Many people think that homeopathy is akin to herbal medicine and that its remedies are based on plants. This could not be further from the truth. Herbal remedies are not diluted, while homeopathics are – usually to the point where not a single molecule is left of the mother tincture. Some homeopathic remedies are clearly plant-based, but many are not. In fact, homeopathics can be made from just about anything.

In this series of posts, I intend to list a few surprising materials that are used to produce homeopathic remedies. Confusingly, I will start with a list of remedies where even the mother tinctures are based on an absence of any material. For want of a better term, I shall call them radiant remedies. As this might be unbelievable to some consumers, I include the link to the manufacturer.

About 200 years ago, Hahnemann postulated that his remedies work via a ‘spirit like’ activity. This fantasy has been all but abandoned by today’s homeopaths. They currently like to claim that homeopathics work because, during the process of potentisation (shaking at every step of multiple dilutions), nano-particles of the active material are being generated. And these nano-particles, they believe, somehow bring about the desired pharmacological actions.

Now, here is my question to those ‘nano-homeopaths’:


37 Responses to Heedless Homeopathy. Part 1: Radiant Remedies

  • Prismatic Yellow is a combination remedy!

    Yellow is the sensation produced by Green Light and Red light together. (I used to demonstrate this in the Darkroom, with three projectors casting Blue, Green and Red light. Adding Red and Green always impressed students).

    True ‘classical’ homeopaths don’t favour combination remedies…..

    For the matter of that, all variants of Sol must be combination remedies.

    This is an absolutely wonderful list!

    • yes, the list is impressive … but wait for part 2 and 3; I promise, it gets better

    • David,

      Yellow is the sensation produced by Green Light and Red light together.

      Not quite.

      Prismatic yellow is a pure yellow, unlike the yellow from, say, a TV or computer monitor, which is a combination of red and green. Colour vision relies on three types of receptor in the retina, referred to as cones to distinguish them from rods which are only used in very dim light and which are unable to sense colour. Our cones are roughly half-and-half red-sensitive and green-sensitive, though there is a considerable overlap in their spectrum of sensitivity, which means that they are both stimulated by yellow light, and which is why a mixture of red and green is able to simulate yellow. The blue cones are quite sparse and are completely absent from the macula, the central part of the retina where vision is most acute. Once consequence of this is that the blue channel (for want of a better word) is quite blurred, making it difficult to read blue text on a black background, or yellow text on a white background. We are also colour blind in the very central part of our vision, though the brain fills in based on what is surrounding it, so we don’t notice. This is the reason why, for instance, some people’s eyes seem to change colour to match what they are wearing. Also if you look at a random pattern of red, green and blue spots on a white background (such as the BBC Proms programme booklet from around 1990) you can’t tell whether the specific spot you are looking at is blue or green.

      The most common forms of colour blindness, which come under the umbrella of red-green colour blindness, are due to a relative deficiency or in some cases complete absence of red or green cones, or occasionally a “wiring” problem where the signal from each is merged. One test for this involves adjusting the proportions of red and green in a simulated yellow light to match it with a pure yellow; depending on the type of colour blindness the match will be in a different place, and they will all be different from a match with normal vision.

      There is a related phenomenon called metamerism, which is where two areas with different spectral power distributions appear to match. This can be a big problem in colour printing, because (depending on the pigments used) the colours in a photograph can look correct under one sort of light and completely wrong under another. Generally this is less of a problem when the illumination is continuous-spectrum, such as daylight or from an incandescent bulb, than where the light is a mixture of monochromatic bands, such as from a fluorescent bulb or many kinds of LED. I once bought a reconditioned Aga, only to find that the doors, which matched the rest of the oven by daylight, were a different shade when our kitchen lights were on (at the time we had low-voltage halogen downlights). I had to return it and ended up buying a new one, which I have never regretted. It is also one of the reasons why it is very difficult to get the colours right when scanning or photographing photographic negatives and slides – the red green and blue pixels in the sensor generally have a different spectral sensitivity both from that of the retina (in the case of slides) and from the emulsion on the photographic paper that negatives were designed to be printed onto (there is also an orange mask, which needs to be subtracted).

      The whole business of colour management in digital photography is a complete nightmare, and since most people aren’t aware of it the common standard is to use a restricted colour range (sRGB) which is designed not to look terrible on unprofiled monitors rather than to reproduce colours accurately.

      • I forgot to mention an interesting phenomenon I noticed in the ‘dark darkroom’ where we loaded films into the developing tanks.

        Films would often be put in an ordinary self-sealing envelope with the student’s name on. If I pulled the flap open, along the self-adhesive glue line, rather than cutting or tearing open the envelope, there would be a very faint but quite distinct flash of light following the line as the glue came apart. I saw this time and again. It was slightly spooky, but fascinating.

        Where did these photons come from? I don’t know. Was it to do with tiny discharges of static electricity as the glue bonds were pulled apart? Or something else? They were very faint, but absolutely distinct. I have read that the retina (via the rod cells I guess) can detect a single photon impinging.

        • David,

          I have seen this myself from time to time, and I remember reading about it some years ago, possibly in New Scientist. The phenomenon is called triboluminescence, and although it isn’t well understood, it is something to do with separation and reunification of static charges when a material is deformed, rubbed or fractured. There is more about it in this Wikipedia article:

          There are many fascinating aspects to colour and colour vision. One is colour constancy, a subject investigated by Edwin Land (inventor of the Polaroid camera) in the 1950’s. We are able to compensate for a wide variety of lighting conditions and perceive the colours of an object to be unchanging. For instance, just after sunset the light is purple, but you need a camera balanced for daylight to show this. There are also colours that we can see which don’t actually exist, such as brown.

          A few years ago I went to Norway in the hope of photographing the aurora borealis (I got lucky and saw it eight times over the five days we were there). I couldn’t see any colour to the lights in the sky, but the colours appeared in the photos (mostly green). However, I had no idea of the “correct” setting for the colour balance when I edited the pictures.

          • Ah! I knew the word Triboluminescence, but didn’t know what it was – thank you.

            I completely agree about the fascinating aspects of colour perception. My two eyes have slightly different colour balance. The left eye is slightly ‘warmer’ – more red/green sensitivity (or less blue) I guess. The right eye is ‘cooler’ (though slightly annoying at the moment following a posterior vitreous separation months ago – exactly as described by Henry Marsh in ‘Do No Harm’ – with a gradually diminishing protein blob floating across my field of vision). This colour perception difference is slight but consistent.

            An interesting effect I often notice is in books printed on paper with a lot of optical brightener. I am seeing it right now in “Real Secrets of Alternative Medicine”: looking down into the spine where the pages meet, there is a strong blue shift. I think this is because such light as makes it down there, bounces back and forth across the close pages, and the optical brighteners convert some UV to visible blue light. Or maybe it’s just that red and green are more readily absorbed. But it does seem noticable on papers that evidently have optical brighteners.

            Regarding colour constancy: Before digital imaging, commercial photographers doing work in buildings lit by fluorescent tubes, and not using flash, would have to use a pale magenta filter (an 81A or something, I forget!) to compensate for the extra green in the spectral output of the fluorescent tubes. There were (and I suppose are) special, much more expensive tubes with different phosphor mixes, used in refrigerated displays of butchers and fishmongers. I think they were called “Deluxe Natural” and they didn’t have the peak of green. In normal office environments, the eye ‘white-balances’ out the extra green, but you don’t want any suggestion of green butcher meat or fish!

            You could also buy “tungsten balanced” film, for use with normal incandescent non-fluorescent indoor lighting. I don’t even know if that would still be available. You can still, just about, buy 35mm photographic film, but with nothing like as much choice.

            Photography has given us quite a lot over the years – not least in medical imaging. Cyanoacrylate (“superglue”) was a Kodak discovery (and also has medical applications of course). And Kodak were years ahead of the times with their Kodak Photo Disc. It was so far ahead of its time, that it didn’t do well. It was before everyone had home computers and knew about CDRoms etc. You had (at first) to buy a special Kodak Photo Disc player to play the photographs, and seeing photos on a tv screen was a novelty and not perceived as especially desirable. They took a financial ‘hit’ over that incredible technology. And then they took another huge one because their instant picture cameras were held by the courts to have infringed Polaroid’s patents. And then they had another financial hit with Kodak Disc cameras (anyone remember) because the image quality was very disappointing (it was said that they had hoped to make huge strides in silver halide grain technology that just didn’t happen). And Kodachrome, long the preferred colour transparency film for professional high-quality publications like National Geographic, lost ground when Fuji produced Velvia, with equally powerful colour saturation and sharpness but greater sensitivity and also handled well by the publishing industry’s scanning machines.

            I think I may have strayed off-topic…..

          • That must have been a wonderful experience in Norway! How fascinating about the colours picked up in the photographs.

            Brown is interesting. The lump of mixed plasticine always ends up brown! Not grey or black. I used to say to students that although tri-colour theory works well for a lot of things – and all the colours in all the glossy magazines are made with just CMYK mixing subtractively, I personally felt that orange and purple – very “strong” colours in terms of prevalence in nature and emotional impact – did not fit well in simple three-colour theory.

          • David,

            all the colours in all the glossy magazines are made with just CMYK mixing subtractively, I personally felt that orange and purple – very “strong” colours in terms of prevalence in nature and emotional impact – did not fit well in simple three-colour theory.

            The range of colours which can be reproduced by a given process (such as CYMK) is referred to as a gamut. This is different from a range of colours defined (or organised) in a particular way, which is called a colour space. Digital systems represent colours internally in a specific colour space – a commonly used one is sRGB, which is relatively narrow but gives reasonable results in non-colour-managed systems. Another common one is AdobeRGB, which is much wider, and therefore used more by professional photographers, but gives rather muddy colours in non-colour-managed systems. In order to reproduce an image, on a computer monitor, on a home printer or on a commercial CYMK printer, the internal representation needs to be mapped onto the specific colour space of the device, which in turn depends on the gamut that it is cpable of displaying. This colour space conversion is usually managed either by the device driver, or else by the display / editing software (such as Photoshop); confusion about where and how this should take place can result in all kinds of errors and poor results.

            You are quite right to note the limitations of the CYMK process when it comes to reproducing colours which are outside its gamut (and indeed the process itself requires black ink as the gamut that can be achieved with cyan, yellow and magenta alone is even more limited). Strong purples and oranges are notoriously hard to reproduce, as are certain shades of bright green. In the case of glossy magazines this is a particular problem when advertisers stipulate that their logos and illustrations of their products have to be correct. Often the solution is to use an additional ink of the correct shade (known as “spot colour” as opposed to “process colour” which is CYMK), and the Pantone Matching System is a very wide colour space which is used to specify the correct ink(s).

            In the case of photographic quality inkjet printers, a form of process colour is used but often with eight or more different inks. Rather confusingly these are still referred to as RGB printers, which refers to how the colours are represented internally rather than how they are produced.

            You might think that because the retina has only three types of colour-sensitive receptors (except in rare cases, usually women, who have four) that three colours are all that is necessary to reproduce the range of colour that we can see, but in practice this isn’t the case. I think this is probably due to the large amount of processing that takes place between an image striking the retina and our becoming conscious of it, so that our perception is informed by our memories and expectations as much by the spectrum reaching the receptors. Deconstructing some of this processing is one of the things that you have to do when you learn to draw (or indeed the auditory equivalent when you are learning a foreign language, since no two languages use the same sounds).

            Not all animals process colour in the same way. For instance, mantis shrimps (large, colourful crustaceans found mainly in tropical waters and with a punch that will break a SCUBA diver’s finger or shatter their mask) have fifteen different colour pigments in their visual system, all with very narrow spectral sensitivities.

            I’m afraid I have rather strayed off topic, and also I am not sure how well I have distilled into a couple of paragraphs what really takes books to explain. In fact I am not even sure how well I understand it myself.

  • …And of course, finding the nano-particles would be the easy part (though they haven’t even tried, as far as I know). Explaining how the supposed nano-particles interact with the body in the ways they predict would be more of a challenge.

    (And of course, it would help if they had bothered to demonstrate that the spectacular results they always claim exist actually exist too.)

  • Thank you for that clarification, Dr. MK!

    I was reverting to a ‘simplified’ model of colour perception that I taught to introductory-level college students studying Photography and Media. In that simplified model, I didn’t elucidate the overlap in spectral sensitivity between ‘Red’ and ‘Green’ cone cells, but taught three separate bands, 400-500nm (blue), 500-600 (green) and 600-700nm (red).

    I had three slide projectors (who remembers 35mm slides!) set up with carefully chosen red, green and blue filters which, when added in pairs, gave a nice cyan, magenta and yellow, with all three giving a clean white (I have a photo of this somewhere, taken on 35mm film and printed).

    I would have fun challenging students about colour perception, looking at ‘coloured’ objects in different lights. It was hard with some to get away from the concept “but an orange IS orange”.

    I demonstrated the action of rod cells with a luminous watch, not much “charged” in the dark darkroom (where we loaded films for processing, a very good blackout). The luminous watch could be perceived much more brightly in peripheral vision than by looking straight at it.

    The overlap between red and green cone cell sensitivity is what’s exploited, I understand, with the EnChroma glasses that help some people with colour perception deficiency to distinguish colours more clearly (although they do not do better on colour perception tests afterwards, something is happening with the perception that, for some, is a powerful experience).

    Regarding the vagaries and vicissitudes of colour in modern computing and lighting technology, that’s a minefield and a big subject! I re-discovered a 35mm slide I had taken of a family friend around 1972. I had used Ferrannia CR50 film, an ‘amateur’ slide film for which home-processing kits were available, and I processed it in the school camera club. The slides came out well. Having rediscovered the slide of our friend, I scanned it with my high-quality Plustek 35mm film scanner. The dyestuffs in the old Ferrannia CR50 were a bit different from later film emulsions, and I had to do a lot of tweaking to get an image that printed with acceptable colour on my Canon printer.

    In the early 1980s I operated a one-hour photo-processing mini-lab on the high street. It was one of the smaller, simpler machines, by the French KIS company who pioneered one-hour processing (this will all be meaningless to people below a certain age!). Colour was assessed and adjusted manually, so you had perforce to learn colours well, and to see the difference between a cyan and a blue-cyan colour cast, or between red and yellow-red, for example. I think it is this that has made me deplore over-filtering in much TV and cinema production today. I can’t stand it when the past is represented by tobacco-coloured filtering to the point of mono-chromaticism! And an awful lot of Sci-Fi futures seem to take place in a blue-green world….

    I think I have strayed off-topic somewhat – but I am fascinated by colour. Dr. Rawlins in his “Real Secrets” is not positive about tinted lenses or overlays making a difference other than plaecbo to what has been called Meares-Irlen syndrome, which is related to the idea of Visual Stress. I do supply teaching – trying to be semi-retired – and have taught in quite a number of secondary schools. Because I’ve got and have read “Reading Through Colour”, I have been at pains to enquire discreetly whenever I see learners with coloured glasses, and they are all extremely positive about the difference these make. Glasgow Caledonian University which is not too far from me, has an optometry unit where they assess for this. A friend of mine has recently been tested there and acquired rose-tinted glasses (yes really!) which he says really help with printed text.

    Incandescent bulbs versus the dim green glimmer of compact fluorescents versus the output of LED bulbs, is a subject for a separate post, I think!

  • There is surely something strangely delightful in the fact that the Helios website on the listing for Vacuum says “Due to a temporary shortage of tablets we are limiting the sizes available to 28g and below”.

    I love the idea of a shortage of tablets of vacuum….

    • I’d like to know where they get their vacuum from. Given that stuff we can see (eg the Great nebula in Orion) and which, therefore, clearly has substance is more rarefied than anything we can achieve on Earth, I bet their vacua are contaminated.

  • I see that Helios list Nanny Goat Milk. What other kind of goat milk is there? They would struggle to get Billy Goat milk….

    One notes also that they have jumped on the Colloidal Silver bandwagon.

  • I can’t wait for Dana Ullman to drop in and tell us all about the nanobollicules in these ‘remedies’! Have clathrates lost their marketing appeal these days?

    • Let me try.. *clears throat and empties brain to achieve peak Dana mindset*

      “Light is electromagnetic radiation which is absorbed by water. Only an arrogant PSEUDOSKEPTIC with ZERO scientific training would deny this. Are you now saying light doesn’t exist? Thanx for confirming how dumb you are. #slamdunk I’m done here“

      *reconnects brain*

      And I’m back.

  • Oh, it gets worse. Murus Berlinensis (Berlin Wall) is, apparently, good for separation anxiety.

    Then we have Venus Stella Errans (The Light of Venus). I asked the “inventor”, the Bristol-based homeopath, Chris Wilkinson, how he made it: he put a lactose pillule on the eye lens of the eyepiece when the telescope was pointed at Venus. When I asked him how he isolated the sunlight that had been reflected off the Venusian atmosphere from sunlight and other starlight scattered by Earth’s atmosphere, and any other light to which the lactose was subjected, he seemed remarkably unconcerned about the lack of experimental rigour. Quel surprise!

  • Some time ago the water memory was the salvation bringer among the homeopaths. Has it now been completely replaced by the nanoparticles?

    Well, and when in a few years nanoparticles become obsolete, we still have *dramatic drum roll* QUANTUM EFFECTS!

  • This post remids of the saying: “Homeeopathy, the Air Guitar of Medicine!”.

    Then it struck me. I have never heard of a remedy made from a guitar? Or from Music. Cannot find any on the interweb at least. Anyone know of such nostrums? If not, then perhaps I finally came upon a novel idea for a remedy 😀

    When searching for “sound” as a remedy base, the only products that came up were “Ultrasound (General)” and, lo and behold! “Ultrasound (Vaginal)”. One wonders what the latter is good for?

    • It’s an interesting observation, that music doesn’t seem to figure in homeopathy. Perhaps Hahnemann just wasn’t musical.

      I’m quite willing to believe that the music of Bach, Handel, Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin et al, has at least powerful placebo effects. It certainly makes me feel good, to attend a recital. Quite how one might specifiy their uses as homeopathic potencies, I’m not sure. Would provings be conducted by exposure to the actual acoustic vibrations – i.e. the music, in which case they couldn’t be blinded? Or would the provings be of homeopathic potencies of Mozart etc?

      Paediatric neurosurgeon Jay Jayamohan writes, in “Everything That Makes Us Human”, of using hard rock music like Black Sabbath to help him concentrate in the operating theatre.

  • Mode of action is explained as it is explained for any other homeopathic remedy, by a homeopathic proving. Why dont you do a proving of one of these remedies and experience it for yourself. It is demonstrated by its effects on a living being.

    • Roger,

      Mode of action is explained as it is explained for any other homeopathic remedy, by a homeopathic proving.

      I’m afraid I don’t quite see how a proving, even if it were as reliable a test for the effects of a remedy as you claim, can give any information on the mode of action. Experiencing the effects of paracetamol on the fever and myalgia of a viral infection isn’t particularly informative as to its mode of action, for instance.

      So far the explanations I have heard for homeopathy resemble those dreamt up by embarrassed attendees at hospital casualty departments to account for the rectal foreign bodies that they have been unable to retrieve (such as shampoo bottles, light bulbs and dead fish) in that they may seem plausible to those who come up with them but seldom convince the anybody else.

  • What a wonderful list – I didn’t know all these existed – have just bought seven from the list! Thank you

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