to prescribing drugs that have shown their effectivenessthrough many years of practical use. Certainly, in othercases, the interactions are known in great detail leadingto the synthesis of well-deﬁned drugs with speciﬁc andwell controlled applications. But we remain far from acomprehensive and detailed knowledge of the action of drugs on living organisms.Homeopathic drugs fall, at least partially, into the ﬁrstcategory. Their use has been validated by real orsupposed successes, the frontier of the two beingprobably irrelevant from the point of view of thepatient. But there is an essential difference betweentraditional or ‘natural’ medicine and homeopathy. Thelatter is much more recent and based in a quasiphilosophical concept (
similia similibus curentur
) statedby Hahnemann, perhaps by analogy with the contem-porary ﬁrst studies of immunization. With modernscience, it should, in due course, be possible to under-stand the mechanisms of action of natural substancesand of homeopathic drugs. For natural substances thesearch for the active principles has been successful insome cases; in others, it has been simply assumed thatthey are present but the level of interest of the drug oravailable resources has not justiﬁed further studies.With homeopathic drugs the situation is very differ-ent. Their method of preparation is based essentially ontwo steps: sequential dilution with ‘succussion’ or‘dynamisation’ (vigorous turbulent shaking). A molecu-lar view of the matter and a trivial calculationdemonstrates that, often it is extremely improbable thateven one molecule of the compound present in theoriginal solution persists in a vial of the ﬁnal medicine.The role of succussion is not obvious, even less thediverse standards of methods of preparation.Under the pressure of criticism, the natural evolu-tion of researchers interested in ﬁnding acceptablescientiﬁc justiﬁcations of homeopathy has been to gofrom purely medical concepts of effective therapy tochemistry and ﬁnally to fundamental physics. Ulti-mately, schematically, the answer: if there is ‘only’water in homeopathic medicines, then the explanationof the therapeutic action must be in pure water, itself!This intellectual evolution is a paradox. While formany drugs, the action is known at a biological,sometimes at a chemical, but almost never at a physicallevel (that of the structure and energies deﬁned withatomic resolution); for homeopathy, the discussionjumped directly into this microscopic sub-molecularphysics world. The mixture of the precise methodologycharacterizing research in physics and proceduresderiving from pharmacology in research in homeop-athy is striking. For example, several measurements of physical properties of diluted solutions have been donedouble-blinded. An extreme and provocative hypoth-esis is that water can retain a ‘memory’ of substancespreviously dissolved in it.
A critical analysis of several publications shows thatseveral issues remain open to question. Schematically,one can distinguish the following:(1)
How different from pure water are highly dilutedsolutions? In other words, is the simple calculationof the number of molecules of the ‘active principle’per unit volume of the solution sufﬁcient to accountfor the composition of homeopathic medicines?
If succussion is an essential step in the preparationof homeopathic medicines, what is exactly its role?How does it inﬂuence the dilution procedure?
What is the behaviour of complex molecules (egbiopolymers, organic compounds, surfactants, etc.)during the dilution process?
A clear answer to these (and perhaps other)questions is a necessary and essential precondition toany study of ‘pure’ water. Indeed, the conditions of preparation and conservation of homeopathic medi-cines are far from respecting the simplest proceduresrequired in physical studies of pure water.Some issues should be controlled more system-atically:(1)
Pure water is a very powerful solvent of manysubstances. For example, it dissolves and formsspeciﬁc bonds with silica. In contact with the surfaceof quartz, water forms stable silanol groups(Si–O–H). With time, silica molecules and siliconatoms are solubilised and hydrated. The number of these ‘impurities’ is huge as compared with thecalculated amount of molecules of the startingsubstance in most homeopathic medicines.It may be useful to recall that the interaction of water with solid surfaces is so strong that studies of nucleation must be done with minute amounts of water kept in levitation, without any contact withsolid surfaces. The interaction with solid surfaces isso important that if a supercooled liquid freezes, itmust be heated up to temperatures higher than themelting point in order to be supercooled again. Lessimportant for water than for other liquids (eggallium), this effect is due to more favourablenucleation of the solid form at the solid surface.Another point deserving investigation is the storageof homeopathic solutions over long periods of time.This procedure is totally incompatible with achemical purity of water, even at a modest level.
The main consequence of succussion is the insertion of substantial amounts of air from the environmentwhere the procedure takes place. In a laboratory thatis not a cleanroom (such as those used for example inelectronics), the procedure brings into the solution notonly the gases present in the atmosphere (oxygen,nitrogen, argon,...) but also dust particles, micro-droplets of water, etc. Recent studies
show that theproperties of solutions are drastically modiﬁed whensuccussion is done under different atmospheres or atdifferent pressures, a fact which should encouragefurther studies in this direction.
Many substances, which contain pharmacologicallyactive principles, are not soluble in water. Some are
ARTICLE IN PRESS
Can water possibly have a memory?