Potentisation and The Infinitesimal Dose


Struck by the idea of the development of latent powers through what Hahnemann had at first considered merely as dilution, he ceased calling the process : dilution,” and named it “potentization” or “potentiation”…


*Homoeopathic potentiation is a mathematico-mechanical process for the reduction, according to scale, of crude, inert or poisonous medical substances to a state of physical solubility, physiological assimilability and therapeutic activity and harmlessness, for use as homoeopathic healing remedies.

The primary object of potentiation is to reduce all substances designed for therapeutic use to ” a state of approximately perfect solution or complete ionization, which is fully accomplished only by infinite dilution.” (Arrhenius.) The greater the dilution, the higher the degree of ionization until, at infinite dilution, ionization is complete and therapeutic activity *conditionally greatest.

For the reduction of minerals and inorganic substances and certain other substances, it employs mechanical trituration of one part of the substance with nine, or ninety-nine parts of pure crystalline sugar of milk, according as the decimal or centesimal scale of dilution is used. The process is continued long enough and in such a manner as to reduce them to an approximately impalpable powder, soluble in water. These and all other soluble substances it reduces to liquids, or tinctures which it still further reduces by dilution with water or alcohol in the same proportions of drug to vehicle (one to nine, or one to ninety- nine) to any degree determined upon, recording, numbering each step of the process in order that the degree of dilution and potentiation of each preparation may be known.

The resulting products of these operation are known as “potencies” or “dilutions.” bearing the name of the medicine and the number of the dilution.

Originally all homoeopathic remedies were prepared by hand, using the ancient and time honored mortar and pestle and the ordinary glass vial. Hand made potencies are still regarded by some are most reliable; but the products of time saving triturating and diluting machines, which have been invented and improved from time to time, are used by the majority of homoeopathic pharmacists or potency makers.

By this process the most virulent and deadly poisons, even the serpent venoms, are not only rendered harmless, but are transformed into beneficent healing remedies. Substances which are medicinally inert in their crude natural state, such as the minerals, charcoal, or lycopodium, are thus rendered active and effective for healing the sick. Other drugs, more or less active in their natural state, have their medicinal qualities enhanced and their sphere of action broadened by being submitted to the process.

Arithmetical enumeration of the particles or proportions into which potentiation is supposed to divide a given quantity of the drug is insufficient and misleading. The facts go to show that the result of the process is not only a division of the matter into particles, *but a series of differentiations and progression by which successive reproduction or propagations of the medical properties of the drug take place. The powers and qualities of the drug are progressively transferred to the diluting medium. Recognizing this fact, Garth Wilkinson proposed to call them “transmissions.:

Fincke explained the action and efficiency of infinitesimal doses by applying the “law of the least quantity,” discovered by Maupertius, the great French mathematician and accepted in science as a fundamental principle of the universe. That principle is stated as follows: *”the quantity of action necessary to effect any change in nature is the least possible.”

“According to this general principle, ” says Dr. Fincke, ” the decisive moment is always a minimum, an infinitesimal.” And to our therapeutics it will be perceived that the least possible is always the highest potency sufficient to bring about reaction and effect the cure, provided always that the selection of the remedy is homoeopathically correct. “The Law of the Least Action *(Maxima Minimis) appears to be an essential and necessary complement of the Law of similars ( *Similia Similibus) and co- ordinate with it.”

“According to this principle the curative properties and action of the homoeopathic remedy are governed by its preparation and application; in other words, *the quality of the action of a homoeopathic remedy is determined by its quantity. Consequently, the law of the least action must be acknowledged as the posological principle of homoeopathy.”

Potentiation and the minimum dose is a subject upon which it is exceedingly easy to form hasty and incorrect notions- no subject in homoeopathy is more so. It is one of those subjects upon which the average medical minds seems to have a peculiar natural bent for forming opinion without due knowledge and examination – in one word, prejudice. It may be said, however that when the philosophy of homoeopathy is understood, and its method of selecting the curative remedy has been mastered, decision as to the matter of the dose may be left safely to individual judgment, based upon observation and experience. The whole range of based upon observation and experience. The whole range of potencies is and should be open to every man. The beginner need be no more afraid of a thirtieth potency than of a third when he has decided upon the similar remedy; for he may be sure of this- *neither will cure if not indicated. No one can make up his shortcoming as an accurate prescriber by increasing the size or frequency of his doses.

The idea of potentiation, or dynamization, as it is sometimes called, did not like Minerva, spring “full armed and grown from her father’s brain;” nor was the idea, like Minerva, “immediately admitted to the assembly of the gods.” It was a gradual growth, a development. In some other respects, however the idea was like Minerva. ” The power of Minerva,” we are told, ” was great in heaven; she could hurl the thunders of Jupiter, *prolong the life of men, bestow the gift of prophecy and was the only one of all the divinities whose authority and consequence were equal to those of Jupiter.”

The greatest and keenest minds in homoeopathy, the minds which have possessed insight in the highest degree, have always recognized the vital importance and fundamental relation of the doctrine of potentiation to homoeopathy. It is at the same time the most vital and most vulnerable part, the very heart of homoeopathy.

To quote only one of many authors, Prof. Samuel A. Jones of Ann- Arbor : As long ago as 1872, when editor of the American Homoeopathic. observer, he wrote these prophetic words, which have since been literally fulfilled. ” Let us guard our homoeopathic heritage most jealously. The provings on the healthy, the simillimum as the remedy, the single remedy, the *reduced dose, may be and will be filched from us one by one and christened with new names to hide the theft. What will become of homoeopathy? It will live, despite, them *in Hahnemann’s posology. The very infinitesimal which many are so ready to throw away are all that will save us.

This is only the recognition that, in its highest aspects, the doctrine *and the fact of potentiation is one of those “mysteries of the faith” which have ever been the strength and at the same time the weakness, of every great church or school of thought; the strength because in their highest and broadest reaches they exercise the highest powers of the human mind; the weakest because they are the most liable to misunderstanding and perversion.

We may always rely upon our enemies to discover and attack the most vital and weakest part of our defenses. The proof of this statement lies in the fact that the doctrine of potentiation and infinitesimal does has always been the central point of attack upon homoeopathy by its enemies.

Homoeopathy was not created by the discovery of the law of similars. Many before Hahnemann, from Hippocrates down, had glimpses of the law, and some had tried to make use of it therapeutically; but all had failed because of their inability to properly graduate and adapt the dose. The principle of *similia was of no practical use until the related principle of potentiation and the minimum dose was discovered; and that was not until Hahnemann, anticipating by a hundred years the modern conceptions of matter and force, hit upon the mathematico- mechanical expedient of preparing the drug by *dilution according to scale in a definite proportion of the drug to inert vehicle. Homoeopathy became practicable at the moment that discovery was made and not before. But for that Hahnemann would have progressed no further than Hippocrates.

The tremendous scope and importance of his invention did not dawn upon Hahnemann at once. For a number of years in his original medical practice he had used drugs in the usual form and in ordinary doses. But as soon as he began applying medicine in such doses under the newly developed homoeopathic principle, he found that the aggravation and injury followed their use. Naturally this led him to reduce the size of the doses.

“Naturally,” we say, although no one up to that time had ever thought of so simple and apparently obvious an expedient to overcome the obstacles to successful homoeopathic practice. Finding that he obtained better results he continued to reduce the dose.

Hahnemann’s idea at first was simply to reduce the “strength” or material mass of his drug, but his passion for accuracy led him to adopt a scale, that he might always be sure of the degree of reduction and establish a standard of comparison. Under certain conditions he found, perhaps to his surprise, that instead of weakening the drug he was actually increasing its curative power. In reducing the density of the mass he perceived that he was setting free powers previously latent, and that these powers were the greatest and most efficient for their therapeutic purposes, *when the remedy so prepared was applied under the principle of symptoms similarity.

Struck by the idea of the development of latent powers through what he had at first considered merely as dilution, he ceased calling the process : dilution,” and named it “potentization” or “potentiation,” which it truly is- a process of rendering potent, or powerful, that which was previously impotent.

Familiar to all is the trend of modern scientific thought away from the crudely materialistic notions of the early physical scientists, toward a higher conception of the constitution of matter.

Describing his conception of the nature and constitution of matter, Sir Isaac Newton quaintly said : “It seems probable to me that God in the beginning formed matter in *solid, massy, hard, impenetrable, movable particles of such sizes and figures, and with such other properties and in such proportion to space as most to conduce to the end for which he formed them; even *so very hard as never to wear or break in pieces; no ordinary power being able to divide what God Himself made one in the first creation.”

To Newton, light consisted of a perfect hail of these minute material atoms thrown off from the light producing body. In the exercise of his scientific imagination he saw these little particles of matter flying in every direction at incredible speed.

Later came the conception of the luminiferous ether. Physicists think now of a ray of light as the pulsation or vibration of *an intangible substance which acts like a solid, but which lets ordinary matter pass through it without interference.

The marvels of electricity as developed in such inventions as the dynamo the electric motor, the electric light, the telegraph and telephone and the later the X-Ray and wireless telegraph and radio have done much to incline men toward the acceptance of a more spiritual interpretation of the universe. He who accepts without questions the operation of this invisible intangible force the real nature or which no man knows, to say nothing of the phenomena of radio-activity, gravitation, and chemical affinity, should not stumble over the homoeopathic high potencies he may make and demonstrate for himself any day.

Carl Snyder, in ” New Conceptions in Science,: points out how many advances in science and the arts have been made possible by the discovery of a *new mechanical appliance. That homoeopathy was thus made possible has not heretofore been recognized.

Snyder says: – ” The phrase, Mechanical appliance’ is used broadly, as including all that may contribute to exact measurement and to the extension of our primitive senses in any direction. In this sense the calculus, or the reactions of the chemists test tube must be reckoned as mechanical no less than the thermometer, the microscope or the balance. It also includes such aids to calculation as the use of the zero ( or more strictly speaking, a decimal system of counting); algebra, the inventions of fluxions, logarithms and the side rule.

“We have all heard the story of how Archimedes detected the alloy in King Hiero’s crown; how a certain weight of gold had been given by the king to an artificer to make over into a crown; how the King, suspecting a cheat, asked his friend Archimedes if he could tell whether base metal had been put in with gold; how Archimedes, sorely puzzled, stepped one day into his bath, observed how the water ran over forgot everything and ran home naked through the streets of Syracuse shouting, Eureka! Eureka!”

“Archimedes’ discovery was simply this; that a body in water displace a quantity of water of *equal weight, and not according to its bulk, as one might believe at first thought. With it he established the idea of specific gravity.

By this he not only exposed the tricky goldsmith, but was led to all sorts of investigations, and finally to the discovery of the Lever.”

In a similar way Hahnemann, groping about in his study of the action of homoeopathic drugs on the healthy human organism, perplexed by the aggravation resulting from ordinary doses, seeking to find a dose so small that it would not endanger life and desiring to accurately measure his degree of dilution so that he might repeat or retrace his steps, invented or adopted *the centesimal scale of menstruation. Immediately he found ready to his hand the means of solving the problem in which so many others before him had failed.

He had devised a process, simple in the extreme, by which with nothing but a mortar and pestle, a series of small glass vials and a small quantity of sugar of milk, or of pure water or alcohol he could not only modify toxic substances so that they were rendered harmless without destroying their curative powers, but develop and measure the inherent, latent medicinal energy of inert substances to any extend desired.

Substances which were entirely inert (physiologically or pathogenetically) in their natural state, such as the minerals, charcoal and lycopodium were by the newly invented process of trituration, solution and subsequent liquid potentiation, developed into medicines of remarkable power.

Homoeopathy, as a practical art thus became possible and Hahnemann passed on, leaving Hippocrates, Galen and all the other competitors in the race far behind.

And this was all brought about by the invention of simple mathematical scale of measurements. It is so simple that only very few, even yet, begin to grasp its tremendous significance. One of the greatest physicists who ever lived, after reflection upon, it said that the Hahnemann theory of potentiation would ultimately lead to an entirely new conception of the constitutions of matter. And so it has. Newton’s “hard, massy material atom” and even the atom of later physicists, is nor more as an ultimate conception. It has given place to the immaterial electrical corpuscle, or electron, infinitely smaller and more active than the atom.

Historically homoeopathic potentiation is a development of very old and very common pharmaceutical processes. The mortar and pestle are as old as medicine. Minerals and inorganic substance are commonly prepared for the therapeutic use by methods not only closely analogous, in its first stage to the homoeopathic method, but having their origin in the same fundamental necessity; namely, the necessity for rendering such substances soluble, capable of being taken up by the absorbents and appropriated by the sentient nerves of the living organism. Metals like mercury, lead and iron are entirely inert medicinally until they have been submitted to some process, physical or chemical by which their mass is broken up and rendered soluble, and their latent medicinal energy thereby set free. It matters not by what name we call such a process, it is essentially a potentiation and homeopathic potentiation is nothing more or less than a *physical process by which the dynamic energy, latent in crude substances, is liberated developed and modified for use as medicines.

Hahnemann, recognizing that the therapeutic action of a drug is the direct opposite of its physiological or toxic action, saw the possibility and necessity of extending this process, by perfectly simple, reliable and accurate means, so that it shall not only release the latent energy, but render it available for the higher purposes of healing by depriving it of its destructive or toxic action, while at the same time developing its purely therapeutic qualities and broadening its field of action.

It is perhaps not quite fair to imply that the dominant school has not recognized such a possibility. That it has done so is evidenced by its attempts to prepare certain morbid products, mostly of animal origin, for use as therapeutic agents by submitting them to a biological process which may be regarded as somewhat analogous to homoeopathic potentiation. I refer to the processes by which the various serums and vaccines and prepared. The old time vaccination in which the patient was inoculated directly with the so-called “humanized” vaccine virus, represents its first attempt in this direction. So many evil arose from the practice that it was soon discontinued, and the more modern method devised. By this method, an animal, usually a calf, was inoculated with pus from a fully developed human smallpox pustule. After the ensuing disease thus set up in the animal had developed, serum or pus from one of the resulting pustules was again inoculate into another healthy animal to undergo the same or similar organic modifications. This process having been repeated a varying number of times, through a series of animals, the final product was used to inoculate human beings. With many technical modifications and extensions this is essential the process use to-day in the preparation of the sera and vaccines.

The basic idea is to do so modify a primarily virulent animal virus, toxin or other pathological product, that it may be used safely for therapeutic or prophylactic purposes. In that respect it may be regarded as a crude analogue or imitation of homoeopathic mechanical potentiation.

Considered as a technical process such a method is highly objectionable because it involves so many uncertainties. The living organism is an infinitely complex thing, when we consider the almost innumerable mechanical, chemical and vital processes going on within its constantly changing fluids and solids. Many of these processes are very imperfectly understood. There are no means of accurately registering and measuring all these activities; no means of determining exactly what these changes are; nor how they are modified by the introduction of the foreign morbid substance used.

In comparing this method with the Hahnemann process it is only necessary to point out:-

1. The Hahnemannian process is purely physical, objective and mechanical.

2. It does not involve any uncertain, unseen, unreliable nor unmeasurable factor. Its elements are simply the substances or drug to be potentiated, a vehicle consisting of sugar of milk, alcohol or water in certain quantities and definite proportions; manipulation under conditions which are entirely under control and so simple that a child could comply with them.

3. The resulting products is stable, or may easily be made so; in fact it is almost indestructible; and the experience of a century, in its use under homoeopathic methods and principles has proved it to be efficient and reliable in the treatment of all forms of disease amenable to medication.

4. The process is practically illimitable. Potentiation of medicine by this method may be carried to any extent desired or required.

To argue about a question which can be settled promptly by the actual test of experience is a waste of time and energy, for nothing is gained by it and we must come to the test of experience in the end. To rehearse the theories, speculations, mathematical computations, illustrations from analogy and comparison with similar processes used in the allied arts and sciences, put forth by authors and disputants in discussing the pros and cons of the potentiation theory since it was first propounded by Hahnemann, might be interesting to some, but probably no one who has allowed himself to become prejudiced against homoeopathic high potencies would be convinced by all the arguments thus stated.

But when a sincere investigator sees an expert examine and prescribe for a case under the methods and principles taught in the Organon and witnesses, the therapeutic effects of the various potencies, he has seen a demonstration which he can repeat for himself until he is convinced that Hahnemann was right when he said; (par. 279) ” Experience proves that the dose of a homoeopathically selected remedy cannot be reduced so far as to be inferior in strength to the natural disease and to lose its power of extinguishing and curing at least a portion of the some, *provided that the dose, immediately after having been taken, is capable of causing a slight intensification of symptoms of the similar natural disease.

The results of the use of potentiated medicines have led careful students of the principles and conscientious practitioners of the methods of homoeopathy, to gradually rise in the scale of potencies until many have come to use most frequently the higher potencies. This is because they are found to act more gently. more deeply, more rapidly and more thoroughly than the crude drug or the low dilutions in the great majority of cases; and because it is impossible to cure certain forms of disease without them.

Stuart Close
Stuart Close