Little has been written about the treatment of hay fever with homeopathy and yet it continues to be a challenge for both students of homeopathy and for more experienced prescribers. As a case supervisor at many colleges I have found this to be an area which needs to be addressed afresh each year. For the more experienced practitioner I have tried to bring together in one place information on the remedies that are most commonly required in the treatment of hay fever, as it is certainly an area of everyday homeopathic practice where a thorough knowledge of therapeutics is required.
When the correct remedy is found, as we all know, results can be amazing, but getting there can be difficult! In this article, which is adapted from my eBook How to treat Hay fever successfully with Homeopathy (2007) I will look at materia medica, repertory and the philosophy of treating hay fever and how I use this to guide me in treating this condition.
Hay fever is also known as seasonal allergic rhinitis, and this is important to remember if searching in modern repertories, materia medica or on the internet. It is diagnosed when symptoms are present for an hour, or more a day on most days during the season. Pollens of grasses, flowers, trees and sometimes airborne mould spores cause the seasonal type. Hay fever symptoms can be worse in the city than the countryside for some people, as there are more male trees planted and consequently more tree pollen. The term ‘perennial allergic rhinitis’ is used when symptoms are present for more of the year and is often caused by a sensitivity to house dust, house dust mites, moulds, pollutants and animal dander.
Remedies and materia medica
Repertorisation can lead to unsatisfactory results in the search to find a remedy to cover a patient’s hay fever symptoms. A rubric search in Synthesis (2007) using the keyword ‘hay fever’ only produces eight rubrics, although there are also sub-rubrics. In Kent’s Repertory there are only four rubrics including sub-rubrics. So, one needs to look at specific sections of the repertory to cover symptoms in the eye, nose, throat, face and respiration. However, using the results of repertorisation often brings up remedies which do not match the patient’s acute picture; it therefore seems to be necessary to know your materia medica well. The rubric ‘Nose hay fever’ in Synthesis Repertory (2007) lists 125 remedies and in Kent’s Repertory 32 remedies and it is important to be able to differentiate between 30-40 of these remedies.
Undoubtedly the most commonly indicated remedies are: Allium cepa, Arsenicum album, Euphrasia officinalis, Kali iodatum, Natrum muriaticum, Nux vomica and Sabadilla officinarum. Of course any remedy could be the simillimum for a particular patient, but these remedies are often similar enough to achieve a significant amelioration of symptoms. Sometimes the acute remedy is the same as the chronic remedy. This is often seen with Arsenicum, Natrum muriaticaum, Nux vomica, Silicea and Sulphur.
Other important remedies include: Ambrosia artemisefolia, Apis, Arsenicum iodatum, Arum triphyllum, Arundo, Carcinosium, Cyclamen, Dulcamara, Gelsemium, Naphthalin, Psorinum, Pulsatilla, Ranunculus bulbosa, Rosa damascena, Rhus tox, Sanguinaria, Sinapis nigra, Sticta pulmonaria, Teucrium and Wyethia.
I have chosen to look in this article at information on four of the less common remedies: Ambrosia artemisefolia, Arundo, Naphthalin and Sticta pulmonaria.
This remedy made from Common Rag weed is characterised by intolerable itching of the eye lids. The eyes are congested, smarting and watery. The whole respiratory tract and head are stuffed up (Vithoulkas 1995). The nose is additionally red and swollen with watery coryza. The face maybe dark red. There may be oppressive pain in the left side of chest, must sit up to breathe comfortably; may awaken suddenly with pertussis like cough.
This remedy made from an Italian grass experiences/produces symptoms of burning and itching in the ears, palate and conjunctiva. The itching palate is similar to the more commonly prescribed Wyethia. Burning and itching of nostrils and roof of mouth. Salivation might accompany coryza. Loss of smell. Pain at the root of nose. Several authors state that they might become hysterical; Vithoulkas writes that this comes from a fear that they might not be able to breathe (1995).
A coal tar product, breathing the fumes of which produced hay fever like symptoms. (Lippincott quoted in Clarke, 1986). Fluent excoriating discharge from nose with much sneezing and lachrymation. Itching mouth, nose, eyes, ears. Stuffed up frontal sinuses and forehead, fullness and pressure. Nose red, hot, sore and swollen. Better in open air, desire to have doors and windows open and to loosen clothes
Lungwort. The patient requiring this remedy would constantly blow their nose, but with no discharge. Sensation as if stuffed up at the root of the nose. Dryness in the mouth and throat, uvula like leather. Burning eyelids, worse for turning the eyes. Dry racking cough worse inspiration. There can be incessant sneezing which then dries up.
The philosophy behind the treatment plan
Although Kent states in his lecture on Sabadilla (1986 ) that hay fever is a psoric condition, if you look at the remedies listed under ‘Nose – hay fever’ in any repertory you will also find a number of syphilitic and a few sycotic remedies. Interestingly Tuberculinum is rarely indicated for hay fever, although it is so often indicated for the other atopic diseases asthma and eczema. I have seen Carcinosin cure hay fever symptoms; it is included in the rubric ‘Nose- hay fever- chronic’ as an addition from Foubister. One might ask why other remedies are not listed here too, part of the problem when repertorising hay fever!
Kent states “These are not the constitutional remedies; they do not cure, but only palliate during the severe attacks.”(1986 p839), although as I stated earlier they can sometimes be one and the same remedy. It is important not to mix up acute and constitutional symptoms in case analysis. I would also suggest that some of the remedies in the larger ‘Nose hay fever’ rubric are constitutional and not acute. Your interpretation of homeopathic philosophy will dictate how you use this information, but I would certainly be aware of the distinction between acute and chronic.
There are occasions when you will be unable to take a deeper case until you have treated the acute hay fever symptoms. I believe that this is because the energy of the vital force is expressed through those acute symptoms most strongly at that time and the underlying chronic state is not currently being expressed by the vital force.
Potency and posology
I have found that a protocol which works well in most cases is to give a 30c or 200c three times per day for a couple of days with the instruction to stop if much better or much worse after one or more doses and to start again if symptoms return.
I find that it is important to take a full case history for several reasons: firstly the same remedy can work both constitutionally and acutely and secondly the potency must as always take into account the patient’s vitality and pathology; this might guide you as to using either the 30th or 200th potency. There are times when it is of course safer to prescribe a 6c, 12c or 15c rather than a higher potency. I have not seen particular success using LM’s. In intractable cases ‘plussing’ of the remedy may be required.
There is always the danger of creating a proving with a close remedy and an eye must be kept open for this possibility. I have seen this happen with a plussed remedy and with a 1M too frequently repeated.
I nearly always find that if the correct remedy has been chosen, there will be a marked improvement in hay fever symptoms, but the problem is finding the correct remedy from among many that are so similar. Accurate and detailed case taking is important to clarify a patient’s symptoms; this then needs to be matched with a thorough understanding of hay fever therapeutics. I always found it useful to have my ‘Hay fever Therapeutics’ notes to hand in the consulting room between May and August as there was a gap in the homeopathic library in this area. It was to fill this gap that I wrote the eBook How to treat hay fever Successfully with Homeopathy.
A thirty one year old marketing consultant came to see me several years ago suffering with hay fever. He was allergic to tree pollen, cats and house dust. It had been worse the last couple of years. He said he had tried all the usual tablets.
His hay fever was worse for drinking alcohol, worse being around people smoking and worse in open top cars. His nose felt prickly inside, he would sneeze and sniff a lot. His eyes were watery and itchy. He said he wanted to take his head off it was so itchy. It helped to rinse his face with cold water. The nose was itchy, blocked, drizzled and he blew his nose a lot. His eyes could get itchy, especially the lower rims and lower canthi. In fact his whole being would become itchy. He could wake at night with a blocked nose. Getting shaving foam up his nose made him more itchy and sneezy.