Today's post looks at the wonderful world of allergies, and in particular Hay Fever. Some of us are lucky enough (and I count myself in that category) not to suffer from any allergies whatsoever. Others are not so lucky and suffer day on day, year on year, with the ever so prevalent statement, "oh, it's just my allergies". Until I studied Homeopathy, I also suffered with having to live with someone with allergies. Of course my discomfort was not comparable to theirs, but anyone reading this who lives with, or has lived with an allergy sufferer, knows the frustration of not being able to do anything to help.
So what is an allergy?
An allergy is basically the over reaction of the bodies immune system to a usually harmless
substance. If that substance triggers an allergic reaction, that substance is termed an allergen. Allergens can be any number of things, depending on the person. From certain specific types of grass pollen's, to pet hair, to in some extreme cases, air. In my case study below, you'll see a whole range of allergens that my patient was triggered by.
When the allergen is either ingested, touches the skin or is inhaled, the immune system thinks it's being attacked and jumps into protection mode. This protection mode puts Iggy Pop into action. What now? Well, that's the way I remember it anyway. So, by Iggy Pop I mean a protein called Immunglobulin E, or IgE for short. Iggy grabs on to the allergens, and yells with all his might at the body to, "RELEASE THE HISTAMINES!!". And off those Histamines go, into the bloodstream, like a bunch of bouncers clearing a club at 6am, "Come on Allergen, out you go. Come on, out that nose. Sneeze yourself out. On you go, fella."
Now, I'm 100% sure you've heard of antihistamines? Which you'll know are a drug that basically suppresses the production of Histamine. Why? Well, because it's the production of these Histamines that produces the all too familiar reaction to the allergen. In less severe cases, that might be sneezing, runny nose, itchy eyes, that kind of thing. To an extreme reaction called anaphylactic shock where the person can even die. Allergies to bee venom and peanuts are well known for putting someone into anaphylactic shock, where the swelling caused by the overreaction constricts the airways and the person suffocates. Let's move on as that's not the best topic to be thinking about.
The chemistry of all this all be Googled pretty easily if you're in to that kind of thing. So here are some quick Wiki links for you to peruse:
But why does this happen?
Well, as a homeopath, that is basically the question I ask. Not a physiological question, because right now, no one seems able to really answer that. There's some new research around that it could be stomach related. Histamine is produced by mast cells in the digestive system so some kind of disturbance in that system is being researched into in relation to histamine production. But from a Homeopathic perspective, that's not too important for us.
to illustrate that, I want to introduce you to a case study of a patient of mine who had suffered for years with terrible hay fever every spring time. He first came to me at the beginning of hay fever season with streaming and puffy eyes, a nose that would not stop running, much sneezing which made him feel very weak, and generally looking just terrible. His symptoms also always have a tendency to move down on to his chest after a time. Including when he catches colds. (He has kindly given me permission to use his case in this blog post). During the course of our conversation, it was revealed that he was also allergic to:
Fresh peaches (not cooked/tinned)
Hazelnuts (but only raw, not processed)
Birch tree pollen
Grass pollen, and
Animal dander - specifically cat, with a very extreme reaction occurring
As is usual in a Homeopathic session, I asked him when all this started, family medical history, and so on and so forth, and based on the picture we built up of him, I decided on a 2 tier approach to treatment.
Historically, there had been some depression and melancholy (such an old fashioned word,
but so descriptive), a proclivity of illness moving down into the chest, and an extreme reaction to cat dander. So I decided to start him off with a miasmatic prescription of Tuburculinum. Now, because personally I'm a 'go big or go home' type of gal, I went straight in with a 10M. (Miasmatically you'd put me right in the middle of the Syphilitic Miasm)
Some fellow Homeopaths might now be picking up their cups of tea off the floor, but the suffering was chronic (going back nearly 25 years) and there was some deep seated trauma around the time the allergies began. So I went in with a big old kick to help clear the ground.
To say that the reaction to the Tub 10M was extreme, would be a slight understatement. We had discussed what his reaction may be to the remedy so he was fully prepared for what was described by him as akin to the worst hay fever he had ever experienced. It happened only a few hours after taking the remedy, and lasted only a couple of hours after that, so he was able to cope very well. I was very pleased with the reaction we got, but thankfully not all patients have such an extreme reaction to the remedy. Homeopathy is a gentle system of medicine so extreme healing crises like this (as they are termed) are very rare.
So, there are many remedies that can help with allergies, but there are three 'go-to's that, in my experience, cover most people's symptoms when we're treating acutely (i.e. treating the right here and now symptoms). These are:
Allium cepa is used to treat conditions affecting the mucous membranes of the nose, eyes,
and throat. Symptoms that might indicate use of allium cepa include 'runny' streaming nose, sneezing, irritated eyes and / or nose, acrid nasal discharge, inflamed or irritated sinuses.
Euphrasia is particularly associated with treating the eyes. Symptoms that might indicate its use are eyes that are red, sore, and inflamed. Extreme cases of allergic reactions (e.g. hay fever), such that the eyes are the most severely affected part of the body and especially the face and watery eyes.
Sabadilla is associated with treating spasmodic sneezing with a runny nose. Coryza (catarrhal inflammation of the mucous membrane in the nose), with severe frontal pains and redness of eyes and runny eyes. And also, copious, watery, nasal discharge.
Unfortunately for this case, there weren't too many specific symptoms to go on and the runny nose, runny eyes, irritation etc, were all pretty general.
As it was an initial consultation, (further follow-ups resulted in other allergies being cleared up with constitutional remedies) and the presenting problem that he'd requested help for was the hay fever, I decided to use a combination of all three remedies as follow up treatment to the Tuburculinum. Now, anyone familiar with the Helios Homeopathic Pharmacy in the UK, will probably have seen or heard of their Hay Fever Combination Remedy. It's a 30c combination of these three remedies, and I prescribed for this patient to take one tablet a day for 7 days and one tablet as needed there after.
The result was incredible. His Hay Fever cleared up almost completely, to the point where in the following year, he had almost no symptoms at all. A secondary result was that his allergies to cat hair or dander, reduced dramatically to the point where only long hair varieties of cats triggered a reaction. Albeit, much less than had previously been experienced.
The combination of a miasmatic remedy, followed by a combination of these three worked wonders. He spread the word and several friends also used the combination remedy to good effect.
A few years later, during a time of considerable stress, his symptoms returned. Albeit, no where near as severe as before the initial treatment. At this time, I prescribed constitutionally and the symptoms cleared up again very well.
This case study demonstrated the value of a 2 tier approach to prescribing where the miasmatic remedy laid a solid foundation for allowing the combination remedy to work. And it's an approach I've used in further cases, both with allergies and other issues, to great effect.
The origins of an illness, reaction, or health issue can stretch far back to incidents that may have occurred long ago in the patients life. In Homeopathic speak we say, Never Been Well Since... In most cases, patients make the association between their issue and that was going on at the time it started pretty quickly and it takes the skill of the Homeopath to choose the right remedy in the right potency and subsequent dose, to begin to stimulate the healing process. This process very often peels off the next layer, removing layer after layer in each follow-up consultation, before eventually getting to the core.
The aim is to get down to that core or cause as quickly as possible.
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