This is Part 2 in a series of articles on homeopathic medicine. There are thousands of remedies to choose from, and they’re among the easiest to use and safest types of medicine available. In each article we look at a featured remedy and its unique healing properties, and also explore some of the guidelines and background information that will help you get the maximum benefit for the animals in your care.

The first time you visit your health food store to buy a homeopathic remedy can be a bit daunting. You scan the dozens of remedies on display, find the one you’re looking for, but then discover you need to choose from vials labeled 6X, 12X, 12C, and 30C. What do the numbers and letters mean? And which one is right for the animal you’re caring for?

The answers to these questions start with an understanding of how these remedies are prepared. Homeopathic medicines are highly dilute forms of the substances from which they’re made. (See the first article in the Homeopathy Series, “What Is Homeopathy?”) To make the remedy known as Hypericum, a remedy commonly used to treat cuts and scrapes, a pharmacist dilutes a tincture of the St. John’s Wort plant (its Latin name is Hypericum perforatum) in water or alcohol, and in most cases sprays the solution on tiny sugar pills. When you buy Hypericum from your store or homeopathic pharmacy, the vial of pills is labeled with the name of the remedy along with a number and a letter—actually the Roman numerals X, C, or M—to signify just how dilute the solution is, also known as the “potency” of the remedy. A 1X indicates dilution to a ratio of 1:10, or 1 drop of the tincture combined with 10 drops of alcohol or water. A 1C potency indicates a dilution of 1:100, or 1 drop of original substance combined with 100 drops of inert liquid. An 1M indicates a dilution of 1:1,000.

The number that precedes the X, C, or M indicates how many times the pharmacist has repeated the dilution process. For example, to make a 1X potency of Hypericum, 1 drop of the mother tincture is placed in 10 drops of water, then pounded or shaken vigorously, or “succussed,” to release the energy of the plant into the solution. This gives us our 1:10 dilution. If we take 1 drop of that solution and add it to 10 more drops of water, repeating the process, the result is a 1:100 dilution of the tincture we started with. We call this a 2X potency. If a 6X potency is needed, the process is repeated a total of 6 times to create a 1:1,000,000 solution. Notice that in this case the 6 in 6X tells us how many zeros are in the ratio that describes the dilution.

You can begin to see how a 6X remedy, with only 1 part Hypericum out of 1 million parts water, would leave us with very little of the original plant tincture actually present. Now consider that remedies are often diluted even further. 12X or even 30X potencies are very common. At 30X we would have only 1 drop of mother tincture of Arnica for every 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 drops of our solution!

But wait—it gets even more interesting. Potencies identified with the letter C have been diluted in much the same way as the X potencies, except that for each dilution, 1 drop of mother tincture has been added to 100 drops of inert liquid, for a 1:100 dilution. A 30C potency means we have a ratio with twice as many zeros as in the 30X potency, above. 60C, 100C, and 200C go on from there. When referring to even higher dilutions, the Roman numeral M, or more commonly 1M, is used to identify a 1,000C potency. Experienced practitioners use higher potencies still, with designations like 10M or LM.

All these zeros can be mind-boggling. Fortunately, there’s no need to try to keep track of them—with a little practice you’ll feel comfortable referring to the standard number and letter designation as you choose the appropriate potency for the illness or injury you’re dealing with.

This leads us to a very intriguing aspect of homeopathy: The higher the potency—that is, the more dilute a remedy is—the more powerful it is. That’s right. A very high potency, in which the original substance has been diluted to a ratio of trillions or more, is more powerful—or deeper acting—than one that has been diluted to a ratio of a thousand or less. As you can imagine, there is much speculation among homeopaths about why this is true. One way to explain it is that the very high potencies carry a pure energetic imprint of the medicine and, therefore, promote healing on a very deep energetic level.

Which potency is the right one for the animal you’re caring for? Consider these factors:
The severity of the injury or illness: A severe injury will require a higher potency than a minor one. 12C, 30C, or even 1M may be called for.

The strength or vitality of the animal: An otherwise strong, healthy animal will handle a high potency remedy well, while one that is old, frail, or very weak from a long-term illness should be treated gently with lower potency remedies, such as 6X or 12X.

If you’re uncertain whether your choice of remedy or potency is the one best suited for the condition of the animal you’re working with, begin with a lower potency, such as 12X or 6C. If you see some improvement, but the condition remains unresolved, move on to a higher potency. If you see no improvement, re-evaluate her case; a different remedy may be a better match for her symptoms, and will likely stimulate a better healing response.

One final note…. These guidelines are intended for use in treatment of acute cases. Chronic illness involves a somewhat different approach, and is beyond the scope of what we can cover in this series. If you’re new to homeopathy it’s best to work with an experienced practitioner for help with chronic illness. And of course, enlist the help of a veterinarian any time you know or suspect a serious condition exists. But for minor, acute illness and injuries, the safety and effectiveness of homeopathic medicine means you can begin to explore its remarkable healing benefits by starting with the lower potencies and following a few basic guidelines. Chances are both you and your animal friends will be pleased with the results.

Featured Remedy: Hypericum
Hypericum is homeopathy’s pain reliever. Think of this remedy for any soft-tissue injury that involves lots of nerve endings, such as cuts, scrapes, even surgical incisions and dental work; also injuries to toenails or hooves. This is an important remedy for puncture wounds (give in alternating doses with Ledum). It will quiet the traumatized nerves and also help prevent infection.

Hypericum is also helpful for back pain, particularly in the lumbar region, or when you see signs of a pinched nerve or muscle spasm. It’s affinity for the nervous system also applies to emotional states such as anxiety and depression.
When treating injuries, in most cases you’ll start with a dose of Arnica (see the featured remedy in “What Is Homeopathic Medicine?” in this series), then follow with Hypericum. In cuts, scrapes, surgical incisions, or dental work where swelling or bruising of the tissue is likely, continue to alternate the two remedies—a dose of Arnica followed by a dose of Hypericum, then Arnica again, Hypericum, and so forth. (The frequency of the doses will depend on the severity of the symptoms and the progression of healing—more frequently immediately after the injury, tapering off as symptoms disappear. We’ll address this in greater depth in an upcoming article.) Once the likelihood of swelling has passed, continue Hypericum alone for pain.

Consider giving Hypericum when you see the following symptoms:*

  • A visible cut, scrape, or puncture wound
  • Injury to the foot, toes, toenails, hoof, or other outer extremity
  • Stiff gait, tense back muscles, pain response when you apply gentle pressure to the back, especially in the lumbar area
  • Abrupt movement as though trying to get away from pain; sudden crying out as though from a sharp pain; turning to look at the back as though looking for the source of pain; other signs of pinched nerve or muscle spasm
  • Recovery from surgery or dental work
  • Nervousness, anxiety
  • Depression

*Any of these symptoms could be a sign of a serious illness or injury that requires professional care. Contact your veterinarian if you’re not sure.