Water is essential for life, providing the medium in which every biochemical interaction occurs, and playing key roles in biochemistry.1 Reports of “memory” and structuring effects in water solutions,2–4 and the presence of nanostructures in highly dilute solutions5–9 have been suggested as mechanisms underlying homeopathy,10–12 and reports of transmission of biological information from/into liquid water13,14 have suggested a role for electromagnetic fields in the biological activity of water.15 However, significant controversies remain unresolved,16–18 and further studies providing new data are needed to bring clarity to this topic.

In this issue of JACM we present two experimental studies that report biological effects that could be attributed to memory effects in water: Iman Rad and colleagues, in Electronic Transmission of Antibacterial Property Into Water at Extremely Low Frequency Range: A Preliminary Study, report the transmission of the growth inhibitory property of an ampicillin solution to deionized water. The authors used a commercially available Bicom “bioresonance” therapy device purported to transmit biological information between samples of liquids,19 and reported differences in bacterial growth and changes in the frequency content of the signals generated by the device, for treated samples as compared with controls. Rajesh Kumar Jain and colleagues, in Development of Software for Automatic Analysis of Intervention in the Field of Homeopathy, report that administration to people of different homeopathic remedies at various dilutions produced measurable changes in skin impedance and heart rate variability, as assessed using an automated software platform.20

These are provocative results, for which no broadly accepted explanatory mechanism exists. Certainly, no single study can be considered definitive, and many questions remain regarding the results of these studies. However, in the interest of encouraging independent replication and extension of these results, the editors of this journal believe that when studies clear the bar of peer review, the absence of a known mechanism should not preclude the publication of novel results. Quite the opposite, scientific progress has often been marked by new observations that lead to critical questioning of basic assumptions and models.

Certainly, the implications of results such as these, which challenge the basics of our scientific models, require extraordinary evidence. To form a consensus within the community of scientists, it is necessary to assess the consistency of these results through independent replication. In the absence of further replication, these results will remain as notes in the margins of science, and the lingering controversies around water “memory,” structuring, and possible biological activity will remain.

It is the hope of the editors that the publication of these studies in JACM will encourage critical and creative thinking, collaboration, and lead to independent replication of these and similar studies. If these results were to be verified in further studies, it is likely that these studies would also shed light on the underlying mechanisms of action, opening the possibility to make significant steps toward a better understanding of homeopathy.

Also in this issue, we present Part 1 of a review on studies of homeopathic preparations from Sabine D. Klein and colleagues: Physicochemical Investigations of Homeopathic Preparations: A Systematic Review and Bibliometric Analysis—Part 1. This comprehensive survey concludes that the reporting quality of studies in this area has increased over the years with a significant increase from 13% of publications rated as “high reporting quality” before 2000 compared to 48% since then.The majority of studies were performed in Europe, with India contributing 15% of the studies in recent years.

The results of this systematic review could be pleasing both to proponents and to those who are skeptical of homeopathy: for proponents, the improvement of study quality suggests that we are now obtaining a clearer view on whether or not homeopathic preparations have particular physicochemical properties. To the skeptical mind, since this review makes no comment on the veracity of studies, the results of this review could be interpreted as meaning that since higher quality studies have still not produced any solidly groundbreaking results, the likelihood that homeopathic preparations actually have measurable physicochemical properties is now diminished. We hope that as more data arrives in the future, we will indeed have a clearer view on this controversial area of study.

This article originally appeared in the May issue of JACM at https://doi.org/10.1089/acm.2018.0080

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This dynamic infographic allows you to interact with the data from a recent systematic review of human randomized controlled trials reporting use of only nonphysical contact treatment.

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