A leading homeopath names her top picks for coughs, depression, allergies, and more.

If you are new to homeopathy, there are three important points of difference between these medicines and conventional drugs to keep in mind:
* The most successful treatment results when the remedy's 'symptom picture' most closely matches your symptoms. For example, while there are several remedies which are suitable for a cold or flu with fever, it's necessary to identify other symptoms - such as the speed of onset and whether there is any fever, whether it's a 'dry' fever or you are perspiring a lot - which determine which is the right one.
* In homeopathy, less is more: the more dilute a remedy is, the more powerful it is. This is why, although some remedies like Arsenicum are derived from poisons, they have been formulated in such tiny concentrations that they become helpful, not harmful.
* The more dilute the remedy, the more careful you must be about ensuring your symptoms match those of the remedy. A stockist will provide single remedies with a dosage of 6C, 12X or 30C. A 30C remedy is more dilute, and therefore considered stronger than a 6C remedy. These three dosage levels are quite safe for home prescribing. If a remedy of 6C is indicated, give one pilule or seven drops under the tongue, three times daily. If using 30C, give one tablet (letting it sit in the mouth for around 30 seconds) once daily, until symptoms subside.

Here are my favourite homeopathic remedies for acute conditions.

1. Sprains and strains

Arnica is the most important remedy for injuries of this type. It is particularly appropriate where there is any soft tissue damage and bruising; also if the injury was due to a fall or sudden blow, and if the patient suffered shock. Apply arnica cream (provided skin is unbroken) and take pilules or drops.

2. Fever

Belladonna (deadly nightshade) is the remedy of choice for infectious conditions such as earaches, sore throat, and sinusitis which are accompanied by fever and inflammation of the affected body part. Although it is a poison that is known, in high doses, to cause fever and inflammation, in homeopathic doses belladonna elicits a healing response to the ailments that it typically products. This is the principle by  which all homeopathic medicines work. Patients may be unusually restless and hypersensitive; symptoms are worsened by exposure to light, touch, draughts, or being jarred or moved. The fever or inflammation usually begins rapidly, and the inflamed part will be very red (e.g. a flushed face). An excellent remedy for babies and children. Aconite may be indicated for acute conditions where inflammation is present, such as cold, flu, ear and throat infections, if the symptoms have resulted from exposure to changes in temperature or temperature extremes.

3. Flu with headache

Symptoms of fever, physical and mental exhaustion, aching muscles, half-open and glassy eyes, a dull headache at the back of the head, and a flushed face are all typical of a person who needs Gelsemium (yellow jessamine), especially if the patient is not actually thirsty, even though they may be feverish.

4. Coughs

Bryonia (wild hops) is the major remedy for coughs and headache, especially when the condition is worsened by exposure to warmth. Symptoms include irritability, and a patient who holds their chest because the cough is dry and unproductive, and sharply painful. Firm pressure applied to the chest may seem to relieve the symptoms, but the slightest movement - even just taking a deep breath or turning the eyes - worsens them again. There is also extreme thirst and usually constipation, accompanied by hard, dry stools.

5. Hangover and nausea

Nux vomica (poison nut) is the tried-and-true remedy here. Symptoms typically include a headache with nausea (worse in the morning); vomiting; digestive upsets (bloating, flatulence, alternating diarrhoea and constipation). Symptoms also become worse when the patient is exposed to cold or damp, and are aggravated by waking from sleep.

6.Beating the blues

Ignatia (St Ignatius bean) is excellent for grief and anxiety, and it has helped many of my patients through 'a bad patch'. Losing someone close to you, work-related hardship, abuse, or any situation where intense emotion, teariness, deep sighs, and possible hysteria are present, all call for this remedy. The emotional symptoms may be accopanied by physical ones, such as difficulty swallowing, the feeling of a lump in the throat, insomnia, and headaches.

7. Emotional and weepy

Certain life situations can result in changeable emotional states. Also, there are some people whose personalities are exceptionally, gentle, mild and yielding, which means they are more likely to become highly emotional, weepy and fearful of being abandoned, or to cling unreasonably to another person. Rich foods tend to aggravate symptoms, and there is little thirst. In children, this behaviour may be accompanied by recurrent earache, digestive upsets, asthma, and allergies, along with greater than usual susceptiblity to the usual childhood ailments, such as mumps and chickenpox. In women, cystitis, vaginitis, menstrual problems, such as PMS, and headaches tend to accompany the emotional symptoms. Pulsatilla (windflower) is the leading remedy for such women and children.

8. Sneezes, sniffles and allergies

Allium cepa (onion) is a terrific homeopathic remedy that can bring a great deal of relief. Classic symptoms of respiratory allergies or the common cold include watery eyes, profuse and clear nasal discharge which may burn, and sneezing, which is relieved by exposure to cool air, and aggravated by heat.

9. Arthritis

Rhus tox (poison ivy) is indicated where the patient has stiff joints that are somewhat relieved by gentle movement, but worsened by over-aggressive movement. These people are extremely restless, prone to very poor sleep patterns, and often have a thirst for water or milk. Warmth relieves the symptoms, and cold and damp make them worse. People who suffer from sore threoat, swollen glands and itchy, reddened skin conditions will also benefit from this remedy.

10. Run down

For those unmistakable symptoms of the early stages of infection, such as colds, flu, coughs, or ear infection, particularly when onset is the rapid result of being exposed to chilly environments: Aconitum (monkshood) is the leading remedy.

Liza Nagy is a practising naturopath, homeopath and aromatherapist, with a Masters degree in Primary Health Care.