Winter is upon us and lots of people have been telling me it’s going to be a long, cold “beast of the East” dark season. Personally, I am a Christmas eve baby and love the sense of hibernation and going inwards, the early nights, the cosy way it’s ok to put pyjamas on by teatime because it’s dark and cold outside and the early morning frosts that sparkle and crisp up the land, and as my grandma used to say “kills the germs.” However, winter bugs usually find their way and I want to share some of my favourite homeopathic remedies, these are the tried and tested ones, the main ones I rely on, although there are many more of course. Each year I make up a combination remedy or two depending on the main symptoms that people have in common. The last couple of years it has been gelsemium/ferrum phos/sticta pulminaria that has helped patients shake off the bug.
How to give the remedies – Most homeopathic remedies come in small pill form. It is important to take them in a clean mouth, half an hour or so before or after eating or cleaning teeth. It is also important not to handle them but tip them into a bottle cap or take from packet with a small spoon and drop into mouth. There are several potencies but for acute cases it is easiest to use 30c potency and start by placing one pill under the tongue and allowing it to dissolve OR put one pill in water, stir vigorously and sip as needed.
Always stop taking doses of the remedy when there is relief and only repeat the remedy if the symptoms worsen. So in acute illnesses you will find you might repeat a remedy a bit more often but it’s important to not over dose, the remedy will get on with the job of moving you through your acute illness so once you feel a bit better, trust that and don’t repeat until symptoms genuinely flare up again or creep back.
As with any medical condition, consult your doctor if you have any concerns about the severity of the illness, especially (and I cannot emphasise this enough) with children and babies.
Here is my list of favourite cold/cough/flu remedies
Aconite – Patient feels great fear, anxiety and is restless, they may think they are going to die. The symptoms come on suddenly from exposure to cold, dry winds. Roaring in ears. A full, heavy, pulsating head that might feel as if it’s going to burst. Eyes can be inflamed and red, dry, hot and there is an aversion to light and noise. Acute inflammation of throat with a high fever. This is also the first remedy for croup, there is a separate detailed blog devoted entirely to croup so please read if you have young children. Cough is hoarse, dry, loud and spasmodic and in croup it is like a seal barking. Little or no expectoration except a bit watery mucous and blood (think pink phlegm). Excessive thirst, the patient feels better in fresh air and much worse in a warm room.
Belladonna – The typical belladonna patient is red, burning hot with dilated pupils and a glazed look, they may hallucinate during the fever and be delirious, my most extreme case of this state was a 5 year old boy who had a very high fever, was trying to run around because he thought he was being chased by monsters and was wide eyed with fear. Belladonna and a cool flannel brought him back within half an hour. There can be a dry cough from dryness of the larynx and it is spasmodic, barking and short. Tickling and burning in the larynx with violent paroxysms of coughing as if the head will burst. The child may begin to cry immediately before the cough comes on. Like aconite the symptoms will appear suddenly, the patient will be oversensitive to sounds, taste and touch. High fever with no thirst. There can be swollen and painful joints and the patient feels worse for heat, draughts near the head, noise and jarring movements. They are much better for rest in bed in a warm, dark room. They are bad tempered.
Bryonia Alba – A frequently indicated flu remedy, the main emphasis here is that the person wants to be still, any motion aggravates the condition and they need to remain still and quiet. If they are disturbed they are irritable and snappy. Big headline in this remedy is that they like to be left alone and all movements make symptoms worse. There is a great dryness on all levels, mucous membranes, hard dry cough with soreness in chest, cough shakes the whole body and can compel them to spring up in bed, they want to breathe deeply but it hurts. When coughing they often press their hand to the sternum. They are thirsty for large drinks of cold liquids. They are affected in the digestive system and can feel heavy in the stomach, they may be vomiting. Headaches with indigestion and fruit will aggravate. They are much better for pressure, so for example if the head hurts they feel relieved it a firm hand is on the affected part. If there is delirium and anxiety the patient may “want to go home” and his dreams might be of business, fear of poverty, excessive worry about financial situation.
Drosera – Which is round leafed sundew (I think that’s such a beautiful name.) A major cough remedy, also effective in colds, flu, croup and whooping cough. Coughing worse after midnight. This state produces a deep, barking cough which is prolonged and incessant and can end in choking, retching and vomiting. It is worse lying down, after midnight, after getting warm in bed and can be triggered by talking. Patient is restless and mistrustful or suspicious of others.
Eupatorium Perfoliatum – Another wonderful plant remedy with its dense clusters of tiny, white flowers that attract butterflies and otherwise known more commonly as boneset. A keynote symptom in this medicine is that the patients bones hurt as if they are broken or bruised, they feel chilly followed by heat and sweating. There is a great thirst for cold drinks and they feel much worse for movement, cold and open air. There can be severe headache and vomiting of bile, watery discharges and the patient might moan and groan.
Ferrum Phosphoricum – A good remedy for the early stages of a respiratory infection, colds that go rapidly to the chest or ears, bronchitis or otitis. Often starts with a flushed face and a fever, especially in children. Short, painful, tickly cough with soreness and aching over the sternum area. Sputum with streaks of blood or nosebleeds. General malaise. I have also found it useful for those bugs/viruses that go on and on for weeks at a time.
Gelsemium – I LOVE this remedy, it is yellow jasmine and although it looks beautiful and delicate it packs a punch in dealing with flu, coughs, colds, anticipatory anxiety (for that read exam nerves and stage fright.) A great trembling is a keynote of this remedy, it suits the colds and fevers of mild winters and develops several days after exposure. There is a tickling, teasing cough better for warmth and heat and a great tiredness and exhaustion of the whole body, chills up and down the back. It’s also great for patients who have never been quite right since the flu. Heavy, drooping eyelids, as if they can’t keep their eyes open. Head feels congested and they might feel foggy in the brain.
Hepar Sulph – A remedy for use in a more established cold or cough. This patient will have a loose, barking cough with wheezing or rattling but difficult expectoration. They may feel as if they have a fishbone or crumb in the back of the throat. They feel much worse if they are exposed to cold, dry winds and can easily become abusive or angry. They feel much better from heat, warmth and moist air and the cough can sound suffocating. There may be bleeding gums or quinsy (inflammation of the throat). Throat is extremely sensitive to touch. This is a key remedy in the treatment of croup.
Rumex – is yellow dock, a great medicine but considered a weed, it’s a plant I am really fond of. It has a real affinity with the mucous membranes of the larynx and throat and is therefore, an amazing cough remedy. The cough is much worse for inhaling cold air and improves with warmth and you might find the patient instinctively covers the mouth. The cough is continuous and dry, especially upon waking and may prevent sleep because of the tickling in the back of the throat which might feel like a feather tickling. There can be tough, stringy, tenacious mucous and the patient might feel like hawking it out but that doesn’t give relief either.
Phosphorus – A mineral remedy where the patient often has a tight, exhausting, croupy cough. The larynx feels raw, sore as if there is cotton wool in the throat. Tonsils and uvula can be swollen with a dry, burning sensation. The condition is aggravated by changing from warm to cold air and much worse from talking and coughing. They will often crave cold drinks and are better sitting up. The patient might be affectionate, extrovert and impressionable but have lots of fears. They may crave ice cream and feel better for short naps.
Spongia Tosta – made from a saltwater sponge, this remedy is used for colds, coughs and flu symptoms, children with swollen glands. The patient will have a barking, rasping, dry cough which sounds croupy (this is one of the brilliant croup remedies), it can sound like a saw going through a wooden board. There may be a feeling of intense suffocation and lots of anxiety, they are chilly and worse in damp, may look pale and weak and may sleep with their head thrown backwards. They might wake suddenly with a pain in the heart and feeling of suffocation.
Sticta pulmonaria – the wonderful plant lungwort, sometimes known as ‘our Ladys milk drops’ and has been very useful the last couple of years. Symptoms are bronchial catarrh (flu symptom), general malaise and feeling of dullness, the sort of pre cold stuffed up feeling. Dull, heavy pressure in the forehead, sticky conjunctive eyes and eyes can feel burning or sore. The patient can feel as if they are floating on the air and a bit spaced out.
Hope you enjoy reading about these remedies and also wish that you don’t find yourself in a situation where you need them! Stay well, take extra care of yourselves on these long, dark winter nights.