While the world flowers in beauty, many of us find this a season of sniffling and suffering.
Hay fever (for the two of you who don’t know) is a common allergy resulting in itchiness, congestion and discharge of the mouth, eyes, ears and nose, sneezing, bronchial irritation and swollen mucus membranes. Though hay fever is not truly a fever, its symptoms can resemble one.
The best strategy for fighting off all allergies is straightforward: 1) avoid the allergen, 2) strengthen the immune system and 3) ease the symptoms.
Know Thine Enemy>> Frequent offenders are tree pollens (cypress, elm, hickory, juniper, maple, oak, poplar, privet, sycamore and walnut), mold spores and the pollens of marsh elder, ragweed, amaranth, sagebrush and tumbleweed. Grasses include Bermuda grass, orchard blue, red grass and Timothy (most garden plants and wildflowers are pollinated by bees and other insects and are therefore unlikely to produce allergic reactions). Each type of pollen causes its own antibodies to be produced. The main antibody involved in hay fever is Immunoglobulin E (IgE).
Reinforcements>> Eat a wholesome diet focusing on green leafy vegetables and dark orange vegetables like carrots and winter squashes for their beta-carotene, and flavonoid content to strengthen the mucus membranes of the respiratory system. Pungent foods such as garlic, ginger and onions help open nasal passages. Avoid wheat, dairy and sugar—and other foods that create extra phlegm.
Look for herbal allies>> Eyebright herb contains flavonoids that strengthen mucus membranes of nose and eyes. Ginger root is anti-inflammatory and improves respiratory capacity. Licorice root is soothing to irritated respiratory passages. Marshmallow root moistens dry tissue. Mullein leaf reduces inflammation of the trachea and soothes irritated tissues. Nettle herb dissolves mucus in the lungs. Vitamin C lowers blood histamine levels, detoxifies foreign substances and strengthens adrenal glands. Quercetin, a flavonoid, has significant anti-inflammatory activity. Pantothenic acid supports exhausted adrenal glands that cope with the stress of allergies and—when functioning—are better at producing their own natural anti-inflammatory cortisone. Vitamin B6 is diuretic and can relieve some of the swelling and fluid retention associated with allergies. A homeopath can help you find the remedy that matches your concerns.
Ease the Symptoms>> Pollens are highest in the morning, so go for runs or hikes in the afternoon or evening. Hang pajamas and bedsheets inside to dry. Keep your home free of dust bunnies. Install an air filtration device. Use air conditioning? Clean or change the filters twice a year. Keep windows closed when pollen counts are at their highest: in the early morning, the evening and on hot, breezy days.
Rain can bring blessed relief. Likewise, bathe before bed to wash off air-borne allergies. If you find yourself in the midst of a pollen allergy attack, take a shower! Using a neti pot (google it!) with one half teaspoon of non-iodized salt in a pint of water will help relieve symptoms (it tightens, cleans and cools congested membranes). Splashing the face and eyes with cold water every time you go to the bathroom will reduce congestion and promote drainage of histamine.
Regular exercise, dance, martial arts, meditation and acupuncture will go a long way. The Sun Salute, the classic opening yoga sequence, will open respiratory passages. Singing in the shower and doing the morning chants (for you yoginis and Buddhists) will help increase circulation to the throat and sinuses and alleviate respiratory allergies.
Remedies that are made from local plant pollens can help one be less sensitive to local allergens.
Brigitte Mars—-author of Rawsome! & Beauty by Nature andmember of The American Herbalist—teaches at Naropa University and the Boulder College of Massage Therapy.
For workshops & more: brigittemars.com