Ears, Eyes, Nose and Throat
Technically this isn’t a system of the Body, although the nose and throat could be said to be a part of the Digestive, Lymphatic and Respiratory Systems. But they do deserve a mention on their own; they are a part of the whole of what makes up the Body and they do share an atomical closeness and functional relationship, they are a major interface between the inner and outer environments. This interface is physical in that there is an exchange of gas in respiration and an in input of food in eating, but there is also the interface of awareness and communication.
With the ears, we hear the sounds of all that is around us, a sense that reflects the spiritual quality of comprehension. With the nose we can smell, an outer reflection of discernment and idealism. Through the mouth, the world of taste opens up, itself a doorway to discrimination. The voice, generated in the throat, facilitates communication. Through the eyes, light is revealed to us, the facility of sight.
This interaction with our environment, and the close connection between these organs through the continuous layer of mucous membranes they share, explains many of the conditions which may occur. It is possible to simply say that a bacterial infection has occurred, or that an allergy reaction is due to particular grass pollen, but this is a very limited way of looking at symptoms. The systemic root for a reduction of innate resistance must be sought, as must the cause of an immunological sensitivity.
There is a strong connection between the respiratory system and the ears, nose and throat. This is a beautiful example of the body’s synergy, and self-healing is given by the way that mucus is dealt with by the mucus, is to trap particles, and protect the underlying membranes from invasion. The cells lining the nose and throat have little hairs on them called cilia. These move in one direction, moving material inexorably downwards towards the oesophagus and thus into the sterilizing stomach. The lining of the bronchial tubes has cilia that move material upwards to the same fate. Under healthy conditions, this works perfectly, however, if there is a change in the consistency of the mucus the mechanism cannot operate efficiently. Much of the Herbal treatment of mucous conditions is therefore based on changing the consistency of the mucus; the cilia will do the rest.
How does the ear work?
The anatomy of the hearing system (ear or auditory system) can be broadly divided into two parts; the Peripheral and the Central.
The peripheral consists of three parts, the outer ear, the middle ear and the inner ear.
The outer ear consists of the auricle, the ear canal, and the eardrum. This is the part of the ear we can see on the side of the head, its main job is to gather sounds and funnel them to the ear canal.
The middle ear is a small air-filled space containing three tiny bones called the ossicles. One of the small bones connects to the eardrum linking it to the outer ear, and another (the smallest bone in the body) connects to the inner ear. The middle ear turns sound waves into vibrations and delivers them to the inner ear.
The inner ear has both hearing and balance organs. The hearing part of the inner ear and is called the cochlea which comes from the Greek word for ‘snail’ because of its distinctive coiled shape. The cochlea, which contains many thousands of sensory cells (called ‘hair cells’), is connected to the central hearing system by the hearing or auditory nerve. The cochlea is filled with special fluids which are important to the process of hearing.
The central hearing system consists of the auditory nerve and an incredibly complex pathway through the brain stem and onward to the auditory cortex of the brain.
Problems with the ears are usually by way of either infections or an outside object in the ear, (insect or bacteria) these problems can be helped by a Holistic Healer, infections are certainly within the perimeter of the Healer, as is removing the insect or bacteria. What is not is deafness and hearing problems and mastitis, these need medical intervention. Tinnitus is a condition where a constant noise is heard in the ears. It can be caused by bacterial congestion but can be treated using Golden Seal and Black Cohosh taken as an infusion over a length of time.
Much of the treatment of the eye is beyond the scope of the Holistic Healer, however, conditions that affect the eyelids and tear glands may be treated herbally.
The best herb for this is Eyebright, it can be used internally and externally in all eye problems, and will help the eyeball and the surrounding tissue, but it can also be combined with other herbs.
When treating stys, inflammation of the eyelids or other infections such as conjunctivitis, it is best to treat the problem both internally and externally. Internally the herbs should be anti-microbial, detoxifying and toning for the whole body, to strengthen it to the point where it can ‘throw off’ the infection itself.
A good recipe would be:
1 part Blue flag
1 part Cleavers
1 part Echinacea
1 part Eyebright
1 part Poke root
Make an infusion or decoction of these herbs and drink three times daily.
For external use as an eyewash or compress, put one tablespoon of dried Eyebright in 1 pint of water, bring to the boil and simmer for ten minutes. Use as a warm compress on the eye for around 15 minutes, this should be repeated several times a day. Other herbs that can be used in the same way are Marigold and Golden Seal.
Nose and Throat
The nose is the organ of smell and is part of the peripheral nervous system. The nose consists of:
- The External Nose, a triangular shaped projection in the centre of the face.
- The Nostrils, two chambers divided by the septum.
- The Septum is made up of cartilage and bone and is covered by mucous membranes. The cartilage also gives shape and support to the outer part of the nose.
- The Nasal passages are lined with mucous membranes, and tiny hairs (cilia) that help to filter the air.
- The Sinuses consist of four pairs of air-filled cavities that are also lined with mucous membranes.
The throat is a ring like muscular tube that acts as the passageway for air, food, and liquid. The throat also helps in forming speech; the throat consists of:
The Larynx houses the vocal cords and is crucial to speech and breathing. It also serves as a passageway to the (windpipe to the lungs)
The Epiglottis is located above the larynx and works with the larynx and vocal chords to push food down into the oesophagus, therefore preventing food from entering the windpipe.
The Tonsils and Adenoids are made up of lymph tissue, and are located at the back and sides of the mouth. They protect against infection, but generally have little purpose beyond childhood.
Catarrh – One of the greatest problems with the nose is caused by Catarrh. Nasal catarrh may the result of systemic factors, but is usually the result of infection and allergies. To treat this effectively we can use herbs that work on the mucous membranes in the nose, while we also treat the body in a wider context.
Herbs such as Golden Rod, Elder flower and Eyebright bring specific relief as they are anti-catarrhal and astringent, with Golden Rod normally being the most useful. Golden seal is another specific remedy for nasal catarrh, but should be used with discretion, as some people find that it has too much of a drying action on the mucous membranes.
Catarrh is often accompanied by an infection, so anti-microbial remedies like Echinacea, Garlic or Wild Indigo should be used. As the lymphatic system will be under stress, Poke root should be included, which is a good tonic for the system and at the same time is anti-catarrhal.
Besides using a mixture of these herbs as an infusion or decoction, we also make an excellent balm of antiseptic, volatile oils to relieve nasal congestion.
15ml of Peppermint oil
15ml of Eucalyptus oil
15 ml of Pine oil
1 lb. of Petroleum Jelly.
Melt the petroleum jelly without overheating it. When it is just starting to turn into liquid, add the oils and stir them in. Pour the mixture into pots and seal them when the balm has reached room temperature.
Colds – The common cold is usually seen as an inconvenience that should be suppressed as soon as possible. It is a typical example of the way we perceive an ‘illness’. We tend to see it at as something that has to be combated rather than taking it as an indicator pointing to something being out of balance in the body.
The aim should not be to suppress the indicator and to stay out of balance, but rather to find our way back to inner harmony; to make the indicator unnecessary. We ‘catch’ a cold when the conditions in our body are right for a virus to thrive. If our inner environment were sound and in balance, we would not ‘catch’ a cold, no matter how many viruses were thrown at us.
The first step in the treatment of a cold is to work on the causes of mucus build-up. In most cases, this will mean cutting out all mucus-forming foods from the diet. (Mucous forming foods include: Red meat, milk, cheese, yoghurt, butter, eggs, bread, pasta, cereal, bananas, cabbage, potatoes, sweets and alcohol.)
The next step is to treat the cold herbally. Perhaps an infusion that combines the anti-catarrhal and mucous membrane toning properties of Elder Flower with the stimulating decongestant action of Peppermint and the diaphoretic and diuretic posers of Yarrow, taken in equal parts.. The infusion should be drink at least three times daily as hot as possible. If the cold is accompanied by feverishness, use an additional diaphoretic such as Boneset.
Vitamin C and D, and the supplement Zinc should also be considered. Their value cannot be overstressed, (click here to see Article ) both in the treatment and in a long term treatment of a cold.
Rosehips is rich in vitamins and bioflavonoids, which is necessary for the absorption of vitamin C and D.
Influenza is not a cold, it is a virus which can kill if not treated properly. One of the most important steps to take when Influenza strikes is rest and lots of fluids. It causes the patient bad headache, muscle aches, weakness, tiredness, very high temperature and the need to sleep. Give in to what the body is asking for, if rest is needed then bed is the best place to be, sleep will help to recover and, whilst treatment as above for cold will all help, influenza has a time period of six weeks to fully recover. Having the virus can be a stressful period of time, keeping calm and resting will let the body recover, the healthier the body is, the less time it will take for the virus to go.
The same goes for Influenza as for the common cold, for the virus to get a hold, the body is not ready for the invasion. Before cold and flu season comes along, make the choice to get the body ready to repel it. This means the feeding the Immune System with Vitamins and Minerals (see the article) and of course, diet is always key.
It is worth mentioning here the herb Echinacea. September is the time of year to begin a course of Echinacea. The best way of taking it is in a tincture, 3-4 drops taken three times daily for four weeks, then stop for four weeks, and start again. Keep going with this herb for the whole of winter. Echinacea has been heralded as a wonder drug for colds and flu, its been around for hundreds of years and has been a staple in the healer’s cupboard. See Monograph for Echinacea.
Tonsillitis – the glandular tissue that is called the tonsils is a variety of the lymphatic tissue and shares with other lymphatic glands a role in the defence of the body from infection.
Inflammation of the tonsils (tonsillitis) demonstrates that the glands fulfil their purpose of protecting the body. The appropriate treatment aims at supporting the body herbally, to aid the glands in the work they are doing. To this end, anti-microbial remedies such as Echinacea, Myrrh or Red Sage are called for, together with lymphatic alterative tonics such as Cleavers, Poke root, Marigold or Golden Seal. Astringents and demulcents may also be used.
A good recipe for tonsillitis is:
2 parts Echinacea
2 parts Poke root
2 parts Red sage
1 part Balm of Gilead.
Make into an infusion and take a cup every two house, this may be sweetened with Liquorice.
A gargle of Red Sage or Golden Seal helps to sooth the throat.
Laryngitis – The advice given for tonsillitis is also applicable for Laryngitis.