Frequently Asked Questions About Antidotes In Homeopathy

Siegfried Letzel has a very interesting (imaginary) conversation with Hahnemann, Boenninghausen, Jahr and Aegidi regarding the use of antidotes in homeopathy.

SL: Since the earliest days of homeopathy, homeopaths have seen patients showing signs of intoxication, which frequently have been pretty violent. Unfortunately, very often medical treatment caused the trouble. If we imagine, how have been the hygienic circumstances at those days, it will become clear to us that spoiled food, contamination of the drinking water, filthy life space added to the problem. From the very beginning and as a matter of routine, homeopaths gathered rich experience in handling such cases.

Even today, this area is of considerable relevance. Be it for the same reasons just mentioned before, be it that we have to face conditions caused by abuse of modern medicines, consumption of alcohol and drugs – a long list could be given.

Many homeopaths today find therapy of poisoning of any kind difficult to approach. Too many theories and suppositions about it circulate, and which informations really are reliable is difficult to be told. At any rate, it is a proven fact that a large area is conceded to the use of antidotes against substances of different toxicity. Homeopaths themselves often make the use of antidotes necessary, because they are not aware, how easily our remedies can bring about aggravation to a clinical picture.

For this reason, we intend to ask a few questions, which are going to be answered by acknowledged experts, whose outstanding experience and direct contact to original homeopathy is not and cannot be questioned in any way.

Our first questions are addressed to Dr. Hahnemann: ‘Have you ever used antidotes in your clinic? If yes, which are the cases when you consider the administration of an antidote?

Dr. Samuel Hahnemann: “You have mentioned aggravations of the clinical picture being caused by the therapist himself. I would like to briefly go into this. I have also done so in aphorism 249 in the Organon, 6th edition. According to my experience, hardly there can exist a dose of a highly potentiated homeopathic remedy fitting specifically to the case, which would be too small for bringing about considerable amelioration in a corresponding disease. For this reason, it is wrong and harmful, that in cases of no or just a slight aggravation of symptoms, the dose is being repeated or even being enlarged.

Every aggravation by new symptoms, except that there exist actual triggers for them, only proves the inadequacy of the previously given medicine in this case of disease. Never will it  point to the weakness of the dose! In order to erase such new, remedy-induced and severe symptoms, an antidote can be given, before a better-chosen second remedy is being applied.

By the way, in this 6th edition of the Organon, I have inserted a new footnote missing in the previous editions of the book. It reflects my latest experiences, chiefly with new Q-potencies: ‘The well-trained and conscientiously cautious physician never will encounter the case when he will find it necessary to administer an antidote in his clinic. He only needs to begin with, as he has to, the smallest dose possible of the well-chosen remedy. An equally small dose of the better chosen medicine will sort things out.’

SL: “This is how Dr. Hahnemann’s attitude finally stands about antidotes, which have played a relevant role in his theoretical teachings and practice in the past. And they still do in many homeopathic consulting rooms today. So we can see, that the application of the right dose of a well-chosen homeopathic medicine pretty often is not being managed properly.

Now, in such an unsuccessful case, we face the question on how we can recognize the necessity for the use of an antidote and on how to apply it properly. “

Dr. Samuel Hahnemann: “I only can warn everybody to blindly trust ‘recommended antidotes‘, like I have described it in the first part of my Materia Medica Pura (1830) in the chapter of Belladonna: ‘Almost all writers have nominated vinegar to be antidote of Belladonna. It has been done just by supposition, and because they have copied it from each other in equity. Yet, nothing is more untrue than this. My repeated experience teaches me that vinegar only aggravates even more the adverse effect of large doses of Belladonna.’

There is a better way how to proceed. I have developed it in the first volume of my work about The Chronic Diseases. There you will find: ‘In cases, when new, medicine-induced symptoms corresponding with the picture of the remedy appear, at first I recommend not to interfere, if they are not of considerable strength.
These new symptoms will subside under the continued beneficial action of the remedy.

However, if the new complaints are considerable and troublesome in strength, I see this as a sign for a wrong chosen remedy. In this case I suggest the application a dose of antidote or, if lacking one, of a better chosen homeopathic remedy.’

If already present symptoms of the disease aggravate during the first days after the application of a medicine within the bounds of a homeopathic aggravation, cure is to be expected.
It is different, if such an aggravation occurs delayed, what points to a dose, which has been chosen too high. This can speak for a resulting hindrance of cure. Even worse, the remedy can unfold symptoms, neutralizing similarity and replacing the similar natural disease by a dissimilar chronic disease without eliminating the former. This calls for the application of an antidote, or if unknown, for a remedy fitting as much as possible to the symptoms of now – and to be precise, in a very small dose! Probably another remedy will have to follow, if this does not wipe out the disease. If still appropriate, finally, the original remedy can be given in a dose much smaller, and with a much higher potency.

  1. v. Bönninghausen: “At this point I’d like to draw your attention to an essay written by Dr. J. Aegidi. I referred to it in my Systematic-Alphabetical Repertory of Homeopathic Remedies (1833). This article has been published in the Archive of the Homeopathic Art of Healing (XII. 1, page 121ff). There, Aegidi writes about the possibility, how a homeopathic remedy can change and aggravate the state of the disease, or how it can add so that the disease will get a different set of symptoms: ‘If we observe the state of the disease aggravating, namely, the characteristic symptoms aggravate intensively without any change or different appearance – what we call homeopathic aggravation: here, the medicine has covered the nature of the suffering and nothing has to be done any further. If one needs to take care of remarkable complaints, they make it necessary to use a suitable antidote, which frequently can be found in a second (if possible, even smaller) dose of the same remedy.’
    If the change affects the whole complex of symptoms, it proves that the remedy has been selected inappropriately and it needs to be replaced by a suitable one as soon as possible.’”

SL: “Suitable vs. unsuitable. We have believed of having chosen the right remedy, but we have been mistaken. The wanted result is missing. What can be done in order to get a better choice for a remedy? What helps us to exactly identify the best remedy? “

  1. v. Bönninghausens: “As the first approach, I would learn to understand how the remedies relate to each other. I have written a book ‘Attempt about the Relationships between Homeopathic Remedies, together with a Condensed Overview of their Peculiarities and Main Actions’ (1836). There, I dealt with this topic and I also drew the line between a family relationship and a mere antidotal relationship between our medicines.

Well, if a remedy has the ability to curatively erase medically induced symptoms of another medicine according to the similarity of its own effects (this is to say according to its after-effects), then I describe this mutual relationship with the term family relationship.

From this definition it arises, that I differentiate clearly between a family relationship and an antidotal relationship between remedies. For the latter, also the composition of the initial effects, which it causes, are taken into consideration, as long as they are appropriate in fast acting remedies and if by them, in cases of severe poisonings, diminution (neutralization) of the poisonous substance is being achieved.

If an antidote has been used against disease symptoms caused by a medical substance, and if it has removed them (by adequate timely application) by its initial effects, experience teaches, that only those symptoms are going to be erased. Other complaints of the disease found in the sick patient are not ameliorated in any way.

It is different, if in such a case the after-effects of a medicine bring about cure. Has a remedy been chosen for the suffering person which corresponds completely homeopathically to the existing group of symptoms (therefore being in family relationship with the former remedy), then, as a rule, one will find, that the new medicine will not only take away the newly stimulated symptoms. If complaints still remain which are in the field of the latter remedy, they also will be wiped out curatively.

Some medicines act much more curatively if another (related) remedy precedes!

The understanding for my Overview of Relationships, together with its use arises from what I have just mentioned. For the beginner, however, it will be necessary, briefly to elaborate the following:

Remedies in a family relationship are antidotes to each other, and they can successfully be used in preference within the range of their similar symptoms.

More certainly they will curatively (not palliatively, or with their initial effect) erase the arisen drug-induced complaints, rather than a different medicine would do, even if it may partially present similar symptoms. The reason why probably is, that every remedy, more than just the known strong and clear symptoms, each time also will arouse many other, weaker and therefore unrecognized changes in the condition of the patient. These symptoms often do not correspond to the other remedy. Consequently, the overall clinical picture is not homeopathically suitable for the latter. One shall not miss that not every related remedy is able to cure all of the disease symptoms being caused by the previous medicine.

Each medicine only can express such healing powers, which lie within its area of activity.

According to our experience, related remedies, which have been applied in sequence, act much more curatively than not related ones.

Aside from this, it is understood, that the principle of similars always is given the first and most necessary consideration when choosing a remedy.

Usually one will find several competing related remedies to choose from, especially in complicated chronic complaints. Often I have encountered, that during further and more detailed exploration and inquiry some formerly unnoticed symptoms were coming up, giving clear preference to one of these remedies. Success always has been exceptionally pleasant.

It is known at times to happen, that after the action of a seemingly well-chosen remedy symptoms have aggravated, like in a strong initial effect, without amelioration to follow. Not always this is due to a former misuse of the now given remedy. The reason for this phenomenon sometimes cannot be found out. In such a case, it is very much to prefer to give a dose of a related medicine, which is in line with the symptoms. I would not wait until the after-effect of the remedy subsides but I would immediately apply the following remedy, which is related as closely as possible. Almost ever I had the joy not only to observe quick amelioration of the complaints which have become stronger, but also to experience considerable amelioration of the total original pathological condition.

SL: “Mr. Boenninghausen, do you have an explanation for what really is the source for the power of antidotes? “

  1. v. Bönninghausen: “In 1832 I have written my book entitled ‘Systematic-Alphabetical Repertory of the Antipsoric Remedies’.

There I said that I am sure, that the power of remedies exclusively is based on pure homeopathic principles.

An antidotal relationship only can develop where similarity of the action of the medicines is being found. Since every medicine owns its individual peculiarities within this complex, surely there have to be cases, when only a few or no symptoms match. Consequently, an antidote, usually working effectively, will not lead to the expected success. This is why – for example – coffee and wine will erase the effect of Nux vomica in a patient, in others they will not even counter slightly. Also, lately approved experience, that very high potencies of a medicine are much less sensitive against raw consumption of an antidotal kind, needs to be seen from this point of view.

SL: “Mr. Boenninghausen, since you repeat once again, that the antidotal effect of remedies is based on pure homeopathic principles, does it mean that the application of antidotes does not differ from usual homeopathic treatment?”

  1. v. Bönninghausen: “In ‘The Aphorisms of Hippocrates with the Glosses of a Homeopath‘ I repeat: In all such coincidences being caused by the overdose of medicines or by other intoxications, only those remedies will help – if any help still possible – which have the ability to arouse similar complaints. This confirms the accuracy and correctness of our fundamental principle: Similia Similibus.

Before we spend a long time with pondering and over subtlety, let us have a look on how my esteemed friend, personal physician of Her Royal Highness, Dr. Aegid,i has expressed further about this in the Archive of the Homeopathic Art of Healing, Volume XII, Book 1, page 123 (This also can be read in my work ‘Homeopathy, A Textbook for the educated non-medical Readership‘): After the application of the best chosen remedies (according to the similarity of symptoms), not later than after eight days (in acute diseases after a much shorter period of time, often already after one minute), one out of two possibilities will appear to happen, namely either
A. The pathological condition changes,
or
B. it does not change.
The change of the pathological condition contains another three cases:
1. The condition ameliorates, or
2. It aggravates, or
3. The disease changes its symptom-complex. ‘


In this context, cases 2. and 3. are of interest.

Aegidi: ‘In the second case we observe an aggravation of the pathological condition. The characteristic symptoms aggravate intensively without a change or reshaping; the so-called homeopathic aggravation. Here, the remedy has covered the nature of the suffering and nothing has to be done any further. Patiently, we let pass the reaction. If the reaction is too strong or if it lasts for too long, one applies the right antidote. Amelioration will follow, and after the standstill, depending on the circumstances, the original remedy can be repeated in a still smaller dose, or another one, fitting better, is to be given.

The third case concerns the change of the symptom-complex. It proves that the remedy has been chosen inappropriately and as soon as possible, it needs to be replaced by one fitting better.
Still we need to consider case B., when the pathological condition does not change at all after the best-chosen remedy has been applied and the suffering person nourishes himself with proper diet and leads an irreproachable life. Depending on the degree of receptivity of the diseased person, a specifically selected remedy needs to be given against the loss of irritation. Then, the cautiously selected remedy needs to be applied repeatedly, or seldom only once, until a clear homeopathic aggravation appears. Amelioration will follow inexorably. Alternatively, we find several symptoms peculiar to the remedy, which have not been included in the symptom-complex of the disease before. By this, the case is getting more complicated, but not rarely, it will begin to ameliorate or express indication for a second remedy.

This makes it plausible that even in these aspects, the new teachings and our method of treatment does not lack firm norms. No time is wasted even in doubtful cases. It brings about cure as fast as nature permits for the disease. But we all also have to realize, that an error of judgement only can be corrected, when the physician is fully acquainted with the whole range of the effects of a medicine. And such an error of judgement only can be corrected, if the first remedy had been applied in such a small dose so that its power can be extinguished fast enough.’
This may sufficiently have answered your question.

SL: “In the beginning we have learned, that the true physician can avoid the use of antidotes only by avoidance of an overdose of the remedy. Can you still add to this topic? “

  1. v. Bönninghausen: “Yes, have a look at my ‘Lesser Writings‘: There, I wrote about the smallness of the dose. Contradiction on contradictions has accumulated about this topic. It is strange that the history of gradual reduction of the dose, and what Hahnemann has taught us according to the continued experiments he conducted during different times, his observations and experiences completely seem to have been ignored.

Hahnemann about homeopathic aggravation: ‘If the aggravated, original symptoms still appear with the same strength after later days or even stronger by then, so this is a sign for that the dose, even though well chosen, has been too strong. We fear that no cure can be achieved. A medicine given in such a dose may achieve a similar effect in some respect. However, at such intensity, the medicine also will unfold its other symptoms, which neutralize the similarity of symptoms. It will replace the natural disease by an artificial disease. This one will be stronger and more troublesome, without the original disease being erased.’

Hahnemann continues: ‘This – the overdose – one will know already after 16, 18, 30 days of action by the remedy given in a dose too large. This action needs to be stopped either by the application of an antidote or, if still unknown, by the application of another antipsoric medicine fitting best for the symptoms being displayed NOW. This needs to be done with a very small dose. If this action does not suffice to erase the distorted remedy-induced disease, a second medicine is to be given which matches as much as possible homeopathically.

I (Hahnemann) myself have experienced this accident, which needs to be avoided as much as possible and which is a severe obstacle to cure. For example it happened, when I applied Sepia in a dose too high, not knowing the strength of its medicinal power. More strikingly, when I had the patient to take 4, 6 globules (although of the size of a poppy-seed) of Lycopodium or Silicea in a trillion-fold potentization. ‘

How little a large dose of a medicine is able to unfold its full redeeming efficaciousness follows from what the founder of homeopathy adds next:

‘et us say, a homeopathically well-chosen remedy has been given and the dose has been too strong. After bringing about a stormy attack of aggravation, giving an antidote or the following use of other antipsoric medicines will ameliorate the symptoms, which initially have been raised. Now the antipsoric medicine, which has been harmful before, still can be given once again, if there is a homeopathic indication for it and it will lead to the best results… However, it has to be applied with a much smaller dose and with a much higher potentized dilution; this is, with reduced properties. ‘

Finally, Hahnemann still warns us: ‘, One does not make a slip, if the dose is given even smaller (if it would be possible) than I have advised myself. It hardly can be chosen too small, as long as everything is avoided in the patient’s diet and his other behaviour disturbing or neutralizing the action of the remedy. If then the remedy has been chosen incorrectly, the big advantage remains, that the action of this wrongly chosen remedy with its smallest dose, easily can be rendered indifferent the way I have explained before. This can be followed by application of an indicated antipsoric remedy and cure will continue without any further obstacle.’

This remark should be taken to heart and be followed especially by beginners. They should not turn a deaf ear to the urgent warning of Hahnemann, which he gave in the introduction to the Chronic Diseases, where he said, especially within the present context: ‘What would they have risked, to follow my advices already from the very beginning and first to use these small doses? However, ignorant and high-handed they preferred to use large doses in homeopathic treatment. So they made the same detour, which is so dangerous for the patient, and which I have made before, shivering but lucky, in order to prevent them from it. After having caused certain damage, and after having wasted, beautiful lifetime, finally, if they really want to cure, they arrive at the one and only right destination. It is what I have already explained faithfully and openly long before.’

It may not be missed, that specificists have claimed the unapproved assertion that the founder of homeopathy himself has turned away from, how they call it, the exaggerated smallness of dose, during his last years. They say, he has returned to large doses like in the first epoch of homeopathy.

Not only that in the end of the year 1838 the introduction to the last volume of the Chronic Diseases, second edition, tells exactly the opposite. Also, I am in the position to prove through uninterrupted and busy correspondence with Hahnemann from the year 1838 until about 2 months before his death that not only these claims contain no truth, but that the doses have been reduced in size more and more till last.”

SL: “This returns us again to the footnote of aphorism 249 of the 6th edition of the Organon.
Certainly, it cannot be neglected, that homeopathic antidotes are being used often in the sense of antagonists – as opponents to the exciting cause. Is this compatible with the principle of similimum as it has been mentioned before and on which antidotal treatment is depending? “

G.H.G. Jahr:  “This I need to make clear one and for all without any doubt. In my book ‘The Teachings and Principles of the Complete Theoretical and Practical Homeopathic Art of Healing’, I have written an essay about it. Indeed, not rarely in our school it is common procedure that in selection of the best fitting remedy the original cause of the present disease is being explored. Let us think about misuse of medicines, consumption of harmful food or drinks, spoiled stomach, extensive brainwork, physical exhaustion, mechanical injury, emotional response, heat, cold, being soaking wet etc. After they have been recognized correctly, one often feels legitimated to apply this one remedy, which is known to be more or less specific for this cause – without any further examination of similarity between the signs of the disease and the signs of the remedy.

It cannot be neglected, that there are remedies known to have homeopathic relationship to some certain cause of a disease. At least these medicines partially need to be in real homeopathic relationship to the signs, which have been aroused by this cause. This is why these remedies are given in such a case almost blindly and they can be used with success. We can see this quite often in our clinics. For example, we apply Chamomilla in bilious fever caused by anger, Coffea for harmful consequences after excessive joy, Pulsatilla for gastric complaints of an upset stomach, Nux vomica against misuse of coffee. Usually this is done without further investigation for symptom similitude and still, not rarely, with the greatest success.

Nevertheless, this procedure really cannot be recommended as truthfully rational and to be followed.

Even though success in many cases justifies such a choice of remedy, it is also clear that such a remedy, which has been chosen according to the cause of the complaints, always needs to match several characteristic symptoms of the case being brought about by this cause: the corresponding signs now belong only to one factor out of two they ought to belong to: Such a so-called specific antidote corresponds only to the inducing cause. However, it does not correspond to the other factor, namely the individuality of the signs of the diseased organism!

Often, it is confirmed in cases from the clinic, that such specifics against causes do nothing at all. The physician needs to look for a better suited remedy. Knowledge of the cause often may be important for setting up a therapeutical plan, especially if direct antidotes are known against them. And as safely this knowledge can lead us in many cases, as little it is suitable, without paying close attention to the present signs pointing safely and with firmness to a remedy. It does not matter how acknowledged such a remedy is to be specific against this cause.

The antidotes against the different causes are not different from certain specifics against pathognomonic conditions or against isolated characteristic symptoms. This is to say that they may be capable for being selected, but never are they readily indicated. In other words, in every case the cause can point to the remedies, which preferably can be considered.

However, the cause cannot point to the remedy, which is the best to be used in every case.

What adds to this is that very often nothing will be more difficult than to recognize the true cause for the condition. Consequently, the physician easily can introduce a wrong therapeutical plan, if the signs in this regard are not certain and if he is guided by such a faulty diagnosis in his choice of remedy. Only if such a cause for the condition proves true, for example in misuse of medicine or in other slow intoxications, in obvious emotional responses, exaggerated physical exertion etc., only here can and may a therapeutical plan be built on a cause for the condition.

However, even in these cases, the physician never fully will be able to trust those remedies being advised for such causes. Never will he know, if those physicians, who have recommended these remedies, have been sure, if their observation about the usefulness of a medicine for such a supposed cause really is based on a cause being responsible for the disease. It follows, that all the so-called specifics never can be used without exploration of similitude of signs. In every case, the physician will do much better in cases, when similarity is not being found sufficiently in a specific against the cause, then to use a different remedy with similar signs to the disease.
This equally counts for the so-called antidotes against medicines. The only difference now is that the specific effect of antidotes to a medicine has attentively been observed many times. For this reason, they usually are much safer than the remedies claimed to be useful against a certain cause.

Also here again, due to the different peculiarities of the individual organisms and because a remedy never can cover the total of the sphere of action of another remedy, there hardly can exist an absolute antidote for any remedy. No medicine can destroy all the symptoms caused by the action of another one. In most of the cases, a remedy can erase part of the complaints. Another one will erase others complaints. This depends on the similitude of signs of the remedy with the antidote.

About the author

Siegfried Letzel

Siegfried Letzel

Siegfried Letzel - After working in ambulance service in Germany he assisted the German Red Cross in disaster relief following an earthquake in Algeria. He also worked with the League of Red Cross Societies in Geneva, Switzerland. He was sent to Darfur in Sudan to give support to refugees in emergency camps. Subsequently he studied biology in the Philippines and later became qualified as a natural health professional, specializing in TCM and homeopathy. For the last couple years he has been studying historical papers and the works of early homeopaths in search for the original and true homeopathy.

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