New England School of Homeopathy

The First Day of School: How Homeopathy Can Help

When September rolls around, it’s time to focus on starting up school. From little ones beginning preschool to older people going back for a 2nd career, the first weeks of school can be very stressful.

What follows is an introduction to & then a transcript of a call-in show with Dr. Rothenberg from a few years back on the topic of “Back to School,” which covers a diverse set of topics as well as a Q&A section. The good thing about our medicine is that though we continue our learning both didactic and experiential, the basics ring true over time!


As many of us gear up for getting our kids back into the school mode, the stress of it all can be overwhelming for parent and child alike. I am so thankful to have homeopathic remedies at my fingertips at this time of year, to help smooth the transition from summer back into the world of structure and academia.

I always tell my children: it’s not what you do with a good day, it’s what you do with a bad one that matters. Stress is all around us: at home, in school, at the job, in our communities and in our relationships. How we handle stress and what we do to minimize it, yet maximize the effects of stress we do have, becomes an important factor in many of the illnesses we treat.

Where would we be without stress? Dead! Stressors keep us moving, keep us reconfiguring our lives, keep us evolving as people and as a species. If there were no stressors, there would be no growth. We have come to understand stress as something negative but as a more general term, it is everything in life to which we must react.

The daily stresses of living make some people more susceptible to the acute illnesses going around, and of course the bigger stresses of new schools, an increased academic load, or a new or challenging social setting cause many to succumb to those problems for which we have some susceptibility, due to genetics and/or long-term lifestyle factors.

I spend much of my time with patients and parents of patients, talking about the stressors in their lives and helping strategize how to reduce the amount and types of stress, while at the same time helping patients & their parents figure out how to let off steam and counter the effects of those stressors that cannot be avoided.

Understanding stress in the context of biology helps me as a doctor. A patient’s symptoms – physical, mental and emotional-are in part, reactions to the stressors in their lives.

Understanding the cycle of stress and the pathology it generates, helps lead me to the correct prescription. I often tell my students that it is not understanding the stress per se, but rather, how that stress specifically impacts the particular patient in question.

It is essential that we not jump to conclusions based on our own experience of a certain kinds of stress. For instance, if I have a patient who was the victim of bullying at school the previous year, I cannot assume anything about that. Might they need the remedy Staphysagria for instance or Silica or Stramonium? We cannot know until we understand their individual and particular kind of response to that experience. The nature of the stress itself is less important than the individualized response to it.

We try to encourage parents of all school aged children and especially parents with children who have special needs to be as organized as possible when working with the school districts and classroom teachers and to try to create positive relationships with everyone from the front desk person, to the one-on-one tutors.

The adults we entrust our children to, much of the time, are dedicated AND underpaid; at very least they deserve our respect and consideration. As a mother of three high school students some years back, at the beginning of the trimester I sent an email to each of their teachers, finding something positive to say about the class and my teen’s experience of it.

It is in my nature to do this, but it also lets me feel equally as justified to communicate when I have a general or specific concern about the coursework or my child’s performance in class. I think email has revolutionized parent/teacher communication: the teachers don’t feel on the spot, they can answer when they are not in a total rush, and I am also able to take my time to say what I mean. If I have a real concern I will cc those notes to the department heads. That said, I value the teachers/providers/therapists time and keep my comments short always offering to come in & speak in person if that is easier. I do not abuse that access.

As a doctor I want patients to have access to me as well, but I create clear guidelines and boundaries, too, so that I am available to all and do not burnout!

I am often asked how much a remedy can do for a child with ADD/HD and/or learning issues. I have seen the gamut – from incredible improvement to not as much help as we might hope for. I have also seen that many times other adjunct therapies utilized will work better after a remedy has been taken. For instance, if the family has tried dietary changes without much success, we might revisit that after a good remedy has been acting.

For those kids with behavioral issues that interfere with their learning, whether in the form of disruptive behavior, severe anxiety or depression, homeopathy can go a long way to making school a more comfortable place where the goal of learning and playing and working in community, can become a reality.

Some remedy types do better with transitions than others. There are ways of knowing if your child might have a difficult time and ways to minimize the stress.

Transcript of the Chat – Amy Rothenberg ND answers call-in questions:

Kristy: Welcome, Dr. Amy Rothenberg! We are pleased to have you back again, just in time to help us deal with the stresses of sending our children back to school and college.

Dorothy: Do you recommend giving remedies at the first sign of illness, eg. runny nose, slight cough?

Amy R: This is a very good question, because as homeopaths, we know that we can nip something in the bud and help a child or adult, for that matter, avoid more serious acute illness with a remedy. That said, if the person never has the chance to experience a little cold, it probably is not great for the immune system. I am also looking at what else is going on for the patient constitutionally before prescribing for every small symptom.

Amy R: You can see an article I wrote for the NCH on “Am I giving too many remedies“- it will help you to think about that previous topic…

Kristy: Do you have a *favorite* book to send with college-bound children who will be taking a small kit with them?

Amy R: My own daughter is starting to look at colleges this year and asked me just that. I still love Maise Panos’ book Homeopathic Medicine at Home. I think it is easy to use and offers straight forward descriptions of the remedies. I would also want to offer some resources on basic therapeutic nutrition and botanical medicine for acute illnesses.

Dorothy: For how long do the remedies work in one’s system after they are given, eg. a 30C dose?

Amy R: It depends. Sometimes I give a 30c for a long standing chronic condition and the patient reports effects from that remedy which unfold over many months. At other times during first aid or acute conditions one might move through a 30 in a manner of minutes. The most important thing to remember, is that the best potency, is the potency you have. You can always go up if you need to, but finding the correct remedy is foremost.

Lisa: Is this a problem that requires constitutional treatment? My left ear tickles at night while I’m lying on it. It is so bad it wakes me up and sometimes I have to try to clean it with a q-tip with no avail?

Amy R: Sounds like it might just be dry skin in there and would respond to moisturizer. Whenever anyone presents with one symptom in one area of the body, I try to understand what that symptom is an example of, and to see if there are other examples of it in the system. In this case, I would look for further itching or irritation and see such similar symptoms as representing the same idea. I would go from there and prescribe for the whole person.

Julie: When you are giving a daily dose like a 6C for someone on a few pharmaceuticals, how long do you usually continue, and when is it realistic to expect an improvement?

Amy R: Depending on the underlying pathology, I would expect to see some reaction within a month. If the chief complaint was something deep and intense such as a psychological issue or a neurological problem, I would wait longer. If it was physical body concerns, I would wait less time. I have really seen patients who are on many allopathic drugs benefit greatly from homeopathic treatment.

George : Should you give a dose of the constitutional remedy before a child goes off to the stress of college, particularly if they are being managed for ADD or similar conditions?

Amy R: Yes! It will make it a smoother transition. I would also really do some research about resources available to the student at school and be in close touch the first weeks to be sure things are relatively on track. There are so many kids these days with ADD/HD many college campuses really do cater to them. Give the remedy and send them with more should they need it!

Dorothy: Is it OK to give your child a remedy based only on emotional need? If all basic human needs have been met, but the child is very whiny, and has no real physical symptoms?

Amy R: We would all love perfect children. But that is rarely the case and if it is, they will probably be “working it out” in therapy 30 years from now! That said, I do not recommend giving remedies lightly. If the clinginess is truly limiting the patient or interfering with the family dynamic, homeopathy can help. But I also send many a child home without a remedy, and work on parenting support and redirecting the child. We also try to look at what underlying issues may be present. If all that checks out fairly well, you can give a remedy and expect good results, I just recommend against trying to micromanage personalities or personality conflicts strictly with remedies. Children blossom and grow at different rates and with individual pizzaz, not always to parents liking….

Bonita: What recommendations would you have for presenting this timely topic [back to school] to a group of beginners in homeopathy?

Amy R: I think if they are truly beginners, you must begin with philosophy- the whole idea that stress impacts the system and a good remedy can help mitigate the effects of that stress. Begin with acute kinds of issues – separation problems in little ones, test anxiety in older ones, and then of course the acute treatment of all the pesty upper respiratory tract infections kids pass around at school. I have always found that in teaching beginners, it is good to share cases, philosophy and a bit of materia medica to balance it out. Sharing books and resources is helpful, too.

Dorothy: My daughter opened and spilled a bottle of remedy pellets on the carpet. Would they still be effective if I pick them up and put them back in the tube?

Amy R: I would toss them. They might be okay, but I would wonder. If they didn’t do anything, I would not know if it was because it was the wrong remedy, or if somehow they had been rendered less or ineffective.

I once spilled an entire 250 remedy Indian kit, in a gorgeous wooden box. The bottles had little cork stoppers and the teeny pellets went skittering all along my lovely wooden floor. As I was vacuuming up the piles and rivers of pellets I wondered what I might be taking as it aerosolized!!

Kristy: Do you recommend taking flu products like Oscillococcinum prophylactically during the cold months?

Amy R: I do not. I would rather give a patient a dose of their constitutional remedy as a prophylactic. If there were early signs of illness, I would treat those. Often an acute illness will respond to a constitutional remedy, if the nature of the symptoms still fit, if the physical generals have not changed and if the mental/emotional state still fits within the person’s underlying remedy. I would say between 70-80% of folks who have an acute illness do well on their constitutional remedy. The reason this is true, is because their system is responding to the stress ( the acute illness) in the way that it knows! The homeopath will know right away if they need an acute remedy because all of those things will have shifted.

I would give the last remedy that had good effect on the whole person. If I have been treating the person over time and there have not been any incredible reactions to constitutional remedies, I really pay close attention during the acute, because often there will be some good clues to the underlying state. More than a few times, a patient has improved greatly from chronic conditions when I unwittingly gave what I thought was an acute remedy but it actually had a deeper, more profound effect.

Dorothy: How long would you need to take a remedy before it caused a *proving*? My sister was taking and improved slightly, but not completely. When she continued taking it for 2 weeks, the symptoms got worse. Could that have been an instance of proving?

Amy R: We do not see remedies causing provings so easily – or at least not ones that last or are problematic. Usually when things get worse as you described, it is just the illness progressing. Paul has written a very important work on Provings that, if you are interested in the topic, would be worth looking into! I don’t worry much about that in practice – the remedies really are quite gentle AND effective and mostly if they are wrong, they don’t do too much at all.

And here are a number of other school related pieces you might enjoy for their perspective and content:

Beat the Back-to-School Blues: Ease the tears, fears, and anxiety with homeopathic treatment.

College Bound: Pack The Kids Off To School With Natural Remedies.

Concussion! That’s NOT the Way to Use Your Head: When concussions end athlete’s career, homeopathy helps her build a bright future.

Plus many more articles on Raising Healthy and Resilient Children: Homeopathy, Natural Medicine, and Common Sense Advice


Amy Rothenberg ND