Posted by: Kash Farooq | August 21, 2011

Weird Homeopathy – Oscillococcinum

A remedy created from a bacteria that does not appear to exist.

Lots of homeopathic remedies that are probably all chemically identical. Image via Wikimedia Commons

Boiron are a massive company providing homeopathic products in 59 countries.  In 2004, it employed a workforce of 2,779 and had a turnover of €313 million. [Source].

One of their products is called ‘Oscillococcinum’ and is marketed to relieve influenza-like symptoms.

Oscillococcinum and Boiron have been in the news recently after a threatening letter was sent to Italian blogger, Samuele Riva, who had published a couple of blog posts about Oscillococcinum. There is an English translation of the letter on this blog.

So, why does this product qualify to be included on the Weird Homeopathy List? Well, there is phenomenon called the Streisand effect – in which “an attempt to hide or remove a piece of information has the unintended consequence of publicizing the information more widely”. I already knew that Oscillococcinum’s “active” ingredient was duck liver. Since all the publicity, however, I now know that duck liver is used as it contains a bacteria called Oscillococcus.

But surely a remedy made from bacteria doesn’t qualify for the Weird Homeopathy List? It’s not like it is a remedy made from the Light of Venus or a Thunderstorm?

The problem is: Oscillococcus doesn’t appear to exist.

The French physician, Joseph Roy, who discovered the bacteria, wrote that on examining the blood of flu victims of the 1917 Spanish Flu epidemic, he had observed an oscillating bacterium which he named Oscillococcus. He then went on to claim he had also seen it in the blood of the patients with herpes, chicken pox, shingles, eczema, rheumatism, tuberculosis, measles, and cancer. And he decided that all these diseases were caused by Oscillococcus.

He then started looking for the bacteria elsewhere – and found it in the liver of a duck. And this is the bacteria that is used to create Boiron’s Oscillococcinum.

Joseph Roy is the only person to have ever seen Oscillococcus. Why is this? Let’s apply Occam’s Razor:

Option 1

Roy’s microscope was far better than any developed since. In the last 100 years we have not been able to create equipment as sophisticated as Roy’s microscope, enabling us to see the Oscillococcus bacteria. The knowledge and technology used to create his microscope has since been lost, and never again will humankind be able to develop such an amazing piece of equipment to enable us to see Oscillococcus.

Perhaps it was alien technology? The aliens came to Earth several thousand years ago to help the Egyptians build their pyramids. And then they came to see Joseph Roy in the early 1900s and gave him a microscope.

Option 2

Joseph Roy probably just witnessed the Brownian Motion of bubbles on the microscope slide and didn’t know what he was seeing. [Source]

I think I’ll suggest Option 2 is more likely.

So, this is why I’ve added Oscillococcinum to the Weird Homeopathy list. To create it you need to:

  1. Get an extract from the heart and liver of a Muscovy Duck.
  2. Make up a mixture: 1% heart/liver extract, 99% water.
  3. Pour all the water out of the container and fill it back up with some new water. Don’t worry – the tiny bit of water on the walls of your container will remember the heart/liver/non-existent bacteria.
  4. Shake vigorously.
  5. Repeat steps 3-4 another 199 times (as this is how many times Boiron do it for their Oscillococcinum remedy).
  6. Now put a drop of the water on a pill. Bingo: a remedy to ease the symptoms of influenza.

After you’ve completed these steps:

Mathematically, in order to have a reasonable chance to obtain one molecule of the original extract, the patient would have to consume an amount of the remedy roughly 10321 times the number of atoms in the observable universe. [Source]

This appears to be acknowledged by Borion themselves:

When Boiron’s spokeswoman Gina Casey was asked if a product made from the heart and liver of a duck was safe, she replied: “Of course it is safe. There’s nothing in it.” [Source]

So, as Boiron are making millions selling a product that has nothing in it, derived from a bacteria that doesn’t appear to exist, I’ve decided to create my own influenza remedy:

  1. Get some unicorn tears, some elf saliva and some goblin sweat.
  2. Make up a mixture: 1% unicorn tear/elf saliva/goblin sweat extract, 99% water.
  3. Sprinkle some fairy dust into your mixture.
  4. If you want to go the extra mile, ask a dragon to heat it up.
  5. Pour all the water out of the container and fill it back up with some new water. Don’t worry – the tiny bit of water on the walls of your container will remember the unicorn tear/elf saliva/goblin sweat extract.
  6. Shake vigorously.
  7. Repeat steps 5-6 another 199 times.
  8. Now put a drop of the water on a pill. Bingo: a remedy to ease the symptoms of influenza.

I think the addition of the “dragon step” is a stroke of genius and will produce a much more effective and powerful flu remedy.

Now where do I go to get my big-homeo cheque?

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  1. I think it’s clear that if Oscillococcus doesn’t exist, then applying the “less is more” principles of homeopathy, it may well be the most powerful remedy that has or ever can be made.

    Or not.

  2. You’re so right about the dragon step. It makes all the difference. And I’ll let you in on a little secret of mine here. Add fresh mandragora to the mix, and you can even cure Swine flu! I wonder what Madame Pomfrey would think of that… ;o) Thanks for your very entertaining post! :o)

  3. Just for info: Esowatch has updated business data on Boiron, the company has grown quite a bit since 2004…

    For those who can understand German, our articles in that language on Boiron and Oscillococcinum are slightly better, but we have not enough authors to keep the translations up-to-date…

  4. Hmm I hear troll farts are good for flatulence (at least 30K though) and if you suffer from pimples on the bum, then moon dust is an absolute godsend (make sure you use the ultrapowerful 200K dilution).


  5. since water already touches everything on earth in liquid or gaseous form all water would already be a homeopathic treatment and no need to concentrate if further by the processes outlined and practiced in the industry.

  6. Its a nice bit of history on the name, but no homeopath has claimed that its a bacteria. They know its duck liver, and that according to the law of similars it has good effect on treating and preventing influenza. If you tend to get a flu here and there, give it a try and see how it works.
    Mandragora has reasonably common use in homeopathy and is very effective when indicated.
    And use a little logic in your mockery at least: if you don’t follow the principles and preparations used in homeopathy, its not homeopathy.

  7. Just pinged an email to Bioron asking them if they have any evidence for the existence of Oscillococci. Curious to see how they respond.

  8. I had no idea that consuming duck heart and/or liver caused the symptoms of influenza. I must warn people of this. Wouldn’t want pate’ fanatics flooding the hospitals with flu symptoms now would we.

  9. I haven’t have such a good laugh for ages…thank you! 🙂


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