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It is widely believed that homeopathic medicines contain no active ingredients.

e.g.

Critics say homeopathic remedies are not actively harmful, but they contain no active molecules.

But this homeopathic Viburcol appears to contain a contains quite large amount of active ingredient.

  • 1.10 mg Atropa belladonna D2
  • 1.10 mg Plantago major D3
  • 1.10 mg Chamomilla recutita D1
  • 2.20 mg Pulsatilla pratensis D2
  • 4.40 mg Calcium carbonicum Hahnemanni D8

D1 stands for 1:10 dilution so (even if those numbers are before dilution) it still contains large amount of active ingredient.

Can homeopathic remedies contain a significant amount of active ingredients?

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  • Looks like there is a trend in homeopathy that advocates for weaker dilutions. Quoting from wikipedia "Many of the early homeopaths were originally doctors and generally used lower dilutions such as "3X" or "6X", rarely going beyond "12X". The split between lower and higher dilutions followed ideological lines. Those favouring low dilutions stressed pathology and a stronger link to conventional medicine, while those favouring high dilutions emphasized vital force, miasms and a spiritual interpretation of disease"
    – bradbury9
    Sep 9 '20 at 6:39
  • @bradbury9: Well, Hahnemann himself usually went for D30...
    – DevSolar
    Sep 9 '20 at 17:38
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    There is an excellent answer here just waiting to be written comparing the origins of homeopathy versus the schisms in modern homeopathy versus what the US FDA defines as homeopathy (and how that has changed in the last 10 years) and how US manufacturers have used the homeopathy label to circumvent certain regulations. Please, please can we have fewer cynical knee-jerk snide reactions against homeopathy and more actual evidence.
    – Oddthinking
    Sep 11 '20 at 1:11
  • 'Active ingredients' is a bit dubious, but you can always use James Randis approach and try to overdose on the solution.
    – pinegulf
    Sep 14 '20 at 12:07
  • @pinegulf: Randi's approach makes great PR, but suffers from attacking a strawman. According to Hannemann's theories, overdosing should reduce the power of the medication. It also shows overdosing homeopathy is completely safe, which is better than real sleeping medication. I have watched Skeptic groups repeat this PR stunt, and they made a point of checking the label first to make sure the dilutions were high, because some homeopathic medications contain medications.
    – Oddthinking
    Sep 17 '20 at 1:40
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D1 stands for 1:10 dilution so (even if those numbers are before dilution) it still contains large amount of active ingredient.

The phrase "large amount" is a value judgement that needs to be quantified, but I'm fairly sure it doesn't qualify in this case.

The dilution numbers of those ingredients is the exponent in the expression 1/(10^n) so D1 is 1/10, D2 is 1/100 and so on. That makes it fairly simple to calculate the amounts of base material that might be present in the final solution.

| Mass   | Agent                | D# | Agent Mass
| 1.1mg  | Atropa belladonna    | D2 | 11μg
| 1.10mg | Plantago major       | D3 | 1.1μg
| 1.10mg | Chamomilla recutita  | D1 | 110μg
| 2.20mg | Pulsatilla pratensis | D2 | 22μg
| 4.40mg | CCH                  | D8 | 44pg

That's a grand total of 144.1μg of impurities in 1.1g of water per dose. This homeopathic remedy is at least 99.987% carrier liquid - water it seems. None of the quantities of toxic chemicals appear to be particularly dangerous to humans, even if you slugged down the whole pack in one hit. (NB: I'm not suggesting anybody actually do this.)

Even by the twisted logic of homeopathy this stuff is pretty much inactive. The "strongest" homeopathic ingredient in this - again according to homeopathic illogic - is clam shell ground up with lactose.

Personally I think any amount of belladonna is too much, but I'm not going to be too concerned about it at this level.


Since Belladonna is the most obviously toxic of the components, not to mention the easiest to research, I've focused on this. If someone has similar source data for Pulsatilla Pratensis, or any serious information on the effects of dosages of Chamomilla Recutita, feel free to add them in.

Belladonna Dosage

The Belladonna article at drugs.com recommends an initial oral dosage of 0.03mg (30μg) of alkaloids in tincture form per kg of body mass per day when used to treat pediatric patients, with a daily limit of 1.05mg for all pediateic patients. The product in question is actually a suppository, the limits of which are not listed for pediatric prescription in the article (unless I missed something). It does however list common concentrations of suppositories at ~203μg of alkaloid with recommendations of no more than 4 doses (812μg) daily.

The initial dosage appears intended to be the minimum at which a the expected effect is likely to be observed. While rectal administration has different absorption rates than oral I think it is reasonable to assume that a 10kg child receiving 1/30th of the oral dosage as a suppository would exhibit little to none of the expected effects.

This is also predicated on the preparation of the formula being from pure alkaloid extracts, which is not definitely the case. The alkaloids make up ~1.2% of the leaf of the plant during budding, or ~1.3% of the roots. If the original preparation contains less than pure alkaloid extracts then the effect out be even further reduced. I grant that a manufacturer may source reasonably pure precursors rather than produce them from scratch however.

If I believed in homeopathy I would hope not, since the impurities from processing would of course counter the benefits of sticking poison in a child's rectum.

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    Please provide some references that give context to the claim that 144 micrograms is not enough to have an active effect. It certainly feels like a small number, but science wouldn't get far if we just went with feelings.
    – IMSoP
    Sep 10 '20 at 23:15
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    One explanation of homeopathy is that the water "remembers" the chemicals that were in it, even after the solution has been diluted to the extent that no active molecules remain in a typical sample. Sep 11 '20 at 0:15
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    @DanielRHicks: And then all the homeopaths studiously ignore Germany, where homeopathic medicines come in the form of lactose pills ("Kügelchen") that were sprayed with a homeopathic tincture and then dried before packaging. Does the lactose take over the water's memory? Damifino, and the homeopaths don't want to talk about it.
    – JRE
    Sep 11 '20 at 5:57
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    @DanielRHicks That's not the hypothesis being discussed on this page, let's stay focused.
    – IMSoP
    Sep 11 '20 at 7:15
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    @IMSoP - The question is asking for a definition of "homeopathy". Sep 11 '20 at 11:53
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Probably yes

In 2017 the FDA found levels of belladonna in teething tablets that exceeded the amound given on the medicine label and promped it to recommend to not use the specific products anymore. The company was asked for a (apparently voluntary) recall of the product and refused.

The specific dosages are available at the FDA website, and are (for example) 1100 nanogram of Atropine, a Belladonna alkaloid. They are present in varying concentrations.

The problem seems to be systematic and not a one-off production error, the FDA warns against using these types of teething tablets because of the health risk they pose.

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  • This is a somewhat different angle (production error) than what the question is aiming at (not-so-high D levels sold under the label "homeopathic").
    – DevSolar
    Sep 16 '20 at 13:35
  • Okay, but nevertheless it's apparently possible for homeopathic remidies to contain concern-inducing levels of active ingredients.
    – til_b
    Sep 16 '20 at 14:01
  • I've withheld from the discussion, as it revolves pretty much about definitions, and starts with a funny backward assumption to begin with -- that homeopathic remidies can't cause harm because they are useless... I consider their uselessness to be part of the harm, but... well... :-D
    – DevSolar
    Sep 16 '20 at 14:58
  • At the moment this answer reads to me as "Probably no. It happened once, and the FDA pounced on it." Perhaps showing it is a systemic problem would help.
    – Oddthinking
    Sep 17 '20 at 1:36
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    @JRE: From the answer's source, the FDA found "inconsistent amounts" of belladonna, "sometimes far exceeding the amount claimed on the label". That is production error.
    – DevSolar
    Sep 17 '20 at 9:26

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