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Homoeopathy is the idea that a "a substance that causes the symptoms of a disease in healthy people will cure that disease in sick people". Furthermore, the potency of the 'treatment' is alleged to generally increase the more the active ingredient is diluted. The dilutions are extreme, such as (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homeopathic_dilutions) a dilution of 30C contains 1 ml of the ingredient in 1,191,016 cubic light years of water.

Aside from the question of whether such a preparation is likely to have any effect on someone, for good or bad, how could a laboratory even prepare such a product? Even if a process was started with the smallest measurable amount of the active ingredient, how can a laboratory claim to have employed such a ludicrous amount of water in the dilution process? Given that it is impossible to test the end product for the original active ingredient, is it much more likely that homoeopathy products are 'manufactured' without even bothering with the active ingredient in the first place?

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    I seem to recall that they are supposed to start with a 1:1 ratio and start diluting from there, but I might be mistaken. Are you skeptical of their claims that they are even engaging in the process and not just bottling water and applying different labels to it? – rjzii Aug 2 '12 at 3:56
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    Say I take 1 mL of solute and dissolve it in 10 L of water, then I pipet off 1 mL of that solution. In my pipet I have 0.0001 mL of solute in 1 mL of water. Now I dissolve it in another 10 L of water. A dilution of 0.0001 mL in 10 L is equivalent to 1 mL in 100,000 L – even though I only had 1 mL of solute and 20 L of water to start with. – Chel Aug 2 '12 at 6:59
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    If I’d sell Homeopathy, I wouldn’t add ingredients. Why bother? And I’d not feel the slightest bit bad (except for selling Homeopathy in the first place, obviously). – Konrad Rudolph Aug 2 '12 at 18:36
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    I've wondered how homeopaths discard the byproducts of the dilution process. Assuming they don't actually have 1,191,016 cubic light years of water to fully dilute 1ml of ingredient to 30C, they must be left with 9.9 liters of dilutions at 20C or higher for each liter of 30C product. They claim even those 20C dilutions have potency, thus they must have a responsible procedure for disposing of it. – Simon Aug 2 '12 at 21:04
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    @Oddthinking - Indeed I think this question need to be brought back around and maybe focus on the preparations where the active ingredient should be found if it was actually present in the manufacturing process. I suppose this would be the 1C (2X) to 6C (12X) range as the 1X doesn't really qualify as homeopathic and and anything higher 6C is starting enter into the realm of not likely to have the actual ingredients in it. – rjzii Aug 3 '12 at 11:50
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In the United States, the manufacture of homeopathic "remedies" is covered by Current Good Manufacturing Practice (CGMP) regulations for Finished Pharmaceuticals, Title 21, Code of Federal Regulations, Parts 210 and 211, and is regulated by the US Food and Drugs Administration.

In a warning letter to one homeopathy manufacturer the FDA explained:

The investigator also observed for Batch #36659 that one out of every six bottles did not receive the dose of active homeopathic drug solution due to the wobbling and vibration of the bottle assembly during filling of the active ingredient. The active ingredient was instead seen dripping down the outside of the vial assembly. Your firm lacked controls to ensure that the active ingredient is delivered to every bottle.

From this, we can reach four conclusions:

  • Yes, the manufacturer was attempting to include "active" ingredients in the bottles.
  • Yes, the FDA was actively auditing the process, which suggests that if other manufacturers weren't adding "active" ingredients they might be likewise in trouble.
  • No, in this one case, the manufacturer was not succeeding.
  • The problem was found by the FDA, and not by the manufacturer validating their product, or the practitioners or patients noticing a lack of effect.

Further reading: Steve Novella at the James Randi Foundation

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A research by Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay in 2010 indicates the presence of nano-grams of fine nano-particles of the original starting material in 200c potency of homeopathic medicines:

Extreme homeopathic dilutions retain starting materials: A nanoparticulate perspective (Full text PDF)

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    -1: that paper, as pretty much anything published in Homeopathy is flawed. A 200C preparation (they are NOT medicines and should not be called as such) should NOT have any molecule of the starting material, and if any is left it definitely should be in the order of atoms, surely not nanograms. So either that was not a real 200C preparation or there is something fishy. Anyway, the paper is well commented here: scienceblogs.com/insolence/2010/11/18/… – nico Aug 2 '12 at 17:21
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    That's some nice cargo cult science. – Bogdanovist Aug 2 '12 at 22:37
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    They didn't have any proper controls in that experiment, they compared the homeopathic preparations with highly purified ethanol/water, which is unlikely to have been used by homeopathic manufacturors in India. The far more plausible explanation for these experiments is that the water/ethanol used for dilution was contaminated by heavy metals. – Mad Scientist Aug 3 '12 at 8:59

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