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Swift
Written by James Randi   

Reader Ron Holmstrom in Alaska points out one of the many difficulties faced by those trying to make any sense of homeopathy. He writes:

Doctor Frank's Homeopathic Pain relief TV commercial says:

Call now and learn how to double your pain relief!

How about just add water?

chartAh, but how much? You see, in homeopathy, a prime example of quack medicine devised by Samuel Hahnemann back in 1796, a curative solution that is more dilute is described as having a higher potency, or strength. The more dilute substances are considered to be stronger and "deeper-acting." The product that is offered to patients by homeopaths is so diluted that it is indistinguishable from the diluent, which can be water, sugar or alcohol. This point - where there's a 60% chance of one atom or molecule of the original substance present, is reached at what's known as Avogadro's Limit, which is one part of medicine in 100,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 parts of diluent. If another one-in-ten dilution is performed, there's only one chance in ten that the atom or molecule may be present...

But the degree of dilution "60X" - equivalent to "30C", for reasons you don't want or need to know - is the dilution suggested by Sam Hahnemann himself for general purposes, well past the Avogadro point. And just how dilute is this, in terms we laymen might understand? This would require giving two billion doses per second to six billion people for four billion years to be relatively sure that a single molecule of the original material was actually delivered to any of those patients. Impressed?

Think that's ridiculous? Well, the presently used dilution of the currently most popular homeopathic flu symptom remedy - Oscillococcinum - is 400X, which makes the mind boggle dangerously, if you're not a woo-woo. And the "active" ingredient? It's an "extract of Muscovy Duck liver and heart." That's one part of extract in SEE CHART (Click on graphic for a larger view).

No, we aren't making this up, folks. That's what the homeopaths themselves claim, but they explain the apparent idiocy by telling us that they're well aware that none of the original substance is present, but they believe that the "vibrations" or "memory" of the stuff is still there, somewhere, and can cure the patient.

If you find this reasonable, I suggest you take two aspirins and call me in the morning. Just summon me by whispering my name; the vibrations, I'm sure, will reach me...

And yes, "diluent" is correct...!

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written by Beelzebubba, December 05, 2008
Psst! Your chart's missing.
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written by Beelzebubba, December 05, 2008
... I mean: "That's one part of extract in

[insert chart.jpg here] WITH CLICK-TO-ENLARGE", of course...
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Undiluted Irritation
written by Willy K, December 05, 2008
Those "Dr." Frank commercials irritate me to no end. smilies/angry.gif

I noticed them a few months ago, at first they touted this miracle cure for dogs and cats. They paraded some poor old decrepit dog that can barley walk and is in obvious pain and the next shot shows it "happily" running with it's owner. To me it looks as if the dog is still in pain. Now they are doing the same sort of ads but now it's people who are shown making this "wonderful" recovery from pain. It's disgusting how they lie and steal people's money. smilies/angry.gif

I usually see these ads on the cable news channels. Why don't Bill O'Reilly and Keith Olbermann take a day off from sniping at each other and go after the thieves and snake oil salesmen? smilies/grin.gif

Willy K
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A Cure for What ails Ya
written by Realitysage, December 05, 2008
If water can retain a "memory" through a homeopathic cure, it might stand to reason that perhaps such a cure would be effective in the treatment of the Alzheimer's memory loss.
But than again......whoops, I forgot what I was saying.....
[sarc/off]
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written by TDjazz, December 06, 2008
Why don't Bill O'Reilly and Keith Olbermann take a day off from sniping at each other and go after the thieves and snake oil salesmen?

Well, as for Bill O'Reilly, he's too busy on his high horse saving the world from godless atheists in Olympia, Washington. While frauds such as Dr. Frank are conning people out of their hard-earned money with their quackery, BO is on a crusade against ideas and words that can harm no one. I guess atheists’ free speech rights are more detrimental than a con artist bilking his marks. (No doubt the atheist controversy in Olympia, Washington, will be addressed on this site soon.)
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So many googols
written by Thanny, December 06, 2008
I think it's safe to stop calculating the odds when the number of particles in the denominator exceeds the number of elementary particles in the entire universe (about 10^80).
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written by cwniles, December 06, 2008
I'm no mathemetician, in fact, I don't even know if I spelled mathemeticion correctly but if I read this correctly, the most popular homeopathic flu remedy is 400 parts water and 1 part extract of Muscovy Duck liver and heart?

(It looks like you meant to include this breakdown in your post but there appears to be some sort of HTML code issue)
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Bolingbrook Babbler
written by Cethis, December 06, 2008
Why don't Bill O'Reilly and Keith Olbermann take a day off from sniping at each other and go after the thieves and snake oil salesmen?

Because those businesses help pay their salaries. That's the problem with ad supported media. They can't go after the people who pay them, unless there's a serious problem with the product.
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written by Cethis, December 06, 2008
Sorry about the title. That was my first post here, and I'll be more careful from now on.
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written by GusGus, December 06, 2008
NO. That's not 400 parts water to 1 part duck. It's 400 "gazilion" parts water to one part duck!
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written by JeffWagg, December 06, 2008
Fixed the graphics confusion. The graphic was there, but I munged the text. Click on the graphic for the full number.
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written by Eccles, December 06, 2008
On the bright side this is good news for Muscovy Ducks... one duck should be able to keep us in flu remedies for a very long time.

Although I thought that one of the principles of homeopathy was that like cures like, so how did they arrive at duck offal extract as a cure for flu? Maybe it's because feathers make you sneeze? And have they tried all breeds of duck to find that the Muskovy duck is the best?

Anyone would think that they're making it up as they go along! smilies/wink.gif
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written by Jim_K, December 06, 2008
How does the water distinguish between the medication and the fish doodoo?
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Avocado
written by DrMatt, December 06, 2008
What happened to 1 part in 6 x (10 ^ 23)?
When did (10 ^ 60) come to have something to do with Avogadro?
Isn't Avogadro's limit reached at 24X = 12C?
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written by BillyJoe, December 06, 2008
How does the water distinguish between the medication and the fish doodoo?



They use distilled water.
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written by BillyJoe, December 06, 2008
What happened to 1 part in 6 x (10 ^ 23)?

"one part of medicine in 100,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 parts of diluent" IS 6 X 10^23.

When did (10 ^ 60) come to have something to do with Avogadro?

It doesn't? Where did he said it did?

Isn't Avogadro's limit reached at 24X = 12C

Yes.

NOTE: The quote function used to work perfectly but now it is completely $#@&
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written by BillyJoe, December 06, 2008
Hold on, how did that 6 get in there???
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A drop in the ocean
written by Steven Slaughter, December 06, 2008
You see, in homeopathy, a prime example of quack medicine devised by Samuel Hahnemann back in 1796, a curative solution that is more dilute is described as having a higher potency, or strength. The more dilute substances are considered to be stronger and "deeper-acting."


So.... if any of the homeopathic medicines are introduced to any water supply then this will mean that anyone on planet earth will be drinking an ultra, ultra, ultra potent medicine? In all the years that homeopathy has been going around this has never been done? (No profit in it?)

Or

Does the water 'have' to be distilled? Would this make it forget its past encounters and set it up to remember new ones?

Enlightenment from anyone knowledgeable in this madness would be appreciated.
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written by BillyJoe, December 07, 2008
SS,
Does the water 'have' to be distilled?

Yes, the distilling process makes the water forget.

if any of the homeopathic medicines are introduced to any water supply then this will mean that anyone on planet earth will be drinking an ultra, ultra, ultra potent medicine?

No. You have forgotten about succussion. So simply throwing the homoepathic preparation ito the water supply will have no effect whatsoever.

BJ
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written by Cuddy Joe, December 07, 2008
You can pound the homeopathic solution up the duck's ass and it won't have any effect. No matter what one does with a homeopathic solution it will have no effect, not even placebic, for that effect begins and ends in the mind, not the solution. (OK, choir, altogether now...)
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Now I get it.....
written by ShowMe, December 08, 2008
"The product that is offered to patients by homeopaths is so diluted that it is indistinguishable from the diluent, which can be water, sugar or alcohol"

So if I put more alcohol in the mixture and drink it, my pain goes away? I'm beginning to see the allure of this medication.....
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written by Christine, December 16, 2008

so how did they arrive at duck offal extract as a cure for flu? Maybe it's because feathers make you sneeze? And have they tried all breeds of duck to find that the Muskovy duck is the best?


I remember when this garbage was first advertised, they claimed that they knew Oscillococcinum would cure a cold or flu because it is the same ingredient as in Grandma's chicken soup. No, I am not making this up!

How they got from chickens to ducks, I don't know.
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written by BillyJoe, December 16, 2008
...or from liver and heart to meat!
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Vibrations ? Memory ?
written by Whoa, December 19, 2008
So what other substances leave such vibrations™ and memories™ in the diluents ?

The salt and other minerals that were present with the water molecules not so long ago? What about those that still are ? The air that they have been in contact with ?

Unless the diluent was created out of nothing and held/delivered/consumed without containers of any sort (absolute vacuum ?) ... I'd suspect the vibrations™ getting distorted and the memories™ adulterated !!!

But then again, that's logic ... silly skeptic "thing" ...
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