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Homopathic medicine

Dear Reader,

Some years ago I read an article about a woman who choose to use homopathic medicine instead of “normal medicine” to treat her breast cancer. Sadly she died a horrible death, I think it was worse care than that given to Adolf Hilter’s mother (Klara). Klara also died of breast cancer, but she had a conventional doctor (Eduard Bloch) who did his best to treat her cancer and ease her symptoms. While sadly her cancer was too advanced when she contacted her doctor, she did have surgical treatment which could have saved her (if she had been treated at a more early stage). Sadly she had a secondary tumor which then killed her.

The thing which shocks me is that a pair of doctors about 100 years ago did a better job for Mrs Hilter than the alternative healers did for the woman in that sorry tale.

One of the drugs used to treat Klara was iodoform, this is triiodomethane. If a person was to just trust the wikipedia entry on Klara Hilter then it is not clear what the intent of the doctor was when he used this compound on Klara. However one science blog explains how iodoform has been used in medicine for wound dressings. Unfortunately for both Klara Hilter and the modern woman whose breast cancer was mismanaged the tumor grew so large that it broke the skin.

I have to say that I would expect less from Eduard Bloch and his coworkers about 100 years ago than I would of a modern doctor, imagine.

No decent X-ray equipment

No Ir-192 for brachytherapy

No Co-60 or Cs-137 for decent teletherapy sets

No modern drugs

So I would say that Mrs Hilter’s doctor was doing a much better job for Klara than the modern homopathic doctors. I hold the view that homopathic doctors are not real doctors, homopathic medicine is something which claims a mechanism which is not supported by science. It is interesting that young Adolf was very pleased with the efforts of his mother’s doctor, it has been reported that he had a great liking for Eduard Bloch even while Hilter knew that Eduard was jewish. Sadly the fact that a Jewish doctor had tended his mother in her final illness did not make the older Hitler understand that the antijewish policies of the nazi state were deeply wrong. It is important to understand that Hitler and the nazi state did not just harm jews, they hated (and harmed) gipsys (roma), slavs, homosexuals, freemasons, Jehovah’s witnesses and a range of other people who did not see the world the world the same way as themselves. Sadly I am unable to understand the reasons why Adolf Hitler did the things he did, as the choices made in this vile man’s mind can not be explained with chemistry we will not discuss them in my blog. Now back to chemistry.

Iodoform is a simple molecule which has been used for dressing wounds, one of the concerns with a case like Klara’s one of the concerns was infection. Now you might wounder what iodoform is, it is a simple molecule with the formula CHIwhich has C3 symmetry. The molecule is tetrahedral in shape, if it is turned on the same axis as the CH bond then it can be turned three times by 120 degrees to get something with exactly the same atomic coordinates.

F.Bertolotti, N.Curetti, P.Benna and G.Gervasio recently reported the solid state structure of iodoform in J. Mol. Strucutrue, 2013, 1041, page 106. they were not the first people to do strucutral crystallography on iodoform. The first report was in the 1950s by T.L.Khotsyanova, A.I.Kitaigorodskij and Yu.T.Struchkov, Zh.Fiz.Khim.(Russ.)(Russ.J.Phys.Chem) , 1953, 27, 647. I have looked and the two groups got very similar results.

The unit cell dimensions for the original determination were

a = 6.830, b = 8.830 and c = 7.530 Å

alpha = 90, beta = 90 and gamma = 120 degrees

The more modern determination has the following cell dimensions

a = 6.555, b = 6.555 and c = 6.985 Å

alpha = 90, beta = 90 and gamma = 120 degrees

This makes the cell very much noncubic, one side has a different length and also one of the angles is clearly not 90 degrees. This makes it a hexagonal cell, the space group is P63. Here is one view of a unit cell.


Iodoform cell showing the two molecules in the cell.


Second view of the cell showing clearly that it is a hexagonal cell

If we look at the bond angles in the iodoform molecule angle I1 C I1b is 114.85 degrees, the angle I1a C I1b is 114.85 and the last angle I1a C I1 is 114.85 degrees. This means that the molecule is distorted away from a perfect tetrahedron by repulsion between the large iodine atoms. The H C I angle is 103.35 degrees. Here is a ball and stick view of a single iodoform molecule from the side.


Side view of iodoform, ball and stick view

Here is the view from the same angle now using a spcae filling model


Side view using space filling model

Now if we take a view from the top along the axis of the CH bond we should be able to see that the molecule has a C3 axis.


Lastly the C-H distance in iodoform is 1.136 Å while the C-I distance is 2.118 Å. Iodoform is not normally made by the reaction of methane, methyl iodide or methylene diiodide (diiodomethane) with iodine. Instead it is normally made by the reaction of a methyl ketone such as acetone with iodine under alkaline conditions. We might be able to go through the mechanism of this reaction another day.

For those of you might want some light relief about homopathic medicine, I suggest that you look at this film. Which is a black comedy about how homopathic doctors would treat a car crash victim. It is even better than seeing internet Hilter getting mad about the parody films.


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