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 Naturopathic Medicine: Drug-Free Help for Allergies  
 
Lauri Aesoph M. ND ©
For almost 200 years homeopathy's effectiveness has been challenged by conventional medicine. Some say homeopathic remedies are no more than sugar pills. But last year in a study headed by David Reilly, FRCP at the University of Glasgow and Glasgow Royal Infirmary in Scotland, he found "that homeopathy differs from placebo in an inexplicable but reproducible way." Twenty-eight patients with allergic asthma were divided into two groups: one bunch received a homeopathic remedy, the other group took a placebo or fake medicine. While a little more than one-third of the placebo group got better after one week, over 80 percent of those on homeopathic remedies improved and stayed well for eight weeks (The Lancet, 1994, vol 10). In other words, homeopathy works for conditions like airborne allergies and we can prove it!

Approximately 50 million Americans suffer from allergies or asthma, so you're probably acquainted with the sneezing, stuffy dripping nose, itchy and red eyes of airborne allergies. These allergies begin at any age and tend to run in families. The most familiar airborne allergy, called allergic rhinitis by doctors, is hay fever. This seasonal affliction arises whenever wind-borne pollen appears. If you're allergic to oak or elm pollen, then spring is your time of misery. Summer-time and autumn bring out grass and weed pollens. Because different plants grow around the United States, moving can solve (or aggravate) hay fever.

If your stuffed-up nose never seems to clear up and hearing has diminished due to nasal obstruction, then you likely suffer from perennial allergic rhinitis--year-round airborne allergies. In this case the molds that reside in your damp basement, house dust, dust mites or even your pet cat and dog are making you sneeze. While not classified as allergic rhinitis, allergic asthma can be aroused by similar allergens. Asthma attacks--wheezing, coughing, shortness of breath and chest tightness--characterize this more serious condition.

Your immune system provides wonderful protection against all the bacteria and other foreign invaders that can harm you. But in the case of an allergy, it goes overboard and begins attacking harmless substances like pollen and dust. The B cells, a part of your immune system that dwell in your lymph nodes, spleen and respiratory tract lining, make antibodies--five in all. One type, immunoglobulin E (IgE), normally parasite fighters, are responsible for allergic reactions.

No one with allergies reacts to a first encounter with pollen or cat dander. It takes many exposures for a person to make enough of the IgE antibodies to cause an allergic reaction. Once made, your body positions these antibodies on mast cells, immune cells that coat your nose. When you inhale mold or pollen, the allergen acts like a key that fits into a lock, the IgE antibody. This union then releases strong biochemical substances called mediators that trigger symptoms like itching and swollen eyes. Your doctor can identify allergies with a prick test, where extracts of suspected allergens are injected into your skin. If a reaction occurs, then you know you're allergic. Physical examination and a medical history confirm this diagnosis.

What is Homeopathy
While conventional medicine uses antihistamines, decongestants and allergy shots to treat allergies, more people are turning to homeopathic medicine. Instead of smoothing out physical complaints with drugs, this system uses minute amounts of plants, minerals or animal substances to cure a variety of ailments by promoting inner healing--what homeopaths call the vital force. Remedies are diluted so no side effects occur but healing does. In fact, the more dilute the remedy, the more potent it is. It's believed that the vigorous shaking, or succussions, used to prepare these medicines help potentize them.

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