Homeopathy Basics: Potencies and Dosing
Homeopathic pharmacies and suppliers offer remedies in many different potencies or strengths, and I often get questions about which potencies to use and how frequently to give the remedies. This article will try to shed some light on this very important topic. Specifically, I will cover how homeopathic remedies are prepared and designated; posology (the study of dosage); and aggravations and provings.
PREPARATION OF HOMEOPATHIC REMEDIES
Almost any substance, and even non-material things such as different forms of radiation or energy, can be prepared into homeopathic remedies. The process varies slightly depending on the source material.
If a remedy is made from a plant, the plant is first prepared into an herbal mother tincture by chopping the plant material and immersing it in alcohol for a couple of weeks. The solids are then strained out and the liquid is prepared into a homeopathic remedy by taking one part of the tincture and adding water in a certain ratio, followed by intense agitation, also known as “succussion” of the solution.
The process is then repeated as many times as desired, which is referred to as “serial dilution,” although it is not just dilution, as the important succussion or agitation aspect adds kinetic energy to the solution.
Three ratios are commonly used: a 1:10 ratio (designated as an X potency, based on the Roman numeral X for ten); a 1:100 ratio (designated as a C, CK or K potency, with C standing for “centesimal” meaning “hundred” and CK and K also standing for the same); and a 1:50,000 ratio. The 1:50,000 ratio is known as an LM potency, also sometimes called Q potency or “50 Millesimal” potency.
To make matters even more confusing, the letters M or MK are also sometimes used for a 1:100 ratio repeated one thousand times or more, where M stands for “millesimal” (as in “thousand”); instead of writing “1000C,” the potency is designated as 1M.
For example, if you buy Arnica 30C, it means the remedy was prepared in a 1:100 ratio repeated thirty times. Arnica 2 00C w as p repared in a 1:100 ratio, but repeated two hundred times. Arnica 1M was prepared in a 1:100 ratio repeated one thousand times. If you buy Arnica LM2, the remedy was prepared in a 1:50,000 ratio, repeated twice. And so on!
If the source material is another liquid, such as a vaccine, it will be prepared just like a plant tincture. If the source material is an energy, such as X-rays or ultrasound, water is first exposed to the energy and then the water is prepared in the same way as a plant tincture. If the source material is a solid—such as a mineral, medication or bird feather, for example—it is first ground up finely, then ground some more with milk sugar in a ratio of 1:10 or 1:100 for four rounds; then the process is continued in water as with the plant tincture.
HAHNEMANN AND KORSAKOV
But why are there three different letters— C, CK and K—for the centesimal potency, you may ask? Samuel Hahnemann (1755–1843), the founder of homeopathy, thought it was important to use a clean glass vial for each step of the serial dilution and succussion process. In his lifetime, he only went up to 30C potencies, so thirty glass vials were needed to produce this potency.
In 1787, just about thirty years after Hahnemann’s birth, a man named Semyon Korsakov was born in what is now Kherson, Ukraine.1 Though not formally trained as a doctor, Korsakov was very interested in medicine. According to journals, he treated several thousand patients, initially with conventional medicine but then switched to homeopathy around 1829.¹
Korsakov lived in a remote rural area and at one point probably just did not have that many glass vials to prepare his remedies. He decided to use just one vial, dumping out most of the solution and refilling it. In this way, the Korsakovian method of homeopathic serial dilution was born, ergo the use of the letter K. He also started using much higher potencies, which was easier now that he did not need to use several hundred or thousand different glass vials to do so. Therefore, if you see a remedy with the designation K or CK, it simply means that it was prepared using only one vial instead of many, but it is still a centesimal preparation.
Now you, too, know how to prepare almost anything as a homeopathic remedy yourself.
WHY THE DIFFERENT POTENCIES?
You may wonder why there are so many different potencies. The answer is that homeopathy can be useful for many different health problems—from acute to chronic, from mild to very intense, from physical to mental and emotional, and for babies as well as adults, animals and plants. The different potencies are used accordingly, although there are variations of opinion in homeopathy as well. Some schools of thought prefer low potencies, while others prefer high.
The best practice is to use all potencies and to use them according to the needs and situation of the patient. The main rules are as follows:
- Use whatever potency you have; this is the most important rule. If you only have one potency, just use it.
- If several potencies are available, the general rule is that the more intense the symptoms, the higher the potency that can be used. For example, if someone just had a bad fall and is in a lot of pain, Arnica 200C or 1M may work better than 30C.
- If someone is very sensitive, a lower potency should be used. It is always better to start with a lower potency and go up, to avoid aggravations.
- For deep healing, we often need to start with lower potencies and gradually increase to much higher potencies.
- For mental and emotional concerns, it is often necessary to go with higher potencies.
- In general, the remedies are given “as needed” but, depending on the person, more or less often.
- For most day-to-day family health concerns, the 30C potency is the most useful. 200C is a step up and is helpful to have on hand for the top acute-use remedies like Arnica, Aconite and Belladonna. 6C potencies will do in a pinch. Much higher potencies such as 10M and up are best left to professionals. LM potencies can be useful for very sensitive individuals but again are best left to professionals.
How often to give remedies is a complex topic that can be confusing to beginners and even experienced practitioners, mainly because there are no hard-and-fast rules. The remedies are always given for the individual, not the condition. Individuals vary in their sensitivity to remedies depending on many different factors, including their overall state of health and vitality, age, environmental factors and more.
Imagine the remedies to be like musical notes. There are many notes, and they can be played with different frequency as well as intensity or volume. In some ways, the potencies are like the “volume” or “loudness” of a remedy, and the frequency given is like the speed of the notes. A faster beat in a piece of music is more stimulating than a slow beat. If both fast and loud—you get the idea.
PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER
How and when to give different potencies of remedies is known as “posology” from the Greek posos (“how much”) and logos (“study”).
A very acute and difficult situation ideally calls for a higher potency of a remedy, and it may have to be given more often, even every few minutes. This may be the case for a very bad migraine headache, for example, or after a wisdom tooth extraction or major surgery. Here, the remedies may need to be given every ten to fifteen minutes for the first few hours. The patient will know when to repeat it as the pain will be relieved and then recur. The next dose should be taken as soon as the symptoms recur or intensify again. This is called giving the remedy “as needed.”
In a case like this, the remedies are also best taken in water. Ah, another wrinkle! Taken in water means placing two pellets of each remedy into a small bottle of water, succussing the solution (by hitting it against a medium-firm object like a book) about fifty times and giving a teaspoon (or a squirt if it’s a dropper bottle) every ten to fifteen minutes or “as needed,” depending on the effect of the remedy. Succuss the bottle again a few times before each dose.
This method has several advantages. First, the remedies will last much longer. Technically, two pellets (or even one) are enough to medicate gallons and gallons of water—virtually infinite amounts, in fact. Using remedies this way will save you money. Big Pharma hates this, which is one main reason they malign homeopathy so much.
Second, it will be better for the teeth as the pellets are medicated milk or other sugar pellets and can promote tooth decay.
Third, agitating the remedy each time before taking it slightly changes the dose, which can help to make the remedy more effective as the body does not become used to it too quickly. The body will get used to a repeated stimulus.
MATTERS OF COMPLEXITY
When dealing with more complex health challenges, the posology also becomes more complex. Just like a beginner learning a musical instrument starts with basic notes and melodies, a virtuoso, after years of practice, may be able to play very complex and difficult pieces of music. A homeopathic practitioner with many years of experience will use different remedies, potencies and dosing frequencies in different and more complex ways from those of a beginner. This can give rise to complex, interesting and deep-acting homeopathic protocols. I will give two examples.
The Indian medical doctor and homeopath Dr. A.U. Ramakrishnan developed a novel way to help cancer patients with homeopathy by treating cancer as an acute condition. He started to have his patients take remedies in water as described above, every fifteen minutes for eight to ten doses a day. The next day, he had them change the remedy slightly by adding more water, in effect changing the potency a bit, and repeated the process in this way for a week. He would then give another, complementary remedy during the second week and so on, gradually increasing potencies and changing remedies over time. With this method, his results improved dramatically.²
The Dutch medical doctor and homeopath Dr. Tinus Smits developed a novel way of helping children with autism by using complex protocols involving constitutional remedies alternating with remedies made from substances that might have negatively affected the children, such as different medications and vaccines.³ He would use both in increasing potencies, layered with other remedies for the support of specific organ systems as well as continuously adjusted.
AGGRAVATIONS AND PROVINGS
This article would not be complete without touching on the topics of “aggravations” and “provings.” An aggravation is a temporary worsening or intensification of existing symptoms or sometimes even the development of new symptoms, often related to detoxification, such as loose stools or a skin rash. This is normal and will usually pass in a few days. It is a sign that the remedy is stimulating the innate self-healing mechanism of the body. When an aggravation is noted, however, it is important not to give any more of the remedy and wait until things settle down. Many times, in my practice, patients do not follow my advice in this matter and keep taking the remedy anyway. Every week I get messages about this, and the Internet is full of horror stories of aggravations. These reports are essentially due to poor case management, not the process of homeopathy.
A proving means that the patient is developing the symptoms that the remedy is supposed to help. It can look very similar to an aggravation. The word “proving” is a not completely accurate translation of the German word Prüfung, which means “test” or “examination.” A proving in homeopathy refers to an experiment in which volunteers take or prepare a homeopathic remedy expressly to experience and document its effects. Brave provers have volunteered to take remedies made from arsenic, snake venoms and even the emissions of a black hole! The proving proceeds by carefully comparing and cataloguing the symptoms and adding them to homeopathy’s knowledge base. Thanks to those brave souls, we now have over eight thousand different remedies in our materia medica (the reference volumes that list and describe homeopathic remedies).
Occasionally, a person using or being given a homeopathic remedy may experience a proving. I saw a memorable case of this in my practice many years ago. The client was a woman in her late thirties. I had known her for a number of years but had not seen her in about a year when she came to my office complaining of feeling unwell. She said, “Anke, I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I feel horrible, like I’m dying or something. I feel very cold and clammy and so bloated! I have zero energy. The strangest thing is that I want a fan on me all the time or else I feel as if I can’t breathe. This has been going on for about a month, and I’m really worried.” In all honesty, she looked a bit bluish-green around the edges, and I started to feel worried, too.
I carefully inquired as to what had been happening in her life over the past few months. After about twenty minutes, she confessed that she had been taking a new homeopathic remedy, which had been recommended by a friend of a friend who was not a trained homeopath. She had been taking this remedy in a 30C potency four times a day for two months. The remedy was Carbo vegetabilis, which is made from vegetable charcoal.
In homeopathy, we have a special nickname for this remedy, which is “the Corpse Reviver”! In other words, this remedy may be used in cases of total collapse and in patients near death. The remedy my client had been taking four times a day for two months in a medium potency—a total overdose, to say the least—was one which I would never give more than once or twice a week in a chronic case! She was now experiencing what the remedy is normally used for—the feeling of collapse and being near death. I explained what had happened to her, and we both had a good laugh. She discontinued the remedy and was fine in a few days.
Fortunately, that is about as bad as it can get in homeopathy. If someone does develop a proving, simply discontinuing the remedy will generally stop the symptoms. It is not possible to die from taking a homeopathic remedy, as the remedies are non-toxic. In a bad case of a proving, a bit of essential oil of camphor, rubbed on the chest three times a day for a few days, will speed up the relief.
I hope you enjoyed this little romp through the intriguing and magical world of posology in homeopathy. Happy dosing!
SOOTHE AND HEAL FAST WITH HOMEOPATHY
By Lauri Grossman, DC, CCH, RSHom(NA), Board President, National Center for Homeopathy
Your friends use Arnica for bumps and bruises. Your sister swears by Oscillococcinum for flu. And your co-worker insists that Nux vomica saves the day each time he eats too much. Your allergies start acting up, and you want to try homeopathy, too. Use the basics outlined below to get started. As time goes on, you’ll gain confidence in using homeopathy for acute ailments and first aid.
Understanding the founding principles of homeopathy can help you choose the best homeopathic medicine for your symptoms. Learn how frequently to take it and know when to stop. Two centuries ago, German physician Samuel Hahnemann developed the three principles of homeopathy—“like cures like,” “totality of symptoms” and “minimum dose”—into a system of medicine that works with the body to relieve symptoms and restore overall health. Today, homeopathy is the fastest-growing holistic medicine worldwide for acute and chronic concerns.
- LIKE CURES LIKE: This principle is based on the idea that a substance that can cause disease symptoms in a healthy person can help a sick person with similar symptoms to feel better. For example, cutting an onion often causes burning, watery eyes and a drippy nose in a healthy person. A homeopathic medicine made from an onion (Allium cepa) helps heal similar eye and nose symptoms in someone with a cold or hay fever.
- TOTALITY OF SYMPTOMS: This principle means that although two people may have the same ailment, they may not need the same homeopathic medicine. This is because homeopathy supports all a person’s symptoms, not just the primary complaint. All symptoms matter. For example, to choose the best homeopathic medicine for an upset stomach, one would ask: “When and how did it start? Where does it hurt? What makes it better or worse?” Someone who is chilly and not thirsty with an upset stomach would need a different remedy than someone who feels hot and craves water. Similarly, an allergy sufferer experiencing sneezing and a stuffy nose is likely to find relief from Nux vomica, whereas Allium cepa, as described earlier, would be a better match for allergies involving watery eyes and a drippy nose.
- MINIMUM DOSE: With homeopathic dosing, less is truly more. Your body needs just enough homeopathic medicine to stimulate a healing response. When you start to feel better, it’s time to stop taking the medicine. If your symptoms return, repeat the medicine or, if you are unsure, seek the help of a professional homeopath. (The homeopathycenter.org directory can connect you to homeopaths in all fifty U.S. states.)
Beginners often find homeopathic first aid a good place to start. Homeopathic first aid kits typically include remedies such as Apis mellifica (infections, allergic reactions and inflammation marked by burning, stinging pains, redness and swelling—think stings and bites or allergic reactions to bites); Arnica montana (soreness and bruising after an accident, trauma or muscle overuse—think aching after an intense workout at the gym or soreness and bruising after a car or bike accident); Calendula officinalis (open wounds with superficial bleeding; use to prevent infection and promote healing—think scraped knees or surgical incisions); Hypericum perforatum (shooting pains in nerve-rich areas such as the tongue, fingertips, toes and tailbone—think falling on the ice, biting the tongue, hitting your fingers with a hammer); and Ledum palustre (painful and swollen puncture wounds; stings and bites, especially when ice provides relief—think stepping on a nail, a dog or cat bite with minimal bleeding, inflamed mosquito bites).
For dosing, use these common guidelines. First, using a reference guide of symptoms and medicines (called a repertory), or a book or app, pick the remedy in a 30C potency that best matches your symptoms. The better the match, the better the health outcome. For injury and trauma, choosing a well-matched medicine is reasonably straightforward. Pay attention to how you (or a loved one) describes the illness, and focus on the most troublesome symptoms. Is the most prominent symptom pain, stiffness or swelling? Do you feel better if you apply pressure, or with heat or cold? Are you fearful, irritable or weepy? All this information is helpful when selecting a remedy. Once you are comfortable using homeopathy for first aid, you can use it to lessen symptoms and speed healing for simple acute conditions like uncomplicated headaches, allergies, stomach bugs or the flu.
After you have picked your remedy in a 30C potency, your next step will depend on whether you are experiencing:
- Acute illness: Dissolve three pellets under your tongue four times daily until you start feeling better. Then stop. If it matches the symptoms, you can expect to start feeling better after the first few doses.
- Chronic symptoms: Dissolve three pellets under your tongue twice daily for up to two weeks. Then stop. If it matches the symptoms, you can expect improved well-being and symptomatic relief within two weeks.
If you don’t see any improvement in your symptoms, reassess and search for a better remedy match, and if you cannot find one, contact a professional homeopath. Check out the quarterly magazine published by the National Center for Homeopathy (NCH), chock-full of stories about choosing a homeopathic medicine for physical and emotional issues. NCH members receive helpful monthly infographics with remedies for many common complaints.
- “Semyon Korsakov.” Wikipedia, accessed February 17, 2023. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Semyon_Korsakov
- Ramakrishnan AU, Coulter C. A Homeopathic Approach to Cancer. Ninth House Publishing; 2001.
- Smit T. Autism, Beyond Despair: CEASE Therapy. Emryss Publishers; 2010.
This article appeared in Wise Traditions in Food, Farming and the Healing Arts, the quarterly journal of the Weston A. Price Foundation, Spring 2023🖨️ Print post