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Lichen Planus Helped by Apis Mellifica

by Dr Angela Jones(more info)

listed in skincare, originally published in issue 55 - August 2000

This is an amazing story of how a notoriously stubborn skin condition has responded to the homeopathic medicine derived from the bee, Apis mellifica. The patient in question, Sharon, came to see me with a two year history of this problem which consists of excruciatingly itchy patches, usually affecting the arms and legs. The patches, classically purplish brown in colour and slightly raised, are irritating and unsightly.

Lichen planus, once diagnosed by a dermatologist, does not have a specific treatment. Patients are often given steroid creams to ease the itching and some specialists recommend sunlight exposure. However, most patients are left waiting for the condition to subside on its own, which it sometimes does, but usually only after many years.

In Sharon's case, she had quite widespread patches over her wrists, hands and shins which were dark red and inflamed. They itched mostly in the evenings but, fortunately, not during the night. Bathing had neither an ameliorating nor an aggravating effect on the itch.

More recently, she had developed an ulcerated area in the mouth, and then two others, which refused to heal. She showed them to her doctor and he confirmed that she had developed oral lichen planus. This is known to accompany the skin lesions and is very painful and distressing. She had to suck steroid pellets to keep the ulcers at bay.

Sharon was becoming concerned at the amount of steroid that she was having to use to keep herself comfortable. She therefore decided to seek an alternative form of management. As her conventional doctor, I would have felt as concerned and frustrated as Sharon. Doctors are well aware of the problems that attend long term use of steroids but, in otherwise 'untreatable' conditions like lichen planus, there is a balance to be struck between these risks and the distress and discomfort that the patient will otherwise suffer.

Fortunately, homeopathic treatment offers a non-steroid option of management in this case and I proceeded to take a more detailed history in order to choose a medicine.

On closer questioning, Sharon had a number of other complaints as well as the lichen planus. She had developed urticaria (hives), itchy wheals on the skin caused by an often unidentified allergy. She had started to have these after a severe episode of sunburn and was now getting bouts every fortnight or so. Additionally, she had bouts of fluid retention every one to two weeks, with swollen fingers and ankles and marked puffiness above and below the eyes. Her GP had given her some mild water tablets to take when necessary.

Hay fever was another problem, which dogged her almost constantly. At its worst in the spring and summer, she still had a stinging and runny nose in midwinter and had to take another topical steroid, Beconase, to keep it at bay. She also had stinging eyes and her joints were giving her quite a lot of trouble. They ached almost constantly, and would sometimes swell and become acutely inflamed.

Treatment was difficult as she'd had a duodenal ulcer in the past and could therefore not take ibuprofen or other anti-inflammatories due to their propensity to cause ulceration of the gut.

If I had not known Sharon's GP and been certain from the referral letter that her problems had been addressed medically and properly investigated, I would have had a number of causes for concern in her case. The persistent mouth ulcers are a danger sign. Any mouth ulcer lasting for more than 14 days should be checked medically to rule out mouth cancer. Likewise, the bouts of swelling around the eyes with fluid retention can be a sign of kidney disease. As it was, Sharon was in good hands, medically speaking. She simply had a set of intermittent symptoms plus a chronic skin disease for which there was no conventional medical explanation or cure apart from purely symptomatic treatment.

The clue to Sharon's homeopathic treatment was, for me, the description she gave of her hay fever. When patients describe the nasal symptoms of rhinitis, it is usually a 'burning' or an 'itching' but very, very rarely a 'stinging'. The word 'stinging', made me prick my ears up. 'Stinging' as a symptom will often lead one to the medicine made from the ultimate sting, the bee. Most of Sharon's other symptoms also fitted into the picture of the homeopathic medicine, Apis mellifica.

Apis is a very good medicine for urticaria, which so closely resembles the lesion of a bee sting, with the raised itchy wheal and the surrounding redness and swelling. Likewise, Apis is an excellent treatment for fluid retention, which exhibits the fluid-filled baggy swelling around the eyes and the brawny swelling of the fingers or ankles. Some forms of arthritis will respond to Apis. The features to look out for are acute red swollen joints, especially if they are eased by cold applications such as cold flannels or ice. Finally, any stinging inflammation be it of the nose, the eyes or the bladder (as in cystitis) can respond to Apis.

In Sharon's case, I gave her a single dose of Apis mellifica 30c. I did not want to give her a more frequent or a higher potency treatment because of the risk of causing an aggravation of her symptoms. I reviewed her after a month and the effect was most gratifying. She had had no fluid retention, no joint pain, no rhinitis and no urticaria since taking the medicine! Furthermore, the lichen planus had become far less angry and inflamed and some of the most recent patches had completely healed as had the mouth ulcers.

Most importantly, she reported that she felt far better in herself, which was interesting, because she had not reported a lack of well-being at the initial interview. She had only realized how low she had been feeling when she began to feel better.

Of all Sharon's symptoms, only the lichen planus was not covered by the symptom picture of Apis mellifica. I can only assume that, the body, having returned to better health after the dose of Apis, was better able to tackle the process, as yet unknown, that causes lichen planus. As Sharon says, even if it never heals completely, she will be able to live with it now that her general health has improved so much!

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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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