Healing Your Hay Fever!



It’s been a long, cold winter in Seattle, as we all know. Many of
us are still as-sessing the damage to our precious rose bushes and non-hardy
plants, hoping that tender green shoots will sprout any day. We are also
waiting with bated breath for spring to arrive and for the luscious warmth of
our elusive Seattle sun to stick around. But there are those of us that are
actually dreading the arrival of spring be-cause of springtime sneezing, itchy
eyes, nose, and throat, and inability to breathe clearly-all telltale signs of
hay fever. If you’re one of these people, be sure to read on.

Orthodox medicine describes hay fever, or pollinosis, as a symptom complex
characterized by seasonal sneezing, nasal congestion, nasal discharge, itching,
sore throats, and conjunctivitis and says the onset may occur in the spring due
to tree pollens (in the Northwest, the omnipresent Scotch broom and alder are
two of the most common triggers), summer due to grass and weed pollens, and
fall due to weed pollens such as ragweed. Treatment includes avoidance of the
allergen (which is generally next to impossible), antihistamines, and cortisone
for stubborn cases of hay fever.

We have found naturopathic medicine to be quite successful in treating
these an- noying symptoms. Our most reliable method for bringing relief to hay
fever suf-ferers is homeopathy. As many of you know, this is a system of using
very, very dilute preparations of the same substance which, in a much stronger
dose, would cause a certain set of symptoms, to relieve those
same symptoms. Homeopathy has received considerable international press over
the past year and is becoming increasingly more widely accepted. These
medicines are very easy to take, inexpensive, taste great, and are perfectly
safe during pregnancy, lactation, and for infants and children. To arrive at a
correct homeopathic prescription, it is necessary to elicit all of the hay
fever symptoms in the greatest detail possible. Whereas orthodox medicine bases
its prescriptions on the name of the disease diagnosed, we, as homeopaths, may
prescribe ten different remedies for ten of our patients who walk in the door
complaining of hay fever.

Take, for example, the person who comes in with streaming eyes, nose
running like a faucet, and sneezing on entering a warm room. Think, for a
moment, what you could possibly do in your own kitchen to bring on these
symptoms and you will soon discover the correct homeopathic remedy which
relieves them. It is homeopathic onion, Allium cepa. Another common hay
fever picture is similar, but the sneezing is more marked and often spasmodic.
The nose runs, but not with the faucet-like intensity of the onion picture, and
there may be a severe headache in the forehead and redness and running of the
eyes. There may also be a sore throat which feels better after warm foods or
drinks. These symptoms can be helped by homeopathic cevadilla seed, known as
Sabadilla. Then there is the person whose nose, mouth, palate and eyes
itch so intensely that they feel they want to scratch themselves to oblivion.
This corresponds to the homeopathic remedy Arundo, or reed. Another patient
with hay fever complained to us of of waking in the middle of the night with a
feeling of choking, a dry throat, and a general feeling of dullness . We
treated her, successfully with Naja, a homeopathic preparation of cobra venom!
Another form of hay fever concentrates itself primarily in the eyes. The person
experiences a constant, profuse, burning discharge from the eyes and may also
feel a blinking of their eyes which they can’t control, as well as a runny nose
and, sometimes, blocked sinuses. Homeopathic Euphrasia, or eyebright,
can take care of these symptoms. Finally, someone may describe a hay fever with
a thick yellowish, green nasal discharge, itching and burning in the eyes
(sometimes with a thick, yellowish discharge and eyelids stuck together on
waking), and a stopped up nose, especially in the evening. If you question this
person further, they may tell you that they are crying lately for no apparent
reason, that their usual thirst has diminished considerably, and that the only
thing that seems to make them feel better is to go out-side and walk in the
fresh air. This person’s hay fever symptoms will go away quickly if they are
given homeopathic Pulsatilla, the wind flower.

Even though the above prescriptions sound quite straightforward, there are
actually dozens of homeopathic remedies which can be prescribed for hay fever
and it takes quite a bit of knowledge to know how to gather all the symptoms
correctly and which remedy to give. With homeopathy, the correct prescription
brings dra-matic, often extremely rapid, results, whereas an incorrect
prescription brings ab-solutely no change, and can be quite disappointing. It
took us about two years as ho-meopathic doctors before we felt confident about
our results with hay fever, so you may need some help if your own prescribing
doesn’t work. Two excellent books which we recommend in our first-aid and acute
homeopathy classes are Homeopathic Medicine at Home by Dr. Maesimund
Panos and Everybody’s Guide to Homeopathic Medicine by Dana Ullman and
Steven Cummings. They are available through us if you have difficulty finding
them. Occasionally we cannot seem to find the correct single homeopathic remedy
for hay fever. In this case, we use homeopathic prepara- tions of spring or
fall pollen mixtures.

From the point of view of Ayurvedic medicine, which comes from India, the
type of hay fever a person will experience depends on his or her body type. If
your hay fever is characterized by a lot of mucus congestion, swelling of the
face or eyelids, and an overall sense of sluggishness, this is a Kapha (water
and mucus) condition. We would tell you to cut out all dairy products, decrease
your liquid intake and stick to only warm or hot drinks in order to cut mucus,
and drink two to four cups of hot ginger tea daily. We would give you a special
Ayurvedic mixture of l9 herbs which has a heating effect and dissolves mucus.
We might also, depending on your overall state of health, recommend a
specially-designed juice fast along with a colonic or two and plenty of saunas,
steam, or hot tubs in order to heat and cleanse your body and speed your
healing process. If you had much nasal congestion, we would suggest a neti pot,
a unique porcelain container used to irrigate the sinuses with warm salt water.
A second type of hay fever, according to Ayurveda, is the Pitta (fire) type.
Here the person might experience heat and burning in the nasal passages and
eyes, the eyelids would be red, any discharges would be burning, and the
sinuses would be inflamed. There might be accompanying skin allergy symptoms
such as hives or a red rash,the person’s face might appear flushed, and he or
she might feel unexplain- ably irritable. In this case, we would prescribe
cooling herbs, advise that the person avoid hot spices and acidic foods, avoid
excessive exposure to heat, practice cooling yoga breaths, and we would suggest
cool or cold water or herbal poultices to take down the swelling. The third
picture of hay fever in Ayurvedic medicine is the Vata (air) type. This person
would likely complain of feeling quite chilly, a dry, scratchy, itchy throat
and dryness of the skin and nasal passages. They might notice that their lips
were cracked and dry, increased thirst, and may also experience some joint
cracking or pains as well as increased nervousness. In this case, we would
again recommend heating herbs, plenty of warm or hot liquids, an enema for
cleansing, and lubrication of the lips and skin with warm sesame oil. We would
use a soothing, mucilaginous herbal tea for the throat such as slippery elm or
licorice root, and would again recommend saunas, steam, or hot tubs.

As naturopaths, we have still other treatments available for hay fever. We
gene-rally recommend increasing Vitamin C and Beta carotene (a directly
assimilable form of Vitamin A which promotes healing of the mucus membranes).
We sometimes use Western herbs such as Ephedra, Echinacea, Urtica urens
(stinging nettle) or other herbs to stimulate immune function, open the
bronchioles, and promote expectora- tion. We also have a homeopathic nasal
spray and soothing herbal lozenges if necessary. We use all of these as backups
to the homeopathic hay fever remedies, which we find to have the quickest
action.

As with all other “dis-eases”, be sure to ask inside what your body is
trying to tell you through the hay fever. Is it time to slow down and enjoy
spring? Is your body tired of Seattle’s wet winters and want you to fly it to
Hawaii? Is it time to do a thorough spring cleaning around your house to get
rid of accumulated dirt and mold and unfinished projects? Does your body really
want its own spring cleaning in the form of a fast and detoxification? Is the
hay fever a perfect excuse to quit smoking or to stop overindulging in sweets?
And just because you’ve had hay fever in the past does not mean you have to get
it again. The stronger you become, the less you need to re-experience those
illnesses and imbalances which have limited you in the past.

Recently we got together with a friend for dinner. He mentioned that one
of our former patients said to tell us hello. We say “former” because we hadn’t
seen him since his initial visit for a terribly annoying hay fever two years
ago. He is a businessman with a busy work schedule and did not want to spend
his spring sniffling and sneezing incessantly as he had in the past. When we
asked our friend how this man was doing, he said, “Oh, the homeopathic remedy
you gave him took care of his hay fever. You haven’t seen him again because it
never came back.” His treatment? Homeopathic Nux vomica, the botanical
source of strychnine.

Drs. Judyth Reichenberg-Ullman and Robert Ullman are naturopathic and
homeopathic physicians and cofounders of the Northwest Center for Homeopathic
Medicine in Edmonds, WA. They are coauthors of
The Patient’s Guide to
Homeopathic Medicine and Beyond Ritalin: Homeopathic Treatment of ADD
and Other Behavioral and Learning Problems. They can be reached at (206)
774-5599.

Judyth Reichenberg-Ullman ND MSW Written by Judyth Reichenberg-Ullman ND MSW

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