Herbal Remedies for Allergy Season!
It’s spring! And for some folks, allergies are in full swing.
Naturopathic and Chinese medicine practitioners have a variety of tools to help patients gain the upper hand on their allergies. First, we must better understand what allergies are and where they come from.
There are different types of allergies. Here we refer to seasonal allergies or hay fever, where sensitized individuals create an inflammatory response to multiple triggers, including pollen, animals, and dust, among other things. Currently, conventional treatment for allergies include anti-histamine medications and steroid inhalers, all of which have a range of unwanted (side) effects. We are also recommended to avoid these triggers, which honestly, is sometimes quite impossible or undesirable. Who doesn’t want to be outside on a beautiful sunny day?
Our goal is to address the deeper causes of your allergies, which may vary for different people, so that your immune system no longer needs to engage in an over-response to the things that surround us. Seasonal allergies are often a symptom, rather than problem themselves, of a sluggish detoxification system and/or underlying inflammation. Both of these wreak havoc on your immune system, so that it no longer responds appropriately.
Herbal medicine, along with diet and lifestyle changes, can be extremely helpful for those who want to kick their allergy symptoms once and for all. This article will focus on a few herbs commonly used to address allergies. Please remember that these are most effective when used in conjunction with addressing other aspects of health.
When I think about a formula, I like to think about which body systems need support. The same reasoning applies for seasonal allergies. I think about a key herb and try to build a support system around it, so that the whole person is addressed.
Our key allergy herb is nettles (urtica dioica). It is so nutritious that it can be used as a food, as much as an herb. While it is used for a variety of conditions, it shines in respiratory allergies, asthma, and eruptive skin conditions. It is anti-inflammatory and helps stabilize mast cells (the cells that release histamine in an allergic reaction). It is rich in minerals and proteins, and truly helps rebuild a weakened system.
Our second ally is reishi mushroom (ganoderma lucidum). This herb is used both in Western and Chinese herbal medicine as an immune-modulating, tonic herb that nourishes the life force (qi). Reishi can help balance immune function by normalizing Th1 and Th2 immune responses and tone down hyperreactivity in allergic conditions.
I also love burdock (arctium lappa), among other bitter herbs that support liver function and digestion. The liver is an amazing organ that helps us detoxify so many substances and turn them into a form that we can excrete. When our detoxification system is not working properly, foreign substances cannot be conjugated into waste and cause inflammatory reactions in our body. Burdock also helps stabilize mast cells while strengthening the liver and bile production.
A prominent feature of allergies is itchy, watery eyes. Eyebright (euphrasia) is an herb that is specific for the eyes and sinuses. It is anti-inflammatory and astringent, which means that it can help decongest upper respiratory passages and control excessing tearing.
Finally, for those of us who suffer from allergies, there is often a sense of anxiety or unrest that surrounds us. Our nervous system is on edge and we often cannot feel at peace. Oats (avena) is a gentle, nervous system tonic that is nourishing at times when you feel irritable and exhausted from sneezing and blowing your nose all day long.
All of these herbs are wonderful in a strong medicinal tea preparation, drunk 2 to 3 times a day. When used together with a set of new dietary habits and lifestyle medicine, people who have suffered from allergies for years without successful management using pharmaceuticals can experience true relief because the underlying problem has finally been seen. I invite those who are interested to book an appointment to further discuss how we can tailor an herbal formula just for you, as well as incorporate sustainable diet and lifestyle changes.