While it is true that negative reactions to homeopathic remedies pale in comparison to the havoc sometimes wreaked by conventional medicines (disease caused by conventional drugs — also known as iatrogenic disease — is considered to be the 3rd leading cause of death in the United States), the medicinal energies of homeopathy, though dilute, can sometimes pose difficulties. It is therefore important to know the difference between “good” difficult reactions versus “bad” ones, and how to deal with them. For another discussion about remedy reactions, see my April 2012 newsletter or read chapter 8 of Impossible Cure.
The most important thing to remember if you believe you are having a difficult reaction to a remedy is: stop taking the remedy and call your homeopath. This is true whether the reaction is a good one or bad one. If you are experiencing discomfort that you feel has been caused by a remedy, your body does not need any more remedy stimulation at this time. Try to think of the action of a homeopathic remedy as an energetic nudge that sets a ball in motion. As long as the ball is still rolling, there is no need for further nudges.
(Please note that the discussion below pertains to the treatment of chronic, not acute disease.)
There are five basic types of troublesome reactions to remedies:
The “Good” Ones:
Aggravation of Existing Symptoms
This means that the remedy has definitely matched and resonated with you, but the dosing was probably just a little too aggressive. When you stop the remedy, the aggravation should pass (usually within a day or two, or at most a couple of weeks) and afterward, you will probably experience a noticeable improvement of your symptoms. During an aggravation, a patient will often feel better within themselves or show other general signs of improvement, despite the aggravated symptoms. Consult with your homeopath if an aggravation lasts for more than a week or is especially troublesome.
Return of Old Symptoms
This means that the remedy has lifted the outermost “layer” of your disease state and has now revealed previous layers. For example, your asthma symptoms may have improved but now you have eczema that you previously experienced years ago. This is an excellent development. Sometimes, the old symptoms will also disappear after a while. Or sometimes, further treatment of this previous layer will be needed. Be patient and consult with your homeopath.
These types of reactions involve the expulsion of disease energy from the body. Typical examples include: the development of skin rashes or itching, diarrhea, nasal discharge, or an acute illness such as a cold. Consult with your homeopath.
The “Bad” Ones:
All New Strange (But Not Severe) Symptoms Never Experienced Before
This can occur when a remedy is a partial, but pretty good match. This is especially true if you are otherwise improving, except for these few minor symptoms. The remedy will probably do you good, but has caused a minor “proving” — that is, you are developing symptoms that can be caused by the remedy substance. Discontinue taking the remedy for now. These symptoms should disappear within a few days.
All New and Severe Symptoms Never Experienced Before
This can occur when the remedy was incorrect and the potency was too high for you. Stop taking the remedy and consult with your homeopath. The reaction will likely dissipate over a few days. If not, your homeopath will probably recommend antidoting the remedy. Typical methods of antidoting include drinking coffee (a generally weak antidote) or inhaling strong vapors such as eucalyptus or menthol (which usually lessens and sometimes completely stops the aggravation). However, the best antidote is taking a better remedy. In my own experience, the correct remedy can antidote such a reaction within minutes or hours.
Why do troublesome reactions occur?
While there are some clues that can indicate a patient’s innate sensitivity to homeopathic remedies, in general, it is impossible for a homeopath to know in advance how a new patient will react to a particular remedy in a particular potency (remedy “strength”). Like everything in homeopathy, each patient is unique in their sensitivity. In my personal experience, some people even react best to specific potencies. For example, some people react positively to a 30c or 1M (which is the same as 1000c) dose, but cannot tolerate a 200c dose. Don’t forget, homeopathy is all about resonance to a remedy and potency, and it all depends on the unique energetic signature of the patient — which, unfortunately, cannot be measured.
That’s why formulaic approaches, where every patient is given the same fixed regimen, are generally not advisable. Of course, fixed regimens are de rigeur in conventional medicine, and using them certainly makes prescribing easier for the practitioner. But even allopathic doctors are beginning to learn that one size does not fit all. Tailored therapies for cancer, for example, are just beginning to come into vogue.
Classical homeopaths know well that the choice of a remedy must be tailored to the patient. But dosing management can be even more complex. Because it is logistically impossible for homeopaths to stay in constant contact with their patients, most practitioners develop dosing protocols that work just fine for most of their patients. That is why it is up to you, the patient, to contact your homeopath when a particular protocol does not work for your case.
So once again: When in doubt: stop taking a remedy and call your homeopath!