I get more questions on potency than just about any other topic on my Facebook group - Homeopathy with Jenna - so I thought I would do a post on it!
There are three aspects of potency we need to consider - the first is what is written on the vial of homeopathic medicine (and what does that mean), and the second is how does that affect the person taking the remedy, and lastly how does that affect how often the remedy should be dosed.
Let's start with the easy part - what is written on the vial. When you go to a health food store in your town or if you buy one of our kits, you will see the remedies are most often sold in a 30C or 200C potency. Occasionally you will see a 30x or a 6c in the store as well. To explain this, it's important to understand how homeopathic remedies are made.
An illustration of how homeopathic remedies are made from plants.[/caption]
First, the raw material (e.g., the plant) is turned into a mother tincture by crushing the plant and adding an equal amount of alcohol to preserve the medicinal properties of the plant, soaking, and straining the tincture (Note: insoluble materials are ground on a mortar and pestle for a long time, following a specific set of instructions, in order to create a substance that is soluble and can be used in the following steps).
Then, one (1) drop of the tincture is mixed with either 9 or 99 drops (X indicates dilution of 1/10, C indicates dilution of 1/100) of water or alcohol*. For this example, let's go with 1 drop of tincture and 99 drops of alcohol (1/100 dilution). This vial is succussed (shaken/bashed against a hard yet slightly malleable surface, such as a leather bound book) 100 times. This is the 1C potency.
One (1) drop of the 1C potency is then mixed with 100 drops of alcohol in a new vial, the vial is succussed 100 times, This is the 2C potency.
This goes on and on until 1 drop of the 29C potency is mixed with 100 drops of alcohol and succussed 100 times, creating the 30C potency.
Here are some examples of the potencies you will see sold by Boiron in many U.S. Health Food Stores[/caption]
If you're doing the math, you've realized that the 30C potency is diluted 1/10^60 and has been succussed 3,000 times. The 200C is diluted to a factor of 1/10^400 and succussed 20,000 times. This is far beyond avogadro's number (6x10^23) meaning there aren't any molecules of the original substance left in the medicine. Yet, the medicine acts, and acts well.
Some researchers think this is because, similar to the way a pathogen can emanate electromagnetic waves in water that persist at extremely high dilutions. This could be a mechanism for how homeopathic medicines work at high dilutions/potencies.
The 200C is said to be more potent than the 30C. The 30C is more potent than the 30X. But, because both the number of dilutions and succussions must be taken into account, you may consider the 60X more potent than the 30C. (However, you aren't likely to find a 60X anywhere in stores!)
Practically, what does the potency mean? In homeopathy, we want to match the energy of the remedy with the energy of the vital force of the patient. This takes practice.
What I can say is that for most acutes, start with 30C potency. If the person in need of homeopathic medicine is quite old or weak, you may want to start with a 6C potency, as old or weak people are likely to not have a strong vital force. if the person in need of the medicine is very young, such as a young child, it's ok to start with a 200C.
However, if all you have is a 30C, that is fine in most cases. If you are shopping for home kits, you can always start with the Deluxe 36 remedy kit which includes 36 remedies at 30C potency. Then, when you feel more comfortable with your prescribing, you can get an Emergency Kit, which includes 18 remedies at a 200C potency, designed to be used in emergency situations where you are going to want the higher potency.
If you use too low of a potency, you risk having there be such a mild effect that you can't tell that the patient is improving, so you may give up on that remedy. Or, perhaps it is too low of a potency and the patient is really not improving - that is possible, too! More often, with a low potency, you would just need to keep giving doses of the remedy until you see improvement.
On the flip side, if you use too high of a potency, you risk having an aggravation, which is where the symptoms get worse for a short time upon giving the remedy, before they get better. This is not the worst thing that can happen, but it's better to avoid this if possible. There is no need to cause an aggravation to bring about a cure.
Lastly, how does potency affect the need to re-dose remedies? In general, the higher the potency, the less frequently you will need to redose. However, as mentioned above, I would caution you against starting with too high of a potency. I suggest starting with 30C for all acute illnesses and injuries and only going up in potency if you find you are having to redose frequently or you feel that it is needed.
Most of all, don't overthink it. Stick with 30C, moving up to 200C if needed, for all acutes, and you will be fine. As always, if you get stuck or need help, don't hesitate to reach out!