The Homeopathic Paradox: Weaker Is Stronger
Homeopathic remedies are prepared by a process of serial dilution and shaking known as potentization. The more homeopathic remedies are diluted and shaken, the stronger their action becomes. Chemically, the substance becomes more and more dilute. Clinically, however, Hahnemann found that the more a substance was potentized, the less often it needed to be given to the patient to produce a curative action and the deeper was its effect. Now over 150 years after Hahnemann's death, homeopaths continue to validate this observation and cure patients with what seem to be infinitesimally small doses of natural substances.
The degree of dilution of homeopathic remedies may seem extraordinary. Imagine one drop of ink dissolved in ten drops of water. Only 1/10 of the ink would be present. If you diluted it again, only 1/100 of the ink would remain. Barely any color would still be visible. Now, repeat this process until you have made six dilutions. Only one part per million of the original drop of ink would remain in the solution, and the mixture would appear colorless. This 6x potency is one of the least diluted, or weakest, potencies commonly used in homeopathic practice. Imagine how dilute that drop of ink would be after being diluted one thousand, ten thousand or even one million times!
The popularly held belief, when it comes to medicine, is "more is better." Homeopaths have found just the opposite to be true. It is this concept of using infinitesimal doses that has caused many people, including most proponents of conventional medicine, to reject homeopathy categorically without further investigation. However, it is successful daily clinical experience that allows homeopaths to accept this seemingly paradoxical proposition as true.
The dilutions of the original substance are called potencies. There are two commonly used dilution scales, X or decimal, and C or centesimal. X potencies are diluted 1 to 9 and C potencies are diluted 1 to 99. To make an X potency, 1 part of the original substance is added to 9 parts of solvent. To make a C potency, 1 part of the original substance is added to 99 parts of solvent. The 6C potency is 10 times as dilute as the 6X. The most common potencies prepared by pharmacies in the United States range from 6C (6 dilutions) to CM (100,000 dilutions). Many homeopaths refer to potencies below 200C as low potencies and potencies of 200C or above as high potencies.
The Importance of Succussion
Shaking each dilution is the crucial factor in preparation. It allows a homeopathic remedy to remain potent past the point where none of the original molecules of the substance remain in the dilution. This vigorous shaking is known as succussion. Hahnemann originally succussed each remedy by rapping the vial against a large, leatherbound book. In modern manufacturing, it is performed by machine. Succussion allows the medicinal power of the substance to be enhanced far beyond what is possible with simple dilution. The purely chemical effect of a substance is lost as it is diluted more and more, but the homeopathic effects are released, as long as each dilution is shaken. With succussion, the homeopathic remedy gets stronger and longer lasting with each successive dilution.
Hahnemann came upon the idea of succussion after noticing that the medicines he took with him on house calls were more potent than those he kept in his office, which led him to succuss, not just dilute, his homeopathic remedies.