How Do I Know if My Homeopathic Medicine Worked?
From the perspective of the naturopathic or medical doctor, the practice of homeopathy can be a thankless art and science.
Homeopathy is arguably one of the most powerful tools available to the naturopathic doctor or progressive medical doctor, but attributing cause and effect to this form of medicine is often very difficult for the patient and the doctor, alike. The reasons for this may someday be elucidated (semiotics, nanosolutions, hormesis, complex adaptive systems) but for now, that discussion is beyond the scope of what I want to communicate here to those who are still novice homeopaths and/or their patients.
I've seen homeopathic medicines change lives, stop and heal progressive disease states, and I've also seen them do absolutely nothing.
However, when they do work the effects are initiated on such a deep and global level that often the patient doesn't even realize that anything that has changed can be attributed to the medicine.
I've heard patients report that the medicine did nothing; however, upon further questioning, they report having no more heartburn, their children aren't misbehaving as much, they're sleeping better, they've lost weight, got the promotion at work, are happier, more satisfied with their love life -- but "it had nothing to do with the remedy". It appears as though they've experienced improvements in various aspects of their lives (job, interpersonal, biological) yet they cannot link these "effects" to the remedy.
I have seen this many times; I just smile and take notes.
This is in stark contrast to my work with acupuncture. Often when I see someone for acupuncture, their presenting complaint (tennis elbow, carpal tunnel syndrome, or other fairly straightforward conditions) is usually treated quite reliably with a physical intervention that the patient can feel and sense (a pinprick, a twitch, an instant improvement of some sort e.g. range of motion). When they get up from the treatment table and they are improved (maybe sometimes a little bit sore, as well), there is little doubt or consideration as to whether the acupuncture helped.
However, when we are treating the whole person physiological systems rather than discrete, single, physical complaints, it is a little more difficult.
With regards to a holistic (systemic) intervention like homeopathy, the difficulty in determining if and how the remedy helped depends partly on what it was prescribed for. If you've been prescribed a remedy for an annoying symptom that you can easily discern an improvement in (i.e. menstrual cramps) and the condition improved right after taking the remedy, it is pretty straightforward to figure out. These cases are very rewarding for the beginner and expert homeopath alike.
However, if you've been given a remedy that fits a constellation of symptoms (called individualized or constitutional homeopathy), it can be much more difficult to figure out IF the remedy has worked. This problem (discerning improvement or change) lends itself to the dependent issue of RE-DOSING.
Let's divide the kind of homeopathic prescription you've received roughly into 2 categories:
1. Constitutional/Individualized - A patient's entire medical history, symptoms, disposition etc. is combined to find a remedy that best fits the patient as a whole, rather than one particular symptom.
2. Acute/Pathology-based - A specific acute condition (i.e. flu, diarrhea) or perhaps a specific chronic condition (arthritis, insomnia) is prescribed for, with little or no emphasis given to patient disposition or information unrelated specifically to the symptoms being treated.
There is going to be some overlap between these 2 approaches (constitutional, holistic prescribing will include some pathology, of course), but the guidelines for prescribing may differ quite a bit.
For individualized prescribing, a single dose of a great (or lucky) homeopathic practitioner can change your life.
I've seen this happen a few times but I would not say it is the standard for most homeopaths. When an individualized remedy is well chosen, everything gets better. Sleep, appetite, stress, love life, the pathology -- it all changes. More often, many changes happen (in the direction of health and balance), but maybe not all. At these times it is often a good idea to take one dose of the remedy before bed on day 1 (that day), day 2 (before bed), and again a week later. This is my most common method because it helps the patient determine for his or herself whether the remedy is "working". If it helps on day 1 and that one dose is all that was given, they may consider it a fluke, so I encourage them to repeat it the next day. The 6 days off between the 2nd and 3rd dose helps me determine how long-lasting any results realized in days 1, 2 may be. If the benefit realized on day 7 is similar to that in day 1, 2, then we may have found a good match.
Weekly repetitions of the constitutional remedy may be repeated for a month, making the dosing suggestions as follows:
I often ask for an email from the patient to help us discern the effect of the remedy after the first week, or sometimes wait til day 28 if the case isn't as "urgent" in nature.
For the acute/pathology-focused prescribing method, I use the analogy of an over the counter medicine. You can dose the remedy repeatedly if the symptoms abate and then return. Just like when one uses Tylenol for a headache, you only repeat the medicine if your symptoms persist. In this second case, it is far more straightforward and can generally be self-managed by the patient if the remedy is working satisfactorily. If it's not working, another remedy is indicated.
It is evident that the constitutional prescribing method is a little more difficult than the "OTC Method", which is why I give my patients the following information in a handout in order to help prepare them for the sometimes subtle, holistic/global effects of the homeopathic "download" that the remedy provides.
Did the symptoms of your condition improve, change, lessen in any way?Did you have a ‘return of old symptoms’?
Do you feel like you have more energy?
Did any excretions or secretions change? e.g. more bowel movements, decreased mucous, decreased urinary frequency/quantity etc .
Do you have a more positive outlook?
Have others (family, co-workers) commented on any changes in you, or have the relationship dynamics shifted? e.g. children are better behaved since the remedy, fewer quarrels with husband/wife, increased libido
Do you feel more ‘at ease’ (less tense, stressed)?
Do things/people/situations that previously irritated you do so to a lesser extent?
Did you sleep longer and/or deeper, or wake fewer times (i.e. less disturbed)?
Did your appetite, body temperature, thirst change
There is no PERFECT consensus on how to prescribe either constitutionally or acutely, but it is my opinion that the best dosing schedule is likely the lowest amount or frequency of dosing that is necessary to get the benefits is the optimal situation, but it has the disadvantage of more frequent communications with the patient which can be difficult from a practical/operations and financial perspective.