Seasonal Allergy Management with Herbal Medicine at Home
Posted on 11 April 2019 by Leonie Satori
In this article I discuss seasonal allergy management with herbal medicine at home, using herbs that can be included in foods or made into simple teas that can help reduce sneezing, itching and and symptoms associated with hayfever.
Weather changes in Australia seem a little out of control, with native plants flowering out of their natural season and grasses going wild and creating havoc for allergy sufferers, in what can seem to be an overnight immune response. If you have ever had hayfever or seasonal allergies, you will know what I mean, itchy eyes that you feel like scrubbing with your toughest sandpaper, a dry, irritated nose that would put Rudolf to shame and a head so full of cotton wool, making even the simplest decision seems nearly impossible.
While it may seem reasonable to blame the acacia or wattle blooming just outside your window for your crazy sneezing and watery eyes, in reality, it will be your immune system working on overdrive that creates this reaction. This is usually more noticeable once you realise that your family or flatmates aren't reacting in the same way to pollens shared your home environment. In a simple way, you could imagine your immune system has a set of guards set up around your body, in the mucous membranes in your nose, mouth, even in your ears. These guards are trained to identify invaders to the immune system and will send signals to the mucous membranes to 'eject' the invaders by means of mucous production and irritation - sneezing and itching. In the case of someone with seasonal allergies, these guards become hyper-vigilant and identify a simple pollen as an invader to the immune system, which sets off a chain of chemical reactions in your body to ward off the 'invaders'.
Naturopathy and Allergies
In clinic, the kinds of remedies and herbs I use, will be ones to re-balance the immune system and get those guards to calm themselves down a little. I would also look at medicinal herbs and specific nutritional supplements to reduce the inflammation in the mucous membranes and I would work on reducing and clearing histamines out of the body. Histamine is an interesting little compound that is realeased in these kinds of immune reactions, they are often activated when those hyper-vigilant guards decide that there is a foreign invader in the body. Histamines are involved in all kinds of allergic reactions including itchiness, sneezing and irritation, which is why pharmaceutical anti-histamines are often prescribed to reduce the symptoms of seasonal allergies.
There are, however, some great everyday herbs that you can include in your diet that can help with reducing the impact of seasonal allergies, and as someone with a history of allergies myself, these are my go-to at-home herbs if I find my immune system getting a little too big for it's boots.
Home Herbal Remedies For Seasonal Allergies
An obvious first choice for herbs for seasonal allergies is an old favourite: ginger, Zingiber officinale. This powerful immune-modulating herb is great for reducing histamine levels and soothing irritation and inflammation. Fresh grated ginger, just as a tea, added into stir fries or one of my favourites in winter is grated into miso soup, can really help to warm the respiratory tract and calm those sneezes down. It is considered one of the best phytomedicines available for it's anti-allergic and anti-inflammatory qualities, it is often used in herbal medicine prescribing to bring synergy to an herbal formulation. I also love that it is something that you can grow in your backyard, or pick up at the local markets.
Nigella seeds are one of the most powerful natural remedies for allergy management. This lovely herb, namesake for celebrity chef Nigella, are also called black cumin seeds and you might recognise them as the little black seeds sometimes in Turkish breads, yum. Nigella is one of the few herbs with clinical trials revealing it's effectiveness for managing histamine levels in the body. Nigella seeds can be sprinkled into salads or over steamed vegetables, or in a pinch, you can simply chew a few of the seeds on their own. Have a look at our Spicy Lentil Curry with Moringa Recipe for some ideas on how to include nigella seeds in your meals.
A wonderful Western herbal for seasonal allergies is nettle leaf, Urtica dioica. Nettles are a lovely nutritious herb with an historic use in hayfever and allergies. I like to use nettle leaf as a simple infusion, it is calming, soothing and gentle. The real key with using nettle with seasonal allergies, is that it is said to inhibit many of the inflammatory events associated with an allergic response. I also find the nutritive qualities of nettle tea beneficial for rebalancing the fluids in the body after a long period of nose-blowing and sneezing.
Reishi mushrooms, also called Ganoderma licidum and make a great at-home remedy for normalising the immune system. For convenience you can buy the powder and mix it with foods or drinks, but I prefer to take some of the actual dried slices of mushroom and simmer them up in a big pot and add this to soups, stocks or simply drink as a hot tea or chilled. Reishi has some powerful immune-modulating, anti-allergy and anti-inflammatory qualities that make it a loyal ally in the fight with seasonal allergies. Check out our reishi mushroom slices, with a little recipe for proportions of water to reishi to include in your stock pot. I love that they are pretty economical to buy, and once you have some brewed up, you can add it to your cooking or pop leftovers in the fridge to drink the next day.
Of course, no at-home herbal prescription would be complete without our old friend turmeric, Curcuma longa. Suggested these days as great for everything from Alzheimers to arthritis, yes, you guessed it, turmeric is also great for allergies. Again, turmeric has great anti-allergy and it's well known anti-inflammatory make it a great adjunctive remedy for long term prevention of seasonal allergies. Naturally, we have our own Ayurvedic Turmeric Tea, which is perfect for the cooler weather, and have a look at our article Fives Ways To Include Turmeric In Your Daily Routine for some ideas on using this wonderful herb in your daily diet.
Treatment of the seasonal allergies is not necessary about boosting the immune system, it's about normalising the body's reaction to the perceived threats - pollens. It's also good to remember that cutting down your neighbour's or your wife's beautiful flowering trees is not a solution to the issue, but more so, changing your response to your environment. Medicinal herbs and natural remedies can help us to change our immune response, just as thinking about things with a slightly different perspective can help us to cope better with our life experiences.
About the Author
Leonie is a Naturopath & Medical Herbalist with a passion for good food, healthy living and of course, herbal medicine. When she is not consulting in her Naturopathic clinic in Lismore or blogging about nutrition, Ayurvedic Medicine or natural health, she is studying yoga, growing her own herbs and vegetables or quietly walking in the natural bush land in Northern Rivers NSW.
Contact our health centre in Lismore to book an appointment with Leonie in our naturopathic clinic.