Friday, June 28, 2013

One hive, two hive, three hive, four...

Hives seemed to be in the air this spring. Not that there is a 'season' for hives, but it seemed like every other day hives were coming up in conversation. The main theme?

We have no idea where they came from!

This kind of thing always makes my ears perk up because as a homeopath, I have this little detective streak. One interview I listened to with an experienced homeopathic practitioner and teacher said he recommended that all his students read Sherlock Holmes and watch Columbo. I haven't quite taken the plunge yet, but I understand his point. We must look where others have not thought to look, to inquire about the mundane as well as the peculiar, and look for ripples in the Matrix.

But, I digress. I was talking about hives.

So, hives and summer. Well, I don't know that hives are a *particular* summer issue (as I said, they seemed to be rampant this spring) but you know hot weather, exposed skin, vacations, visitors, switching up schedules- all ripe for some kind of inflammatory response!! Not to mention the poison ivy or oak, which takes very little detecting at all.

But back to the 'we have no idea where they came from!' bit.

The skin is a detoxifier, it's a shield, it's a sieve, it's a release valve. As our container, it is one of the main portals in as well as out. And though many of us like to live our lives in neat vectors of A+B=C, or point A always leads to point B to point C and back to A? Not so much your vital force. Past illnesses, emotions, stress, exposure- these assaults to the system must be dealt with. To maintain homeostasis- that is biochemical balance- in the body for optimal health, things must be dealt with. They are not always dealt with immediately. Bad reaction to x does not result in immediate symptom y. Sometimes it takes a few weeks. A physical influence can result in an emotional detox. An emotional assault can result in a physical expression. Hence- "We have no idea where these hives came from!"

For example, say Bobby breaks out in hives one day. Dad thinks about what he ate: nothing new. Mom thinks about any new lotions, shampoo, detergents, etc... : none. No outings in the woods. No projects or encounters with weird chemicals. But two weeks ago, Bobby's dog died. He hasn't cried yet. Result of suppressed grief? Hives.

Have I actually treated a case like this? Yes, I have. Did a remedy for grief clear up hives? Yes, it did.

Not all cases are so cut and dried. If there have been past rashes or outbreaks that have been suppressed with topical steroids or similar measures, then that is definitely a factor. Skin outbreaks are anything but simple, and for the most part, home prescribers may get frustrated. By all means, I recommend using homeopathy for skin outbreaks because it assists the body in doing the best thing- releasing to the surface and OUT. When topical steroids and other suppressive measures are used, it's like stopping up a volcano. You risk an earthquake. So if you encounter some hives that don't fit the criteria I list below, then call up a homeopath (or go to emergency if it's extreme, of course) and get more specific treatment.

To that end, I am going to offer a few remedies to consider for acute hives to try IF:

1) the medical history is unremarkable and there have been no previous suppressed skin eruptions
2) the cause of the hives is actually known, for example, poison ivy, food reaction (mild), exposure to something new, over heating, etc...

Here's a handy-dandy chart of remedies to consider and contrast:

RemedyThe hives look like....The hives feel....The potential cause is.....They feel better with....They feel worse with....Condition may include...
Apis mellificaswollen (like a balloon) and possibly shiny, redhot, itchy, or burning stings, allergy, infection, inflammationcold applications, movement/exercise, 3pm aggravationheatirritability, swelling of eyes and lips, throat
Rhus toxidendronlarge, red patches w. or w/o swelling prickling itching poison ivy, chicken pox, other contact allergiesHEAT- hot water over the areacold, cold weather, damprestlessness, or irritability
Urtica urenswheals- round patchs that are lighter with red centers. May be on fingers, scalp, and handsburning, itchinginsect bites/stings, over-heating, exertion, allergy to shellfishrubbing, though the itching is severe. Lying down, being stillheat, hot bathing, exertion
Antimonium crudumwhite, or light with red centershot, burning of the skin and may have a thick, honey-like dischargeassociated with stomach complaints, chicken poxeatingheat, sun, touch, being looked atinflamed eyelids, cracks at the nostrils or corners of the mouth
Arsenicum albumwhitish or pinkish whealsburninganxiety, worry, fear, 'poison'- that is, a foreign substance warmth, company, movementcold, seaside, scratchingnausea, diarrhea, a mental state of anxiety, fear, and restlessness
BelladonnaSUDDEN outbreak, red, swollenhot, pulsatingcontact with offending substance, hormonal imbalancespressuremotiona 3pm aggravation, hives worse inner thighs, arms, face
Ignatianettle like rashsevere itchinggrief, strong emotionslying, or pressure on affected arealeast touch- oversensitivity to pain. Open air, cold. sighing, defensiveness or touchy mood

Considerations when choosing a remedy: 
Look for any notable mental symptoms- especially the anxiety that might indicate arsenicum or the restlessness that might suggest rhus tox. If there *is* a prominent emotional state, then that is a stronger consideration than what the hives look like, or what you think the cause might be. Likewise, just because there is an absence of restlessness, does not mean that rhus tox is out of the picture, if the the other symptoms agree. You won't cause any harm by trying a remedy that isn't 'right on.' The symptoms may shift a bit, or nothing will happen. If there's a shift in the symptoms- for example, the eruptions change color, or itching becomes recurrent at a certain time of day or night, then use the new symptoms to guide you to your next remedy choice. 

Remember that progress does not mean that all symptoms clear immediately. Maybe the itching diminishes, but the swelling remains and recedes slowly. Maybe the reverse happens- the swelling reduces, but the itching remains. Shift remedies as you need to. 

As always, once you start seeing progress, reduce the frequency of dosing. Start with two doses within an hour, and then hourly or every two hours (depending on the severity) and discontinue the remedy if there is no difference after 3-4 doses. Also, if symptoms aggravate a bit, stop, observe, and consider a different remedy or consult a practitioner. 

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Itch Away! Mosquitoes, Black flies, Bees and the like...

In my last post (a moon or two ago) I had been knee deep in planning a summer homeopathy immersion course. Due to low enrollment, I cancelled the course but- lucky you! I decided to put the information out there anyway and so make sure you sign up over there to the right and get your weekly dose of homeopathic education delivered right to your inbox. For free!

So this week- bites and stings, oh my.

Depending on where you live, what activities you engage in, and what your personal response to insect bites is, you might be thinking 'meh' or 'yeah! tell me about what I can do for those!' I mean, do we need to be hauling out the remedy kit for a constellation of mosquito bites on our kids' arms and legs? Maybe not. In the range of responses, there are minimal- some folks are just blessed, I guess- to large welts and ceaseless itching leading to scabs, bleeding and scars. I had scars from mosquito bites on my legs for *years.* I couldn't leave those suckers alone.

And I'm not a sensationalist by any means, but let's not forget that insects are vectors. From the current spotlight on ticks and Lyme disease (and a host of other co-infections that can develop alongside or as a sequelae), malaria, yellow fever (from the days of old), and West Nile virus. To name a few. (And homeopathic doctors had pretty stellar records for treating yellow fever in the US and it is used effectively for malaria symptoms today in places where it is a problem.)

So, it's good to know a few remedies for insect bites. Giving a remedy to help the body respond to a BITE- breaking across the barrier of the skin- is good support for the vital force and assists it in keeping the boundaries clear between THIS IS ME and THAT- whatever bacteria/virus/proteins/chooseyourmicrobiology- IS NOT. Self-identification is one of the primary roles of the immune system.

I'll cover the usual suspects here that are typically recommended, and their differentials. I will say that consistent constitutional treatment will influence the body's reaction to bug bites over time. That is, the reaction will be more mild, less swelling, itching. We have all noticed this in my family, and at least two of us are those 'mosquito magnet' types.

Ledum is always the go-to. Even if you end up following up with another, it isn't so much that it is specific for itching but it is specific for puncture wounds (think the hypodermic stinger) and bites, as well as swelling. A few doses of ledum will often do the trick and you'll just forget about the bites. The specific indications for ledum are: swelling and better cold. The bite sight itself can even feel cold, or else is temperature neutral. If you have ever felt a bite that is inflamed and hot to the touch, then you'll know the difference. Ledum is also the primo remedy for tick bites.

Apis mellifica: a homeopathic preparation of the venom of the honeybee, Apis is one that many might think of for a bee sting. But Apis has some very specific indications and if those symptoms aren't present, then go with ledum first, or consider a different remedy. Indications are: inflammation, profuse swelling, red, hot, WORSE HEAT, skin can look shiny and smooth.

Cantharis: from the Spanish fly. Also a remedy to consider for burns, the sensation of burning and stinging pain is prominent for the person who needs cantharis for their bites. I would think cantharis to be good for those bites that come in groups- gnats, no-see-ums, ants, and the like. The bites will be swollen and red and again, a painful burning.

Sulphur: it's kind of a catch-all, but particularly for kids, if the bites are keeping them up at night, they're red and scratching away, a few doses of sulphur can bring some relief. Particularly if they are the kind of headstrong kids who fight the evening bath, the itching starts up as soon as they get in bed and they prefer cold to hot.

Urtica urens: from the stinging nettle- so you can imagine. Burning, itching. There may be red blotches- like the bite has spread. The swelling may not be marked, more the sensation and the itching is WORSE from exercise and warmth. BETTER lying down and rubbing, vs. itching.

Also consider throwing a tube of Sting Stop by Boericke and Tafel, which is a topical homeopathic combination cream, into your bag, car, etc... I am not a big proponent of the combination remedies, but for some quick, no-thinking relief, it's a good bet.

You can pick up all of the above remedies at health/natural food stores that carry homeopathic remedies. Get a 30c potency, and start with two doses within an hour (one dose= 2 pellets) and then re-dose as needed every hour or two. As your symptoms get better- wait and only re-dose when they return. If you don't sense any shift in your symptoms after at least three doses, then try a different remedy.

For ledum and tick bites if the tick was not engorged, take the two doses within an hour and then wait. If the tick *was* engorged, take two doses per day, for three days. Watch for any symptoms and contact your care provider if you come down with a fever, chills, and body aches.

Staying in the vein of skin conditions, next post will be on hives. All out in the open, with nary a cause in sight!