Theories on How Homeopathy Works

(By Ursula Starks-Browning)



How does homeopathy work?  Rather, how can it possibly work?  Homeopathic solutions are diluted well past the Avagadro limit, the point after which there are no molecules of the original substance (solute) left (diluted 6.023x1023 times) [5].  While the basic philosophy of homeopathy, ‘like cures like’, is understandable and up to a certain point, arguable, the scientific community refuses to consider the possibility of highly diluted solutions retaining their ability to be effective.


What is also intolerable to conventional scientists is the idea that chemical activity could be dissociated from its ‘material’ (i.e., molecular) support. [2]


According to Samuel Hahnemann, the secret of how homeopathy works lies not only with dilution, originally done to make substances less toxic, but also with multiple succussion, done with each dilution.


Before we look at what Hahnemann did, we should first look at ‘vital force’ and disease. 


During the mid to late 1700’s, around the same time of Samuel Hahnemann, a school of thought, dub vitalism, came to the fore.  The vitalist theorised that “biological activities are directed by a supernatural force” [3].  They believed in a ‘vital principle’, a force that directs all living things, which is separate from the organism’s ‘physicochemical forces’ [3].  Samuel Hahnemann called this the ‘life force’ (or ‘life principle’, later called ‘vital force’) and states:


In the healthy human state, the spirit-like life force (autocracy) that enlivens the material organism as dynamis, govern without restriction and keeps all parts of the organism in admirable, harmonious, vital operation, as regards both feeling and functions, so that our indwelling, rational spirit can freely avail itself of this living, healthy instrument for the higher purposes of our existence. [ §9, Organon]


Considering the above, health can be described as a harmonious balance: the ability to adjust according to circumstances without damaging the organism.  Health is not about living illness-free.  It is about the ability to produce an illness, to experience life’s knocks, followed by a return to one’s balanced state.  It is the life force that directs the physical, mental and emotional aspects of an organism.  As we experience life’s ups and downs, it is the vital force that makes adjustments to help steer us through. 


When the vital force becomes unable to function optimally, the body will experience physical, emotional and/or mental symptoms (headaches, pain, fears, brain-fag, etc.).  This is how the vital force manifests its derangement.  Therefore, disease is not illness as described by allopathic doctors, but rather a derangement of the vital force.  Even external causes of illness (microbes, accidents) are seen as only ‘exciting causes’, triggering an already present disease.  According to Kent,  “ONLY through the vital force can cure proceed or disease be established” [12].


While the philosophy ‘like cures like’ has been around for ages, it was Samuel Hahnemann who formed the practice of homeopathy.  He discovered that a substance, which causes a picture of symptoms in a healthy person, would cure the similar picture of symptoms presented in a diseased person.  Unfortunately, the substances used often were themselves poisonous.  He then started to experiment with diluting the substances.  As a professional translator, Hahnemann came into contact with many scientific ideas, including the idea that succussing (violent shaking) a solution added energy to the substance [12].   Hahnemann experimented with succussion and found that not only did the remedies continue working after dilution, but that with succussion the remedies actually became more potent.  Each dilution/succussion process (‘potentization’) made the remedy more forceful.  Hahnemann later theorised that as the substance became more and more dilute, the molecule released it’s ‘spirit-like power’ (energy).  As the remedy was no longer substance, but now energy, it was better able to affect (it matched) the energy of the life force (the body’s energy source) [Coulter, p.403].


The most recent observations have shown that medicinal substances, when taken in their crude state by the experimenter for the purpose of testing their peculiar effects, do not exhibit nearly the full amount of the powers that lie hidden in them which they do when they are taken for the same object in high dilutions potentized by proper trituration and succussion, by which simple operations the powers which in their crude state lay hidden, and, as it were, dormant, are developed and roused into activity to an incredible extent…….. [§ 128 Organon]


James Tyler Kent, a turn-of-the-century philosopher and homeopath agreed with Hahnemann’s theory of how remedies worked.  However, as a Swedenborgian ("All religion relates to life, and the life of religion is to do good."[21] ), Kent’s view of the vital force was far more religious .  He believed that god’s essence flowed through all things, living and otherwise.  Potentizing remedies reduced matter to what he referred to as their ‘simple substance’[Kent].  The simple substance, “endowed with formative intelligence” is the essence of the matter from which it came [Kent].  It “dominates and controls the body it occupies” and is the agent through which god works. [Kent].


Like Hahnemann, Kent believed that the simple substance, as a correctly selected remedy, stimulated the vital force.  This stimulation would cause the vital force to re-align itself.  As the vital force no longer needed to manifest symptoms of dis-ease, the curative results would be felt on the physical level as well.


Rajan Sankaran, a prominent Indian homeopath, further explored the manifestation of disease by introducing the idea of the central disturbance, as actualised on a P-N-E-I axis.  Sankaran theorises that any change in the psyche (P) will be associated with changes in the neuro (N), endocrine (E) and immunology (I) systems (P-N-E-I) as well [Sankaran, p46].  He believes that these systems are all connected to themselves as well as the vital force.  Disturbance of the vital force will lead to manifestations of symptoms, based on susceptibility, which will be mirrored on all systems.  These mirrored symptoms represent a ‘central disturbance’.  The remedy whose energy best matches the central disturbance of the entity, will be the remedy that re-aligns the     P-N-E-I axis.  This axis, although representative of the physical systems, is actually an energy grid, which allows the flow of energy between each of the systems.  It is kept in homeostasis by the vital force.  However, recent studies in Italy suggests there may be a physical (hormonal) manifestation of the P-N-E-I (or sometimes called PNI) [22].


So, the remedy is not substance, rather energy, which is selected to match the energy of the vital force?  So what kind of energy are we talking about?


 ‘Their properties can only be understood in terms of their interaction with the rest of the world’.

Fritjof Capra, the Tao of Physics


George Vithoulkas, a Greek homeopath and lecturer, has looked at Kent’s view of the intelligent simple substance and taken it further by describing the vital force in terms of vibrations.



A characteristic emanation, aura, or spirit that infuses or vitalises someone or something and that can be instinctively sensed or experienced -- often used in plural

Mirriam-Webster OnLine


The body produces an electro-dynamic field, which can be measured using, extremely sensitive high-resistance detection electrodes.  It can be photographed using the Kirlian method.  Vithoulkas believes that this measurable field emanates from the vital force.  Using this same language, he theorises that potentization reduces a substance to it’s basic wave form.  Succussion amplifies the wave.  Like with music, the remedy is more potent (volume) but it retains the same wave shape/frequency (sound).


This dynamic field changes as the vital force is affected or deranged.  The inability of the vital force to re-tune itself back to its home frequency leads to illness.  It then follows that the simillimum will be the substance whose wave length/frequency best matches that of the patient (at the time of prescription).   Vithoulkas compares the vibrational effect of the remedy on the body to the vibrational effect of sound.  “Just as playing a note will make other things sing if they have the same resonance, so does the remedy on the body” [Vithoulkas, p 45].


The human electromagnetic field is not a new concept.  However, until recently, its presence was considered meaningless [3].


Staying with the vibrational theory, Richard Gerber, author of “Vibrational Medicine for the 21st Century”, writes about the human vibrational field and resonant energy transfer.  Gerber believes that the vibrational field is a result of the heartbeat, combined with vibrations found at the atomic level in the body.  He reports that the body’s cells, which emit weak pulses of light, works on a “light-based communication system” [Gerber, p 11].  This, he believes, forms the basis of a complex energy-control system, which regulates and maintains health.  The combined vibrations (light, heartbeat, atomic energy) produce a predominant resonant frequency of energy.  The body absorbs energy in its resonant frequency.  Maximum energy transfer happens when the remedy’s resonant frequency matches that of the body’s.


Jacques Benveniste, a French biologist, was studying the affects of antibodies on granulated basophils.  Granulated basophils have granules, which can be dyed, and therefore, measured.  His study involved measuring the degranulation of the basophils, after exposure to the antibodies.  During the course of his study, he came across the work of Samuel Hahnemann.  He decided to experiment with diluting and succussing the antibodies to see if there still would be a reaction.  He potentized the antibodies to a 30c solution [15] and found that the solution acted as if molecules were still present. 


Benveniste published his findings in the magazine ‘Nature’ (1987) which received a very hostile reaction.  As his findings were so unexpected, Nature insisted on seeing the tests done in person.  However, having prejudged Benveniste as a fraud [14], Nature arranged for Sir John Maddow (editor, Nature), a physicist who specialised in fraud busting and a magician to observe Benveniste’s experiment.  As the observers were far from objective [2], he was famously discounted and reprimanded.  Leading immunologists came to Benveniste’s aid, stating that recreating his previous results under those circumstances was unlikely [15].  Unfortunately, the damage was done.  Not only was his study discredited, but he also lost his funding. 


The biased treatment that Benveniste received was enough to deter many other laboratories from trying to recreate his findings.  However, recently, a consortium of four independent laboratories chose to attempt just such a thing.  Scientists in France, Italy, Belgium and Holland independently recreated the trials. Three of the laboratories had positive (statistically significant) results.  Results from the fourth laboratory, however, were inconclusive (almost statistically significant) [1].


Following on from his original results, Benveniste has since formed his own company, Digibio.  As with Conte, Gerber, et al, Benveniste believes that molecules emit frequencies that can be recognised and measured [16].    Digibio is currently working with machinery that allows transmission of information between two bio-molecules.


Recently, a lab in South Korea reported a phenomenon previously thought to be impossible. Two chemists, Kurt Geckeler and Shashadhar Sanil, at the Kwangju Institute of Science and Technology observed a strange clumping of molecules in diluted solution. 


Until this study was done, it had always been believed that dissolved molecules simply spread further and further apart.  However, during this event, they found that the molecules not only clumped together, but the clumps got bigger as the solutions were more dilute [13].


The obvious connection to homeopathy was made, suggesting that clumps might “interact more easily with bio tissue” [13].  However, this allopathic ‘cause and effect’ explanation doesn’t answer all the questions.  It answers nicely how the body takes in the remedy, but it doesn’t address the energy exchange.  If homeopathic remedies acted on a strictly chemical level, then, according to Kent or Hahnemann, their actions would not be curative.  They would simple impose a stronger disease on the vital force.


 “If we break matter in smaller and small pieces (electrons, protons, neutrons, hadrons, quarks, etc.) eventually they cease to be an object in our reality”. [20]


“In considering simple substance we cannot think of time, place or space, because we are not in the realm of mathematics nor the restricted measurements of the world of space and time, we are in the realm of simple substance” [ Kent]


Should we ever find a scientific answer to how homeopathic remedies work, I believe, like many, that it will come out of quantum physics.  I believe this, because in quantum physics, it is a given that the sub-atomic world does not behave in ways we expect.  Quantum physics is a study of energy and it’s effects on matter and that is a good way, in my opinion, to approach the study of homeopathy. 


Why is it that sceptics demand that homeopathy be explained in ways that are not demanded by orthodox medicine?  Drug trials are not a study of how a drug works, rather, a study to show that the drug has a desired effect.  Many common over the counter drugs, aspirin being a good example, still pose a mystery to us.  We know that taking an aspirin will cause the body to react in certain ways, but we don’t know the exact mechanism.  Yet, sceptics demand to know how homeopathy works.  This is a shame, because until a scientifically verified (and recreated) study on the exact mechanism employed by homeopathic remedies is accepted, the countless success stories showing that homeopathy works will be considered anecdotal. 




Coulter, Catherine, Portraits of Homoeopathic Medicines, Quality Medical Publishing, 1998


Gerber, Richard, Vibrational Medicine for the 21st Century, Piatkus, 2000


Hahnemann, Samuel, The Chronic Diseases, B. Jain Publishers, 2000


Hahnemann, Samuel, The Organon, B. Jain Publishers,


Kent’s Lectures on philosophy


Sankaran, Rajan, The Spirit of Homoeopathy, Homoeopathic Medical Publishers, 1993


Vithoulkas, George, The Science of Homeopathy, Grove Press, 1981



(1) Thanks for the Memory, by Lionel Milgrom,4273,4152521,00.html


(2)  The Battle of Homoeopathic Dilutions, by Tony Brand, the Homeopathy No 45 (1995)


(3)  A Memorable Solution, by Andrew Cole


(4)  Theory of High Dilutions and Experimental Aspects: An Overview, by Rolland R. Conte, PhD and Yves Lasne, M.D.


(5)   Biomedical Therapy/Vol. XVII/No. 3 1999


(6)  Ou Etes-Vous, Dr. Conte?, by Lionel Milgram

The Homoeopath no. 72


(8)  Alternative Medicine and the Laws of Physics, by Robert L. Park


(12) The Secretive Hahnemann and the Esoteric Roots of Homeopathy, by Peter Morrell


(13) Homeopathy – Real or Imagined?, by Andy Coghlan, New Scientist, Nov 2001


(14) On the Role of Stage Magicians in Biological Research, by Jacques Benveniste and Peter Jurgens


(15) The Memory of Water, by Stephen Belford


(20) Preface to Homeopathy Quantified, by Debra LeRoy


(21) Emanuel Swedenborg


(22) PNI: the Progress of the Medicine That We All Should Have to Know


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