Allergies and Homeopathy: The Science is There!
As the snow and ice of this crazy winter begins to recede, and the frigid temperatures become part of history, people begin to look forward good times ahead in spring and summer. Allergy suffers – maybe a little less so as they anticipate what the allergy season ahead of them will look like in 2015.
Allergies affect many people year round. Asthma, eczema and rhinitis/sinusitis affect some allergy suffers throughout the year. If their typical allergies are aggravated during seasonal allergies, it is associated with an increased level of histamine release caused by pollens. It's estimated that 2.5 million Canadians, including 12% of children and 8% of adults, report suffering from asthma. Allergic rhinitis ("hayfever") may affect 20-25% of Canadians (source: http://www.aaia.ca/en/media_statistics.htm).
Needless to say, Canadians seek out many solutions to their allergic symptoms. Conventional treatments include inhalant medicines (“puffers”), allergy shots and antihistamines. Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) approaches are also used by many Canadians. A 2002 article (1) in the journal Allergy indicated that the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 80% of people around the world use some form of CAM for their health care. The same article mentioned, “the 1997 International Study of Asthma and Allergies in Children (ISAAC)” indicated that allergy is one of the most common chronic health problems that could affect as much as 41% of the world-wide population, and this prevalence may in turn be leading people to seek CAM treatments. Finally the article referenced two review studies that stated the most popular types of CAM treatments for allergies are herbal medicines, acupuncture, body manipulation and homeopathy. A review study by Bellavite et al 2006 (2) looked at 29 studies (18 randomized, 9 observational) involving homeopathic remedies used to treat allergic conditions, suggesting “that in some conditions homeopathy shows significant promise”. The authors also reported on outcomes with single remedies as well as low-potency complex formulas.
Key reasons for the public interest in homeopathic medicines are:
- Low cost
- Ease of administration to children and elderly patients
- Requirement for lifestyle changes may not be as strict as other CAM approaches
Some of the homeopathic remedies for asthma and hayfever that have been documented in research studies (3, 4) include Bryony (Bryonia), Sabadilla, Spikenard and Burnt Sponge (spongia). Other medicines include Stramonimum, Lobelia, Onion (allium cepa), Honey, Nettle (Urtica) and Ipecacuanha (5).
A specific type of homeopathic medicine that is attaining positive outcomes for allergies is Isopathy, medicines that use dilutions of allergens (e.g. pollens). Gaier noted in his book (6) that isopathy has been the source of most of the clinical trials in asthma and hayfever. Reilly et al(3) conducted a placebo controlled study with 144 patients when hayfever was active, treating daily with a homeopathic preparation of mixed grass pollens. The study group (those receiving the homeopathic remedy) showed a significant improvement versus the placebo group; they also reduced their antihistamine doses. A 1985 study in Germany showed a remedy called Galphimia D6 was effective for pollen allergy.
Treating with single-remedies, like Allium cepa, or isopathic remedies may not always provide desired results. The choice of a single-remedy is complicated by one's interpretation of their allergy symptoms in comparison with the symptoms which that remedy is known to cover. If a person is self-prescribing, they might get good results from choosing one of many complex (combination) formulas for allergies. A 1989 study (7) conducted with 152 sinusitis patients investigated formulas containing Luffa operculata D4, kalium bichromicum D4, and/or cinnabaris D3. Acute sinusitis suffers recovered 81% with their remedies, while 67% of chronic suffers recovered. Combination formulas are available in Canada from companies such as Boiron, Pascoe, Heel and Homeocan.
Common Homeopathic Remedies for Specific Conditions (source: "Homeopathic Remedies", Asa Hersoff, ND)
- 'Complementary and Alternative Medicine' population based studies: a growing focus on allergy and asthma. Allergy 2002; 57:655-658.
- Immunology and Homeopathy. 4. Clinical Studies – Part 2. eCAM 2006; 3(4):397-409. (Advance Access Publication 31 July 2006)
- Is homeopathy a placebo response? Controlled trial of homeopathic potency, with pollen in hayfever as a model. Lancet. 1986 Oct 18; 2(8512):881-6.
- Is evidence for homeopathy reproducible? Lancet. 1994 Dec 10; 344(8937):1601-6
- Alternative medicine for allergy and asthma. J Allergy Clin Immunol 2000 Oct; 105(4):603-614
- Thorsons encyclopaedic dictionary of homeopathy. London: Harper Collins; 1991. P 27-30.
- Efficiency of homeopathic preparation combinations in sinusitis. Results of a randomized double blind study with general practitioners. Arzneimittelforschung. 1989 May; 39(5):620-5.
- Homeopathic Remedies, Asa Hershoff, ND. Avery Publishing, New York, NY. 2000