Dear Medical Detective,
At this time of year I always suffer from severe hay fever with a running nose and uncontrollably itchy, streaming eyes. It is totally debilitating. What can I do about this? When I use an antihistamine I get dizzy and constipated, and my brain feels like I'm in a fog. And what can I do about the regular sneezing fits I often get throughout the year even when there is obviously no pollen in the air. Can you also help me with this? Is this a dust problem?-A.C., via email
During a plant-gathering expedition through tropical America in the 19th century, the German homeopath Dr Willmar Schwabe and his colleagues came across the Cintur~ao Largo tribe west of Manaus, deep in the Amazonia rainforest. As Schwabe discovered, these native people made a snuff out of the dried and pulverized yellow leaves of the Galphimia glauca plant because it produced vehement sneezing and so was useful for clearing congested nasal passages.
Schwabe shipped a copious supply of this plant material back to Germany and, ever since, supplies of the plant have been sent on a regular basis. Because the herb can provoke fierce sneezing when used at ordinary doses, homeopaths have used it for a hundred years in homeopathic potencies, usually 4X (4DH in Europe) to relieve allergic rhinitis, and clinical use has proved its ability to stop allergic sneezing and streaming eyes.1 In Mexico, an infusion made from the yellow leaves of this same plant is used to treat various allergy-related gastrointestinal problems.
After many years of prescribing this remedy to hay fever sufferers, I've found it reliable not only for stopping any symptoms, but also for removing any predisposition to the airborne grasses responsible for hay fever and other allergies.2 When I took Galphimia Glauca 4X in liquid form myself in 1972 and 1973, it did exactly that for me.
A good deal of research into the effectiveness of this homeopathic product backs up my own clinical experience. In one large-scale trial of patients with confirmed pollen sensitivity suffering from pronounced hay fever, 83 per cent of those who took Galphimia Glauca 4X saw their symptoms disappear.3
A large review of all published studies has also confirmed that this homeopathic remedy works as well as conventional antihistamines.4
Homeopathic remedies are prepared by taking one-tenth of the 'mother tincture' solution containing the original substance, adding nine-tenths water and vigorously shaking it (or succussing it, as it is technically known) and repeating this process over many dilutions-a process attacked as little more than voodoo. Yet, in one study involving more than 200 hay fever patients suffering from acute nasal and eye symptoms, the usual homoeopathic preparation of Galphimia Glauca 6X was pitted against both a placebo and another homeopathic preparation of Galphimia Glauca that was diluted as normal, but not shaken at each dilution.
The group given the properly prepared Galphimia Glauca 6X fared far better than the other two groups in relieving symptoms. In fact, the unshaken dilution proved no more effective than a placebo.5
Other research comparing different homeopathic potencies of Galphimia Glauca found that up to 84 per cent of patients saw improvement in their nasal symptoms, although those receiving higher potencies had only slightly greater improvement over the lower dosages.6 Several other large-scale trials have found that both the 2C and 4X concentrations of Galphimia Glauca are also effective.7
Although it works as well as an antihistamine, a great bonus of this remedy is that you won't have to put up with the dizziness, constipation and impaired thinking you're presently suffering with your antihistamines. None of the participants in any of the studies receiving the homeopathic remedies reported any adverse effects.
As to whether you have a dust allergy, you can distinguish a pollen allergy from other allergies by looking to see whether there is a seasonal effect on your annual hay fever by comparing it with the 'Pollination Calendar' I have devised.
UK Airborne Pollination Calendar
January/February: Hazel, Elm, Alder, Willow, Yew
March: Hazel, Elm, Alder, Willow, Yew, Ash, Poplar, Birch, Plane
April: Hazel, Elm, Alder, Willow, Yew, Ash, Poplar, Birch, Plane, Grass, Nettle, Oak, Oil seed rape, Pine, Plantain
May: Willow, Ash, Birch, Plane, Grass, Nettle, Oak, Oil seed rape, Pine, Plantain, Dock
June: Plane, Grass, Nettle, Oak, Oil seed rape, Pine, Plantain, Dock, Lime, Mugwort
July: Grass, Nettle, Plantain, Dock, Lime, Mugwort
August: Grass, Nettle, Plantain, Dock, Mugwort
If your hay fever is indeed seasonal, then for next year's season you should begin taking 15 drops of Galphimia Glauca 4X twice a day between meals, say at 11 a.m. and 3:30 p.m., about two weeks before you expect your hay fever to kick in, and continue taking that dosage for the entire time you are affected. Follow the same programme the following year, and that will usually cure the problem.
But do bear in mind that I devised my Pollination Calendar in 1996 and, as we're currently experiencing some unusual weather patterns, the entire time schedule may currently be delayed by one month.
If your allergy proves not to be seasonal, then there are many successful homeopathic treatments for airborne allergies to substances like dust,8 but you won't really need to take another remedy. Apart from dealing reliably with seasonal hay fever, homeopathic Galphimia Glauca has frequently been shown to also work in cases of year-round allergic rhinitis, whether caused by house dust or anything else, as well as for bronchial asthma, urticaria (hives), atopic eczema, nettle rash and allergic stomach complaints.2 Use the same dosage as the seasonal disorder for at least three months and repeat again in six months time for three months.
To my mind, Galphimia Glauca is a good all-round anti-allergic remedy, but also the perfect model of homeopathy in action. What it causes in material doses (uncontrolled sneezing), it can cure in small doses and without any side-effects.
In short, it's a broad-spectrum, all-purpose remedy that can reliably deal with a wide range of similar problems, and it will almost certainly sort out your nose and eye problems no matter what the source.
Galphimia Glaucais available from homeopathic pharmacies such as Ainsworths (www.ainsworths.com; 01883 340 332).
1. Ann Homeop Fr, 1968; 8: 738-9; Gesichtete Hom"oopathische Arzneimittellehre, Heidelberg: Karl F. Haug Verlag, 1993: 667
2. AHZ (Allgemeine Hom"oopathische Zeitung), 1967; 212: 533-42; Julian OA. Materia Medica of New Homoeopathic Remedies. Beaconsfield, Bucks: Beaconsfield Publishers, 1997: 236 (ISBN 0906584116)
3. Fortschr Med, 1983; 101: 811-4
4. Forsch Komplement"armed, 1996; 3: 230-4
5. Arzneim-Forsch (Drug Res), 1985; 35: 1745-7
6. DAZ (Deutsche "Arzte Zeitung), 1986; 40: 2179-85
7. Allergologie, 1990; 13: 359-63; Phytomedicine, 1995; 2: 3-6
8. http://www.med.nyu.edu/content?ChunkIID=38328; Br Homeopath J, 2000; 89: 161-8