Hay Fever

Dr Jacqueline Mardon discusses how homeopathy can help hay fever sufferers

Some swift preventive action may be called for if you're one of the many suf­ferers of seasonal allergic rhinitis, also known as  hay fever. A few doses of Mixed Grass pollens  (30c or 200c) - taken about a month before you expect your  symp­toms to come on - can be very helpful in reducing symptoms. If you are someone who has a worsening of  rhinitis towards the end of June, then this may be due to Timothy Grass  pollens and taking three separate doses at the end of May could be a  helpful prevention.

I would recommend a consultation with a homeopathic practitioner to  dis­cuss your problem, in particular if it is severe or prolonged and  really affect­ing your life a lot. However, I believe there are  different “local” homeopathic remedies, which could be of use depend­ing  on the kind of symptoms you suffer from. It may be that more than one  remedy seems to be right at different times and it can be hard to choose  for oneself, but I hope the following hints and pointers are useful.

Conventional medicine

With symptom-­relief kind of treatment, I would really hope that you  could largely avoid use of conventional anti­histamine tablets or  steroid nasal sprays – although these are very commonly available, they  do have potential side effects and are not beneficial to everyone, and  unfortunately any benefits they do have may decline with longer-­term  use. 

Choosing a homeopathic remedy

If the main focus of distress is itch, in the nostrils and  strikingly the roof of the mouth, which makes you feel like rubbing your  tongue up over it – a strange gymnastics! – then the remedy Wyethia is  an option (an alternative ­name for it is “Poison Weed” which con­­firms  what a nasty and unpleasant effect these symptoms have).

Another medicine to consider when there is an unusual itch is Arundo,  which is made from an Italian grass. The nose runs and the person may  have lost their sense of smell and there may even be a cough and  “chestiness” too. Itching is distressingly inside the ears and you may  feel burning.

Apis I have found particularly helpful in children with hayfever who  have intense and dramatic swelling around their eyelids, which really  puff up and look baggy, giving a very distinct and disturbing, almost  bug­-like appearance. Apis is made from the honey bee, another  association with summer. The eyes in fact “sting” and the deli­cate  tissues around the eye are very red, swollen and sensitive to touch  although cold compresses may be soothing. The swelling and redness can  come on very rapidly, for example after a child has been playing in the  grass, and this is one of the fairly rare times when I would feel like  tapping a stranger on the shoul­der to suggest a homeopathic medicine!  In my experience it works effectively and quickly and I would suggest  low potencies such as 6c repeated frequently as needed in the acute  case.

A different eye complaint may be extreme itching of the eyelids,  which can really seem intolerable. Ambrosia, a beautiful name, is also  known as rag­weed, may be a help for this very dis­tressing and  otherwise hard-­to-­treat symptom. The eyes will typically be watering  too, with the other symptoms, such as running nose. There may be nose  bleeds too and a “stuffed-­up” feeling in the nose and head.

Anyone who has peeled an onion will recognise this next medicine,  which is Allium cepa, the red onion. It is com­monly tried as a  self­-help in hay fever as it reflects a typical picture for many people  of streaming eyes, which are usually however not stingy or irritated,  and a running nose which is irritating to the nostrils. There may be  some relief to be out in the open air and generally worse for being  cooped up in a warm room.

Sabadilla is a remedy where by con­trast, the person with hay fever  prefers to be cosseted indoors in the warm and may feel worse in the  open air. Strong smells of flowers or garlic may make them worse. There  can also be itching in the nose and at the back of the throat. Eyes can  run too. Sneezing is the strongest characteristic of this remedy and it  can be in great noisy, violent and prolonged bouts, maybe 20 sneezes at a  time! I have seen Sabadilla be a great comfort and relief to sufferers  from this affliction – and their families!

The medicines I have mentioned so far are given orally in low potency  usu­ally such as 6C, but where there is usu­ally a long season of  discomfort with the seasonal rhinitis, giving the remedy as 30C twice a  week over this time could be tried. Euphrasia is a very useful and  effective remedy which can be taken orally but also is used quite  commonly as eyedrops and this can be a good alter­native to  other(conventional) eyedrops. Another name is “Eye-­bright” and the hay  fever focus is on the eyes with a lot of burning sensation, running of  the eyes, intolerance to bright light with sometimes a lot of blinking  and screw­ing up of the eyes. Although the nose may also run, this does  not usually irritate the nostrils or around the nose and upper lip (in  contrast to Allium cepa where the nose can really nip). I have found  very helpful orally but some people may prefer trying eye­-drops instead  or as a back­up for really severe days. 

Homeopathic consultation 

For over-­the-­counter remedies like these and self-­prescribing,  some advice from a homeopathic pharmacist can be of great value and it  is certainly a condition which is very common and for which, I am glad  to say, help is available. The further option of a full consultation  with a homeopathic practitioner should symptoms remain very difficult to  shift, could be a next step on review at the end of the season. Support  with con­stitutional prescribing and isopathy, which I have described  elsewhere, may then come into its own. 

Jacqueline Mardon MBBS MPhil MRCGP MFHom is a specialist  in homeopathic medicine. She runs an allergy clinic at the NHS Centre for Integrative Care, formerly the Glasgow Homeopathic Hospital.