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Collected by:- Dr Vinay Mistry


 Oscillococcinum is a homeopathic alternative medicine marketed to relieve influenza-like symptoms. It is one of the most popular homeopathic preparations. The name

The preparation is derived from duck livers, which are diluted to 200C. This is such a high dilution that the final product contains not even one molecule of the original liver. Homeopaths claim that the molecules leave an imprint in the dilution that causes a healing effect on the body, although available evidence does not support efficacy beyond placebo.


  • 1 Origin and history
  • 2 Preparation
  • 3 Efficacy

Origin and history

The word Oscillococcinum was coined in 1925 by the French physician Joseph Roy (1891-1978) who saw military duty during the Spanish Flu epidemic of 1917. Roy wrote that on examining the blood of flu victims, he had observed an oscillating bacterium which he named Oscillococcus.

 Roy claimed he had detected it in the blood of patients that had several viral diseases like herpes, chicken pox and shingles.

He believed that this bacterium was the causative agent of diseases as varied as eczema, rheumatism, tuberculosis, measles, and cancer. He also detected it in the blood of cancer patients, so he tried a vaccine-like therapy on them, which was unsuccessful.

 Medical science has since disproved Roy's theory: rheumatism, for example, is not caused by bacteria, and measles is caused by a virus far too small for Roy to have observed in his optical microscope.

 He searched for the bacterium in several animals until he found it on the liver of the Long Island duckling. The modern preparation is created from livers of Muscovy Duck (see the preparation section for the details).

In France the selling of all products manufactured according to the Korsakovian principle of dilution was forbidden until 1992, with the exception of Oscillo, thanks to a special measure made for it. As of 2000 Oscillococcinum was one of the top ten selling drugs in France, was publicized widely in the media, and was being prescribed for both flu and cold. As of 2008 it sells $15 million per year in the U.S., and it also sells widely in Europe.


The ingredients of a one gram tube of Oscillococcinum are listed as:

  • Active ingredient: Anas Barbariae Hepatis et Cordis Extractum (extract of Muscovy Duck liver and heart) 200CK HPUS 1x10-400g
  • Inactive ingredient: 0.85 g sucrose, 0.15 g lactose (100% sugar).

The 200CK indicates that the preparation entails a series of 200 dilutions of the starting ingredient, an extract from the heart and liver of a Muscovy Duck. Each step entails a 1:100 dilution, where the first mixture contains 1% of the extract, the second contains 1% of the first mixture, etc. The K indicates that it is prepared by the Korsakovian method, in which rather than 1% of the preparation being measured out at each stage and then diluted, a single vessel is repeatedly emptied, refilled, and vigorously shaken (in homeopathic terminology "succussed"), and it is assumed that 1% remains in the vessel each time. The final pill contains none of the original extract, as the 200C dilution is so extreme that the remedy contains none of the original duck liver. Mathematically, in order to have a reasonable chance to obtain one molecule of the original extract the patient would have to consume an amount of the remedy many times larger than the known universe.

Under the 1938 Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, only those substances listed in the Homeopathic Pharmacopeia of the United States (HPUS) and prepared according to the guidelines therein may be marketed as homeopathic. Only preparations of Oscillococcinum made according to those guidelines may be thus labeled. "A product's compliance with the requirements of the HPUS, USP, or NF does not establish that it has been shown by appropriate means to be safe, effective, and not misbranded for its intended use."

 Oscillococcinum is generally considered harmless. When Boiron's spokeswoman Gina Casey was asked if a product made from the heart and liver of a duck was safe, she replied: "Of course it is safe. There's nothing in it."


There is little to no scientific evidence that Oscillococcinum has any effect beyond placebo. None of its active ingredient is present in a dose of the final product, and, although homeopaths claim the diluted molecules leave an "imprint" in the remedy, there is no known mechanism for how the diluted remedy could have a medicinal effect in this way. Homeopathy as a whole is considered pseudoscience.

 Since it is used for the relief of symptoms of flu, a disease that goes away on its own in a variable number of days, the best it could do is shorten the duration of those symptoms. If one takes any medication and one's flu goes away, then it is easy to attribute this to the medication; however, the infection would have resolved anyway. Someone who gets over a mild strain of flu will attribute the mildness to the efficacy of the homeopathic preparation and not to the fact that it was a mild strain, and will recommend it to other people, spreading its popularity. Also, the most likely explanation for its effectiveness with flu symptoms is that patients are misdiagnosing the symptoms of several rhinovirus diseases or of allergies to several hundred substances, and attributing them to a flu infection that they don't have.

 A 2000 clinical trial of Oscillococcinum found it to be superior to placebo in treatment and prevention of flu.

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