Ah! The blossoms of Spring inspire poetry, love songs, and … Uh Oh! Irritated red eyes, drippy nose, and sneezing? Well, that’s not what Nature intended during this magical season!
For 30 million North Americans who struggle with allergic rhinitis (hay fever), the gentle zephyrs that fling pollens all around are not welcome signs of new life. Yet there is gentle herbal help as an alternative to over-the-counter drugs and even some prescriptions for allergies. Herbalists consider allergies not an Ear-Eye-Nose-&-Throat issue, or even a respiratory problem, but an immune condition. The thinking goes something like this: our nasal passages are naturally lined with healthy mucus secretions, rich with immune capability to cope with the proteins of pollens. The human immune system considers any foreign protein as a potential danger until proven innocent or useful, such as the proteins we eat. The spring pollens are rich in vegetable proteins for plants’ reproduction. The ones we breathe in during the flurry of flowering, whether spring flowers or autumn oaks, get stuck along nasal passages so our ever-watchful immune cells can sniff them over and decide how to treat them. Other irritants include harmless dust mites living in carpets and mold spores everywhere. In health, immune cells neutralize the allergy-triggering proteins, usually plant pollens. Beyond symptom suppression that leads to dependence on drugs, natural therapies lead to a permanent restoration of each person’s ability to move past enduring Spring to an easy enjoyment of all Nature’s seasons. You're intended during this magical season!
The ads at this time of year are seductive: “Within seconds you will be fine.” But this is false advertising if we consider the eventual return of symptoms. Unless we get to the root of the problem the person with hayfever remains unwell and dependent on medication. While antihistamines are drying and create drowsiness, all of the medications for allergies have possible side effects, including low libido, depression, poor study habits and inattention, nasal irritation, altered sense of smell, even nosebleeds. Other long term side effects from conventional allergy remedies include increased appetite and blood sugar dysregulation. The FDA has recalled over 40 liquid allergy medication for children. Steroids for allergies work fast but bring in time all the problems associated with steroids, including thinning bone (osteoporosis). Allergy shots to desensitize people to dust, molds, and pollens may work for some but involve costs and time lost to appointments and the uncertainty of a permanent “cure.” Herbs for allergies may not work “in seconds” but do reduce symptoms pretty quickly while acting on the whole person to restore healthy immune function. Of the many methods used to clear allergies once and for all, there are two herbs at the top of my list: Echinacea root and Stinging nettle leaf.
Echinacea sp. Echinacea is not just for colds and ‘flu. The Echinacea genus, in the Daisy family, is native to North America. The three species most common in the herb trade these days are E. angustifolia, E. purpurea, and E. pallida roots. We learned about these roots from Native American tribes. At Blessed Herbs, we look for the season’s best quality roots. For allergies, Echinacea acts as a lymphatic (improves the function of the lymph system, part of the immune system). A course of low-dose (200 mg. daily) Echinacea is often recommended a few months before someone’s allergy season is expected. If you have spring hay fever, start Echinacea sometime in the new year, and continue for at least three months.
Urtica dioica. Stinging nettle leaf has been used for centuries to clear up runny noses, coughs, and even symptoms of asthma. Good research confirms that capsules of freeze-dried nettle leaf is an effective treatment for hay fever, usually 350-500 mg. three twice a day for one week, up to six months.
Other herbs and Vitamin C are known to improve many different types of allergies, including horseradish (full of Vitamin C and helpful sulphur compounds that give this condiment its “bite.” Avoiding refined white sugar and flour and dropping dairy from the diet are other tricks many former allergy sufferers report turned the tide for them. However you choose from the many natural methods to treat allergies, you can be free from fear of nature’s “irritants” and lean into that spray of Spring flowers for an appreciative treat for your robust olfactory system.