Homeopathy Papers

When Homeopathic Remedies Fail!

Elaine Lewis
Written by Elaine Lewis

When remedies fail, what went wrong?

Mrs. Elsy John writes:                                        

Elaine, I would like to air my confusion when I say that sometimes, a well selected remedy fails to act, which leaves the patient, as well as the doctor, 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 have the foggiest idea!

Homeopathy is very difficult!  You mentioned “well-selected remedies.”  I don’t even know what that means!  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 was; 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 wasn’t happy with the remedies that came up, 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 occur?”  I wasn’t prepared for the answer–I think because I wasn’t expecting her to say anything other than what people usually 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?  No!  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 for a sinus headache.  She said her son had a sinus headache every day!!!  I could have done the expected thing and said, “Give a dose of Kali bich. 30C,” (our most popular sinus remedy) but instead I asked, as above, “When did it start and what was going on in his life at 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, the question then became, what was the flu like before the antibiotics were given?  It turned out to have been a perfect case of Gelsemium!  So that’s what we gave– Gelsemium– and the “sinus headache” went away!  Is Gelsemium a well-selected remedy for sinus headache?  No, but then again, we didn’t really have a sinus problem as thought!  We had a suppressed flu!

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 have surgery.  

You see, it was a chronic case, a life-long problem, 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 for the case was the causal agent in potency!  (I have a feeling no one knows what I just said.)  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…Arsenic 30C!   When you know what the cause is?  That’s the remedy!  (More often than not.)  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

When remedies work, then fail, you have to try a higher potency, but if that doesn’t work and you move on to a different remedy, and, in the same fashion, that remedy works and then fails, and this pattern keeps repeating, you 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 sweat?  The blood?  Mucus?  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” 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 appealing to you.  Periodontal disease?  Not very interesting!  Sprained ankle?  Joint pain?  Too boring.  Well, the fun-filled constitutional case will just have to wait until these “loose ends” are tied up!  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 answers 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?”  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 there.  You may find that that’s also “the worst thing”, 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.  Just think of how many illnesses come with headaches, or diarrhea, or cramps.  Let’s take diarrhea, for example.  It could mean you’ve eaten bad food, so the remedy might be Arsenicum.  Or, it could mean you have stage-fright, in which case the remedy would be Gelsemium.  So, without a diagnosis, or knowledge of what’s wrong, and only symptoms to go by, we 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 pathology in a case, the standard hierarchy of “the mentals come first” is no longer applicable!  Actually, you turn it on its head!

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 Phosphorus patient with a Phosphorus 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; the case may change constantly!  You’re going to have to be ready constantly with a remedy for this and a remedy for that; these cases are unstable!  Don’t think you can give a 200C and say, “Come back in a month!”  You may find yourself taking an acute case daily from this patient, and then returning to Hydrastis or Conium, etc. when the acute is over.

Here’s a problem with constantly relapsing mental cases: if a vital organ is involved, the vital force (the body’s innate logic) will dispatch the disorder in the vital organ away from it to the mental plane to save the person’s life!  In such a case, you will never succeed by treating this as a mental case because your initial successes will send the complaint back to the vital organ!  I will give you an example.  Dr. Vasilis Ghegas tells of a pneumonia case he successfully treated.  But when his patient relapsed, instead of calling Dr. Ghegas, the patient’s family took the patient to a “real” doctor instead, who gave–of course– antibiotics.  The result was that the patient became “insane” and had to be institutionalized.  Finally they came back to Dr. Ghegas who said, “I will give her a remedy but the pneumonia will come back!  Then you must call me when that happens so I can give a pneumonia remedy.”  Obviously Dr. Ghegas would repeat his pneumonia remedy at that time.  The pneumonia came back like Dr. Ghegas said.  But what did the family do?  The so-called “safe” and “responsible” thing and took the patient to the hospital where she got, again, antibiotics.  She again went insane, was re-institutionalized, and they never contacted Dr. Ghegas again–maybe too embarrassed?  Who knows.  

So, the whole point of this story being that a “mental” case may not be a mental case at all!  It could be a physical illness that was improperly treated with drugs and suppressed to the mental plane.  In fact, any complaint could, in reality, be a different complaint that was suppressed to a deeper level with drugs.  Drugs are very dangerous and can make a homeopath’s job a tangled web of inscrutable symptoms.  

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 remedy out of the drug.)  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.

Why else could your remedy be failing?  Maybe because your patient won’t tell you what’s wrong with 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 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, 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, determining what it is!

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”!  I screamed, “Kali bic!”!  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, might ruin the case!

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 change after a remedy is improvement on the mental-emotional plane!  Or you might fall asleep, or you might get your appetite back!  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 taking 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 start.

I’ve left the most obvious reason a remedy can fail for last:  You antidoted it with peppermint, menthol 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 Vap-O-Rub to the chest are probably just cancelling out the remedy!  Antidoting factors include: mint, menthol, aroma therapy, coffee, strong emotions, emotional shock or upset–and by the way, this is why I always tell people, especially parents, “Stop fighting with your child, you just gave him a remedy!”  Other antidoting factors: dentistry and electric blankets. 

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.  Try to find one who’s gone to a school, a recognized school of homeopathy, had a famous teacher, like George Vithoulkas, Robin Murphy, Roger Morrison, Judyth Reichenberg-Ullman, etc.  See if the homeopath’s got a diploma, see if he’s got published cases 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 cases.  Chronic cases are murder and tend to not want to go away on their own!  They’ve been there for a long time and the body has gotten used to them, learned to ignore them, 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 dirty chimney!  Stick to acute prescribing, and leave the rest to those who have gone to a school of homeopathy.  As you can see, it’s not easy.


Elaine Lewis, DHom, CHom


[email protected]

About the author

Elaine Lewis

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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