Up, Up and Away
Historically at this time of year, I am cheering on fall’s arrival. This year, for reasons unknown to me, I am savoring these last days of full summer. It doesn’t really cool off too much for a few more weeks (and, even then, that’s relative, I know) — but I’m holding on to what’s left of the strong summer sun.
On this cloudless, sunny day, we’re “headed up the tram” which makes me think of altitude sickness because we’ll be eating dinner at 10, 378 ft tonight.
Long before I lived in the mountains, I visited a friend in Breckenridge, Colorado (9,600 ft). I don’t remember all the symptoms I experienced there, but I do remember dizziness was a big part of it. I learned that night that vertigo and water beds are not a good combination. (I had never and have no plans to ever sleep on one of those again.) I was down the mountain and boarding a plane back to sea level the next morning.
The altitude continued to bother me whenever I visited above my new home-base level (6,880 ft), but last year I got sick of the lethargy and headaches, so I finally did something about it.
What did I do? I took a dose of homeopathic Coca 30c, which is made from the coca leaves that they chew in South America when they’re headed up the mountains to ward off the nasty effects like throbbing headaches and pounding heart, faintness and tummy upset. I felt much better after the first dose and the next time I was up high, I took a second dose and have not had any troubles since. (I will stick it in my pocket for tonight, though — just in case.)
Purchasing homeopathic Coca in the US can be tricky so here are a couple of other remedies to try.
Calcarea Carbonica is helpful for people who have difficulty ascending — mountains or stairs, the remedy doesn’t care. Vertigo in high places. Headaches which are worse for physical exertion. Heart palpitations and weakness, in general.
Carbo-veg is the remedy for debilitation and collapse states. Fainting or the feeling of going to faint, weakness and “imperfect oxidation.” Craving oxygen and want of air.
Silicea is another weakness remedy, a lack of energy. It’s also indicated in difficult breathing when ascending as well as palpitations with vertigo.
Next time you are headed skiing or climbing or visiting a high city, or just having dinner at an altitude higher than you're used to, remember one of these remedies to help you breathe easy.
Julia Coyte, CHom
Classically Practical homeopath
The Road Less Traveled
Photo by brut carniollus on Unsplash
Headaches are tough. They’re tough to live through and they can be tough to help homeopathically speaking because there are so many variables in headaches.
I woke up with a cracking headache the other day. This headache was so bad that I, the homeopath who has not had so much as a Tylenol in 10 years, considered for just a brief moment, taking some over the counter (OTC) medicine.
Why not take that route? It’s so easy! What harm can it do?
Let's take a quick look at why OTC meds might not be the best option.
If you take any conventional meds, prescribed or otherwise, I highly recommend you spend a little time at drugs.com. They do a nice job of explaining the “side effects” and other important information that one should know when one is ingesting medicinal substances. (All of the below information comes from drugs.com unless otherwise noted.)
The two most common OTC meds for headaches are acetaminophen (e.g. Tylenol) and NSAIDs (a.k.a. ibuprofen, e.g. Advil).
Acetaminophen use in the US is shockingly high. 40% of adults reported using it monthly and 23% weekly. Acetaminophen is the most common cause of acute liver failure. Acetaminophen is also the most common cause of both intentional and unintentional poisoning in the US (Dimitropoulos 2014).
Finding statistics on who uses ibuprofen and how often was not so easy. The nearest I came was to find that “approximately 70% of people 65 years or older use NSAIDs at least once per week” (Fine 2013).
NSAIDs and acetaminophen both:
Ibuprofen: Very common (10% or more): Nausea (up to 57%), vomiting (up to 22%), flatulence (up to 16%), diarrhea (up to 10%)
Ibuprofen: Very common (10% or more): Hemorrhage (up to 10%), hypertension (10%), hypotension (10%)
Using these OTC meds frequently for headaches can also result in rebound headaches (Freeland 2020).
For years, doctors have been recommending acetaminophen over NSAIDs during pregnancy, but now we’re learning that exposure to this is linked to higher rates of ADHD and autism (National Institutes of Health 2019; Alemany et al. 2021; Cleveland Clinic 2022).
An added risk of using acetaminophen is that it is commonly added to other drugs (e.g. Theraflu, Alka-Seltzer Plus Liquid Gels, Vicodin, Percocet). If you take a Tylenol in addition to taking one of these other meds, it could result in a fatal overdose (Bates 2016; Harvard Health Publishing 2018).
After just a short while looking into these “safe” OTC medicines, I realized this could become a very long article, so I will stop here. (I really didn’t even look into risks for children (Ogilvie et al. 2012), though I’m sure they are just as bad, if not worse than for adults.) I will say this, though: I am even more pleased with my decision to not take the well trodden OTC painkiller route after my little internet exploration. Risking gastrointestinal bleeding or liver disease to get rid of a headache? No, thank you. I’ll pass.
What route did I take? I took the road less traveled… Homeopathy, of course!
Before I get to the homeopathic remedies for headaches, please note that some headaches definitely warrant medical assistance:
As I mentioned in my article Garbage In, Garbage Out, everybody experiences headaches differently. Your headache is not the same as your neighbor’s headache.
Why do we get headaches? Good question. The reasons are plentiful: Stress and tension can cause headaches. Emotions can cause headaches. Crying can cause headaches. Drinking alcohol can cause headaches. Certain foods for certain people can cause headaches. The weather can cause headaches. Hunger can cause headaches. Physical issues, like sitting at a desk all day, can cause headaches. Dehydration can cause headaches (see, Summer Fun #5: Dehydration). Menses can cause headaches. Homeopathy in all its wisdom takes all of these possible causations into consideration when selecting a remedy. (Some of these conditions are chronic situations and seeking the advice from a professional homeopath may be necessary to help figure your headaches out.)
As in everything homeopathy, the symptoms, or how you experience the headache, are the key to finding the right remedy for you.
NOTE: A 30c potency is a good place to start. If no change occurs, repeat the remedy 15-20 minutes later. If there is any amelioration, stick with the remedy. We are not looking for perfection, we are looking for improvement. If you are NO better after a couple of doses, take another look at the symptoms and try another remedy. As I said earlier, headaches can be very tricky, especially when you are in the middle of one. (If you have somebody nearby who can help you figure it out, all the better.) Don’t get discouraged. The long-term benefits of kicking the OTC habit are worth it. If you have to succumb to an OTC, try and take note of what you were feeling and see if you can match up a remedy for the next time you get a headache.
Please note also that this is not an exhaustive list of headache remedies, nor is it an exhaustive list of symptoms for each remedy listed. This is just a quick look at a few common homeopathic headache remedies which should be readily available in most household homeopathic kits or in your local health food store.
Bryonia is the “grumpy bear” remedy. Grumpy because every movement you make hurts — it even hurts to move your eyes. It hurts to be touched. Every noise somebody else makes hurts. A splitting headache — as if the head would split right open or pain right across the forehead. Thirsty, thirsty, thirsty for big gulps of water. Constipation may be present. Firm pressure on the head can help as can a nice, cool cloth across the forehead. Bryonia is an excellent flu remedy and is also good for injuries and back pains, neck & shoulder pains; too much sun and coughing.
Belladonna — sudden onset. Throbbing, pounding pain. In the temples or extending from temple to temple. Fullness in the head — a congestive headache. Your head may hurt so much that it hurts to touch your scalp. A couple of keynotes for Belladonna in any condition: sudden onset. Hotness. Redness. (See, Summer Fun #1: Sun.) They don’t want any noise or light or anyone to bump that bed you’re on. A Belladonna headache feels better with pressure — pressing on your head can help the pain. Headaches from coughing or sneezing.
Gelsemium: Headache with the sensation as if there were a tight band around the head. A distressing headache. Pain beginning in the neck and extending up and all over the head. A good remedy for headaches with the flu. Can’t keep the eyes open. Headache from nervousness — anticipatory anxiety. Or, a headache that came on after hearing bad news. They feel better when keeping their head raised up when lying down. Their brain may feel sore. A fascinating symptom of Gelsemium is the headache can feel better after urinating. They want to be left alone, but unlike Bryonia, they have no thirst.
Ignatia: Headaches from emotions: shock, sadness, grief, worry or anger. From the outside, they may seem oversensitive to the pain; they may even be hysterical. Pain as if a nail is driven into the side of the head. Or, a headache felt along the sides of the head. A heavy feeling in the head. Pulsating sensation over the eyes. They may have a very focused headache, just in one spot. Strong smells, especially tobacco smoke, can bring on a headache. Wrapping the head up may feel good.
Natrum muriaticum: headaches from grief and disappointed love. Headache as if being hit by dozens of tiny hammers beating on your brain. A bursting headache. A heavy sensation in the back of the head. May feel a band or hoop sensation around head. Headache as if from a blow to the head. Feels as if they must lie down. A headache on one side of the head. Eyes are sensitive to light and there may be visual disturbances. They are worse from the sun.
Nux vomica for headaches from too much (see, Too Much!) — too much alcohol, too much sugar, too much sun, too much work, too much food. Too much can also mean not enough of something else: not enough sleep, not enough emptying of the bowels (constipation). Headaches from toxic substances, street drugs as well as prescription or over the counter medicines. Or, a headache that feels as if it’s from intoxication, without imbibing the toxic substance itself. Unable to raise the head. Head feels swollen. These people can be miffed — angry and frustrated. The pain can be in the back of the head or over the eyes. As if a nail has been driven into the top of the head. Headache all over the head. Splitting headache. Dizziness, especially on rising. The head may be sensitive to cold air or drafts of air. Headache from tooth pain. Nux vomica is also good for colds and stuffed up noses, so if your headache is coming from that, this could be a good choice.
Pulsatilla: Headache from overeating, especially fats. Hormonal headaches. Headaches experienced during puberty. Throbbing. Heavy head — hard to hold it up. A bubbling sensation in the head or noises in the head. Bending the head to one side may feel good. They must lie down while keeping their head raised. A one-sided headache. Oversensitivity, weepiness and craving company and with no thirst — all big keynotes for Pulsatilla. They feel better in open air and while rubbing their head or from wrapping their head. Coughs make it worse. Shooting pains or wandering pains.
Sanguinaria: A “sick headache” with nausea and possibly vomiting. The pain is focused in or around the right eye. It can be a quick pain — a flash of pain on the back of the head. The eyes may feel like they’re being pressed out. Forehead pain, just above the eyes. The pain improves from sleep. Nausea. Dizziness. Vomiting and feeling better from vomiting. Bursting pain.
Silicea. Lingering headaches following an illness. An occipital headache, sitting right there at the back or your head or, starting in the occiput and traveling up and over the head. May feel nauseous and vomit. Cold, clammy sweat on the forehead. Talking makes them feel worse. Constipation and straining can cause this headache. A headache from cold exposure to the head. Head pain resulting from a toothache. May feel better from binding the head. Conversely, a headache that has been brought on from having the head bound may respond well to Silicea. Like Gelsemium, the headache can improve with urination.
Children with headaches may respond well to Calc phos 3x. Older children may respond well to Nat Mur or Ignatia.
So, what did I take for my headache?
Bryonia first, which removed the debilitating pain and I could then focus more clearly on what I was feeling. Almost immediately, I noticed how nauseous I was. Was I nauseous before? Maybe, but it certainly wasn't pronounced enough for me to notice it. Then, sitting by an open window trying to get some work done, the nearby construction noise was absolutely intolerable — really irking me. Aha. Irritability and nausea = Nux vomica. Within an hour, the bulk of the headache was gone and by afternoon I felt absolutely good to go -- as if I never even had a headache.
Was it harder to take homeopathy rather than popping an OTC? Maybe, but only because it required me to think about my symptoms. But, to me, it was absolutely worth it. With homeopathy, there are no side-effects, no rebound headaches, no possibility of long-term damage (Habs and Koller 2021; American Association of Homeopathic Pharmacists 2022). And, bonus!, homeopathy has been known to help uproot the underlying cause of the existing condition, thereby lessening the frequency and intensity in the future, especially in chronic conditions.
"I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.” Robert Frost
Julia Coyte, CHom
Classically Practical homeopath
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I got a text a few weeks ago, something to the effect of: “what do you take when you’ve eaten bad salami?” Apparently, the offending food was enjoyed by a young girl during a carnival and it did not settle well.
Foodborne illnesses are the 6th leading cause for ER visits in the summer (Temple ReadyCare 2021). Why? According to Food Poison Journal, put out by Marler Clark: Food Safety Law Firm, “Most food borne bacteria grow fastest at temperatures from 90 to 110 degrees Fahrenheit. Bacteria also need moisture to flourish, and summer weather is often hot and humid.”
Makes sense to me.
Are carnivals to blame? Journal of Environmental Health (2015) says “group gatherings” resulted “in more hospitalizations than outbreaks associated with festivals.” I don't want to give fairs and festivals a bad wrap. Still, “carnival salami” just doesn’t sound like a good choice.
How can homeoapthy help when you take your chances on the carnival food?
Arsenicum album, that’s how. I have written previously about it’s helpful effects for traveler’s diarrhea.
Homeopathic Arsenicum album is noted “mainly in cases of meat poisoning… which present with severe and violent symptoms” (Ratera 2016). Weakness and restlessness commonly accompany the bad stomach pains.
What else can help? Activated charcoal “may be the single most effective treatment in many types of poisoning” (Derlet and Albertson 1986).
Does that mean I don’t trust the Arsenicum album to do the job? Absolutely not. I have seen the wonderful (and fast!) effects of Arsenicum album on some pretty nasty food poisoning.
Then why even mention it?
Because I’m a big believer in using what works and what is safe, that’s why.
Activated charcoal scurries around and gathers up the noxious substance and helps usher it out of your body (Zellner et al. 2019).
Better out than in.
Homeopathic Arsenicum album can help to keep the carnival fun to the Tilt-a-Whirl while avoiding the “I’m Gonna’ Hurl.”
Julia Coyte, CHom
Classically Practical homeopath
Derlet, R. W. and Albertson, T. E., 1986. Activated charcoal--past, present and future. The Western journal of medicine [online], 145 (4), 493–6.
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Julia Coyte, CHom
I am passionate about homeopathy and I love sharing this passion. Having a working knowledge of homeopathy shouldn't be kept a secret. If people have the ability to help themselves, their children and their friends when they have minor ailments, life just gets better for everyone. That is the purpose behind Ruminating on Remedies.