Related: Does water have a memory as claimed in homeopathy?

I recently watched a debate between Ben Goldacre and Peter Fischer on homeopathy. During the course of the debate, an audience member asked, "If water has a memory, how come you're not sick every time you drink water out of the tap?.

A homeopathic practitioner answered (paraphrased) that boiling the water resets the memory and that homeopathic remedies are only effective when using boiled water. He makes another comment implying that if a remedy were prepared with tap water, it wouldn't be effective.

I realize the above related question ("Does water have a memory...?") is nearly identical. I'm trying to ask it another way as it's possible to persist with the water memory concept despite the other question's answer. One could simply say (my hypothetical response),

"Well, we don't know how it works and perhaps it isn't by the known mechanism of how water behaves... but trials indicate that it works, nonetheless and that's all I need."

Since the audience member in the video indicated tangible predictions, I'm interested if they've ever been put to the test. Thus, my question is:

Has a trial ever been conducted in which homeopathic remedies prepared from both unboiled and boiled water were compared against one another in terms of patient response?

If there is another way to answer this question please go for it.

P.S. Even better, I would find it fascinating if a double blind trial used three groups:

  • Placebo/control
  • Homeopathic remedy prepared from boiled water
  • Homeopathic remedy prepared from boiled water, then reboiled prior to giving to patient
  • The title and experiment is worded in a way that suggests that boiled-water homeopathy works, all that is left to do is distinguish how it works. If you start from a position that systematic analyses proves it doesn't work better than placebo, then comparing it to ineffective double-boiled or tap-water based variants teaches us nothing. – Oddthinking May 19 '12 at 1:02
  • 2
    Sorry, I'm still seeing this as unclear or misdirected. The audience member proposed a problem with homeopathic. The homeopath provided an answer. One point to the homeopath. Then they claimed that trials indicated it works, which is an outright falsehood - as long as you acknowledge that there are dodgy individual trials that need to be weeded out by meta-analyses. At that point, falsely claiming that the trials don't account for [patient history/specific combos/astrological signs] is too late - the (alleged) positive trials were entered as evidence FOR homeopathy. – Oddthinking May 19 '12 at 8:42
  • 1
    (I am assuming that by "boiled water" the homeopath is referring to distilled water, which I understand to be the normal process used in the very studies that failed.) Once we understand that the studies on distilled water fail, there is no sense in testing double-distilled or undistilled water. If homeopaths normally used distilled water, but the failed trials were on tap water, then I agree - that test would be necessary. – Oddthinking May 19 '12 at 8:46
  • 3
    So when you make tea you are actually brainwashing water. Interesting. – nico May 19 '12 at 10:49
  • 1
    I don't see how the homeopath's answer answers the question anyway. So homeopathic remedies are made from boiled water, the fact remains that if water has a memory, then drinking (unboiled) tap water should have some kind of effect, shouldn't it? – Benjol May 24 '12 at 6:05

It really doesn't make any difference if the water is boiled or not, homeopathy doesn't work.

The Minimum Dose and Avagadro's Number The second and most controversial tenet in homeopathy is that remedies retain biological activity if they are diluted in a series (usually in a 1:10 or 1:100 diluent–volume ratio) and agitated or shaken between each dilution. Hahnemann began this process to reduce toxicity, but later he claimed that this “potenization” process extracted the “vital” or “spirit-like” nature of these substances (2). The limit of molecular dilution (Avagadro's number) was not discovered until the later part of Hahnemann's life; by then homeopaths all over the world were reporting that even very high potencies (dilutions lower than Avagadro's number) produced clinical effects. The implausibility of such claims has led many to dismiss any evidence of homeopathy's effectiveness as artifact or delusion (3). http://www.annals.org/content/138/5/393.full

But lets pretend for a moment that water does have memory. The aspect of boiling has not been researched. A search of Google Scholar nets no results for boiling and homeopathy. When referring to "how-to" guides of preparations it becomes obvious that homeopaths are merely after clean or unpolluted water to make their preparations in.

Ingredients ... 1/2 or 1 litre of boiled water (distilled water may be bought at pharmacies in some countries, if you want that, and bottled, rinsed water is commonly sold in groceries too)

Another example:

Preparing your own bottle: Boil the glass bottle and dropper in filtered water for 15 min. and let it cool completely. Fill it just to the neck with filtered or distilled water.

So clearly the idea that boiling is the only way to reset the water is not backed up by the practices employed by homeopaths themselves. This combined with the fraudulent claim that water retains memory shows that this is another misdirection to allow justification.

  • 2
    Both of your examples talk about distillation. Distillation is a purification process that involves boiling the water (and recapturing the steam). Also mentioned is filtration which is another method of purifying water, which may satisfy the claim. (In my experience, people also use the term "distilled water" to mean "demineralised water", which is another process.) I have no idea what "bottled, rinsed water" might be. – Oddthinking May 22 '12 at 16:06
  • 6
    You had me at It really doesn't make any difference if the water is boiled or not, homeopathy doesn't work. – JasonR May 22 '12 at 19:57
  • Nice approach (looking for preparation instructions). Another route that could tie in well with this would be to show typical contaminant levels of either typical lab glassware or even plastic jugs (picking up water at the grocery store is typically done in gallon milk jugs in the US -- I wonder if any polymer particles are released in even minute amounts. After all, minute amounts of contaminants would affect the memory of the water post-boil and goof this up. Contaminants introduced during preparation would also undercut the boiling/pure water idea.) – Hendy May 22 '12 at 22:15
  • 1
    Hendy: I like your thinking. Lab impurities are always accounted for with blanks during measurements, I doubt the same is true of homeopathy. Brightblades: Thanks! Oddthinking: Distilled water is never as clean as people think. We used DDW or milliq Water in the lab, which is made by either double distilling (boiling) or deionisation. We also had a sonic ioniser. They also don't mention resetting, just purity being the issue. If there are more comments I'll add to my answer. – Tim Scanlon May 23 '12 at 1:37
  • @brightblades. I was thinking the same thing – Monkey Tuesday May 29 '12 at 0:21

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .