About 7% of all Americans suffer from hay fever, an allergic condition that can cause runny nose, sneezing, and teary eyes. It is known officially as allergic rhinitis, allergic sinusitis, or allergic conjunctivitis, depending on whether symptoms manifest mainly in the nose, sinuses, or eyes, respectively. Asthma and chronic sinus infections may be related to these allergies as well.
Hay fever usually peaks when particular plants are pollinating or when molds are flourishing. People who suffer from year-round hay fever may be allergic to ever-present allergens, such as dust mites.
Several apparently well-designed, double-blind, placebo-controlled studies on homeopathic remedies for hay fever have yielded positive results. The best evidence at present is for isopathic remedies. There is also some evidence that the homeopathic remedy Galphimia glauca may be helpful for the eye symptoms of hay fever (allergic conjunctivitis). In addition, a combination treatment containing Euphorbium has shown promise for treating sinus problems.
A special form of homeopathy known as isopathy is often used for hay fever. Isopathy makes use of the precise substance that causes your symptoms, diluting the allergen to make a homeopathic remedy. For example, if you are allergic to cats, you could make a homeopathic remedy out of cat dander; if to ragweed, diluted ragweed pollen would be an appropriate isopathic remedy. This is different from standard homeopathic remedies, which are based on unrelated substances that happen to produce a similar symptom picture, such as the homeopathic onion ( mentioned below).
Several well-designed double-blind, placebo-controlled studies testing the efficacy of isopathic remedies for various allergy symptoms have been reported, most of them conducted by one highly respected research group.
Two such studies by this group tested the effects of a combination isopathic preparation consisting of mixed grass pollens at a 30c potency on almost 200 people with active hay fever.1,2 Overall, the results were quite positive. Homeopathic treatment, as compared to placebo, produced a clear and measurable reduction in hay fever symptoms over a 2-week period of treatment. In addition, improvement of the treated participants continued even after they stopped taking the medicine.
Another double-blind, placebo-controlled trial by the same research group used isopathic remedies made from allergens specific to each participant.3 All 50 participants suffered from perennial allergic rhinitis. Again, the results were positive.
Furthermore, benefits were seen regarding allergic asthma in a small, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial using an isopathic remedy made from allergens specific to the participants.4
In science, one seeks independent confirmation of results by more than one research group. Such confirmation is available for isopathic treatment of hay fever–like symptoms. More than a decade before the studies described above, another group of scientists had also studied isopathic remedies for hay fever–like symptoms, and they too found positive results.5 In 2005, similar benefits were seen in a study conducted by yet another aresearch group.14 This double-blind, placebo-controlled trial used isopathic remedies made from common Southwest allergens, including tree, grass and weed species. Once again, the results showed reductions in allergy symptoms in the treatment group as compared to the placebo group.
However, there have been negative outcomes as well. Two double-blind, placebo-controlled studies performed by a single research group evaluated the effects of an isopathic remedy made from birch pollen on people with allergies to that plant, but no benefits were seen.6,7
In addition, a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of 242 people with asthma caused by dust-mite allergy failed to find any benefit with an isopathic remedy made from the mites.8
Seven double-blind, placebo-controlled studies involving a total of 752 participants have evaluated the potential benefits of Galphimia in relieving symptoms of hay fever.9 Potencies of the remedy used in these trials ranged from 2c to 3c. All of the studies evaluated improvements in allergic symptoms related to the eye, and some also considered symptoms related to the nose. Overall, the results were encouraging.
In the best of these studies, researchers evaluated the effectiveness of Galphimia glauca in alleviating hay fever symptoms in 201 people.10 The treatment group received Galphimia glauca 2c in a liquid solution of 43% alcohol, and the placebo was in an identical solution. Improvement was noted after 2 weeks, and the relative benefit of treatment over placebo continued to increase throughout the 4-week study period.
Not all of the studies found evidence of benefit. However, when researchers put the results of all the studies together, using sophisticated statistical methods called a meta-analysis, the results indicated that the remedy worked significantly better than the placebo in relieving the symptoms. The success rate in those treated was an average of 78%, a rate that was superior to placebo by about a factor of 1.35.
Combining studies in this way is common in medical research. It is considered especially appropriate when the individual studies were quite similar, as they were in this case. However, there are many potential statistical pitfalls in a meta-analysis. One of the problems here is that not all of the double-blind studies produced statistically significant results on their own. Essentially, by doing a meta-analysis, researchers combined inconclusive trials to produce a conclusive result. While this is permissible, it is not entirely trustworthy.
Another problem is that all the studies were reported by one group of scientists. To confirm these results, we really need a study by an independent research team.
A subsequent double-blind study, enrolling almost 150 people, evaluated the effectiveness of a nasal spray containing homeopathic Galphimia glauca along with Luffa operculata, Histamine, and Sulphur by comparing it to a standard treatment for hay fever: cromolyn sodium.12 The results showed equal benefits.
Researchers conducted a double-blind, placebo-controlled study of Euphorbium D3 for the treatment of an acute attack of hay fever.12 In this study, which lasted 14 days and followed 104 participants, the homeopathically treated group did not show a statistically significant improvement in their nasal symptoms. However, the author of this study noted that a mistake was made in the study design. The problem was that evaluation of possible benefit was made on day 8 or day 15 after the treatment was first given. As it turned out, the illness tended to resolve itself by day 3 to 5 in most cases, so it was hard to tell if the medicine made a difference or not.
Another double-blind, placebo-controlled trial tested two homeopathic nasal spray formulas containing Euphorbium for the treatment of chronic sinus problems.13 A total of 155 people participated. The first remedy consisted of Euphorbium, Pulsatilla, Luffa operculata, Mercurius bijodatus, Mucosa basalis suis, Hepar sulfuris, Argentum nitricum, and a sinusitis nosode. The other solution contained only Euphorbium, Pulsatilla, Luffa operculata, and Hepar sulfuris.
In each case, participants were instructed to use two sprays to each nostril four times per day for 4 weeks. Information from questionnaires, as well as the findings from fiberoptic scope and ultrasound examination of the sinuses, were recorded at the first appointment, again at 2 weeks and at 4 weeks, and then again at a post-treatment follow-up at 4 months.
The results indicated that the first homeopathic solution was more effective than placebo, improving such symptoms as nasal congestion, sensation of pressure, and headache. However, the second remedy did not prove effective.
A single, but substantial study evaluated a combination of Cinnabaris D3, Echinacea D1, Hydrastis D3, Kalium bichromicum D3 for the treatment of hay fever.15 In this three-week double-blind study of 144 people, use of the homeopathic remedy reportedly reduced symptoms to a markedly greater extent than placebo.
In classical homeopathy, there are many possible homeopathic treatments for hay fever, chosen based on various specific details of the person seeking treatment.
When you chop an onion, your eyes often sting, water, and itch as they do if you have hay fever. A person with profusely watery eyes and a nose that runs like a faucet fits the symptom picture for Allium cepa, which is made from common red onion.
However, hay fever doesn’t always appear in this form. If you are experiencing a pressing headache with dizziness, a fluent nasal discharge, difficulty breathing, and much sneezing, then you fit the symptom picture for the homeopathic remedy Euphorbium.
Galphimia is associated with a symptom picture dominated by swollen eyelids, sneezing, skin rash, stomach pain, and sensitivity to weather changes.
For herbs and supplements that be useful for this condition, see the Hay Fever article.
For a thorough explanation of homeopathy, including dilution of therapies, see the Homeopathy Overview.
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Last reviewed September 2014 by EBSCO CAM Review Board
Last Updated: 9/18/2014