As late summer approaches and the scent of fall is on the wind, many of us are busy harvesting, preserving and eating loads of yummy veggies and berries. It is also high allergy season as I, a long time allergy sufferer, and many of my friends and clients are feeling a strong attachment to the nearest box of Kleenex or our handkerchiefs (save trees!) or even toilet paper, anything that will staunch the sometimes constant sneezing and dripping. It doesn't help that it has been the wettest, rainiest year I ever remember here in the Northeast. The air is heavy and full with lots of thriving mold and fungi sporing around happily while we all try to figure out how to grow webbed feet and gills.
There can be many culprits that incite the allergic response known as hayfever or seasonal allergies and the underlying cause resides within the individual. An allergic response happens when our immune system over-react s to an external substance such as pollen, dust, foods, etc. that is not a pathogen(ie. bacteria, virus, etc.) In other words, there's is some dysfunction in the system that causes an inappropriate immune response to a substance that should normally be neutralized by the body. When an allergen or foreign protein finds its way into our blood stream, the antibodies that are produced will attach to our white blood cells sensitizing them to the antigen and producing histamine. Histamine causes the inflammation that results in the symptoms of hayfever. This process can result from a weakness in the Liver, the digestive system, the adrenal glands, and the mucus membranes. If the Liver, whose job is to break down and detoxify, is stressed it cannot effectively produce an enzyme called histaminase that is our bodies natural antihistamine. The adrenal glands produce cortisone which controls excess white blood cells thereby reducing inflammation. It is also important to create healthy balance in the digestive system to ensure effective breakdown of proteins there. The mucus membranes are our first line of defense against any foreign substances.
Given this brief synopsis of the physiological processes occurring during an allergy attack, it is easy to understand that treating and living with allergies can be a pretty big endeavor. Modern allopathic over-the-counter and prescription drugs merely alleviate symptoms or, at best, interfere with the histamine response creating temporary relief, but not addressing the underlying cause. Herbs can be an essential element in supporting the natural systems of the body to overcome the nagging and sometimes debilitating symptoms and causes of allergies. It is usually necessary to begin an herbal protocol for seasonal allergies many months before the known the allergen emerges.
I have had success in treating allergies with a multi-faceted approach based on diet, stress-reduction, supplements and herbs. I have found that almost all seasonal allergies are connected to an underlying food allergy that creates a low-grade chronic sensitivity which is exacerbated when pollen or mold are combined with it. I usually recommend the complete removal of dairy from the diet for a period of at least two weeks. This is sometimes enough to completely alleviate hayfever for some people. Others, like myself, may need to eliminate wheat and ,some folks, wheat and dairy both.
To treat an acute attack I use one or a combination of the following herbs.
Elderflower (Sambucus Canadensis)-The flowering tops tone the mucous linings of the nose and throat, increasing their resistance to infection. They are prescribed for chronic congestion, allergies, ear infections and candidiasis. Infusions of the flowering tops and other herbs can reduce the severity of hay fever attacks if taken for some months before the onset of the hay fever season
Nettles (urtica dioica)- Is nutritive, alterative(creates healthy changes in the body) and restorative to the adrenal glands. Nettles is chuck full of minerals and is a necessary component to any formula used to reduce allergies as it desensitizes mucus membranes to stop them from overreacting to protein. It tonifies the kidneys, lungs, intestines and arteries.
Mullein (Verbascum Thaspus)- opens the lungs, reduces coughing an tightness lubricates the mucosa, relaxes the larynx, opens the sinuses, and causes a more open feeling in the head and brain.
Goldenrod (Solidago Canadensis)- is a bitter and so stimulates and increases digestion. It is astringent and used for allergies, conjunctive red, glazed, watering eyes and runny nose. Goldenrod is also an excellent remedy for cat allergies.
Echinacea Purpurea- take a dropper or a half a teaspoon every hour to fend of an allergy attack
There are several other herbs that can be used in combination with these depending on the individual. Some of these are Osha, Eyebright, Licorice, Calendula, Yerba Mansa, and Bidens. Also helpful are high doses of vitamin C, usually 1 to 2 grams a day and a good probiotic supplement. It is also very beneficial to add some sea veggies to the diet or a green drink that includes spirulina. I use Rachel Jeans Green drink from Jeans Greens, but you can certainly make your own!
It is definitely hard to enjoy the most beautiful time of year in the Northeast if suffering from allergies. I have felt eternally grateful to the support and healing I have received from the green world and, although I still sometimes absolutely positively can't stand it anymore and take prescription allergy medicine, the use of these medications had been greatly reduced and my quality of my life increased.
Late Summer Blessings to you all,