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Homeopathy for Allergic Rhinitis and Hay Fever

by Rose Nightingale(more info)

listed in homeopathy, originally published in issue 57 - October 2000

Over recent years there has been a rise in the amount of people suffering from rhinitis. Perhaps one factor is an increase in air pollution or perhaps we have become more susceptible to allergens as our stressful modern lifestyles and toxicity from processed foods undermine our resilience. Many of us seem to be 'pre-disposed' to allergies, and often it affects those of us who have a family history of eczema, asthma or tuberculosis. Commonly these sufferers can 'grow out of' allergies by their late twenties. For others, allergic symptoms can come on in adulthood, perhaps following a bout of ill health, emotional strain or simply from the crops grown in the area we live in.

Frequently women notice an aggravation of allergic symptoms during the pre-menstrual phase of their cycles and eating certain foods can certainly play a role in making us more sensitive to allergens.

Conventional treatment of any airborne allergy will usually be with antihistamines or steroid-based nasal sprays during the worst seasons – often with side effects of drowsiness, damage to the nasal tissues or by (from a holistic point of view) driving the symptom further into the body systems. Quite often people who seek treatment for autumn bronchitis have been 'suppressing' their hay fever through the summer with localized treatments. Many of us never make this connection and the vicious cycle of drugs and medication continues throughout the year.

Fortunately, most forms of alternative medicine can offer some help with this problem and naturally this can be a lot gentler on the total health of the person than using conventional medication.

Euphrasia, also known as Eyebright, provides excellent relief for tired and inflammed eyes

Euphrasia, also known as Eyebright, provides excellent relief for tired and inflammed eyes


Pulsatilla, the remedy derived from the Pasque or Windflower is a major remedy with many uses

Pulsatilla, the remedy derived from the Pasque or Windflower is a major remedy with many uses

In homeopathy, there are two ways of looking at the problem of hay fever and allergic rhinitis. Ideally the best way to eradicate the tendency to the condition from the body would be to have long-term treatment from a professionally registered classical homeopath. Believe it or not, one of the best times to begin the treatment of seasonal allergies is during the least troublesome months, although naturally very few of us remember to do this because once the season has passed, we forget all about it until the symptoms manifest themselves again.

As a homeopath, despite repeatedly reminding summer hay fever patients to come for winter treatment, I rarely see them again until the following spring! Treating the whole constitution over several months can improve general health and wellbeing and, because homeopathy works deeply on reducing our susceptibility to the illnesses we habitually get, allergies ought to be removed as the constitution becomes stronger. Be prepared, though, for this to take some time! Any honest homeopath will tell you that to eradicate allergic response completely can take up to two years, although symptoms should thankfully reduce as treatment progresses.

The majority of people seeking homeopathic help with seasonal rhinitis will come once the symptoms have actually started and this is not normally the best time to start constitutional treatment because the remedy indicated for the whole person may do little to reduce the acute flare up. Most commonly a homeopath will take the 'temporary measure' of calming the symptoms with what is called an 'acute' remedy. This is a remedy that is not selected to treat the underlying constitution but is intended to control the symptoms in the least 'suppressive' way until the season is over and deeper treatment can be started or resumed.

The following remedies are some 'acute' prescriptions used temporarily to alleviate the uncomfortable symptoms. Unlike conventional medicine, and as with all homeopathic remedies, tablets are most effective when taken only in response to the symptoms. For example, if a remedy is accurately chosen, very few doses will actually be needed throughout the season. One tablet should be sucked or chewed each time symptoms relapse – sometimes this can be several days or even weeks after the first dose!

Because allergic rhinitis can be quite severe, it is often preferable to use a homeopathic remedy in a higher potency to gain more rapid and long-term relief. Generally a single dose of the appropriate remedy in 200c does far more than repeated use of a 6c or 30c. The following remedies are available from any good homeopathic pharmacy such as Ainsworths Pharmacy Tel: 01883 340332 or Helios Pharmacy Tel: 01892 515111 who should have your remedy with you by the next day if you tell them it is urgent.

Allium Cepa – Red Onion

This remedy's symptoms are characterized by a strong burning sensation from the nose and eyes accompanied by a watery discharge – not unlike the symptoms one could experience when preparing an onion! The eyes are sensitive to light, often red and irritated, while the nose can become red and sore from the burning, corrosive mucus. There can be violent sneezing, the voice can be hoarse and there can be a hacking cough.

The kind of hay fever which can benefit from Allium cepa often comes on worse in spring or August, is worse for being in a warm room and better off for cool air. One peculiarity of this remedy is that it particularly affects the left eye or nostril or may start off on the left side and spread to the right.

Arsenicum Album – White Arsenic

Arsenicum is indicated in people who have frequent sneezing and a blocked nose accompanied with a watery discharge. Unlike Allium cepa the symptoms are worse outside and better for staying in the house and keeping warm. There can be inflammation of the eyes with burning and swelling which is somewhat relieved by warm bathing. The right side is generally more affected than the left and there can be a marked worsening of symptoms during the night, particularly on lying down. Generally the person requiring Arsenicum may feel unduly restless or anxious during the attack and find it difficult to get warm – even in hot weather.

Euphrasia – Eyebright

This herb has a long history of use in herbalism for eye conditions so it is no surprise that the main homeopathic use is for conditions that seem to centre on the eyes.

It is useful for very watery eyes, when the patient may feel the need to wipe or rub them constantly. The eyelids (particularly lower) can swell up and there can be a thick, infected discharge from the eye itself. There can be the sensation of a foreign body (such as a grain of sand) in the eyes and they can become very gummed up and sore. The nasal and throat symptoms are less marked but include watery mucus, which is easily discharged. With Euphrasia the symptoms are worse for sunlight, at night-time, for windy weather and indoors, and better for the cool, open air.

Euphrasia tincture can also be used as a local eyewash by diluting one drop in an eyebath of cool mineral water. It is very soothing for sore eyes at any time – even if using a different remedy internally.

Natrum Muriaticum – Common Salt

The most characteristic symptom of Natrum muriaticum is that discharges have the consistency of raw egg white. The catarrh is usually white or clear and watery and can be extremely profuse. There is often repeated violent sneezing – especially in the mornings, a loss of smell or taste, and itching in the nose. The eyes can be watery and the throat can be dry and sore. Rhinitis responding to this remedy can often be accompanied by violent, pulsating headaches made much worse by the heat of the sun, or by increased emotional sensitivity. The patient may prefer to be alone and feel quite touchy or tearful. In some cases cold sores can develop around the nose or lips. Symptoms are worse for heat or for lying down, and can improve for cold bathing, at the seashore, or in the open air.

Nux Vomica – Poison Nut

One of the main themes in Nux vomica is 'irritability' which can be seen on the physical or emotional level. The person who needs this remedy may be cross or oversensitive, and have acute sensitivity to the slightest odour or particle of pollen.

There can be a very stuffed up nose in alternating nostrils, intense itching of the ears, nose and eyes, and the unsatisfied urge to sneeze. The face can be very hot but the whole person is often rather chilly. The throat can feel rough and dry and, if the hay fever continues, the patient can experience queasiness. This is one remedy to think of particularly if there has been a bad reaction to antihistamine drugs that have produced a disordered liver or digestion. Symptoms are worse in the morning, for stimulants such as coffee or alcohol, for strong smells, for becoming angered. There can be improvement from a short sleep, for eating or a warm drink.

Pulsatilla – Wind Flower

This remedy is normally more catarrhal with thick green catarrh produced from the eyes and nose. The catarrh can become obstructed and lead to sinusitis, nosebleeds or a loss of smell, although it is often more fluid in the open air. There is a sensation of burning and dryness in the eyes and the lids can become gummed up, with styes forming. Generally the person who will respond to Pulsatilla can be emotionally more sensitive, irritable or tearful, with changing moods. Physical and emotional states can also be very changeable from day to day. Symptoms are normally worse in the evenings, for the sun, and better for cold applications and cool, fresh air.

Sabadilla – Cevadilla

This is a common hay fever remedy, which is most often indicated during the early spring or at harvest time. There can be persistent sneezing, transparent mucus and an itchy, stuffed up nose. The eyes can water in the open air, from sunlight or whilst sneezing.

One peculiarity of this remedy is that symptoms can come on merely from thinking of flowers and the patient can gain improvement from symptoms by thinking of something else during the attack!

Symptoms are also worse for cold air and can have unusual quirky patterns of behaviour (for example every fourth day or every afternoon at 2.30pm). There is usually improvement from eating warm food and drink or from keeping warm. The person who needs this remedy is often unduly chilly and nervous.

Sulphur (the Element)

Like Pulsatilla, this remedy can have a lot of thick, offensive catarrh. There can be a general hot feeling and an aggravation of symptoms from becoming heated. The nose and eyes can become inflamed with heat and burning sensations. There can be oversensitivity to odours or changes in temperature. Classically this type of rhinitis can be accompanied by skin rash or by itching anywhere on the body. The throat can become swollen and the patient can be far more hungry than usual.

Symptoms are worse for bathing, in the late morning, and better for motion or fresh air.

Like Nux vomica, sulphur can be useful following where symptoms have become 'suppressed' from conventional symptomatic treatment. For example, somebody who previously suffered from a profuse runny nose and after using a steroid nasal spray, has developed thick, obstructive catarrh and sinusitis. Mentally, the person who requires sulphur may feel very tired or apathetic with impaired concentration or thinking.

If after the first dose of a remedy symptoms improve, it is advisable to leave it at that and take no further doses until symptoms relapse. If, however, you find that after a couple of doses of your chosen remedy, symptoms still have not altered, it is worth re-thinking your choice or preferably visiting a homeopath. In any case, it is never a good idea to rely on frequent doses of any remedy to control symptoms. If being symptom free means taking remedies on a daily basis then the chances are you are taking the wrong remedy, and a closer look at your symptoms would indicate something that would give a longer period of improvement.

Remember that 'acute' treatment is only ever a short-term solution and, if symptoms are merely palliated for a long period of time, homeopathy can become just as suppressive as antihistamines because the underlying constitution has not been addressed.

Allergic Rhinitis – A Case Study

Vicky was aged 48, and the mother of two children. Her presenting symptoms were allergic rhinitis with nosebleeds all year round, especially in the spring. She was using Rhinocort nasal spray and Piriton tablets daily.

"It started when I moved into a 16th-century house. It was a very hot summer and there was lots of dust. I am very sensitive; my nose feels tingly and drips like a tap without stopping. It feels like a bad cold. I think it is connected to fir trees or, if my partner does varnishing, strong smells affect it. I suffer from headaches that affect the front of my head, pulsating and thumping. I wake repeatedly, and don't sleep well at all. My energy is very low. I go white as a sheet at about 4pm and have to eat something immediately for my blood sugar.

"I have a dry scalp and skin, my eyes water and I sneeze, my throat is dry and itchy and I have noticed that my tongue is discoloured orange."

Vicky also told me during the consultation that the symptoms had come on particularly badly during a near split in her relationship, that as a child she had had many irrational fears, such as of travelling by bus, going into shops, thunderstorms and heights. These characteristics combined with several other symptoms, such as a sensitivity to many foods, low body temperature, recurrent mouth ulcers, an 'allergic' family tendency and poor self-confidence, led me to prescribe the remedy phosphorous in a special ascending liquid dose which can be taken daily unlike homeopathic tablets. I also asked Vicky to stop using Piriton and the nasal spray altogether unless absolutely necessary.

During the follow-up visit six weeks later, Vicky told me that she felt she had "really been through the mill" for the first two weeks on the remedy. Her nasal discharge had increased dramatically and lots of thick green catarrh had been released. Despite this, she had had no nosebleeds, the sneezing had stopped, her sensitivity to perfumes had reduced, there had been no mouth ulcers, her tongue was clearer, sleep was less disturbed and she felt "more relaxed" in herself. After the first couple of weeks, her nose had dried up, her eyes had stopped watering and her skin felt smoother. Because there were certain aspects of the case that were still problematic – for example low blood sugar and food allergies – we decided to continue with the remedy in a slightly higher potency. The initial increase of discharge was, I felt, due to the remedy instigating a 'cleansing' process. Also the stopping of the spray and antihistamines will have caused a rebound effect.

On the third visit (also six weeks later), the nasal problems were minimal and Vicky felt able to go for longer without food, her food sensitivities were less marked except pre-menstrually and friends had commented on how relaxed she was lately. It was decided to discontinue treatment at this point and I asked Vicky to contact me if the symptoms re-surfaced.

It was not until the following spring that I heard from Vicky again. Her hay fever had started, and although it was much reduced from recent years, I felt it was necessary to treat her 'acutely' through the spring. Because the spring symptoms were different from her previous symptoms, another remedy – Sabadilla – was indicated. This time, Vicky had obstruction of one nostril only, she was sneezing on waking up, her hay fever had started in March and there was watering of the eyes during sneezing fits. During the spring and summer months, three doses altogether of Sabadilla 200c were needed which kept the symptoms at bay. When the autumn came, I gave Vicky a repeated single dose of her constitutional remedy – Phosphorous 1M – and she has had no further problems since. My hope is that by next spring she will have yet further reduction of her hay fever symptoms so that seasonal treatment may not be necessary. Vicky has stopped the use of nasal sprays and antihistamines altogether and her general health has improved in all respects.

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About Rose Nightingale

Rose Nightingale, RSHom, is a 'successful patient' of homeopathy herself and graduated from the London College of Classical Homeopathy in 1996. Since then she has become a registered member of the Society of Homeopaths and practises full time in Leighton Buzzard, Bedfordshire. She can be reached at Tel: 01525 379224.

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