Spring is in the air – there’s slight warmth to the breeze, the tulips are beginning to poke through the ground and the trees are starting to bud… Unfortunately for many, another sure sign winter is over are the seasonal allergies that can make life miserable for the spring and summer months.
When the pollen gets thick during the spring, more people than ever turn to over-the-counter pills, nasal sprays and eye drops. With seasonal allergies as prevalent (and annoying) as they are, it is surprising that more people do not know how to harness the power of herbs for fast allergy relief – with no drugs required! There are several herbal options that can help you get your allergies under control! The key to using herbs for allergy relief is to use them faithfully throughout the entire pollen season and ideally start using them a few weeks before it gets bad. The anti-inflammatory properties of the herbs need a few days to build up levels in your blood and tissues in order for you to get relief from your allergy symptoms.
Since different herbs work in different ways, you may find you benefit from combining two or more for a more comprehensive remedy for your allergies and the symptoms they cause. As always, before you use any herbal medicine, consult with your doctor or health practitioner to make sure they are going to be safe for you (especially if you are taking any other medications that may interact).
With so many options, it can seem overwhelming to try and learn which ones that will be the most benefit for your allergies. I have narrowed it down to the four most common that I find work well for many sufferers and provide positive results. Incorporating any of these four will likely help you to breathe easier this spring and summer!
1. STINGING NETTLE – Urtica dioica
This plant is one of the most effective herbs for fighting against allergies. The primary action of stinging nettle includes reducing histamine production and inflammation. Histamine is a substance your body releases when you come into contact with an allergen and is responsible for the itchy red eyes, sneezing, runny nose and other symptoms typically associated with an allergy. Inflammation is usually the result of your body releasing the histamine to fight off the things you are allergic to.
The best way to use nettle for relief of your symptoms is with a concentrated supplement (usually the easiest for most people) or with an herbal infusion.
2. BILBERRY – Vaccinium myrtillus
This herb contains quercitin, a substance that has powerful effects against allergies. Quercitin has the ability to block the release of histamine so that it cannot cause allergy symptoms. Bilberry should be taken daily during the spring and summer months as it works in a preventative way to keep your allergies under control. The dose will be different with everyone and should be tailored to the severity of your allergies and accompanying symptoms.
For bilberry, try a tea (sweetened with some raw organic honey) or in capsule form.
Caution should be used in diabetic patients due to possible hypoglycemic effects.
3. EYEBRIGHT – Euphrasia officinalis
The aerial parts (any part above the ground) of this tiny plant are both anti-inflammatory and astringent, reducing the hypersensitive response of the mucous membranes of your eyes, nose, throat and ears – making it a perfect choice for those suffering from hay fever symptoms. You can purchase a good quality preparation of eye-bright in most health food stores.
4. GOLDENSEAL – Hydrastis Canadensis
The bitter yellow root of this wildflower has antibiotic properties and can help prevent secondary infections in seasonal allergies, sinusitis and chest congestion. It is also an anti-inflammatory and can soothe swollen, irritated tissues of the mucous membranes. Goldenseal is great for all types of airborne allergy responses.
A caution here, goldenseal may stimulate mild uterine contractions, so it is recommended you avoid it during pregnancy. (Editors note – Due to Goldenseal being overharvested it is now on the United Plant Savers at-risk list and therefore only cultivated sources should be used.)
Have you used other herbs alone or in combination to successfully achieve allergy relief? Please share!