High Dilution Effects: Physical and Biochemical Basis
17 December 2017 (online)
NC Sukul and A Sukul Kluwer Academic Publishers: Dordrecht/Boston/London, 2004 Price: $83.00, ISBN 1-4020-2155-0
Clear evidence in support of physiological effects resulting from ultra-highly diluted substances would have great impact on homeopathy and its development. The authors of this book have published several useful peer-review research papers on the effects of different homeopathic preparations on a series of zoological specimens, and so have appropriate authority to undertake a substantive review of the subject. The endeavour is a worthy one; the likely impact of the book on the scientific research community is perhaps less compelling.
The book has four main chapters: Preparation of high dilutions of drugs; Evidences for high dilution effects; Physical basis of drugs at high dilutions; Mechanism of action of potentized drugs. The first describes the sources of homeopathic medicines and their preparation, setting a useful enough context for the rest of the book. The second chapter focuses on the research evidence available from selected clinical case reports in humans, and summarises the findings available from experimental animal research. The case reports are merely that: impressive in their way, but anecdotal nevertheless. The animal research is essentially a summary of the authors’ own contribution to the subject over the past few years. Many of these latter studies have original and positive findings. The research that has been carried out in botanical material and in in vitro laboratory experiments (often by the authors themselves) are also outlined in this chapter; it is a helpful resource of information for those investigators who may be new to this field.
The third chapter concentrates on the physico-chemical characteristics of drugs at high dilutions and the main findings that are of relevance to homeopathy. The authors have gone to considerable effort in trying to explain the key principles. Many of the concepts will be foreign to biological researchers, and it is easy to get lost in the mass of theory and complicated illustrations. The final chapter grapples with the possible mechanisms of action of high dilutions; much of this is speculative in nature, but the authors do introduce an interesting theory about the role of the membrane protein, aquaporin, which apparently facilitates water penetration into cells and is feasibly the primary target of a homeopathic potency. The book's explanation of how that potency might then ‘trigger a cascade of biochemical events in cytosol culminating in restoration of health’ does not convince this reviewer.
This volume is a mixture of the factual, the theoretical, the plausible and the speculative. It is sometimes hard to distinguish between these attributes, for the authors have an enthusiastic approach to their subject that can create confusion in the reader's mind. Allied to their idiosyncratic use of English (eg unknown words such as evidences and literalities), the result is a book that has depth and substance in parts but is superficial and frustrating in others.