Hahnemann faced many challenges as a doctor. In his time, bloodletting was one of the most common practices used in the treatment of disease; and many of the typical medicines were poisons, given to patients in their crude form. Hahnemann realized the treatments were worse than the diseases themselves, as they caused unnecessary suffering and posed serious threats to patients’ lives. Mercury, for example, was a medicine commonly used to treat syphilis: even if the remedy were appropriate to the patient’s case, and even if the treatment managed to alleviate the syphilis, mercury would still cause each patient to suffer from severe poisoning. Patients were technically “cured” of syphilis, but they often died of mercury poisoning.
Hahnemann then experimented with smaller and smaller doses of the active, crude drug forms. He diluted the substances in water repeatedly, giving smaller amounts of the drug. Hahnemann noticed that not only did the dangerous effects of the drugs diminish, but the substances’ curative powers increased. In other words, the greater the number of dilutions made, the more gentle yet effective the medicine became.
Eventually Hahnemann’s process of remedy making evolved to include not just serial dilution, but also serial succussion. Something about this step seemed to create an intensified therapeutic energy in the medicinal substance so that it could heal without causing harm. Hahnemann devoted over fifty years of his life to refining his method of remedy preparation, and in articulating the Law of Similars, the method by which the drugs are selected for use with each patient.
Present day science isn’t equipped yet to measure or monitor what happens to these substances during the processes of serial dilution and succussion, so it’s difficult to explain exactly what makes the drugs so much more effective yet so safe to use. But present day science is also not yet equipped to measure or monitor why many conventional medicines (such as aspirin, for example, as well as any of the hormonal drugs, or the SSRI drugs we know of as antidepressants) are effective, either. Nor does conventional medical science yet understand all the effects these pharmaceuticals have in the body, especially over long-term use. But the drugs are still in common use all over the world, despite the risks involved. Hahnemann’s discovery seems impossible especially if viewed through the filter of the conventional medical paradigm. But if you are willing to set this seeming “inconsistency” aside and use what we do know, you can put Hahnemann’s medicines and method to work to experience their dramatic effects.
Sources and Potentization
Many people confuse homeopathy with herbalism, nutritional supplements, and a variety of practices such as dowsing or acupuncture. There’s so much misinformation out there about alternative medicines in general, and for some reason, many people think homeopathy is an “umbrella” term for any kind of alternative medicine, but it’s not. It’s a distinct and complete medical system, different from any other that we know.
Homeopathic medicines are made from animal, vegetable, and mineral substances, as well as substances we call “imponderable” (meaning substances we’ve all experienced, such as sunlight, for example, but find hard to quantify).
Many of these substances have been used medicinally for millennia (think of herbs and minerals, for example, or all the information we have about different foods in each culture). People have been aware of their properties and uses through trial and error processes that were really methods of storing and sharing empirical knowledge.
This is how Hahnemann originally learned about their uses and their existence, by studying the wealth of knowledge already accumulated about medicinal philosophies and substances from many medical systems. But Homeopathic medicines are distinct from the medicines in use before its inception, because their preparation involves Potentization.
A pure tincture of the raw medicinal substance (or trituration, if we are using materials which cannot dissolve in water) is first made and from there, the process of serial dilution and succussion begins. Several dilutions and succussions will mean that most of the measurable, initial substance in its material form is essentially washed out of the mixture, and cannot be chemically detected in the final product. For instance, one of the lower potencies we often use, 30c, is a serial dilution of 1 drop of the original substance in tincture to 100 drops of water, repeated thirty times. This gives us a final product diluted 1,060 times from the initial substance (a solution of substance to water of 1: 1060). We don’t have the scientific tools yet to measure the material substance past the dilution of Avogadro’s number (which is 6.0221415 × 1023), so the chance of our finding any amount of the initial substance in the finished solution is zero. We are also limited in that we don’t have the tools to yet measure the changes which the mixture undergoes energetically–all those succussions have an impact somewhere, in terms of how they alter the original molecular structure of the mixture and how that continues to change during the repeated dilutions and concentrations of succussive energy. But, we have the properly prepared homeopathic drug, potentized to specific strength.
We call the dose in these preparations “submolecular”. “30c” is considered a moderately low potency and one that is often used where appropriate. Homeopaths also commonly use dilutions such as 1M (102,000), 10M (1,020,000), or 50M (10,100,000). Though it contradicts what we currently perceive to be scientific, the more dilute and more succussed the initial substance is made to be, the more powerful, gentle, and effective it becomes. This extreme dilution and succussion renders the medicinal substances non-toxic, and when used properly, completely safe for patients of all ages, even during pregnancy and breastfeeding.
Today, the process by which Homeopathic medicines are made is regulated by the Homeopathic Pharmacopoeia of the United States in America. This is a strict legal guideline for the preparation of substances into Homeopathic drugs which dictate the processes of serial dilution and succussion and the dilution scales. Strict standards also apply throughout the world, which govern the selection of the raw materials, standards of purity and consistency, and appropriate or acceptable methods of potentization. For some very good photos of the potentization process used by an excellent Homeopathic lab in the United states, have a look at the Hahnemann Laboratories and their photos of their preparation methods and machinery.