You may never have tried homeopathy, a form of alternative medicine that boosts the body's own healing responses. But if you get sick this winter, chances are that homeopathy can bring relief-if you pick the appropriate homeopathic remedy for your specific symptoms. What you need to know...

How Homeopathy Works

Like vaccination, homeopathy seeks to stimulate the immune system. A vaccine contains a tiny amount of the pathogen that causes a certain disease.

Principle of homeopathy: Substances of plant, animal or mineral origin that can cause symptoms of disease also can cure symptoms when given in the form of very highly diluted remedies.

Homeopathy is not a one-size-fits-all therapy. Rather, the remedy must be carefully matched to a particular person's specific symptoms and his/ her physical and mental reactions to these symptoms. This individualization makes it difficult to devise clinical studies that accurately reflect homeopathy's effectiveness.

What is known: For more than 200 years, homeopathy has helped people heal.

People who have colds or flu often respond to self-treatment using nonprescription homeopathic remedies sold in health food stores and online.

Key: Match the right remedy to your combination of symptoms.

What to do: Follow directions on product labels, taking 6C, 12C or 30C potency remedies. "C" stands for centesimal and indicates that one part of the active substance was mixed with 99 parts of alcohol...the numbers reflect how many times the mixture went through a dilution process. Paradoxically, the more dilute the potency, the greater the effect.

Remedies usually are sold as tiny pellets that dissolve under the tongue. Oils or other substances on your hands can inactivate pellets, so use a spoon to remove them from the container and place them in your mouth. Do not put anything else in your mouth for 30 minutes before or after taking a remedy.

Homeopathic remedies generally work quickly. Unless otherwise directed by your practitioner or product labels, follow these instructions…

  • If there is no change in symptoms after several hours, repeat the dose once more. If symptoms still do not change after several hours, try a different homeopathic remedy that corresponds to your symptoms.
  • If you feel somewhat better after taking a homeopathic remedy, repeat it at four-hour intervals until you feel significantly better, for a maximum of four doses in total.
  • Once you feel significantly better, do not take another dose. If symptoms return, repeat dosing according to the instructions above.

When to seek help: In some cases, patients need prescription-potency homeopathic remedies and/or conventional medical treatment. See a homeopathic physician or your primary care practitioner if...

  • None of the remedies below seem appropriate for your specific symptoms.
  • You have tried three or four of the homeopathic remedies below without result.
  • You are over age 65 or have a chronic health problem.
  • You are pregnant or breast-feeding.

Important: The flu can be deadly, so if your symptoms are severe—for instance, you have a very high fever, have trouble breathing and/or feel extremely weak—seek immediate medical care.

The Right Remedy For You

The following homeopathic remedies are among those most commonly indicated for colds or flu. Choose the remedy that most closely correlates to your symptoms.

  • Use Arsenicum album if you…
  • Have alternating chills and fever.
  • Are thirsty and prefer warm drinks to cold ones.
  • Have a runny nose or burning sensation in the nose.
  • Feel extremely weak.
  • Are anxious or restless.
  • Feel worse from 10 p.m. to 3 a.m.
  • Use Belladonna if you…
  • Spike a sudden fever.
  • Cough a lot.
  • Have a hot, red face (though hands and feet may be cold).
  • Have glassy eyes or dilated pupils. .Have a throbbing headache.
  • Cannot tolerate light.
  • Feel slightly delirious.
  • Use Gelsemium if you...
  • Ache all over (particularly if this comes on gradually).
  • Feel exhausted and weak.
  • Have a trembling sensation running up and down the spine.
  • Sneeze and/or have a runny nose.
  • Develop a sore throat.
  • Get dizzy.
  • Feel apathetic or antisocial.
  • Use Hepar sulphuricum if you…
  • Have a thick nasal discharge
  • Develop a sore throat.
  • Cannot tolerate cold drafts.
  • Are extremely sensitive to touch.
  • Perspire heavily
  • Feel bothered by everything and everybody
  • Use Nux vomica if you…
  • Are shivering
  • Sneeze frequently or feel a tickle in the nose.
  • Have a backache or headache.
  • Have stomach cramps, nausea or difficulty moving your bowels.
  • Get more congested at night.
  • Have trouble sleeping.
  • Are sensitive to noise.
  • Feel irritable or anxious.
  • Use Pulsatilla if you…
  • Have had symptoms for several days.
  • Have a thick green or yellow nasal discharge.
  • Must blow your nose often. .Have an upset stomach.
  • Crave cool, fresh air.
  • Feel worse at night.
  • Feel weepy or want attention.

To find a homeopath: Contact the Homeopathic Academy of Naturopathic Physicians (206941-4217, or the National Center for Homeopathy (703-548-7790, www.national

Want to Keep Reading?

Continue reading with a Health Confidential membership.

Sign up now Already have an account? Sign in