What are the different strengths of remedies and how are they made and prescribed?
If you are used to taking conventional medicine, then the more grams you take (the more active substance in the pill) the stronger the medicine is.
Homeopathic potency is the antithesis of this and the source of much debate, disbelief and confusion.
Here I try to explain how homeopathic potencies work so you can make sense of what a homeopath prescribes for you.
Let’s start with principle of The Infinitesimal or Minimum Dose. The more a remedy is diluted and succussed (vigorously shaken), the stronger it becomes.
This concept is a huge stumbling block for people from a conventional scientific background as it seems to defy logic, although there are similarities between homeopathic remedy action and the methods used in cutting-edge nanotechnology and growing evidence that nanoparticles play a crucial role in the action of homeopathic medicines.
Homeopathic methods also overlap with other areas of pharmacology and toxicology including the widely observed phenomenon of hormesis the paradoxical, stimulatory or beneficial effects of low doses of toxins, (see homeopathy-uk.org - Scientific Evidence and Homeopathy).
Potencies – the method
There are generally two scales for diluting substances in homeopathy: the decimal and centesimal. In all cases the starting remedy is made from a mixture of the substance itself which is then steeped in alcohol and strained – this is called a tincture or mother tincture.
For the decimal scale one tenth of the tincture is added to nine tenths of alcohol and shaken vigorously: this first dilution is called 1x. The number of a homeopathic remedy reflects the number of times it has been diluted and succussed.
The centesimal scale is diluted using one part tincture in a hundred (as opposed to ten) and the letter ‘c’ is added after the number. Paradoxically a 6x is called a low potency and a 200c a high potency – the greater the dilution the greater the potency.
To dissolve ‘inert’ substances they are ground for many hours with a pestle and mortar until they are soluble, a process called ‘trituration’.
Potencies and the person
So you might wonder when you take home a Phosphorus 200c for example, why have you been given that particular potency? Or perhaps you’ve been given more than one remedy in different potencies.
As a general rule of thumb the lower potencies i.e. below a 30c treat the physical state, so you might be given Kali-Bich 6c for catarrh and the higher potencies treat the mental and emotional sphere, so you might be prescribed Ignatia 200c or higher for shock and grief.
The huge variety in potencies gives the homeopath a unique tool so that they can, not only match the remedy to the person but also the potency and action of the remedy to the symptoms and vitality of the patient.
Someone needing treatment for an acute condition with a weak constitution due to chronic illness might be given a low regular potency while someone with the same condition who is generally fit and well could tolerate a much higher potency.
Lower potencies have a shorter action so they can be repeated more regularly i.e. for an acute complaint such as a fever your homeopath might repeat the remedy hourly in a low potency. In a chronic case for example long-term anxiety and insomnia, a higher potency might be prescribed and if curative only repeated after several weeks or months.
Homeopaths can also work up or down the range of potencies in one remedy to prolong its curative use, or change the potency in order to get a curative response if they are sure the remedy is right but it fails to act. Once again the potency scales give great flexibility.
Many people build up a remedy kit so that they can treat common ailments themselves, i.e. arnica for bruising, chamomilla for teething. It is best to keep to low potencies if you do this (up to a 30c) and consult a qualified homeopath if you need treatment for chronic complaints and symptoms that will respond to higher potencies.
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