Early in my integrative medical practice, I treated a five-year-old boy who had chronic ear infections. Modern medical treatment at the time advocated antibiotics—sometimes taken continuously for weeks. Instead, I gave him the homeopathic remedy Pulsatilla 30c, a dilute formulation made from windflower (Pulsatilla pratensis). It matched the symptoms of his ear congestion as well as his sweet, mild nature. Two days after giving him this prescription, I was so worried about not doing the “usual” treatment that I called his mother to inquire about his symptoms. “Oh, Jimmy’s been fine since the day you saw him,” she told me. “His ear pain is completely gone.” She thanked me for the other changes she had witnessed in her son: he seemed stronger and more balanced—not just physically but emotionally and psychologically as well. To which I responded incredulously, “Really?”
Science hadn’t given me a framework for understanding how a minute amount of a substance could alleviate pain or the flu, much less facilitate emotional or spiritual transformation. But over the past 20 years, I’ve watched homeopathy assist hundreds of patients with their healing process.
I had started studying homeopathy because I’d wanted a more holistic approach to health care, but my pre-med major in molecular biology had made me a skeptic from the get-go. After all that focus on the cellular, genetic, and molecular functions of the body, you can imagine my reaction when my homeopathy teacher told me, “The more you dilute it the stronger it gets. It’s a lot of nothing.” Science hadn’t given me a framework for understanding how a minute amount of a substance could alleviate pain or the flu, much less facilitate emotional or spiritual transformation. But over the past 20 years, I’ve watched homeopathy assist hundreds of patients with their healing process.
Feed the Force
Homeopathy embraces the idea that all of us have a vital force, a power within us that guides growth and healing. A strong vital force keeps us healthy and moving in a positive direction, while a weak one allows diseases and disorders of all kinds to develop. Homeopathic medicine simply strengthens this vital force so healing can occur, working with the body and mind to support our intrinsic momentum toward balance and health.
What Are Remedies?
A strong vital force keeps us healthy and moving in a positive direction, while a weak one allows diseases and disorders of all kinds to develop. Homeopathic medicine simply strengthens this vital force so healing can occur, working with the body and mind to support our intrinsic momentum toward balance and health.
Homeopathic medicines, called “remedies,” derive from every possible natural substance—minerals, metals, gems, animals, and, of course, plants. Each source is placed in a solution (usually purified water) and repeatedly diluted and shaken (succussed) in a process called “potentization.” For example, a remedy might be processed 30 times, being diluted stepwise 1 part in 100 parts of solution until only the tiniest amount of the original substance remains. Such a remedy has what is called a 30c potency (the c stands for centesimal). Samuel Hahnemann, the founder of homeopathy and an advocate for discovering the “minimal dose” for a remedy, researched the effects of potentization and found that even after diluting a substance 1,000 times, it still remained capable of activating the healing force within us.
Choosing the Remedy and Dose
Homeopaths prescribe a remedy based purely on individual parameters: what makes symptoms better or worse; the time of day they appear; or whether a patient feels restless, anxious, or angry. The remedy they choose should fit the patient’s experience of the disease state, so there really isn’t one treatment for an illness. Instead, homeopaths look for the way this particular imbalanced state affects you, and that leads them to a remedy that supports your healing process. And as Jimmy’s recovery underscores, a remedy that suits the whole person will affect the whole person—body, energy, and mind.
The frequency with which a patient takes a homeopathic remedy varies with the intensity of the symptoms and the patient’s response to the treatment. For acute problems, you might start by placing three to five pellets of a 30c (or lower) remedy under the tongue every two to six hours. More intense symptoms may call for a similar dose every 20 to 30 minutes, whereas mild symptoms might require treatment only three to four times a day.
Homeopaths prescribe a remedy based purely on individual parameters: what makes symptoms better or worse; the time of day they appear; or whether a patient feels restless, anxious, or angry. The remedy they choose should fit the patient’s experience of the disease state, so there really isn’t one treatment for an illness.
If you feel much better after a dose, stop taking the remedy until the first sign that your symptoms have returned. In contrast to the typical stay-the-course pharmaceutical approach, this type of dosing reflects Hahnemann’s desire to find the minimal effective dose—based on his belief that too much medication, chemical or homeopathic, impedes our inner healing power.
Homeopathic First Aid Kit
Homeopaths usually match a remedy to the patient’s particular symptoms and emotional and mental makeup. That said, you can keep your medicine cabinet stocked with these remedies for a universal first aid kit.
- Aconitum napellus: Best for illnesses that come on after exposure to cold weather or cold wind; also excellent for an acute illness on the first day of onset (along with echinacea).
- Apis mellifica: For bee stings, bug bites, and hives that produce painfully itchy eruptions and that feel better with cold applications.
- Arnica montana: Eases all kinds of trauma: a fall on the ice, a knee colliding with the coffee-table corner, or the first game of tennis in three years. It comes in pellets for sublingual use or in topical creams for sore muscles and joints. Early use limits bruising, decreases pain, and facilitates rapid healing.
- Cantharis vesicatoria: The most common treatment for bladder infections that cause burning pain and frequent urination; also considered the best treatment for burns (kitchen or sunburn) that produce blisters.
- Hypericum perforatum: Helps heal injuries to nerve-rich areas, like the tips of fingers and toes, the spine, and the tailbone. Often used with Arnica.
- Ledum palustre: Go-to treatment for all kinds of puncture wounds, including animal and bug bites, where the wound is cold, yet is relieved by cold applications. Try with Arnica for black eyes.
- Nux vomica: A good remedy for overdoing of all kinds: eating, working, hangovers, and for undersleeping.
- Rhus toxicodendron: Particularly good for joint pain that responds better to warmth and gentle movement and worse to cold and immobility (a sprain, arthritis). Also works as a treatment for chicken pox and poison ivy.
- Ruta graveolens: Use with Arnica for sprains that worsen with motion, or when the injury has occurred where a tendon or a ligament attaches to bone.
- Silicea terra: Pushes foreign material out of the body, making it the remedy of choice to ripen and drain abscesses, assist the draining of ear infections, or help the body rid itself of a splinter.