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Arnica, or Why I Want To Cut A Bitch

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Okay, so I’m part of an online support group for trans men, and in that group, the use of arnica is widely promoted for the healing of bruising following top surgery.

Fair enough. I’m a martial artist with competition experience, and I know what arnica gel can do. Gently rub it into the affected area, and it’ll take down the bruising so quickly that you might believe it’s magic. I fully support anyone who wants to improve their appearance post-surgery by using arnica gel.

However. I recently saw a post in which multiple users were advocating the use of “30c” arnica. Which, if you’re not familiar with the sale of snake oil, is a homeopathic dilution of 10-60, which is a mindbogglingly tiny number. In fact, you’d need to give “two billion doses per second to six billion people for four billion years” in order to get a single molecule of arnica into a single one one of those six billion people. It’s one molecule of arnica for every nondecillion molecules of water.

So. How much water is a nondecillion molecules?

Avogadro’s number is 6.022 x 1023 – the number of molecules in a mole. A mole of water weighs just 18g, and as the density of water is 1.00 g/ml, that’s 18ml. For the sake of me not bothering to get a calculator out, let’s call that half of 1024 molecules. So 1024 molecules is 36ml of water.

36 litres of water is 1027. 36 cubic metres is 1030. 36 cubic kilometres is 1039. By this point you’re probably losing your sense of scale, so let me put that into terms you might understand. That’s five times the amount of water that’s in Loch Ness. Yeah, that Scottish loch that’s famous for possibly having a gigantic fucking cryptid living in it.

1032 molecules of water makes a body ever so slightly larger than Lake Huron. Lake Superior is barely three times bigger.

Remember which number we’re trying to get to? 1060? Yeah, it’s still an awful long way off, isn’t it?

1035 water molecules in the Mediterranean Sea. (3,600,000 km3). 1037 dwarfs the Atlantic Ocean. In fact, turns out the world’s oceans, seas, lakes, rivers and icy bits only contain 1.37 billion km3 of water. Which is only 4 x 1037 water molecules.

WAIT ONE GOSHDARN MINUTE. That would mean that diluting one molecule of arnica in 1060 molecules of water is a physical impossibility. Yep. Water molecules may be fucking tiny but 1060 is a fucking huge number.

In fact, we would need 1.66 x 1033 kg of water to substantiate such a claim. And one single arnica molecule, presumably carefully placed into the water by fucking Tinkerbell. Earth weighs just shy of 6 x 1024 kg. The motherfucking Sun weighs near as damn it 2 x 1030 kg.

So. We’re looking at a quantity of water that is so huge, “a thousand times more massive than the motherflipping Sun” is the closest I could get to putting it into terms that a human can get their heads round.

It’s also more than the estimated amount of water in the entire Milky Way galaxy (1045 molecules), and in the largest single body of water ever discovered (1048 molecules).

Which should put beyond all doubt that the claims made by homeopaths are inarguably false, that their dilutions make no sense and if diluting something makes it stronger, then just apply some tap water- I definitely washed some arnica off in the shower once, and the water supply should “remember” what it looks like.

Which is why it hacks me off so much that someone, somewhere has infected the transmasculine population with the nonsense idea that a dose of nothing more or less than water will improve their surgical results.

Dysphoria fucking sucks. Some b’stard is making a pretty penny out of it.

And if I find them, I will fucking cut them.

About Big Rook

Chess coaching and events in the north-west of England

3 responses »

  1. THANK YOU!!! I get so tired of this shit. I work in a wellness center and I’m confronted daily with homeopathy, cleanses, woo of every color. Which is fine if its a spiritual practice, but once you start touting your woo as fact, as science, that’s when I get in a huff. The great thing about science, about facts, is that a theory can be both tested and proven. We don’t have to rely on anecdote, on wishing real hard. There are studies for that shit. And the studies have shown time and again that homeopathy is a COMPLETE CROCK OF WATERED DOWN DOG SHIT. Anyways….. hoooey! I get a little heated talking about it. Thanks though, glad I’m not the only one.

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  2. I just bought some arnica montana 30c because my surgeon recommended its use (at that dilution). I keep reading that the MORE diluted, the MORE potent, which is counterintuitive, so why would this be widely accepted? Luckily I only spent $8 on this. I just read the wikipedia entry on “homeopathic dilutions” and there seems to be no consensus.

    I guess the best bet would be to get some arnica cream/gel/ointment to apply topically…A lot of sources seem to say not to take arnica by mouth because side effects could be severe. Which is why it is so diluted in pill form, I guess.

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    • Yeah, it’s homeopathic, which means it’s nonsense. 30c means there’s effectively NO arnica left in the dose- you’re lucky it only cost $8; I’ve seen it for way more in my local chemist (about 3x that for a vial smaller than a perfume bullet).
      The *scientific* consensus is that it’s a placebo, and luckily placebos work whether or not people know they’re placebos, and nobody’s quite sure why. Like, you can be told: “This is pure distilled water. There is literally no active ingredient in this bottle. But I want you to take it like it’s medicine, okay?” and it’ll still work. Which is nice 🙂
      The balm is absolute wonderstuff. I had a lump on my knee the size of a chicken’s egg (and the colour of beetroot) and it took it down to nothing in three days.

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