The Homeopathic Paradox: Weaker Is Stronger
Homeopathic remedies are prepared by a process of serial dilution and shaking known as potentization. The more homeopathic remedies are diluted and shaken, the stronger their action becomes. Chemically, the substance becomes more and more dilute. Clinically, however, Hahnemann found that the more a substance was potentized, the less often it needed to be given to the patient to produce a curative action and the deeper was its effect. Now over 150 years after Hahnemann’s death, homeopaths continue to validate this observation and cure patients with what seem to be infinitesimally small doses of natural substances.
The degree of dilution of homeopathic remedies may seem extraordinary. Imagine one drop of ink dissolved in ten drops of water. Only 1/10 of the ink would be present. If you diluted it again, only 1/100 of the ink would remain. Barely any color would still be visible. Now, repeat this process until you have made six dilutions. Only one part per million of the original drop of ink would remain in the solution, and the mixture would appear colorless. This 6x potency is one of the least diluted, or weakest, potencies commonly used in homeopathic practice. Imagine how dilute that drop of ink would be after being diluted one thousand, ten thousand or even one million times!
The popularly held belief, when it comes to medicine, is “more is better.” Homeopaths have found just the opposite to be true. It is this concept of using infinitesimal doses that has caused many people, including most proponents of conventional medicine, to reject homeopathy categorically without further investigation. However, it is successful daily clinical experience that allows homeopaths to accept this seemingly paradoxical proposition as true.
The dilutions of the original substance are called potencies. There are two commonly used dilution scales, X or decimal, and C or centesimal. X potencies are diluted 1 to 9 and C potencies are diluted 1 to 99. To make an X potency, 1 part of the original substance is added to 9 parts of solvent. To make a C potency, 1 part of the original substance is added to 99 parts of solvent. The 6C potency is 10 times as dilute as the 6X. The most common potencies prepared by pharmacies in the United States range from 6C (6 dilutions) to CM (100,000 dilutions). Many homeopaths refer to potencies below 200C as low potencies and potencies of 200C or above as high potencies.
The Importance of Succussion
Shaking each dilution is the crucial factor in preparation. It allows a homeopathic remedy to remain potent past the point where none of the original molecules of the substance remain in the dilution. This vigorous shaking is known as succussion. Hahnemann originally succussed each remedy by rapping the vial against a large, leatherbound book. In modern manufacturing, it is performed by machine. Succussion allows the medicinal power of the substance to be enhanced far beyond what is possible with simple dilution. The purely chemical effect of a substance is lost as it is diluted more and more, but the homeopathic effects are released, as long as each dilution is shaken. With succussion, the homeopathic remedy gets stronger and longer lasting with each successive dilution.
Hahnemann came upon the idea of succussion after noticing that the medicines he took with him on house calls were more potent than those he kept in his office, which led him to succuss, not just dilute, his homeopathic remedies.
How Homeopathic Medicines Are Dispensed and Sold
Homeopathic remedies are dispensed in the form of pellets, liquid dilutions, or tablets for internal use, and salves, tinctures, and ointments for external use. Your homeopath will either dispense the remedy to you directly or will instruct you to obtain it from a homeopathic pharmacy. Although most homeopaths in the United States give the remedies in the form of pellets or tablets, the remedies may also be given in water.
As long as the correct remedy is given, nearly any mode of administration will produce a positive effect. One homeopathic patient went to her homeopath for help with anxiety and insomnia. The homeopath prescribed Arsenicum album to take orally. The patient misunderstood the instructions and dumped the contents of the envelope in her bath water. The remedy still worked.
Many herb and natural food stores and pharmacies stock twenty or thirty single homeopathic remedies, usually in the 6X or 30C potency. Homeopathic pharmacies sometimes restrict the sale of high potency remedies to practitioners only, as their safe use requires adequate training. Kits of low potency remedies for home use are sold by most homeopathic pharmacies.
A dose is defined by the frequency of taking the remedy rather than by the amount given. Your homeopath will instruct you how often to take a dose. There are specific guidelines that homeopaths follow in deciding when and how often to administer a particular remedy. If you are being treated by a homeopathic practitioner, it is a good idea to ask her before self-administering any homeopathic medicines, even for minor illnesses. Taking a homeopathic remedy at the wrong time can interfere with the healing process.
Willie, 9 years old, was being treated successfully for a learning disability and a recurrent cough and rash. His attentiveness and aptitude for learning, as confirmed by his teachers, had improved substantially during the course of a year and a half of homeopathic treatment with the remedy Baryta carbonica (Barium carbonate). After Willie’s mother prescribed several doses of Rhus toxicodendron for what she thought to be an outbreak of chicken pox, Willie relapsed within one week and needed another dose of his original remedy. If Willie’s mom had called his homeopath before giving him the Rhus tox, an alternative could have been suggested that would relieve the itching but not interfere with his homeopathic treatment.
Depending on the circumstances of your case, your homeopath may choose to administer the remedy either in a single dose, with a relatively long period of time before repeating the medicine, or in more frequent, perhaps even daily doses. In other circumstances, a single high potency dose may be given followed by a low potency remedy given daily or at other prescribed intervals. The practitioner may recommend that you continue to take the remedy for a certain time period, or that you stop taking it when you feel better. How often the dose is repeated depends on many factors including the strength of your vital force and whether you are taking allopathic medications. Prescription drugs sometimes interfere with the action of homeopathic medicines and make it necessary for your homeopath to instruct you to take your remedy more frequently. If your vital force is not very strong, or you are very sensitive to medications, the remedy may be given more frequently, but in a lower potency, so as not to aggravate your symptoms unnecessarily.
Combination remedies for teething, bedwetting, colds, flus, bladder infections, sinusitis, and other minor illnesses can be useful if you don’t have access to a trained homeopath. Combinations contain the most common single remedies for a given condition, with the hope that the single remedy that you need will be among those in the combination. For example, a flu remedy might contain Aconite napellus, Gelsemium, Bryonia, and Eupatorium, the most prescribed remedies for treating influenza. Teething tablets, produced by most of the homeopathic pharmacies, are one the most effective of the combination remedies. A large number of infants with teething problems need Chamomilla, which is one of the remedies included in all of the teething combinations.
Many people report getting relief from combination remedies for minor illnesses, but if you do not benefit from these remedies, it is because the single remedy you need is not contained in the combination. This is the time to see an experienced homeopath. Although combination remedies may be effective in some acute illnesses, they are never recommended for chronic conditions. If taken over time, they can confuse a chronic case and make it difficult for an experienced homeopath to find the correct remedy. Experienced homeopaths find that the greatest and most long lasting improvements in health result from taking the similliumum in the form of a single remedy rather than in combination with other remedies.
One mother complained to a homeopath that homeopathy didn’t work. Her son Billy had a dry, irritating cough. She had purchased a homeopathic combination for coughs that contained Bryonia, Phosphorus, Drosera, Spongia, and Aconite, all of which are excellent for coughs. When the homeopath asked about the cough, the child said he had a tickle and pointed to the base of his throat. Recognizing this to be a characteristic symptom of the medicine Rumex, the homeopath gave it to the child. One dose was all that was needed to alleviate his cough.
Many crying, teething children experience initial relief from a combination teething remedy containing Chamomilla. Because combination remedies are low potency, they needed to give several doses a day to get results. After a few days or weeks, mothers sometimes complain that the combination no longer works. In such cases, the low dose of Chamomilla in the combination remedy may have simply exhausted its effectiveness and a higher potency may be needed. When Chamomilla is given to these children by itself in a higher potency, the effect may last much longer.