Herbs for Hayfever
Spring is here, and with it comes pollen. For those with hay fever (aka allergic rhinitis) it can be a time of itchy eyes, runny nose and sneezing.
Pollen is not the only cause of respiratory allergies - other culprits include animal dander, dust and mold. Whatever the cause, there are natural and herbal solutions to help you cope with allergies at any time of year!
One way to help avoid allergies is to identify and then steer clear of whatever it is that’s getting up your nose. If it’s definitely pollen that’s bothering you, try and identify which plants effect you most.
There is an online Australian pollen calendar here: http://www.allergy.org.au/patients/allergic-rhinitis-hay-fever-and-sinusitis/guide-to-common-allergenic-pollen. Avoiding high pollen areas on windy days, avoiding fresh cut grass (or wearing a mask when mowing), and wearing sunglasses can all decrease your exposure to airborne pollen.
If the culprit is animal dander, dust or mould - there are many ways to minimise these allergens in your home. Washing clothing in hot water kills dust mites as well as mould. Adding anti-fungal essential oils such as eucalyptus & tea tree when washing walls and surfaces can help reduce mould in your home.
Clear it out
Nasal irrigation, using a neti-pot, can help wash the irritant out and bring great relief. Inhaling the vapours of essential oils such as rosemary, eucalyptus and peppermint can help clear the passageways as well. Likewise, a natural ‘breath easy’ salve with such essential oils added can be applied around the nose, and can clear sinuses and soothe irritated skin as well.
Herbs that can help:
Nettle: This anti-inflammatory leaf has been used with success for hay fever as well as asthma. It is most effective when taken daily for at least a month before allergy season begins. Drink 3 cups daily.
Goldenseal: This bright yellow root is often taken in powder or liquid extract form, to dry out secretions and tone mucous membranes. It is also a powerful antibiotic and anti-fungal.
Elderflower: This anti-catarrhal remedy is often combined with peppermint and yarrow for colds & flus. Also effective on its own, drink as an infusion or take a tincture. Elderflower tones the mucous membranes and eases chronic congestion.
Goldenrod: The pollen of these vibrant flowers is sometimes blamed for seasonal allergies, taken internally however, this herb is an excellent astringent used for reducing sinus congestion.
Echinacea: Famous for boosting immune response, echinacea can help your body deal with allergens. However caution is advised, if you have allergies to plants in the daisy family - you may also react to echinacea.
Ginkgo - A good source of quercetin, a bioflavonoid also found in red wine, onions, apples, and black tea. Quercetin is an antihistamine, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant.
Eyebright: As the name implies, this astringent herb is known to brighten the eyes by reducing mucous accumulation and inflammation around the eyes.
Licorice & Marshmallow: These mucilaginous roots are both excellent for soothing to mucous membranes. Liquorice also supports the adrenal glands (which may be weak in allergy sufferers).
Butterbur: Butterbur extract appears to block chemicals which trigger swelling in the nasal passages. Some research shows it may be as effective as pharmaceutical antihistamines, without the side-effects. (To be on the safe side, look for a UPA-free extract and avoid long-term use.)
Albizia: Used in traditional Ayurvedic medicine for strengthening the lungs and clearing mucous accumulations. It is now used in many proprietary herbal hay fever formulas.
Perilla: Used in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) for nasal congestion, this herb is included in many proprietary herbal allergy remedies.
Atractaloydes: Another herb used in TCM for nasal congestion, asthma and allergies.
Ribwort Plantain: An astringent herb which tones the mucous membranes.
Ephedra: This herb is now restricted in Australia due to its main active constituent ephedrine. It was once used as a top remedy for symptomatic relief of allergies, asthma and congestion.
Foods, Spices and Supplements:
Ginger & Turmeric: These are both excellent anti-inflammatory herbs, that are great added to fresh juices (or grated and boiled into tea). Turmeric also has curcumin which has been found to inhibit the release of histamine.
Vitamin C: A natural antihistamine which can help reduce symptoms. Try a daily dose of ‘superfruits’ such as acerola, pomegranate, or goji berry.
Horseradish: This powerfully spicy root can blast out your mucous fast. If you can find it fresh, grate with caution! Capsules are easy and effective.
Onion & Garlic: Both of these hail from the same family, and can help clear nasal congestion. Both are great sources of the flavonoid quercetin, which is a natural antihistamine, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory. Quercetin is also taken in supplement form for allergies.
Beta-carotene rich food: Orange, yellow and green vegetables great sources Beta-carotene, which is converted to vitamin A in the body. It is essential for healthy mucous membranes,
Probiotics: Adding beneficial bacteria to your gut, through a probiotic supplement or naturally fermented foods such as sauerkraut, can help your immune system function at its best.
Bromelain: This anti-inflammatory enzyme found in pineapples helps reduce nasal congestion and inflammation of the mucous membranes. It can be taken in supplement form, or just eat lots of fresh pineapple! Often included in allergy formulas and supplements.
Propolis & Bee Pollen: These are both products from honeybees. Bee pollen is often used with success for allergies, however some people with pollen allergies may react. Propolis boosts immune response, is anti-inflammatory and antibiotic.
Foods to avoid:
Dairy products are all mucous producing. Cutting out (or at least limiting) dairy consumption can help reduce allergy symptoms.
Refined foods such as white bread, pasta and sugar are also mucous producing. Substitute with natural, wholemeal alternatives such as wholemeal bread & pasta, and unrefined sweeteners such as coconut sugar or stevia.
Hayfever Support Recipes:
Herbal Hayfever Support Tea:
For a simple daily tea to help clear your head, soothe mucous membranes and support your body, try the following:
1 part Elderflower
1 part Marsmallow Root
1 part Ginkgo
2 parts Nettle
2 parts Peppermint
1 part Eyebright or Goldenrod
Mix all herbs together, then add 1-2 tsp per cup. Boil water, pour over herbs, steep 10 minutes, strain and enjoy.
2 Kale leaves
2 Celery stems
2 Pineapple slices (or 1 apple)
1 inch Ginger
1 inch Turmeric
Place all ingredients in juicer, drink fresh and enjoy!
Good luck, and breath easy.
David Hoffman (1995), The New Holistic Herbal
Michael Tierra (1998), Planetary Herbology