Fall Allergies ~ An Herbal Approach

Seasonal allergies can really get you down, and over-the-counter meds can knock you out. Try these natural herbal remedies to soothe pollen induced headaches, scratchy throats, chapped skin, and more.

allergy-teaAs allergy sufferers, we’re acutely aware of seasonal changes in air quality. Earth’s reawakening in spring brings us welcome warmth, but it also delivers not-so-welcome tree pollen. Summer’s riot of plant bounty includes grasses and the associated output of pollen. Fall has its own offenders in the form of ragweed pollen and mold from fallen leaves.

If you’re an allergy sufferer, you may be thinking about closing the shutters and latching the door. Venturing out into this minefield of airborne plant pollens can feel treacherous. Fortunately, Mother Nature has provided us with a phyto-pharmacy that can help carry you comfortably through each season.

What’s an Allergy?

Seasonal allergies are common, affecting more than 35 million people in the United States and more than 400 million people worldwide. Genetics, diet, over-cleanliness and exposure to pesticides and toxic chemicals may predispose a person to develop allergies.

An allergy is an immune system response to a substance that your body is hypersensitive to – for example, pollen, dust, or a particular food. Your immune system’s job is to help defend against pathogens {such as bacteria and viruses} and other antigenic molecules that it comes into contact with. Some allergens are perfectly harmless, but if your immune system recognizes them as antigenic, then it will elicit an immune response or allergic reaction.

When an antigen gains access to your body, white blood cells {in this case, lymphocytes} produce antibodies in the form of immunoglobulin E {IgE}. IgE attaches itself to another type of white blood cell {the mast cell}, preparing your immune system for the next exposure to the antigen. Mast cells are equipped with potent, biologically active molecules, including histamines, which the body releases to stop an antigen in its tracks. This release triggers the inflammatory response that’s all too familiar to allergy sufferers – headaches; puffy, red eyes; swollen and itchy throats; runny noses and sneezing; stuffed-up noses; and exhaustion, irritability, and depression.

When seasonal allergies do occur, simple herbal remedies offer an effective way to help alleviate the symptoms. Additionally, the nutritional and lifestyle choices you make on a daily basis can strengthen your constitutions and perhaps reduce your future susceptibility to allergies. Eating a diet rich in whole foods that provide a good supply of antioxidants, minerals, vitamins, and fatty acids is an important component of your overall good health, as is supporting your immune system and liver so they can mount their defences when called upon. You can also integrate herbs, such as dandelion, nettle, and burdock, into your daily diet to help create a stronger constitution for lasting good health.

It’s prudent for all of us to preempt the onset of seasonal allergies by strengthening our immune systems and building up resistance throughout the year, instead of just controlling our symptoms in the midst of a pollen-packed allergy season. After all, an ounce of prevention is still worth a pound of cure. Many remedies support and strengthen the body while also relieving allergy symptoms.

Learning about our bodies and the plants that are available to us in our natural and local environments can lead us on a journey of healing and thrive in the increasingly complex biosphere we breathe in.

nettle-via-g215Nettle Tincture for Allergy Relief

Nettle can relieve allergy symptoms before they become a full-blown nuisance by reducing the body’s histamine response. The key is to use fresh nettle, either in the form of a simple nettle tea or tincture, or freeze-dried nettle capsules.

Yield: about 1 pint.

Ingredients

  • Fresh or freeze-dried nettle
  • Vodka or brandy {80-proof or higher}

Directions:

Chop enough fresh nettle to nearly fill a sterilized pint jar. Gloves are helpful here; it’s called “stinging nettle” for a reason! Add alcohol to cover the nettle by 1 to 2 inches. Cap the jar and give it a shake. Let macerate in a cool, dark cupboard for 4 to 6 weeks, shaking every few days. Using a wire mesh strainer or a few layers of cheesecloth, strain the nettle tincture into a clean bowl. Transfer the tincture to a sterilized jar, cap, and label it. Store tincture in a cool, dry place. Suggested dose is 1/2 to 1 teaspoon 3 times daily during allergy season.

homemade-lozengesHerbal Headache Lozenges

Nasal and sinus congestion can cause headaches with localized pain and pressure over the sinus area. Anti-inflammatory herbs, such as chamomile, meadowsweet, and willow, and anti-spasmodic herbs, such as rosemary and peppermint, will help relax muscles and decrease the inflammatory response while improving circulation.

You can use the following blend of herbs for a natural approach to headache relief. Powder and mix the herbs with honey to make a thick, dough-like paste that you can roll into lozenges. The drops can be prepared ahead of time and are convenient to have on-hand during allergy season.

Yield: approximately 60 lozenges.

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons dried chamomile flowers
  • 2 tablespoons dried meadowsweet
  • 2 tablespoons dried willow bark
  • 2 tablespoons dried rosemary
  • 2 tablespoons dried peppermint leaves
  • Raw honey

Directions:

Grind the dried herbs into powder using a clean coffee grinder. Place herbs in a small glass mixing bowl and pour in just enough honey to cover the herbs lightly and allow you to mix in all the herb powder. Pour or shape into small rounds no larger than 1/2 teaspoon in size, and let harden at room temperature for several hours. Store the lozenges in a glass jar in the refrigerator, where they’ll stay good for several months. Take as needed.

herbal-syrups

A Cough and Itchy Throat Syrup

Raw honey, lemon, and herbs make wonderful natural syrups soothe a sore throat and cough. Herbs to consider using for irritated coughs and itchy throats include demulcent herbs, such as marshmallow, violet, mullein, and cinnamon.

Yield: about 1 1/2 pints.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup dried elderberries
  • 1/4 cup ginger root, freshly grated
  • 1/4 cup marshmallow root
  • 1/4 cup dried hyssop
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme, finely chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground
  • 1-quart water
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1 cup raw honey or manuka honey

Directions:

Combine herbs, spices, and water in a medium saucepan, bring to a boil and reduce heat to low. Simmer for approximately 1 hour, allowing the volume to reduce by half {be sure the liquid doesn’t simmer away completely}. Remove pan from heat and allow to cool. Strain through cheesecloth. Add lemon juice and honey and stir. Keep refrigerated in a glass jar with a tight-fitting lid for 1 to 2 months. Suggested dose is 1 to 2 teaspoons, as needed.

salves-how-to-makeSoothing Skin Salve for Raw Noses

Salves are healing, moisturizing remedies to consider for allergy symptoms. Salves are generally made with oils, beeswax, and herbs or essential oils. Vitamin E can be added as a natural preservative. For dry, chapped, and irritated skin, use demulcent herbs, such as comfrey, chickweed, and calendula, in an infused oil.

Yield: about 1 cup infused oil; about 5 ounces salve.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 3/4 cup dried comfrey leaves, crushed
  • 3/4 ounce beeswax, shaved
  • 10 to 12 drops lavender essential oil
  • 2 to 3 drops vitamin E

Infused Oil Directions:

Place olive oil and comfrey in the top of a double boiler. Simmer for 45 minutes, never allowing the oil temperature to exceed 120 degrees Fahrenheit. Allow the oil to cool slightly before straining.

Salve Directions:

Add the beeswax and 4 ounces of infused comfrey oil to the top of a double boiler. Warm just enough to melt the beeswax, stirring until melted. Add the essential oil and vitamin E. Stir. Pour salve into four 2-ounce glass jars or tins for storage. To use, apply a dab of salve to irritated skin. To avoid introducing bacteria into the salve, use a cotton swab instead of your finger.

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