The diluted duck heart and liver extract 200CH, marketed by the homeopathic transnational Boiron with the name Oscillococcinum is the base component of the Prevengho Vir. And it has its history. It was the year 1917 and the world was suffering the epidemic of the so-called Spanish flu, which combined with the epidemic of sorts that war always is, and a world war at that. One of the many doctors in the French army who was busy fighting the flu epidemic, a man named Joseph Roy, claimed to have discovered a bacterium in the blood of those who had died of the disease and blamed it for causing the sickness. According to Roy’s description, that bacterium, a diplococcus, had a peculiarity: it vibrated; which is why he named it oscillococcus, the oscillating coccus.
Although everything seems to have been the result of a defective microscope and an overly imaginative observer, Roy was not intimidated by the fact that no one else was ever able to observe his vibrating coccus (in fact, it’s an established fact today that influenzas are of viral origin, not bacterial) and kept going. A follower of the doctrines compiled by Samuel Hahnemann in his Materia Medica (the Bible of homeopathy), he set out to create a homeopathic preparation to fight the oscillococcus and cure the flu and other diseases such as cancer, whose cause was attributed by Roy to the terrible vibrating coccus, who apparently saw cocci oscillating everywhere he looked.
The first principle of homeopathy ‘similia similibus curantur’, that is, like is cured by like, maintains that any agent capable of causing a disorder is also capable of curing it. Of course, isolating the oscillococcus proved impossible, perhaps for the simple reason that it doesn’t exist. And then, without offering any explanation for it, he decided to prepare his ‘medication’ using the heart and the liver of ducks of the Cairina moschata species, known in gastronomy as the Barbary duck. So Roy christened his product Anas Barbariae Hepatis et Cordis Extractum, that is, Barbary duck liver and heart extract. Perhaps his most innocent mistake was getting the scientific name of the donating animal species wrong.
But the really cosmic levels of absurdity are reached in the method of preparation, which follows this protocol:
- Fill a sterile 1-liter bottle with a mixture of pancreatic juice and glucose.
- Add to the bottle 35 g of the liver and 15 g of the heart.
- Allow the bottle to rest for forty days; the liver and heart will dissolve.
- Fill a clean container (the size doesn’t matter) with ultrapure water.
- Add to the container a drop of the extract in the bottle.
- Shake vigorously (‘succussion’ in homeopathic terminology).
- Empty the container.
- Refill the container with pure water.
- Repeat the previous steps (shaking, emptying and refilling) 200 times.
- Use the resulting water to soak 5 mg lactose tablets.
The adding of the pancreatic juice is obvious: the potent pancreatic enzymes would digest the added tissues. The absurdity may go unnoticed if we don’t pay attention to the 9th step: repeating the previous steps (not all of them really, only from the 4th on), but… attention please: 200 times! With this dilution method, the only part that remains of the previous solution is what adheres to the glass after the container is emptied. One variant is to add one milliliter of the original suspension in 99 of water and shake, and of that solution take one ml and dilute it in 99 other ml of water, shake and repeat the same process 200 times. Or, to the same result, dilute the heart-liver suspension by a factor of 10 to the power of -400.
It’s impossible to imagine how much water would be necessary to achieve such an extreme dilution in a single step. Suffice it to say that there’s not enough water on Earth to do it even once. The most common homeopathic dilutions (30 C) would need a bucket of water one light-year in diameter. I cannot begin to imagine what size the bucket would have to be to achieve one of 200 C. Taking into account that in one mole of substance there are 6.02×1023 molecules, it’s easy to demonstrate that in a 12 C dilution there’s not one single molecule of the original product left.
This extreme dilution method was used by Hahnemann, keeping in mind that he worked with toxic substances, and the shaking (succussion) was done in the illusion that it would draw energetic principles from substances. But such a hope is staunchly contradicted by Amedeo Avogadro. Other theories, such as the failed ‘water memory’ hypothesis, have not been able to conquer the stubborn reality that, after diluting anything in water to a factor greater than 10 to the power of -12, there’s nothing in our bucket other than that: water. Take one drop of that water and soak a sugar tablet with it, allow it to dry and, presto! Pack and sell.
You can imagine how many tablets of Oscillococcinum can be prepared with a single duck. Well, not a full duck, just it’s liver and heart. The rest of the duck can be roasted by the executives at Boiron, the French homeopathic transnational, to celebrate annual sales of Oscillococcinum in excess of 20 million dollars. It’s not the goose, but the duck, and not its eggs, but it’s liver and heart, but they sure are golden.
Boiron has been sued in several countries for false advertising, that’s why they no longer state that their product cures influenza, but merely that it alleviates the symptoms. Several clinical trials have been carried out, all of them with negative results. Influenza usually goes away in a period of 5 days. The only study that reported any benefit said that the term of the disease was reduced… by 6 hours!
But since long ago and up until today, there’s a sucker born every minute, or in other words, dead men have no friends, let alone dead ducks. But, even if it’s offered for free, fraud has its dangers. And it’s not the composition of the product: it’s water, and if it’s clean, 5 drops of water sublingual will do you no harm. The danger is that people may feel protected and could overlook the containment and personal and home protection measures. As the comedian says ‘that’s a question’.
Find out more at:
Ernst, E.: Oscillococcinum, the homeopathic solution to the coronavirus threat?
Vickers AJ, Smith C. Homoeopathic Oscillococcinum for preventing and treating influenza and influenza-like syndromes., Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2004;(1): CD001957. PMID 14973976
E Ernst (Diciembre de 2002). «A systematic review of systematic reviews of homeopathy». Br J Clin Pharmacol 54 (6): 577-582
Translated from the original