Ear, nose & throat problems

Keith Souter looks at homeopathic medicines suitable for common ear, nose & throat problems

Otorhinolaryngology is the branch of medicine and surgery  that specialises in the diagnosis and treatment of conditions affecting  the ears, nose and throat (ENT), as well as head and neck disorders.  People are very susceptible to a wide range of ailments that can produce  symptoms affecting the ears, nose and throat separately or together.

Respiratory problems are extremely common  in general practice, accounting for almost 30% of consultations. Of  these about half are due to upper respiratory and throat infections.  Homeopathic medicines when judiciously selected to cover the patient’s  pattern of symptoms will often shorten the course of the problem or even  nip it in the bud. In addition, more chronic problems affecting the  ears and nose such as perennial rhinitis, nasal polyps, and some cases  of tinnitus will often respond very well to homeopathic intervention.

Interconnected anatomy

The ears, nose and throat are all interconnected. The nose has  several functions. Lined with sense organs it is, as we all know, the  organ of smell and is capable of detecting smells produced from as  little as one molecule in a million. It also warms air and filters out  particles and bacteria from inspired air. The nasal passages link up  with the facial sinuses which are cavities within the bones around the  eyes and within the cheek bones. A small structure called the Eustachian  tube links the middle ear to the naso-pharynx which is the area of the  upper throat that lies behind the nose. This has the job of equalising  the pressure inside the middle ear with that outside the body and is the  organ responsible for the popping sound you hear in the ears when you  experience a change in altitude during a flight.

We describe the ear as having three  parts: outer, middle and inner. The outer ear consists of the pinna  which funnels sounds into the ear canal; while the middle ear is a  closed chamber containing the three small ear bones or ossicles which  transmit sound to the inner ear. The inner ear consists of the bony  labyrinth, which has two components; the cochlea, or organ of hearing,  and the semi-circular canals which control balance. With the ear, nose  and throat being so physiologically linked, it is easy to see how a  problem with one organ can affect the others.

Colds

Regardless of how under the weather it makes you feel, a cold is  more of a minor ailment than a serious illness, yet it is one which has a  huge economic impact in terms of lost days at work. In homeopathy it is  appreciated that people do not get a “common” cold, but get instead an  illness that is fairly unique to them. Streaming eyes, a running nose  and frequent bouts of sneezing will easily be recognised as cold  symptoms, but it’s the subtle differences between these types of  symptoms that homeopaths use to identify the correct remedy.  Matching  up the symptom profile with an appropriate remedy profile means relief  is close at hand. To illustrate this I’ve put together a list of  medicines and the symptom profiles to which they are best suited.

  • Allium cepa:  Think of the symptoms that  peeling an onion induce and you have the picture of the type of cold  that Allium cepa, a homeopathic preparation of red onion, will  alleviate.  The eyes will be producing a watery discharge, but the nasal  discharge may be quite acrid and cause the nose to become sore and raw  around the nostrils. Generally, people with these symptoms feel better  for being in the open air.
  • Euphrasia: This remedy is for colds that  are producing symptoms that are the antithesis of those treated by  Allium cepa. The discharge from the eyes tends to be acrid and they may  be quite inflamed, whereas the nasal discharge is bland.
  • Arsenicum album: Derived from the  metallic element arsenic, this remedy is good for people who are neat,  tidy and slightly fussy with a tendency to get quite restless. Although  the nose may feel blocked, it will run at the same time causing  excoriation and soreness of the skin above the upper lip.
  • Natrum muriaticum: This great polychrest  – a remedy that has a broad range of uses – may be thought of when the  cold is characterised by violent sneezing. Personal traits of the  patient for whom this remedy is best suited include being partial to  salt, along with a dislike of having a fuss made of them.

Nasal polyps

A nasal polyp is a benign, fleshy swelling that grows from the  lining tissues of the nose and sometimes from the sinuses. They result  in a profound feeling of nasal blockage and are common in people who  suffer from allergic conditions like hay fever or asthma. Men are  four-times more likely to get nasal polyps than women.

The Materia medica offers a number of remedies for this unpleasant nasal condition.

  • Pulsatilla: Catarrhal problems often  plague people who need Pulsatilla. They also tend to be peevish, are  rarely thirsty and prefer being outdoors.
  • Sanguinaria: This remedy can also bring  relief to people who develop polyps. Dominant characteristics of the  patient could be a hyper-sensitivity to smells which causes a reaction  to flowers, aerosols and odours. And they may be prone to having more  problems on their right side.
  • Teucrium: This is actually the main  homeopathic remedy for polyps, particularly if the individual has a  history of other polyps, such as fibroids or colonic polyps.

Nose bleeds

Everyone suffers from a nose bleed at some time or other. But if  you’re having recurrent nose bleeds then a medical assessment is  sensible, because nasal cautery may be needed. It may also be a symptom  of an underlying health problem, so a trip to your GP to get your blood  pressure checked would be advisable. Nonetheless, Phosphorus may be  indicated in people who have nose bleeds when excited, if the blood is  always bright red, and they tend to enjoy being centre stage.

Allergic rhinitis

This is inflammation of the nose, which often manifests as itching,  sneezing and a runny nose. If it is definitely seasonal, from May to  August, then the individual may be reacting to tree or grass pollens in  the early and middle season, then to fungal spores towards autumn. For  this problem Arundo is indicated for an intensely itchy nose. But  Wyethia will be more suitable for itching at the back of the nose and  palate.

Sore throats

Sore throats are another common ailment causing sufferers to take  time off school and work. But once again there are a number of different  remedies that can be matched to specific symptoms.

  • Belladonna:  A great sore throat remedy  indicated when the person’s throat suddenly becomes hot and sore and  their tongue looks strawberry coated. And they may be flushed but with a  pallor around the mouth.
  • Calcarea carbonica: This great polychrest may help if there are large, doughy glands in the neck.
  • Lac caninum: This is the remedy to think of when the pain moves from one side to the other.
  • Lachesis: The sore throat starts of the  left and the person hates the throat being touched. It may appear  purplish. By contrast, Lycopodium is associated with right sided sore  throats.
  • Mercurius solubilis: Think of this when the mouth feels unclean and the tongue is coated with imprints of the teeth visible.
  • Phytolacca: The throat feels dry, but swallowing sends a sensation of electric shocks up into the ears.

Sinusitis

This usually follows a cold and results in pain around the eyes and  over the cheeks.  It can be extremely painful and debilitating.  Belladonna is often effective for sinusitis above the eyes. Hepar sulph  comes to mind when the whole face feels sore and there is yellow nasal  catarrh. Kali bich may help when there is profuse yellow discharge,  crusting of the nose and pain in the face, which gets worse when the  patient is bending over. Silica is indicated when there is extreme  soreness and the head feels sore, is worse for noise, and the person  wants to be wrapped up.

Earache

Generally, earache is cause by an ear infection and is most common  in young children. There are a number of remedies that may help  including Belladonna, Hepar sulph and Pulsatilla, all of which have  already been mentioned. But there are others too:

  • Ferrum Phosphoricum: Widely used as a  quick-acting remedy for short-term conditions and suitable for treating  earache particularly if the patient is not feverish.
  • Aconite: When the earache comes on  suddenly and the patient appears flushed, feverish and restless, then  this remedy is indicated.

Vertigo

Vertigo is a feeling of being dizzy and off balance. It may occur as  part of a cold or following a viral illness that affects the organs of  balance in the ears. It is worth trying treatment for up to a couple of  weeks. But if it persists it is definitely advisable to have this  investigated to exclude Meniere’s disease, which affects the inner ear,  or the presence of a more serious pathology such as an acoustic neuroma,  a type of brain tumour that develops from the lining of the auditory  nerve.

  • Belladonna: Think of this if the patient is feverish and the vertigo is worse for turning in bed.
  • Borax: This is indicated if there is a fear of downward movement, such as in a lift.
  • Cinchona officinalis:  Made from  Peruvian bark, this is one of the main remedies. If the patient’s  vertigo is part of a general infection, then it is likely that Cinchona  officinalis is the medicine for them. Generally, though, this remedy is  associated with tinnitus (noises in the ears) and headaches.
  • Cocculus indica: Another very effective remedy. It is the classic travel sickness remedy.

Many of the homeopathic medicines  highlighted above are available over the counter from your local  homeopathic pharmacy.  However, it is important to remember that if the  symptoms persist you should always make an appointment to see a doctor.

Keith Souter MB ChB FRCGP MFHom MIPsiMed DepMedAc has a private  holistic medicine practice & the  author of Homeopathy for the Third Age & Homeopathy: Heart & Soul.