Water - Part I - The roots of Homeopathic Medicine

(please note this is the second part of a series of blog post see here for the Introduction, Part II and Part III)

The belief that water has memory is a core principle in modern homeopathic medicine. Although the founding father of  homeopathy, Samuel Hahnemann did not intentionally based his treatment on this theory, the idea sure got its push 200 years later. And it is quite an interesting story. Jacques Benveniste, then head of the French Institute of Health and Medical Research (INSERM) sent an astonishing paper to the most respected and influential scientific journal - NATURE - for a peer-review (1). The main claim of the paper was that white blood cells so called basophils, which are essential for allergen responses, can be activated (via their IgE antibodies) in solutions that have been diluted, where no more anti-IgE molecules can be proven (those anti-IgEs would normally be responsible for an activation). The main claim was that a solution can evoke a biological response although it has been diluted so far that there is a negligible chance of the presence of an active substance. If that was true, it would shake the very foundations of many biological and physical principles. And still, although the reviewers had very strong reservations about the research Nature decided (probably to increase publicity) to publish the paper with an editorial reservation and agreed with the authors to conduct independent repetitions of the experiment to prove it. Once published - a media hype followed with sensational news like "Hompeopathy finds scientific support" (Newseek) and it certainly had a lasting effect on the homeopathic community while increasing sale figures as well. The fact is however, in none of the properly designed repetitions any of those effects were proven.

 Though still to this day, the paper has not been retracted from the journal and Benveniste claimed until his death in 2004 that his findings were correct. Nature soon themselves stated after the first repetitions (2):
"We conclude that there is no substantial basis for the claim that anti-IgE at high dilution (by factors as great as 10^120) retains its biological effectiveness, and that the hypothesis that water can be imprinted with the memory of past solutes is as unnecessary as it is fanciful."

Over the years several other repetitions have been performed even following up claims that the effects/memories are transmitted via phone or electronic lines (3). None of those studies have found any positive evidence supporting the data. However, and now it gets interesting, effects have only been seen if the study had no double-blind design and/or one of Benvenistes team members was involved in the research. Moreover, already in 1988 there has been rumors that Benveniste and/or his team members were being paid
by the french homeopathic company Boiron (4) - the now worlds biggest supplier of homeopathic medicine. Benveniste himself was described as a:
"charismatic showman who knew how to wield a rhetorical foil. His talk of witch-hunts, scientific priesthoods, heresies and 'Galileo-style prosecutions' played well with those inclined to regard science as an arrogant, modern-day Inquisition.
He conjured up images of a conservative orthodoxy, whose acolytes were scandalized by a ground-breaking discovery that demolished their dogmatic certainties. He was, he suggested, a Newton challenging a petty-minded, mechanistic cartesianism." (5)
All of this surely helped to promote his ideas and later on his own company. It was and still is easy once you have the rhetorical skills to go against the arrogance of close-door science nurturing on old sentimental beliefs of people.

Another issue what people forget is when they look at the original paper and I quote the Authors here:
"... So transmission of the information depended on vigorous agitation, possibly inducing a sub-molecular organisation of water or closely related liquids. The latter is possible as ethanol and propanol could also support the phenomenon. ..." (1)
I wonder why this part of the paper has never been followed up, drinking alcohol as a remedy against everything. Well, in fairness judging by the amount of people consuming it, alcohol appears to be the wonder medicine which heals all wounds. I personally have another issue with the explanation that it must be water  as most of their research was done in buffered solutions. Imminent from this quote is that unfortunately vortexing (vigorous agitation) was another concept on which the belief of memory transmission was grounded (again breaking a series of well-established chemical and physical laws).  Benveniste probably just expolited Hahnemanns 200-year old explanation to establish another link here. We will encounter this again when we discuss Alois Grubers homeopathic business venture.

I would hope that this gave an adequate introduction to the early foundations of the "Memory of Water"

(1) Davenas, E., Beauvais, F., Amara, J., Oberbaum, M., Robinzon, B., Miadonnai, A., Tedeschi, A., Pomeranz, B., Fortner, P., Belon, P., Sainte-Laudy, J., Poitevin, B., & Benveniste, J. (1988). Human basophil degranulation triggered by very dilute antiserum against IgE Nature, 333 (6176), 816-818 DOI: 10.1038/333816a0
(2) J. Maddox; J. Randi, W. W. Stewart (28 July 1988) )
(3) J. Benveniste; P. Jurgens, W. Hsueh and J. Aissa (21–26 February 1997)
(4) BMJ 2011;343:d5197
(5) doi:10.1038/news041004-19


  1. Here I would like to quote Angela and a line from her blog “unfortunately however, most people are terrible at deciding for themselves and tend to accept what they are told (unless it contradicts something they already believe)”

    Thanks Johannes for addressing the issues with water/homeopathy in detail and dedicating blog to “your Indian friend”


Post a Comment

Popular Posts