Homeopathy has a certain mystique about it. The medicines don't come in strips of foil or in glass bottles with plastic child-proof caps that have rolled off an assembly line. They do not have boring names like crocin and imodium. Homeopathy conjures up visions of mortars and pestles, mysterious powders and pills with exotic names like nux vomica and arnica montana, bottles containing unnamed potions and little sachets of powder.
Homeopathic remedies are given in the form of tablets, powders or granules and tinctures. The tablets are prepared by pouring an alcoholic solution or dilution into specially prepared sugar granules that absorb the medication as the alcohol evaporates. For people who don't like the idea of swallowing pills, they can take the medication in a powdered form. Tinctures are also alcoholic solutions, but as the concentration of alcohol is very high, it is not meant for consumption. They are used to prepare lotions that are used as external remedies to wash and heal the skin.
You must be wondering what all these powders and potions contain. Homeopathic remedies are derived from animal, vegetable and mineral sources. It may surprise you to know that some of the ingredients are actually highly toxic like belladonna that is made from a plant or arsenic album derived from the poisonous metal arsenic. But there is no need to panic because there are just negligible traces of the original substance left in the final remedy after a long preparatory procedure. What is left is the medicinal essence of the substance, which is totally harmless.
A homeopathic remedy goes through an interesting procedure before you can actually pop a pill or take a powder. For instance, to prepare arnica, the homeopathic pharmacist would first have to dissolve one part of the plant extract in nine parts of the water/alcohol mixture. He would then have to vigorously shake the mixture ten times (succussion), striking it with rhythmic downward blows. This process is repeated a number of times depending on what potency the pharmacist requires.
In case the basic extract is insoluble in water or alcohol, as in the case of mercurius, the pharmacist grinds the substance to a fine powder (trituration) and then mixes one part of the powder with nine parts of lactose and grinds the mixture for an hour in the mortar.
The term "potency" when used in context of a homeopathic remedy refers to the number of times that a homeopathic remedy is diluted and succussed (shaken) or triturated (ground). Potency is indicated by one x for each time the process of dilution and succussion or trituration is repeated. Thus, a potency of 6x would mean that entire process has been repeated six times.
Homeopathic medicines do not have an expiry date as long as they are handled and stored carefully. Always keep these medicines in their original containers. Transferring them to different containers could result in contamination from the miniscule quantities of the earlier contents that may cling to the interior of the bottle. They should also be stored in an area that is away from direct sunlight, heat and pungent odors like camphor, menthol, mothballs and perfume.