Research the construction and mechanism of the skull looking particularly at eyes, nose, ears and sinuses. How do they work? What common conditions are they prone to? What herbs would you use for sinus congestion, blocked tear ducts, sore/dry eyes, ear ache, Eustachian tube blockages, ear wax build up?
The skull contains 22 bones which are divided into two categories; cranial bones and facial bones.
The cranial bones surround and protect the brain; the frontal bone, 2 parietal bones, 2 temporal bones, occipital bone, sphenoid bone and ethmoid bone.
There are 14 facial bones; 2 nasal bones, 2 maxillae, 2 zygomatic bones, mandible, 2 lacrimal bones, 2 palatine bones, 2 inferior nasal cochae, and vomer.
|Diagram showing the bones and structure of the skull|
Video of the skull bones from You Tube
The paranasal sinuses are paired cavities in certain cranial and facial bones near the nasal cavities. The sinuses are lined with mucous membranes as on the inside of our noses. The sinuses are in the bones I’ve put into italics. Besides producing mucous the sinuses make the skull lighter and help to resonate sound when we speak or sing.
· The maxillary sinuses are in each cheekbone.
· The frontal sinuses are on either side of your forehead, above your eyes.
· The smaller ethmoid sinuses are behind the bridge of your nose, between your eyes.
· The sphenoid sinuses are between the upper part of your nose and behind your eyes
Secretions from the sinuses drain into the nasal cavity. An allergic reaction can cause inflammation of the membranes, this is called sinusitis. If the membranes swell enough to prevent drainage then pressure builds up in the sinuses causing headaches, the area around the sinuses can feel tender. Sinusitis can also be caused by infection.
Julie Bruton-Seal and Matthew Seal mention horseradish for sinus congestion. Last winter we grated horseradish at one of the winter workshops at Sarah’s house and I think the whole houseful had their sinuses flushed out, it was very strong! They also say mint has been traditionally used for sinusitis and wood betony for sinus congestion.
Matthew Wood uses cinnamon for sinus congestion and star anise specifically for the maxillary sinuses.
|Diagram of the human eye|
Looking at the eye we can see the white sclera which has muscles attached to it. The iris, the coloured area, is made of muscle which contracts and dilates, controlling the amount of light entering the eye. The pupil is the hole in the centre of the iris, which appears black. Light shines through the eye onto the retina which sends messages to the brain through the optic nerve to enable us to see. There is a cornea at the front of the eye; the lens behind the pupil and fluid inside the eye, called the aqueous humour at the front and the vitreous humour behind the pupil. At the inner corner of the eye there is a tear duct through which tears are shed, debris is washed away and the eyes and delicate conjunctiva that cover them are kept moist.
Richard Mabey says herbs are most successfully used on the superficial areas of the eyes, such as the eyelids and conjunctiva. More serious problems can be assisted by using herbs to help improve the general well-being of a person. Ann McIntyre says antioxidant herbs can strengthen the eyes’ blood supply and inhibit macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy; bilberry, elderberry, hawthorn berries, rosemary, thyme, sage, sweet marjoram, selfheal, ashwagandha and ginko are some.
Conjunctivitis is inflammation of the conjunctiva, acute conjunctivitis is a sudden onset caused by infection or allergy. Chronic conjunctivitis is long-term; it can be from infection, living in polluted environments or from a drying up of eye secretions. Mabey suggests eye baths of eyebright, marigold or a weak decoction of golden seal.
For blepharitis, inflammation of the eyelids, in children Mabey suggests a cold poultice of stewed apple or tea in an eyebath.
Ann McIntyre recommends taking borage seed oil and evening primrose oil for chronic conjunctivitis and blepharitis.
Styes are inflamed areas at the base of eyelashes that secrete lubricating fluid, a compress of warmed parsley or marigold flowers can help.
Tired eyes can be treated to an eye bath of infused eyebright, elderflower, marigold petals, plantain leaves, raspberry leaves, cornflowers or fennel seeds.
A blocked tear duct could be caused by a number of problems; infection, rhinitis or trauma, a soothing anti-inflammatory treatment could be a cool chamomile compress, a cold chamomile tea bag would do.
Sore, dry eyes can be treated with a compress of cool tea made from marigold, eyebright, coriander or chamomile for 10-20 minutes.
Problems with the functioning of the thyroid gland can lead to changes in the eye and the eye socket. This is thought to be an autoimmune disease leading to the immune system response of inflammation. This is known as Graves’ disease and the tissue around the eye, including the orbital fat and eye muscles becomes swollen. David Hoffman says the specific herbal remedy is Bugleweed (Lycopus virginicus or L. eouropaeus) which can reduce the activity of iodine that causes hyperthyroidism. For accompanying insomnia he suggests passion flower and valerian.
Eye sockets, the frontal bone forms the roof of the orbits or eye sockets. There is a thickening of the frontal bone called the supra-orbital margin, a blow to this area results in bleeding. Bruising in this area causes fluid and blood to accumulate which gravitates into the upper eyelid giving a black eye. Chamomile or calendula compresses would be soothing herbs. Herbs2000 suggest clay packs containing horsetail tincture alternating with cabbage leaf poultices.
The ears, nose and throat are connected in our bodies by the Eustachian tubes. The ear is our organ of hearing and has an inner, middle and outer part. The outer ear has our visible ears, the ear canal and the surface of the ear drum. The middle ear contains the three bones or ossicles of the ear, the hammer, anvil and stirrup. The Eustachian tube opens into this area. Problems can arise with ear wax blocking the external ear canal or a hole in the ear drum causing hearing loss. In the middle ear loss of hearing can arise from infection causing inflammation leading to fluid in the middle ear instead.
The inner ear is protected by skull bone. It contains the organ of hearing, the cochlea and the labyrinth or vestibular apparatus that is the organ of balance and motion. The eighth cranial nerve links between the inner ear and the brain stem. The inner ear can sense motion and vibration of sound by the movement of liquid and hairs in fluid filled ducts.
Ear ache is most common in children; the Eustachian tubes are shorter and narrower than in adults and blockage can be caused by a middle ear infection, otitis media. Ear drops can be used if the ear drum is intact. Mullein or garlic oil are commonly used drops. For middle ear infections, goldenseal contains berberine which is antibacterial, it seems to stop germs attaching themselves to cell membranes and it can be used internally as well as externally. Saint John’s wort and calendula are antibacterial and anti-inflammatory and in a study performed well together to relieve ear ache with garlic and mullein. Lavender essential oil on a compress can also be used on the area to give pain relief.
Mullein oil and/or garlic oil can also be used to disperse a build-up of ear wax, again the ear drum or tympanic membrane needs to be intact. These oils are warmed before being added as drops.
Outer ear infections are commonly picked up when swimming; goldenseal, St. John’s wort and witch hazel can help.