IT’S TEH SILLY-CATES, STOOPID!!

A paper being touted as proof for homeopathy, by homeopaths, doesn’t really look like it does anything of the sort…


This paper, regarding silicates in succussed homeopathic solutions, is being touted as proof for a homeopathic effect, particularly by US former-Homeopath and prolific Homeopathy advocate, Dana Ullman.

http://twitter.com/HomeopathicDana/status/9271036920 (Screengrab in case of deletion)

Enzyme stabilization by glass-derived silicates may explain #homeopathy mechanism. #ten23 http://tinyurl.com/ylkggbg

Obviously, it does nothing of the sort, and in fact, it just provides another potential source of false-positive in trials involving homeopathic remedies.

The paper suggests that the act of succussion (striking a homeopathic remedy against a leather-backed object) during production knocks silicates from the glass into the solution. The paper continues “silicates and other solutes are present at micromolar levels in all glass-exposed solutions, whether pharmaceutical or homeopathic in nature.”

In a nutshell, the paper does the following:

  • They conduct a series of tests with acetylcholine esterase to assay for enzyme stabilisation (enzyme activity after incubation for 24hours in various silicate containing solutions, succussed and un-succussed controls). Without delving into too much detail, the assays are fairly bog-standard endpoint assays conducted with a colourimetic substrate (a substrate analogue that changes colour upon reaction) and assayed for colour change in 96-well format in a standard issue plate reader. All standard biochemistry stuff. I’ve done a couple of plasmin activity assays this week myself using a very similar technique. Fine. They show that succussed solutions have an enhanced stabilsation effect over un-succussed solutions.
  • They also conduct some ICP-OES experiments and show that succussed solutions have ~3mg/ml silicates & boron and sodium present – more than un-succussed solutions.
  • They do some molybdate assays to show that homeopathic remedies (they looked at 30C Arsenicum, 200C Arsenicum and 30C Glutamate) contain a similar level of silicates present.
  • They then show that a 30C water solution has a similar effect on acetylcholine esterase as a 100uM solution of NaOH/Silicates.

The paper concludes “Nonetheless, future in vitro homeopathic experiments will need to take into account the fact that significant levels of dissolved solids exist in glass-exposed solutions, and that these can have functional effects on proteins dissolved therein.

There isn’t an awful lot wrong with the paper, to be honest. It’s the homeopaths interpretation I have issue with.

This is the train of thought, as far as I can tell:

  1. Succussed solutions contain silicates at a concentration on the order of ~100uM. YES.
  2. These silicates have a demonstrable biological effect on certain enzymes in in vitro assays. YES
  3. Therefore silicates in homeopathic solutions are the seat of the efficacy of homeopathic remedies. EH?

Lets ignore the myriad caveats about scaling up from in vitro to in vivo, for just a minute. Oh yes, and the fact that the silicates found in these remedies are unremarkable, and will be found in any solution that has been exposed to glass. Oh, and that the levels of silicates found in homeopathic remedies are WAY below the level of silicates that you might find in a normal diet. As the authors note.

The fact that they are present in all three remedies tested (and the authors suggest, all homeopathic remedies produced in this way), means that silicates cannot POSSIBLY be the source of any sort of efficacy or healing effect

Given that homeopathic remedies, irrespective of the contents of the original tincture, will contain these silicates (and indeed, any solution in a glass container that has been roughly handled), how can they be responsible for the supposed healing effect of say, 30C arnica for bruising, AND for say, 30C belladonna, in whatever the heck 30C belladonna is supposed to cure?

In fact what this paper does do is give another potential explanation for the very minor effects sometimes observed in certain in vitro trials which aren’t properly controlled. Which is clearly what the authors wrote the paper and conducted the experiments to address. They also mention that conventional pharmaceuticals stored in glass would also likely have similar levels of silicates in them.

Really, the authors make it pretty damn clear what it is that they have researched, and it certainly isn’t a potential mechanism for homeopathy, rather the dissolution of silicates from glass vessels into solutions which then has an effect on in vitro assays for a specific enzyme.

I.e – if you are lucky enough to see any in vitro effect from a homeopathic remedy, it isn’t the arsenic that was once in it, IT’S TEH SILLY-CATES, STOOPID!!

Actually, seeing as we’re on silicates, the Biomineral research section of the MRC centre in human nutrition research hypothesise that silicate absorbtion in the gut “result(s) in detrimental responses in susceptible individuals such as those with inflammatory bowel diseases.”

So we should perhaps conclude that homeopathic remedies should be avoided by people with inflammatory bowel disesases, such as Crohn’s disease and Ulcerative Colitis.

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One Response to IT’S TEH SILLY-CATES, STOOPID!!

  1. […] shown to be poorly designed experiments, which more often than not, report the effect of ethanol or silicates in cell […]

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