For Tim Ferris: Dilution Does not Equal Homeopathy

An Interesting Fellow

This is an experimental post. Which is appropriate since the inspiration for it considers himself a human guinea pig.

Tim's alter ego?

Tim’s alter ego?

I originally wrote a shorter version as a comment on a podcast which I heard the other day. Tim Ferriss, the podcaster called it an “in between-isode”.

I’ve been listening to and reading Tim’s work for a few months now. He seems like a smart and open-minded guy. A bit of a quirky maverick. Nice enough.

The theme of most of his material is optimizing work and lifestyle with the minimal effort. Getting the most for the least.

Interesting stuff. Very holistic. Tim has many interesting experiences around the world. He started out in business with his own successful supplement company.

A “Chance” Occurrence

One morning while exercising, I was listening to an interesting episode on the bacterial micro biome. Mid-sentence, it stopped.

Tim went on to share his (ill-informed) ponderings about homeopathy. Huh, I thought. Thats weird. What’s going on? I proceeded to listen with interest.

The tone of Tim’s oral essay was a bit condescending. This typically open-minded chap went on to “debunk” homeopathy and it’s ultra-low dilutions. He was OK with Arnica gel, but not Arnica 30c (even though it helped him).

Tim also had his facts wrong, so I’m going to try to set him straight.

The original podcast and transcription can be found here. My thoughts follow his podcast’s outline:

Homeopathic Medicines Are Too Diluted. Right?

Is this really all that makes up the world?

Is this really all that makes up the world?

This was Tim’s main sticking point. BUT homeopathic medicine does not=ultra-diluted medicine.

Topical Arnica (which is usually made with lower dilution and detectable molecules) was acceptable and possibly even beneficial.

It was crazy however to use a 30c potency of Arnica. After all, it’s diluted beyond Avogadro’s number (where there are no detectable molecules using most currently available methods of analysis).

As a scientist trained in the quantitative methods of basic science research I totally understand. If scales and other basic tools can’t quantify something, it doesn’t exist. Right?

Riiight! Tell that to the physicist. Arguably the best scientists in the world at measuring “non-existent” objects.

All atomic particles are sub-molecular, so I guess they don’t exist.

Hundreds of years of clinical experience by some of the most successful physicians in history show that homeopathic medicines work. Regardless of size and quantity (apparently size does matter a lot to Tim).

Homeopathy is the science of working with the body. Not against it. No anti-biotics or anti-inflammatories (like steroids and aspirins) which are the mainstay of current medicines. Dilution is not part of this equation.

What exactly does this mean? Homeopaths use the signs and symptoms of the body as the main clues to the underlying disease. We then use medicines that can cause the same symptom in a healthy individual. Like cures like.

Don’t Try This at Home!

Try this experiment Tim. It’s been done many times (by the great homeopath Constantine Hering, MD) and has convinced many, many skeptics.

You can easily buy mother tincture (a liquid extract of the original substance) of the homeopathic medicine Cantharis. Otherwise known as Spanish Fly. It’s commonly used by homeopaths for treating burns.

Add a few drops of the tincture to a glass of water.

Here comes the fun part!

The closer you get Tim, the more dramatic the result.

The closer you get Tim, the more dramatic the result.

Light a candle. Take your index finger and hold it over the flame.  The closer the better. The pain and redness (and searing flesh odor) are temporary. This discomfort is minor compared to some of the injuries you’ve endured from your other self-experiments.

Once you have a nice little burn on your finger, go ahead and plunge it into the Cantharis solution. You can then watch and feel the burn “magically” regress. Similar to  the effect on bruises treated with Arnica.

Ok. So you’ve established that this works with a weak solution. There’s a big difference when using ultra-dilutions, right?

Wrong. Ultra-dilutions only became part of homeopathy secondarily. Mainly because some of the original medicines used were poisonous. like Arsenic and Strychnine, and caused harmful effects even at low dilutions.

Homeopathic Medicines Work via the Placebo Effect

Feeling better is subjective. But I’m a veterinarian Tim. My patients have objective signs. Not subjective symptoms. Rapid resolution of beet red eyes, swollen painful limbs, etc. after a homeopathic medicine is a daily part of my (and other veterinary homeopaths) practice.

Placebo? Sure, it’s possible. Most of us would love to have doctors who can resolve our problems this effectively. Placebo or not.

Spontaneous Recovery and Regression to the Mean

Tim refers to the concept that recovery from many illnesses occurs spontaneously. Therefore your sick pet would have gotten better no matter what was done.

Tim makes an excellent point here. In favor of homeopathy.

What’s regression to the mean of a dying patient with cholera, plague, Ebola, Spanish or avian flu, cancer, etc.?


You’re a big reader Tim. You like to go to the source and not just follow the herd.

Please, please, please, read any of the voluminous original literature of the pre-antibiotic era hospitals and physicians. Google has kindly digitized many old journals, hospital logs, etc. Expert homeopathic specialist Dr. Andre´Saine has kindly summarized some of it for us. His upcoming reference “The Weight of Evidence” will change many opinions.

Much of it describes how homeopathic physicians saved most of their patients during otherwise fatal epidemics. It should be impossible for a true scientist to not be compelled by it to explore further.

After reading some of this literature, I began experimenting on myself and my own pets. My lifelong allergies resolved. One of my dogs developed a serious right-sided meningitis. It resolved after a abscess opened and drained on the right side of his head. Coincicidence? Maybe.

I like to put my money where my mouth is. When I developed confirmed acute Lyme disease, I only pursued homeopathic treatment. No antibiotics. It was an incredible feeling to have my 105+ fever, pain and malaise resolve within moments of a dose of a homeopathic drug.

Needless to say, I had enough first hand evidence to lure me over to the dark side from my academic research origins.

The “Unexplained” Phenomenon of Homeopathic Medicines

Tim, the supposedly unexplained mechanism is actually well explained. Unfortunately, however, modern pharmacologic medicine has turned away from it. Coincidentally(?) this happened about when drug companies started raking in the big  bucks.

I am referring to medical principle of “Vitalism”. In contrast, modern medical practice in the US and most of Europe is mechanistic.

Throughout recorded history, living beings were thought to possess some hidden (though now measurable) governing force. In the martial arts and Traditional Chinese Medicine this is called Chi. Prana in yoga and ayurveda.

Practitioners of Tai Chi and Qi Gong directly manipulate this invisible energy. Acupuncturists access it through needles and homeopaths use homeopathic medicines.

Acupuncture needles  optimize energy flow as do homeopathic medicines.

Acupuncture needles optimize energy flow as do homeopathic medicines.

People die when the body no longer contains this governing force. Since it no longer exists in modern medicine, we can no longer explain the underlying process of death. Physiologically sure, we know the heart stopped, or this happened, or whatever. But why?? Of course, “old age”.

The Vital Force is at the core of the two most common and highly effective forms of medicine in the world. Ancient, yes. Antiquated, no.

The concepts of dynamisation and potentiation are extensions of vitalism. Transferring kinetic energy and thereby augmenting the effectiveness of a homeopathic medicine is readily explicable by modern physicists. However, since vitalism does not exist in modern medicine, neither can the methods of working with it.

Physicists and material scientists usually readily comprehend the process of potentisation and homeopathy.

Tim, you say that you’d like to discuss this further. I’d love nothing more. I feel that it is our responsibility to help everyone learn about this most efficacious healing method. Ever.

Feel free to contact me by commenting below, posting on my homeopathy discussion forum, or shooting me an email.

I look forward to our discussion Tim. Thanks for doing all that you do.

Be well.

Dr. Jeff

PS-Everyone can now stay in touch by joining me to help get the word out about holistic and homeopathic medicine.

  1. Hey, Tim: Knowing even a tiny bit about homeopathy – and admitting you only know a bit – has the possibility of enriching your life far more than your knowing a bit about it, and thinking that you know it all. Living in health and passing your knowledge on to others gets you lots of points; living without humility only makes you die stupid. Embrace the challenge!

  2. Tim,

    I admire you for taking time to learn about new ideas, particularly, homeopathy. I have treated all three of my dogs homeopathic ally for 19 years. At first, I was hesitant and skeptical, but I have seen the positive effects for my dogs and for me, too. Homeopathy has controlled seizures, stopped itching and changed behavior. The most recent and dramatic result of administering the right remedy for my dog, was the complete resolution and disappearance of a perinatal adenoma. The positive results prevented removal of the growth under anesthesia and the possible occurrence of metastasized cancer.

    I am a firm believer in homeopathy!

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