Homeopathy Papers

Nothing by Mouth’: Olfaction, Friction, and other Non-Oral Delivery Routes

Written by Ann McKay

Nothing by Mou’th’: Olfaction, Friction, and other Non-Oral Delivery Routes

About seven years ago I had to administer a homeopathic medicine in other than the usual route. Like the vast majority of homeopaths today, I usually adhered to sublingual and oral administration of homeopathic medicines in either dry or liquid form. But since the client was unable to take anything orally, let alone sublingually, I suggested topical application of the medicine. The unfortunate fact was that there was not much intact skin; many lacerations and contusions covered the body, and I knew that we would soon run out of places to rub medicines on the skin to assist in recovery from a severe accident. This was an early experience in using alternative delivery routes, which can include olfaction, inhalation, and topical administration.

Perusing The Organon, The Chronic Diseases, information from David Little, and The Lesser Writings of C.M.F. von Boenninghausen, I found the following. Hahnemann, in his infinite wisdom, understood that individualization in homeopathy also involved greater options for administering the medicines. He acknowledges this aspect of case management in The Chronic Diseases, suggesting that,

…the incredible variety among patients as to their sensitivity, their age, their spiritual and bodily development, their vital force, and especially in the nature of their disease necessitates a great variety in their treatment, and also in the administration of the doses of their medicine.

We are currently faced with much more severe diminishment of the vital force through poor lifestyle choices and the constant use of pharmaceuticals, necessitating “a great variety in treatment and administration of doses of medicine.” This article discusses the various routes of administering homeopathic remedies as described by Hahnemann and examples of how it has been useful in my practice.

Hahnemann describes the energetic action of medicines on psychoneuroimmunology (PNI) through the administration of homeopathic medicines to any neuro-sensitive area of the anatomy..

5th edition, Aph. 288 Part III: Therapeutics:

The action of medicines in the liquid form upon the living human body takes place in such a penetrating manner, spreads out from the point of the sensitive fibers provided with nerves whereto the medicine is first applied, with such inconceivable rapidity and so universally through all parts of the living body, that this action of the medicine must be denominated a spirit-like (a dynamic, virtual) action.

In the 6th edition of The Organon, he discusses olfaction, inhalation, and topical administration in Aphorism 284 (this corresponds to Aphorism 290 in the 5th edition):

Besides the tongue, the mouth, and the stomach (which are the places most commonly affected by the ingestion of medicine), medicines may be administered through the nose and respiratory organs which, by means of olfaction [through the nose] and inhalation through the mouth, are especially receptive to the impingement of medicines in liquid form. All the rest of the skin of our body is also fit for the impinging action of medicinal solutions…

While Aphorism 288 has been completely re-written in this final Organon edition, Hahnemann offers no further information regarding these alternate types of administration. However he does cite exact instructions for olfactory and inhalation administration in the 5th edition, again Aphorism 288, explaining that a thirtieth potency globule of medicine should be placed in a vial, then stoppered. The dose is then delivered by placing the vial at one nostril and inhaling. Both nostrils can be used, depending on the strength of the dose to be administered. This is considered olfaction, with the olfactory nerve endings receiving the “vapours” from the medicated globule.

A globule of which ten, twenty or one hundred weigh one grain, impregnated with the thirtieth potentized dilution, and then dried, retains for this purpose all its power undiminished for at least eighteen or twenty years (my experience extends this length of time), even though the phial be opened a thousand times during that period, if it be but protected from heat and the sun’s light.

It is especially in the form of vapour, by olfaction and inhalation of the medicinal aura that is always emanating from a globule impregnated with a medicinal fluid in high development of power, and placed, dry, in a small phial, that the homeopathic remedies act most surely and most powerfully.

The work of Axel and Buck in 1991 offered substantiation to what Hahnemann understood over two hundred years ago—that humans have sophisticated olfactory capabilities, with nearly 3 percent (1000 genes) of the human gene family made up of olfactory receptors. There are approximately 6 to 10 million cells lining each nasal cavity, very near to the brain. The olfactory nerve fibers continue to the amygdala, which is part of the limbic system, a very ancient and deep part of the brain and the only place in the body where the brain is so directly connected with the outside world.

My experience with administration of homeopathic remedies through olfaction has offered success when oral routes have failed. It is especially useful with sensitives and is easily carried in pocket or purse. A sniff or two has saved many a client from situations where they normally would not have had their remedy at hand.

The homeopathic physician allows the patient to hold the open mouth of the phial first in one nostril, and in the act of inspiration draw the air out of it into himself and then if he wished to give a stronger dose, smell in the same manner with the other nostril, more or less strongly, according to the strength it is intended the dose should be; he then corks up the phial and replaces it in his pocket case, to prevent any misuse of it, …

Hahnemann thought this an excellent mode of administration for children that can be used while the child is asleep:

In little children it may be applied close to their nostrils whilst they are asleep with the certainty of producing an effect. The medicinal aura thus inhaled comes in contact with the nerves in the walls of the spacious cavities it traverses without obstruction, and thus produces a salutary influence on the vital force, in the mildest yet most powerful manner, and this is much preferable to every other mode of administration of the medicament substance by the mouth.

This is not only useful with infants and small children, but also with elders and those in the final stages of life. Applying the vial to one or both nostrils while the person is sleeping and assuring that it remains in place for one or two inspirations has offered relief to many sufferers.

According to Gaier, (1991), Hahnemann and one of his assistants treated patients through olfaction exclusively for a nine month period, sometime during the 1830’s, “with very good results (371).” Handley’s In Search of the Later Hahnemann offers a detailed account of Hahnemann’s use of olfaction and inhalation during his years in Paris. The Lesser Writings of C.M.F. von Boenninghausen also offer insight into the use of olfaction as a route of homeopathic medicine administration. It is apparent from these various sources that Hahnemann had equal success with olfaction as he did with oral and sublingual administration.

5th ed. Aphorism 288:

All that homeopathy is capable of curing … will be most safely and certainly cured by this olfaction. I can scarcely name one in a hundred of many patients … whose chronic or acute disease we have not treated with the most happy results, solely by means of this olfaction… I have become convinced (of what I never could previously have believed) that by this olfaction the power of the medicine is exercised upon the patient in, at least, the same degree of strength, and that more quietly and yet just as long as when the dose of medicine is taken by the mouth, and that, consequently, the intervals at which the olfaction should be repeated should not be shorter than in the ingestion of the material dose by the mouth.

Inhalation and topical administration, two other modes that can be used where sublingual administration is not feasible or advisable, are explored in The Organon and in The Chronic Diseases:

5th ed. Aphorism 288

Should both nostrils be stopped up by coryza or polypus, the patient should inhale by mouth, holding the orifice of the phial betwixt his lips…

Again as with olfaction, a globule or two of the remedy is placed in a one-ounce amber vial and placed between the lips for inhalation (as if through a straw). The number of inhalations depends upon the strength of the dose to be administered. Although this method is acceptable, I have found it more difficult in actual usage. Its benefits are that nothing is ingested orally and it travels well, since only a globule or two are needed to make up the medicine bottle. This mode of administration has been helpful with those clients who are accustomed to inhalers for bronchitis and asthma. When I requested feedback from clients using this method they expressed amazement that the remedy was equally as effective as their pharmaceutical inhalers.

Caution is necessary here, in that I never substitute the homeopathic medicine for allopathic inhalers, which could lead to severe complications and even death for asthmatics. Instead, when we have reached the point in the client’s treatment where they require little use of their inhalers, then inhalation of the remedy is suggested as the first option, with their regular inhaler being kept on hand for backup in case of emergency. I have several cases where steroid inhalers have not been used in several years.

Regarding topical administration:

The Chronic Diseases, Part 2, “Concerning the Technical Part of Homeopathy”

In this way, the cure of very old disease may be furthered by the physician applying externally, rubbing in the back, arms, extremities, the same medicine he gives internally and which showed itself curatively. In doing so, he must avoid parts subject to pain or spasm or skin eruption…

Ideally and according to the Master, topical administration is best used concurrently with the internal administration of the simillimum. However, I have opted for topical use solely, in cases where the client was unconscious or otherwise physiologically unable to ingest or inhale the medicine. I have watched in amazement as contusions, edema, and lacerations of the skin have melted away as I gently rub the affected area with a liquid solution of the proper medicine. This is also applicable to those in their last stage of life. Rubbing the remedy on topically, especially when there is no interference from morphine and other end-of-life drugs, allows for a peaceful transition with a last sigh coming shortly after administration.

This is easily accomplished by family members who are instructed to place the medicine in a snack baggie, add one ounce of water, and when dissolved add cotton balls to absorb the medicated water. This has been a practice I have used for more than 10 years and I continue to have family members comment on the ease with which their beloved has passed with their full faculties. Those who are also using the typical hospice pharmaceuticals may need several doses of the topical medicine administered, but the usual response to the medicine occurs within 4 hours.

I am eager to hear from others who may have experimented with these practices and what your results were. Please forward your comments to me at: [email protected] and include “routes of administration in the subject line.


Ann McKay holds an RN from Rhode Island Hospital School of Nursing, an MA in Counseling Education from the University of Rhode Island, a DHM from the British Institute of Homeopathy, and is a Fellow of the British Institute of Homeopathy, USA. She is also Board certified in Psychiatric and Mental Health Nursing, Holistic Nursing, and Classical Homeopathy. She is the Homeopathic Networker, for the American Holistic Nurses Association and former President of the Homeopathic Nurses Association. Ann co-founded The Homeopathic Center of Southern New England with Mark Brody, MD-Homeopath in 2003, where she practices homeopathy. She has been an Adjunct Lecturer in homeopathy and energy medicine at Drexel University’s graduate nursing program in Complementary and Integrative Therapies and is a tutor for The British Institute of Homeopathy. Ann sits on the Board of Advisors for the Council on Homeopathic Certification, the Teleosis School of Homeopathy in Boston, and Grass Roots for the Troops organization.

About the author

Ann McKay

Ann McKay holds an RN from Rhode Island Hospital School of Nursing, an MA in Counseling Education from the University of Rhode Island, a DHM from the British Institute of Homeopathy, and is a Fellow of the British Institute of Homeopathy, USA. She is also Board certified in Psychiatric and Mental Health Nursing, Holistic Nursing, and Classical Homeopathy. Ann co-founded The Homeopathic Center of Southern New England with Mark Brody in 2003, where she practices homeopathy. Ann sits on the Board of Advisors for the Council on Homeopathic Certification, the Teleosis School of Homeopathy in Boston, and Grass Roots for the Troops organization.

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