Journal Club – “The defining role of structure (including epitaxy) in the plausibility of homeopathy”

January 1st, 2000 by Ben Goldacre in journal club | 9 Comments »

This is part of the Homeopathy journal club project described here:

doi:10.1016/j.homp.2007.03.009 How to Cite or Link Using DOI (Opens New Window)
Copyright © 2007 Elsevier Ltd All rights reserved. The defining role of structure (including epitaxy) in the plausibility of homeopathy

Manju Lata Rao1, Corresponding Author Contact Information, E-mail The Corresponding Author, Rustum Roy1, 5, Iris R. Bell2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and Richard Hoover1
1The Materials Research Institute, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA, USA
2Department of Family and Community Medicine, The University of Arizona, College of Medicine, Tucson, AZ, USA
3Department of Psychiatry, The University of Arizona, College of Medicine, Tucson, AZ, USA
4Department of Psychology, The University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ, USA
5Department of Medicine (Program in Integrative Medicine), The University of Arizona, College of Medicine, Tucson, AZ, USA
6College of Public Health, The University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ, USA
Received 20 March 2007; accepted 27 March 2007. Available online 31 July 2007.


The key stumbling block to serious consideration of homeopathy is the presumed “implausibility” of biological activity for homeopathic medicines in which the source material is diluted past Avogadro’s number of molecules. Such an argument relies heavily on the assumptions of elementary chemistry (and biochemistry), in which the material composition of a solution, (dilution factors and ligand–receptor interactions), is the essential consideration.

In contrast, materials science focuses on the three-dimensional complex network structure of the condensed phase of water itself, rather than the original solute molecules. The nanoheterogenous structure of water can be determined by interactive phenomena such as epitaxy (the transmission of structural information from the surface of one material to another without the transfer of any matter), temperature–pressure processes during succussion, and formation of colloidal nanobubbles containing gaseous inclusions of oxygen, nitrogen, carbon dioxide, and possibly the remedy source material.

Preliminary data obtained using Raman and Ultra-Violet–Visible (UV–VIS) spectroscopy illustrate the ability to distinguish two different homeopathic medicines (Nux vomica and Natrum muriaticum) from one another and to differentiate, within a given medicine, the 6c, 12c, and 30c potencies. Materials science concepts and experimental tools offer a new approach to contemporary science, for making significant advances in the basic science studies of homeopathic medicines.

Keywords: homeopathy; succussion; materials science; structure of water; epitaxy; nanobubbles

Article Outline

Materials Science Models for homeopathic medicine
Implications of materials science models for basic science research methods in homeopathy
Preliminary studies of homeopathic medicines using Raman and infrared spectroscopy



The key stumbling block to serious consideration of homeopathy is the alleged “implausibility” of biological activity for homeopathic medicines in which the source material is diluted past Avogadro’s number of molecules (6×1023), because the remedy must be identical to the solvent. Negative studies of homeopathy are self-evidently correct from the skeptics’ perspective, because of this error.1 The implausibility argument leads skeptics to ignore or reject positive evidence from numerous basic science, preclinical, and clinical studies showing effects of homeopathic medicines different from controls, in vitro and in living systems.2 On the other hand, proponents predictably reject the negative and focus on positive studies, often uncertain how to address the black box nature of homeopathic medicines. Both skeptics and proponents of homeopathy have generally overlooked a large body of literature in the materials science field that could help resolve this impasse with systematic data.3

Thoroughly, established materials science concepts and research data render the implausibility hypothesis for homeopathy irrelevant. One example suffices. Diamond is the hardest material in nature and graphite among the softest. Yet they can be inter-converted with zero change of composition in microseconds.

The available studies enable significant hypothesis-driven advances in the rigorous study of the nature of homeopathic medicines. The purpose of this paper is to outline the key aspects of materials science considerations in developing experimental models for understanding homeopathic medicines and to summarize preliminary findings from hypothesis-driven studies in our laboratory on clinically known polychrests such as Nux vomica (Nux vom) and Natrum muriaticum (Nat mur).

Materials Science Models for homeopathic medicine

Chemists and medical scientists largely continue to focus reductionistically on the presence or absence of specific molecular species present in water vapor or liquid water without consideration of the ways in which these species are organized in space. From a chemical perspective, the dilution aspects of remedy preparation are the key issue, because of a lack of source molecules for potencies at or beyond 12c or 24c× (10−24 dilution). Even when chemists focus on water itself, they emphasize the fleeting stability of hydrogen bonding between given water molecules,4 rather than the larger complex structural formations of water or the weaker forces that may favor formation of stable oligomeric and polymeric structures, involving the collective organization of many different water molecules within the condensed liquid phase.

In contrast, materials scientists focus on the organizational network arrangement of the water structures in three-dimensional (3-D) space. In a recent paper, Roy et al.3 presented the detailed technical aspects of the materials science argument concerning ultradilute sols including homeopathic medicines at length. For materials scientists, the succussion aspects of remedy preparation are the key consideration. Temperature and pressure can modify such water structures, leading to nanoheterogeneity of larger structures of water molecule “clusters” within liquid water. Succussion introduces intense turbulence and changes in pressure in any solution,5 as well as leading to the formation of nanobubbles in solution.

In brief, the plausibility argument for homeopathy is that liquid water, the primary solvent for source materials in which homeopathic medicines are made, is itself an anomalous substance and has many very different structures. As part of the natural nanoheterogeneity of water structure per se (as contrasted with its composition or the presence of solute molecules), processes such as epitaxy, pressure changes during succussion, formation of colloidal nanobubbles containing gaseous inclusions of oxygen, nitrogen, carbon dioxide, and possibly the remedy source material, and electromagnetic field effects play a role in altering water structure. Previous work by Elia and Niccoli6 and Rey,7 using different technical methods, respectively, to release heat or light from homeopathic medicines in potency, point to the ability to disrupt what appears to be order or structure in remedy solutions as compared with remedy-free control solvents.

In terms of nanoheterogeneity, water can take on many possible oligomeric and polymeric structures, ie, form complex networks of water molecules in 3-D space, held together by various forces that include not only hydrogen bonds (relatively strong), but also van der Waals forces (much weaker). Even if specific molecules or small molecular complexes leave their places in the network, other water structure complexes can take their places within the network structure itself, thereby maintaining the overall nanostructures within the solution, in part via configurational entropy or electromagnetic forces maintaining organizational stability of the network.8

Notably, research in the field of complex systems and network science has shown that, within a highly complex network, loss or disruption of a given member or node, which is a point of interconnection with other members of the network (eg. a water molecule or small complex of water molecules) does not destroy or significantly disrupt the overall network organization.[9] and [10] With complexity in liquid water as a whole comes the capacity for overall stability that is not possible in the simpler organizational structures of water on which chemists usually focus.

Epitaxy is the transfer of information, not material, from the surface of one material, usually solid, to another, usually liquid11. The substrate (eg. remedy source material) acts as a seed crystal for the formation of the structure in the recipient surface material (eg. network organization of water structures). Semi-conductor manufacturing often utilizes epitaxial growth to generate specific types of microtransistors and integrated circuitry. In addition to the original source material that uniquely contributes to remedy preparation, deliberate additives in homeopathic medicines, such as ethanol, and/or possible contaminants from succussion, such as silicates from glass container walls, may also stabilize the water molecule structures with their own epitaxial capabilities. Thus, epitaxy can interact with temperature–pressure factors to create unique patterns of information without the transfer of material.

In terms of “seeding” formation of informational structures within water, initial empirical observations on homeopathic medicines suggest that the passage of time between the original remedy preparation and the testing procedures can alter experimental findings. In calorimetric and thermoluminescence studies on homeopathic medicines, the time factor contributes to differences in the magnitude and even the direction of the divergence between remedy and control solutions.[4] and [12] Overall, the behavior of homeopathic medicine liquids in terms of their structural properties in the basic science literature exhibits a somewhat unpredictable, self-organizing quality.

As additional data emerge, these lines of research may facilitate advances in understanding the nature and mechanisms of variability in clinical responsivity to homeopathic medicines.[13] and [14] Water is an hub molecule (a highly interconnected and influential molecule) in most of the biochemical reactions in the body.15 In a more speculative but testable vein, seeding informational changes in body water at global and local levels16 of scale could be one way in which homeopathic medicines interface with patients to induce patterns of system-wide and local healing responses.13

Implications of materials science models for basic science research methods in homeopathy

Materials science models for the nature of homeopathic medicines leads to more rational selection of specific methodologies for basic science studies. For example, many earlier studies of homeopathic medicines relied on nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) techniques.[17] and [18] However, NMR spectroscopy provides information on structure of individual atoms in a pure molecule better than on complex networks of molecules. Technically, NMR also requires addition of substances to prepare a liquid for testing. The necessity of adding factors in the process of making observations can introduce unintended contaminants into the measurement process.

In contrast, the light scattering technologies of Raman spectroscopy and Fourier transform (FT) infra-red (IR) spectroscopy permit examination of remedy samples without fixatives or other potential contaminants. Furthermore, Raman and infra-red spectroscopic techniques allow the co-operative nature of structural differences to be detected. Recent studies19 of microscopic dynamics of hydrogen bonded liquids indicate the existence of highly directional H-bonds, whose energy value normally range between not, vert, similar8 and 25 kJ mol−1 induces different chemical–physical properties and different local environments. As the mean lifetime of H-bonds is in the picosecond timescale, such structures are considered as transient species in dynamic equilibrium.

Our recent work has established the importance of the structure of water on its properties,3 we examined the structures of many water and alcohol-based homeopathic remedies. The results show that such materials can be easily distinguished from the pure solvent, and from each other, by the use of UV–VIS (ultraviolet–visual) and Raman spectroscopy, but Fourier transformed infra red (FTIR) spectroscopy proved insensitive to these differences. This opens up a whole new field of endeavor for inorganic materials scientists interested in developing a scientific basis for the efficacy of homeopathic remedies. The assumption of this study is that the joint employment of the two methodologies: optical spectroscopic tools and electronic microscopic tools can furnish a closer reference picture for the comprehension of the structural changes in the liquid phase besides providing an independent understanding on the role of the ‘active ingredient’ in a homeopathic medicine.

Also we believe that our very preliminary efforts in using cryo-scanning electron microscopy (cryo-SEM) and cryo-transmission electron microscopy (cryo-TEM) may eventually possibly provide definitive evidence of the presence, and the effects, of nanobubbles on homeopathic medicine studies.

Preliminary studies of homeopathic medicines using Raman and infrared spectroscopy


A Food and Drug Administration-regulated homeopathic pharmacy (Hahnemann Laboratories, San Rafel, CA) prepared samples of two different test solutions in 16 ounce (450g), clear glass bottles [Type I borosilicate glass] previously annealed at temperatures between 600–700 °C for 15 minutes. One of the solutions, Nat mur (mineral: Sodium Chloride) and the other Nux vom (plant remedy, purchased as tincture from Boiron) were diluted by the standard Hahnemannian techniques in 95% ethanol and succussed: a 30c potency is diluted (1/100)30 or 10−60 from the original material. They were hand-succussed by trained experts [] 30×20=600 times during the manufacturing process. Each bottle was coded with an unique number, the bottles were shipped together by overnight courier in the same box, with temperature sensor.

We have used UV–VIS, IR, FTIR, and Raman spectroscopy for the bulk “liquid” which in most cases is either water or a mixture of water and ethanol (95% ethanol). UV–VIS spectroscopy and Raman spectroscopy proved to be useful tools to investigate the subtle but significant changes in the structural parameters in both water and alcohol based remedies. (For details refer to 20). While other techniques such as freezing point depression; acoustic loss spectroscopy, ellipsometry, viscosity, surface tension, have been explored and will eventually be used in depth to measure entirely different properties, we report here our experience with the major spectroscopic techniques which are widely available.

(a) UV–VIS spectrophotometer: VARIAN, Model CARY 100, run in dual beam mode,
(b) FTIR spectrophotometer: Thermo Nicolet, Model NEXUS 670, run in attenuated total reflection (ATR) mode, and
(c) Raman spectrophotometer: Inphotonics, Model RS2000-3b-785, using an InPhotonics fiber optic immersion probe.


Nearly 200 runs were made to calibrate every step in the experimental configurations and procedures used for the different instruments. In the dual beam UV–VIS, the many experimental options are all tested separately to ensure that any differences within the data obtained on our samples are well above the instrument noise measured in the calibration run data. The data are obtained largely at different times scales by different individuals gave consistent results. We note that at very low signal levels, instrument noise coupled with artificial computer generated sensitivity can produce data that are not reliable. Hence, we operate the instruments in the sensitivity ranges in which we sacrifice some precision for reproducibility. In the Raman spectrometer, careful attention is paid to the positioning of the probe within the sample container, and stray light is eliminated by turning off all the room lights whenever data are being collected. Details of this work are published elsewhere.21

One of the objectives in undertaking this work is to examine evidence which would suggest reliability of physical properties, assuming structural changes in solvents, especially in ultradilute and dilute sols, an excellent example of the class of materials being homeopathic remedies. For our study, we chose to study Natrum muriaticum and Nux vomica, obtained from Hahnemann Laboratories. Both Nat mur and Nux vom are prepared in 95% ethanol. Three types of analyses are presented:

(a) Comparison of specific homeopathic remedies with different potencies [Nat mur 6c, 12c, 30c, and Nux vom 6c, 12c, 30c].
(b) Comparison between two different remedies of the same potency [Nat mur vs Nux vom 6c, 12c, and 30c].
(c) Comparison of the two homeopathic remedies with unsuccussed and succussed plain ethanol.

Figure 1 shows a comparison of Nux vom and Nat mur, 6c, 12c and 30c, showing representative UV-spectra demonstrating the differences between the remedies. In Figure 2 (a), and (b) we show the envelope of differences within a series of 10 preparations of each remedy of Nat mur and Nux vom. The spectra show clear differences in the same potency of an individual remedy for both Nat mur and Nux vom.

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Figure 1. Comparison of two different homeopathic medicines: Natrum muriaticum (NM) and Nux vomica (NV) showing representative UV-spectra demonstrating the differences between the remedies.

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Figure 2. Envelope of differences within a series of 10 preparations supplied of each Homeopathic medicine: Nat mur and Nux vom.

A comparison was also made between the unsuccussed ethanol and the Nat mur and Nux vom samples as shown in Figure 3. The Roy et al paper3, on “structure of water” clearly evidence the role of succussion besides epitaxy and other temperature effects, on the structure of liquids. Under the “normal” succussing procedures, it can be argued that very considerable pressures (of the order of 10 kbar) could be generated as a result of the shaking. Dachille and Roy22 showed that mere grinding in a mortar and pestle gives rise to high pressures up to 20 kbar, and the figures for force per unit area are strongly dependent on the size of the water particles and the velocity of the shaking. By analogy with similar liquids, such as ethanol, there will be many different structures of water formed both by the pressures generated in succussing in some combination with the epitaxy on any additives.

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Figure 3. UV–VIS spectra of: (a) succussed and unsuccussed ethanol, (b) comparative UV–VIS spectra of Nux vom (NV) 6c, 12c, 30c with unsuccussed ethanol, (c) comparative UV–VIS spectra of Nat mur (NM) 6c, 12c, 30c with unsuccussed ethanol.

It may be noted from Figure 3 that the absorption spectra for unsuccussed ethanol is significantly different from: (a) the succussed ethanol and (b) succussed homeopathic remedies, Nat mur and Nux vom. The difference may be attributed to the variation in intra and inter-molecular association of ethanol and water and the generation of both transient and stable nanobubbles. The work of Tyrrell and Attard at Australian National University has proved beyond any doubt that nanobubbles do exist and persist.23 FTIR Spectra (not shown here) from all the samples of Nat mur and Nux vom overlap neatly, clearly signifying that FTIR is not the most sensitive technique for analyzing the subtle structural differences in these types of samples.

Comparison of homeopathic remedies with different potencies using Raman spectroscopy is done on the two sets of homeopathic remedies: Nat mur and Nux vom. From the spectra shown in Figure 4, a clear distinction in the Raman active modes is noted between the two different remedies as well as among the different potencies of the same remedy. A clear distinction is shown in the spectral peaks from the different potencies, peak positions identified as (a), (b), (c), (d) and (e) in the Raman spectra of Nat mur samples show significant structural changes. While the existence of distinct structural changes in Nat mur and Nux vom remedies is clear from the Raman spectra, significant structural changes are also noted in the spectra of Nux vom between the different potencies, 6, 12 and 30c, peak positions are identified as (a), (b), (c), and (d) in Figure 4b. Further, since all the homeopathic medicines were prepared in 95% ethanol, we analyzed the Raman spectra of unsuccussed and succussed ethanol shown in Figure 5. Note that 6c potency of the succussed ethanol show distinct structural variations.

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Figure 4. Comparison of the Raman spectra of the same potencies, 6c, 12c and 30c, for two different homeopathic medicines. The differences in the peaks identified as (a)–(e) is clearly visible in 30c samples of Nat mur and Nux vom, compared to other diluting of the same medicine.

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Figure 5. Raman spectra of plain ethanol and succussed 6c, 12c, 30c. Note that peak positions identified from (a)–(f) are prominent only in 6c sample. Also note that the intensity of peaks in the unsuccussed ethanol is significantly lower than the succussed samples.


Materials science provides a conceptual and empirical foundation for future research on the nature of all the dilute sols including homeopathic medicines in the physical plane. Processes such as epitaxy, temperature-pressure induced changes in water structure, and nanobubble formation offer testable hypotheses for understanding homeopathic medicines. Although hypotheses regarding seemingly unmeasurable “subtle energies”24 and/or macro-entanglement phenomena[25] and [26] may help explain the fuller nature of homeopathic medicines, the available evidence also suggests that homeopathic medicines can exhibit qualitatively and quantitatively different structural properties from those of unsuccussed or succussed solvents. Even in the case of subtle energies, initial findings indicate the possibility of measuring changes in liquid structure properties from the materials science perspective.[27] and [28]

The convergence of data from different experimental models suggests that it is feasible to study the nature of homeopathic medicines using available basic science tools, notably here, Raman spectroscopy and ultraviolet–visual absorption (UV–VIS) spectroscopy. Reproducibility of findings is feasible within the same Raman equipment, but, not across different Raman spectrophotometers from the same manufacturer at different geographic locations, even for materials other than homeopathic medicines. Fourier transform infrared (FT-IR) spectroscopy cannot differentiate different homeopathic medicines or different potencies of the same remedy from one another. Transmission and structural electron microscopy are promising options for testing the nanobubble hypothesis.

Finally, the materials science perspective provides a possible translational bridge from the emerging complex systems/network science models for clinical responses to homeopathic treatment[5], [12], [13], [29], [30], [31] and [32] to another level of organizational scale, ie, the network structure of the homeopathic medicines themselves. Given the holistic quality of clinical diagnosis and remedy selection in homeopathy, the articulation of holistic (complex network) rather than reductionistic models for both the clinical healing process and the nature of homeopathic medicines is heuristically appealing.


The authors gratefully acknowledge financial support for their research from grants from The Council for Homeopathic Research and Education, Inc.; the Friends of Health Foundation; and NIH/NCCAM K24 AT000057.

Conflicts of interests

Dr Bell serves as a consultant to Standard Homeopathic Company/Hyland’s Inc., which did not provide any direct financial support for the research discussed in this paper.


1 Lancet, The end of homeopathy, Lancet 366 (2005), p. 690.

2 H. Walach, W.B. Jonas, J. Ives, R. Van Wijk and O. Weingartner, Research on homeopathy: state of the art, J Alternative Complementary Med 11 (5) (2005), pp. 813–829. Full Text via CrossRef | View Record in Scopus | Cited By in Scopus

3 R. Roy, W. Tiller, I.R. Bell and M.R. Hoover, The structure of liquid water: novel insights from materials research and potential relevance to homeopathy, Mater Res Innovation 9 (4) (2005), pp. 557–608.

4 R. van Wijk, S. Bosman and E.P. van Wijk, Thermoluminescence in ultra-high dilution research, J Alternative Complementary Med 12 (5) (2006), pp. 437–443. View Record in Scopus | Cited By in Scopus

5 P. Bellavite and A. Signorini, The Emerging Science of Homeopathy. Complexity, Biodynamics, and Nanopharmacology (2nd ed), North Atlantic Books, Berkeley (2002).

6 V. Elia and M. Niccoli, Thermodynamics of extremely diluted aqueous solutions, Ann NY Acad Sci 879 (1999), pp. 241–248. Full Text via CrossRef | View Record in Scopus | Cited By in Scopus

7 L. Rey, Thermoluminescence of ultra-high dilutions of lithium chloride and sodium chloride, Phys A Stat Mech Appl 323 (2003), pp. 67–74. SummaryPlus | Full Text + Links | PDF (306 K) | View Record in Scopus | Cited By in Scopus

8 Chaplin M. Water cluster structure. left angle bracketwwwmartinchaplinbtinternetcouk/abstrcthtmlright-pointing angle bracket accessed 09/06/06.

9 Y. Bar-Yam, Dynamics of Complex Systems, Perseus Books, Reading, MA (1997).

10 Y. Bar-Yam, Introducing Complex Systems, New England Complex Systems Institute, Cambridge, MA (2001).

11 Jaeger, RC. “Film DepositionIntroduction to microelectronic fabrication. Upper saddle River. Prentice Hall 2002 p 141–148. Also West AR. Solid State Chemistry and its Applications, John Wiley & Sons (1998) p39.

12 V. Elia and M. Niccoli, New physico-chemical properties of extremely diluted aqueous solutions, J Thermal Anal Calorimetry 75 (2004), pp. 815–836. Full Text via CrossRef | View Record in Scopus | Cited By in Scopus

13 I.R. Bell and M. Koithan, Models for the study of whole systems, Integrative Cancer Therapies 5 (4) (2006), pp. 293–307. Full Text via CrossRef | View Record in Scopus | Cited By in Scopus

14 I.R. Bell, C.M. Baldwin and G.E. Schwartz, Translating a nonlinear systems theory model for homeopathy into empirical tests, Alternative Therapies Health Med 8 (3) (2002), pp. 58–66. View Record in Scopus | Cited By in Scopus

15 A.L. Barabasi and E. Bonabeau, Scale-free networks, Scientific Am 288 (5) (2003), pp. 60–69. View Record in Scopus | Cited By in Scopus

16 A. Vasquez, R. Dobrin, D. Sergi, J.P. Eckmann, Z.N. Oltvai and A.L. Barabasi, The topological relationship between the large-scale attributes and local interaction patterns of complex networks, Proc Nat Acad Sci USA 101 (52) (2004), pp. 17940–17945.

17 S. Aabel, S. Fossheim and F. Rise, Nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) studies of homeopathic solutions, Br Homoeop J 90 (1) (2001), pp. 14–20. Abstract | PDF (130 K) | View Record in Scopus | Cited By in Scopus

18 D.J. Anick, High sensitivity 1H-NMR spectroscopy of homeopathic remedies made in water, BMC Complementary Alternative Med 4 (1) (2004), p. 1.

19 Angel CA. In: Frank F (Ed). Water: A Comprehensive Treatise Vol 7. New York: Plenum Press; 1981, p. 1–81.

20 M.L. Rao, R. Roy and I. Bell, Characterization of the structure of ultra dilute sols with remarkable biological properties, Mater Res Innovation 1 (1) (2007), pp. 3–18.

21 Roy R, Rao ML, Hoover MR, Bell I. UV–VIS spectra of ultradiluted aquasols and alcosols, containing different additions. Presented at Schwartzreport Conference, November, VA Beach, VA, 2006.

22 C.H. Bates, F. Dachille and R. Roy, High Pressure Transitions of Germanium and a New High Pressure Form of Germanium, Science 147 (1964), pp. 860–962.

23 J.W.G. Tyrrel and P. Attard, Images of nanobubbles on hydrophobic surfaces and their interactions, Phys Rev Lett 87 (2001), p. 176104.

24 Gerber R. Vibrational Medicine. Bear and Company; 2001.

25 H. Walach, Generalized entanglement: a new theoretical model for understanding the effects of complementary and alternative medicine, J Alternative Complementary Med 11 (3) (2005), pp. 549–559. Full Text via CrossRef | View Record in Scopus | Cited By in Scopus

26 L.R. Milgrom, Patient–practitioner-remedy (PPR) entanglement, Part 8: ‘Laser-like’ action of the homeopathic therapeutic encounter as predicted by a gyroscopic metaphor for the vital force, Forsch Komplementarmed Klassische Naturheilk 12 (4) (2005), pp. 206–213. View Record in Scopus | Cited By in Scopus

27 I.R. Bell, D. Lewis, A.J. Brooks, S. Lewis and G.E. Schwartz, Gas discharge visualization evaluation of ultramolecular doses of homeopathic medicines under blinded, controlled conditions, J Alternative Complementary Med 9 (1) (2003), pp. 25–38. View Record in Scopus | Cited By in Scopus

28 D.A. Lewis, S.E. Lewis, L. Mehl-Madrona, I.R. Bell and G.E. Schwartz, Gas discharge visualization measurements of the effect of intent on water, J Alternative Complementary Med 10 (4) (2004), p. 723.

29 J.L. Torres, Homeopathic effect: a network perspective, Homeopathy 91 (2) (2002), pp. 89–94. Abstract | Abstract + References | PDF (137 K) | View Record in Scopus | Cited By in Scopus

30 M.E. Hyland and G.T. Lewith, Oscillatory effects in a homeopathic clinical trial: an explanation using complexity theory, and implications for clinical practice, Homeopathy 91 (3) (2002), pp. 145–149. Abstract | Abstract + References | PDF (133 K) | View Record in Scopus | Cited By in Scopus

31 L.R. Milgrom, Vitalism, complexity, and the concept of spin, Homeopathy 91 (1) (2002), pp. 26–31. Abstract | Abstract + References | PDF (295 K) | View Record in Scopus | Cited By in Scopus

32 P. Bellavite, Complexity science and homeopathy: a synthetic overview, Homeopathy 92 (4) (2003), pp. 203–212. SummaryPlus | Full Text + Links | PDF (182 K) | View Record in Scopus | Cited By in Scopus

Corresponding Author Contact InformationCorrespondence. Manju Lata Rao, Materials Science Research Laboratory, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA 16802, USA.

Volume 96, Issue 3, July 2007, Pages 175-182
The Memory of Water

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9 Responses

  1. RichH said,

    August 16, 2007 at 4:41 pm


    I have been having another look at the paper and I’m partly wrong – it appears after all that they did test more than one prep of each – pity they forgot to put that in the methods section! Figure two does indeed show an “envelope of differences” for 10 preps of each homeopathic medecine – I’m not quite sure what an “envelope of differences” means but I’m guessing it is the highest and lowest reading at each wavelength amongst the 10 preps tested. And it appears that between 200 and 400 nm there is indeed quite a bit of scatter from prep to prep.

    How does this apply when you compare the medicines to the succussed solvent only? – well I’ve no idea as they don’t actually tell you what the data used on those spectra (Figure 3) are – is each a “representative” spectra? is it an average of the 10 preps from Fig 2? Where are the stats?

    Also if we then go back to Figure 1 which is supposed to show the differences between the two medicines I think I see something very dodgy. Look at the 30C comparison and then pull up Figure 2 alongside it – it could just be my eyes, but in Fig 1 30C it looks like the Nux vom line is an exact match shapewise with the upper line of the “envelope of differences” from Fig 2 and the Nat mur line is an exact match shapewise with the lower line from that “envelope of differences” in Fig 2 i.e. it appears they have picked “representative” spectra which are the extremes up and down from each series of 10 preps. Hardly surprising they are different if that is the case!

  2. wilsontown said,

    August 16, 2007 at 5:24 pm


    There’s been a fair bit posted about this paper here:

    Seems there are some issues with the ethanol used as the ‘blank’.

    Another thing about that ‘envelope of differences’ in Fig 2. If one curve showed the highest values and one showed the lowest values, then the curves wouldn’t cross. The curves do cross for the Nat Mur examples in Figure 2, which suggests that the ‘envelope of difference’ is something else. Perhaps they picked one spectrum that was quite high, and one that was quite low, and used those? This isn’t helped by the fact that there’s no key to explain what the open versus closed symbols on the curves mean.

  3. wilsontown said,

    August 16, 2007 at 6:07 pm


    It’s stranger than you think. I pratted about stretching and re-sizing images in Corel Draw, so I could directly compare curves. If you look at the graph in figure 2a, supposedly the envelope of difference for 30C Nat Mur, and put it on top of the curve in figure 1 that shows the difference between 30C Nat Mur and Nux Vom…they’re the same fucking graph! Absolutely identical! So the same graph is purporting to be two different things!

    I haven’t got time to get into this any further right now, but it doesn’t bode well, does it?

  4. RichH said,

    August 16, 2007 at 6:48 pm

    Ummm.. yes I hadn’t thought about the spectra crossing – so what the bloody hell does “envelope of difference” mean then?

    Just Googled for fun – the only place “envelope of difference” comes up is on the Randi forums where they are talking about this very paper – obviously not a real statistical term.

    Anyway I’m glad its not just my eyes on the spectra in Fig 1 and 2 – I couldn’t really be sure as my bloody computer screen is too small!

  5. wilsontown said,

    August 17, 2007 at 10:52 am


    Much Corel Drawing this morning. Your eyes are pretty good, I would say. In each case in figure 1, the curves come from figure 2: so if envelope of difference means anything at all, then they’re comparing the most extreme examples, as you said.

    The really interesting one, though, is where the ‘envelope of difference’ for 30c Nat Mur is the same as the comparison graph for 30c Nat Mur vs. Nux Vom, as described above.

    Ben: do you have Corel Draw? If not, I can mail you a jpeg or some such.

    Anyway, I think we can reasonably conclude that the UV-vis spectra in this paper show nothing whatsoever.

  6. wilsontown said,

    August 17, 2007 at 3:28 pm

    I reproduce the bit of figure 2a and the bit of figure 1 that are the same on my blog, at:

    Hopefully you can see that the graphs are the same when presented side by side. Of course, there should be no need to go through such a rigmarole to compare graphs in the first place…

  7. wilsontown said,

    August 24, 2007 at 11:19 am

    Another John:

    That’s really interesting stuff. I’d picked up on some of your observations, but didn’t know enough about the technique to be sure I was wasn’t just making an arse of myself.

    If you’re interested there’s a big discussion on this paper at the James Randi Foundation forum, where they’re dying for some input from knowledgeable Raman spec people:

  8. wewillfixit said,

    August 28, 2007 at 10:59 am

    From the above JREF thread, I am posting the text of a letter sent to the journal about this paper (as requested).

    27th August 2007.

    Dr. Peter Fisher,
    Editor, Homeopathy,
    The Royal London Homoeopathic Hospital,
    60 Great Ormond Street,
    London, WC1N 3HR.

    Dear Sir,

    We wish to draw to your attention serious anomalies and incongruities in the UV absorption data presented in the paper by Rao et al., published in your July 2007 issue [1].

    In a study of this nature, which in effect is examining multiple samples of ethanol, the over-riding concern must be absolute uniformity in the source of the solvent. For the data to be valid, it is essential that every drop of ethanol used must be sourced from the same stock bottle. However, the authors fail to make any mention of this point, and it is clear from the results presented that the source of ethanol in this investigation was most certainly not uniform.

    The most striking anomaly is the UV spectrum presented for “plain ethanol”, a single trace repeated three times in figure 3. The provenance of this sample is not recorded. This trace reveals extremely high absorbance (greater than 0.8 absorbance units) at 250nm, falling off steeply towards 400nm but still above 0.4 units by 350nm, and demonstrating an absorbance peak of 0.65 units with a l-max of about 330nm. It is simply impossible to represent this trace as being ethanol of any recognised degree of purity. Spectroscopic grade ethanol has an absorbance of less than 0.05 units between 250 and 400nm [2], and even USP/NF pharmaceutical grade ethanol has an absorbance of less than 0.3 units at 250nm, falling off to less than 0.1 units by 270nm [3]. If the substance measured by the authors as “plain ethanol” was indeed ethanol at all, it is clear that it contained extremely high levels of impurities, possibly including acetone.

    In contrast, the spectra of the samples which were diluted and succussed (Nat mur, Nux vomica and the “succussed ethanol” with no mother tincture), and which were presumably all supplied by Hahnemann Laboratories as detailed on page 178, demonstrate substantially lower levels of impurities. While still not being spectroscopic grade ethanol, these samples could well represent ordinary pharmaceutical grade ethanol. The authors claim these samples are “different”, however the evidence presented for this is weak to nonexistent.

    Figure 1 presents one trace each for Nat mur and Nux vomica, each at 6C, 12C and 30C potencies. The traces are said to be “representative”, however with no information on repeatability or how the “representative” traces were selected, it is impossible to say whether there is any real difference between any of the six spectra.

    Figure 2 purports to address this point, but then fails to present the necessary data. The legend declares that 10 samples of each of the six remedy preparations were analysed. The accepted way to present such data would be as mean absorbance ± standard deviation for each wavelength point, or at least for a representative selection of wavelength points. Statistical analysis could then be used to demonstrate whether or not there was a real difference between any of the remedies or potencies. However, the authors have instead chosen to present only two traces for each preparation, as “envelopes of differences”. The derivation of these traces is not explained, although we surmise that “extreme” high and low traces for each preparation were chosen to provide an impression of the range of results obtained. This is not an appropriate method of handling data of this nature, as most of the information is lost and statistical analysis is rendered impossible.

    A further difficulty with figure 2 is that the upper (open circles) trace in the top graph of fig 2a (30C Nat mur) appears to be a duplicate of the upper (filled circles) trace in the top graph of fig 2b (30C Nux vom). Comparison with other traces of the two remedies indicates that this trace is really one of Nux vom, which has been duplicated into the Nat mur graph in error.

    Paucity of data, ambiguity of presentation and lack of statistical analysis prevent any conclusions being drawn from the information in figure 2.
    Comparison of figure 2 with figure 1 reveals that all six traces presented in figure 1 are taken from figure 2, in each case the filled-circles traces. If indeed the traces in figure 2 represent the extreme range of results obtained, this is startling, as the traces in figure 1 are stated to be “representative”. In addition, while it does appear that the Nux vom samples tended to demonstrate higher absorbances than the Nat mur samples (excluding the obvious mistake noted above), in two out of the three potencies the higher Nux vom trace from fig 2 has been chosen for inclusion in fig 1, thus exaggerating the apparent difference.

    Figure 3 (b and c) again repeats the same six traces as figure 1, this time grouped by remedy. Presented in this way, it is clear that there is absolutely no difference between the three potencies of Nat mur, and that while variation between the Nux vom potencies is a little more pronounced, again all three appear to come from the same population. The same is true of the three potencies of “succussed ethanol” presented in fig 3a.

    On simple visual inspection it does appear that there may be genuine differences between the three remedies (although no statistics are presented to allow this to be tested), with the Nat mur showing the lowest absorbtion and the Nux vom the highest, with the succussed ethanol lying somewhere between. Nevertheless, these differences are entirely consistent with small differences in purity of the ethanol stock used for preparation of the three remedies – small, that is, relative to the very high level of impurity evident in the “plain ethanol” sample presented alongside. This degree of variation in UV absorbance is entirely to be expected between different batches of pharmaceutical grade ethanol, which is not prepared with spectroscopic analysis in mind. The authors make no mention of having stipulated to Hahnemann Laboratories that all material sent to them should be prepared from the same stock bottle, and the data presented indicate that the different remedies, possibly prepared at different times, simply came from different bottles of ethanol.

    We hope you will agree that these are very serious points, and it is regrettable they were not identified by your own scrutineering process. It is clear that the data presented are wholly inadequate to support the authors’ assertion that UV spectroscopy can differentiate between the two remedies, and between different potencies of the remedies. If the authors wish to test their assertion so that it can be substantiated it will be necessary to repeat the work from the beginning, ensuring that all samples used in the study are sourced from the same bottle of stock solvent, that all duplicate preparations for precision assessment are separately prepared de novo from the mother tinctures, and that sufficient data are generated to allow robust and valid statistical analysis of the results.

    Yours faithfully,


    1. Rao, M. L., Roy, R., Bell, I. R. & Hoover, R. (2007) The defining role of structure (including epitaxy) in the plausibility of homeopathy. Homeopathy 96, 175-182.
    2. Sigma Aldrich catalogue, ACS spectrophotometric grade ethanol 95.0%, at
    3. Sigma Aldrich catalogue, USP/NF grade ethanol 190 proof, at

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    December 22, 2010 at 1:14 am

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