Cell Salts – Part 1: History and Overview
I was eighteen years old when I purchased a full set of Schüssler’s Twelve Tissue Salts. My parents had used these remedies from time to time when I was sick as a child, and, as a young woman I became intrigued by the delicious, little healing tablets. I also purchased a 36-remedy homeopathic kit along with handbooks for both kits.
I poured over these books and tried to understand how the 12 tissue salts differed from the 36 remedies in the homeopathic kit. Some remedies were common to both kits, and that puzzled me somewhat, especially since the descriptions of these remedies were not quite the same.
In spite of this confusion I used both kits, becoming especially fond of the tissue salts (also known as cell salts) as I got to know and use them, and like any group of friends, I had my favorites! These favorites have stayed with me and I use them still: a couple of doses of Kali mur for my ears if they snap, crackle, and pop after a cold, Kali phos for an energy boost after an acute illness or a stressful work period, Silica for a dry cough after getting chilled when run down.
A little history
W.H. Schüssler was a German physician in the late 1800s who became intrigued by the idea of how the cells of the human body were constructed. This subject of “cellular construction” was the cutting edge of physical pathology in Europe at that time, and was also being studied by scientist Rudolf Virchow, known as the “Father of Pathology.”
Schüssler investigated the chemical make-up of human cells and found that certain mineral salts were common to all cells and tissues. His basic theory revolves around the belief that the tissues or cells of the body can be broken down chemically into twelve inorganic mineral salts: calcium fluoride, calcium phosphate, calcium sulphate, phosphate of iron, potassium chloride, potassium phosphate, potassium sulphate, magnesium phosphate, sodium chloride, sodium phosphate, sodium sulphate, and silica. He believed that disturbances in the levels of these salts cause disease, and the restoration of health is dependent on the administration of very small doses of the salt that is lacking. He used minimal doses, prepared according to homeopathic pharmaceutical principles (6X and 12X potencies), “corresponding in minuteness to the cellular salts in the tissues.” (1.)
Although Schüssler was familiar with homeopathy, he proclaimed his “biochemical system” of using tissue/cell salts as complete and separate from homeopathy. His indications for choosing a remedy were not based on homeopathic proving or the homeopathic principle of similars, but rather on his theories surrounding which mineral salts were deficient and needed to be supplemented. For example, since bone tissue is composed of calcium phosphate, calcium fluoride, and magnesium phosphate, Schüssler’s theory suggests that a bone problem could be helped by taking minute doses of these salts. For this reason, people think of his system as the homeopathic equivalent of mineral and vitamin supplementation.
Since most homeopathic remedies that are made from organic substances (i.e., plant or animal sources) can also be broken down chemically into these 12 mineral salts, Schüssler viewed his system as more fundamental than homeopathy and even superior to it.
Simple and popular
Schüssler’s tissue salts are popular around the world. They’re a hit with home prescribers who want a quick fix for simple ailments—or who become overwhelmed with the wider range of homeopathic remedies. In India, some homeopathic practitioners specialize in the tissue salts and use only these 12 remedies with all patients. Most British homeopaths use them to some extent—especially as a supportive measure in between constitutional remedies, targeting specific physical conditions or systems. Other homeopaths give their patients one dose of a high potency constitutional remedy to address the whole person (including the mental and emotional state or symptoms), and then send the patient home with a low potency tissue salt to address physical symptoms more directly.
Cell salt conundrum
The tissue salts are alleged to work at a cellular level, to redress physical imbalances, acting in effect more like “supplements” than homeopathic remedies—that was Schüssler’s theory, yet they are prepared in accordance with homeopathic pharmaceutical protocols, and are therefore considered homeopathic remedies. The Big Cell Salt Conundrum is this: Do they address only physical symptoms, in accordance with Schüssler’s indications? That is, do they work according to Schüssler’s supplemental or nutritional theories or do they work according to homeopathic principles, capable of healing the whole person (i.e., more than simply the physical symptoms)?
Here is what I think: There is no doubt that many of Schüssler’s descriptions of indications for these 12 remedies, based on his theories of cellular composition, have been validated in homeopathic clinical practice as well as through proving data. But the value of these remedies does not stop there; many of them have much broader homeopathic indications than those postulated by Schüssler. And it’s a myth that cell salts address only physical symptoms. The cell salt Natrum mur, (sodium chloride) for example, is also known as a deep-acting homeopathic remedy that can address mental and emotional, as well as physical symptoms. So, if a cell salt has a deeper affinity for a person, for the whole person rather than just a few symptoms, then it can effect a deeper healing—causing that person to feel much better in themselves. I remember one remarkable time when that person was a cat.
Growing pains: dishrag, string bean kids
When my son was going through his growing years, he would turn into a “dishrag” from time to time—flopping on the sofa when he should have been up and at it, becoming almost impossible to wake in the morning, and not eating me out of house and home as he was known to do! At these times he would be generally uncommunicative except to complain—about anything he had to do, like his chores! At some point I would get smart and check his height against the kitchen door jamb I had assigned for the task and would find he had grown half an inch or more since I had last checked! I gave him Calc phos at these times, until his vitality and appetite were back up to speed and the complaining had ceased!
Some kids suffer from horrid growing pains—especially the skinny, “string bean” children. The pains are more often in the muscles or long bones of the legs. They can also have pains in the knees or elbows as their joints catch up with their bones during the growth process. Some kids go through phases of complaining of stomach and/or headaches on coming home from school. Parents who track these often find that they occur before, during, or after a growth spurt, especially if the schoolwork has also been heavy. Calc phos will always help.
Those who are worn out or dull and sluggish become anemic (alternate Calc phos with Ferrum phos) and find it hard to concentrate. They look pale and thin. Their arms and legs can feel heavy and weak, and they can get cramps in the legs especially when walking (alternate Calc phos with Mag phos).
Keep track of your children’s height: a kitchen or garage doorjamb is perfect—or a piece of card tacked to a wall (with the bottom on the floor). Check it every few weeks…and give a course of Calc phos during and/or after a growth spurt to keep these kids from falling into a slump!
Deep healing in a skulking cat
I taught an evening homeopathy class in a friend’s home many years ago. As we traipsed in one night, it was hard to miss the house cat skulking in a corner of the porch—her head turned to the wall, paying no attention to us. My friend Ann told us that 10-year old Minnie had exiled herself to the porch two whole days earlier, refusing to come in and refusing all food, in spite of the door being open most of the time, just in case. This behavior had started after Ann rescued a new kitten, Sophie, the week before. The kitten was entrancing the whole household with her sweetness and crazy antics while also getting all the attention. Much as I hate projecting human feelings onto animals, Minnie did indeed look somewhat resentful and even a bit sad. It so happened that I was teaching all about Schüssler’s tissue salts that night, and we decided that giving Minnie a dose of Natrum muriaticum couldn’t hurt. My friend dissolved a tablet of Natrum mur 6X in some water and rubbed a little onto Minnie’s outraged nose. We all went back to our books and let the cat be. About half an hour later, Minnie quietly came into the house, ate a little cat food, then climbed into the basket with Sophie, curled up with her, and fell fast asleep.
It could be constitutional…
Sometimes the cell salt remedy selected is constitutional, as in Minnie’s case—it doesn’t just fit the physical symptoms, it fits the whole person. In those cases, just a few doses can be enough to get that healing ball rolling. Or just one dose!
While Schüssler’s indications for Natrum mur were primarily physical symptoms related to the body’s water balance (since Natrum mur/sodium chloride is key in this regard), classical homeopaths know that there are many additional uses for this remedy, including its effectiveness in treating the ill effects of grief or disappointment when quiet resignation and the desire to be alone is a prominent symptom, as it was for Minnie.
Then again, sometimes a cell salt remedy, chosen based largely on Schüssler’s physical indications, can have a deep effect as well, as it did for me with a urinary tract infection.
High in the pyrenees
As a young woman I lived for two years in a remote hamlet in the French Pyrenees. In cold weather, I was prone to getting a horrid urinary tract infection with the urge to go to the bathroom all the time and burning pains after I urinated. I noticed that this usually happened before my menstrual period and that I was much more emotional—weepy and irritable—than usual at that time. Studying my tissue salt handbook for a remedy, I vacillated between Natrum muriaticum and Natrum sulphuricum because both were said to regulate the balance of water and fluids in the body and both could be indicated for problems affected by cold weather. But Natrum mur seemed to be indicated more often for premenstrual complaints, and the clincher was the indication of cracked lips. I would often get either cracks at the corners of my mouth or a clean crack in the middle of my lower lip at this time and sometimes a cold sore. It was (and still is) amazing to me that this seemingly disparate collection of symptoms make a whole picture that can be used in a healing context.
From studying my homeopathic book, I could see that Natrum mur wasn’t such a good remedy for me overall with regard to my mental and emotional state (except the pre-menstrual state!), but when I compared my physical complaints with Natrum mur’s indications in the cell salt book, Natrum mur fit my symptoms well. So whenever I got a urinary infection, I would take Natrum mur 6X fairly frequently the first day and would immediately feel just plain better in myself. That feeling alone was lovely. Like a cozy, old armchair. By the end of that day, my urinary tract symptoms would be significantly improved and I could take the remedy less frequently until the symptoms had abated altogether a few days later.
Less is more
Schüssler used his 12 cell salt remedies primarily in the 6X potency—and that’s how remedies designated as “cell salts” or “tissue salts” on the label are still typically sold today (occasionally also 3X and 12X). Traditionally, they are made entirely in a pestle and mortar (or the modern factory equivalent) and are triturated (“diluted” but not with liquid) six times for a 6X potency: one part of the original mineral salt substance to nine parts of milk sugar and ground for a nice long time with each step. (2.)
The resulting soft powder is then pressed into forms, coming out as small, soft tablets that are flat on the top and bottom. They are easy to take—and especially easy to give to children and infants as they dissolve quickly on contact with saliva. There are no round, hard “globules” or “pilules” to count or roll off spoons or take forever to dissolve—like the typical homeopathic remedy in the “c” potency! Because the tablets are made with milk sugar, those who are lactose intolerant should ask the homeopathic pharmacy to prepare the cell salts in another form (sucrose, for example, or drops).
Tissue salts, in their classic low potency form, are gentle little souls that can be repeated fairly frequently if needed, if the situation is serious—or not, if the right remedy quickly helps. Homeopathic remedies—including cell salts—act as catalysts, stimulating the body to heal itself. 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 the remedy as needed. This general principle will help you on all your healing journeys, whatever the therapy.