Homeopathic plutonium? Now there’s a hot time in the old town tonight!

In keeping with Homeopathy Awareness Week (which still runs until June 21), I can’t resist commenting on this gem of a story that was sent to me the other day. I mean, we’re talking super duper heaving shopping in the very heart of London. It turns out that the Helios Homeopathy Shop right in Covent Garden will fix you up with homeopathic plutonium if you need it:

Dr Fiona Barclay, a chemist at RGB Research in west London, made this discovery. Her company specialises in selling collections of the periodic table elements (with the exception of those elements that are illegal or are so very short-lived – a few seconds or less – that they invite frustration). Some elements are easy to purchase: carbon, sulphur, iron. For others, one can turn to eBay, where arsenic, uranium (in the form of uranium-tipped missiles), and other elements of ill repute are commonly on offer.

But plutonium proved hard to find … until Barclay turned to Google, which directed her to the Helios shop. She explains what happened next:

“I went to Covent Garden and went into the shop and said, ‘Please, may I have some plutonium.’ And the lady behind the counter said, ‘I shall fetch the chemist.’

“The chemist was duly fetched, and I said, ‘I’d really like a sample of plutonium.’ She asked, ‘And how strong would you like it, madam?’

Now there’s customer service! When told to jump, smile and ask how high! Of course, there’s one catch:

“I had gone in there with the very good intention of asking what their original source was, because it’s my understanding that, although they dilute everything until there’s not even a molecule left, they do start off with one drop. But I got frazzled, and forgot to ask.

“The chemist gave me pillules, which very entertainingly have a ‘best before’ date of the 31st of March, 2013. And as I was leaving she pointed out that there was no plutonium in it.

Indeed, that’s what homeopathy is all about: not a trace of anything, therapeutic or otherwise, left in it. Of course, given that several isotopes of plutonium have half-lives on the order of thousands of years, one wonders why Helios’ homeopathic preparation would have only a four year useful life. Maybe the water “decays” faster. Or maybe the sympathetic magic that is homeopathy has a half life. Who knows?

I was intrigued; so I had to look up plutonium nitricum, which is the homeopathic version of plutonium being sold. Of course, at this point it is worth noting that, even if Helios (or any other homeopathy seller) did use plutonium to start out with, by the time it’s diluted to 30 C, it’s incredibly unlikely that there is even a single atom of plutonium left, which is convenient if you don’t want to be flooding your body with highly radioactive metal. On the other hand, if dilution and succussion truly does make the plutonium stronger, as homeopathic principles teach, then wouldn’t homeopathic plutonium be a great starting point for an unlimited supply of fuel for nuclear reactors or for the most powerful nuclear bomb ever? Truly, homeopathic plutonium would be dangerous stuff! One has to wonder why nuclear physicists and the military aren’t more interested. This could be a major breakthrough in unlimited civilian power and in military technology. I also have to wonder whether it would even be safe to succuss the mixture between each step, so potent would the plutonium become. And what would one do with all the waste water from the process of dilution and succussion? After all, if water has memory, the discarded water at each step would have a memory of the plutonium, wouldn’t it? True, it wouldn’t be as potent as the final remedy, but, following the law of infinitesimals, each succeeding set of waste water would be imbued with more plutonium goodness. Truly, it would be a horrible radioactive waste disposal problem.

All of this led me to wonder: What conditions would homeopathic plutonium remedy? The simplistic idea would be that it could be a super radiation therapy for cancer, but then that wouldn’t be homeopathic thinking, would it? (Homeopathic thinking? Does that mean thinking so diluted with nonsense that not a single bit of intelligence can still be detected?) Homeopathic thinking would be more in line with a book written by Jeremy Sherr, a homeopath whom we’ve met before because of his desire to treat AIDS in Africa with homeopathy. The book is entitled The Homoeopathic Proving of Plutonium Nitricum (including the Toxicology of Ionising Radiation). Here was where I learned all about homeopathic thinking regarding plutonium.

The reviewer lionizes Sherr’s book thusly:

In a similar vein, this recent proving of Plutonium nitricum, produced by Jeremy Sherr, represents another work of Herculean labour. Apparently edited over forty times, it took four years from start to finish, and numbers 306 pages. There are 45 pages in the dream section alone. (Consider that Hahnemann’s proving of Arsenicum album, eulogised by George Vithoulkas as ‘one of the classic landmarks in homoeopathic literature… so exemplary of the phenomenal detail and thoroughness which is brought to all his work…’, occupied a mere 51 pages!)

One of the very difficulties of this work is its sheer size. I’ve just spent the last three days of the dying century, on my sofa, attempting to digest the book; I feel like a snake that’s eaten a very large goat! But, according to Nick Churchill, you simply can’t appreciate the Dynamis provings (there were twenty two of them at the last count) by superficially scanning them – you have to go for total immersion. As an example from my own experience, I’ve often dipped my toes into the dark waters of the Germanium proving, but have never succeeded in understanding the remedy, and have therefore never given it curatively. In order to absorb these works, one needs prolonged and intense exposure to the material.

Homeopathic provings, as you may recall, involve giving the substance used in homeopathy to healthy people and noting the symptoms, as Kimball Atwood describes:

Determinations of the type of substance and the dose (that is, the dilution) used in homeopathic preparations are made by “provings”: a homeopath-‘investigator’ gives a preparation to one or more healthy subjects (“provers”), who each keep a detailed diary of every sensation, feeling, mood change, physical change, and anything else that may occur to them over the next several days to months. These “symptoms” are then compiled; their aggregate is presumed to have been caused by the “remedy” that preceded them, and the result is published in a Materia Medica. The practicing homeopath, after eliciting a litany of “symptoms” from a patient, then determines the correct “remedy” by finding the most closely-matching group in the MM. [13]

Because homeopathy is based on a mystical, magical, prescientific concept of disease, homeopathic provings are, as Sherr’s book documents, full of more than just symptoms, but of dreams and feelings. In the case of plutonium nitricum, the “provings” involve a lot of allusions and dreams relating to, believe it or not, Pluto, God of the Underworld. For instance, get a load of this proving:

‘Dream of a huge underground cavity where there was a double-headed bat with three wings. I was crossing a stream to revive the dead… there was no ferryman, so I waded safely across. There was a large dog with multiple heads’. This is such an amazing symptom; the place, of course, is Hades, the river is the Styx, the dog is Cerberus, guardian of the underworld, whose master is… Pluto! Remember that the proving was triple-blind that prover 11 had no idea of what substance she’d been given. The fact that an element, invented in 1943, can generate scenes straight out of Dante’s Inferno is quite simply mind-blowing and truly illustrates that ‘the spirit of the remedy invades the centre of our being’ (Sherr, Dynamics and Methodology of Homoeopathic Provings, page 11).

The dream of Hades brings out two essential aspects of Plutonium; firstly, it is that of mutation, the cancerous legacy of radioactivity. There are many other images of deformity: ‘Human bodies with creature heads’… ‘a dragon-octopus’… ‘water dogs, with fins and tail’… ‘a blackened tree’. This is mirrored in a forty-page section at the back of the book, entitled, ‘The Toxicology of Ionising Radiation’; this even has its own repertory, and is really a complete book in itself. It represents Plutonium on the mother tincture level, and thus offers yet another approach to the remedy: ‘Calves born with no eyeballs … with two tails … with five legs, two heads, four eyes, no skin, jellylike flesh’. All these are from the toxicological repertory, each one traced to its source, whether it be Chernobyl or Three-Mile Island.

Secondly, the dream of Hades reveals the ‘heart of darkness’ of Plutonium, a descent, in every meaning of that word, into the lower realms. We see this descent especially on the physical level: ‘A sensation as if my middle is dropping down’… ‘a buzzing going down to the pubic area’. There is a definite accent on the lower chakras: ‘An overpowering sexual feeling’, ‘Dream that my penis was a foot-and-a-half long, and the head was chunky and cloven, like the Devil’s foot’. In all, there are thirty dreams of a purely sexual nature, most of them dark and unpleasant. Six of these dreams are specifically about sexual abuse; e.g. ‘A horrible dream of my father trying to abuse me’.

I can only speculate what this “proving” means for deciding upon what specific symptoms homeopathic plutonium nitricum can treat. It’s hard not to speculate that maybe it’s a cure for impotence, given the visions of 18″ penises that Sherr dreamt of in his “proving.” (Either that, or Sherr’s lacking something down below, if you know what I mean, and dreams of better endowment.) On the other hand, if “like cures like,” as a major principle of homeopathy claims, then these visions of mutation, then, would seem to indicate homeopathic plutonium as a potential cure for mutations and cancer, wouldn’t it? Unfortunately, the review of Sherr’s book doesn’t really give much information on what, exactly, plutonium nitricum could be used for. So I sought elsewhere and found this case history by Sadhna Thakkar BHMS(Ind.), CCH. In it, a woman referred to as “Mrs. J,” with a history of depression and bipolar disorder was treated with homeopathic plutonium nitricum. In this case study, the Materia Medicum is described thusly:

There are many different ways of learning Materia Medica. Although each of them provides valuable information, I believe that the most reliable insight comes from the story told by the patient who does well with the remedy. The remedies are nothing but the inner consciousness of the substances expressed through the patients who require it or the provers.

If this isn’t magical thinking, I don’t know what is. But here’s more about Mrs. J:

“My father has told me stories about his father. His father was in the people’s party which was going to take over when communism fell. He got arrested and was put in a cell and was used for radiation experiments. I believe he was exposed to Plutonium. He suffered terribly, they didn’t know what happened, only after the bomb in Hiroshima, they could correlate that his problem was similar and came from radiation experiments. He used to say – close all the vents, the gas is coming, the gas is coming.’ He died before I was born. But I can feel his pain, it is so horrible. On my mother’s side of the family too, one of her uncles was exposed to Uranium and I think he is the one whose face showed up in my dreams. He was asking me- why did you stop carrying my pain?’ I was shocked. All my Czech relatives have died in the war time.”

Which led the homeopath to this conclusion regarding the required treatment for these feelings:

I was sure of a radioactive element but which one? I had heard at that time about Jeremy Sherr doing the proving of Plutonium Nitricum. I remembered that this proving had a profound effect on provers and everyone related to it. I had heard that some of the main aspects were images of a prehistoric era as if sins of the family were passed on from one generation to the other, the theme of persistent feelings of existential threats, underworld of gods and spirits. I decided to give her Plutonium Nitricum 30C (that’s all I had at the time).

Whenever anyone, like Dana Ullman for example, tries to argue to me that homeopathy is in any way scientific, I think of passages like this. Visions of a prehistoric era? Persistent feelings of existential threats? These are symptoms and indications for choosing a “radioactive” homeopathic remedy? On the basis of what science? None, of course. Not that that stops the homeopath from reporting that plutonium nitricum relieved all the patient’s symptoms of headaches, sensitivity to breezes, and cravings for meat and pork mentioned in the case study. The reasoning is also pure magical thinking:

Radium bromide which is very prominently used for eradicating cancers – also is used in homeopathy for old age with extreme fear of being alone, dependency etc. In patients with cancer, there is a feeling of doom but a hope against hopes of curing cancer with radiation. These heavy radioactive elements are both at the end of a cycle and also at the beginning of a new cycle.

And:

A small amount of plutonium is capable of generating a large amount of energy. For instance, a little more than two pounds of plutonium is equivalent to 3,800 tons of coal. This energy can be extremely destructive which has led to its usage as nuclear bombs. Plutonium is feared for this energy which can create mass destruction. But from our experience as homeopaths we know that what can be extremely destructive can also be extremely curative.

And:

As we know from Sherr’s proving, the periodic table and successful cases of Hydrogen, that it is the beginning of all the elements and has an ability to lose boundaries and be an eternal optimist. In Plutonium patients, I noticed this kind of optimism and lightness soon after giving Plutonium. It brought me to a deeper understanding of the cycle of life. Birth, growth and death are integral phases of life. Every living thing, every action, even every thought goes through these phases. If we classified remedies on the scale of this cycle of life, we would learn a whole new dimension of our Materia Medica. On this scale, Plutonium is located just before death where the end of one cycle is sure, with a hope to begin anew.

This is all summarized thusly in another article:

If you study the materia medica of Plutonium nitricum you will find two opposite sets of symptoms. A group of them are symptoms related to sensation of obligation, decay, disintegration, heaviness,…. and the other group are related to sensations of? lightness, high spirit, beautiful mystical feelings,…..

The woo, it is strong in plutonium nitricum, no?

Of course, for all this woo and magical thinking one has to be reminded: Not only is there not a single atom of plutonium left in a 30C homeopathic preparation of plutonium nitricum after 30 rounds of a 100-fold dilution (with succussion, of course–homeopaths always tell us piously that the succussion between each dilution step is absolutely essential to imbue a homeopathic remedy with its potency), but it’s incredibly unlikely that any homeopathic plutonium nitricum preparation started out its dilution series with any actual plutonium. I suppose it’s possible, but where would homeopaths get plutonium, given that it’s arguably the most tightly regulated substance in the world, with very few people given access to it. You can’t just walk up to a chemist and buy it or order it from a chemical supply company, after all. Maybe Sherr managed to find the Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, or something. Or maybe there’s a nuclear physicist or two out there who gave him a gram or two on the side. (I hope he had radiation shielding.)

We skeptics often say that homeopaths do no research and have not made any changes based on evidence or science in the 200 years since Hahnemann’s time. Ironically, the example of plutonium nitricum is an example of homeopaths doing research. After all, plutonium was unknown in Samuel Hahnemann’s time. Unfortunately for homeopaths, how they “proved” the utility of plutonium nitricum is not an indication that homeopathy changes its precepts as new evidence or science is discovered. All it is is homeopaths applying the same 200 year old pre-germ theory, unscientific thinking to a substance that hadn’t been discovered in Samuel Hahnemann’s time and coming up with the same mystical mumbo-jumbo through “provings” that homeopathy does for all of its “remedies.”

Homeopathy is pseudoscience of the rankest form. 200 years ago (or even 150 years ago), “conventional medicine” consisted of practices that were actively harmful, including bleedings and purgings with toxic metals like mercury, cadmium, and antimony. Homeopathy, being nothing more than treatment with water (which was all that was left after so many 100-fold dilutions) appeared in many cases to result in better outcomes because, well, it was doing nothing and, unfortunately, doing nothing was all too often better than the medicine used throughout much of the early to mid-1800s, if not even later. However, over the last 100 to 150 years, medicine, using the scientific method and ever more rigorous clinical trials, improved. Slowly, treatments that didn’t work or were harmful were abandoned, and newer treatments, which were effective, were developed. Scientific medicine advanced; homeopathy remained stuck in the early 19th century. It still remains stuck in the early 1800s, even today, even when applied to plutonium.

That is the “awareness” that I strive to disseminate during this, Homeopathy Awareness Week.