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Healing Remedies for Traumatic Stress

This article first appeared in Homeopathy Today in November 2001—a month after the 911 tragedies. This week is a year after the Parkland School Shooting. It feels so much longer. Since Parkland there have been nearly 350 mass shootings in the US.  The hundreds of deaths and thousands of wounded means there are tens of thousands of loved ones—friends and family—coping with the trauma, with the many effects triggered by a traumatic event.

Homeopathic remedies can help with the effects of traumatic stress but they are always going to be limited in terms of their scope to heal when people are suffering at a deep level. It takes time to move through stages in the process of healing. And professional help. Some of those stages can last for what feels like ages while we try to understand and make sense of what happened. While our hearts and souls heal.

The tragedies of September 11 and school shootings evoke the widest range of emotional responses. Shock and horror followed by incomprehension, disbelief and finally numbness. Anger and rage come next, grief for those who lost someone, guilt for those who didn’t, anxiety and fear for the future, hopelessness and depression, despair. And so much more.

The following remedies are a selection of those often needed in the aftermath of a bad shock. They aren’t the only remedies, and they aren’t the full pictures. They are more like snapshot reminders, specifically as they relate to a traumatically stressful situation. Each remedy is described in terms of how it relates to at least one other similar remedy. Making friends with homeopathic remedies in this way is helpful for when it comes time to select them—so that you understand at least some of their similarities and some of their differences.

For a remedy to work really well, it’s always advisable to take the general state (symptoms) of the remedy into account as well. These symptoms as well as fuller descriptions of the emotional state are to be found in any of the larger homeopathic materia medica books (and in my own Homeopathic Guide to Stress).

aconite, stramonium, and arnica

The first two remedies to think of for the shock are Aconite and Arnica. Aconite is immediately recognizable because people who need it are visibly distressed. They look frightened. You can feel their fear. The symptoms that stand out are the trembling and the fear of death. This fear can surface immediately after a bad shock and/or surface at night after a bad dream. They can suffer from panic attacks if the acute shock isn’t dealt with.

A remedy with similar symptoms to Aconite is Stramonium. Those who need it experience and re-experience fear and terror after a bad shock. Aconite is more identifiably two-dimensional: shock and fear (of death) with trembling. Period. Stramonium can express a wider range of feelings (from hysteria with loud laughing to rage and feelings of unreality). While a fear of death may be present, the prominent fear that guides us to Stramonium is a fear of the dark. Children wake screaming in terror at night out of a nightmare unable to fully awake, and not knowing the parent who tries to comfort them.

By sharp contrast, those who need Arnica might seem superficially to be OK. They say there’s nothing wrong—even insist on it—especially during the daytime. But their unconscious betrays their deeper feelings in the form of bad dreams or nightmares that wake them at night. Images of the shocking stressor haunt them at night rather than during their waking hours.

opium, gelsemium, and phosphoric acid

Homeopathically prepared Opium * is another remedy for shock with quite a different presentation. They aren’t OK, but they aren’t distressed. They look spaced-out. They don’t complain or ask for anything. The images of what happened haunt them in their waking hours, and each time they think about what happened all the same feelings pour over them again. They have difficulty falling asleep because of this—in spite of an overpowering sleepiness. They are oddly sensitive to noise.

People who need Gelsemium have a similar kind of feeling: people who need it look and feel dull and droopy. They have trouble opening their eyes. These people experience loss alongside the shock, but can’t cry. They become numb and shaky and drowsy. Typically the shock comes in the form of bad news. How many of us watched the news that fateful Tuesday morning and were catapulted into the kind of reality that was unimaginable?

Phosphoric acid is sometimes confused with Gelsemium for those who receive bad news, especially when it comes by phone or letter rather than by experiencing it firsthand. People who need Phosphoric acid sink into apathy and don’t even want to talk. In spite of an immense apathy they are able to summon up energy to carry out physical activities if they have to. Those needing this remedy are thirsty especially for fruit juices and pop, whereas those needing Gelsemium are not thirsty at all.

ignatia and natrum muriaticum

Ignatia is another remedy for people with loss who don’t want to talk about it because they want to be alone to cry. They resist all comforting. They have a “lump” in their throats from the emotional tension of holding back their feelings. When they finally break down and cry, it is with great big sobs. They are haunted by feelings of guilt and regret.

Natrum muriaticum is Ignatia’s twin. They have so many similarities they can be hard to tell apart. People who need Natrum muriaticum experience depth of suffering and bitterness that sets them apart from Ignatia. In addition, they have even more difficulty crying, even when alone, and if they do cry they are more likely to shed a few gentle tears rather than buckets.

pulsatilla and causticum

Those who need Pulsatilla are at the other end of the loss spectrum. They cry easily and want comforting, feeling better for both the crying and the consolation. Their moods are changeable and curiously, any lowness of spirits lifts once they are out in the fresh air. These are the sensitive children who’ve been deeply affected by the pictures and responses of those around them, who become clingy and needy.

Causticum is another remedy for those who suffer as a result of the suffering of others. Only much more deeply. They care tremendously about the injustice of what happened and may react by becoming active in organizations that are fighting for justice. (Those needing Pulsatilla care more about the people that are hurting.) Feelings of anxiety—always about others, never about themselves—and uncertainty create an all-pervasive feeling of gloom that something terrible is going to happen.

calcarea carbonica, arsenicum, and cocculus

People experiencing anxiety after a traumatic stress may need Calcarea carbonica, Arsenicum, or Cocculus.

Those needing Arsenicum worry about themselves. They look at what happened and are tortured by what would have happened had they been in one of those planes. Security is really important to them and so the loss of safety is literally unbearable. They become scared of death (like Aconite, but it isn’t accompanied by the naked, visible fear). They fear for their own safety, especially at night and especially when they are alone. They become irritable (not generally present in those needing Aconite) and restless—typically tidying up their environments in an attempt to compensate for internal disorder by creating external order.

Calcarea carbonica is for those who have been badly affected by all the sad and tragic stories because they have such active imaginations. They respond to this stress by becoming deeply anxious. They worry about the future, about bad things happening, especially to others close to them. This wears them out, causing them to become physically sluggish and emotionally depressed.

Those needing Cocculus also worry compulsively about loved ones. Their worrying keeps them from sleeping at night. They become exhausted in a particular way. Their world slows down (they feel as if everything is slow) and nothing feels real, but time passes quickly especially at night when they try to sleep but can’t. They become confused, anxious … and dizzy with the exhaustion. Cocculus and Nitric acid are the two remedies to think of for those who are sleep-deprived as a result of worry, or because they are actively engaged in rescue efforts or nursing the sick.

nitric acid and aurum metallicum

Those needing Nitric acid are exhausted and angry. Their anger is extreme. Their sensitive, compassionate nature cannot comprehend what happened and they react with hatred, fantasizing revenge against the “enemy,” unable to sleep at night and becoming absolutely exhausted. Their anger eats away at them and bursts out uncontrollably, leading to depression.

People who become seriously depressed after a traumatic stress may need Aurum metallicum. They fall into a deep, dark pit of despair after a brief period where feelings of anger surface and are then suppressed. They reflect on the nature of faith and typically turn to prayer and/or meditation in order to find solace, reconnecting maybe, with a neglected spiritual side. They find music soothing—but in a limited, melancholy way.

fear of a future trauma

Incredibly, after 911 planes filled the skies again. Those who had flights booked were especially nervous in the days, weeks and months after 911. Especially those who had always been nervous or even scared of flying. It is the same with schools—students and teachers return trusting, hoping that all will be well. Many schools are now policed which is comforting for some and an ever present reminder of a possible threat for others.

Here are a few remedies to consider if anxiety and/or fear are getting in the way.

Aconite. Panic attacks with fear of death especially if they feel hemmed in. Looks terrified. Cannot be calmed. (See above.)

Gelsemium. Paralyzed with anxiety or fear in anticipation of a stressful event like flying or returning to a place that was attacked. Becomes dull and confused and trembly. (See above.)

Argentum nitricum. Panic attacks with hyperventilating. Great restlessness and claustrophobia. Mind spins. A terrible fear of heights combined with claustrophobia.

Rescue Remedy. This little Bach Flower Remedy can provide solace in any worrying or scary situation. Take it if you take nothing else, and put a few drops in all your drinks.

some home prescribing reminders

In an acute situation, even a serious one like that of September 11, you can help yourself and your family heal from effects that do not go away after a day or so. If the symptoms are serious, if they persist or recur, and especially if the homeopathic remedies don’t help, then it is really important that you consult with a professional homeopath and/or your primary care doctor. Counseling is also a key healing tool at a time like this, especially for children.

You often need to differentiate quickly and accurately between two or more homeopathic remedies in an acute situation. Always check with your homeopath if you are not sure. While getting the right remedy matters less than in a long-term chronic situation, the right remedy will make the difference between alleviating real suffering and only helping a bit. The right potency is the one you happen to have on hand. If you have more than one potency, then use your degree of confidence about the remedy as a guide: the more certain you are that it’s the right one, the higher the potency.

Lastly, always remember to make a note of the remedies you use and why, as well as the person’s response to the remedies. We all have typical responses to the same kinds of stress, and it’s easy to forget whether you gave, say, Aconite or Stramonium to your child after that big bad shock earlier this year. You are in a similar situation now and simply can’t remember which one worked. Write those great little remedies down so you can turn to the correct ones to help you and your family deal with stress—not just the everyday stresses.

* Homeopathically prepared Opium is an energetic preparation that contains not one molecule of the drug itself. It is available in the U.S. only to DEA-licensed physicians from Remedy Makers. It is also available from some overseas homeopathic pharmacies such as Helios or Ainsworth‘s in the U.K.


how to take homeopathic remedies

If you identify a remedy that matches your symptoms (or your child’s) for an acute or first aid complaint and your health or the health of your child is generally good (the picture is not complicated, for example, by other health problems and medications) then use the following guidelines below in taking (or giving) the selected remedy.

Remember—homeopathic remedies act as catalysts stimulating the body to heal itself so you will find it invaluable to make a relationship with a remedy that is working and be guided by your symptoms or your child’s symptoms—physical, general and emotional—stopping and starting it as needed.
•    Take the remedy in a 6C, 12C, 30X or 30C potency.
•    Repeat the remedy according to the severity of the symptoms:
        •    Severe: every hour.
        •    Moderate: every 2 – 4 hours.
        •    Mild: every 4-8 hours.
•    Stop on improvement: take it less often if there is moderate improvement and stop taking it as soon as there is a significant improvement.
•    Repeat as needed: repeat the same remedy if it helped and the symptoms return—starting and stopping as needed until better.
•    Change the remedy if 6 doses have been taken with no result. It is probably the wrong remedy—select another one or get help.
•    Check with your homeopath before self-prescribing if you or your child are under homeopathic care or have taken a constitutional remedy within the past 3-6 months. Remedies have relationships with one another and it’s a shame to take an acute remedy that ‘counteracts’ the effects of a constitutional remedy that has worked well. Sometimes all that is needed is a repeat of the constitutional remedy. 

In any case it is always advisable to seek professional advice for chronic, long-standing complaints. Or recent or acute complaints that don’t quickly respond to home prescribing.


action items for everyday warriors

volunteer

Countless heroes and heroines rise out of the debris of disasters in the form of firefighters, rescue workers, doctors, nurses and thousands and thousands of ordinary people. Working shoulder to shoulder. Everyone giving something in a time of need: blood, money, food, boots, blankets, prayers, flowers, flags, moral support.

The generosity of Americans is legendary. It is a big part of what has made this country and its people strong. In 1998, an astonishing 55.5% of this country’s people gave 3.5 hours a week or more of their time as a volunteer (Independent Sector National Survey, 1999). In the past 20 years that number has halved. According to CNN only 25% are now volunteering.

Everyday volunteers can cook for the hungry, listen to the injured or ill, garden for the elderly or walk their dogs, read or sing to those who are sick or disabled or play with their children. There’s virtually no limit to the amount of help needed. A little research will go a long way towards helping you to identify a volunteer situation that will meet your needs and abilities as well.

carry on giving

At the end of the day, thinking the wrong thoughts or having the wrong beliefs is not a major cause of suffering. Neither is a lack of faith, or having the wrong faith. Dictators and fanatics do not surface and conduct reigns of terror haphazardly. When people have little or nothing to eat they are desperate and vulnerable—to false prophets and extremists. There is tremendous inequality in the world with the wealthiest fifth of the world’s people consuming an astonishing 86% of all goods and services, while the poorest fifth consumes 1%.

There are myriad ways to balance out some of the inequalities in the world by sharing our food and wealth. At the very least we can ask ourselves what we can give up in order to make the world a better place. And … it’s easier to give than it’s ever been.

Visit the Hunger Site every day at and click on the button, “Give Free Food.” Each click is matched by a cup of food to the world’s hungry by the site’s sponsors. To date (February 2019) 702,570,939 cups of food have been funded. Sign up for Amazon Smile. 5% of your purchases will be gifted to a charity of your choice.

speak out!

Identify the causes that matter to you, the issues that impassion you, and speak out about them. Write letters to people in power, and send the letters this time! Contribute your thoughts and opinions to the newspaper or radio. Write to your state and federal representatives letting them know what you want from them. Increasingly, politicians are listening to the voices of ordinary people. Activism of every kind is energizing and makes the world a better place.

raise money

Raise money in your communities by sponsoring a run or shaving your head or baking cookies to demonstrate your solidarity and support in a practical way.

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