Homeopaths: Conducting The Laws Of Nature


I was thinking about succussion today. You know, shaking and striking a dilution during the preparation of a homeopathic remedy. If we take a 12c preparation, it goes through 11 steps of striking and shaking.

The homeopaths argue that this process energises, potentises, vitalises the water to claim an imprint of the original substance. So the water itself becomes imbued with “original substance-ness”. This conveniently means that they don’t actually need any of the original substance in there for it to still be effective, if you believe their bullshit law of infinitesimals.

Further to this, the homeopathy is meant to work by having a beneficial effect on the vital force. The vital force is an energy field that doesn’t exist but underpins many forms of woo. See meridiens, auras and so on.

Today I was reflecting on the arbitrariness of succussion, the shaking and striking bit. There is a company in the USA eponymously called “Hahnemann laboratories” – formed by a chap called Michael Quinn, now deceased but somehow living on, more of which later. You get the impression from the site that he was a nice chap. I think they’re genuine believers in their woo. They supply a variety of markets. The retail market can buy direct, stores can buy wholesale and practitioners can buy kits to combine and make their own remedies for their targets, sorry, patients. It’s a very helpful website where you can suspend your disbelief for quite some time browsing many sections of interesting information.

So there’s a bit where they explain how fastidiously they pay attention to the succussion part of the manufacturing process. It’s a bit over the top actually.

“First we prepare a one to one hundred dilution of the solution and then we succuss this new dilution vigorously at each step. (Succussion is the forceful pounding of the liquid dilution against a firm but resilient surface) WE TAKE THIS PROCESS VERY SERIOUSLY. THIS IS THE CORE FUNCTION AT OUR LABORATORY. It is so important that these steps be done correctly that we do not allow one person to perform them acting alone. We require that a trained person act as a witness to the entire procedure to guarantee you that each critical step was performed correctly.”

It’s almost like they think we’re suspicious that they might skip this step! They take it so seriously that there are machines to do it. The famous “Quinn Potentisers”. You couldn’t make it up. While he was still alive (I hope) they actually measured the forces and distances involved in Quinn’s succussion technique, and calibrated the machines to repeat that. Each is housed in its own vented room, to prevent cross contamination. Obviously.

It’s over the top for sure. But despite the superficial amusement I get from reading about their process, I can’t help but feel there is a darker side to this. If all of the manufacturers undertake the succussion process in their own way, it suggests a certain creativity, or uniqueness in the outcome. Then you add the fact that they believe they are dealing with energy fields and “natural” processes and you could start to see the homeopath as some kind of conductor, commanding the forces of nature through their “special” approach to succussion.

How do they visualise this? Do some homeopaths care more about succussion than others? I wonder how Boiron do it, or Nelsons.

Well Boiron have their own machine(s), presumably Nelsons mostly go down that route too based on the needs of a big manufacturing concern, but I couldn’t find a reference. And there are many others who hand success against leather, a bible, a saddle or whatever.

Hahnemann had a number of differing answers to the question of how many times to hit it and how hard, it seems. Even going so far as being concerned that long sea voyages might over potentise the remedy due to the motion of the ship.

In any case, this apparently subtle manufacturing variability further serves to separate homeopathy from real medicine. It reveals the personal and subjective nature of potentisation, it raises questions about the mindset of the individual homeopath and increases the woo quotient significantly.

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  1. #1 by Jerry on November 24, 2009 - 00:52

    Not to mention the succussion involved in shipping and handling – will that oversuccude the carefully succuded water?

  2. #2 by Gittins on November 24, 2009 - 11:31

    Wait a minute. Some homeopaths slap their bottles of water against a bible? And people still don’t realise that it’s nonsense?

  3. #3 by Runa on November 30, 2009 - 13:49

    The faith of some homeopaths is scary.
    But for the more tolerant ones:
    It is a short form of triggering the placebo effect – selfhealing abilities, much more focused than psychotherapy, and very good for chronical conditions.
    Of course the health system should be constucted so that first conditions for which treatment is available are ruled out and treated scientifically (Americans rely often on bogus because they have no health insurance and can only hope that it is a self-healing condition).

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