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7 Stepping Stones to Select a Successful Remedy

Practice is everything

Garden StonesPractice these seven steps as you would any other new skill and the results will be deeply rewarding. As you become familiar with the unique patterns of your child’s way of falling sick and the remedies that tend to help, you’ll find you are spending less time in the doctor’s office and more time enjoying life. Once you have gone through this remedy ­selection process a few times, you’ll find it becomes ­easier and quicker.

1  Step back and consider the whole picture.
2  Make notes.
3  Gather 3 or more symptoms.
4  Remember, common symptoms are for dummies.
5  Identify a “cause.”
6  Compare two or more remedies.
7  Give your chosen remedy and observe carefully… If at first you don’t succeed …

Read on for more details about each step.

Stone1. Step back and consider the whole picture

Home prescribers often make the mistake of focusing on the one symptom or complaint that is bothering them or their child. It is completely understandable. Unfortunately it will not guide you to the best remedy for that person. Take more of that person into account (i.e., 3 or more symptoms) and you are now pinning the tail on the donkey without a mask over your eyes!

Stone2. Make notes

  • Write down each and every remedy given and the date (don’t forget the year!)
  • Jot down the reason and the symptoms—a simple list is fine.
  • Make a note of any other remedy or remedies you considered and why, just in case the one you give doesn’t work.
  • Make a note of the response to the remedy—even if it’s just a few words.
  • Write down other medications given including herbs, ­supplements, aspirin, and cough syrup, etc.

The quicker and better a remedy works, the more likely it will be that your child will need it again for a similar ­complaint, especially if you have taken a stress factor into account when selecting it. Occasionally, home prescribers will throw a pebble that lands in the dead center of their child’s pond—they will hit on their child’s constitutional ­remedy. This is the remedy that works for everything: from colds and teething, to growing pains and exam nerves. It is always brilliant to catch this gift because you made good notes as you were going along. We don’t often get that same super clear picture again to guide us.

Stone3. Gather 3 or more symptoms

Any time you give a remedy based on a single symptom, you are just guessing. You want a nice strong “3-legged stool” to support your choice—or even more “legs,” if you can:

  • One physical symptom—newbies (and some oldies) make the common mistake of choosing three or more physical symptoms. Unless the physical symptoms are unusual or unique, they will rarely lead you to a good remedy.
  • One general symptom (i.e., that affects the whole person, such as feeling chilly or feeling worse from motion or ­feeling worse in a stuffy room, or being more or less thirsty or sweaty than usual)—especially if it is unusual or very strong or brand new.
  • One emotional symptom—especially something new or ­different from normal (e.g., irritable with a fever, or weepy and whiny with teething pains, or wanting to be carried with earache, especially if in a formerly easy-going or ­contented child).
  • A cause.

Stone4. Common symptoms are for dummies

Common symptoms (those symptoms that are so common to the complaint that just about anyone with that complaint will have them) pop up in the des­criptions of nearly every remedy that might be used to help that complaint. If you select a remedy based primarily on
the common symptoms of an illness, you will often find yourself giving one remedy after another that doesn’t work. Examples:

  • “My teething baby is drooling and chewing on everything.She’s in pain and is waking a lot at night.” Of course she is. That’s the nature of teething babies. You’ll have to elicit some more unique symptoms to help you find a good remedy!
  • “My baby has a high fever and she’s really uncomfortable and sleepy. The fever is higher in the evenings and at night, and lower in the mornings.” Yup. That’s the pattern with most fevers. So that ­symptom won’t narrow down the remedy choices.
  • “My child has the snuffles and her nose is quite blocked. She can’t fall asleep at night and sleeps with her mouth open.” Oh yes. Blocked nose, mouth breather. (Big yawn. Such a common symptom for anyone with snuffles—it won’t help you decide anything!)
  • “My baby has a cough. It’s worse when he lies down at night.” Coughs are nearly always worse lying down. I’m afraid it’s a common symptom that will get you absolutely nowhere.

Stone5. Identify a cause

This is the most important symptom of all. If you can identify it, it will lead you to a great remedy. Did you or your child experience any obvious (or not so obvious) stresses before falling sick? For example:

  • Physical stresses: getting chilled, lack of sleep, an injury.
  • Emotional stresses: any kind of upset, a loss or ­disappointment.

Stone6. Compare two or more remedies

Having written down the symptoms, you can look them up in a repertory/index to the materia medica. (If you’re a home prescriber, you will find the mini-repertory in one of my books a good and non-intimidating way to start using a repertory.)

After you have narrowed your choice down to a few remedies, compare them in a materia medica to help you to become familiar with their whole symptom profiles. When you read the whole picture does it seem like it matches? Or not so much? Now read each profile more carefully and notice any other symptoms you can check up on, in order to add to your child’s whole picture. For example, one remedy may be indicated for a pale tongue and the other for a bright red tongue. You can check your child’s tongue to see whether it matches one remedy’s profile over the other.

You may also notice symptoms that don’t fit—make a note of those too as they will help you decide where to go next if the first remedy doesn’t work. The more of a picture you have, the more confident you can be in your remedy choice.

Stone7. Give the remedy & observe carefully… If at first you don’t succeed…

Remember patience at this point. Jumping from one remedy to another will get you all discombobulated and lead you astray. If your child seems better in herself even if her ­symptoms are no better, then a healing process has been initiated. Cross your fingers and wait as patiently as possible! Observe your child during this time to gather additional symptoms that crop up in case she eventually does need a new remedy.

If the first well-indicated remedy does not help, then the work you have already done will help tremendously in selecting your next remedy. You may even be able to go straight to your #2 choice. Because you have written it down you won’t mistakenly give the remedy that hasn’t worked again, plus you won’t have to go back to the ­drawing board.

If the remedies you give don’t help or the symptoms worsen, of course you will want to seek the advice of a ­professional homeopath.

How to take a remedy

You can treat yourself and/or your loved ones for minor/everyday, recent complaints. Do not treat yourself for ­recurring or chronic complaints. Seek professional advice for chronic, recurring, or long-standing complaints.

  • Stepping stonesTake the remedy in a 6c, 12c, 30X or 30c potency.
  • Repeat the dose according to the severity of the ­symptoms:
    · Life-threatening: every 5–15 minutes
    · Severe: every 1/2–1 hour (e.g., high fever, unbearable
    · Moderate: every 2–4 hours
    · Mild: every 4–6 hours (e.g., able to carry on working!)
    · Tonic: every 8 hours (e.g., tiredness after childbirth).
  • Stop on improvement: take it less often if there is moderate improvement and stop taking it as soon as there is ­significant improvement.
  • Repeat as needed: repeat the same remedy if it helped and the symptoms return—starting and stopping as needed until better.
  • Change the remedy if 6–10 doses have been taken with no result. It is probably the wrong choice—select another one or get help.

Bottom line: If you are not sure whether to give a remedy, don’t. If you are not sure whether to repeat a remedy, wait!


Miranda Castro

Miranda Castro, FSHom, CCH, is a British homeopath who has been living in the US since 1994 and in Florida since 2002. She is author of The Complete Homeopathy Handbook; Homeopathy for Pregnancy, Birth and Your Baby’s First Years; and A Homeopathic Guide to Stress. Her new DVDs are the most fun you’ll have learning homeopathy: Homeopathy 101, Stress Busters and Gentle Little Souls are available from or click the Shop link at