What your nose knows

Symptoms of a runny nose are often just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the homeopathic prescription, and there's no 'one size fits all' pill for dealing with it, says Dr Marilena Deroukakis (Published in the July 2017 edition of Your Family)

Most of the time your nose receives little more attention than just being a convenient place to perch your sunglasses. It’s only when it becomes itchy or runny, making you grumpy or foggy that you realise it's as important as the air you breathe.
With allergy season on the way, stopping a runny nose may be difficult. However, no matter how annoying it might me, your nose knows what it's doing. Mucous productions drowns out invaders and washes them out, rather than allowing them to reach the deeper recesses of your respiratory system where they can multiply and cause more harm.
While some noses use their filtering systems to trap the various elements in the air, others go into overdrive for 'harmless' elements such as dust, pollen and animal dander.

Is it hayfever?

However, for those who are (over)sensitive, these elements are perceived to be as threatening as viruses and they receive the same mucous-drowning treatment. This misguided attempt to keep the nose clean is an allergic reaction called "hayfever", which has little to do with hay or fever, and more to do with the itching, sneezy and watery noses that redden at the change of season when pollen abounds. An allergic reaction is traced to the release of histamine, which is the final product of a chain reaction set off by the alarm that a dangerous invader is present. Medical treatment therefore blocks the itching, swelling and dripping mucous with anti-histamines.

What about decongestants?

Besides a runny nose being caused by an oversensitivity reaction (allergy) or an immune reaction ( for example, a cold) there's one more culprit worth mentioning: decongestants. They're often number one on the list of treatments for a runny nose, and act by shrinking the lining of the nose. The label warns that it shouldn't be used for more than three days, but because of the temporary relief that it offers, most patients don't adhere to this. The result is a rebound reaction from the nasal passages, with greater mucous overdrive than before. A vicious circle ensues where the decongestant attempts to catch the tail of the ever-increasing congestion. This rebound reaction has even earned itself a place in medical textbooks as a cause of runny noses under the descriptive label of 'rhinitis medicamentosa' or in English, 'runny nose because of medicine'. 'Natural' treatments for runny noses promise to 'do no harm' but spraying too much saline can also damage the sensitive lining of the nose.

From the homeopathic perspective, no two noses are alike and therefore the treatment will differ depending on the colour, quantity and consistency of the mucous; what triggers the gush and any involvement of other parts of the body (e.g. itchy eyes, scratchy throat) or mind (e.g. insomnia, lack of concentration). Not all noses conform to what presents in textbooks though, but that isn’t a problem for a homeopath, neither is the treatment hitched to an exact pathogen. It is not so important to know the bacterial culprit than it is to intimately know the reaction to it, as that particular bacterium is likely to have been cohabiting without causing much fuss until some event overwhelmed the body’s defence.

Homeopathically speaking, symptoms such as a runny or blocked nose are not the primary basis of a prescription. The mucous-overdrive, is seen rather as the end result of an entire system that has been put off kilter by some sort of stress, which depends on a person’s Achilles heel.

If you have a runny nose right now the homeopathic conversation around it might go as follows:
How did it start?
Is one nostril worse than the other?
What time of the day are you most uncomfortable?
What colour is the mucous?
Is it thick/ thin?
Does it burn?
Does it have a smell?
Do you have halitosis?
Are your throat/ears/eyes/chest also affected? How?
How often are you sneezing? When?
Has your appetite been affected? How?
Are you more thirsty than usual? Or not? For what?
Has your digestion been affected?
Do you have a fever?
What is your energy like?
Has your sleep been affected?

The list of questions lead to the choice of a remedy that supports the body's strategy to clear the infection, making it better and stronger to combat the next infection.


There are hundreds of homeopathic remedies for noses based on the type of mucous, triggers of overdrive and involvement of the eyes, ears, nose and throat. The ones listed below are some of the common ones. If this sounds like your nose, take it in a 6C once a day for three days. If the symptoms persist please see your homeopath.

Dulcamara noses are allergic and go into mucous overdrive after inhaling freshly cut grass. They also do not cope well with sudden changes in temperature or wet weather. The nose feels completely blocked and there is a lot of mucous that is thick and yellow. The eyes swell and stream as well.

A nose that responds to changes in weather with frequent and painful sneezing needs Arsenicum album. The discharge is thin, watery and burns a red trail between the nose and upper lip. The eyes also water, feel sore and are sensitive to light. The person feels anxious and restless.

A Pulsatilla nose is stuffy all night long and runny during the day. The discharge is yellow-green and thick. There is a pain at the root of the nose and above the eyes and a loss of appetite, taste and smell. The person wants reassurance.

Hepar sulphuris is needed after exposure to cold winds. The mucous is at first watery but later becomes thick, yellow and offensive and the nose becomes swollen and painful. The glands around the neck are swollen. The person is hypersensitive and irritable.

A Nux vomica nose also response with sniffles to the cold weather with a lot of sneezing, but the nose is stuffy all night and runny all day. There is irritation in the nose, eyes and throat (and in the personality).

A Gelsemium nose is affected by summer colds; it tingles and has violent sneezing that expels mucous that burns the edges of the nostrils. The throat is dry and burning and the eyes are heavy. There is aching and heaviness all over the body. The person feels dopey.
What your nose knows