The Pharmacy of Boericke and Tafel

A Discussion of Manufacturing and Potencies from the 1925 B & T catalogue


Science today is acknowledging and demonstrating the might of the infinitesimal. The massive doses of one hundred years ago have disappeared and the leaders in scientific medicine are no longer afraid to maintain that infinitesimal doses effect cures.

Samuel Hahnemann was the first to demonstrate that massive doses were unnecessary. That the small dose is as or more effective. In the early part of his career, Hahnemann made use of the pure mother tinctures in ordinary doses, but observed that the primary or poisonous effects of the drug were too active. This induced him to reduce his doses until he came to make use of attenuations or dilutions, and he found that when the attenuations were properly prepared the drugs retained their specific or dynamic action and that the disease was more speedily overcome than when cruder preparations were employed. The truth of this observation became more and more evident as experience with the attenuations increased among the followers of Hahnemann.

During Hahnemann's time it is probably true that attenuations, or potencies as they were soon named, higher than the three hundredth were not used, surely not by Hahnemann himself. However, as homeopathy spread from Germany all over the world the use of higher and higher potencies also increased until in the time of Swan, Fincke and others they reached the highest potencies ever used. Some who use the high potencies up to say the hand-made thousandths, scoff at the idea of the 10M, 50M and CM and while it is difficult to explain the modus operandi of the CM, it is just as difficult to explain the reason for the action of the hand-made two hundredths and yet the two hundredth potencies are used by thousands of homeopathic physicians with amazingly good results.

The action of all drugs upon the human body is twofold. There is a primary action and there is a secondary action dynamic action. Corresponding to these two manifestations of power there are within the drug a material force or energy and a dynamic force or energy. The effect of the material or physical force or energy is sharp and violent, but short lived; the effect of the dynamic force is gentle, strong and long continued.

Formerly it was thought that the force or strength of action is in some way dependent on the mass or weight of the drug administered. The violence of the primary action of a drug does bear a certain relation to its mass or weight, but the strength of its secondary or dynamic action has no relation to its mass or bulk. Its dynamic strength is, no doubt, increased because of the diffusion of molecules and their increased room for activity.


Because of the extreme delicacy of these agents, too great a care in their preparation cannot be exercised. In our preparation of potencies for the use of homeopathic physicians, the utmost care is taken. The alcohol used is the finest spirits, made of sound grain. No chemical tests will determine the difference between grain and molasses alcohol, but all perfumery houses use only grain alcohol or spirits to hold in solution the delicate essence of the flowers from which the perfumes are made. We believe that in handling the homeopathic potencies we are handling substances far more delicate than the finest perfumes, hence we use only pure grain alcohol or spirits in making our potencies.

All vehicles are scrupulously clean— no bottle or vial used to contain a remedy is ever used for any other remedy. All containers or bottles are new, clean and have never contained any remedy or drug. They are washed clean, rinsed in alcohol and sterilized. Those who make or "run up" these attenuations are pharmacists of experience.

The physician who uses these potencies in the treatment of the sick can be sure that he is using an accurately made and honestly marked potency. The honest marking is highly important, also it is important to use the Hahnemannian method in making the potencies and marking them and not an arbitrary system of one's own as Jenichen did. Jenichen potentized some hundred or two homeopathic remedies, potentized them up to the "CM" and higher according to his owns system, and his method was to consider that every ten succussions given to a remedy raised the potency one centesimal; he did not add alcohol between each potency, but just hammered away and marked them up, but a Jenichen thousandth potency was not a thousandth potency at all.

We use the Hahnemannian system in making and marking our potencies. For ninety-five years we have been accumulating this set of attenuations and years and years of work have been expended on them. Such a list as we carry in stock cannot be made in a few years, it is physically impossible.

Potencies are divided into two classes, hand-made potencies usually made with alcohol, and fluxion potencies made with water by means of a machine. We can best describe the hand-made potencies by describing our own Boericke & Tafel's methods.

Box with 30 remediesThere are two methods of making and marking potencies, the decimal method and the centesimal method. The first, the decimal, is usually used to make the lower potencies or strengths. By this method nine parts of the diluent are used to one part of the preceding potency and the mixture pounded or succussed powerfully ten times on a large pad; this pad is used to protect the hand. This method is usually used up to the 6x after which the other method, the centesimal, is used to continue the potency. The lower potencies such as the lx, 2x, 3x and 6x we make and keep in glass stoppered bottles for sale and for use in making the higher potencies. We make and keep on hand at all times potencies of about 1500 remedies from the first centesimal to the thirtieth. Each remedy is kept by itself in a dust-proof box [seen at left]. Each box contains thirty vials numbered from one to thirty and each vial contains the dilution of this particular remedy corresponding to the number stamped on the cork of the vial. Thus, at any time we can supply any dilution or potency from the first to the thirtieth.

Alcohol is the menstrum or diluent used and as all potencies are kept there is no waste. We mention this here because when we go higher than the thirtieth, say to the one-thousandth, not all the intermediate potencies are kept and there is a waste of alcohol and consequently these two-hundreth, five-hundredth and thousandth potencies are higher in price. The next higher potency above the thirtieth which we have for sale is the two hundredth. These are made from the thirtieth, the thirty first from the thirtieth by taking one drop of the thirtieth potency and ninety-nine drops of alcohol and pounding or succussing the vial containing the mixture powerfully ten times. In the same way the thirty-second is made from the thirty-first and the thirty-third from the thirty-second. Thus, up to the two-hundreth. This takes time and it takes alcohol, as not all the intermediate potencies are kept as is the case in making the thirtieth potencies. We also make for sale the five-hundredth and the one-thousandth potencies. These are all hand-made and the diluent used in making them is the finest grade alcohol or spirits. There are no finer therapeutic agents made than these hand-made potencies made with pure alcohol. We catalogue them as Tafel's High Potencies, but they are not so marked on the bottle, as we have no hand-made high potencies other than these. These potencies are all made only by experienced pharmacists and extreme care is exercised in keeping all utensils scrupulously clean. To insure accuracy a specially constructed mechanical adder is used to record each potency as it is made.


Some of the most wonderful cures in the homeopathic school have been made with the high potencies in cases which have failed to yield to the well-chosen simillimum in the lower potencies.

Tafel's 200th 500th and 1000th potencies are all hand-made potencies, made with the finest alcohol. Each potency has received twelve succussions, therefore each 200th potency has received 2400, each 500th potency 6000, and each 1000th potency 12,000. By these successive succussions something is liberated in the drug cells, possibly the ions are to some extent disintegrated. At any rate a new power seems to have been developed which has frequently cured a case unaffected by the lower potencies.

The remedies in the following list having ** prefixed may be had in the 200th 500th and 1000th potencies; those with one * prefixed in the 200th and 500th potencies, while those with no asterisk prefixed can be had in the 200th potency only.

(Higher potencies than 1M are discussed under "The Skinner Machine at B & T.")

©2000 Julian Winston