How do dilute homeopathic remedies work? This is the question that brings up a lot of controversy between believers and nonbelievers of homeopathic medicine.
Homeopathic remedies are often diluted to the point where there may be no molecules of original substance left. One of the leading theories for how such extreme dilutions work is that water is capable of storing information about substances with which it has previously been in contact1, sort of like a ‘memory.’
Recent research on hydrogen bonds in water provides some support for this ‘memory’ theory. The Swiss chemist, Louis Rey, found the structure of hydrogen bonds in homeopathic dilutions of salt solutions is very different from that in pure water2. Through research, he concluded that the phenomenon happens because of the vigorous shaking of solutions that takes place during homeopathic ‘succussion’. Along with this, other researchers have found different homeopathic medicines and different dilutions of the same medicine can be distinguished from each other, even though all should contain nothing but water3.
An alternative theory comes from the results of research from South Korea. Studies on molecular clustering in water solutions show as a solution is made more and more dilute, very stable and larger ‘clumps’ of material develop in dilute solutions rather than in more concentrated solutions4. This means that residual molecular clusters of the original substance might just be present in homeopathic dilutions. As with the first theory, succussion might also be responsible for creating very tiny bubbles (nanobubbles) that could contain gaseous inclusions of oxygen, nitrogen, carbon dioxide and possibly the homeopathic source material3.
What do you think about these theories? Is homeopathy truly effective or is it a placebo effect? I'm happy to hear your thoughts.
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In Health and Happiness,
Kelly Harrington, MS, RDN
Registered Dietitian Nutritionist for Healthy Goods
1. Bellavite P, Signorini A. The Emerging Science of Homeopathy, 2e. 2002: North Atlantic, Berkeley.
2. Rey L. Thermoluminescence of ultra-high dilutions of lithium chloride and sodium chloride. Physica A, 2003; 323: 67–74.
3. Rao ML, Roy R, Bell IR, Hoover R. The defining role of structure (including epitaxy) in the plausibility of homeopathy. Homeopathy, 2007; 96: 175–183.
4. Samal S, Geckeler KE. Unexpected solute aggregation in water on dilution. Chem Commun, 2001; 21: 2224–2225.
5. British Homeopathy Association. How does homeopathy work? http://www.britishhomeopathic.org/how-does-homeopathy-work/