Posted by: Witch Doctor | August 8, 2010

In memory of Aconitum


Today, My Black Cat, we will collect some seeds from one of our favourite aconites. The pale blue silvery one. The seeds won’t come true but will likely produce a variety of plants ranging from white to dark blue. We will sow some of them soon to over-winter and some more in the spring. Once they have grown, we will plant a large colony of them in the shade beneath the trees in the “Poison” area of our Tussie-Mussie garden.

We will put the ‘POISON” label on every single one of them.

Remember, My Black Cat, to wear protective gloves when you are harvesting these seeds. This is a dangerous plant, although it is the roots that are the most poisonous part by far.

What is it that is worrying you about aconite, My Black Cat?

They are selling it in chemists’ shops as A Remedy…..

These will be homeopathic remedies, My Black Cat, there will be nothing at all in them but sugar and water. They are just a safe placebo.

But it says Aconitum napellus is the active ingredient.

Rubbish! Let me see.

‘Active Ingredients: 30c Aconitum napellus

Also contains: Sucrose and lactose’

What you need to look out for is the dilution factor. That tells you whether there is any likelihood of any vestige of dangerous Aconitum still existing in the preparation.

The dilution factor is : 30C

Get the abacus out , My Black Cat, and work out what this really means.

You don’t need to, Ben Goldacre has already worked it out?

“This is an understatement: a 30C homeopathic preparation is a dilution of 1 in 10030, or rather 1 in 1060, which means a 1 followed by 60 zeroes, or – let’s be absolutely clear – a dilution of 1 in 1,000,000,000,000, 000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000.”

That kind of dilution means there is effectively no aconite present.

But it says aconite is the ACTIVE ingredient.

No, My Black Cat, what they should have said is that there is a MEMORY of aconite and it is not an active ingredient.

That would be much more accurate.

In much the same way, My Black Cat, that you will have a memory of today as the day you harvested these seeds. But the memory will not be treating any illness, although it will of course be activating a small part of your feline brain. That is all that memories do. They help you remember!

Ben Goldacre has much more to say about “memories” of substances in homeopathic preparations.

“To phrase that in the Society of Homeopaths’ terms, we should say: “30C contains less than one part per million million million million million million million million million million of the original substance.”

At a homeopathic dilution of 100C, which they sell routinely, and which homeopaths claim is even more powerful than 30C, the treating substance is diluted by more than the total number of atoms in the universe. Homeopathy was invented before we knew what atoms were, or how many there are, or how big they are. It has not changed its belief system in light of this information.

How can an almost infinitely dilute solution cure anything? Most homeopaths claim that water has “a memory”. They are unclear what this would look like, and homeopaths’ experiments claiming to demonstrate it are frequently bizarre. As a brief illustration, American magician and debunker James Randi has for many years had a $1m prize on offer for anyone who can demonstrate paranormal abilities. He has made it clear that this cheque would go to someone who can reliably distinguish a homeopathic dilution from water. His money remains unclaimed.”


It is only witches and black cats that deal in the really dangerous things, My Black Cat.

Memories are absolutely harmless and do nothing at all apart from participating in a very interesting placebo effect.

The Humankind are so easily taken in.

Aren’t they, My Black Cat?

They forget to read the first sentence in the Product Information section.

“Boots Aconite 30c is a homeopathic medicinal product without approved therapeautic indications.”

What this really means, My Black Cat, is “Caveat emptor (let the buyer beware).”

But The Placebo Effect is probably real in some instances.

Up to a point………

Tell me, My Black Cat do you know of any chemists or drug manufacturers that label any of their products as placebos?



(The volcano seems to be having a break at the moment so here are some excellent photographs of Iceland, the land of waterfalls, by photographer Bruce Percy)
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