There are lots of faux drugs on the shelves of many shameless drugstore chains that are labeled “homeopathic.” These are useless nostrums marketed to the gullible. Usually they are labelled as something like “200C.” This is not a temperature, but the number of dilutions of the original substance.
The completely unsubstantiated hypothesis behind homeopathy is that “like cures like,” and that a very small diluted amount of some “natural substances,” such as plant extracts can stimulate the body to repair itself. There is no evidence that this 18th century idea actually works.
The way homeopaths work is that they select some substance or substances they believe might be helpful and dilute them with shaking, which they call potentization. The word has no actual meaning. Then after many dilutions and shakings, they sell some to you for treatment.
Well now, how much is “some”?
Let’s assume that table salt is a substance that can be used for treatment. It has a molecular weight of (23 + 35.5) of 58.5. We know, from the work of Loschmidt and Avogadro that if you weigh out the molecular weight of any substance in grams (in this case 58.5 g) it contains one mole of particles, or 6.02 x 1023 molecules.
So let’s dissolve that mole of salt on one liter of water. Now we have a one molar solution containing those 1023 molecules. And now, lets dilute 10 ml of that liter by 100, to again make one liter. This new liter will have 1/100 as many molecules in it, or 1021 molecules.
Well the “C” in that “200C” designation means that has been diluted by 100. And the 200 means that this has been repeated 200 times!
So lets see what happens after each dilution:
- 1021 molecules
- 1019 molecules
- 1017 molecules
- 105 molecules
- 103 molecules
- 101 molecules
After 11 dilutions, you have only 10 molecules of salt left in your solution. What happens when you dilute it 100:1 another time? If you take 100 10 ml samples of that last liter, 10 of them could have one molecule of salt!
And after that, the chances of there being even one molecule of our “medicine” are vanishingly small. All of the salt (or any other substance) is lost in the dilution process! There isn’t any left after 12 or so dilutions. And by 200 there is absolutely no chance you’ll encounter even one molecule! It’s gone down the drain, just as the entire homeopathic hypothesis has. There are no active ingredients at all!
Taking homeopathic preparations can act as a placebo, or if they dilute the substance in alcohol instead of water, a quick drunk, but there just can’t be any benefits in the absence of any medicine.
Unfortunately homeopathic preparations are poorly regulated, and some dangerous substances may remain in significant quantities. In some cases, heavy metals have been found.
Studies of the famous quack medicine oscillococcimnum have shown no significant effect. And studies of some 68 treatments have found that they have no effect either.
These are quack medicines that improve the bottom line of unethical pharmacies, but can’t do you any good. Any they may do some harm.