By Luc Chaltin, ND DIHom
The preparation of homeopathic medicine is unique to homeopathy alone. The potency of a remedy is assigned a greater number – and is said to actually increase in potency – when the content of the healing substance becomes smaller. This is one of the more confusing facets of homeopathic medicine. Indeed, to the average American health supplement consumer, almost everything about homeopathy may be confusing at first.
Remedy names are listed in Latin, and the amount of medicine utilized may only be a few drops or a few pellets (little sugar balls) a day. Often the use of homeopathy is accompanied by a recommended change in lifestyle to a healthier one. But still we are left with the question of just what the remedy is and what is its potency.
So what is potency? To answer this question, we must go back to the time when Hahnemann, the founder of homeopathy, created the first homeopathic remedies. He tried to find a way to render the medicine of his time (often arsenic and mercury, two deadly poisons prescribed for syphilis) less toxic, and a logical idea that he investigated was dilution. But he did more than simply dilute: He also shook the bottle of the dissolved remedy several times, a technique known as succussion. This mechanical operation, first diluting and then succussing, is now called dynamizing. Hahnemann found that dynamized remedies with smaller amounts of the original substance worked better than the original, undiluted crude substance. This was the beginning of the new healing approach which he called homeopathy.
Hahnemann diluted the remedies in steps. He added 99 parts of a mixture of alcohol and water (and for triturations used lactose) to one part of the original substance and shook the mixture 100 times, creating the first potency with the symbol 1C (the C stands for centesimal). Then he took one part of the 1C potency, added 99 parts of liquid and shook the mixture again 100 times, which gave him 2C. He again took one part of 2C, added 99 parts of liquid, shook it 100 times, and obtained 3C. And so eventually, he went on to 30C. American homeopaths such as Kent and others went further and created potencies that were much higher, 100C, 1000C (written also as 1M, the Roman letter for 1000), and higher.
Some American and German doctors used a different progression. Instead of adding 99 parts to one part of the original substance they added only 9 parts. The succussion was the same but the number of succussion episodes was doubled for the same physical dilution. These remedies are called decimal potencies and the symbol is x, the Roman letter for 10. In Europe, these decimal potencies have the symbol D (for decimal), and the D is placed before the number. Example: 10x or D10.
To confuse things even more, the Russian doctor Korsakov came up with another potency that looks like a centesimal potency but it is not because it is made in such a way that it is virtually impossible to determine what the real potency is. This potency is called the ‘Korsakov potency’ and the symbol is K. The difference between Hahnemann’s potency and Korsakov’s potency is that the remedy is made with water alone and no alcohol. In between steps, the water is discarded and the bottle filled again with water to make the next potency.
The water that sticks to the glass inside the bottle is the quantity that is used to make the next potency. All the successive potencies are made in the same bottle and only one bottle is necessary to make any potency that is needed. Alcohol used to preserve the remedy is only added to the last potency in the series. The way the remedies are prepared makes it impossible to calculate the exact dilution obtained because the amount that sticks to the walls of the bottle is not measurable. The K potency is legal in the U.S. but is seldom used.
Making homeopathic potencies in steps of 100 (or even steps of 10) quickly brings us to very high dilutions, and because there is a limit to the number of molecules that is contained in the original mother substance, there comes a moment when there is no longer any matter from the original substance in the homeopathic remedy. This point lies beyond the number of Avogadro (6.02257 x 1023).
Is a potency without material substance (in the conventional sense of ‘concentration’) still a remedy? This is a confusing problem for potential users of homeopathy, It is also a boon for allopathic medicine in its denouncement of homeopathy as quackery. The transition from material remedy to non-material remedy is at 12C or at 24x. We do not know what happens to the K dilutions, so we do not even try to hazard a guess at this point.
Are these nonmaterial remedies a problem? It was not a problem in Hahnemann’s time and up to the beginning of the 20th century, before it was proven that the number of Avogadro was real and the number of molecules in a given amount of any substance was indeed finite. But we can choose to stay within the limits of 24x or 12C and still have matter in our homeopathic remedies. For a practicing doctor, this is not an issue. She has experienced that both material and nonmaterial remedies work and that the most important factor is to prescribe the correct remedy.
Potency is of secondary importance. Science is finally catching up as it becomes increasingly evident that the healing power of homeopathic remedies not only has something to do with the material substance in the remedy itself but also with what happens to the remedy when potencies are made by succussing the dilution at every step. It is matter plus something else. That something else is again a matter of speculation for those who think about esoteric properties added to the remedies and for others who do not want to accept anything that is not proven scientifically. What does the word ‘scientific’ mean anyway?
Nevertheless, it is scientifically proven that a homeopathic remedy can store information in the form of electromagnetic energy and keep this information in the remedy (the water molecules or the OH groups of the sugar in the pellet form) for a very long time. Recent research in France (i.e. Benveniste) and Italy (see the excellent book Homeopathy, A Frontier In Medical Science, written by Paolo Bellavite MD and Andrea Signorini MD, North Atlantic Books, Berkeley CA) has confirmed these facts. I have personally spoken to one of the researchers in Israel that has followed and duplicated the tests done by Benveniste, and this researcher is convinced that water is indeed capable of storing information.
This applies for nonmaterial dilutions as well. This is confirmed in practice by the use of EAV machines. During the 1950s, the German doctor Voll discovered that homeopathic remedies store electromagnetic information and that water can be loaded with this energy as well. Based on this discovery, Voll developed the Electro Acupuncture machines (EAV) that are used in Germany and also in the US for diagnosis and treatment.
Here we are still left with the following question: Does it make sense to work with nonmaterial potencies? As soon as there is no matter left in the remedy (at 24x or 12C), there is no longer dilution after every step because there is no longer any matter left. So what is the difference? Why go farther and repeat 100, 200, 1000 times or more the same dynamization?
Should we stop dynamizing, say at 30x and 15C for instance, and also stop prescribing higher potencies because they are no different from each other? This may be controversial, but in my clinical practice, I have found that the difference is minimal or nonexistent. However, since we cannot scientifically investigate the kind of energy that is unmistakably present even in nonmaterial homeopathic remedies, we do not yet have a satisfactory answer to these questions.
Practically speaking, however, the potency is not the most important factor in the use of homeopathic remedies. Because of the fact that every doctor has his or her cherished potency, a certain potency will be prescribed more often. This happens because the doctor has had good results with a certain potency for specific kinds of symptoms in certain kinds of patients. After working with many thousands of patients over the last 30 years, I have never personally had to prescribe a potency beyond 15x to effect a desired result. That is not to say there is no use for higher potencies, just that I have yet to see a need for them clinically.
The consumer though, is often faced with a dilemma when they are instructed to ask for a potency that is not available. In such a case, when the remedy is available in another potency, it makes a lot of sense to take the other potency, especially if that available potency is lower than the one originally requested.
This brings us to another confusing property of homeopathic potency: The healing crisis. When a homeopathic remedy is acting on a person (meaning that it is the right remedy for that person’s symptoms), we often see a “worsening” of symptoms, often called an aggravation or healing crisis. This phenomenon is well known by alternative practitioners and is the sign that the remedy is working, whether homeopathy, herbs, or any other alternative prescription has been given.
It can and has happened when people take supplements or even when they start a fast. This reaction shows that the body was unable to handle the disease symptoms well, but that the prescription of a remedy, an herb, or a supplement, has given the body the power to react against the disease and to start to correct the metabolic problems caused by it. This increased power can sometimes, but not always, cause an increase of the disease symptoms, especially in the beginning. The difference between the disease symptoms and the symptoms of a healing crisis is that after some time all the symptoms will improve and the disease will disappear. In fact, having any reaction at all when taking a remedy or a supplement means that the selection was correct.
Very high homeopathic potencies can cause a stronger healing reaction (crisis), so much so that a consumer may be scared and will never try a homeopathic remedy again. The possibility to create a frightening healing crisis is greater with remedies of 15x (7C) and higher. This possibility is greatly reduced with potencies between 3x (2C) and 10x (5C). The way to avoid serious healing crises then is to limit the potency for first time use to 6x, 8x or 10x (3C, 4C or 5C) when available. When the client does well with one of these potencies, a higher potency may be used if judged necessary.
As stated earlier, in my 35 years of experience as a self-prescribing patient and later as a homeopath for thousands of patients, I obtained excellent results with 10x and 15x potencies. I experimentally used higher potencies such as 30C and 200K, but the results were never convincingly better. On the contrary, in chronic diseases, the use of a 10x potency, although somewhat slower, is in my opinion as active as a 15x and has the advantage of rarely causing an aggravation.
This is important today for the consumer because the types of ailments that we see today have been present for a while (chronic) by the time they come seeking natural medicine. Remember, homeopathy is not a quick fix. In the OTC market for homeopathic remedies, it is wise to start with lower potencies. This is especially important when we hear of more and more people that are extremely sensitive to all sorts of substances, so much so that they may even be sensitive to natural remedies, including homeopathy.