French Scientist Proposes Possible Mechanism
Few terms are more divisive among the medical fraternity than homeopathy.
For its supporters, this branch of “alternative medicine” represents a host of potential treatments, but for others it represents a crackpot—perhaps even dangerous—dalliance with pseudo-medicine that has no place in modern healthcare.
Both camps have made claims and counterclaims about whether homeopathy has any real merit, with critics often pointing to the lack of real scientific data to back it up, as well as a practical explanation of how it impacts the body.
But could a branch of science that deals with the very building blocks of existence help shed new light on homeopathy?
A French scientist thinks it can. And he’s not alone.
What is Homeopathy?
Homeopathy is a term many associate with “alternative medicine” for the treatment of mild ailments. But what exactly is it?
Homeopathy seeks to treat conditions by using small doses of substances that might otherwise induce or exacerbate that condition. For example, treating the effects of hay fever by using extracts of an onion to prompt the eyes to water and nose to run would classify as a homeopathic treatment.
Developed in the 1790s by German doctor Samuel Hahnemann, the fundamental belief underpinning homeopathy is that the body can cure itself if properly prompted and that “like cures like”—hence the term homeopathy, a contraction of the Greek words homeios (similar) and pathos (disease).
It is possible that this homeopathic belief may have originated from observations of the effectiveness of inoculation and variolation (inoculation for smallpox, which is now obsolete) during the 18th century to treat certain diseases; in any case, it is a phenomenon that may be attributed in certain instances to the way the immune system or inflammatory response functions to heal disease or injury.
In practice, homeopathy involves concoctions that can be made from things like herbs, crushed bees, poison ivy, and white arsenic, all designed to stimulate the body’s healing properties.
Treatments are created by repeated dilutions of the relevant substance—a process known as potentization—and with each dilution the healing effect increases.
How Is it Viewed?
While homeopathy has gained a following in countries, including the United States, Germany and United Kingdom, mainstream medicine continues to view it with skepticism.
The UK’s National Health Service (NHS) stopped funding homeopathy in 2017 after a report declared it to be “no better than a placebo.” But it continues to enjoy support from high profile figures globally, including Charles III—the king of England.
There have been experiments showing efficacy for such ailments as rheumatoid arthritis. For instance, Gibson et al reported in 1980 that “there was a significant improvement in subjective pain, articular index, stiffness and grip strength in those [rheumatoid arthritis] patients receiving homoeopathic remedies whereas there was no significant change in the patients who received placebo.”
Again, in 1989, a study by Fisher et al found “that the homoeopathic medicine R toxicodendron 6c was effective for a selected subgroup of patients with fibrositis. The improvement in tenderness, which is the best discriminator of fibrositis, was particularly distinct.”
However, according to a brief by the Earl M. Bakken Center for Spirituality and Healing at the University of Minnesota (UMN), while research on low-dose, high-dilution substances in living organisms can be found in conventional peer-reviewed scientific journals, much of it is of insufficient quality and quantity to draw conclusions.
The UMN brief suggests that homeopathy is not a therapy or modality, but “an entire system of medicine, with its own paradigm of understanding health and illness (see What is Homeopathy?).”
It goes on to say that this profound difference will require researchers, if they seek to address efficacy, to keep the way “homeopathy is practiced clinically” in mind when designing their studies.
They conclude that “the gold-standard, biomedical research model for drug interventions (one disease or symptom, one drug, double-blind, placebo-controlled, prospective trial) is not an ideal research process for homeopathy.”
"This means,” they conclude, “that the gold-standard, biomedical research model for drug interventions (one disease or symptom, one drug, double-blind, placebo-controlled, prospective trial) is not an ideal research process for homeopathy.”
An Atomic Explanation?
While homeopathy has been around for centuries, it may be a relatively new branch of science that will unlock its mysteries and explain what’s going on.
Quantum physics, which appeared in the 20th century, centers on the study of energy and matter at the very smallest atomic and subatomic levels, such as when a photon strikes an atom. Its aim is to uncover the behaviors and properties of the very building blocks of nature. In this minuscule world that includes “dark” and anti-matter, nature behaves very differently than it does in the visible world around us—a concept that is giving rise to a whole new type of scientific discovery.
It is this branch of science that some believe may hold the key to explaining why homeopathy does have efficacy.
Insights from a French Chemist
Marc Henry is Professor Emeritus at the University of Strasbourg in France, and an expert in chemistry and knowledgeable in quantum physics.
He told The Earth & I that early results of homeopathy, while very promising, had no theoretical framework to back them up to a scientific community.
“During the 19th century, very good results were obtained against epidemics such as cholera,” he explained. “The success was so brilliant that all the kings, princes and nobility at that time were using homeopathy, and this is still the case today.
“The development of chemical industries in the 20th century has led to a decline for the layman. The results were there—but there was no theory for explaining them.”
It’s All in the Water
It was Italian physicist Emilio Del Giudice who proposed that water molecules form structures, and that these structures are then able to store tiny electromagnetic signals.
During homeopathy’s potentization, the crude medicine is diluted in a water/ethanol solution, followed by a vigorous shaking at each stage of dilution. This process reduces the toxicity of the original substance while retaining the substance’s electromagnetic properties. This is supposedly the case even for dilutions beyond Avogadro’s number, a level where it is presumed that molecules of the original substance no longer exist.
This would mean a homeopathic treatment might send an electromagnetic message to the human body that matches the electromagnetic frequency of an ailment. By doing so, it could stimulate the body’s own healing responses.
What is Water Memory?
A controversial aspect of homeopathic theory relates to something called water memory, the purported ability of water to retain a memory of substances previously dissolved in it—even when the water has been diluted to such an extent that there are no detectable traces of it left.
Prof. Henry believes that water plays a “crucial role” in conveying this coded information needed to make homeopathy effective. However, experiments by other researchers have shown that the theory of “water memory” appears unreliable.
Scientists argue that the concept of water memory defies the third law of thermodynamics, which says that “disorder tends to a maximum.” They refer to “the established scientific model” of atoms and molecules moving randomly in liquids, a phenomenon known as Brownian motion. This law, they argue, would disallow water memory of a previously dissolved substance that no longer shows existence in the liquid.
Manzalini and Galeazzi, on the other hand, state in a 2019 study that all living organisms are an “open system” that exchanges energy, matter, and information with the external environment, “operating far from thermodynamic equilibrium.”
How is this so? They explain that such exchanges take place through complex “non-linear” interactions of literally billions of different biological components, at multiple levels, from the quantum up to the macro-dimensional.
This “open system," as they call it, exhibits something known as “quantum coherence,” which is “an inherent property of living cells, used for long-range interactions such as synchronization of cell division processes.”
This “open system” exhibits something known as “quantum coherence,” which is “an inherent property of living cells, used for long-range interactions such as synchronization of cell division processes.”
They claim to find support for their theory in quantum biology, which they say demonstrates that quantum coherence is “a state of order of matter coupled with electromagnetic (EM) fields.” They say this ordered state supports the workings of life and is explained by quantum field theory (QFT), a “well-established theoretical framework” in quantum physics.
Prof. Henry theorizes: “Water, owing to its very small molecular weight, has a well-resolved electronic excitation spectrum. It can then use vacuum's energy to create ‘coherence domains’—predicted by quantum field theories.”
In a two-part 2019 piece in Homeopathy & You, Prof. Henry defined a coherence domain—in the case of water—as “a large amount of similar densely packed water molecules that display a coherent collective behavior as a densely packed swarm of birds in the sky behaves as a whole, autonomous, inseparable entity.”
Prof. Henry is widely published on the subject and a strong advocate of a quantum explanation for what he says is homeopathic efficacy. He freely admits he is not a quantum physicist but a chemist who has studied it.
He said that because homeopathy was not rooted in the atomic and subatomic world, some argue that the behaviors of quantum physics cannot be applied to it.
But he takes the opposite view.
“I used the same quantum physics as that involved in superconductors and superfluids that are macroscopic quantum things. So, we just cannot say that quantum physics rules the world of infinitely small things.”
Funding is Needed
He added that there was “a strong need” for additional funding to further the understanding of the intersection of quantum physics and homeopathy.
“What I see ahead for the field of homeopathy is to have money for a better characterization of what is a homeopathic remedy,” he said.
He referenced the DynHom project, led by Michel van Wassenhoven, which is devoted to promoting the effectiveness of homeopathy.
He said: “Giving more money to this kind of research based on sophisticated—and expensive—measuring devices is crucial.”
Despite the deep skepticism of the medical and pharmaceutical professions, scientists like Prof. Henry believe the quantum realm—with all of its quirks and strange behaviors—holds the key to providing a scientific explanation for what has previously been unexplainable.
Securing that explanation will require funding, dedication, and a will to take the research further in order to see if homeopathy can ever become an accepted tool at the disposal of the mainstream medical community.
*Mark Smith is a journalist and author from the UK. He has written on subjects ranging from business and technology to world affairs, history, and popular culture for the Guardian, BBC, Telegraph, and magazines in the United States, Europe, and Southeast Asia.