Email updates

Keep up to date with the latest news and content from BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine and BioMed Central.

Open Access Research article

High sensitivity 1H-NMR spectroscopy of homeopathic remedies made in water

David J Anick

Author Affiliations

Harvard Medical School Mailman Building 123, McLean Hospital, 115 Mill St., Belmont, MA 02478, USA

BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine 2004, 4:15  doi:10.1186/1472-6882-4-15

Published: 1 November 2004

Abstract

Background

The efficacy of homeopathy is controversial. Homeopathic remedies are made via iterated shaking and dilution, in ethanol or in water, from a starting substance. Remedies of potency 12 C or higher are ultra-dilute (UD), i.e. contain zero molecules of the starting material. Various hypotheses have been advanced to explain how a UD remedy might be different from unprepared solvent. One such hypothesis posits that a remedy contains stable clusters, i.e. localized regions where one or more hydrogen bonds remain fixed on a long time scale. High sensitivity proton nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy has not previously been used to look for evidence of differences between UD remedies and controls.

Methods

Homeopathic remedies made in water were studied via high sensitivity proton nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy. A total of 57 remedy samples representing six starting materials and spanning a variety of potencies from 6 C to 10 M were tested along with 46 controls.

Results

By presaturating on the water peak, signals could be reliably detected that represented H-containing species at concentrations as low as 5 μM. There were 35 positions where a discrete signal was seen in one or more of the 103 spectra, which should theoretically have been absent from the spectrum of pure water. Of these 35, fifteen were identified as machine-generated artifacts, eight were identified as trace levels of organic contaminants, and twelve were unexplained. Of the unexplained signals, six were seen in just one spectrum each. None of the artifacts or unexplained signals occurred more frequently in remedies than in controls, using a p < .05 cutoff. Some commercially prepared samples were found to contain traces of one or more of these small organic molecules: ethanol, acetate, formate, methanol, and acetone.

Conclusion

No discrete signals suggesting a difference between remedies and controls were seen, via high sensitivity 1H-NMR spectroscopy. The results failed to support a hypothesis that remedies made in water contain long-lived non-dynamic alterations of the H-bonding pattern of the solvent.