Water has a memory

The memory of the water


The memory of the water


The dispute about their effectiveness is as old as homeopathy itself. Because the alternative drugs are often so diluted that, purely arithmetically, no active ingredient molecule can be present in them. Nevertheless, thanks to the "memory of the water", they should help. But does this even exist?


Water is a liquid with extraordinary properties. The physicochemical peculiarities include a boiling point that is much too high compared to the size of the molecule, the fact that water is more densely packed in the liquid state than in the solid state (ice floats on water) and the abnormally high specific heat. As a relatively small molecule with a molar mass of 18, liquid and solid water (ice) should not actually exist under our "normal conditions" (temperature, pressure). The reason for the different properties of water lies in the dipole character of the molecule.


Water is a polar molecule in which the two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom form a triangle with an asymmetrical charge distribution (oxygen negative, hydrogen positive). This means that the water molecules have a great affinity for one another. Water forms hydrogen bonds, the molecules orientate themselves to one another, form more or less ordered structures (three-dimensional cross-linking) with, however, a very short dwell time. According to recent studies, the hydrogen bonds only last an average of 50 femtoseconds. Each molecule can make contact with up to four neighbors. The hydrogen bonds are rigidly fixed in the ice. These ice crystals are a danger to every life: they drive dissolved substances out of their lattice and mechanically destroy intracellular structures. Natural cryoprotectors (polyvalent alcohols such as glycerol, antifreeze proteins) can protect the cells from this danger.


In addition to this hexagonal ice, there are also various forms of amorphous ice in interstellar space (1). Within this amorphous ice, a distinction is made today between three types of solid glass-like water and two types of liquid glass-like water in which the hydrogen bonds are not firmly fixed. When exposed to ultraviolet light, our well-known crystalline (hexagonal) ice can transform into such cosmic ice. In contrast to crystalline ice with its rigid grid, organic substances can be embedded in amorphous ice. The interstellar ice in the form of comets ("dirty snowballs") could therefore be the place where the first organic compounds formed. Through the impact of such comets, organic molecules, as they have actually been detected in interstellar space, could have reached Earth and contributed to the creation of that "primordial soup" in which life arose.


For biochemical processes it is crucial that hydrogen bonds are not only formed between the water molecules, but also with ions and dipoles (hydration). These water molecules bound by hydration are also called bound water in contrast to free water. The water bound to proteins through hydration is not released even through freeze-drying. Only through hydration are biological membranes formed or proteins and other biomolecules obtain their biologically effective structure. This function of water cannot theoretically be achieved through any other connection, so the claim "without water there is no life" is entirely justified.


There is no poly or super water


However, the extraordinary variety of interactions between water molecules, with other molecules and with interfaces has repeatedly led to misinterpretations. The discussion about a so-called poly or super water or, after its »discoverer«, Deryagin water has been around for a while. The starting point for the "discovery" of polywater were studies by Soviet scientists who investigated the physicochemical behavior of water in narrow capillaries and found that this (anomalous) water differed from normal water in terms of boiling and melting points, density and specific heat.


The main problem was how solid surfaces can exert far-reaching effects on water or, more generally, on liquids. Confirmed knowledge includes that the transition between bound water (hydrated hydrophilic groups) and free water is fuzzy. The deviating behavior of the anomalous water could then also be confirmed by other working groups. Models were developed to explain the extraordinary properties of polywater. At the end of the 1960s, however, voices became more vocal who believed that the unusual properties of this water were due to impurities that influence the arrangement of the water molecules (4). Sweat and silicates in particular were discussed as contaminants. At the beginning of the seventies, the "pollution theory" then prevailed and polywater slowly disappeared again from scientific and popular scientific literature (2, 3).


There is no scientific evidence


Understandably, those who practice "high-potency chemistry", that is, who work with dilutions in which, from a purely mathematical point of view, no more molecule should be contained in the test solutions, find themselves in need of explanation. This can be determined on the basis of Loschmidt's number (also Avogadro's constant), which indicates the number of molecules / mole and 6.025 x 1023 amounts to.


The use of high potencies is one of the cornerstones of homeopathy, alongside the principle of »similia similibus curentur« (similar may be cured by similar). By potentiation (from the Latin potentia = power, effectiveness), Samuel Hahnemann understood that under the influence of intense shaking (dynamization) the effectiveness of homeopathic remedies is increased. In the last years of his life Hahnemann worked with potencies in the range between C 150 and C 200 as well as in the Q range (D potency: 1: 9; C range: 1:99; Q range: 1: 50,000). From around a D 7, the mother tincture is only a secondary ingredient due to the dilution. From the beginning of homeopathy, the problem of explanation arose as to how the mother tincture can "prevail" over other substances in further potentiations (5-9). In § 270 of his "Organon der Heilkunde" (10) Hahnemann comments on this: This makes it extremely likely that matter by means of such dynamizations (development of its true, inner, medicinal essence) ultimately dissolves completely into its individual spiritual essence and therefore in their raw state, could really only be regarded as consisting of this undeveloped spirit-like being. Of course, it is no longer possible to argue with a "spirit-like being" of homeopathic remedies, especially since ideas would have to be developed as to how these "spirit-like beings" arise and how they can even multiply by shaking them. In the following, some attempted explanations from the last few years will be dealt with.


No reproducible results


The dispute over the "memory of water" was triggered in 1988 by a publication by the French Jacques Benveniste in the specialist magazine "Nature" (11). Jacques Benveniste (1935-2004), physician and immunologist, was research director of the state institute INSERM (Institut de la Santé et de la Recherche Médical) in Paris at the time. Benveniste became internationally known in 1970 through the discovery of platelet-activating factor (PAF) and was a Knight of the Legion of Honor. In the article mentioned, Benveniste's working group reported on experiments with an antiserum that contains antibodies of the IgE class and degranulates basic leukocytes. The remarkable and sensational thing was that with dilutions up to a concentration of 2.2x10-126 M was worked, i.e. in an area in which, purely mathematically, no antibody molecules could be contained.


Nature editor-in-chief John Meddox then traveled to Paris with counterfeiting expert Walter Stewart and American pseudoscience opponent James Randi to review the experiments. Randi has now donated a $ 1 million prize for demonstrating "paranormal, supernatural, or occult powers." The negative results of the review ("high-dilution" experiments a delusion) (12) were published in a later issue of "Nature" (12-14) together with the critical reader opinions received by the editorial team and a reply from Benveniste. Independent reviewers could not reproduce the results and pointed out systematic errors in the execution of the test. However, Benveniste himself stood by his results to the end. Benveniste writes of McCarthy-like prosecutions (14) and complains about the diletantism of the control experiments led by Heddox. The individual stages of the unprecedented science scandal surrounding Benveniste are summarized in (15). It should only be mentioned in passing that Benveniste received the "Ig Nobel Prize" for chemistry in 1991 and again in 1998. The Ig Nobel Prize (from English ignoble) is an anti-Nobel Prize, or better said shame prize, which is awarded by Havard University for unusual research results that cannot be repeated.


Due to the allegation of faulty or falsified experiments, Benveniste's state funding was withdrawn and in 1992 Benveniste's department at INSERM was closed. Benveniste founded his own company "DigiBio", in which he continued his research into "water memory" until his death.


It is obvious that Benveniste's studies with ultra-high-dilution solutions and his ideas that a molecule leaves information behind in water, even when it is no longer there, as if the water remembers having seen the molecule, inspires as a scientific justification of homeopathy were interpreted with their high potencies. The attempts to explain information storage as the basis of water memory vary, however. Benveniste explained that every molecule sends an electromagnetic signal that is maintained even when the molecule is no longer there. Benveniste coined the term digital biology. Benveniste and later Schiff (15) then carried out so-called transfer experiments, in which the substance-specific information stored in a tube by "electromagnetic fields" is supposed to be transferred to a second tube by electrical conduction without any substance transport. The attempts of the physicist and Nobel laureate Georges Charpak, together with Benveniste, to prove the "electromagnetic molecular information" (electromagnetic signals) postulated by him in 1995, however, did not lead to any result.


If so, then only short-term memory


The investigations of the chemist Louis Rey (16) are interesting. Rey diluted salt solutions, including table salt, for so long that, purely arithmetically, there should no longer be any salt in the extremely dilute solutions. Nevertheless, the thermoluminescence after gamma irradiation showed significantly different intensities in these solutions than in "pure" water. Rey attributed these "memory properties" of water to altered hydrogen bonds. However, these effects are extremely short-lived and unsuitable for justifying high-potency homeopathy.


In the meantime, experiments in the field of "high potency chemistry" have also been published by other working groups. In 2001, University of Belfast pharmacologist Madeleine Ennis reported biological effects caused by highly diluted solutions.


In 2004, Nieber et al. Reported in vitro effects on the rat intestine with belladonna extracts up to potentization D100 (according to HAB shaken and not stirred, as is emphasized) (19). In the press release of the University of Leipzig on the occasion of the award of the Hans Heinrich Reckeweg Prize by the International Society for Homotoxicology e. V. and the International Society for Biological Medicine e. V. for the proof of the effectiveness of homeopathic remedies it says: The effect cannot be based on a substance effect, but obviously modifications of the liquid drug carrier occur due to the homeopathic dilution process, which lead to a physico-chemical influence of the transmission mechanisms because without shaking there is no effect! The studies and a dissertation on a similar topic (20) met with severe criticism (10, 11). Particularly problematic are the statements about the type of "physical information" about which the effect is to be conveyed, since it can no longer be discussed on a molecular level due to the dilution.


Conclusion: So far there are no clear results that prove a "memory of water".