Potency — What Does It Mean? Or, Why the Quackbusters Know Nothing About Homeopathy

Amy Lansky
Published: 08/14/2013

One of the common strategies used by “quackbusters” (like James Randi) to debunk homeopathy is to stage dramatic events where they take “overdoses” of remedies — thereby (supposedly) proving that homeopathic remedies are “nothing.” For example, Randi once  took a whole bottle of “homeopathic sleeping pills” and said that he had no noticeable effect; he did not become sick from them, and not only did he not become sleepy, he felt wide awake! It is one of Randi’s aims to remove all homeopathic products from the shelves of the nation’s stores.

By engaging in these stunts, of course, quackbusters only demonstrate their complete lack of understanding of homeopathy and how it works. Such events also demonstrate how easily the issue of potency is misunderstood.

First of all, remedies are simply not like conventional (and toxic) medicines. The fact that it is almost impossible to be poisoned by homeopathic remedies is a wonderful feature!

Homeopaths will readily acknowledge that their medicines do not contain material doses of the substances from which they are made. Any remedy of potency higher than 12c has been diluted to the point where a single molecule of the substance is unlikely to remain. Thus, taking 1 pill or 1000 pills at the same time will generally have the same effect for most people (except perhaps the most highly sensitive). The reason is that what the pills are imparting is more like a quality, not a quantity.

As reported in previous articles I have written, scientific studies (conducted by both material scientists and Nobel-prize winning medical scientists), have demonstrated there is something measurable in homeopathic dilutions that is unique to the substance from which they are made. But this measurable thing is more akin to a vibration than a material substance. In other words, the effect of a remedy is more like listening to a musical note than swallowing a chemical pill.

What does it mean to ingest a sound? Will ingesting more of a sound really be different than simply ingesting the sound? However, if someone listens to a sound repeatedly, day after day, it may indeed begin to have an effect on them, no matter what the sound is. That is closer to understanding what a remedy does.

Before I continue, let’s distinguish between three features of a remedy pill (or liquid):
* the potency system that was used in making the remedy;
* the actual potency number of the remedy;
* the remedy source.

The various different potency systems of homeopathy (X, C, LM) are all about how the dilution process was conducted. X potencies are made through repeated dilutions of 1:10; C potencies are made through repeated dilutions of 1:100; and LM potencies are made through repeated dilutions of 1:50,000.

The potency number indicates how many times the dilution step was done. For example, to make a 3C remedy, first a unit of substance is diluted in a mixture of alcohol and water (or is ground into milk-sugar) in a ratio of 1:100, then a unit of THAT is diluted in a ratio of 1:100, and then a unit of THAT is diluted in a ratio of 1:100. In other words, the dilution is done 3 times. After each dilution step, a process of vigorous shaking or grinding occurs. This is the critical thing (which even modern scientists have discovered) that imparts the quality of the substance into the dilution.

Because of the different ratios of dilution that can be used, each of the potency systems creates remedies that have a different quality to them. I like to think of X potencies as the “edgiest”, and LM potencies as the most “smooth”. You might think of X potencies as being like more boxy waves, and LM potencies as being very smooth undulating waves.

Within each of these potency systems, though, the higher the potency number (i.e. the more it has been repeatedly diluted), the more specific and deep the effect. I like to visualize it this way. A low potency is like a gentle wave. A high potency is like a wave with deep spikes. That’s why low potencies tend to have broader gentler effects, and higher potencies have deeper, more specific, and usually more long-lasting effects.

Each remedy source imparts its own wave pattern or signature. If a remedy source pattern matches a patient’s energy pattern (is homeopathic to their state), then it will have a curative effect on them. If it’s totally not a match, it won’t mesh at all with their state of being and they will feel no effect. If it’s close, it might mesh a bit and have some effect, and sometimes even cause more aggravations because it’s not quite right. Similarly, if it matches but it’s too high a potency for their state, it might amplify that state too much and aggravate them. If it’s too low, it might not have so much of an effect.

So let’s face it: the Amazing Randi is not so amazing!! He doesn’t even understand the first principles of homeopathy — something that is quite surprising given that he has been baiting homeopaths for so many years! The philosophy of homeopathy quite clearly states what would happen when he ingested a bottle of homeopathic sleeping pills:

  • If he was not in a state of insomnia that matched the remedy and was completely insensitive to the remedy’s vibration, nothing would likely happen, no matter how many pills he took at the same time.
  • If he did suffer from an insomnia pattern that matched the remedy, they might help him sleep better.
  • If he took the pills over and over again, day after day, or if he had at least some kind of sensitivity to them and the potency was too high, he would likely begin to experience a homeopathic proving — that is, he would begin to experience the symptoms that the remedy causes (and therefore can cure) — sleeplessness! In other words, he would become more awake, not more sleepy. And indeed, that is what happened to him.

The bottom line though is this: we all deserve the right to use the type of medicine we want to use. If the Amazing Randi does not want to benefit from the wonders of homeopathic medicine, he is free not to do so. But for him to try to destroy that opportunity for the rest of us — through publicity stunts and big-pharma funded media campaigns — he is being unjust and manifesting hubris, close-mindedness, and mean-spiritedness.

Finally remember this: if you do read about these stunts in the media, chime in and tell them the truth. In fact, you are free to supply a link to this article if you want to do so!

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