Since elementary school, I’ve always been a bit green and crunchy. I would try to conserve water as a kid and lamented that we had no recycling in my town.
In high school and college, that translated into a general sense of using medicines slightly less than your average person. For example, if I had a rare headache, I would likely try to tough it out rather than grab Tylenol.
This wasn’t even a codified anti-pharmaceutical philosophy; it was truly just something my stubborn gut told me to do.
I had never heard of homeopathy or homeopathic remedies before; and if I had, I’m sure, like most uninformed people, I translated “homeopathy” in my head as “natural remedies of all kinds.” I thought a homeopath was the same thing as a naturopath.
By the way, they are super different. So erase that line from your mind quickly.
When I became a mom, therefore, I was a bit of a hodgepodge.
Sometimes I did exactly as the doctor ordered. I always asked questions but didn’t feel confident in what questions to ask.
Sometimes I would avoid a medicine or treatment, but I didn’t have a very good natural remedies arsenal until I started blogging when my oldest was nearly four and baby number two was nine months old.
I remember relying on my Twitter community and blog readers in comments (Remember comments on blogs? That was before Facebook.) to help me through little illnesses that hit my kids. I particularly remember once when Paul had double pinkeye, double ear infections, and walking pneumonia at the same time.
Coincidentally, that was after a few rounds of antibiotics for strep throat and ear infections.
That was a turning point in my skepticism, but even a few years into my natural health journey, I had never heard of nor purchased a homeopathic remedy.
At some point, I ended up with some arnica on hand. I used it anytime someone had an ache or a pain or a rare headache (although I myself usually still muscled through and tried to hydrate more and rest).
I learned nuggets here and there from reading other health bloggers and ended up with a few more remedies, especially when I got my wisdom teeth out. That experience with no anesthesia or over-the-counter meds for recovery felt pretty successful.
I was seeing and hearing about homeopathic remedies and others’ successes with them a lot more often. And I decided to take a class in the fall of 2020 called Gateway to Homeopathy. This is from Joette Calabrese, the founder of Practical Homeopathy. That’s when I finally stopped dabbling seriously and began to learn the skill of using homeopathy to doctor my family.
History and Philosophy of Homeopathy
In the Gateway class, I learned that in the early 19th century, almost all of the hospitals in America were actually homeopathic hospitals. This completely blew my mind since, like most people, I had never even heard of it until my 30s.
It’s not an urban legend though. I was just reading Mark Bittman’s book Animal Vegetable Junk. And he, too, relates the shift from homeopathic to allopathic medical care in America. I found it fascinating that he pegged the closure of over 100 homeopathic hospitals on the early 20th century equivalent to big tech: big oil. Money from the Rockefeller families paid for many medical schools in the US under the condition that they would only teach allopathic methods.
You can do what you will with that information.
Personally, I shuddered.
Although homeopathic principles have been used for centuries, modern homeopathy is said to have been founded by Samuel Hahnemann in Germany around 1796.1
Homeopathy works on the following principles:
- Like cures like
- The smallest possible dose
- Homeopathy treats the symptoms, not the diagnosis
In that last case, homeopathy was a bit of a paradigm shift for me, because in the decade I’ve been approaching health from a natural standpoint, it seemed like I was always told, “Don’t just treat the symptom; find the root cause.”
Homeopathy is a little different. The idea is that it helps balance the body back to its natural state full of vitality. It starts with the symptoms and helps the body correct from there.
Ultimately, people who practice homeopathy would say that it is rooting out the underlying causes, but you don’t always have to know what they are first.
What Is a Homeopathic Remedy?
If you purchase a homeopathic remedy, it will come in a small vial or bottle and look like tiny sugar pills. Some are truly tiny, the size of the tip of a ballpoint pen, while others get to be a millimeter or two in diameter.
They really are tiny sugar pills, sometimes made of lactose or just sucrose. On the outside of the sugar pill is where the actual remedy sits. The remedy itself begins as a liquid and covers the outside of the little pellet or pill.
But what’s in the liquid, you ask? The liquid is a very, very diluted substance following the rule “like cures like.”
For example, if your eyes are running and tearing up because of hay fever or some other allergy, you might take the remedy allium cepa. That remedy is made from an onion, and onion can make your eyes water. Therefore, the very extremely diluted form of that substance can teach your body to stop allowing your eyes to water.
To get the very diluted substance, a homeopath will take one drop of the remedy (in this case, a tincture or some sort of liquid from an onion) and put it in a bottle with 100 drops of water. They then shake or succuss this bottle 100 times. One drop of the resulting solution is a very weak homeopathic remedy.
If you are purchasing a homeopathic remedy, you’ll see numbers and letters after the name — 30C is a very standard dilution. That is created by repeating the process above 30 times. In other words, for round two, one drop of that 100 times diluted solution is added to 100 more drops of water succussed 100 times, and now we are at 2C.
You can see that even at a 30C potency you have a very, extremely diluted form of the original substance. Potency is how to describe the level of dilution, and it’s what those numbers and letters signify.
What’s fascinating to me and a bit counterintuitive is that the more diluted the substance, the more powerful or potent the remedy. If a homeopath takes one drop of the 30C solution and continues mixing with 100 drops of water another 170 times that gets to a 200C potency. This is getting so diluted, we are almost talking about just a memory of the original substance, but 200C is stronger and more potent than 30C.
The strongest homeopathic remedy you can buy, which is to be used very sparingly and with training, is 1M — M stands for a million. So at this point, we really are talking barely a memory in water of the original substance.
It’s almost as if we are crossing over a line from science and medicine into faith. I’ve only used a 1M potency, in faith, one time.
That was when my daughter, age 12, called me in tears while I was out of state. She had had an adjustment on her oral appliances that day and was in more pain than she had ever had in her life. She had already taken arnica a few times because that’s a remedy we use often for oral pain. But it wasn’t working, and she was near panic and unable to sleep already half an hour past her bedtime. I told her where to find the arnica 1M, and she was finally able to sleep.
What Is Practical Homeopathy?
I mentioned briefly above that Joette Calebrese is the mother of Practical Homeopathy here in the US. For decades, the style of homeopathy practiced was called Classical Homeopathy. You can check out this amazing interview with Joette over at Kids Cook Real Food to learn a lot more about Practical Homeopathy, but here’s a quick overview.
- Classical Homeopathy: A trained homeopath uses all of a person’s symptoms and even personality traits to choose the one best remedy that will help their body get back into balance. The person takes that remedy once and then waits, usually weeks, to see if it was the right one.
- Practical Homeopathy: A remedy is chosen based on symptoms and is often dosed a few times a day or even every 15 minutes for acute situations. Practical Homeopathy is based on many 1000s of patients at the Banerji clinic in India and is a faster way to get to healing and does not always need a professional.
Particularly for acute situations, like an illness that has come on suddenly and isn’t chronic or an injury to the body, Practical Homeopathy has been a great option for our family.
Wish You Knew All the Answers to Keep Your Family Healthy?
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How to Take a Homeopathic Remedy
One of the reasons I’m even writing this post is that I realized over the years as I tell my various stories here on Kitchen Stewardship®, I often mention a homeopathic remedy or two that I’ve taken. If you read about natural treatments for cellulitis, wisdom tooth pain, impetigo, growing pains, concussions, or even bedwetting, you’ll see a homeopathic mentioned.
I started to feel a bit guilty that I was recommending or at least telling the tale of homeopathics without giving anyone the very basics they would need to purchase and take one themselves. Because homeopathics have no side effects, it’s a very safe remedy to experiment with on your own.
This is a great time to mention that I’m not a doctor, nurse, or homeopath. Just a mom who’s read a lot and done some training here and there. Please do not take any of this as medical advice and only use it as if you were chatting with me on a walk in the neighborhood.
If you’ve purchased some of what my kids call the “little balls,” it might be a bit confusing about how exactly you’re supposed to take them. Here’s a list of what I would call “the rules.”
- Pour the correct number of “little balls” into the cap. Boiron brand in the blue plastic container employs a twist cap method, where you turn the bottle upside down, leave the cap on, and for each twist a little ball will go into the cap. Any other brand, just open the lid and see how your fine motor skills are as you try to get two to five little balls into the cap.
- How many little balls do you use? Most bottles will say how many, usually between three and five. I have heard people explain that homeopathy is either turning something on or off. So one little ball versus 30 in a single dose actually has the exact same effect. This is the one case where the “dose does not make the poison.” My budget-friendly mindset says I should just take one every time. However, just in case the remedy has been rubbed off the outside of that one, I usually take two just in case.
- Don’t touch the little balls. Tip them out of the cap directly into your mouth. This is because the remedy is on the outside. So if you pick up the pill, you could literally be rubbing off everything that’s helpful and end up with a plain old sugar pill.
- Homeopathic remedies go under the tongue, where you should hold them until they dissolve. If it’s too hard for a young child to let a remedy dissolve under their tongue, or even in their mouth (chomp, chomp, swallow), that’s okay. Remember the remedy is on the outside. So as long as that gets into the body, you’re all set.
- No food or water or anything by mouth for about 15 minutes before or after taking a remedy. This is the only reason using homeopathics can be tricky. I tend to think of using remedies and helping my kids when we are all together eating something, or, if someone is sick, I say, “Stay hydrated! Keep your water bottle next to you.” Sometimes planning that empty space to take the homeopathic takes some intentional work.
- If you’re taking multiple remedies for an acute illness or injury, take remedies 10 to 15 minutes apart unless it is part of a combined protocol where you have been instructed to take them together.
- No mint with homeopathics. The smell or taste of mint (and a few other “hot scents” that aren’t as common) can completely antidote the remedy. To antidote means to stop the action. If you brush your teeth with minty toothpaste 10 to 15 minutes before or after taking a remedy, it doesn’t pose any danger. It just means your homeopathic remedy likely will have no effect. (For a kid-friendly toothpaste without mint, check out Wellnesse’s Kids Strawberry toothpaste.)
How Do I Know If a Homeopathic Remedy Is Working?
The hardest part about trying to figure out health on your own (or with a professional for that matter) is that our bodies are so complicated. It’s really hard to isolate precisely whether something you try is working.
When it comes to homeopathy, sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, and sometimes that means you chose the wrong remedy for the person or the symptom.
For example, if you are using Banerji protocols, the first option generally works for about 80% of people; 20% of people will have to try something else. Those are decent odds even compared to pharmaceuticals, especially when you consider that homeopathics have no side effects.
In fact, way back when I was still in dabbling mode, one of my dissenting community members shared that she had watched a video of a man taking an entire vial of a homeopathic remedy. She used that video to make her case that they are just placebo pills that do nothing. However, if you remember back to the on-off switch, what that tells me is that he wasted his remedies but obviously experienced no side effects.
Now here’s how to tell if a remedy is working.
First, because we humans are forgetful creatures, you’ll want to write down your symptoms. You can do this very formally in a notebook or just grab a scrap piece of paper or empty envelope from the recycle bin and write down the person’s name, date, time of day, and what they’re experiencing. Rate each symptom on a scale of 1 to 10 of severity. And if it makes sense, try to write down how often the symptom is happening.
For example, if your child has a cough, you might write down a remark such as, “Seems to be coughing more than once a minute. Level 5 in intensity, level 7 in painfulness.”
There’s not really a right or wrong way to do this, but you want to have a baseline for where you started. An hour later, it’s really hard to compare our memory, because we’ve seen the child (or ourselves) every minute of that hour. Sometimes it’s good to look back and remember how bad it was. This is especially important if you’re looking for improvement over the course of a whole day or multiple days.
When you are taking a homeopathic remedy for a very acute symptom, such as a cough, headache, swelling, or itching skin, just to list a few, you can take the remedy as often as every 15 minutes.
After one hour, you definitely need to see at least some improvement in symptoms. If the symptoms are moving in the right direction, you’ve likely chosen the right remedy and can continue, although not quite at that pace. Most of the time, you’ll want to take a remedy more like two or three times a day once the symptoms are controlled
If the child falls asleep, that is a definite sign that the remedy is working.
Quick note: Sometimes in very acute situations you’ll take the remedy until you can survive through the moment. Read about my brush with extreme nausea in this post about natural remedies to avoid vomiting.
How to Find the Right Homeopathic Remedy
This part is where it will become a little more obvious that I’m still a medium-strength rookie at all this homeopathy stuff. There are incredible resource guides called Materia Medica that one can purchase, but I haven’t quite invested in one yet.
My strategy is what Kelly the Kitchen Kop, who taught my course, told me to do: just search “Joette” plus the symptom you are trying to solve.
Joette Calabrese offers so much free information on her website that it seems like about a three out of four chance that you’ll find what you’re looking for. I’ve successfully searched for remedies for headache, ear infection, stomachache, and more through this method.
If you’re following practical homeopathy, you want to be careful that you don’t end up on classical homeopathic sites, which is pretty much everywhere but Joette. If you do, you’ll end up with a very long list of possible remedies. And most of the time, we common laypeople just don’t have the knowledge to choose the right one.
Here are a few quick examples of remedies I like to grab without having to look something up:
- Arsenicum album – to stop nausea and vomiting of any kind, from food poisoning to a virus
- Arnica – for any bumps, bruises, tooth pain, and some headaches
- Apis – for bee stings or inflamed swollen bug bites
- Aconite – this remedy is for fright. So if someone were to be in a car accident, or have a trauma that is overwhelming them, reach for aconite.
- Nux vomica – for any time you’ve overdone something, everything from working too long at the computer and getting a headache to a hangover to your kids getting a sugar high at a birthday party
- Coffea cruda – when your mind is racing and you can’t sleep, grab this one. I keep it by my bedside.
There are so many more that I’m able to grab without looking up, which is my hope for you over time. It feels good to know just what to do. Here’s a quick reference to help you get started choosing remedies.
As far as choosing a potency, 30C or 200C are pretty standard and both are safe for adults or children. Personally, I have a kit with 100 remedies in the 30C potency and about 50 of them in the 200C potency.
Bottom Line: You Can Experiment with Homeopathics with Confidence
I hope this has been a good summary of how homeopathic remedies work and how you can easily experiment with them if an illness or injury hits your family. The rules are pretty simple as far as not touching the remedy and avoiding food and water for about 15 minutes on either side.
You can always try something, and if it doesn’t work, I do think it’s comforting that there are no side effects, and when something does work, doggone does it feel good!
- Loudon I. (2006). A brief history of homeopathy. Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, 99(12), 607–610. https://doi.org/10.1258/jrsm.99.12.607