What Is ‘Water Memory’? Why This Homeopathy Claim Doesn’t Hold Water

Dec 27, 2017

By Rafi Letzter

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced Dec. 18 that it plans to crack down on dangerous or dishonestly advertised homeopathic products — a class of products that sellers claim treat diseases by delivering extremely diluted traces of the substances that cause those diseases in the first place. If certain homeopathic remedies become more difficult to access due to the crackdown, what will homeopathy users miss out on?

Homeopathy dates to the 1700s, according to a statement from the FDA, and relies on the idea of “like cures like” — that symptom-causing chemicals can, at low enough doses when mixed with water, treat the symptoms that those substances cause. In other words, a chemical that causes vomiting would be given at a very diluted concentration to treat vomiting. And the more diluted the substance, the more potent the beneficial effects, the thinking goes.

But is there any real science behind this idea?

The British Homeopathic Association (BHA)’s website acknowledges that homeopathic remedies might seem “implausible for many people,” because “the medicines are often — though by no means always — diluted to the point where there may be no molecules of original substance left.”

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16 comments on “What Is ‘Water Memory’? Why This Homeopathy Claim Doesn’t Hold Water

  • Great article. Thanks for providing more fodder to be used in the event of argument with an advocate for alternative remedies. Never hurts to have a few more facts up one’s sleeve. Not that they’ll be deterred of course.

    The notion of water having a memory affected by even minute traces of the offending substance is absurd when confronted with the reality of organisms in the mouth. This could be extended to the glass or spoon also coming into contact on the way to the bloodstream. All completely ridiculous when viewed objectively.

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  • Hi Phil. Nice to catch up. The Christmas period seems to bring out the ‘unbeliever’ in me! Maybe this is brought about by an excess of pious sentiment on display.

    Not so much in the UK I hear, with over 50% claiming ‘none’ status! This would be the same over here, I feel but a clever marketing campaign in the lead up to the Census recorded a 30% ‘none’ representation.

    All very off-topic I’m afraid , though I do conflate the foolishness of mystical remedies with the foolishness of religious faith!

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  • Nitya #1
    Dec 27, 2017 at 4:47 pm

    This could be extended to the glass or spoon also coming into contact on the way to the bloodstream.
    All completely ridiculous when viewed objectively.

    Actually there is a much greater chance of some trace molecules being ingested from leaded glass or a metallic spoon, than there is from this so-called “water memory”.

    Many rich Romans became brain addled with lead poisoning by drinking grape-juice boiled in lead pans!
    Lead paint is now prohibited in Europe on toys which children may put in their mouths.

    For the same reason, lead water pipes are no longer installed in Britain!


    Chris asked a very important question in our post about why do people put scotch in decanters. He wanted to know why I suggested lead free crystal decanters instead of leaded crystal decanters, which are often heavier and sparklier (is that a word?).
    Leaded decanters are beautiful but they have one drawback – lead.

    Is lead really dangerous? Only if you store the whisky, or other spirits or liquids, in the decanter for longer periods of time. The lead can leach into the spirit and ingesting it is not safe. According to The Nibble, the leaching of lead is must faster than you’d guess.

    Researches stored port wine in lead crystal decanters and detected 89 micrograms (per liter) after 2 days and 2,000 – 5,000 micrograms after four months. White wine doubled its lead content within an hour and tripled within four. Brandy stored in lead crystal had around 20,000 micrograms of lead after five years.

    The EPA’s lead standard in drinking water is a mere 50 micrograms per liter. (according to this article)



    The Safe Drinking Water Act requires EPA to determine the level of contaminants in drinking water at which no adverse health effects are likely to occur with an adequate margin of safety.
    These non-enforceable health goals, based solely on possible health risks, are called maximum contaminant level goals (MCLGs).
    EPA has set the maximum contaminant level goal for lead in drinking water at zero because lead is a toxic metal that can be harmful to human health even at low exposure levels.
    Lead is persistent, and it can bioaccumulate in the body over time.

    Young children, infants, and fetuses are particularly vulnerable to lead because the physical and behavioral effects of lead occur at lower exposure levels in children than in adults.

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  • ‘Water memory’ is a post hoc rationalization intended to preserve Homeopathy from inconvenient chemical and mathematical facts.

    Hahnemann had no notion of the limits of dilution. Using the example of a flower’s scent, he really believed you could just carry on diluting without reaching the point of absurdity. Its only after the silliness of this notion became unavoidably clear that the mystical ‘memory’ claim was trotted out.

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  • have a modicum of sympathy with homeopathy
    started using a little 50 ml plastic bottle that once held canadian rye whiskey
    to hold drinking water on recent very cold winter walks
    after a few fills the delicate taste of the rye started to fade
    a wee drop of black bush revitalised the uisce bheatha memory
    great spiritual sip after a snowy slog
    -16 c out there today
    looking forward to a dash of homey

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  • Hi Alan #7

    Thank you very much for the snippet on lead. More ammunition on my endless quest of debunking superstitious thinking when it comes to health and remedies.

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  • 12
    Cohominid says:

    Carl Kruse #11
    What is water memory? Nonsense.

    Aye, and homoeopathy is a rip-off.

    I can’t believe homoeopaths really believe such nonsense; but they clearly know that there’s a lucrative market for their fake medicines among the ill-informed and gullible.

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  • 13
    Cohominid says:

    Moderators, the font for block quotes looks way too large for that purpose. Can the block quote font not be reduced to a size less like a heading and more like a quoted text? If it’s a different color from that of comments, then it need be no larger than the font for comments. Perhaps this point could be relayed to the site technicians.

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  • Carl Kruse #11
    Jan 1, 2018 at 1:42 pm

    What is water memory? Nonsense.

    Of course the gullible purchasers are supposed to believe that the water molecules only have memories of the molecules the homeopath(et)ic concoction brewers have chosen to be remembered!

    All those millions of years of climatic water recycling through, rocks, oceans, atmosphere, reservoirs, rivers, sewers, animals and plants, are conveniently “forgotten” when a “homeopathic” label is stuck on the bottle! ! 🙂

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  • Meanwhile;- as a monument to the earlier, stupidity of Tredinnick and Co. in British politics, this abuse of public funding is now ending!


    A major centre of homeopathy will no longer be able to spend NHS money on the controversial practice.

    The Royal London Hospital for Integrated Medicine – formerly the Royal London Homeopathic Hospital – will stop providing NHS-funded homeopathic remedies in April.

    Note the cosmetic change of name for quackology!

    Homeopathy is based on the idea that “like cures like”, but scientists says patients are getting nothing but sugar.

    Campaigners said the move was “hugely significant and long overdue”.

    Homeopathy is based on the concept that diluting a version of a substance that causes illness has healing properties.

    So pollen or grass could be used to create a homeopathic hay-fever remedy.

    Homeopaths say the more diluted it is, the greater the effect.

    Common homeopathic treatments are for asthma, ear infections, hay-fever, depression, stress, anxiety, allergy and arthritis.

    The NHS itself says: “There is no good-quality evidence that homeopathy is effective as a treatment for any health condition.

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