I am often asked - what are homeopathic remedies and the answer is - literally anything can be made into a remedy.
The first remedy to be "proved" was by medical Doctor Samuel Hahnemann, writing a paper on the effects of Cinchona Bark - or quinine as it is more commonly known. Two hundred years ago when he was working as a well-respected Doctor in Leipzig it was common to use this bark, worth more than gold at the time, to bring down fevers. He wondered what would happen if he were to take some of the bark as a healthy individual - which he did and was afflicted with what seemed like a terrible fever.
He realised that by giving the body a small amount of fever it showed the body's immune force how to tackle a real fever. He then set about diluting the bark which taken in its original form often led to unpleasant side-effects.
He found that as you would expect, diluting reduced the effectiveness and whilst wrestling with the problem of diluting the side-effects without diluting the positive effects. The story goes, he was sitting at his desk pondering this problem when he banged the bottle down on the table in front of him. Like Archimedes in his bath and Isaac Newton with his apple a new scientific discovery was born. He further developed the idea of "succussing" the dilution discovering some numbers of dilution/succussion worked more effectively than others and the potencies of 6x, 6c, 30c, 200c, 1M and 10M were settled upon.
He went on to look at other remedies, already in use at the time to see if, when diluted these became safer. He was practicing at a time when leeches, blood letting and a hot iron applied to the body were considered cutting edge and nobody thought to wash their hands. He also wrote some pretty radical papers about sanitation and housing which vastly improved life-expectancy at the time. But it is his tireless investigation into the dilution of poisons, and the fathering of a form of medicine which we have the most to thank him for today. In his lifetime and since thousands of remedies have been added to the Materia Medica - or directory of medicines which we homeopaths depend on today.
In the beginning remedies were tested by looking at the symptoms of people who'd been poisoned - Sepia was discovered in the symptoms a male artist who kept licking his paintbrush, Phosphorus by the effects on workers in match factories and the story of Constantine Hering's wife jotting down all the symptoms of her husband after he was poisoned by the dreaded Surukuku or Bushmaster Snake whilst trying to extract some venom is legend.
These days, when we want to know what symptoms a remedy is likely to cure, the homeopathically diluted substance is given to healthy participants in a trial. Those symptoms experienced by everyone are very likely to be helpful as a remedy whilst other less common symptoms are noted and the more they happen in subsequent provings, the more likely the symptom will make it into the Materia Medica. Symptoms noted can be not only physical, but also mental and emotional. Quite often the first thing you notice about someone who is not well, is that their emotional state has changed - for instance they have become weepy or tetchy.
Remedies are made from a variety of sources including plants and minerals and nosodes from disease tissue. Because of the number of dilutions, with the exception of the lower potencies, they contain none of the original substance and are completely safe to take. It is not possible to obtain anything in a low potency which would be harmful.
Taking a remedy over an extended period where there are no symptoms to match it, can sometimes result in a "proving" where you bring about the symptoms of the remedy. Ceasing the remedy should bring relief reasonably quickly. Taking a bottle-full of pills all at once would count as one dose and likely have no effect at all.
Remedies are made by dropping a little of the diluted substance onto tiny sugary pills which when taken, dissolve easily in the mouth. Babies and pets take them quite happily and they can be dissolved in water to administer to plants.