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Everyday Magic - Gesundheit! Homeopathy and hay fever

Summer is here—and so are seasonal allergies or hay fever, as it is more commonly called in the UK, although spring and early summer allergies are not caused by hay and are not accompanied by fever! The common symptoms are runny, itchy eyes, a runny and/or stuffed up nose—and sneezing.

     I adore sneezing. It is a delightful full body experience and I enjoy it to the max! As a child I puzzled over why I had to say "bless you" when someone sneezed and was tickled to discover that it came out of the notion that your soul escaped when you sneezed, which is how the custom to say "bless you" apparently developed ... to bring your soul back of course!

     In this country it is also common to hear "gesundheit," the German equivalent of "bless you." Gesundheit means, literally, "to your health"—a more sensible response to a sneeze, wishing the "sneezer" to stay healthy, and acknowledging the sneeze's potential to develop into an illness (a cold or flu for example). From a New Age perspective this "wish" for health could be seen as an affirmation of the body's wisdom in ejecting something that is irritating the mucous membranes!

     The trouble with hay fever is this ... if you are sneezing 10, 15, 20 or even 30 times in a row, it isn't fun anymore. If your sneezes are violent they become downright unpleasant and can be even painful. If you are sneezing profusely and unpleasantly from allergies then I wish you a few bless yous and many gesundheits!

Sensible precautions

Here are a few common sense suggestions to keep your mucous membranes free of extra allergens during the hay fever season:

  • where possible avoid pollen: don't do unnecessary gardening/go for long walks in flower gardens or meadows, etc.
  • keep dust levels low in the home: you might want to invest in a vacuum cleaner with a special filter for allergy sufferers
  • use pillows and duvets filled with synthetic fibers and clean them regularly
  • don't cycle or take long walks in busy streets, or in the country where crops have been recently sprayed
  • don't use any household or garden sprays for anything, including cleaners, cosmetics, hair sprays, antiperspirants, etc.
  • avoid decongestants if you can as they suppress the body's natural defenses and commonly cause a rebound effect so that the symptoms return more fiercely once you stop taking them
  • consider investing in an air purifier.

Homeopathic treatment

There are a number of remedies for acute hay fever which can alleviate symptoms. Homeopathic remedies do not have the side effects that antihistamines are famous for and are safe for anyone to take, including pregnant women.

     If you recognize your particular collection of symptoms (or those of someone close to you) in one of the descriptions below then you can use the remedy, providing you follow the general dosage guidelines.

Remedies for hay fever

Allium cepa. Eyes and nose stream. Eyes stream with watery, non-irritating discharge. Nose streams with a discharge that burns. Frequent, violent sneezing. Throat may be sore. Hay fever typically aggravated by flower pollens and during the month of August. Symptoms are worse in a stuffy room and better for fresh air.

Arsenicum. Eyes are dry and burn. Nose streams, nasal discharge burns and makes the area under the nostrils red and sore. Frequent, violent sneezing. Lips are cracked. Feels thirsty but only for sips of warm drinks. Generally restless and anxious.

Arundo. Sneezing without a discharge. Everything itches—the roof of mouth, especially the soft palate, the ears, the Eustachian tubes, and the nostrils. Sense of smell is lost. Hay fever typically comes on early in the spring.

Euphrasia. Eyes and nose stream (like Allium cepa) but nasal catarrh is non-irritating and discharge from eyes burns (opposite of Allium cepa) and leaves marks on the face. Eyes are sore, red, and very sensitive to light, especially sunlight. Compelled to blink eyes constantly.

Natrum muriaticum. Eyes and nose stream after sneezing. Discharge from the eyes is watery and profuse. Eyes itch and burn. Nasal discharge is profuse and resembles raw egg white and alternates with a blocked up nose. Sense of smell and taste are both lost. Hay fever which is generally worse for the hot weather and often accompanied by cold sores around the mouth and/or nose.

Nux vomica. Eyes water. Nose runs in the day (with burning, watery catarrh) and is blocked at night—on the side lain on. Frequent violent sneezing. Hay fever is often accompanied by a sore throat and/or headache. Generally irritable.

Pulsatilla. Nasal discharge is thick, yellow-green and bland (non-irritating) and watery in the fresh air. Sense of smell and taste are lost. Generally worse in stuffy hot atmospheres and better for fresh (cool) air.

Sabadilla. Persistent, violent sneezing with great itching in nose. Eyes are red, and they water and burn. Hay fever which is greatly aggravated by flower pollen.

Sulphur. Nose is dry and itchy. Frequent sneezing. Eyes itch and burn, are sensitive to light, and feel gritty. Eyelids are red and itchy; they water (mostly in the daytime) and are glued together in the morning. Generally thirsty and worse in the hot weather.

Dosage reminders

Take the remedy in a low potency: 6X, 6C or 12X ideally. Take according to the severity of your symptoms: every two to eight hours for the first day or two. As improvement begins, reduce the frequency to twice or three times daily; stop once you are feeling much better. If the symptoms return, you can repeat the remedy, taking it only if it helps.

     If you are no better after a week it's likely that the remedy is incorrect. Choose another one or seek professional advice. If self-prescribing doesn't help you or if your symptoms are severe, then do seek the advice of a homeopath.

     The presence of allergies indicates an underlying weakness that ideally needs constitutional treatment from a homeopathic practitioner. There is often a family history of allergies ... a parent or grandparent with asthma, eczema or hay fever. Homeopaths prefer to treat a hay fever sufferer through the winter months to strengthen their resistance to pollen and other allergens and deal with the underlying allergic disposition, and find that it takes several years for symptoms of allergy to gradually abate.

Isopathic remedies

An isopathic remedy is made from the toxin or chemical or pollen that is apparently causing the allergy, and is prepared by homeopathic methods, i.e., diluted and succussed to a certain potency (usually the 30C). Since most of these substances have not been proved (tested on healthy people) they cannot be prescribed according to the homeopathic Law of Similars because there is no symptom picture against which they can be matched. Their use is more haphazard and less individualized than homeopathy's matching of symptoms from the provings with those experienced by the patient. But there are times when isopathic remedies can be successful, especially when they are used as an occasional adjunct remedy.

     Mixed Pollen or Mixed Grasses are combination remedies that have been formulated from the most common allergens (substances that cause an allergic response). Some people have found them to be helpful, either on their own or in alternation with one of the above homeopathic remedies. Take the one that affects you—if it is the flower and/or tree pollens then take Mixed Pollen; if it is grasses then take Mixed Grasses. Early spring hay fever is often due to pollens from trees while the later spring and summer hay fevers are from flower pollens. The later summer and early fall hay fevers are usually caused by ragweed pollens and molds.

     Scottish researcher David Reilly (Glasgow Royal Infirmary) conducted a double blind clinical trial on the use of mixed grass pollens in the 30C potency on patients with active hay fever (published in The Lancet, October 18, 1986, entitled, "Is homoeopathy a placebo response?"). It showed a statistically significant reduction in hay fever symptoms in patients who received mixed pollens versus patients who received only placebo. In another trial, Reilly replicated these results using house-dust mite in the 30C potency for patients with allergic asthma (published in The Lancet, December 10, 1994, "Is evidence for homoeopathy reproducible?").

     If you know which tree or flower or grass to which you are susceptible, you might want to ask your homeopathic pharmacy if they have that particular substance in potency. Those who live in New Mexico, for example, find their allergies becoming severe once the Chamisa, the Juniper, or the Russian Olive flowers bloom and that these remedies in potency can help to keep the worst of their symptoms under control. These then, are isopathic remedies and will not cure chronic hay fever, but they will act rather like an antihistamine without the unpleasant side effects.

Alternative Gesundheits

I know I am not alone in thinking sneezing is fun. The Gesundheit! Institute* is a non-profit, visionary project created by medical doctors who are raising money to build a free hospital. Some of you have heard of Patch Adams, one of the founding doctors whose skills as a clown are well known. Those who volunteer at the Gesundheit! Institute recognize the medicinal effects of fun and use it to raise funds in a variety of creative ways. Their mission is "to inspire people to change the world through relentless, joyful, sustaining service" because they believe that hard work is not so intimidating when humor and play and joy are mixed in. Now that sounds like a wonderful and potent healing combination to me.

* Gesundheit! Institute: (304) 653-4338

About the author:

Miranda Castro is a Fellow of the Society of Homeopaths (United Kingdom). She now lives in Seattle, Washington and is on the faculty at Bastyr University where she is coordinating a Post Graduate Homeopathic Medicine Program. She has been practicing homeopathy since 1982 and is executive director of the North American Society of Homeopaths. She is author of The Complete Homeopathy Handbook; Homeopathy for Pregnancy, Birth and Your Baby's First Year; and the recently published Homeopathic Guide to Stress.