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Homeopathy 101

What is Homeopathy?

Like many other natural alternative medicine options, homeopathy is very likely something that you are familiar with. You have heard of it, but you don’t really know what it is, what it does or whether it works or not. Of course, it’s normal for people to treat alternative medicines with a bit of skepticism. 

There is a lot of information out there about it and as far as its benefits go, the messages are incredibly mixed. You may have seen a friend benefit from it, but a doctor dismissed its effectiveness. While alternative medicines are growing in stature, as far as homeopathy goes… it’s perhaps the least misunderstood. 

Homeopathy is a healing technique. It is part of a system of thearpies found under the unmbrella of Alternative and Complementary Medicine (CAM). More than that, it harnesses natural substances to allow the body to heal itself.

You know your brain is a supercomputer, and your body is equally as amazing. It constantly heals itself when you don’t even know there’s an issue. Sometimes, though, it needs a helping hand in the healing process.

For example, there’s a lot of conversation around food intolerance and allergies. Not everyone who has an intolerance will drop dead after eating a specific food. Your body can respond in other ways, it might be a sore throat, it could be inflammation that causes joint pain. There are homeopathic recipes for sore throats and for inflammation as well. Homeopathic remedies are used to trigger your body into action.

It’s like your body is dealing with a mystery and the remedy is a clue that will help it solve the problem. The “invention” of homeopathic medicine takes us back to the 18th century. Samuel Hahnemann, a German physician, embarked on an experiment. In those days, medicine wasn’t particularly effective. 

It was for this reason that Hahnemann had become disillusioned with the medical profession. He spent the majority of his time attempting to translate medical texts. It was in one of these books that he came across an herbal substance that had been effective for treating malaria. 

Today, that same substance, which is quinine rich, is still used as an anti-malarial drug. It was initially put down to the fact that Peruvian bark was bitter. To Hahnemann that made no sense because plenty of things tasted bitter, yet they weren’t effective in treating malaria. So, he decided to take some for himself. 

As a result, he himself experienced symptoms similar to what someone with malaria would. By his reckoning, like cures like. This is a well-known phrase, especially in homeopathy. Of course, it’s where it got its name as homeo means similar, while pathos means disease. 

Hahnemann continued to test this theory on a variety of substances. When you go back in homeopathic history, there is literature showing the results of these experiments that were performed using thousands of various substances.

While both herbal medicine and homeopathy are considered alternative care, they are incredibly different. In homeopathy, the remedies aren’t just based on plant-based ingredients. 

They are also based in non-organic and organic ingredients, as well as mental and even synthetic. While herbal medicines typically follow the Western tradition of treating symptoms that are caused by illness, homeopathy operates on like cures like. 

It’s Energy 

When you fall ill, your body responds by going on the attack. Nausea and fever are also defense mechanisms. While traditional medicine aims to suppress the symptoms until the illness itself goes away, homeopathy encourages your body to fight the illness itself. How does that work, though? 

In homeopathy, a substance is used in minute amounts. If used in a larger dose, the medicine would actually trigger the symptoms that the condition causes. So, while a homeopath might suggest that you turn to coffea cruda to calm someone with anxiety, it’s caffeine so a larger dose would provide the opposite reaction.

Many people within the scientific community will argue that extreme dilutions are useless as they leave so little of the molecules necessary to be effective. However, in homeopathy, it’s all about the energy. This has caused some people to believe that the effectiveness of homeopathy is down to a placebo effect. Homeopathic medicine is much more than just diluted tinctures. 

What they really are is potentized tinctures. They are created through the potentization process. This process involves water or alcohol just like a tincture, along with the medicinal substance. However, the remedy is then shaken vigorously. This is to cause an energy transfer. 

Creating Potentized Tinctures

All remedies in homeopathy are created by diluting the agent in alcohol or water. The agent would typically cause the symptoms that it is trying to treat. The mother tincture, which is the original solution, is then diluted as few as five times, but as many as 30. 

The final substance might be as little as one part per million. The more diluted a solution, the more potent it is considered. Upon every dilution, the mixture must be shaken rigorously. This is what contributes to the transfer of energy. It’s an integral part of the process and ultimately, when separates a potentized tincture from a simple dilution.

There are two different methods of dilution in homeopathy. The first being the Hahnemannian method where a new container is used for every dilution. Whereas the Korsakovian method relies on the same container for all of the dilutions. 

This results in very different concentrations so if you plan to purchase your own remedies, you’ll need to understand the concentrations. If you have to look for Hahnemannian tinctures, you will note the concentrations as 3X, 3C, 6C, 6X, etc. While Korsakovian lists the concentrations are 6CK and 3CK. What do these letters mean? 

The X tells you that it is one part per 10, while the C is one part per 100. The K is simple, it just stands for Korsakovian. Whatever potency you prefer, the dilution will be combined with a delivery system. 

The Delivery System

If you plan to visit a retailer to purchase your homeopathic medicines instead of a homeopath, then you will need to learn a bit more about the delivery systems that are available. 

Tinctures

typically, a tincture is glycerin or alcohol based. This allows for the preservation of the medicine’s active ingredients. A tincture isn’t always the most pleasant flavor. There are also elixirs or syrups available, these are generally sucrose or water-based liquids which the medication is added to.

These are often flavored, which makes them a bit more palatable than a tincture. Both of these are taken orally. They aren’t necessarily as effective as a suppository or a sublingual because some of the essential ingredients are lost in the rapid breakdown as your body processes it. 

Sublingual

you may be more familiar with the term SL, they are generally a pellet or tablet that you place under your tongue and allow it to dissolve. The body quickly absorbs these and as it bypasses the digestive tract, they are highly effective. 

They’re also incredibly easy to take and you can have them with you. You may find that you can swallow some of them, however, this will then mean they take longer to work. Also, there is a difference between tablets and pellets. Tablets aren’t lactose-free like pellets. Additionally, pellets are mostly sucrose, so they are more palatable, especially for children. 

Suppositories 

a suppository is inserted into a bodily orifice, this allows them to avoid the digestive system’s hepatic enzymes. This is the ideal delivery system for anyone who is dealing with nausea. They’re also useful for patients who have issues with swallowing or for children. 

Nasal Sprays

A nasal spray is typically used to treat sinus conditions. It also doesn’t have the same risk as traditional nasal sprays which commonly create a rebound congestion issue after consistent use. 

Topical

Liniments, ointments, lotions, and creams use the skin as the organ to deliver the goods. Creams and ointments are usually used to provide topical relief. 

  • Liniments – this rub used alcohol and an oily base to increase blood flow to the area which is affected. This is why it’s a popular solution for healing massages. It’s not something you would use on a bruise or a bleeding area.
  • Ointments – this is a fatty delivery system and is a greasy substance that the body doesn’t absorb. 
  • Lotions – lotion is thin, and it dries quickly, so it’s the perfect agent for a hairy part of your body. 
  • Creams – it’s similar to lotion, but it’s a mix of oil and water and softens the skin. Most importantly, it is easy to spread, and it doesn’t often cause any irritation. 

The Remedy

Though homeopathy continues to be looked down on when compared with Western medicine, there are plenty of controlled studies that support its use (ref.). 

We may be stuck in this limbo while we wait for the research to catch up with why it is that it works. Until then, we can only look to the science that says it does work. Ultimately, the issue is that it’s not an area of research that garners a lot of financial backing. 

Homeopaths themselves undergo strict training to learn about all the subtleties of the profession. Every single remedy will be tailored to the specific needs of an individual. It will be designed to address the physical, emotional, and mental states of the patient. 

However, it is possible to find these preparations over the counter and in stores. Conditions that homeopath medications can help treat include skin conditions, anxiety, allergies, teething, digestive issues, sports injuries, and coughs.

Why Consider Homeopathic Remedies

It’s the biggest question so, why should you bother? These remedies won’t mask your symptoms. Instead, they will work with your body to create healing. You can pop a pill to beat a headache, but all you’re doing is relieving the pain. 

If you suffer from chronic headaches, then you aren’t curing the problem. A homeopath will aim to match a remedy to you based on your life and your ailments. You might need multiple remedies at one time, or they may change the remedies up as time goes on, whether it’s because symptoms have changes, or a remedy isn’t as effective as it was. Often, our symptoms are revealed in layers and it will take time to get to the main issue. 

One of the other benefits of turning to homeopathic remedies is that they don’t come with many side effects if any at all. The remedy will either work for you or it won’t. It’s easy to fit them into your life and you can take them in conjunction with your traditional medications. We’re not talking about a cure-all or a magic bullet. However, when you visit an experienced homeopath you will find it to be a very effective tool in improving your health. 

Does It Work? 

While the NCCIH points to the lack of evidence (ref.), the HRI stands firm that the results of research has been promising and the real issue is a lack of scientific interest in the subject (ref.). 

Whichever side you fall on, one thing is clear – we’re very early into the research process and we need more researchers looking into it. Right now, we can’t point to mountains of science to back it up, but we can point to the number of patients who have been helped by it. 

If you decide to visit a homeopath, then you will find it’s very different from visiting your primary care physician. Generally, you will spend around three hours with your homeopath- at least on your first visit. 

They will ask you detailed questions about your medical history as well as the symptoms that you are experiencing, which will cover the mental, physical, and emotional aspects of your symptoms. 

You will be questioned about your family history, your dislikes and likes on food, how you feel about your relationships, your job, what joy and grief you have experienced, how you prefer the weather. It’s all about the homeopath getting to know what type of person you are. 

Once you have completed the interview process the homeopath will study your notes and embark on an investigation into your issues. From all of that information and research, they will select the perfect remedy for you.

If it’s the right one, you will experience relief from your symptoms and your body will find balance. You usually see an improvement within the first six weeks of taking the remedy. 

Common Homeopathic Remedies

Now that you know more about homeopathic medicine, let’s take a look at some remedies for common problems that we face as humans. 

Acne 

You don’t need to be a teenager to struggle with this issue – we often leave our teen years behind and think it will a thing of the past only to wake up with acne ahead of an interview. You don’t need to run to the drug store to find relief. 

Homeopathy offers options for acne. There are different options for acne and that means you can find a remedy that really works for you. We’re all different so, what works for you might not work for your teenager. The best way to find the perfect remedy is by visiting a homeopath. Here are some of the potential remedies. 

  • Hepar sulph – if you have painful pimples that feel as though you have a splinter then hepar sulph is the answer. This is also ideal for spots that hurt to touch, cluster, quickly form whiteheads and whose discharge smells. Generally speaking, the patient is someone who has a low pain tolerance and is often cold.
  • Kali bromatum – this is the acne that started in your teen years and follows you to this day. Your shoulders, chest, and face are scarred, and the cysts are typically painful. For women, it is at its worst during the menstrual cycle. The person is likely to suffer from sleep issues, teeth grinding, and is a fidget.
  • Calcarea sulph – for severe cystic spots that linger for weeks, this is the right choice. Typically, you’re left with scabs and the spots appear around your hairline, near your ears, and on your face. The patient is prone to issues with their ears, nose, and throats.
  • Silica – when dealing with hard boils that tend to appear on your cheeks, but never come to a head, then silica is the perfect remedy. The patient might be someone who lacks confidence and is often stubborn with sweaty feet and hands. 
  • Pulsatilla – this is perfect for girls who suffer from acne once puberty starts or during their menstrual cycle. The patient is generally emotional and prefers open spaces with cool air.
  • Sulfur – this is ideal when someone has oily skin, lots of blackheads, and surface whiteheads. The nose is often affected as well, and while the spots might be painless, they are often itchy. Acne might be worse around the menstrual cycle, from a fatty diet or during hot weather. 

Anxiety 

If you have a chronic anxiety problem, then you should visit a professional as well as visit your doctor. However, for acute bouts, you can turn to some handy homeopathic remedies. 

  • Aconite – this is perfect for sudden, acute fear where your face is flushed, you are trembling, your breath is short, and you are experiencing palpitations. 
  • Argentum nitricum – for specific fears, of spiders, heights, etc. this is an excellent remedy. 
  • Calcarea carbonica – if your anxiety manifests as despair, envy, withdrawal or anger, then this is the right remedy for you.
  • Ignatia – for a recent loss and mood swings.
  • Lycopodium – anxious about a new challenge? Experiencing a fear of failure that is resulting in digestive problems, irritability or sexual problems? Lycopodium.
  • Gelsemium – for vertigo, the fear of falling or crowds.
  • Natrum muriaticum – for sensitive people who struggle with a variety of anxieties that cloak themselves in headaches. 

Backaches

Lower back pain is something that many Americans suffer from. You should always visit your doctor to ensure it isn’t indicative of a more serious illness. However, for a standard backache, you can turn to these remedies. 

  • Bryonia – for extreme pain that is only relieved when at rest or under pressure – Bryonia. The pain tends to come on slowly, though it is intense. 
  • Natrum muriaticum – you may feel better when you lie down on a firm or hard surface. Otherwise, you feel as though you are broken, particularly the small of your back. 
  • Pulsatilla – the pain is at its worst when you first attempt to move, but once you continue it lessens. It improves with a cold application but is made worse by hot compresses. 
  • Kali carbonicum – your back feels broken or exhausted and is worsened with pressure. If the pain extends into your legs or causes you to walk with a stop, this is another indication that this remedy will help. 
  • Phosphorus – this pain feels more like burning and a massage provides relief. 
  • Rhus Toxicodendron – if your back is at its worst when you exert yourself after heavy lifting, then this remedy may be the right choice. 

Constipation

everyone has a different normal pattern for bowel movements, but constipation is uncomfortable and painful. 

  • Alumina – if you often use a lot of toilet paper and your stool is soft, though difficult to pass. 
  • Bryonia – your stool is dark, hard, and dry. 
  • Natrum muriaticum – your stool is crumbly, but hard and often causes rectal bleeding. 
  • Nux vomica – if are reliant on laxatives to move your bowels, this will help you break the habit. 

Menstrual cramps

Some women are the victims of severe cramps and mood swings, and taking painkillers isn’t the greatest way to deal with it each month. 

  • Apis – if you have violent, stinging pain.
  • Caulophyllum – cramps that tend to find relief when the flow begins. 

Heartburn 

so many different people have problems with heartburn, so natural remedies are always going to be popular. 

  • Arsenicum album – heartburn that feels as though your food is backed up and burning pain that reaches your throat.
  • Carbo vegetalis – if you have a bloated stomach and experience bitter burps.
  • Nux vomica – if you have stomach pain that involves aching, nausea, burping, acid reflux, and constipation. 

Gas 

Gas is not just unpleasant and uncomfortable, gas can also be rather embarrassing. 

  • Lycopodium – you feel full even though you haven’t eaten much and your belly rumbles before you release trapped wind.
  • Nux vomica – for a stomach that feels as though it is full of gas.
  • Carbo vegetabilis – it doesn’t matter what you eat, it is followed by repeated burping.