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Homeopathy: What is it and How Does it Work?

By Sara Chana, IBCLC, RH (AHG)

This is an exclusive article that was first published in the SELECT magazine. We reached out to Sara Chana to shed some light on this discussion that we had on the Forum: Do You Believe in Homeopathy? and she sent us this to publish here. This is part one, part two to follow next week. You can hear more from Sara Chana on her Facebook and Twitter. You can also browse her website for more information about homeopathy. 


Why isn’t homeopathic medicine very popular in America? Maybe it is because the tenet of homeopathy is ‘less is more,’ and for most of us, this is an unusual concept considering our present societal belief that ‘more is better.’

When homeopaths suggest a homeopathic remedy, the medicine is administered in small pellets that are dissolved under the tongue. Sometimes a person will need to take the homeopathic remedy three times a day to feel better, or sometimes, only taking the remedy once will be enough to stimulate the person’s body to heal itself! If the remedy is only administered once, and the results are positive, the conventional wisdom is to ‘wait and see’ how the body responds. Patience is a virtue when it comes to healing a problem deep at its core, where the illness originally began.

When I first graduated from homeopathic school one of my first clients was a woman who suffered from chronic depression. Let’s call her Leslie. She had been on and off psychotropic medications since the birth of her second child. With the help of her doctor, she had just discontinued her current medications. She came to me with the hope of finding a homeopathic remedy so she could continue to stay off of her medications. Although her medications allowed her to function on a daily basis, she was still haunted with bouts of depression and the side effects of the medication were often more debilitating than the depression. After spending one and half-hours with her taking a complete history, I suggested she take one dose of a remedy. The next day, she called me sobbing. She told me that she had had a restless night of sleep, woke up crying, and she was not able to function. Leslie whispered that she was fearful and felt more depressed than she had in years and recalled only feeing like this immediately after the birth of her second child, which was the first time that she required psychotropic medication. She continued communicating with me throughout the day saying that she was getting worse and that she needed her husband to come home from work. As he walked through the door, she crawled into bed and went into a deep sleep. After twenty-four hours, she did not return my calls. As a new homeopath I was anxious. Six weeks later I was surprised to learn that Leslie had made a follow-up appointment with my secretary. As she walked into my office and sat down I was a little nervous and unsure about how this follow-up appointment was going to advance. She then proceeded to tell me what had occurred during the past six weeks. The day after her crying experience, as she walked into her office, she bypassed her desk and walked directly into her boss’s office. She informed him that after 15 years of dedicated work, she was quitting. Her boss was shocked and asked what he could do to change the situation. She told him that there were eight things that had been bothering her all these years. He begged her not to quit and promised to fix those eight bothersome problems. The next week, she proceeded to take her two children out of their private school, never having liked the institution, but with the persuasion of her husband, had allowed her in-laws to choose their children’s school. The week after that, she put a down payment on a new apartment. It had been years, she told me, that she felt their family had outgrown their apartment and desired to move into a larger space, but because her husband dreaded change, he was unwilling to move. By the end of six weeks she had also set up a little workspace in her mother’s basement in order to begin painting again, a favorite hobby she had discontinued after the birth of her children.

That is the power of homeopathy. A properly prescribed homeopathic remedy will allow the body to discover what needs to happen in order to allow healing to begin. Leslie could have gone from medication to medication, but until she changed the things in her life that made her feel uncomfortable or ‘blocked’, she could never really begin to heal. She still had to work with a therapist to learn how to continue listening to her true feelings, but she finally felt she was gaining the skills needed to achieve a life without depression. And although the psychotropic medications had helped her to feel better at times, they did not give Leslie the tools needed to make the true changes in her life that would lead to permanent healing. A proper homeopathic remedy will allow the body’s own ‘vital-force,’ to heal itself. And homeopaths believe, given the proper environment and support, the body has an innate ability to heal itself at its core.

What to expect from a visit with a Homeopath:

A visit to a homeopath typically involves asking and answering many questions, which on the surface might seem irrelevant. These questions include information concerning: natural tendencies, food choices and physical or emotional ailments. The answers to these questions are important because, from the Homeopath’s perspective, the primary concern is how the individual is being affected, more than just knowing the name of the affliction. Homeopathy investigates the ‘entire person’, looking to see where there are ‘imbalances’, in order to balance the body as a whole. Yet, homeopathy stabilizes the body in a way that is specific to the individual person, and who she is. For example, if five people come down with the ‘flu’, each person will have contracted the same virus, but it will manifest with different symptoms, depending on the individual. One person may have a high fever while another will have a low-grade fever. One may suffer from muscle pain and sweating, while the other will have bone pain and feel chilled. Five different people with the same flu might require five different homeopathic remedies, because everyone’s body will react differently to similar experiences.

Homeopaths study and learn the characteristics that define the active agent of each homeopathic remedy, in order to prescribe them appropriately. It is this knowledge that is key to the success of homeopathy and has proven to be most effective in diagnosis and treatment.

To a homeopath, like a loving parent, each person is seen as an individual being. Homeopaths strive to discover whom a person truly is, in order to prescribe a remedy that both match the illness, as well as the unique qualities of that person. Although it is often a long and arduous process for a homeopath to really know the person, it is ultimately necessary. Once a homeopath knows a person as a multi-faceted human being, the results of homeopathic medicines are safe, long lasting and easy to use, with no uncomfortable side effects.

Homeopathic remedies, how to take them:

So, you have decided to venture into the world of homeopathy and have purchased a little vial of homeopathic medicine and want to know, “How am I supposed to take this?” Let’s take a moment to learn the best way to take ‘remedies’, to ensure that they are most effective.

Most homeopathic remedies are sold in vials that contain pellets (little white balls). Some remedies come in sprays and some in water, but for now we will discuss the most commonly used form — the pellet. For the most common size pellets that are sold in health food stores, the typical dosage is three pellets at one time. For children, many homeopaths will use extra small pellets—the size of poppy seeds, and the dosage can range from four to nine pellets, depending on the age of the child. The pellets are administered sublingually (under the tongue) where they dissolve easily. A person is asked not to touch the pellets with their hands, rather pour them from the container into the cap, and then dispense them directly under the tongue.

For babies and children under the age of three, it’s okay to let the pellets dissolve on top of the tongue, but it is suggested to ask the child to suck on the pellets rather than ‘chew’ them. A current study showed that homeopathic remedies only require being under the tongue for thirty seconds in order to be effective.

Although it was believed that a person should not eat or drink for twenty minutes before and twenty minutes after the remedy was given, the current thought is that five minutes before and after eating is long enough. Our main concern here is that the mouth should be clean and clear when taking the remedy, and not in close proximity to a meal.

The question always arises whether a person is allowed to use mint products while under homeopathic care. I would not recommend smelling camphor oil (which is purported to lessen or negate the effects of homeopathy), but most homeopaths these days do not mind if clients use mint toothpaste or occasionally chew mint gum.

Part two coming soon.