“Be wary of strong drink. It can make you shoot at
tax collectors – and miss.”
- Robert A. Heinlein
Time Enough for Love
How can a homeopathic practitioner get away with giving patients a substance like rotten meat? Even in the days when bloodletting was common practice, Hahnemann recognized that giving poisonous substances in crude form caused side effects. Treating syphilis with mercury, even if it fitted the patient’s case perfectly, still caused mercury poisoning. Hahnemann attempted to avoid side effects by decreasing the doses and discovered that not only did the side effects diminish as the doses decreased, but the effectiveness of the remedy actually increased.
After experimenting for years, Hahnemann finally arrived at the method of preparation used today. The effectiveness of this method cannot be accounted for by present day science, and this is the major stumbling block to widespread acceptance of homeopathy. However, once you are willing to set this apparent inconsistency aside, you see dramatic results.
Preparing homeopathic remedies involves serial dilutions and shaking of the product between dilutions. After several dilutions, the initial substance is essentially washed out and cannot be chemically detected in the final product. For instance, one of the lower potencies, 30c, is a serial dilution of 1 to 100 made thirty times, which yields a final product diluted 1060 times from the initial substance (that’s 10 with 60 zeros after it!). Of course, this is far beyond Avogadro’s number of 6.0 x 1023. Therefore, the chance of finding a single molecule of the initial substance in the final product is zero for all practical purposes. These preparations are referred to as submolecular.
30c is a low potency and homeopaths commonly use dilutions such as 1M (102,000), 10M (1020,000), or 50M (10100,000). While it makes no sense whatsoever in light of present day science, in practice, the higher the dilution, the stronger and longer lasting the effect.
Now you can see why the rotten meat did not make my patient sicker. None of it was left in the medicine! It seems ridiculous, which is why I thought the homeopath who gave the presentation in medical school was either crazy or a crook. The idea that sub-molecular preparations could have any effect insulted my rational mind. It still does, but what can I say … it works. I try to be pragmatic in these situations. I knew it would do no harm, so I tried it. When I saw that it worked, I couldn’t turn back.
There have been attempts to explain this phenomenon. For example, Dr. W. A. Tiller2 of Stanford University approached this subject from the standpoint of theoretical physics. His article seems too complicated for my simple mind, but some readers might find it informative. This is the only in-depth scientific explanation of which I am aware. Other available explanations are more metaphysical and are the topic of the next chapter.