MD, PhD, FMedSci, FRSB, FRCP, FRCPEd

Have you ever wondered why homeopathic remedies cost relatively much money? The less they contain, the more expensive they seem to be. The typical homeopathic remedy contains not a single molecule of what it says on the bottle, yet it can cost quite a lot. Why?

The reason is, of course, that these remedies are ‘potentized’ – meaning that the starting material is diluted and subsequently ‘succussed’. The latter term describes the process of vigorously shaking the remedy at each dilution step. Succussion is essential for transferring the life-energy from one dilution to the next, homeopaths insist. The most commonly used OTC remedies are in the ‘C30’ potency. This means that some pharmacist had to do 30 dilutions 1: 100, and each time he or she made a new dilution, he or she had to do the vigorous shaking as well.

Homeopaths are still debating as to how often and how hard the remedy needs to be shaken for the optimal transference of the life-energy; Hahnemann did it by banging the vial on his bible. Meanwhile, inventive manufacturers have developed machines that can manage the succussions semi-automatically. But even then, the process needs to be supervised, and all of this takes time and costs money, of course.

And now you understand why these remedies cannot be as cheap as to reflect the total absence of an active molecule!

And perhaps you also understand why some pharmacists might get truly fed-up doing the dilution/succession knowing that they might as well just put distilled water in the final vial – nobody on this planet could possibly ever tell the difference! I have always imagined that many of them throw the homeopathic rule book in the bin and forget about this tedious procedure.

Actually, I have more than imagined this.

Since I have been giving lectures on homeopathy on a fairly regular basis, I have encountered several pharmacists who told me of their frustration when they had to manufacture homeopathic remedies. Over the years, I met three of them who told me that they became so annoyed with the whole thing that they did precisely what I hinted at above: they just skipped all the dilution and succession and decided to dispense distilled water. Apparently nobody ever noticed.

These are, of course, just stories which people have told me. They may not even be true. I have no evidence whatsoever to substantiate them. But now, an ex-employee of an US homeopathic manufacturer has gone one step further. He published a short report of the time when he worked in the homeopathic industry. His account is so unique that I took the liberty of re-publishing it here:

I have worked at a homeopathic manufacturing plant. Yes, there is always a starting material, however sometimes it can get really shady. Homeopathics are regulated by the FDA under CFR 211, so if you make stuff up (like lie about having a starting material), and they find out about it, you’re in big trouble.

For most herbals, the actual herb is purchased, then tested to make sure it’s the right variety. This can mean TLC (thin layer chromatography), which is what I was responsible for doing when I worked there. A lot of times we got in a different species of the herb, but used it anyway.

Sometimes a pathogenic starting material is used – in that case, we contacted out to a third party micro lab that keep strains in a controlled environment. We paid the micro guy a contract fee to do the dilutions himself which ended up being about $3500 because only he was licensed to deal with pathogens. We made 200 30 mL units out of that which sold for less than $1200 total. Such a waste.

Sometimes a material of animal origin is used. If it’s something weird, like bovine trachea, there really isn’t a good method to test it, so we kind of took the supplier’s word for it. Pretty shady.

One time we needed to do an extraction of “morning dew”, so we went outside in the morning, shook some water off of some weeds, weighed it, then did the dilution.

My favorite story is this one: We needed to do a dilution of uranium 200X. Problem, is you can’t get uranium (unless you’re Doc Brown), so we went to Hanford (this was a looong time ago) carrying a vial of water. When we got there and did a tour (the plant manager knew what we were going to do), we took the vial and held it up against a glass wall that was a close as we could get to the cooling chamber. That became our “1X” dilution. We went back to our lab and diluted it to 200X, in ethanol. We had a lot left over, and because it’s illegal in WA to dump large quantities of ethanol down the drain, we needed a disposal service. Unfortunately, when we tried to explain that it was a 200X dilution (and that there wasn’t even a single atom of uranium in there to begin with), they still wouldn’t take it, because it said “uranium” on the label. So we took a shovel and buried in the back of the plant, and never told anyone.

I told you his story was unique. Did I promise too much?

14 Responses to Homeopathic uranium 200X and similarly bizarre stories

  • The linked reprot actually goes on to tell a few more stories. Among them:

    “One time a guy wanted us to make this product called singtu. It was a pretty standard herbal homeopathic, except at the end we were supposed to “sing to” the final product, using these chants that the customer prepared for us. At first we were like “no”, but money is money, so when he visited we sang the chants. After he left it became a joke to say the most vulgar things we could around it.”

  • Edzard said:

    Homeopaths are still debating as to how often and how hard the remedy needs to be shaken for the optimal transference of the life-energy;

    I don’t believe that for one minute! Homeopaths rarely question any received wisdom passed down to them by their gurus.

  • some pharmacist had to do 30 dilutions

    Except of course Big Sugar, who use machines. Someone once calculated that to do it by hand would mean Boiron’s Oscillococcinum would provide full employment (and probably wrist injury) for a sizeable proportion of Europe.

  • So, by extension, can we take it that skeptics believe they have complete entitlement to perpetrate fraud to disrupt homeopathic treatment & experiments, then?

    So that’s their view of scientific method. I had wondered.

  • It wasn’t actually meant personally, Edzard, there was no need to react defensively.

    Perhaps I should have written “some skeptics”.

    And clarified that I did not mean genuine skeptics (sceptics), who might be looking for faults in research methods that produce results counter to so much actual observation, so much as the loud propaganda crew who oppose any and all AM approaches, often with derision (argumentum ab derisum? fallacies sound so much better in Latin).

    I meant to keep it pithy.

    And I hope I might be forgiven for the slightly over-enthusiastic assumption that the ” some pharmacists” who “might get truly fed-up doing the dilution/succession, knowing … … just skipped all the dilution and succession”, were likely to be pseudo-skeptics, as well as fraudulent in their endeavours.
    According to their unsubstantiated tales, that is. Not exactly the CDC, here.

    I think the relevant keywords would be: “skeptic” (pseudo-skeptic), “believe”, “(sense of) entitlement”, “fraud”, “disrupt” “homeopathic treatment”, “experiments”, and “scientific method”.

    Which of those are you unsure about? Perhaps I can help.

    – – William
    (tsk. format. does br work?)

    • It has nothing to do with “skeptics” or “sceptics” but with the fact that homeopathic remedies are a fraud. It’s a fraud on the sole principe (no evidence of it’s mecanism or it’s effect beyond placebo) and even if you don’t do “homeopathic dilution” it still “work”, proving that is only a placebo and all the funky method is mumbo jumbo.

  • you can also buy plutonium nitricum

    http://www.remedia.at/de-at/homoeopathie/Plutonium-nitricum/a2954.html

    Plutonium and its isotops are all radioactive. Private ownership is strictly forbidden.

    • Lethargically following WolfgangM’s link (thanks Wolfgang) I stumbled on the word “Fluxionspotenz” and got curious. Turns out this firm provides remedies made using yet another ingenious shortcut around Hahnemann’s laborious process of hand-shaking potentisation.
      Instead of time consuming serial shaking someone simply made up an excuse to achieve the dilution by continuous”flow” (fluxion).
      The method is scholarly explained on their web:


      The continuous method, in which liquid is fed continuously into the vessel used for potentization, and simultaneously removed by a device to empty it. The potency levels are calculated from the amount of dilutent added, and cannot be compared mathematically with those of the centesimal or decimal range…

      There is a lengthy, sciency sounding article about how the method and variations thereof and how it was validated experimentally. There are even numbered references but they do not clearly correspond to the bulleted reference list and they all seem to lead to ancient homeopathy-scriptures anyway. I guess you can count on those being “positive” by default.

      What I find so thrilling about all this is that if the concept of flow-potentisation is real, then tap-water must be an extremely potent remedy providing the magic powers of all the metals, minerals, bugs and whatever, lining the pipe system, which of course is fully equivalent to the fluxion-potentising chamber.
      It is a wonder that anyone can fall ill in communities with communal water supplies. Just let the tap run briskly for a while and you have a glass of an infinitely potent mixture of cuprum, stannum, ferrum, zincum… and whatever all the different materials of the pipe system would be called in “homeospeak”

      “Bizarre” is not a powerful enough term to describe my view of fluxion potentisation

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