Though you might not completely understand how it works, you’ve probably at least heard of homeopathy. And if you’re interested in alternatives to the usual approaches taken by Western medicine, then homeopathic medicine should definitely be on your radar.
Not sure where to start? This guide will break down what homeopathy is all about and highlight eight must-have remedies to keep handy for all sorts of common ailments.
What To Know About Homeopathy
Developed in Germany over 200 years ago, homeopathy uses natural substances to help the body relieve and heal itself naturally, and centers around the concept that “like cures like.” This means that a substance that might cause certain symptoms in a healthy person can actually be used in a very diluted preparation to help someone suffering from those symptoms, explains Minnesota-based homeopath Jennie Hoglund, C.C.H. “A good example of this is what happens when you chop up an onion: your eyes burn and water and your nose runs,” she says. “The homeopathic remedy Allium cepa, which is made from red onion, is most commonly used to help with allergies and hayfever, when the person is suffering from watery eyes and a runny nose.”
The other main theory of homeopathy involves potentization, or the idea that the more diluted an ingredient is, the more potent it becomes. “The thought here is that diluting and agitating (vigorously shaking) an ingredient activates its curative powers and enhances its effect,” explains Canada-based naturopathic doctor Sarah Connors, N.D.
Pretty interesting stuff, right? While it’s true that there isn’t substantial research to support many homeopathic remedies—mainly because of a lack of funding—naturopaths and homeopaths (and plenty of consumers!) swear by them.
8 Homeopathic Remedies For Head-To-Toe Health
If you want to build up a little home arsenal of homeopathic medicines, experts recommend starting with the following, which can help you manage a number of common health issues.
1. Arnica montana for pain
Perhaps the best-known homeopathic remedy out there (it’s made its way to lots of pharmacies and convenience stores) is arnica, which is made from a flower in the Asteraceae (daisy) family. When used as a homeopathic remedy, it can help with pain from injuries and bruising of soft tissues, such as the low back, neck, or thoracic spine, explains Connors. “Arnica is useful for many things, including soreness and bruising after falls or blows, surgery, or even childbirth, as well as types of shock and sprains,” she says.
Given its versatility, arnica is a medicine cabinet staple that’s sure to come in handy. You can find topical preparations of arnica (it can come in gel, cream, or roll-on forms), as well as ingestible tablets and pellets. If taking arnica orally, Connors generally recommends 30C or 200Ck strength.
2. Nux vomica for nausea and indigestion
Despite having a name that’s somewhat nausea-inducing itself, this homeopathic medicine can be helpful when you need relief from indigestion, heartburn, nausea, and even vomiting.
This remedy is made from the seeds of a plant native to both India and Southeast Asia. Since the nux vomica plant is actually toxic, it’s especially important to follow dosage guidelines carefully when taking this medicine, notes Connors. For that reason, it also shouldn’t be taken by anyone who is pregnant or breastfeeding, or by those taking certain medicines, such as antipsychotics. Otherwise, she generally finds a 30C dilution of nux vomica is effective for the majority of people.
3. Oscillococcinum for cold and flu symptoms
When you feel like you’re coming down with an illness—you’re exhausted, your muscles ache, your head hurts, and the like—naturopathic doctor Judith Thompson, N.D., recommends taking this homeopathic medicine. While some people might find it unappealing that it’s derived from the heart and liver of wild duck, it’s long been hailed for its purported ability to ward off illness, even the flu. In fact, research has shown it can effectively reduce symptoms like achiness, sore throat, and cough.
Just don’t wait to start taking Oscillococcinum if you feel off: “It works best taken within 24 hours of starting to feel not-right and can be taken a couple of times per day,” Thompson says. It typically comes in a 200Ck dilution.
4. Gelsemium Sempervirea for chills and fatigue
Gelsemium can be a really helpful remedy in flu and other viral illnesses that are accompanied by chills, weakness, and lethargy, explains Hoglund. While the exact mechanisms of gelsemium are not fully understood, it’s thought to block the release of neurotransmitters in the brain such as acetylcholine and GABA, which play a role in certain bodily functions including heart rate and muscle contractions, she says. These shifts serve you well when you’re dealing with some of the bodily symptoms of viral illnesses.
Hoglund recommends using gelsemium in a potency of 30C and taking it every three hours for up to five days when unwell.
5. Chamomilla for teething
Have a teething baby or toddler on your hands? Try this homeopathic remedy for soothing sore gums. The flowering plant chamomilla has long been used for medicinal purposes thanks to its anti-inflammatory properties and the pain relief it can provide, notes Hoglund. It’s generally safe for use by infants, but it’s always a good idea to run the idea by your pediatrician before trying it out.
6. Euphrasia officinalis for eye issues
This small plant belonging to the Scrophulariaceae family has long served as a homeopathic remedy for eye problems of all sorts, hence its nickname of eyebright. “Some believe that eyebright can cure eye disease, as well as strengthen the mucous membranes,” says Connors. “It’s used to treat myriad eye complaints, including eye allergies, conjunctivitis, blepharitis, iritis, ptosis, keratitis, corneal ulcer, and pterygium.
7. Lycopodium Clavatum for gas and bloating
If you’re someone who often suffers from gas, bloating, or indigestion, lycopodium might be a great homeopathic remedy for you. Also known as creeping cedars or ground pines, lycopodium can help relieve excessive gas and bloat in the lower abdomen as well as reduce acid reflux soon after eating, notes naturopath Kiera Lane, N.M.D., MSAc, L.Ac., Dipl. Ac., director of Arizona Natural Medicine.
8. Belladonna for headaches
Although the name of this homeopathic remedy translates to “beautiful lady,” it comes from a perennial herbaceous plant within the nightshade family that’s actually quite toxic. When diluted into homeopathic medicine, though, it’s used for the treatment of headaches as well as irritable bowel issues.
“When you experience a throbbing, pulsing type of headache which comes on suddenly and involves sensitivity to light and noise, belladonna could be helpful,” says Lane. The thought is that belladonna works to ease headaches by reducing inflammation that leads to the constriction of blood vessels in the brain.
Of course, if your symptoms don’t go away within a few days or seem severe, it’s a good idea to seek out medical attention to rule out something more serious.