29 June 2013

Why hounding homeopaths is both batty and arrogant.

“Ultimately what Nightingale is attacking is the intelligence and judgement of people who are trying to find an effective way to heal themselves. If homeopathy, which even its most virulent critics cannot claim is remotely likely to be harmful, works for you, then someone needs to combine serious arrogance with real battiness to believe they have the right to stand in the way.”

 Body of Evidence

There is no shortage of villains in the world. Psychopaths – domestic and national – whalers, toxic waste dumpers, global eavesdroppers, billionaire tax avoiders and their army of accountants –  all well worth campaigning against with the aim of getting them banged up or forced to cough up.

There is also an infinite supply of people who are mildly irritating who misplace apostrophes, wear Croc shoes, do crochet, litter their sentences with “you know” and text using their middle finger.

However most of us can tell the difference. In fact mixing the two categories up is a pretty reliable indicator of a serious level of battiness . Picketing shops that sell Crocs or campaigning to forbid the sale of mobiles to clumsy texters puts you firmly in the mild-to-fairly-irritating and definitely-a-bit -potty class.

Step forward the Nightingale Collaboration, earnest and self-styled defender of rationalism, whose seriously potty members have got…

View original post 986 more words

26 November 2009

Parliamentary Science and Technology Evidence check for Homeopathy

Thanks to ‘Voice of (not so) Young Homeopathy’ for their comments on this week’s Parliamentary Science and Technology Evidence check for Homeopathy here:


You can watch the whole meeting here:   http://www.parliamentlive.tv/Main/Player.aspx?meetingId=5221

Vo(ns)YH promises a transcript too.

Some funny moments: I thought Goldacre’s comment that he wasn’t interested in Physics quite hilarious given that homeopathy allegedly ‘goes against all its laws’, and Ernst saying that he thought it was the long consultation that helped homeopathic patients REALLY begged the question: ‘is there any evidence for that? and if there is then why does the NHS only allow 10 minutes?’ and David Colquhoun got a dishonourable mention about going around collecting anecdotal evidence.

I’m disappointed that no-one mentioned that only 13% of NHS treatments are backed by solid evidence: http://clinicalevidence.bmj.com/ceweb/about/knowledge.jsp

Update: Here is the evidence supplied to the committee:


20 February 2009

Contribution of homeopathy to the control of an outbreak of dengue in Macaé, Rio de Janeiro

From the International Journal of High Dilution of Research 

“Homeopathy has contributed throughout history [see herehere and here ] to the control and eradication of epidemic diseases. Facing the challenge of controlling an outbreak of dengue, the Secretary of Health of the county of Macaé, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in early 2007 carried out a “Homeopathy Campaign against Dengue”. 156,000 doses of homeopathic remedy were freely distributed in April and May 2007 to asymptomatic patients and 129 doses to symptomatic patients treated in outpatient clinics, according to the notion of “epidemic genus”. The remedy used was a homeopathic complex against dengue containing Phosphorus 30cH, Crotalus horridus 30cH and Eupatorium perfoliatum 30cH. The incidence of the disease in the first three months of 2008 fell 93% by comparison to the corresponding period in 2007, whereas in the rest of the State of Rio de Janeiro there was an increase of 128%. While confounding factors were not controlled for, these results suggest that homeopathy may be an effective adjunct in Dengue outbreak prevention.”

1 September 2008

Downloadable research on very low dose/high dilution effects

GIRI: ‘Groupe International de Researche sur l’Infinetismal’ / International Research Group on Very Low Dose and High Dilution Effects is a group that ‘organises workshops yearly throughout the world. It convenes systematically in congresses during each of the International Encounters of Monaco. The aim of the GIRI is to bring together pharmacologists, biologists, physicians, chemists and physicists to communicate, exchange experiences and develop joint research projects; the distinctive feature of the research activities of the group is the study of ultra low dose impulses or very high dilutions, homœopathics included. Although the mechanism of action of the very diluted solutions of active principles on biological systems is an important concern of the GIRI, the major interest of the Group is directed towards the possible medicinal and therapeutic relevance of the very low doses. More than one hundred persons are GIRI members, coming from 20 different countries.’

They are publishing a book (downloadable here):

“Signals and Images”

Selected papers from the 7th and 8th GIRI Meeting, held in Montpellier, France, November 20-21, 1993, and Jerusalem, Israel, December 10-11, 1994
Edited by Madeleine Bastide, Faculty of Pharmacy, University of Montpellier I, France
Kluver Academic Press

We are now able to propose a book which includes 23 full papers from more than fifty contributors corresponding to the two last GIRI meetings: the 7th (held in Montpellier, France, on 20-21 November 1993) and the 8th (held in Jerusalem, Israel, on 10-11 December 1994). The GIRI gets bigger every year and now includes more than 100 members from 22 different countries. This evolution stimulates more and more researches on this subject often considered as scientific nonsense or a scientific error. All these papers have been reviewed according to the standards of scientific publications and many of them are now published in regular scientific journals. They illustrate perfectly the evolution of the ideas and the new experimental and theoretical approaches of this uncommon research. It becomes obvious that different hypothesis can enlighten the interpretations of these different papers. Part of them can be interpretated according to the classical way of thinking; but the true interpretation of the similia law of homeopathic medicine is quite different from the mechanistic approach.

To help the reader, the papers will be organized into four chapters; each chapter will be introduced by a short analysis of the papers included.

The “Introduction” debates the question of scientific evolution and revolution in the context of modern science.

The 1st chapter “Hormesis” gathers together all the papers related to this concept: these models are often evoked to demonstrate or to explain the similia law although hormesis is always based on a relationship of identity.

The 2nd chapter “In Vitro and in Vivo Experimental Models” includes many experiments which demonstrate low dose or high dilution activity and is introduced by a summary of classical receptology.

The 3rd chapter “Therapeutics and Provings “ discusses the question of analysis of the symptoms in a systemic way of thinking and also includes pathogenetic studies (provings) as well as homeopathic therapeutic studies in humans or in animals.

The last chapter presents an “Epistemologic Approach” which become necessary in order to enlarge the possibility of interpretation of the law of similarity and the high dilution effectiveness considering that these dilutions are above the Avogadro number.

This new field of research is very exciting and introduces new scientific concepts supported by experimental results. Above all, we observe that this nascent science is totally concerned by “living” organisms and as such, it becomes necessary to define what we design as “information” brought by non-molecular high dilutions.

This book presents the brain-storming work of this research group and is one of the starting points of a scientific evolution: ” The proliferation of concurrent variants of the conventional paradigm, the fact of being willing to try anything, the expression of marked discontent, recourse to philosophy and discussion on the theoretical foundations, all signs are many symptoms of a passage from normal research to extraordinary research”. T.S.Kuhn, 1962, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, The University of Chicago Press, Chicago.MB

12 June 2008

Homeopathy works – more scientific investigation merited

The Daily Mail reports:

“Homeopathy really does work and doctors should recognise its healing effects, say researchers.

A study found that allergy sufferers who were given homeopathic treatment were ten times more likely to be cured than those given a dummy pill instead.

Doctors should be more positive about the alternative medicine, which is the only complementary therapy available on the NHS, the researchers said.

Their study attempts to settle the controversy over homeopathic treatment, which critics say is not effective because of the tiny level of active substance used in most remedies.

It works on the principle that a substance which in large doses will cause the symptoms of an illness can be used in minute doses to relieve the same symptoms.

Critics argue that the active substance is so diluted that homeopathic remedies have no more effect than placebo or dummy treatment.

The study put homeopathy to the test in 50 patients suffering from nasal allergies. They were given either a homeopathic preparation or a placebo.

Each day for four weeks patients recruited from general practices and a hospital in London measured their nasal air flow and recorded symptoms such as blocked, runny or itchy nose, sneezing or eye irritation.

Both groups reported that they got better – but on average patients who received homeopathy had a 28 per cent improvement in nasal air flow compared with 3 per cent among those in the placebo group.

The study was carried out by doctors in Glasgow, led by Dr David Reilly of the Glasgow Homeopathic Hospital, one of five specialist hospitals in Britain. He said the difference in results from the two treatments was statistically significant.

Dr Reilly said this was the fourth trial carried out by his hospital, all with similar results. In addition, there were positive findings in 70 per cent of a further 180 clinical trials.

‘I hope this will encourage doctors to examine the volume of evidence supporting homeopathy – they might be quite surprised at the positive outcome in many trials,’ he said.

He added that it would take consistent scientific investigation to persuade some doctors, but attitudes were changing.

About 20 per cent of doctors in Scotland have basic homeopathic training compared with one per cent 15 years ago.

‘It isn’t just about the remedies, which can be put to the test in trials, but about a greater holistic approach in encouraging self-healing and self-recovery.'”

Dr Bob Leckridge, president of the Faculty of Homeopathy – the body for doctors, vets, nurses and other health professionals – said: ‘This latest research builds on existing evidence that homeopathy works, something that hundreds of doctors and their patients have known for 200 years.’

19 February 2008

Homeopathic ‘placebo’: much more effective than conventional medicine’s placebo

Laughing my socks off’s comment on blog entry ‘Socking hypocrisy in anti-cam campaign’ :

GSK’s Allen Roses says 90% of pharmaceutical drugs are only effective in 30-50% of cases. BMJ Clinical Evidence says only somewhere between 26-34% of 2,500 commonly used treatments have some proven benefit. The Bristol study [Bristol Homeopathic Hospital] concluded 70%+ of patients reported some improvement with homeopathic treatment. The Berlin study came up with similar percentages and concluded that patients using homeopathy had better outcomes than patients using conventional medicine. Glasgow Homeopathic Hospital’s ongoing audits of patient response return similar percentages.

It’s worth emphasising that while controls might be absent in these studies, the patient cohorts tend to have a high percentage (80%+) of chronic complaints of which an equally high percentage (80%+) have failed to respond to conventional treatment. If they failed to respond to conventional treatment, in which the placebo effect is likely to be considerably stronger than in homeopathy, then it’s reasonable to suggest that these are patients who are not particularly susceptible to placebo response. If they failed to respond to conventional treatment, then it’s reasonable to suggest that for these patients, homeopathy proved to be the more effective option.”

18 February 2008

Water research scientist’s view of homeopathy

Martin Chaplin BSc PhD CChem FRSC Professor of Applied Science, Water and Aqueous Systems Research, London South Bank University has this to say about Homeopathy which I extract and highlight here:

Re Jacques Benveniste’s research

“A controversial paper in Nature [132] containing data from several laboratories, claiming to prove the efficacy of extreme dilution (the ‘memory of water‘ [1112])a has not been generally accepted after the results were reported as not reproducible under closely controlled and observed (by Nature’s self-acknowledged biased observers), but strained, overly-demanding and unsympathetic, conditions with negative results from only one laboratory being cherry-picked from amongst otherwise positive results [133]. The original results [132] were, however, confirmed in a blinded study by the statistician Alfred Spira [346e] and also in a rather bizarre Nature paper purporting to prove the opposite [346b],b and were subsequently comprehensively confirmed by a blinded multi-center trial [346a]. In spite of this apparent confirmation by several laboratories, there are still doubts over whether the experiments are truly reproducible and whether the noted effects may be due to the origin of the biological samples or human operator effects [1362].”

Re structural change from potentisation, the effect of glassware and thermoluminescence: 

“A thorough investigation into the structural differences previously reported between homeopathically potentized (that is, succussed and extremely diluted) and unpotentized nitric acid solutions showed that the effect was lost or changed if different glassware was used [495]. Changes in the thermoluminescence of ice produced from ultra-diluted water have been noted [500a] but can be explained by remaining trace amounts of material (due to poor mixing, impurities, absorption, nanobubbles (that is, nanocavities) [500d] or other causes) being concentrated between ice crystals [500b]; an explanation supported by later work [500c].”

Re meta-analyses and The Lancet:

“Meta-analysis of 89 placebo-controlled trials failed to prove either that homeopathy was efficacious for any single clinical condition OR that its positive clinical effects could entirely be due to a placebo effect [121a], thus leaving the scientific door open both ways. A further analysis of this data, however, indicated that some of these studies may have failed to avoid bias and that studies using better methodology yielded the less positive effects [121b]. It should also be noted that placebo effects constitute real clinical effects [121c], should be judged positively and probably account for a significant proportion of the success of prevailing established medicine. A recent analytical review has reinforced the, more negative, view concerning the clinical effectiveness of homeopathic remedies [527]. Further, a recent quality assessment of published experiments on homeopathic preparations has concluded that many were performed with inadequate controls [651]. ”

Re television investigations: 

“Although a scientific trial of homeopathy conducted for the BBC and similar work reported on ABC News’ 20/20 program both failed to show any homeopathic effect, the experiments they reported have been subject to serious criticism including that of careless scientific methodology. In August 2005 [840], the medical journal ‘The Lancet’ controversially argued for halting any further research into homeopathy concluding it has no effect other than as a placebo. This judgment was based on a comparative study of 110 matched placebo-controlled trials of homoeopathy and conventional medicine [841]. The conclusion was reached, however, in spite of the study apparently showing little evidence of differences between the two groups (homeopathy and conventional) when all the data was considered. There were differences when a tiny percentage of unmatched larger trials were cherry-picked for further analysis (that is, 102/110 of the homeopathy studies and 104/110 of the conventional studies were discarded).c The remaining 6% of the studies, however, still showed positive (if not conclusive, possibly as the number of trials left in this final grouping was so small) evidence in favor of a homeopathic effect over placebo. Although this study has come in for considerable and rightful criticism, as above and [1381, 1382], it is often put forward in support of the view that homeopathy works no better than as a placebo, a fact that it clearly does not deliver.”

Re bias: 

“Many laugh homeopathy out of serious consideration as a clinical practice, sometimes resorting to unscientific, unbalanced and unrefereed editorial diatribe. One of the main reasons concerning this disbelief in the efficacy of homeopathy lies in the difficulty in understanding how it might work. If an acceptable theory was available then more people would consider it more seriously. However, it is difficult at present to sustain a theory as to why a truly infinitely diluted aqueous solution, consisting of just H2O molecules, should retain any difference from any other such solution. It is even more difficult to put forward a working hypothesis as to how small quantities of such ‘solutions’ can act to elicit a specific response when confronted with large amounts of complex solution in a subject. A major problem in this area is that, without a testable hypothesis for the generally acknowledged potency of homeopathy, there is a growing possibility of others making fraudulent claims in related areas, as perhaps evidenced by the increasing use of the internet to advertise ‘healthy’ water concentrates using dubious (sometimes published but irreproducible) scientific and spiritual evidence.”

Re possible explanation for homeopathy:

“A key feature of any difference between water before and after its use in preparing homeopathic dilutions is likely to be the vigorous shaking (succussion) that must be carried out between successive dilutions, and which may produce significantly increased concentrations of silicate, sodium and bicarbonate ions [335, 1207] by dissolution of the glass tubes and increases in nanobubbles and redox molecules [1066] from the atmosphere, respectively.

How water may show a memory is explored further in the ‘memory of water’ page

16 February 2008

Homeopathy myths: It’s ‘just water’:2

The Homeopathy Research Institute  observes: ‘Opponents of homeopathy often refer to the simplicity of the water molecule as a key argument why homeopathy cannot work. “It’s just water!” they say’ and comment ‘It’s hard to realise just how complex a substance water really is’:

From London South Bank University “Water Structure and Science” by Martin Chaplin

Water Anomalies

Water is an apparently simple molecule (H2O) with a highly complex character. As a gas it is one of lightest known, as a liquid it is much denser than expected and as a solid it is much lighter than expected. Much of the behavior of liquid water is quite different from what is found with other liquids, giving rise to the term ‘the anomalous properties of water’. a

As liquid water is so common-place in our everyday lives, it is often regarded as a ‘typical’ liquid. In reality water is most atypical as a liquid, behaving as a quite different material at low temperatures to that when it is hot. It has often been stated (for example, [127]) that life depends on these anomalous properties of water. In particular, the large heat capacity, high thermal conductivity and high water content in organisms contribute to thermal regulation and prevent local temperature fluctuations, thus allowing us to more easily control our body temperature. The high latent heat of evaporation gives resistance to dehydration and considerable evaporative cooling. Water is an excellent solvent due to its polarity, high dielectric constant and small size, particularly for polar and ionic compounds and salts.b It has unique hydration properties towards biological macromolecules (particularly proteins and nucleic acids) that determine their three-dimensional structures, and hence their functions, in solution. This hydration forms gels that can reversibly undergo the gel-sol phase transitions that underlie many cellular mechanisms [351]. Water ionizes and allows easy proton exchange between molecules, so contributing to the richness of the ionic interactions in biology.

At 4°C water expands on heating OR cooling. This density maximum together with the low ice density results in (i) the necessity that all of a body of fresh water (not just its surface) is close to 4°C before any freezing can occur, (ii) the freezing of rivers, lakes and oceans is from the top down, so permitting survival of the bottom ecology, insulating the water from further freezing, reflecting back sunlight into space and allowing rapid thawing, and (iii) density driven thermal convection causing seasonal mixing in deeper temperate waters carrying life-providing oxygen into the depths. The large heat capacity of the oceans and seas allows them to act as heat reservoirs such that sea temperatures vary only a third as much as land temperatures and so moderate our climate (for example, the Gulf stream carries tropical warmth to northwestern Europe). The compressibility of water reduces the sea level by about 40 m giving us 5% more land [65]. Water’s high surface tension plus its expansion on freezing encourages the erosion of rocks to give soil for our agriculture.

Notable amongst the anomalies of water are the opposite properties of hot and cold water, with the anomalous behavior more accentuated at low temperatures where the properties of supercooled water often diverge from those of hexagonal ice.c As cold liquid water is heated it shrinks, it becomes less easy to compress, its refractive index increases, the speed of sound within it increases, gases become less soluble and it is easier to heat and conducts heat better. In contrast as hot liquid water is heated it expands, it becomes easier to compress, its refractive index reduces, the speed of sound within it decreases, gases become more soluble and it is harder to heat and a poorer conductor of heat. With increasing pressure, cold water molecules move faster but hot water molecules move slower. Hot water freezes faster than cold water and ice melts when compressed except at high pressures when liquid water freezes when compressed. No other material is commonly found as solid, liquid and gas.d

The anomalies of water appear as a heirarchy of effects with different bounds [169]. These are shown indicatively opposite as derived from modeling, not experimental data. The ‘Structural’ bounds indicate where water is more disordered when compressed, the ‘Dynamic’ bounds indicate where diffusion increases with density, and the ‘Thermodynamic’ bounds show where there is a temperature of maximum density; with the data from [169] shifted upwards 38 K to give the correct temperature of maximum density under standard pressure. As density always increases with increasing pressure, a similar relationship holds with pressure along the horizontal axis. Heirarchy of anomalies, based on SPC/E model of Ref. 169. This graph is indicative only and does not show experimental points

Water phase anomalies e

  1. Water has unusually high melting point. [Explanation]
  2. Water has unusually high boiling point. [Explanation]
  3. Water has unusually high critical point. [Explanation]
  4. Solid water exists in a wider variety of stable (and metastable) crystal and amorphous structures than other materials. [Explanation]
  5. The thermal conductivity of ice reduces with increasing pressure. [Explanation]
  6. The structure of liquid water changes at high pressure. [Explanation]
  7. Supercooled water has two phases and a second critical point at about -91°C. [Explanation]
  8. Liquid water is easily supercooled but glassified with difficulty. [Explanation]
  9. Liquid water exists at very low temperatures and freezes on heating. [Explanation]
  10. Liquid water may be easily superheated. [Explanation]
  11. Hot water may freeze faster than cold water; the Mpemba effect. [Explanation]
  12. Warm water vibrates longer than cold water. [Explanation]

Water density anomalies

  1. The density of ice increases on heating (up to 70 K). [Explanation]
  2. Water shrinks on melting. [Explanation]
  3. Pressure reduces ice’s melting point. [Explanation]
  4. Liquid water has a high density that increases on heating (up to 3.984°C). [Explanation]
  5. Pressure reduces the temperature of maximum density. [Explanation]
  6. There is a minimum in the density of supercooled water. [Explanation]
  7. Water has a low coefficient of expansion (thermal expansivity). [Explanation]
  8. Water’s thermal expansivity reduces increasingly (becoming negative) at low temperatures. [Explanation]
  9. Water’s thermal expansivity increases with increased pressure. [Explanation]
  10. The number of nearest neighbors increases on melting. [Explanation]
  11. The number of nearest neighbors increases with temperature. [Explanation]
  12. Water has unusually low compressibility. [Explanation]
  13. The compressibility drops as temperature increases up to 46.5°C. [Explanation]
  14. There is a maximum in the compressibility-temperature relationship. [Explanation]
  15. The speed of sound increases with temperature up to 74°C. [Explanation]
  16. The speed of sound may show a minimum. [Explanation]
  17. ‘Fast sound’ is found at high frequencies and shows an discontinuity at higher pressure. [Explanation]
  18. NMR spin-lattice relaxation time is very small at low temperatures. [Explanation]
  19. The refractive index of water has a maximum value at just below 0°C. [Explanation]
  20. The change in volume as liquid changes to gas is very large. [Explanation]

Water material anomalies

  1. No aqueous solution is ideal. [Explanation]
  2. D2O and T2O differ significantly from H2O in their physical properties. [Explanation]
  3. Liquid H2O and D2O differ significantly in their phase behavior. [Explanation]
  4. Solutes have varying effects on properties such as density and viscosity. [Explanation]
  5. The solubilities of non-polar gases in water decrease with temperature to a minimum and then rise. [Explanation]
  6. The dielectric constant of water is high. [Explanation]
  7. The dielectric constant shows a temperature maximum. [Explanation]
  8. Proton and hydroxide ion mobilities are anomalously fast in an electric field. [Explanation]
  9. The electrical conductivity of water rises to a maximum at about 230°C. [Explanation]
  10. Acidity constants of weak acids show temperature minima. [Explanation]
  11. X-ray diffraction shows an unusually detailed structure. [Explanation]
  12. Under high pressure water molecules move further away from each other with increasing pressure. [Explanation]

Water thermodynamic anomalies

  1. The heat of fusion of water with temperature exhibits a maximum at -17°C. [Explanation]
  2. Water has over twice the specific heat capacity of ice or steam. [Explanation]
  3. The specific heat capacity (CP and CV) is unusually high. [Explanation]
  4. The specific heat capacity CP has a minimum at 36°C. [Explanation]
  5. The specific heat capacity (CP) has a maximum at about -45°C. [Explanation]
  6. The specific heat capacity (CP) has a minimum with respect to pressure. [Explanation]
  7. The heat capacity (CV) has a maximum. [Explanation]
  8. High heat of vaporization. [Explanation]
  9. High heat of sublimation. [Explanation]
  10. High entropy of vaporization. [Explanation]
  11. The thermal conductivity of water is high and rises to a maximum at about 130°C. [Explanation]

Water physical anomalies

  1. Water has unusually high viscosity. [Explanation]
  2. Large viscosity increase as the temperature is lowered. [Explanation]
  3. Water’s viscosity decreases with pressure below 33°C. [Explanation]
  4. Large diffusion decrease as the temperature is lowered. [Explanation]
  5. At low temperatures, the self-diffusion of water increases as the density and pressure increase. [Explanation]
  6. The thermal diffusivity rises to a maximum at about 0.8 GPa. [Explanation]
  7. Water has unusually high surface tension. [Explanation]
  8. Some salts give a surface tension-concentration minimum; the Jones-Ray effect. [Explanation]
  9. Some salts prevent the coalescence of small bubbles. [Explanation]

Anomalies of water graph


Some of the anomalies of water related to temperature.

The graph uses data that have been scaled between their maximum and minimum values (see original data).

a   Whether or not the properties of water are seen to be anomalous depends upon which materials water is to be compared and the interpretation of ‘anomalous’. For example, it could well be argued that water possesses exactly those properties that one might deduce from its structure (see for example, [402]). Other tetrahedrally interacting liquids, such as liquid Si, SiO2 and BeF2 have many similar ‘anomalies’. Comparisons between water, liquid sodium, argon and benzene appear to Franks [112] to indicate several of the properties given above as not being anomalous. However, these materials are perhaps not the most typical of liquids. My list gives the unusual properties generally understood to make liquid water (and ice) stand out from ‘typical’ liquids (or solids). See [242] for a review concentrating on the non-anomalous properties of water; that is, those that are the ‘same’ as for other liquids. [Back]b    It is therefore very difficult to obtain really pure water (for example, < 5 ng g-1). For a review of aqueous solubility prediction, see [744]. Note that ice, in contrast, is a very poor solvent and this may be made use of when purifying water (for example, degassing) using successive freeze-thaw cycles. [Back]c    Some scientists attribute the low temperature anomalous nature of water to the presence of a second critical point; an interesting if somewhat unproductive hypothesis as a sole explanation (as the attribution mixes cause with effect). Water’s anomalies do not require this as an explanation. [Back]d    The temperature range of ‘hot’ and ‘cold’ water varies in these examples; see the individual entries for details. [Back]e    The anomalies of water are divided into groups but, clearly, some anomalies may be included under more than one topic and there may not be universal agreement for the groupings shown. [Back]Re skeptic comments: links to and brief summaries of peer-reviewed articles or reasonable blogs discussing the above will be accepted. H4H.  


13 February 2008

Homeopathy myths: it’s ‘just water’

The Homeopathy Research Institute  (aims: ‘To perform and promote innovative research of the highest scientific standard in the field of homeopathy.  To enable and encourage communication between the scientific community, the medical profession, professional homeopaths, the media and the public at large’)

reports in its February newsletter:


It’s not ‘just’ water

“It’s hard to realise just how complex a substance water really is.  Water is everywhere; it covers 2/3 of the earth’s surface and makes up 60-70% of the human body.  In our daily life, we only know water as either a liquid, ice or vapour. However upon closer inspection, scientists have catalogued 15 different types of ice1, which can be admired in the intricate designs of snow flakes and the amazing pictures of water crystals taken by Dr Imoto2This complexity is due to the precise structure of the water molecule, making water one of the most complex substances known to science3.

Opponents of homeopathy often refer to the simplicity of the water molecule as a key argument why homeopathy cannot work. “It’s just water!” they say.  However this is not the case as has now been shown by several fields of science outside of homeopathy4.

In the field of toxicology there is a known and documented phenomenon known as ‘hormesis’4A substance showing hormesis has the property that it has the opposite effect in small doses, than in large doses.  This supports the use of tautopathy, where homeopathic doses of a toxin are given to accelerate the detoxification of that same toxin (e.g. Arsenic).

Furthermore, in the field of material sciences, there is a phenomenon known as ‘epitaxis’.  This phenomenon is used in the industrial manufacture of semiconductors for microprocessors.  Epitaxy refers to the transfer of structural information from one substance to another, which can happen at the interface between the two substances.  This transfer of structure information can remain after the original substance has disappeared from the system.  This is very similar to the theory of homeopathic dilutions, the only difference being that epitaxy is known to happen in crystaline materials but not in liquids such as water5.

More recently, experiments using the light emission spectrum (Raman and Ultra-Violet-Visible spectroscopy) of homeopathic water vs normal water have shown that homeopathically prepared water has a different molecular structure than normal water6.  Although these are preliminary results they do indicate that homeopathic remedies are not ‘just water’, something has remained of the originally diluted substance.

Finally I want to return to the work of the late Dr Benveniste (1935-2004).  Benveniste’s original publication in 1988 in Nature7 – science’s most prestigious journal – created outrage in the scientific community all over the world.  It showed that dilutions beyond Avogadro’s number (behond which there is no trace of the original substance left in the solution, corresponding to –12C) have a reproducible biological effect onliving cells.  The scandal eventually let do Benveniste having to resign from his position as director of the CNRS, France’s main governmental science agency.  It is reassuring that his results have since then been reproduced and confirmed, showing that indeed highly (homeopathically) diluted substances retain a biological activity akin to that of the substance in its crude form8-9.

In this brief overview of the science of water I hope I have managed to convey some of the strong scientific arguments that support the theory of homeopathic dilutions and thus the validity of the homeopathic principle of potentisation.”

1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ice

2. http://www.masaru-emoto.net and his books such as ‘Messages from water’.

3. http://www.lsbu.ac.uk/water/anmlies.html 

4. Mastrangelo D., (2007) ‘Hormesis, epitaxy, the structure of liquid water, and the science of homeopathy’. Med Sci Monit 13 (1):SR1-8.

5. Roy R. (2005) “The Structure of Liquid Water; Novel Insights from Materials Research; Potential Relevance to Homeopathy.” Material Research Innovations. 9 (4), pg 577-608.

6. Rao ML (2007) “The defining role of structure (including epitaxy) in the plausibility of homeopathy”. Homeopathy. 96 (3); 175-82

7. E Davenas & J Benveniste (1988). “Human basophil degranulation triggered by very dilute antiserum against IgE” Nature 816 – 818

8. Belon P. (1999) “Inhibition of human basophil degranulation by successive histamine dilutions: results of a European multi-centre trial.”, 48 Suppl 1: S17-8

9. Belon P etal (2004). “Histamine dilutions modulate basophil activation”. Inflamm Res. 53 (5):181-8

More discussion on water memory here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Water_memory

Interesting description of hormesis here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hormesis ‘The biochemical mechanisms by which hormesis works are not well understood. It is conjectured that a low dose challenge with a toxin may trigger certain repair mechanisms in the body, and these mechanisms, having been initiated, are efficient enough that they not only neutralize the toxin’s effect, but even repair other defects not caused by the toxin.’

18 January 2008

Homeopathy myths: It’s a drop in the ocean

A response to my explanation today by Jeff Garrington:

“In homeopathy each succussion takes place in the small environment of a closed test tube and involves a relatively very small amount of water.” Surely this isn’t the case with Helios, Nelsons and other manufacturers of Homeopathic Water.
Or am I mistaken, are thousands employed shaking test tubes.

My reply:

“JG: You are mistaken.

Remedies were laboriously handmade but now many homeopathic pharmacies use Korsakoff machines where ONE vial is emptied (the small residue in the bottle being considered the ‘one drop’) and refilled and succussed to the required potency over hours or days.”

Here is Helios’s page: http://www.helios.co.uk/Helios%20Potentising%20machine.html

Here is a picture of the machine:

Helios Homoeopathy High Potency Korsakoff Machine

No swimming pools or oceans required.

More myth-busting at http://www.homeopathyworkedforme.org/

It continues to amaze me how skeptics are ignorant of the facts of the therapy they love to hate (although to be fair to Jeff he isn’t too bad).

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