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Read before the American Institute of Homoeopathy, June 3d, 1858, BY B. F. JOSLIN, M. D.

According to an opinion extensively entertained, the medicinal impurities of the alcohol in which homoeopathic medicines are attenuated, must be more powerful than the medicines themselves, in all but the very low dilutions. Even by men called homoeopathic, the attenuations have been condemned on the ground that the inevitable impurities of alcohol employed in diluting, and the detritus of mortars employed in triturating, are themselves attenuated simultaneously with the medicines, and that if the latter is potentized so are the former.

One answer to this is authorized by experience. If with the usual precautions used in Homoeopathic Pharmacies, the action of the medicines were greatly changed by impurities in the alcohol, in that case, the variations in the quality and quantity of the impurities, in different specimens of the same medicine, must produce frequent and marked differences in its effects, both pathogenetic and therapeutic. As we never find such differences in a drug originally pure, and potentized with the usual precautions, I infer that the inevitable impurities in alcohol have little effect compared with the medicine proper.

Experience with different medicines leads to the same conclusion. If the chief power is in the menstruum, then its action would mask and conceal that of the dissolved medicine, and in all but the lowest dilutions, the effects of different medicines prepared in the same kind of alcohol would be identical. This is contrary to the experience of thousands of physicians who feel and observe decided and characteristic effects from high potencies.

The comparative want of power in the impurities being proved by experience, let us endeavor to ascertain the reason. If my explanation is unsatisfactory, its error can never invalidate the above truths established by experience: if on the other hand, my physical theory and the conclusion attained shall, as I believe they will, be found correct, they will remove a theoretical difficulty which prevents many intelligent physicians from testing the homoeopathic law with infinitesimal doses, and deters others from any practical examination of any form of homoeopathia, as long as we seem to ignore the existence of active drugs administered simultaneously with our very medicines, and preserve silence, as if any explanation of the paradox were unattainable.

That which I would like to offer for your consideration, being founded on my peculiar theory of solution, already published, I beg leave to detain you a minute or two, on some of its prominent features.* [Vide “Principles of Homoeopathy,” p. 58.]

It will promote simplicity to consider the body to be dissolved as homogeneous. The same explanation would apply to each part of a heterogeneous substance.

The solution of a solid in a liquid, is its division by the liquid into solids so small as to be invisible, but not into its ultimate atoms. These small solids may be called molecules. If a piece of common salt has been immersed in a quantity of alcohol sufficient to dissolve it, the force effecting the solution is the affinity between the alcohol and the salt; the force which opposes the solution is the cohesion of the salt. In cohesion I include the crystalizing force, which I consider to exist in all simples, and chemical compounds, in the molecular condition in which they exist in solution. Affinity then, the attraction of the liquid for the dissimilar particles of the solid, and cohesion, the mutual attraction of the same kind of particles in the solid, being the only forces concerned, and being antagonistic to each other, the division and subdivision of the salt can continue until these forces become equal, and no longer. With a given quantity of liquid, it is impossible that the division should proceed beyond a certain limit, at which the quantity of liquid surrounding each suspended molecule, is insufficient to effect any farther disruption. For the divellent force operating on each suspended solid molecule, is diminished with the diminution of the number of liquid particles within the sphere of its attraction; and this number must ultimately become so small, by the division and consequent approximation of the molecules, as to be no longer capable of effecting a farther division; because the resultant of all the affinities of the particles of liquid which act upon any point or section of the solid molecule, is then reduced to an equality with the opposing resultant of the cohesive forces acting on the same.

Without agitation by any external force, the solution will ultimately become sensibly uniform by the action of its internal forces; but shaking will facilitate the uniform diffusion of the suspended solids. When they are divided and distributed in that degree in which they are susceptible by affinity, and moderate agitation, they are solids of equal magnitude and at equal distances. A violent concussion may then effect in some of these solids a transient disruption: but on the restoration of tranquility, the reunion of the fragments will instantly occur by the preponderance of cohesion, which is superior to affinity at this reduced distance of the suspended solids. No ulterior and permanent division is tolerated, unless by elevation of temperature, which reduces cohesion, or by adding to the liquid, which augments the number of liquid particles that surround and attract each of the solids.


If the solid be medicinal, and the solvent be alcohol of ninety-nine times its quantity, the solution is called the first dilution, attenuation, or potence. I consider attenuation like comminution, as more properly referring to the reduction in the bulk of each of the suspended molecules, and potence, to the consequent increase of their medicinal energy. Attenuation and potency must be similarly affected. Proof of the former proves the latter. If the former is proved not to take place, the latter is wanting; if the former is infinitesimal, the latter is the. same.

In applying the foregoing principles to attenuated medicines, there are several cases that require consideration. First suppose a mother tincture made with impure alcohol, to be attenuated by alcohol that is either pure, or contains impurities wholly different from the mother tincture. In this case the impurities of the mother tincture will be potentized in the same degree as the medicine. I prefer allowing the reason of this to be inferred from the rationale of the other cases, inasmuch as it does not belong to the topic proposed, and is of no importance to the question of the relative purity of attenuations, as compared with tinctures. Throughout the whole potentizing processes, the same relation will continue between the medicine and the impurity, and the existence of the latter can never be alleged as an argument against attenuations.

The supposed danger is from the impurity of the attenuating liquid. In relation to this, there are several cases; one in which its alcohol is of the same kind as that of the mother tincture; another in which it is different. Before considering either, let us ask a question or two, the answers to which will involve a principle of great importance in this investigation.

If the fifth and sixth, or any two consecutive dilutions, be mixed, does each retain its previous condition, and would a physician, in administering such a mixture, use two dilutions simultaneously? I say, No. What then is the character of the mixture? The two dilutions would form one and the same dilution, but little different from the lowest of the two. The solid molecules in the lower and those in the higher, must be disposed together in a new arrangement, of equal solids surrounded by equal quantities of alcohol, and consequently situated at equal distances; in no other way can cohesion and affinity be in equilibrium. The smaller solids must unite, as magnets and infinitesimal crystals would, if freely suspended in proximity, and the larger ones become slightly reduced.

We must proceed to the first of the cases of potentization, viz: that in which the alcohol of the primitive tincture is of the same kind as the diluting medium. Whatever impurity is in one, is in the other, and in equal molecules, all surrounded by equal quantities of liquid. This equilibrium is therefore not disturbed by their intermixture; there is not, as in the case above given, any necessity of reduction of size, on account of the addition of fluid less highly charged with this material, and thus affording them additional disintegrating force to draw asunder their particles. By increasing the quantity of the alcohol by adding a drop of the medicated alcohol, the alcohol and the impurity are increased in the same ratio; hence the impurity can undergo no dilution, no attenuation, and consequently no potentization.

The molecules of medicine being of a different nature from those of the impurity, they could have but an infinitesimal effect, if any, on the size of the latter, even in the first dilution; and this effect, if it exists then, would soon become infinitesimal, on the principles explained in the next case, to which we now proceed.

The next case is that in which the primitive or mother tincture is pure, and is potentized by impure alcohol.

If the menstruum employed in effecting the dilution contain any impurity, that is, any substance different in nature from the medicine, and if that impurity be incapable of chemically combining with the medicine at the temperature of the liquid, then these heterogeneous substances will have their separate solids co-existing in the liquid, the particles of each uniting among themselves by cohesion, and forming equal masses, which may be extremely different in magnitude from the masses formed by the other substance.

Suppose we are to make the first centesimal dilution of a mother tincture, prepared with pure alcohol. To take the simplest case, suppose one drop of the tincture to be mixed and shaken with ninety-nine drops of the impure alcohol. The molecules of the drug have been minutely divided because diffused through about a hundred times their previous quantity of liquid; the molecules of the impurity have been but slightly divided, because diffused in a liquid only one hundredth part greater than before. If one drop of this first dilution be treated in a similar way, with ninety-nine of the impure alcohol, then the diluted drug will be diluted a hundred-fold more, and rendered ten thousand times as dilute as in the first dilution, and its molecules will be reduced in size in the same ratio as by the first operation, and will acquire a corresponding increase of potency. The effect on the impurity will be of an opposite nature. For the molecules of the slightly diluted impurity will increase in magnitude, by effecting partial re-unions among themselves, in consequence of their being restored to the original impure alcohol, which already holds similar but somewhat larger molecules, suspended as near each other as the affinity between them and the liquid, and the cohesion of their own parts, would allow. The effect is, that the impurity is condensed by the second operation as compared with the state in which it existed after the first, and this condensation involves an enlargement of the molecules. The result of this increase of magnitude can be best expressed by coining a new term expressive of the new idea; it is depotentization. The impurity is slightly potentized in forming the first dilution, and partially and principally deprived of this increase of power, i. e. depotentized, in forming the second dilution. The reunion is not necessarily as simple as the above brief statement might seem to imply; for probably the suspended masses have not diminished in such a degree as to allow of their union in pairs, in forming the second dilution; but they can abstract from each other any portions required by the law of equilibrium, in their new situation.

By the application of similar principles, we shall find, that in forming higher dilutions, the medicine will be progressively attenuated and consequently potentized, whilst after the first dilution, the impurity is, with an equally rapid progression, being restored towards its original relatively dense and inactive condition, i. e.depotentized. In the thirtieth dilution, for example, in the same sense in which the attenuation and potentization of the medicine may be called infinite, that of the impurity is infinitesimal.

The degree in which the dilution of the medicine and impurity at any stage have been effected, may be shown more simply by supposing the whole liquid preserved.* [This is not to a great extent practicable, but the ratio is the same.] One drop being mixed with ninety-nine; the dilution of the drop will be expressed by 100, that of the impurity by 1/100. If the hundred drops of the first dilution thus prepared, be mixed with 9900 of the same kind of impure alcohol, then the medicine will be 10000 times as dilute as in the mother tincture; but as the ten thousand drops contain only one drop of the pure alcohol which originally held the medicine, 1/10000 expresses the degree in which the impurity is diluted by the two operations. By continuing this process, I arrive at the following general formula: The degree of attenuation of the impurity, will always be expressed by a vulgar fraction whose numerator is unity, and its denominator equal to the whole number which expresses the degree of attenuation of the medicine. Or to express it more briefly; The dilution of the impurity is the reciprocal of that of the medicine. Hence when the dilution of the medicine may be called infinite, that of the impurity is in the same sense infinitesimal.

Another case, is that in which the impurity of the attenuating alcohol differs in nature from that of the mother tincture. The former can expand in some degree into the one drop of tincture added, and be slightly attenuated in forming the first dilution. The case is analogous to the preceding, in which the potentization of the impurity of the alcohol rapidly approaches the infinitesimal, and the higher the dilutions, the freer from any potentized impurity.

If in any of the cases, the impurity of either of the tinctures is heterogeneous, so that different particles in the same liquid unite in different molecules, the same principles are applicable and the same results attainable.

But not to be tedious, I will confine myself to a very brief recapitulation of results in all the cases of simple impurities, including that in the mother tincture, as well as that in the attenuating alcohol. Designate the impurity in the mother tincture by the letter A, that in the attenuating alcohol by B. Then,

1st. If A and B are unlike and finite, i.e. not zero; A will be potentized, and the medicine in respect to it will, in all stages, remain as pure as the mother tincture: B will be slightly potentized at first, but rapidly become less so, the higher the dilution; and its potentization will vanish and the whole result in the higher attenuations, become as free from potentized impurity as the mother tincture.

4th. If A and B are identical in nature, and finite, i.e. if the alcohol is all of the same impure kind, then the potentization of both A and B will diminish, and ultimately vanish, and the high dilution be divested of potentized impurity.

Hence our medicines, as usually prepared, have great practical purity. The practical purity of attenuations, especially those somewhat elevated, I consider one cause of their great activity.

Another, in my opinion, is the impossibility of their becoming depotentized in the blood; as they cannot meet with any elements of the same kind, sufficiently near their own attenuation to allow of mutual union. When I have seen crystalization take place under the microscope, it was not a gradual growth of larger crystals by the accretion of those invisible; but first the mutual union of those invisible; then the union of visible masses; and afterwards the union of a body formed by these to a mass larger than either. Hence though hydrochlorate, or more properly muriate of soda, exists in the blood, this article, when given in a highly attenuated state, produces unequivocal and decided action.

This influence of dissimilarity of magnitude, also explains why highly attenuated medicines act, notwithstanding they often meet, in the stomach and blood vessels, substances by which they would be chemically neutralized, if presented to them in a grosser form. The same principle indicates, that, though in the preparation of medicines, chemically incompatible substances should, as far as possible, be excluded, in forming the lower dilutions, the higher possess an immunity against any such influence, directly exerted upon them by the attenuating liquid.

Principles similar to those employed in this paper, in relation to dilutions, apply to impurities which may exist in the saccharum lactis with which drugs are triturated, and to those resulting from the abrasion of mortars. They are not sensibly potentized, because new portions of the same material are added at each operation; and if any parts are at first reduced they subsequently reunite.

Here I intended to stop; as my theory of trituration is extremely similar to my theory of solution, which has not yet been controverted. But I find in the British Journal of Homoeopathy an article on “Infinitesimals,” by Dr. Madden, in which he argues against their use, and makes an objection to one part of my theory of trituration.*[Vol. XI. p. 9-10, referring to Joslin's “Principles of Homoeopathy,” p 42-3, British Edition, corresponding to p. 46; American Edition.]

Speaking of comminution by trituration, he remarks; “No writer that I have met with, has given this process so careful a consideration as Dr. Joslin, in his excellent Lectures on the Principles of Homoeopathy; he distinctly shows, and at great length, that by triturating with any inert substance, you can effect a reduction in the particles of the triturated substance to an extent which is absolutely unattainable by other means;” and that “There can be no question that the first trituration, viz: on the occasion when the pure flint-powder is mixed and rubbed up with 99 times its weight of sugar of milk, will reduce the silica to a degree of minuteness which could not otherwise have been attained;” but as “at the commencement of the second trituration”…..“every particle of flint is now surrounded by 99 times its weight of sugar of milk, which has itself attained to the greatest degree of sub-division capable of being produced by rubbing per se.“Dr. M. argues as follows; “If therefore another quantity of sugar of milk is added, equivalent to 99 times the weight of the first trituration, it follows, that the force of trituration must be diffused over the whole of the particles of the first trituration, and hence 1/99 part only will be applied to the silica, and accordingly the probability of a further reduction of size is very much less in the second than in the first trituration, which improbability will greatly increase with each repetition of the process.” This is his whole objection; and it appears to me to arise from a mistake as to the mode in which the comminution is effected; which is not by the pestle being directly applied to the silica which is to be further subdivided, nor by the newly-added powder being directly applied to it, but by the pressure of the first sugar of milk, with which the silica is surrounded and intimately blended, and from which it receives the force which this first sugar of milk has had transmitted to it from the pestle through the sugar of milk added at the commencement of the second operation. If the presence of an intermediate substance interfered with the efficacy of the blows, it would have prevented the excellent results conceded to the first trituration. The one grain of the first trituration, which I had represented to be employed in forming the second, is not farther removed from the action of the 99 grains of added sugar, than the grain of crude silica, in forming the 1st trituration, was from that of the pestle; and every portion of that grain taken from the first trituration, contains a molecule of silica; the silica, after an hours operation, is not enveloped in the centre of this grain of sugar, but distributed through it, so that any portion of the 99 added grains which comes in contact with any part of the first trituration, is at only a microscopic distance from the silica. The same principles apply to other stages of the process. Indeed, as the smaller the molecules, the slighter the jar required for their disintegration, I am inclined to think the blows more efficacious in the higher triturations. Perhaps Dr. Madden was somewhat influenced in regard to the result, by supposing the whole of the first product employed in forming the second. This would multiply the labor and time requisite for the uniform diffusion; for the material would be increased a hundred fold; in other respects the principles are the same.

I trust that our British Colleague, who has treated so courteously a portion of my labors, will find his objection to this part unfounded. Neither he nor any other person has complained of a similar or any other difficulty in my theory of dilution. This, so far as high potencies are concerned, is the only one which is of practical importance; for the labour of triturating is such, that it will rarely be continued beyond the 3d attenuation, at which all our medicines become soluble. The fact that these, however hard and insoluble in their coarse state, become, when minutely divided and suspended in water or alcohol, divisible to a certain extent, by its affinity, and farther disintegrated by increasing the liquid, tends to aid a conception of the condition in which I have represented all substances as existing in solution, and to verify the remark in regard to the facility of disintegration in small molecules. Indeed they would be instantly divided into their primitive atoms, did not the limitation of the liquid limit their division and compel their reunion. My view of limitation and reunion, Dr. Madden represents me as having demonstrated, at least as to the 1st trituration, and happly illustrates it by the manufacture of Terra Cotta; and he and others who complain of irritating effects from high dilutions on some patients, must admit that insoluble medicines become soluble in the trituration from which those dilutions are prepared, otherwise their doses of supposed high dilutions would contain no medicine at all, still less any of an irritating character.


Source: The AMERICAN HOMOEOPATHIC REVIEW Vol. 01 No. 02, 1858, pages 57-68
Description: Impurities of an attenuating liquid.
Author: Joslin, B.F.
Year: 1858
Editing: errors only; interlinks; formatting
Attribution: Legatum Homeopathicum
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