Scientists in South Korea have made a discovery that explains why homeopathic remedies work. It has to do with what happens when you dissolve a substance in water and then add more water. The discovery could provide the first scientific insight into how some homeopathic remedies work.

Homeopaths repeatedly dilute medications, believing that the higher the dilution, the more potent the remedy becomes. Some dilute to ?infinity? until no molecules of the remedy remain. They believe that water holds a memory, or ?imprint? of the active ingredient which is more potent than the ingredient itself.

Conventional wisdom tells us that the dissolved molecules simply spread further and further apart as a solution is diluted. But two chemists have found that some of them do the opposite: they clump together, first as clusters of molecules, then as bigger groups of clusters. Far from drifting apart from other molecules, they got closer together. Diluting a remedy may actually increase the size of the particles to the point when they become biologically active.

German chemist Kurt Geckeler and his colleague Shashadhar Samal stumbled on the effect while working at their lab in the Kwangju Institute of Science and Technology in South Korea. They found that football-shaped buckyball molecules called fullerenes kept forming clumps in solution, and tried to find ways to control how they formed.

?When he diluted the solution, the size of the fullerene particles increased,? says Geckeler. ?The history of the solution is important. The more dilute it starts, the larger the aggregates [clumps].? Also, it only worked in polarized solvents like water, in which one end of the molecule has a positive charge while the other end is negative.

Fred Pearce of University College London agrees and says this discovery could offer clues as to why homeopathic remedies work. Large clusters and clumps might interact more easily with biological tissue. Chemist Jan Enberts of the University of Groningen in the Netherlands says, ?It?s still a totally open question. To say the phenomenon has biological significance is pure speculation.? But he has no doubt that Samal and Geckeler have discovered something new.

?It?s in line with what many homeopaths say, that you can only make homeopathic medicines in polar solvents,? says Peter Fisher, director of medical research at the Royal London Homeopathic Hospital. ?It doesn?t prove homeopathy, but it?s congruent with what we think and is very encouraging.?

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