In the treatment of insomnia, homeopathy has two great advantages over the use of sleeping tablets – it has no side effects and it treats the whole patient, not just the symptoms.
Over the past few decades, homoeopathy has become increasingly popular as people have come to understand that not only does have no side effects but also, and even more important, that it works. In addition, it is a holistic therapy – it treats the whole patient. So, whereas, in the treatment of insomnia, orthodox drugs just act on the nervous system, causing sleepiness, homoeopathic remedies will work holistically (treating the whole patient), raising the patients level of health and thus making it easier for the body to return to normal functioning.
The principle of “like cures like”, which is at the heart of homoeopathy, was discovered in the late 18th century by a highly respected orthodox physician named Samuel Hahnemann (although it seems likely that it was known to the ancient Egyptians and Greeks). It means that, if a healthy person takes a substance and it produces certain symptoms, that same substance can cure those symptoms if they occur as the result of a disease. For example, quinine has long been the orthodox treatment for malaria. But if healthy people were to take large doses of quinine, they would develop the symptoms such as yellowing of the skin, nausea and fever, which are identical to those of malaria.
Like all good scientists, Hahnemann performed many experiments to back up his theory and found that “like cures like” worked in every case. However, some of the substances he tested were toxic and the only way in which he could test them was to dilute them first. And what he found was that, when the dilution was performed in a particular way (called “potentization”), the resultant remedy became more effective the more dilute it became. Homoeopathic remedies, therefore, are prescribed not in terms of dosage but as potencies (or dilutions). A wide range of potencies is available but only the low potencies (that is, the least diluted and gentlest preparations) are readily available in drugstores and health stores.
Unfortunately, the fact that the most dilute remedies are the most powerful does not equate with the way orthodox drug therapy works and has given skeptics grounds on which to attack homeopathy. They argue that homoeopathy works only because of the placebo effect that is, because the patient believes it will. But it can be shown that many more patients respond well to homoeopathy than can be accounted for by the placebo effect (usually said to be around 30 per cent of those treated), and a large number of double blind trials of homeopathy have demonstrated significant benefits. But perhaps the most telling argument in favour of homoeopathy is the fact that it works well on animals, small children and people in comas, for whom the placebo effect cannot possibly be an influence.
Every homoeopathic remedy has a long list of symptoms associated with it – the “symptom picture” – and the closer the match between the remedy and the patients symptoms, the more likely is the prospect of a cure. And because there are many different types of insomnia, with many different symptoms, it is very important, if you are thinking of treating yourself, that you choose the remedy which most closely matches your symptoms. At bedtime put a single tablet under your tongue and leave it to dissolve, and do this every night for about a week. If it hasnt helped by the end of the week, stop taking it because to continue would increase the risk of eventually developing the symptoms associated with that remedy (this is known as proving).
Some of the many remedies that can be used to treat insomnia include Aconitum apellus (for insomnia associated with anxiety or panic attacks or with vivid and frightening dreams), Ars. alb. (associated with feeling restless even though exhausted), Calc. phos. (whose symptoms include aching joints, tense muscles and difficulty waking up in the morning), Chamomilla (being kept awake by anger or pain or as a side effect of medication), Gelsemium (useful for pregnant women), Ignatia (for insomnia resulting from distress or depression), Lachesis (helpful for insomnia around the menopause) and Lycopodium (one of whose symptoms is feeling that you havent slept at all).
Many people self-treat with low potencies of homoeopathic remedies (particularly as a first aid measure) and frequently this works well. But for long-standing problems its often better to see a qualified homeopath who will be able to choose a closely matching remedy – based not just on the current problem but also on your past medical history, your likes and dislikes, your habits and your personality – and who will be able to prescribe higher potencies which may be needed to treat chronic problems.
Its sometimes said that it takes a month of treatment for every year that youve had the problem but, if youre taking the right remedy, you should notice some degree of improvement quite soon, and then its just a question of persevering until youre sleeping normally again.