I found out my friend Rhonda had a nasty cold yesterday, so we huddled briefly via instant message.  I asked her a quick series of questions and found that her cold was two days old already and that it had begun as a sore throat with the characteristic symptom of burning.  This had moved up into the nose and sinuses, and the flow from the nose was copious and watery and irritated the nose.  With the little bit of information I knew that the remedy Allium Cepa, made from onion, could help Rhonda.  She took it, and after the first dose sent me a new message that the flow from the nose had stopped and that she was feeling much better.

In keeping with the change in seasons—we had to put the furnace on for the first time last night here in Connecticut—I thought that this would be a good time to talk about the common cold and homeopathy.

I’ve listed here some of the most commonly used remedies for patients with colds.  Keep in mind that it may take more than one remedy to clear away a cold.  But if you catch it in time, as it is coming on, it is usually a simple thing to keep the cold down to a mild discomfort that passes quite quickly (about a third the time of an untreated cold) or avoid it altogether.

Think of a cold as having three stages.  The first is from the first sneeze or pain in the throat or that “oh, no” feeling that precedes a cold to the beginning of nasal flow.  Stage two is the period when the nasal discharge is clear and stage three is the final stage, when the nasal discharge is colored.  Some patients may need three remedies to clear away the cold.  Others one or two.  It depends upon the individual and his or her symptoms.

Among the most commonly used remedies for Stage One of a cold are:

ACONITE:  Aconite will only help with a cold if you take it in time, and that usually means in the first twelve hours of the onset.  Think of Aconite for the cold that comes on usually from exposure to dry, cold wind.  The cold begins with a great deal of sneezing.  The patient becomes suddenly very chilly as his or her symptoms come on, although the face is burning hot.  There is a shallow, dry cough with tickling in the throat.  Patient is very restless.  If you are having a hard time getting the patient to get into bed and rest, think of Aconite.

CAMPHORA:  This is a very good at the beginning stage of a cold.  Look for the patient to feel very chilly, and there is a great deal of sneezing.  The nose is very stopped up–that is the usual first symptom.  There is no great flow of mucus, but the patient feels tremendous pressure in his or her sinuses.  The onset is accompanied by a headache in the front of the head and/or a sore throat in the front of the throat.

BELLADONNA:  Look for the symptoms to come on very quickly, like ACONITE.  Like ACONITE,  the first stage of the cold will usually be accompanied by fever.  Skin will be hot and dry.  Cold begins with fever and sore throat.  The patient’s voice is hoarse.  The patient complains of a throbbing headache, worse from any motion. Listen for a dry cough—and the coughing may be painful enough to make the patient cry.  Patient alternates between feeling hot and cold and is sleepy but cannot sleep.  If you are having trouble deciding between BELLADONNA and ACONITE, remember that, unlike the ACONITE patient, the BELLADONNA will want to rest and be still.

FERRUM PHOSPHORICUM: is very useful in the first stages of a cough/cold/flu.  The initial symptoms may resemble BELLADONNA, but the patient is not as ill.  But the illness comes on with fever—this is our best general fever remedy.  The FERRUM patient will not be sluggish, as is the BELLADONNA, but will be mentally alert.  Look for the face to have red patches on the cheeks.

General remedies for stage two of a cold:

NATRUM MURIATICUM:  This is an excellent general cold remedy. In fact, it is so good, it defies categorization and can be used in all three states of a cold.  Think of it first when the patient sounds nasal, when his or her sinuses are blocked at the onset of the cold. Cold begins as sneezing fits and loss of sense of smell.  And note: the nasal discharge will be clear and thick, like raw egg white. This is the remedy for the archetypal cold, with total loss of smell, much sneezing and much post nasal drip.  The patient’s lips tend to be dry and cracked, particularly in the corners.  Cold sores are common, as is a loss of appetite.  The NAT MUR patient feels depressed, but does not want to be fussed over.

PHOSPHORUS:  This is another very good general remedy for patients with colds, especially young patients.  PHOSPHORUS colds tend to begin in the throat and move quickly to the chest. (They may move into the ears as well—and PHOSPHORUS is an important remedy for children who have regular earaches and infections.)  Not a usual head cold remedy.  Cough may be dry or loose.  It may be croupy in nature.  The cough may be very deep and coughing may cause the patient a great deal of chest pain. The chest feels tight.  The patient is thirsty for cold things, wants ice cream and other cold foods. Coughing may bring up mucus, may bring up blood. Patient is worse for lying on left side. Symptoms are worse from cold air, or when the patient is laughing or talking.  The patient wants attention, wants company.  Does not want to be left alone.  The PHOSPHORUS patient tends to be sweet and not demanding.

SULPHUR: This is the third great general remedy for a cold.  When SULPHUR is indicated, the mucus flows by the gallon, clear and watery.  As with NAT MUR, the patient experiences a complete loss of taste and smell.  But the SULPHUR patient does not usually feel that sick.  He or She may want to just lie in bed and watch soap operas.  Will usually crave very salty things—the only things that the patient can taste:  potato chips feel good in the throat.  The patient typically experiences coldness in the extremities, and yet cannot bear to have his or her feet under the covers, so they go in and out of covers all day and night.  Cold often accompanied by morning diarrhea, which will drive the patient out of bed in the morning

ALLIUM CEPA: If you think of cutting an onion, from which the remedy is made, you will get the idea of the symptoms that suggest ALLIUM.  The patient’s eyes are tearing, his or her nose is running.  The flow from the eyes is bland, but the mucus (which is clear) from the nose burns the skin around the nose.  For those colds when the red crust forming under the nose.  The patient’s upper lip may also irritated.  Symptoms are worse in warm rooms, better in the open air.  The sore throat is of a tickling, burning nature. Finally, there is usually little or no fever.

EUPHRASIA:  The symptoms are the opposite of ALLIUM CEPA.  Here the eyes are tearing and the nose is running, but the tears cause the eyes to burn and become red, the clear mucus from the nose is bland.  Symptoms are worse in open air, worse from lying down.  Usually there is a loose cough, the cough is made better from eating.  All symptoms are worse in the daytime.

ARSENICUM:  This is the remedy for yet another chilly patient, one who wants to go to bed and get cozy.  The patient sneezes a good deal and has a good deal of mucous flowing, and it is very thin, clear and watery.  Eyes tear and the tears are burning.  There is a loss of taste in the mouth and the mouth is very dry.  Patient is very thirsty, usually for warm things, especially tea with lemon.  Look for the patient to sip their drinks. The ARSENICUM patient is restless, unless very sick, in which case he or she will lay in bed and not want to move at all, as if giving up.  In all cases, this patient will not want to be alone, but will demand attention and will feel better when he or she is taken care of.  Young patients may be very afraid if left alone.

CHAMOMILLA:   Expect a great deal of discharge from the nose.  And the discharge is acrid and burning, like ALLIUM CEPA.  Look for the traditional keynote sign of CHAMOMILLA: the patient will have one red and hot cheek, the other will be pale and cold.  The CHAMOMILLA cold tends to move into the chest—listen for a rattling of mucus in the chest.  Hoarseness and loose cough.  Cough worse at night. Worse during sleep.  Note that this patient will be very irritable, often will be very demanding, but will be unsure what they want.  Patient may want to be held or rocked.

DULCAMARA:  Think of this remedy for autumn colds.  It is best for colds that come on from exposure to cold, damp weather, or that come on from a change in the weather.  All symptoms are aggravated by changes in the weather or by becoming cold or wet.  Patient is better from moving about, worse from lying still.

GELSEMIUM:  This is also a remedy for those who catch cold from changes in weather, but illness will not be as severe as in DULCAMARA.  GELSEMIUM colds can be very slow to come on.  Patient will feel dizzy, weak and tired for a number of days before cold begins. Cold usually begins as a sore throat with pain on swallowing that extends into the ear.  The keynote symptom is fever without thirst.  Patient is very content to lie still and rest and wants the light dimmed and the room quiet.

NUX VOMICA:  Think of this for slow coming and slow leaving colds.  The NUX patient starts to feel ill by becoming chilly.  Feels cold inside, cannot get warm.  The patient feels cold when feverish.  Look for frontal headache to accompany the cold.  The patient’s nose has a great deal of discharge during the day, but is stopped up completely at night.  Typically, the NUX will have a dry, shallow cough which makes his or her headache much worse.  This patient is very irritable and cannot be pleased.  If you feel like shoving the food tray through a slot in the door and running, give them NUX.  The patients cold usually will be accompanied by constipation.  All of the patient’s symptoms are worse in the morning.

Two great remedies for the Third Stage of a cold:

PULSATILLA:  This remedy is usually used at the end of a cold.  Look for the characteristic yellow/green discharges.  The patient’s mucus will have a fluffy, cloud-like quality.  Thick.  The patient experiences a complete loss of taste and smell.  The sinus pressure from the cold may cause a toothache.  Patient craves fresh air, cannot bear a warm room.  The patient may also feel chilly, however, even in that warm room.  All symptoms are worse toward evening.  Look for the PULSATILLA personality to emerge—the patient wants to be taken care of, may whine for attention.  The patient tends to feel very sorry for himself.  He or she may want to be held and rocked.

KALI  BICHROMICUM:  This is a remedy that is usually used to clear out the last stage of a cold.  Note that it is also the remedy to think of first for sinus headaches.  Look for the patient’s nasal discharge to be green and ropy.  It is thick and tends to be long and stringy.  It may be so thick that it cannot be blown out of the nose.  It may form crusts or mucus plugs in the nose.  The discharge may have an offensive smell.  There is also thick post nasal drip, and a constant clearing of the throat.  The patient experiences pain at the root of the nose.  And pain in the frontal sinuses.

In cases of the common cold, the selected remedy is given in the 30C potency that is most easily found at the local health food store.  All of the remedies listed here are very common and should be easily found on the shelves of that store.

The remedy should be given hourly for the first two or three doses.  Look for improvement.  When improvement begins, stop giving the remedy.  Repeat only if the symptoms begin to worsen once again.  Usually, in a cold, the remedy will be needed at least once a day but no more than three times a day—follow the symptoms to know if and when to repeat.

I will soon post on the storage and handling of homeopathic remedies and on the principles of their use.