Homeopathy Papers

When Homeopathic Remedies Fail!


Why doesn’t my remedy work? It worked last time! See all the possible reasons below.

Mrs. Elsy John writes:                                        

Elaine, I would like to air my confusion when I say that sometimes a well selected remedy fails to act, or the remedy that always worked in the past fails to act, which leaves the patient, as well as the doctor, feeling desperate.  What can make homeopathic treatment fool-proof?

Yours sincerely,

Mrs. Elsy John

Well, Mrs. J, let me just begin by saying, I don’t know!

Homeopathy is very difficult!  You mentioned “well-selected remedies.”  I don’t even know what a well-selected remedy is!  Let me give you an example.  My friend Caralyn called me the other day and told me she had a pain in the neck, and assured me that I was not the cause of it!  I found that hard to believe!  But, I had no idea what the remedy for her neck pain could be; I asked her all the usual questions about which side the pain was on, what the sensation was, what made it better or worse, and so on; I felt like I was getting nowhere, and then it dawned on me to ask, “What was going on in your life when you first noticed the pain, did any stressful event happen?”  I wasn’t prepared for the answer—I think because I wasn’t expecting her to say anything other than what people normally say, “Nothing!”

Instead, she described her sister-in-law coming over and crying and saying, “I know you don’t like me!”  OMG!  Talk about mortification!

So, I looked in the Repertory under, “Ailments from Emotions”, “Ailments from Mortification”, “Ailments from Embarrassment”, “Ailments from guilt” and came up with Ignatia, and guess what?  It worked!!!!!!

Now, is Ignatia a “well-selected remedy” for neck pain?  Probably not!  Practically every remedy from Artemesia to Zinc is listed under neck pain!  Do you see what I mean when I say I have no idea what a well-selected remedy is?  

You have to know what questions to ask!  

Here’s another example.  Someone wrote into the discussion forum some time ago asking what to give her five-year-old son for sinus headache.  She said her son has a sinus headache every day!!!  I could have done the expected thing and said, “Give a dose of Kali bic 30C,” (our most popular sinus remedy) but instead I asked, as above, “When did it start and what was going on in his life around the time that it started?”

What we found out was, the “sinus” headache started after he had taken antibiotics for the flu!!!  (OMG!!!!)  (Do you see the damage that drugs cause?  Not to mention the fact that antibiotics are totally ineffective against the flu anyway!  They only work against bacteria; the flu is a virus!  No, they’re not the same thing!)  

Anyway, the question then became, what was the flu like before the antibiotics were given?  It turned out to have been a perfect Gelsemium flu!  So that’s what we gave— Gelsemium—and the “sinus headache” went away!  It wasn’t a sinus headache at all!  It was a suppressed flu!  So no wonder Kali bic didn’t work!  If you don’t know what you’re treating, how can you give a “well-selected” remedy?

Now of course, one reason a remedy might not work is because you have the wrong potency.  Again, using Caralyn as an example, her son D______ was plagued with ingrown toenails for most of his life.  The reason I knew what remedy to give was because he had previously seen another homeopath who gave Silica 10M and it had worked to a minor degree.  I was shocked by such a high potency, but encouraged that it worked “somewhat”.  To me, that suggested that if a lower potency were given, it might be the correct remedy after all.  I recommended Silica 6X four times a day.  Caralyn misunderstood and got Silica 6C, but it didn’t matter, because it worked anyway, in about 2 weeks time and saved D______ from having to get surgery.  

You see, it was a chronic case, for which a 10M is not well suited; 10M’s are suited for severe, intense acutes and emergencies.  In one of our Quizzes, Kelly’s son did acrobatics with his bike and landed on his head!  Now that called for Arnica 10M, and the child was relaxed and pain-free within 15 minutes!  That potency was perfect, ideal; but not ideal for a chronic case.

Now, if you read our article by Dr. Stuart Close in this very issue of the ezine and you read his cases at the bottom, you will note that more often than not, the remedy he chose was the causal agent in potency!  (I have a feeling no one knows what I’m talking about.)  In one case, a patient was given colchicum as a drug by the hospital, as was apparently common at that time, and when Dr. Close realized the patient had been poisoned by colchicum, he prescribed…ta-da!…Colchicum 30C!  In another case, a patient was dying because of doctor-prescribed arsenic; so Dr. Close prescribed…of course…Arsenicum 30C!   When you know what the cause is?  That’s probably the remedy!  Learn to make remedies out of things, you might have to do it some day.  I’ve written an article called:  

How To Make Your Own Remedy

Your constitutional remedy—people think it will cure anything!  I wouldn’t count on it!  Ailments from Fright?  I would stick with Aconite!  Ailments from Blunt Trauma?  I would go for Arnica!  If you have clear symptoms that point to a remedy?  Give the remedy!  I would suggest using my Acute Case Questionnaire as a guide.  It’s on my website.  An Acute Prescribing Book is a must too!  If you know what you’ve got—the name of your disease—just open your acute prescribing book and scroll alphabetically to your illness, look down at the list of remedies that are most often given and pick the one that matches your case the best!  

When remedies work, then fail, you have to, first of all, repeat the remedy, and if that doesn’t work, learn how to raise the potency, see my FAQ article on my website for that, but if raising the potency (or “plussing”, as we call it) doesn’t work either, and you’ve moved on to a different remedy, and, the same thing happens all over again, you probably need a NOSODE!

A nosode is a remedy made from the disease.  You also need a nosode when all you have are the common symptoms of the disease, or the case seems to match every remedy and no remedy in particular.  Maybe this nosode is already a homeopathic remedy, like Medorrhinum or Tuberculinum, or maybe what you have is some strange bacterial infection that defies explanation or identification; in that case, you have to make a remedy from the patient’s body, from some discharge the patient has.  Where is the disease manifesting–the saliva?  The blood?  Mucus?  Phlegm?  That’s what you have to make a remedy out of!  You don’t need a lot of volume to make a remedy, even one drop in an ounce of water is enough.  Again, see my article, “How To Make Your Own Remedy” linked to above.

Why else might a remedy not work?  Because you’re prescribing on mentals that aren’t a part of the case!  You’ve ignored the pathology because maybe it’s just not very interesting:  Periodontal disease?  Not interesting!  Sprained ankle?  Joint pain?  Boring!  Well, the fun-filled constitutional case will just have to wait until these boring pathological symptoms go away!  As long as there is something “blocking” a clear path to the constitution, the remedy will not work, might aggravate, or might work but relapse constantly, necessitating higher and higher potencies with no final resolution!

Also, if you’re trying to treat an acute and you’ve mixed up constitutional symptoms with the acute case, you’re most likely going to get a rat’s nest of remedy possibilities with no single remedy coming to the fore; so, keep the chronic and acute symptoms separate.

Often you’ll be presented with a case that seems to have literally a million symptoms!  You’ll marvel at how many diseases a patient can possibly have and still live to tell about it!  What will you do?  You can say to the patient, “What’s the worst thing right now?”  The idea is to start with the greatest suffering, and then, of course you’ll want to move on to the next worst thing after that.  And, since healing takes place in reverse order, according to Hering’s Law, you could ask the patient, “What’s the most recent trauma or symptom that’s befallen you?” and start from there.  You might find that that’s also “the worst thing” in the case, it usually is. 

You know, it could also be that you’ve misjudged the cause of the situation.  Without a diagnosis, or perhaps there has been a misdiagnosis, you could be selecting a remedy for muscle spasms when your patient actually has kidney stones!  In other words, if all you have are symptoms, you have less of a chance of getting the remedy right.  Symptoms cover a lot of diseases.  Think about it, there are really very few symptoms in the world: pain, headaches, diarrhea, cough, runny nose, sore throat, vomiting, fatigue, dizziness….  Consider diarrhea, for example.  It could mean you’ve eaten bad food, so the remedy might be Arsenicum; or, it could mean you have a fear of an up-coming ordeal, like a pending surgery, in which case the remedy might be Gelsemium.  Without a diagnosis, or knowledge of what’s wrong, and only symptoms to go by, you could easily give the wrong remedy!

Also, if you are prescribing based on a lab test?  That will do you no good if the case has no symptoms!  If a lab test comes up positive and there are no symptoms, give the constitutional remedy.

Now, what else could cause a remedy to fail?  You’ve got a patient with, let’s say, cancer, and you note that he’s depressed, so you prescribe on the mentals like you’ve always been taught to do, and you give Nat-mur., and it doesn’t work, or it does work for the depression but the cancer doesn’t change.  Well, here’s one more surprise: when there’s a pathology, the standard hierarchy of “the mentals come first” no longer applies!  Now, all of a sudden, the LOCAL symptoms take on more importance!  The person is depressed because he’s sick; he’s not sick because he’s depressed.  We have to find a cancer remedy, remedies like: Conium, Cadmium sulph, Hydrastis, Phytolacca, Cundurango, Carbo animalis…. 

In other words, you can’t give the constitutional remedy here unless, for example, you’ve got an Arsenicum patient with an Arsenicum cancer; or, you’ve got a Silica patient with a Silica cancer, then, that works out perfectly!  But you’re not always so lucky!  

Another thing in cancer cases, don’t expect there to be just one remedy!  These cases change constantly!  You’re going to have to be ready with a remedy for this and a remedy for that; cancer cases are unstable!  Don’t think you can give Phytolacca 200C and say, “Come back in a month!”  You may find yourself taking an acute case daily from this patient!  But I have to confess, that’s usually due to the patient having opted for chemo and radiation, leading to all manner of side-effects which cannot be ignored.

Here’s a problem with constantly relapsing mental states: if a vital organ is involved, the vital force (or “chi”, as they say) will dispatch the disorder away from the vital organ to the mental plane to save the person’s life!  In such a case, you will never succeed in treating the mental symptoms, because your “success” will send the complaint back to the vital organ!  Take the case, see what illnesses the patient had before becoming mentally ill.   The whole point of this story being that a “mental” case may not be a mental case at all!  It could even be a physical illness that was improperly treated with drugs and suppressed to the mental plane because it had nowhere else to go.  In fact, any complaint could, in reality, be a different complaint that was suppressed to a deeper level by drugs.  Drugs are very dangerous and can present as a tangled web of inscrutable symptoms to the homeopath!  

Another problem: Your patient might be too toxic to respond to the homeopathic remedy.  Too many drugs may have depressed his immune system; therefore, your first remedy might be found under “Generals: reaction, lack of” (lack of reaction).  Also consider the remedies for antidoting drugs like Nux vomica and Avena sativa.  (You might also have to make a 6C remedy out of the drug!  See my article “How To Make Your Own Remedy”.  It’s on my website.) 

Often times, when there are a lot of drugs in the case causing mischief, you might be looking at Nux vomica as your first remedy and you’re going to have to have a talk with your patient about drugging; show him the side effects of the drug on Drugs.com; show him how his whole case  consists of drug side-effects for an “illness” that could have been corrected with diet.

Why else could your remedy be failing?  Maybe because your patient won’t tell you what’s wrong with him or her!  Lachesis is too suspicious to tell you the truth!  Nat-mur is too dignified to volunteer anything personal.  Staphysagria doesn’t want to be a bother!  Sepia’s are too exhausted to talk and telling their symptoms makes them cry; and Nux vomica and Sulphur are in too much of a hurry to talk to you!  But moreover, sometimes people simply aren’t able to communicate!  Sometimes you just get the feeling they are deliberately not answering you, just not getting the idea of the homeopathic interview on purpose!  Needless to say, these cases are exasperating and cure may come only after a long stretch of trial and error!

Don’t forget the concomitant!  The clue to the case often lies in the concomitant symptom, which is the “other” symptom in the case.  The person with the headache also has something else, but….what?  Nausea?  Frequent urination?  Thirst?  Irritability?  Runny eyes?  Excessive salivation?…these are all “concomitants”—the symptom that’s associated with the complaint.  The headache patient with thirst might need Phosphorus.  The headache patient with salivation could need Mercury.  The headache patient with a need for company might need Arsenicum.  The headache patient with frequent urination could need Gelsemium.  In other words, it can be all about the concomitant!

Colors?  Colors often sway the remedy choice.  I didn’t know what to give my friend Juliana for her cold until she told me her nasal mucus was “Electric Yellow”!  “Kali bic!” I cried!  And it was Kali bic!  This is called prescribing on keynotes.  If you see a keynote of a remedy in a case, or a strange, rare and peculiar symptom, you may be able to prescribe just on that!

Maybe you antidoted the remedy by giving a second dose too soon!  Or maybe you caused a proving by dosing too often!  If a remedy has begun to act, stop giving it!  Your next dose, if given prematurely, could act as an antidote!

Sometimes the remedy didn’t fail at all, we just didn’t know how to recognize a curative response!  We may be looking for the physical pathology to change when actually the first thing you’ll see after a correct remedy is improvement on the mental-emotional plane!  When we don’t see what we want to see, we abandon the remedy when it could have been the right one all along!

Aggravation?  Well, first of all, stop giving the remedy!  But, if the chief complaint is worse after the remedy, that can be a hopeful sign that maybe when the aggravation wears off, the improvement will set in.  Also, see my article “The Aggravation Zapper” which is on my website.

Here’s an obvious reason a remedy can fail:  You antidoted it with peppermint, menthol, Vicks Vap-O-Rub, Tiger Balm, electric blankets, or coffee!  There are a number of things that can antidote a remedy, but chief among them is menthol!  People who have given a remedy for a cough and then apply Vicks to their chest are probably just cancelling out their remedy!  Antidoting factors include: mint, menthol, aroma therapy, coffee, strong emotions, emotional shock or fright–and by the way, this is why I always tell people, especially parents, “Stop scolding your child, you just gave him a remedy!  You want it to work, right?” 

Surgery!  Sometimes surgery is inevitable!  There’s a mechanical problem: a hernia, an impacted wisdom tooth, a twisted intestine, a broken bone; you simply must have surgery!  But don’t worry, homeopathic remedies can get you through it with ease!  See my article “Pain-Free After Surgery”.

P.S., I should probably add that all homeopaths are not equal.  And just like there are good doctors and bad doctors, there are good homeopaths and bad homeopaths too.  Try to find one who’s gone to a school, a recognized school of homeopathy, had a famous teacher, like George Vithoulkas, Robin Murphy, Luc De Schepper, Roger Morrison, Judyth Reichenberg-Ullman, Miranda Castro, Dana Ullman, David Little, etc.  See if the homeopath’s got a diploma, see if he’s got published cases online or a book that you can read.

Well Mrs. John?  Have we covered the issues you raised?  Yes, I know, homeopathy is harder than you thought!  And this is why “dabblers” and “hobby-ists” should not try to treat chronic disease.  Chronic cases are murder and tend to not want to resolve on their own!  They’ve been there for a long time and the body has gotten used to them, learned to ignore them, and doesn’t try to fight them anymore. 

Also, are there “maintaining causes”?  Conditions that keep the case going?  I heard of a “dementia” case once that was actually caused by a chimney that was putting out carbon monoxide fumes because it needed cleaning!  The patient would always “get better” when she visited her sister in another town, and then get worse again when she went back home, leading the homeopath to suspect the house as being the problem.  A lot of thought needs to go into a chronic case.  Do you have a diagnosis?  That would be step number-one!  Get a diagnosis, for heaven’s sake!  I know that’s not always easy, as almost anything a doctor says should be taken with a grain of salt and a lot of questioning, and I guess this is why you always hear, “Get a second opinion!”  Still, before looking at just the symptoms, we need to know, if at all possible, the cause, and the diagnosis.  Otherwise, we’re at a great disadvantage. 

Bye for now!


Elaine Lewis, DHom, CHom


[email protected]

About the author

Elaine Lewis

Elaine Lewis, D.Hom., C.Hom.
Elaine is a passionate homeopath, helping people offline as well as online. Contact her at [email protected]
Elaine is a graduate of Robin Murphy's Hahnemann Academy of North America and author of many articles on homeopathy including her monthly feature in the Hpathy ezine, "The Quiz". Visit her website at:
https://elainelewis.hpathy.com/ and TheSilhouettes.org


  • thanks for a very informative lecture on the subject which has irked me fr a long time. but my problem is bit different. a best selected remedy acts as best as expected. but when the cure is complete above 90% it stops. no change of potency or a nosode works and i am back to square 1. then how to prepare a personal nosode for atopic eczema and a stasis eczema/ varicose veins

    • OK, I’m confused! You say when cure is complete, you’re back to square-one. Can you please explain how that can happen? Do you keep on dosing when you should be stopping, is that the problem?

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