Why do homeopathic remedies have silly sounding names?
Homeopathic remedies are always referred to by their Latin name. The world over, Apis mellifica (Honey Bee in English; abeja in Spanish; honigbiene in German; медоносная пчела in Russian, at least according to the Internet) will be known as the same thing and easily found. Finding the right potency, however, can be confusing. This article is the first in a series of background information on homeopathic medicine:
Potency, or strength (for lack of a better word) is indicated by the number following the name of the remedy on the tube of homeopathic pellets (see above photo). What you would find on the shelves in most stores in the US would most likely be 6c, 30c and occasionally 200c. You may also see some with a low number preceding an "X". These numbers indicate how many times the remedy has been diluted and succussed (shaken or banged against a solid object). This process is referred to as “potentization” and it is this process that makes the original substance “potent.”
Ok. Let’s back up a moment.
Homeopathic remedies are made from virtually any substance.1 A soluble substance, one that is able to be dissolved in liquid, is made into a tincture. From this tincture that has been created, one part is taken and added to 99 parts of a mixture of alcohol and water and succussed (shaken) 100 times. This is now a 1c potency.
Non-soluble substances are triturated (ground up) with lactose* (generally speaking).2 Taking one part substance and adding it to 99 parts lactose creates a 1c potency. (Once this substance has been triturated a few times, the mixture is able to be processed further through the liquid method listed above.)
Thus, a 30c potency has been diluted (1:100) 30 times and succussed/shaken 100 times, 30 times over. (This 30c liquid is then sprayed on the pellets to create the remedy. When the instructions on the homeopathic vial state that 4 or 5 pellets are equal to 1 dose, they are saying that one in every 4 or 5 pellets is guaranteed to have the remedy on it.)
An X potency is created in the same manner but instead of 100 (c), it is diluted and succussed 10 (x) times. A dilution of 1:10 is designated as 1x. (A 6c potency is 10 times as dilute as a 6x potency. As a point of interest, 6x & 3c have a similar potentization. I know it's baffling, but don't you find it kind of fascinating?!)
There are other designations used throughout the world and there are other potency scales used. For the purpose of this article, we will only be addressing X and C potencies. I include the table below for a glimpse into what else is out there in the world of homeopathic designations and for our non-US readers to be able to equate their homeopathic designations to ours.
If you’re with me so far, here’s where homeopathy can get confusing. The lower the number, the more of the original substance remains. The larger the number, the less of the original substance remains and therefore is considered more potent or more powerful. It is this counterintuitive point that is the basis for a lot of the controversy that surrounds homeopathy.
After 23 dilutions in the decimal scale (X) (Robinson, 2014) or 11th or 12th centesimal potency (C) (Lockie, 1993), there are no molecules of the original substance left.
"What? There is nothing of the original substance left?
Nope, not to a normal microscope anyway. I told you it was going to get confusing. Chikramane et al., (2017) found nanoparticles of the starting metals in 30c and 200c remedies. Put in simpler terms… if I were to take some feces and put it through the potentization process mentioned above, would you want to drink that glass of water? That's what I thought, too. Something has to still be hanging around in there, even if a standard microscope can't see it.
“Why dilute the existing substance in the first place? Why don’t you just use the original substance in its original form?”
That’s a good question. Samuel Hahnemann, who founded homeopathy as we know it back in the late 1700s, learned through his experimentation that some of his patients got worse before they got better and as a result began to dilute his remedies to provide a gentler cure. He found they not only avoided the “aggravations” with these diluted remedies, but they also worked “faster and more effectively. They were, paradoxically, weaker but more potent” (Lockie 1993, p. 2).
Some of the substances used to make homeopathic remedies are highly toxic and would not be safe to ingest in their original form. But, the homeopathic potentization process (when followed according to the strict methods as described in The Homeopathic Pharmacopoeia of the United States (HPUS) results in a new substance so dilute and gentle that adverse affects are similar to those caused by placebo (Stub et al., 2016). (No, homeopathy is not simply a placebo based on sugar pills to make you think you feel better. I will post an article on this topic in the future.)
Science has not yet caught up with homeopathy. Despite hundreds of years of use and clinical success, science still has no explanation for this phenomenon. They are seemingly making inroads, however, and the latest explanation lies in the water and the idea that water has a memory (Homeopathy Research Institute | HRI, 2018; Pollack Lab, n.d.). It is this memory of the substance in the water that acts curatively in the body to help the body strengthen itself.
Julia Coyte, CHom
1 The Homeopathic Pharmacopoeia of the United States (HPUS) defines the exact standards, tests and guidelines for each remedy. See https://www.hpus.com for more information.
2 If you are lactose intolerant and concerned about taking homeopathic remedies, contact me to see if we can address that problem, homeopathically speaking.
The amount of lactose in the pellets is quite small, but, since the medicine is on the outside of the pellets, you can realistically have them in your mouth for a very short time and then spit them out and still gain the benefit as the medicine will be absorbed quite quickly.
*Ollois is a relatively new homeopathic remedy manufacturer that is lactose free, available now in some grocery and natural food stores in the US. OHM Pharmacy also states their pellets are free of lactose.
If you struggle with lactose intolerance, book an appointment to help relieve you of this burden or contact me for how best to take homeopathic remedies so lactose will not be an issue.
Sources referenced in the writing of this article:
Chikramane, P.S., Suresh, A.K., Kane, S.G. and Bellare, J.R. (2017). Metal nanoparticle induced hormetic activation: a novel mechanism of homeopathic medicines. Homeopathy: The Journal of the Faculty of Homeopathy, [online] 106(3), pp.135–144.
Creedy |, M. (2016). Potency - the power of Homeopathy.
Helios Homeopathy (n.d.). helios-frontend.
Homeopathy Research Institute | HRI. (2018). “New Horizons in Water Science”: Evidence for Homeopathy?
Lockie, A. (1993). The family guide to homeopathy : symptoms and natural solutions. New York: Simon & Schuster.
Nelsons. (2021). Homeopathic Dilution.
Pollack Lab (n.d.). research. [online] pollacklab.
Reichenberg-Ullman, J. and Ullman, D. (2010). Homeopathic Potency Selection Simplified (Feb/March 2010) Townsend Letter for Doctors & Patients. [online] www.townsendletter.com.
Robinson, K. (2014). Small doses big results : how homeopathic medicine offers hope in chronic disease.
Stub, T., Musial, F., Kristoffersen, A.A., Alræk, T. and Liu, J. (2016). Adverse effects of homeopathy, what do we know? A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Complementary Therapies in Medicine, [online] 26, pp.146–163.
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Julia Coyte, CHom
I am passionate about homeopathy and I love sharing this passion. Having a working knowledge of homeopathy shouldn't be kept a secret. If people have the ability to help themselves, their children and their friends when they have minor ailments, life just gets better for everyone. That is the purpose behind Ruminating on Remedies.