The Fincke Process of Potentiation

by William F. Kaercher, MD, Philadelphia, PA

(This appeared as an article in The Homoeopathician, November 1914. With the exception of the description of the labelling of the stock boxes, there were no illustrations in the article. The Potentizing flask illustration is from the Fincke Patent. The Fincke vials, the potentizing vial, the regulator, and the box end are from my collection. The boxes containing all the manufacturing vials and back potencies were held by William F. Kaercher, MD Fincke's son-in-law— a practicing physician in Philadelphia, PA and the Secretary of Kent's Post-Graduate School. The collection was given by Kaercher's daughter to John A. Borneman. All the boxes are now (with a few exceptions) in the possession of Boiron in Newtown Square, PA.

It is interesting to note that the initial potency was not made by the multiple vial Hahnemannian method but, rather, in the single vial Korsakoff method. The current understanding of chemistry is that the glass vial would adsorb some of the original material. Unless a clean vial is used at every step (the Hahnemannian Method) there is a possibility that a molecule of the original MIGHT remain in the glass at potencies higher that the 12C— JW)

Saxony, the smallest kingdom of the German Empire, the home of Luther; of Bach, Handel and Wagner; of Hahnemann, Stapf and Hering, produced also Dr. Bernhardt Fincke, the Master Potentiator.

Dr. Fincke was a man of uncommon intellectual attainments. Being equally profound in physical science, in philosophy, in mathematics, in history, in logic, he brought all this knowledge into service in the elaboration and perfection of the theory of potentiation, and his grasp and knowledge of that phase of our medical science has been equaled by no man except the founder of Homeopathy.

For many years after graduation he labored patiently to adapt Hahnemann's doctrine and perfect the art of potentiation of medicinal substances. Finally he evolved his simple apparatus for producing those wonderfully efficacious, "quick, long and deep acting" [Kent quote] potencies, known the world over as the FINCKE HIGH POTENCIES.

The intense love, veneration, devotion and loyalty to the founder of our school which filled the being of Fincke, the Master Potentiator, at all times found expression by speech and pen, as manifest in one grand quotation from his thesis, Homoeosis:

"No sooner will homeopathics be acknowledged to be the science of healing than when the firm, scientific foundation is laid to which the immortal HAHNEMANN has furnished the cornerstone, POTENTIATION."

Dr. Fincke invented two apparatuses for the purpose of manufacturing fluxion potencies, for which he took out letters patent on August 24, 1869. The original apparatus, used until 1869, consisted of a fine tube, a vial and a graduated tank; the water flowing through the tube from the ordinary domestic faucet into the vial. From the vial it flowed over into the tank mathematically graduated to hold twenty thousand drachms of fluid, and the potencies were marked according to the signs in the tank. These potencies were of irregular notations: as 16c, llm, l9m, 23m, 37m, 47m, 103m, and so forth.

Dr. Fincke became aware that this method had three serious objections:

  1. The easy contamination caused by the splashing during the flow of liquid from the potentiating vial into the tank;
  2. The irregular notation of potencies;
  3. The error in principle: of "measuring the potentiating vehicle by measuring the liquid which flows away from the vial, or other receptacle of the material to be potentiated, to ascertain the degree of potentiation."

Hence, in 1869, he commenced repotentiation of all remedies by his new method, and as his work progressed the old-method potencies were discarded.

By the new apparatus "the potentiating-vehicle was measured before it entered the vial, or other receptacle of the material to be potentiated, for the purpose of ascertaining the degree of potentiation."

From 1869 until 1905 all the FINCKE HIGH POTENCIES were made by the new method, and all are of regular notation, viz.:


In order to introduce the subject of potentiation it is necessary to cite Samuel Hahnemann: Organon Sections 1, 50, 51, 264 and 269; particularly the truth emphasized in section 264. Quite appropriate to the subject is Hahnemann's famous aphorism:

"Die milde Macht ist gross," ["the small is the powerful"] conjointly with the Fincke aphorism:

"Gott hat seine Allmacht in das kleinste gelegt." ["God has laid his omnipotence into the smallest."]

S. Hahnemann, Lesser Writings, (Dudgeon, 1852,) p. 703:

"I do not consider any as my follower, who, in addition to leading an irreproachable, perfectly moral life, does not practice the new art in such a manner, that the remedy he administers to the patient in a non-medicinal vehicle (sugar of milk or diluted alcohol) contains such a small subtle dose of the medicine, that neither the senses nor chemical analysis can detect the smallest absolutely hurtful medicinal substance, indeed not the slightest trace of anything medicinal at all, which pre-supposes a minuteness of dose that must indubitably dispel all anxiety from all officers of state who have to do with medical police."

S. Hahnemann, Chronic Diseases, 1838, Vol. 5, p. 494: "What miserable law and what, generally, should hinder the physician, who of right should be a scholar, a thinking free man, a master of nature in his profession, to render a dangerous dose mild by diminution ?"

The foregoing quotations determine the point of view from which the Fincke process of Potentiation is to be considered: the Hahnemannian.

"The process of potentiation [hereafter described] is a necessary consequence and the complement of what Hahnemann, in his wisdom, has taught about potentiation: no doubt the greatest discovery of the nineteenth century. If it does not find friends with the many, it only partakes of the fate of the Master who is reviled daily, and yet continues to shape the course of scientific progress in general." (B. Fincke.)

Incompatibility of Allopathic and Homeopathic Schools

There is nothing that the dominant medical school and the homeopathic school possess in common which would point to the preparation "of efficacious remedies, except the crude substances which are to form their bases. For the allopathic school it is sufficient to know that the drugs for therapeutic purposes be obtained in their purity, and all the energy of the apothecary is bent upon this postulatum. And the homeopathic school has the same need of being assured of the purity of the substances intended to serve as the basis of the remedies in the hands of the homeopathician. But this is not enough. The homeopathician by the peculiar process of potentiation develops from the crude substances additional curative power which was not observable in the crude drug. Nay, it equalizes the drugs in their medical actions, be they dangerous or inert in their primitive state, so that they prove powerful remedies potent to cure, i. e., potencies without endangering the organism."

(B. Fincke: Potentiation. )

"The homeopathic healing art," says Hahnemann, (Organon, Section 269) "develops for its purposes the spirit-like medicine-forces of the crude substances, by means of a hitherto untried treatment peculiar to it, to a formerly unheard-of degree whereby they all only then become quite penetratingly efficacious and helpful, even those which in the crude state betray not the least medicine-force in the human body."

And Fincke adds:

"Thus even the most rapidly destroying poisons, such as hydrocyanic acid, the cobra and the rattlesnake poisons, when treated by the process of potentiation, while equally curative prove no more harmful than and just as powerful as the inert substance of a crystal of silicon or a small quantity of lime from an oyster shell. This is no more wonderful than it is true."

Hahnemann's Potentiation

Hahnemann's process of potentiation is too well known and needs no explanation here. Sections 270 and 271 of the Organon give very clear directions in terse language, while "this subject is fully explained in the third edition of the second part of the Materia Medica." (Note 138 to Section 271.)

Fincke Process

Of his own process Fincke says:

"It differs in many respects from the other methods known but in one essential point the Hahnemannian mode of preparation has been preserved and perfected and that is by adhering rigidly to the centesimal scale."

The Vehicle

A most important point to be considered in the process to obtain the curative forces of drug substances is the selection of the vehicle.

Three vehicles present themselves for consideration, namely:

Sugar of milk, Alcohol, Water.

Dr. Fincke discarded milk sugar because it "in itself has medicinal qualities which make it unfit for trituration."

"A similar objection might be raised to alcohol, but there is, however no vehicle so well adapted as pure alcohol to extract and preserve the medicinal quality of substances."

"The rapid evaporation of alcohol would make the potencies higher than does water; in the manner this manner the centesimal scale could not be well preserved throughout the whole process."

To use alcohol to potentiate a tincture to the cm potency would require approximately five thousand fluid drachms, or forty-nine gallons, of alcohol, if done according to Hahnemann's method of potentiation. The expense would be enormous and the money thrown away.

The earliest FINCKE HIGH POTENCIES were made with pure alcohol and distilled water. After the initial potencies (6 and 30 cent.) were made by alcohol, it required ninety-seven and three-fifths gallons of distilled water to run up a cm potency. Such large quantities could not be procured when needed.

Then he experimented with the Nassau water of Brooklyn, and the attending success determined the continued use of water as the potentiating vehicle.

Dr. Fincke reasoned thus:

"The initial potencies are made with alcohol, and the medicinal force in the sixth to the thirtieth has been so far potentiated that it can not be destroyed by anything chemical or physical, because it is of a different nature: is so-to-say spiritualized, though being not serve of spiritual, but of spirit-like dynamic nature as Hahnemann. Its very essence remains and can no more be changed by accidental substances contained in the vehicle in such a combination as found in the Nassau water. This water is to be taken as an individual by itself possessing a peculiar character which no other water shows.

All flowing waters show some likeness in composition, yet each retains its own peculiar character. So does the Mississippi, the Loch Katrine, the Croton, the Schuylkill, the Cochituate water.

Therefore the spirit-like remedy, by virtue of its magnetic and expansive nature, will diffuse through the flowing mass of water without being acted on by it in turn, in the least, as the homeopathic experiment upon the healthy and the sick will show.

May it not be that the intimate mixture of the different substances in the water prevents the separate action of each ingredient, just as the intimate mixture in the glass particles of the vial will not yield their medicinal properties to the alcohol contained therein? Each water has an individuality of its own that does not interfere with the action of high potencies in using it as vehicle for potentiation."

The Initial Potencies

Dr. Fincke made the initial potencies in a manner peculiarly his own, and it is wisest to cite his own words:

"Of the tinctura fortis one hundredth fluid drachm is added to ninety-nine hundredths fluid drachm of alcohol used as a vehicle and the vial is shaken for one minute in the rhythm of a dactylus (ONE, two, three), holding it in the hollow hand with the thumb on the cork, which gives 180 successions; and in this manner a unit of one fluid drachm is obtained in which, after the necessary manipulation, there is contained the one hundredth part of the tinctura fortis. Since the quantity is distributed equally throughout the fluid drachm in the vial in the ratio of one to hundred, the first centesimal potency has been made.

Instead of dropping one drop from this into the next vial filled with ninety-nine drops of alcohol as Hahnemann has it, the first potency vial, after its contents have been poured out into a vial for preservation, is emptied still further with two powerful jerks, which leaves behind exactly the one hundredth fluid drachm of the first potency needed for potentiation, and then again is filled with ninety-nine hundredths fluid drachm of alcohol, shaken as described in preparing the first potency; and thus is obtained the second centesimal potency.

The drachm-vials must be so calculated that they hold one fluid drachm as far as the neck of the vial, which must remain free to the rim for a reason which will appear hereafter.

"In this manner we proceed from potency to potency till the sixth potency is done, with all substances except the fatty or oily ones, which must be potentiated with alcohol as far as the thirtieth potency if they are to exhibit their whole efficaciousness in their administration upon the organism.

The first potencies, the 6th to the 30th centesimal, are called the initial potencies.

"After the medicinal substances have been treated thus far they can no more be destroyed by anything else in a material way because they have assumed the original dynamic spirit-like quality. But they will communicate themselves readily by transference to an unmedicinal vehicle, such as alcohol, water and sugar globules.

"Now the point in potentiation is reached when water can enter into the process as the vehicle. Water also recommends itself because during the process it is able to propagate and keep the medicinal qualities of the substances just as well as alcohol.

But it is not suited for their preservation. The medicine will escape and nothing will be left but the vehicle alone, which soon begins to spoil."

Recently a physician remarked that any high potency made with just plain water as the potentiating vehicle must be worthless: "only alcohol will do the trick." Yet he was obliged to admit that he dissolved pellets of the 2c, 5c, and cm potencies in common drinking water and administered refracta dosi, a mode which is generally adopted by the profession in acute diseases. The objector did not take very kindly to being 'proven guilty.'

The Fincke Apparatus

It was at one time thought by Hahnemann— and many think yet— that succussion was the vivifying element in potentiation, and various plans were adopted for producing violent succussion:

All of which Dr. Fincke had rejected as inferior to the mode of fluxion by siphon when taking out letters patent for the fluxion process.

While the potentiating-machines just mentioned are costly affairs, the apparatus necessary for the Fincke process of potentiation by fluxion is simple, cheap, and possesses one decided advantage over every potentiating-machine; i. e., easily replaced when broken, or— to use a shop term—"out of order."

The simple apparatus needed for the Fincke fluxion process for carrying on further potentiation beyond the hand-made initial potencies consists of:

1) The glass jars are of three sizes, holding respectively one pint, five quarts and five gallons, and are graduated to indicate respectively 100, 1000, 5000 fluid drachms.

A stand was prepared to hold the jars, arranged with a movable gutter about ten inches below the top of the stand. The gutter is wide enough to hold in its channel a square block of wood measuring one and one-half inches, with a three-fourths inch hole in the middle extending down within one-eighth inch of the bottom, in which is bored a small hole. This block is called the receiver, and is the receptacle for the potentiating vial during the fluxion.

2) The siphon is a glass tube of one-fourth inch caliber, of convenient length and bent at an angle to pass down over the upper third of the jar on the outside, where it is connected by:

Fine rubber tubing to a:

Glass tube of smaller caliber long enough to reach about an inch below the bottom of the jar.

A small piece of rubber tubing connects this glass tube with the regulator.

3) The regulator is a piece of glass tube four inches long and three-sixteenths inch thick, reduced at one end so as to leave a very small hole. After the regulator is attached to the siphon it is placed in the potentiating vial and will rest easily upon the bottom of the vial by adjusting the grooved gutter.

The Fluxion

A Fincke potentizing vial and regulator. About full size.

The jar is filled with clean, clear water; the potentiating vial containing 1/100 fluid drachm of the remedy to be potentiated is placed in the receiver. The siphon flow being started, the upper end of the regulator is inserted in the rubber tube and the lower end with the fine hole is carefully adjusted upon the bottom of the vial.

When the atmospheric pressure forces the water, the vehicle, upon the medicinal fluid in the vial (1/100 fluid drachm), the mixing of vehicle and medicine, in the appropriate time, affords self-potentiation without further aid on the part of the operator.

Allowing appropriate time for the medicine to combine with the vehicle is a very important item in the process of potentiation.

It should take at least as much time to make one fluxion-potency as it does to make one Hahnemannian potency. Therefore the fluxion must be so regulated by the small hole in the regulator as not to exceed five hundred fluid-drachms in one hour, which allows the medicine ample time to give to every particle of vehicle its characteristic quality of medicinal activity.

This develops by the general laws of uniform propagation of pressure through fluids, induced by the atmospheric pressure, and this pressure is converted into fluxion by the action of the siphon through the fine opening at the lower end of the regulator.

The potentiating vial is two by nine-sixteenths inches, with a narrow neck and prominent lip. If the action of the siphon progresses properly, it can be seen that the narrow neck exerts a controlling pressure upon the water in the vial which can sometimes be observed as the surplus escapes with regular pulsations, 120 to 130 per minute.

The potentiation is effected in a moderately light room to which the sunlight has no access, and the stand is covered with a curtain to exclude the light from the jars.

Preservation of the Potencies

When the desired potency has been obtained, the vial is taken from the receiver by pouring, followed by two strong jerks, so that about 1/100 fluid drachm remains. Now a fluid drachm of 95 per cent alcohol is poured into the vial, the cork is inserted, the vial shaken twice in the rhythm of a dactylus; labeled on the top of the cork with the name and the potency, and on the side of the cork with the date of preparation, it is placed in reserve in the collection of remedies.

Saving of the Potencies

During the potentiating years 1869 to 1882, Dr. Fincke kept the sixth, the thirtieth, all the hundredth, all the thousandth, and all the five-thousandth potencies up to the one-hundred-thousandth; and beyond that the cm's to the millionth and so on ad libitum. Later, only the 6, 30., 2c, 5c, 9c, 1m, 5m, 9m, 10m, and by 10m's to the cm, and the cm's to the millionth, were saved. In the last years of his potentiating efforts he saved only the 6., 30., 2c, 5c, 1m, 10m, 50m and cm potencies.

The "square root" symbol indicates "Elements of Potentiation." This preparation, made in 1869, was begun with Lachesis 6, provided from Hering's original source through Boericke.

For stowing away the vials, he made paste-board boxes two and a half inches in width by two and a quarter inches in height and six inches in length with a suitable cover going down deep and easy over it. On the front of the cover is written the number of the potencies contained in the box, the name of the remedy, the substance from which it was made and the year of manufacture:

A potentiating record was kept in which was entered every potency as soon as made and preserved in alcohol; also a register, in which was entered all the remedies with the elements and details of preparation.

For the therapeutical application the high potencies are not used in fluid form but in globules. A drachm vial is filled with No. 10 globules and moistened with the desired potency. From one to ten pellets may be given for a dose ad libitum. To give more is not necessary as it will not accomplish any more work. The posological laws can be consulted elsewhere.

When recording cases at the office, during house-visits (at the bedside), and recording cases for publication in the medical journals, the name of the maker or at least his first letter should always be added to the potency number; e. g., (Fincke) or (F.).

Adding the name of the maker after the potency number is necessary from a scientific point of view, as well as simple justice to the maker of the potency, in order to make records of provings and of cures with high potencies available for comparison in regard to their mode of preparation, and to reason from this upon the physiological effect of the remedy upon the organism.

To change the number of the potencies, or entirely omit the name of the maker or the number of potency, is utterly inadmissible as unscientific and producing but faulty record.

The last remedy potentiated by Dr. Fincke was in October, 1905, just one year before entering into his final reward for a life well spent in the propagation and dissemination of our priceless heritage, i. e., Hahnemannian Philosophy and Potentiation.

Two Fincke vials, full size

We need not here touch upon the efficacy of the FINCKE HIGH POTENCIES; suffice the remark of Dr. Kent:

The FINCKE HIGH POTENCIES never failed me; they act quickly, long and deeply."

In conclusion, I feel it a pious duty to quote from Vol. II, 1879, pages 394, 398, 400 and 401, of The Organon translation by Dr. Thomas Skinner,— co-laborer with Dr. B. Fincke, in the art of potentiating medicinal substances, and himself a witness of the Fincke apparatus in operation, in June, 1876, hence, one fully competent to express an opinion on the Fincke Process of Potentiation:

"It is to Dr. Fincke alone that the profession must be forever indebted for the conception of this best of methods of dynamizing all medicines... Dr. Fincke has long ceased to believe in succussion as the potentizing agent, and I am now perfectly satisfied that Dr. Fincke, though standing almost alone is in the right of it, as I shall endeavor to show in my next paper on the subject ... Dr. Fincke's beautifully simple process adapts itself to any scale: decimal, centesimal, millesimal, or any other— it is equally accommodating— as you have simply to change your calculation from every hundred to every ten or one thousand, as the scale may be. The drop over of the last potency forms THE NECESSARY LINK IN THE LIQUID-CHAIN OF THE FLUXION PROCESS... My own machine, however excellent and truly centesimal, sinks into utter insignificance when contrasted with the mathematically true and physically simple process of attenuation of Dr. Fincke, and, although it may still prove useful for the lower powers up to 1m, the fluxion process of Fincke must and will necessarily, take precedence of all existing machines or methods of dynamization." [Italics mine— W.F. K.].

On page 398, Dr. Skinner quotes Dr. Swan as writing:

"Dr. Fincke having discovered and demonstrated that FLUXION ALONE was as efficacious as succussion (and to him be all the honor of the discovery)."

©2000 Julian Winston