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If at first you don't succeed...a case of hypertension and headache

by Dr Angela Jones(more info)

listed in homeopathy, originally published in issue 24 - January 1998

Marilyn came to see me with a two year history of raised blood pressure which had been successfully managed with a mild diuretic tablet. However, over the past six weeks she had begun to feel very fatigued and her blood pressure soared again. Her GP was keen to start her on beta-blockers but Marilyn was apprehensive, particularly as she had heard about the numerous side-effects which can occur with that class of drug.

In addition she had a three year history of headaches which Marilyn described as "terrible," "throbbing" and "pounding". They were concentrated on the right side of her head, nose and cheek areas, and often woke her at about 2am. She had suffered with her sinuses many years ago. However, a recent CT scan had ruled out sinus infection and brain tumour as a cause of the headache.

Apart from the two presenting complaints, Marilyn was a fit lady of seventy five, smartly though casually dressed, bright and alert. She had taught mathematics until retiring at 66 and since then, had spent a lot of time travelling. Unfortunately, she had been on fewer trips over the last few years since the onset of the headaches. Her only significant past illness was appendicitis with peritonitis. There was no relevant family history and her three daughters were alive and well.

Her appetite was excellent but she was rarely thirsty. She was averse to fatty foods and loved spicy things. Ice-cream made her feel ill. She perspired little, admitted to cold hands but denied sweaty or smelly feet. She often woke at 2am but could not get back to sleep again unless she had her headache, generally sleeping on her back with one arm up and with the window open.

Marilyn described herself as critical, a worrier, not fastidious or houseproud, and unlikely to bear a grudge. She could easily be moved to tears and was particularly sentimental about music. Finally she admitted to being indecisive and to have a tendency to buckle under stress.

Anybody who knows about constitutional prescribing in homoeopathy will be jumping up and down by now, yelling "Pulsatilla -- she needs Pulsatilla". Well -- I just did not see Marilyn as a Pulsatilla, perhaps because she was a maths teacher, and how could a maths teacher be soft and vacillating? Perhaps because she was thin and wiry and I have a mental image of Pulsatilla as somewhat rounded.

Whatever the reasons I chose Silica, because it is a good remedy for right-sided headaches, especially with sinusitis in the past history.

Follow up after one month was disappointing. Marilyn said that the Silica might have helped briefly but I think she was merely trying to be kind to me. The headaches persisted, as severe as previously and in the same pattern. They had been joined by occasional bouts of "nervous tummy", with alternating diarrhoea and constipation precipitated by emotion, especially irritation. She was also getting flitting joint pains and at this point I was surprised to see Marilyn, the tough maths mistress, dissolve into tears. As she sobbed, she described how cheated she felt that these various ailments were piling up and ruining her quality of life.

At last, this easy flow of tears fitted together with the other pieces of the jigsaw -- absent thirst, loves spicy food, pain in right face, waking at 2am, chilly but loves fresh air, even aggravated by ice cream -- of course -- PULSATILLA.

This remedy, derived from the windflower, a beautiful plant whose flower, on its long stem, blows this way and that in the wind, has change ability as its key note. Vacillation runs throughout the whole materia medica: pains move from place to place, the bowels vary in action from day to day, and patients who respond to Pulsatilla are classically indecisive and also easily moved to tears.

Somewhat irritated with myself for missing the remedy in the first place, I prescribed Pulsatilla 200c in a single dose. When I next saw Marilyn three months later she was almost completely well. The tension and irritability had resolved and she described herself as feeling "more relaxed inside". Her headaches were all but resolved and her blood pressure had settled. There were no further "nervous tummies" or joint pains and she was delighted to have avoided going on to a second blood pressure medication.

In general, I approach the homoeopathic treatment of raised blood pressure with considerable care and some reticence. This is because the long term effects of raised blood pressure are catastrophic with strokes, renal failure and other arterial diseases resulting from inadequate management of the disease. As a rule I encourage patients to remain on their conventional medication until the problem is under control. If they then wish to reduce their medication, this should only be done in consultation with their own doctor and under careful surveillance. Having said all that, mild to moderate hypertension can respond to homoeopathic treatment, especially if there are significant emotional or other stress factors at play. In Marilyn's case, her good response was reflected in her improved emotional state and whether this improvement then lowered her blood pressure, or the other way round, is difficult to say. She remained on her original diuretic and continues to have regular check-ups, but remains well pleased.


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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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