This is Part 3 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.

In Part 2 of this series, “Potencies,”,  we looked at homeopathic potencies, and how these wonderful remedies are actually highly dilute forms of the substances from which they’re made—so dilute in fact that very little, if any, of the original substance actually remains in each pill. With that in mind, you can understand why, as effective as they are, homeopathic medicines are also fairly delicate. Since we are dealing primarily with the energy of the material we started with, it’s entirely possible for another strong “energy” to come along and de-potentize a homeopathic remedy. If that happens your remedy will lose its ability to do its job.

You can avoid de-potentizing your medicines by being careful about where you store them and how you handle them. Things to watch for include strong smells, magnetic fields, electromagnetic radiation, or extreme temperatures (such as direct sunlight or the inside of your car on a summer day). Avoid highly aromatic substances like mint, menthol, camphor, incense, or cigarette smoke; don’t store your remedies in your medicine chest if you also keep things like Tiger Balm, BenGay, or cough drops that contain menthol. The refrigerator would pose a problem because of the food odors there, and also because most refrigerator motors contain a powerful magnet. Your television set, computer monitor, cell phone, and microwave oven emit energy fields that could ruin your remedies. Keeping them in direct sunlight or inside your car on a summer day could raise the temperature of the remedies to extremes that could also be troublesome. It’s best to store them in a cool, dry cabinet or drawer, away from foods and other odors.

You’ll also want to be careful when handling your remedies. There are two basic guidelines to follow. First, be sure there are no strong smells around—in the room, on your hands, or on the animal you’re caring for—when you administer a remedy. It’s a good idea to rinse your hands with cold water first to be sure there is no residue remaining from your last meal or project. Don’t wash with soap, since most contain fragrances that could be a problem. Also, avoid using things like Tiger Balm or aromatherapy on you or your “patient” when using homeopathy as part of the healing regimen. There’s no need to worry about the medicines interacting in a harmful way. It’s just that the homeopathic remedies will not work in the presence of these substances.

The second rule of thumb is to handle the remedies as little as possible. Once your hand touches a pellet either administer it or throw it away. If one tiny pellet becomes contaminated with a foreign substance or fragrance, it may de-potentize the remaining pellets if it is returned to its container.

You’ll also want to keep these principles in mind as you actually administer the remedy. One of the wonderful advantages of using homeopathic medicines is that it is very easy to give them to animals. There’s no need to force pills down their throats or squirt nasty-tasting liquids in their mouths. In fact, giving an animal family member his remedy can be part of a quiet, relaxing healing time for both of you.

Just follow these simple steps:

Before you begin, remember to rinse your hands to remove any residual odors that might de-potentize your remedies.

If you’re working with a family member or other animal who is comfortable being handled by you, have her relax in a quiet, comfortable place, and spend a few moments stroking and talking softly to her until she relaxes into this special time with you. If possible, have her lie on her side. Make a point of gently touching her around her mouth so that she associates this contact with your loving attention.

To avoid handling your remedies any more than necessary, open the bottle and gently tap the number of pellets you need—usually two or three—into the cap, returning any extras from the cap back into the vial. If you touch a pellet or it falls on the floor, throw it away; returning it to the vial might de-potentize the remaining pellets.

If your patient is a dog, cat, or other small mammal, stroke the side of his face, then gently lift the side of his lip and drop the pellets directly from the cap onto his gums. Allow his lip to fall back against the gums and continue to gently stroke his face and body. Chances are he will continue to lie quietly, enjoying your attention and barely noticing the sweet-tasting pills dissolving in his mouth.

If it’s not practical to have the animal lie on her side (as with a horse or other large animal, or one who is a little tense), it’s okay to use your fingers to place the pills in her mouth. As long as there are no strong smells on your hands, touching the remedy briefly will not de-potentize it. Simply pour the correct number of pills from the vial cap into the palm of one hand, then pick those up with the thumb and forefinger of your other hand and place them on the animal’s gums, in her mouth, or slide them between her lips.

Ideally, the pellets will dissolve against your patient’s mucous membranes as they release their healing energy into his system. However, if he chews and swallows the pellets, don’t worry. They will still do their job. Even if they remain on his gums only a few moments before he shakes his head and spits them out, there’s an excellent chance his system will receive the benefit of the healing energy.

If the animal you’re caring for is unwilling to allow you to handle her mouth, crush the pellets and dissolve them in a small amount of water or milk, and administer it with an eyedropper or offer it for her to drink. If she doesn’t lap all of it up right away, that’s okay. The amount of medicine she receives in one dose is unimportant, so you can dispose of any remaining solution.

Above all, don’t let these guidelines prevent you from feeling at ease using homeopathy as a central part of your health care regimen for the animals in your care. Remember: If you store your remedies in the wrong place or handle them too much they will not become harmful—they simply may not work. But soon your careful storage and handling techniques will become routine, and you can feel confident your homeopathic medicines will remain effective throughout their long shelf life, so that you and the animals you love can enjoy their gentle but potent benefits for many years to come.

Featured Remedy: Phosphorus
Phosphorus is an important item in any holistic first aid kit because of its ability to reduce or stop bleeding. Of course, in most cases severe bleeding means an animal is in need of veterinary care. But while you’re on your way to the vet or waiting for her to arrive, or if professional care is unavailable, Phosphorus may help mitigate a life-threatening situation. And you’ll be glad to have it handy for minor incidents, such as a toenail you’ve clipped a little too short.

Phosphorus is also one of homeopathy’s “polycrests,” those medicines that are related to a long list of symptoms, habits, and traits that are useful in selecting a remedy to treat acute or chronic illness. Those include digestive disturbances like vomiting and diarrhea, pneumonia, diseased gums, cataracts, blindness, paralysis, and anemia.* Choosing the right remedy for conditions like this requires evaluating symptoms within all body systems as well as personality, preferences, and even body type. The Phosphorus patient, for example, is often very friendly but sensitive, has a long and lean physique, drinks lots of water, tends to become chilled easily, and has symptoms that tend to appear suddenly. Evaluating all of these factors requires skills that are beyond the scope of this column, but an experienced homeopathic practitioner can help you determine whether Phosphorus or another remedy is right for the animal in question. (For a more detailed discussion of homeopathy for chronic illness see The Complete Holistic Dog Book: Home Health Care for Our Canine Companions.)

The use of Phosphorus as a first-aid treatment, however, is relatively straightforward:

  • For an injury with bleeding that is not severe, begin with a dose of Arnica, and apply direct pressure to the wound. Wait fifteen minutes, then give a dose of Phosphorus. If bleeding continues, repeat the Arnica and Phosphorus, waiting fifteen minutes between each dose. When bleeding subsides, give alternating doses of Arnica and Hypericum to reduce pain and swelling, help prevent infection, and promote healing. Wait thirty minutes between the first two doses, then one hour between the second two doses; continue dosing every two to four hours, depending on the severity of the symptoms. Decrease the frequency of doses as symptoms diminish.
  • For an injury that involves severe bleeding, apply direct pressure to the wound and give a dose of Phosphorus every fifteen minutes until bleeding stops. If the animal is in shock, give one dose of Phosphorus, wait fifteen minutes, then give a dose of Aconite; continue to give alternating doses of Phosphorus and Aconite every fifteen minutes until veterinary assistance is present (or until symptoms subside if no veterinarian is available). In all cases, be sure to get veterinary assistance as appropriate and available.

*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.