Hives, medically known as urticaria, are raised white or yellow bumps surrounded by red, inﬂamed patches of skin. Hives usually cause a burning sensation at ﬁrst, which soon gives way to intense itching. Aside from these symptoms, the course of hives is unpredictable. The rash may erupt suddenly and then disappear almost as quickly, or it may linger for weeks or even longer. It most often appears on the arms, the legs, or the trunk, but it can develop on any part of the body; sometimes it erupts in one place and then vanishes, only to appear somewhere else.
Although we don’t tend to think of skin as an excretory organ, it actually plays a signiﬁcant role in allowing toxins to pass out of the body. During the ﬂu, for exam- ple, the body’s temperature rises so that the virus can be expelled through a cleans- ing sweat. Just as poisons leave the body through sweat, they can also be excreted via skin eruptions like hives. Hives, like the symptoms of the ﬂu, are an indicator that your body has detected a toxin and is trying to eliminate it.
An episode of hives is most frequently a response to an allergen or an irritant, which in either case is a normally harmless substance that produces a toxic response in your body. Possible allergens and irritants include insect bites, cosmetics, perfumes, deter- gents, and household cleaners. Certain foods may also trigger an allergic response. Shellﬁsh are notorious for causing hives, but dairy, meat, and poultry are frequent instigators as well. Any food made with additives, preservatives, or pesticides may also produce a reaction. Some people with chronic or recurring cases of hives ﬁnd that their triggers are frustratingly ubiquitous: heat, cold, sunlight, and stress have all been known to bring on a rash.
Drugs and viruses can also cause hives. Antibiotics, especially penicillin, cause hives in some unfortunate people; during a bacterial infection, they will need to work closely with their doctors to determine the best course of medical action. Lately, doc- tors have linked viruses like hepatitis B and Epstein-Barr to hives, and the fungus Can- dida albicans has also been known to trigger the disorder.
Some people suffer from reoccurring hives due to the effects of stress. In these cases, it is important for them to incorporate stress-reduction techniques into their lifestyle. Also, hives can be symptoms of more serious conditions, such as parasitic infections, hepatitis, cancer, hyperthyroidism, and rare blood disorders.
Anyone who sufferers from chronic or recurring hives should consider that his or her digestive system may not be functioning properly, thereby forcing the skin to throw off toxins that would normally be excreted by the intestines. A close review of dietary and lifestyle habits is in order.
The good news is that hives, although irritating and itchy, rarely pose a signiﬁcant health threat. In almost all cases, they disappear from the skin without leaving a scar or other marks, and they do not damage any other organs. The best treatment is to iden- tify the irritant or the toxin and then avoid it; you’ll also want to employ methods that help you speed up the detoxiﬁcation process. Sometimes, however, hives can cause the tongue and the throat to swell up; breathing becomes difﬁcult, if not impossible. If you have hives and experience any trouble breathing or swallowing, you have a med- ical emergency. Call for medical help immediately. If you know that you are prone to severe hives, keep an emergency adrenaline kit on hand.
• Burning or itchy white bumps appear, surrounded by areas of red- ness and inﬂammation.
• Hives may appear anywhere on the body and may come and go with- out warning.
The following tests help assess possible reasons for hives: Immune system imbalance or disease—blood
Hormone testing (thyroid, DHEA, cortisol)—saliva, blood, or urine
Digestive function and microbe/parasite/candida testing—stool analysis
Food and environmental allergies/sensitivities—blood, electrodermal
• Response to an allergen or an irritant
• Certain drugs, especially antibi- otics and aspirin
• Infectious agent
• Poor digestion
If you have a chronic case of hives and cannot identify the cause, it is highly recom- mended that you buy food in its natural state whenever possible and prepare it your- self. This eating plan will drastically reduce your chances of encountering a food allergen.
Everyone with hives should make it a priority to follow a high-ﬁber diet that includes oats, brown rice, beans, and raw fruits and vegetables. You’ll improve your digestion and reduce the necessity of expelling toxins through your skin.
If your hives are triggered by sunlight, eat lots of deeply colored vegetables. They’re high in carotenoids and will improve your skin’s resistance to the sun.
Essential fatty acids reduce inﬂammation. Eat cold-water ﬁsh several times a week; if you’re following a vegan diet, add ﬂaxseeds to your salads, or use ﬂaxseed oil as a dressing.
Candidiasis may be a factor in persistent hives. Although live active yogurt is gen- erally recommended for people with candidiasis, you should stay away from it if you are allergic to dairy. Instead, try keﬁr or sauerkraut. Many people with dairy allergies choose to drink sauerkraut juice daily—an acquired taste, to be sure, but one that goes a long way toward replacing the friendly bacteria that ﬁght Candida albicans.
Drink a glass of clean water every two waking hours. You’ll ﬂush out impurities and encourage the health of nearly every body system, including the skin.
Food to Avoid
Hives are often caused by a response to a food allergen or an irritant. Read the Food Allergies section and follow the elimination diet to ﬁnd out if a certain food triggers hives for you; if so, it goes without saying that you must banish that food from your diet. Some people can’t even come into contact with allergenic foods, let alone ingest them, so stay as far away from these as you can. Any food can conceivably cause hives, but shellﬁsh, dairy, eggs, cured meats, citrus fruit, and peanuts are the most common triggers.
Avoid foods that prevent your body from functioning optimally. Processed, junk, and reﬁned foods all depress your immune and digestive systems, even if you’re not allergic to them.
Alcohol and caffeine are diuretics that pull nutrients out of your body. Since your poisoned system needs all the support it can get, stay away from these substances.
Digestive problems are linked to all skin disorders. Do not eat meat, fried foods, or foods high in saturated fat; they take too long to travel through the intestines and lead to constipation. Avoid dairy products, as they slow food down on its way through the digestive system.
People with chronic or recurring cases of hives should follow a detoxiﬁcation program to encourage a faster elimination of toxins.
Go on a three-day juice fast. Concentrate on green drinks, especially those with barley, spirulina, and blue-green algae, as well as carrot, apple, and beet juices. (Be sure to include the beet tops while you’re processing the vegetables through the juicer.) As you fast, you may ﬁnd that toxins rise to the skin at an increasing rate. Don’t
be concerned; it is normal for hives to get worse shortly before they get any better. To remove debris and dead skin cells, dry-brush your skin every morning. Do not brush areas where hives are present.
Super Seven Prescriptions—Hives
Super Prescription #1 Homeopathic Apis (Apis melliﬁca)
Take a 30C potency every ﬁfteen minutes, up to four doses. This remedy is spe- ciﬁc for hive outbreaks where there is itching and swelling.
Super Prescription #2 Vitamin C
This nutrient reduces the effects of histamine, a chemical that is released by the body during an allergic reaction. Take 1,000 to 2,000 mg three times daily. Reduce the dosage if diarrhea occurs. Use a nonacidic vitamin C product.
Super Prescription #3 Quercitin
This nutrient reduces the effects of histamine, a chemical that is released by the body during an allergic reaction. Take 1,000 mg three times daily.
Super Prescription #4 Vitamin B12
Taking 1,000 mcg of the injected form (given by your doctor) one to three times weekly can help reduce the severity of acute hives. The oral form is not as effec- tive, but you can take 400 mcg of sublingual B12 daily.
Super Prescription #5 Greens drink
Take daily, as directed on the container, a blend containing super green foods such as chlorella or spirulina. You can also take these supplements individually. They support detoxiﬁcation and neutralize acidity.
Super Prescription #6 Burdock root (Articum lappa)
Take 300 mg or 3 ml three times daily to support detoxiﬁcation of the skin.
Super Prescription #7 Nettle leaf (Urtica diocia)
Take 300 mg three times daily of a freeze-dried nettle product. Nettle leaf has an antihistamine effect.
Aloe vera reduces inﬂammation and is soothing to the skin. You may smooth a cream or a lotion directly onto the hives for temporary relief; to address the body’s imbal- ances more directly, drink aloe vera juice.
Chamomile (Matricaria recutita) is a good all-around tonic for hives. Used in a cream, it relieves itching. Drunk as a tea, it eases stress.
If you need more potent relief from stress or anxiety, drink valerian (Valeriana ofﬁ- cinalis) tea once during the day and again just before bedtime.
People with skin disorders often have stressed livers. Milk thistle (Carduus mar- ianus) will help cleanse this crucial organ. Find a product standardized for 70 to 80 percent silymarin, and take 200 to 250 mg twice daily.
Pick the remedy that best matches your symptoms in this section. For relief of acute hive outbreaks, take a 30C potency every ﬁfteen minutes, up to four doses. For chronic hives, take a 6x, 12x, 6C, 12C, or 30C twice daily for two weeks to see if there are any positive results. After you notice improvement, stop taking the remedy, unless symptoms return. Consultation with a homeopathic practitioner is advised.
Apis (Apis melliﬁca) is for red, swollen, burning hives that feel better with cold applications and in the fresh air.
Histaminum is a remedy used for general allergy reactions. It calms down the release of the chemical called histamine that leads to allergy reactions.
Rhus Toxicodendron is for hives that are caused by getting chilled in the rain or in dampness and that itch violently. They feel better when heat is applied.
Urtica Urens is for hives that feel like prickly heat and are caused by insect bites or from eating shellﬁsh.
See pages 668–675 for information about pressure points and administering treatment.
• To remove heat from the blood, work Spleen 10.
• Other points that ease heat-related skin conditions are Bladder 23 and 47 and
Stomach 2 and 3.
• If stress is a trigger for you, work Bladder 10 whenever you feel tense and likely to break out.
• Spleen 10 clears heat from the blood.
• If you are constipated, work Conception Vessel 6 and Large Intestine 4 to stim-
ulate intestinal contractions.
See pages 686–687 for information about reﬂexology areas and how to work them.
Work the liver and the colon to encourage detoxiﬁcation. If you need to reduce tension, stimulate the solar plexus.
A cool bath will not cure hives, but it can temporarily relieve the itching.
Chamomile, lavender, and melissa will reduce inﬂammation, itching, and stress. Use any one of the oils or all of them together in a bath, a compress, or a lotion. As it’s possible that you’ll have a reaction to one of these oils, start off by using them in small quantities, and test them on a small area of skin before plunging into a bath.
General Stress-Reduction Therapies
Folk wisdom has always noted the link between anxiety and hives, and now at least one scientiﬁc study seems to conﬁrm this traditional knowledge. If you get hives fre- quently—even if they’re caused by an identiﬁable trigger—you should seek out a relaxation therapy and practice it regularly.
Bach Flower Remedies
Consult the chart on pages 648–650 to determine the best remedy for your particu- lar needs. Following are some suggestions. Once you’ve chosen a remedy, place 10 drops of the liquid under your tongue. Hold the drops in place for thirty seconds and swallow. Use as often as needed.
Rescue Remedy is for both physical and emotional crises. Take it when hives ﬁrst appear or when you are under a heavy burden of stress that may lead to a breakout.
The Bach Flower philosophy considers allergies a manifestation of emotional intolerance. Beech will help you increase your sympathy for people who try your patience.
If you despair of identifying the substance that triggers your hives, take Gorse to refresh your optimism.
If hives make you feel ashamed, take Crab Apple.
• An oatmeal bath can reduce itching. Add a cup of oatmeal powder, such as Aveno, to a warm bath. The other alternative is to put oatmeal into a cheese- cloth bag and tie it with a string, hang it under the faucet or ﬂoat it in the tub. Soak in the warm bath for ﬁve to ﬁfteen minutes. When you’re done, pat your skin dry so that a ﬁlm of oatmeal is left on your skin. This ﬁlm contains the anti-itch properties of the oatmeal.