What does ‘homoeopathic’ mean?

Many people who self-prescribe homoeopathic remedies are familiar with the idea of ‘like cures like’. I would like to to clarify a few points about what homoeopathic means.

When a medicine is prepared by successive steps of dilution and succession, in accordance with Hahnemann’s method, to the standards of modern medicine, and different potencies are run up, the substance is classified as a 'dynamic' preparation. This is the sort of remedy you may buy at some chemists, health food shops, and in remedy kits. Usually the potencies available are 6x, 6c and 30c, and occasionally 200C. Higher potentised remedies are only available from homoeopathic laboratories and ought to to be prescribed by a qualified homoeopath.

People are sometimes disappointed when they use a remedy which says on the label, "for teething troubles in infants” or “ for flu symptoms.” Here is the crux of the matter. The dynamic remedy will not act homoeopathically until it is used according to the Law of Similars. The so-called teething remedy, when one reads the ingredients, is chamomilla in the sixth potency. But chamomilla symptoms must be present in the case if the remedy is to work. In chamomilla teething symptoms, the baby wants to be carried everywhere, screams when she is put down. She wants mommy, then doesn’t want her and wants daddy instead. She demands the toy and then flings it away. The baby is usually a lovely baby but, when in pain, becomes a most uncivil and capricious little person. One red cheek and one pale one is a good keynote of chamomilla. They are usually worse at night. So if your baby has different symptoms when teething, chamomilla won’t act homoeopathically. A different remedy will be required.

Ditto with the remedy labeled “coldenza.” It is gelsemium 6c. In a gelsemium flu, the muscles of the limbs are so weak, tired, heavy, aching, the eyelids are half closed, the face has a besotted appearance, and he finds it hard to think. The person is best lying down with head propped up on a pillow. There may be trembling. Generally not thirsty. Symptoms come on gradually. Chills running up and down the spine and a dull, heavy congestive headache starting in the neck and extending over the head to settle in the forehead. Don’t bother buying this “flu” remedy if these symptoms are not there. Gelsemium is not for the rapid onset, red-hot fever, excitable, restless, type of flu. Don’t blame the dynamic remedy for not working; it simply wasn’t the correct choice made according to the law of similars.

There are also remedies on the market which are mixtures of several dynamic substances, presumably with the intention that there may be an increased chance of one of them being most similar. It's a bit like having extra numbers in the lottery. But again this is not desirable as a treatment as it relies too much on chance. Far better to take some care and match the symptoms of the sick person with the symptoms of the dynamic remedy.  The similar match is what makes it homoeopathic. It takes more effort, but the likelihood of a swift uneventful cure is far higher when using remedies in this way. The use of one remedy at a time becomes much more important when treating chronic conditions, where a trained homoeopath is needed.

The other point I wish to make is that if someone persists in taking a remedy which isn’t similar enough to their symptoms, and repeats it faithfully for days or weeks at a time, they may start to experience the symptoms of that remedy. They are inadvertently testing the medicine on themselves - alarming, or interesting, but not dangerous in the short term. If new symptoms appear, just stop taking the remedy. Wait for the symptoms to disappear, which they will. Involuntary 'proving' of the remedy is not something one should take on at home.

If you do know for sure which remedy is most similar (i.e. homoeopathic), take only a few doses over one or two days. The minimum is enough. Sometimes a single dose is enough. Sometimes you need to repeat. Just wait and see if your energy picks up, your mood improves, and if you feel 'better in yourself'. If this happens, your physical symptoms will start improving soon. There is no need to repeat the remedy unless you begin to feel a dis-improvement settling again.

Serious acute illness and chronic conditions are best treated by a qualified homoeopath or your GP. Common sense should prevail, and when one is out of one’s depth, one should call on a professional.