Nerve tonic is a homeopathic remedy based on formulas in use for more than 200 years. The tissue salts in nerve tonics are among the twelve basic mineral salts, chemicals naturally found in the body's blood, bones and even saliva that aid in processing nourishment and rebuilding tissues. The amount of active ingredients in nerve tonic is extremely small, and side effects are subtle. The usual effects are a mild, temporary aggravation of the original symptoms of the illness being treated, often followed by relief of symptoms. Homeopathic practitioners consider that this shows the medicine is working.
The name homeopathy comes from the Greek words homeo (similar) and pathos (disease or suffering), words that describe the theory behind the treatments. In the late 1700s a German doctor, Samuel Hahnemann, tested a theory that a disease could be cured using extremely tiny amounts of a substance that causes symptoms similar to the disease itself. He experimented on himself by taking cinchona bark, which was then used to treat malaria. He was healthy, but after taking the bark he developed malaria-like symptoms. Hahnemann developed treatments based on patients' symptoms, and he used extremely diluted compounds.
Homeopathic remedies are prepared by painstakingly diluting the mineral salts. More water is added in several steps. The formula is shaken after each addition of more water. When the process is done, not even a molecule of the active tissue salt substance remains. Homeopathic practitioners maintain that it has left an imprint on the diluting water that will stimulate healing in the body.
The amount of active ingredients contained in each homeopathic pill is so small that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has found it impossible to develop scientific tests, although it does regulate homeopathic compounds for purity of ingredients and accurate labeling, using the same over-the-counter standards that apply to OTC products such as aspirin or cold remedies.
The tissue salts in nerve tonic formulations are the varieties of mineral salts most thought to provide calming, soothing, relaxation and pain relief. Scientific experiments cannot be performed on such minuscule amounts of active ingredients, so there is no objective way to prove or disprove either positive results or negative side effects. The positive and negative effects for homeopathic medicines can only be measured based on each patient's own experience.
Reported Side Effects
Researchers at the Federal University of Uberlandia in Brazil conducted a study of reports in English from 1970 to 1995 detailing any adverse results from homeopathic medicines. They found only minor and transient negative side effects, usually an aggravation of the original symptoms. The researchers concluded that such formulations were "probably safe and unlikely to provoke severe adverse reactions."
Whatever mineral salts remain when the nerve tonic has been diluted are added to a base of milk sugar (also known as lactose) and rolled into small round tablets. The lactose base is inert, causing no known effects on the body. An average nerve tonic dose contains less than 200 milligrams of milk sugar. This amount is unlikely to cause an allergic reaction in those who are lactose intolerant because it usually takes 5,000 milligrams of lactose to trigger symptoms. However, those who have been diagnosed as allergic to any lactose should consult a health-care professional before taking lactose-based homeopathic products.
The FDA has had no reports of harmful interactions with conventional drugs. However, those who are taking prescription medications may wish to discuss any possible drug interactions with their doctor. Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding or considering giving nerve tonic to very young children may also want to consult with their health-care provider before consuming nerve tonic.