the liquid was shaken at each step. Moreover, Kent used filtered water as a medicine carrier, contrary to all other manufacturers who used simple tap water.


Fig. 9
The machine had an engine driving two arbors connected with a worm gear pair. Attached to these arbors, there were eccentric plates for the strokes, the opening mechanism and the lifting mechanism. Urban J. Erhart’s manually potentized C1000 served as the basis. During the potentizing process both vials were sealed with a leather membrane, which was lowered after each completed step, so that the contents of the vial could drain off. Unfortunately, there is no information on the way in which the empty vials were refilled with water. There are no contemporary witnesses either. It is regarded as unlikely that Kent only used a flexible tube and gravity to supply the system with water. (18) In Erhart & Karl’s list, 900 Kent remedies in the potencies 10M, 50M and CM were offered, prices of 1 oz were 1.00, 1.50 and 2.00 dollars. (19)

About the author

Robert Muentz

Robert Muentz took over the direction of the family-owned Salvator Pharmacy, founded in 1760. While constructing various potentiser devices and writing diverse publications, he also became a licensed bowed and string instrument builder and has handcrafted concert guitars and harpsichords. In 2003 he founded the company Remedia Homeopathy GmbH, a subsidiary of the Salvator Pharmacy that is now directed by his wife Sabine Muentz. In 2010 he built a new homeopathic laboratory in the Technology Center complex in Eisenstadt.

8 Comments

  • It is really fantastic 150 years of machine made potenzies, A great achievement in Homeopathy. All the best to homeopathy & your Hpathy
    website.

  • A fascinating article. most informative.
    You have missed out the use of electronic remedy makers. i have used on for over 20 years and they really do work. so quick and so easy

    • Hi Brian, I needed to Prepare V High potencies of a Remedy, I would be Most Grateful if you can help me with more information on Electronic Potentiation!

      Thanks In Advance.

    • Can you go on a bit about electronic remedy makers? How do they work, and what would be an example of one? Thank you.

  • This article shows the past of the potentiser i appreciate the hard work tracing from the archieves, it would have been more informative had it lead to the latest potentisers ???,we are eager to see the latest potentisers being used.

  • This is quite an informative article. It covers adsorption which can be possible if one vial is used for different potencies–‘K’ scale. Adsorption can lead to molecular presence of raw remedy substances even in higher potencies beyong Avogdro number. It would had been more contributing, if triturations could also included in this article. Since, triturations are also done on machines & same containers/components–mortar & pestle, are used, triturations can also be considered alike “K” scale remedies.

    Regards.

  • What a great article on the potentizing machines I will have to read it afew more times slowly to fully grasp the methodolgy. Great work!

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