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Two Catarrhal Tales

by Dr Angela Jones(more info)

listed in homeopathy, originally published in issue 25 - February 1998

I have always thought of catarrh as being extremely unglamorous, as well as somewhat boring, from the medical point-of-view. As a general practitioner, there is not a lot that one can do for the catarrh sufferer apart from handing out decongestant or steroid nasal sprays, antibiotics or sympathy (or a combination of the three!). Rather like the vodka advertisements of the 1970s, things changed when I discovered, not Smirnoff, but homoeopathy. Suddenly, new vistas opened for the treatment of the humble catarrh. No longer was catarrh an amorphous entity, treated with the same blanket prescription. Instead, it mattered whether it was lumpy, stringy or ropey; sweet or salty; green, yellow, white or clear like egg-white; dripping, from the nose or down the back of the throat; worse on waking, at night, in a stuffy room or in a cold wind – the possibilities seemed limitless! Each new combination of features indicated a different medicine. Catarrh, suddenly, was interesting.

Before I put you off completely, let me tell you about two patients whose catarrhal problems lent themselves to successful homoeopathic treatment, but by different therapeutic approaches.

Martin was a financial adviser in his forties. For twelve months, since suffering from a viral infection, he had been troubled by a persistent gelatinous catarrh which tracked down from the back of his nose to the throat, and occasionally had to be coughed up. The mucus was sometimes quite stringy and tenacious and often murky yellow or green.

Martin was also troubled by a burning pain under his right rib cage, particularly on swallowing saliva and worse after a fatty meal – symptoms suggestive of gall bladder problems. Generally speaking, however, he was fit and well and enjoyed a game of squash in his spare time – unless the catarrh made him cough! He had had no operations nor serious illnesses and had no outstanding "homeopathic features". In other words he was not especially warm or cold-blooded, thirsty nor strongly partial to particular foods.

Martin's father had had gallstones and, interestingly, Martin took after his father in looks. As a person, Martin admitted to being a tense, impatient, finicky type – very methodical and organised, tending to be active and restless. In assessing Martin's case, I felt that his general health was good and that a "constitutional" medicine was not necessarily needed here. Instead, I chose to concentrate on the specific features of the catarrh – its tenacious and stringy nature with a tendency to chronic infection and dripping down the back of the throat – so-called "post-nasal drip". This, in combination with the interesting history suggestive of gallstones, led me to the prescription of a medicine called Hydrastis, a plant also prescribed by herbalists as "Golden Seal" but diluted to the homoeopathic potency of 30c.

Two months after Martin had taken his three tablets of Hydrastis 30c, he returned to my clinic. He had experienced a runny nose soon after taking the tablets, reminiscent of the initial viral infection. Soon after, the cough and catarrh settled almost completely. He did not mention the right-sided rib pain, so I asked him directly about this. Martin laughed and declared that this had completely gone, and he had forgotten all about it, as a result! Somewhat sheepishly, he volunteered that his wife had commented that he was also far more relaxed and attentive in the home!

I was in no doubt that this prescription, based on local symptoms but still on the homoeopathic principle, had had a beneficial effect in this case and Martin was also quite convinced (together with his wife, by all accounts!).

The second case is one where catarrh featured as an interesting side-issue. Rosemary had had migraine for all forty years of her life.

However, recently she had been waking with migraines approximately twice a week. It tended to be worse before and during her menstrual period and was associated with nausea and vomiting but no aura or visual symptoms. She also suffered from left sided abdominal pain, like labour pains, which was better for heat and which had been diagnosed by a gynaecologist as due to irritable bowel syndrome.

Finally, she also had frequent bouts of rhinitis and catarrh, which had started with her pregnancy ten years earlier and manifested itself as blocked nose, occasional clear runny nose and also post-nasal drip with a nasty taste. The catarrh was not present on waking, returned on starting to move around and was exacerbated by damp weather.

Otherwise, Rosemary was quite well apart from an obvious susceptibility to hormonal fluctuations, as evidenced by bad premenstrual tension of the irritable, angry, shouting variety and also post-natal depression. Generally, Rosemary was cold blooded (or a freezer, as they are termed in Wales), rarely thirsty, and with a craving for sour and salty things. She attended aerobic classes whenever possible and always felt better for exercise. She loved dancing and reading fantasy novels. Her only fears were of horror movies – and thunderstorms excited her.

Rosemary's case clearly cried out for a prescription of Sepia – a homoeopathic medicine derived from the cuttlefish whose features include all those symptoms which Rosemary related. I gave her three tablets of a 30c potency and saw her again six weeks later.

Her migraines had reduced to one a week but, interestingly, the catarrh was worse. Undaunted, I repeated the prescription as I felt Sepia had to be the correct medicine in Rosemary's case. At follow up, things were static – the migraines were no worse, but the catarrh remained troublesome. I therefore increased the potency to 200c and awaited events.

I did not hear from Rosemary for five months and assumed that she had given up on homoeopathy due to the worsening of her catarrh.

However, she rang me, out of the blue, to ask for a repeat prescription. The 200c strength had cleared her catarrh and her migraines were now much reduced, less than one per month! I was delighted to send her another supply.

In Rosemary's case, I feel she had a Sepia "constitution" and that a general level of ill-health was being expressed as a number of typical Sepia symptoms in several different systems – respiratory, nervous and gastrointestinal. Thus, the prescription of Sepia was able to improve all her symptoms, once we found the correct potency.

Irritatingly, I was so delighted about her progress with the migraine and the catarrh that I forgot to ask about the irritable bowel symptoms. I would be very surprised if they had not settled also!

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About Dr Angela Jones

Dr Angela Jones works in NHS general practice and also privately, using homeopathy alongside conventional medicine. Dr Jones can be contacted via the Faculty of Homeopathy on Tel: 020-7566 7800.

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