Once again about small doses – Elena Burlakova MD


The questions of the author are answered by E. BURLAKOVA, doctor of biological sciences, professor, laureate of the State Prize, deputy director of the Institute of Biochemical Physics. NM Emanuel RAS, head of the laboratory.




– Elena Borisovna, is it possible to consider, what in the world academic science the process of rehabilitation of homeopathy is beginning?

— Yes, you can agree with this. Today there are serious scientists who will not say that homeopathy is a pseudoscience. And although there are still more questions than answers, many of them have become common for homeopathy as well as for academic science.


– In recent years, your institute has taken on the role of a leader in Russia on the study of the mechanisms of action of ultra-small doses. What are the news in this area today?

— There was a lot of interesting things, which brings us closer to the mechanisms of ultra-small doses. There are a number of hypotheses explaining the effect of a given remedy depending on the degree of its dilution. If you work with concentrations of 10-12-10-13 M, the biological activity can be explained by interaction with the receptors, and if up to 10-15 M – by the notions of parametric resonance. In dilutions of 10-15 – 10-20 M, it can be assumed that at least one molecule will enter the cell and “trigger” the mechanism of structural rearrangement of the cell membrane. And recently there have been many hypotheses related to the structural characteristics of the water itself. Specialists say that water molecules form clusters. Changes in them under the action of single molecules of biologically active substances can disrupt the “water-cellular proteins” system and, consequently, affect the properties of proteins. In this explanation, there is one small “but”: it is required that the water structures are sufficiently stable and not disintegrate before the cell reacts to them. Physicists also argue that the lifetime of the structures of the formation of water molecules is extremely small.


– Why such fears for the stability of water structures? Let us not know what they are, but we know that homeopathic preparations, created on the basis of aqueous, aqueous-alcoholic solutions, store information for years if not decades.

— I have not talked about homeopathic dilutions yet. In concentrations of up to 10-20 M, the concept of “memory of water” is not necessary to explain the effect of ultra-low doses. When the dilutions reach 10-25 – 10-28 M, without it, really, it can’t be. But the “memory” of the water is still “short”, and so far no one has refuted it experimentally.


– Elena Borisovna, in your article “Ultra-small doses in the laboratory”, published in the January issue of the journal “Chemistry and Life” for 2000, you told how in 1984 you accidentally became convinced of the effectiveness of ultra-low doses and immediately recalled the works of Shangin- Berezovsky. Why did the work of our compatriot remain hardly noticed, while the work of the French scientist became a real shock?

— It worked with concentrations below 10-23 M, that is, with solutions in which no active substances were already contained. We are studying the range of concentrations up to 10-17 M, when in the solution there are actually molecules of biologically active substances. The works of Shangin-Berezovsky did not receive serious scientific journals, and few people heard of them. The world scientific community was shocked not so much by Benveniste’s experiments (similar data was received by scientists before him), but by the fact of publication in Nature. How he managed to “get through” to the most prestigious scientific journal, it’s hard to say. And to our compatriots to publish such a study in a serious international scientific publication is a hundred times more difficult.


– So the priority in the official discovery by the academic science of the effect of ultra-small doses and left our scientists for Benvenistu?

— You want to say that many people know Benveniste’s works, and Shangin-Berezovsky does not? Apparently, our society was less ready to revise the established views. I am often asked why such an amazing effect of ultra-small doses was not detected earlier. Concentration is insignificant or even absent altogether, and the effect can be compared with the effect that concentration has 100 billion times higher. The explanation is very simple. If you reduce the concentration of a common medicinal substance several times, then its effectiveness, as a rule, decreases by the same factor. You reduce the concentration of a hundred or even a thousand times, and its effect disappears altogether. And suddenly, with a dilution of a hundred thousand times, it appears again, and even more so than in normal dilutions. Well, who can come up with a lower concentration than the one that does not already have an effect? Having discovered such an effect, we repeated our experiments with about six months trying to eliminate the error. And if at first we ourselves were distrustful of our own results, then the mistrust and even ridicule on the part of colleagues who considered the biological action of the ultra-small doses not to be an opening, but rather an amusing artifact, we were not very surprised.


– But all this has already been passed by Hahnemann 200 years ago. All – one to one. He also tried at first to dilute in smaller factors, then – in tens and hundreds of times. And he also observed that the therapeutic activity of the drugs was disappearing. But if you breed in millions, tens and hundreds of millions of times, even those substances that are considered inactive, that is, not medicinal, come “alive”. That’s how the shells of some marine animals, ordinary river sand and much, much more became homeopathic preparations.

— Maybe. I was not familiar with this. But the thing, apparently, is that the time of the ultra-small doses has not yet come. I remember how recently, just 3-4 years ago, after Benveniste and almost 10 years after Shangin-Berezovsky, I did a report in one of the institutes about the effect of ultra-low doses in concentrations of only 10-15 M. Would you see reaction. Jokes fell … Obviously, everything has its time. It is necessary that not only individuals matured. It is necessary that the critical mass of the whole society is ripe. It seems that we are approaching this.


 – In your article, you say that the dependence of the activity of ultra-small doses on the concentration in the solution found by you is of the form of a “two-humped curve”: peaks corresponding to active concentrations are separated by a “dead zone” in which the substance can not only not manifest no activity, but even change it to the opposite. Some antitumor drugs, you say, in a certain range of concentrations even contribute to accelerating the growth of the tumor. The same peaks of activity of ultra-small doses were discovered by Benveniste. Some scientists now call them “Benveniste peaks”. But homeopathy is also known for this effect. The degree of dilution traditionally used by homeopaths is not a consecutive digital series. In homeopathy only completely determined dilutions are used: for example, C3, C6, C12, C50, C200, etc. And all intermediate dilutions are not used. Are not those adopted in homeopathy the same “peaks” that, in 1984, perhaps even before Benvenist, were noticed by you as well; and not accepted in homeopathy – intermediate dilutions – “dead zones”. How far have you tried to dilute your biologically active substances yourself?

— There is no scientific basis for homeopathic dilutions yet. The fact that the situation of “peaks of Benveniste” depends on many conditions, and the concentrations given to homeopaths 200 years ago remained unchanged. But peaks of activity are a scientific fact, and in our experiments we really tried to go further. It seems that the peaks continue to appear in lower concentrations. It is noticeable that you are in love with homeopathy. This can damage if not the novel, then the truth.


– The main heroine of the novel “Eugene Onegin” – Tatyan Larin, and Alexander Sergeyevich did not hide that he was in love with her. The main character of the “novel about homeopathy” is homeopathy, and it would be strange if the author was not in love with her.

— You risk more. For the reader Tatyana Larina will always remain a positive heroine. Homeopathy, with all its virtues, has not yet saved humanity from its suffering and it is not known when it will do so.


– In this you are right. But now only the first part is written, which says only that there is such homeopathy. And how she treats, it will be in the second part. There it will be said about the shortcomings, which homeopathy also has. Do you think that both academic medicine and homeopathy have much to learn?

— Of course. It hardly makes sense today to push create conflict between allopathy and homeopathy. The whole problem is that until recently we did not understand each other because we spoke in different languages. Homeopaths discussed only external, in extreme cases – spiritual manifestations of the disease. And we have been working at the cellular level for a long time. Today I know that homeopathy goes from general reasoning to concrete research. And, consequently, there is a common language on which we can communicate.


Researchers working in the field of ultra-low doses (ULD) have experienced skepticism and continue to be skeptical of academic science to their results and work: if homeopathic firms sponsored conferences on SMD in Bordeaux, where the results of the effect of physiologically active compounds in the SMD on biological systems of varying degrees of complexity (from living organisms to complex molecules), many academic journals have refused and continue to deny the authors of these works to the public only on the basis that the concentrations of the agents used is too small (10-15-10-18 M). At the same time, neither the thoroughly tested experiment, nor the irreproachable reputation of authors in their previous scientific activity, is saved. Sometimes the wording of the reasons for refusing the publication is frankly ridiculous, for example, one of our most authoritative journals stated that “an article cannot be published until the results are explained in the framework of generally accepted laws of biochemistry and enzymology.” How, then, it is asked, then to develop science, if everything new, going beyond the framework of the generally accepted one, will be ignored? Therefore, although “the world has started talking about Benveniste’s works”, which is a breakthrough on the way from classical academic science to homeopathy, we are likely to face a long and thorny path to the final recognition of scientific rightness, primarily the effects of substances in the ULD, and then putative solutions. It is likely that a key role in “building bridges” will be played by the ongoing work on the study of the structure of water, which was discussed here. Or maybe some new “crazy” idea will be expressed, and, once again turning all the more or less established ideas, will direct the scientists’ thoughts quite differently…

Doctor of biological sciences N. PALMINA, leading research associate of the IBHF RAS, laureate of the USSR State Prize



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