Natural Hay Fever Solutions
For most people, spring is a joyful time when the temperature rises and the flowers blossom, but for others it is a time of constant discomfort – an itchy, runny and congested nose, tearing and swollen eyes, sneezing and irritated airways¹ can make day to day life in spring exhausting and painful – welcome to the hay fever season.
There are several theories on the origin of allergies, one being the hygiene hypothesis where lack of exposure to pathogens during pregnancy and infancy stage, prevents the immune system from developing properly. This can lead to what is known as TH1/TH2 imbalance, where the immune cells starts attacking generally harmless particles such as pollen, food particles and dust leading to an allergic reaction². Because such immune imbalances prevail for many years, it can take an extended period of time following a treatment protocol to help rebalance the immune system.
But first of all, let us look at some easy remedies that are helpful in treating some acute hay fever symptoms.
Chop brown onions as fine as possible to have enough for one cup in total. Add this to a clean glass jar and top up the jar with honey. Make sure the honey is raw, which you can tell by its crystalline consistency at colder temperatures; heat destroys many of the antimicrobial compounds in honey. Also, buy your honey from the local bee keeper, not only for freshness and supporting your local community, but also because the local honey will have traces of the near-by pollen. These traces of pollen act as mini natural vaccinations and can help desensitize your immune system if the honey is ingested regularly throughout the year. Close the lid and let the onions and honey sit at room temperature, out of direct sun light, for 24 hours. Take 2 teaspoons of the juice 2-3 times daily or as needed and keep in the refrigerator. The juice will help break congestion, open your airways, desensitize you and reduce the risk of subsequent bacterial infections.
Simmer a decongesting and anti-inflammatory tea with one thumb-sized chunk of finely grated ginger, a stick of cinnamon, one level teaspoon of cloves, two teaspoons of dried or fresh thyme. Lightly simmer these ingredients in three cups of water for 5 minutes and keep the lid on while it cools. Add the juice of one lemon and add honey to your taste once the tea is at sipping temperature to keep the vitamin C and antimicrobial properties active.
Acute Garden Remedies
Stinging nettle, Urtica dioica, is a not only very nutritious and delicious, it is also a powerful antihistamine that can reduce hay fever symptoms. It grows freely at this time of the year and is commonly added to soups and hortopita, a pie with wild leafy greens. To use it as a medicine, I suggest harvesting the nettle with gloves from your own garden or an unsprayed field nearby. Cut the top one-third of the healthy looking plants and collect in a bag. Once you’ve washed the nettle, the stingers should be neutralised and then it can be stream, stir fried, added to sauces, stews or teas. For a therapeutic dose, aim at ingesting or making tea from 1-2 lightly packed cups of nettle per day during the hay fever season.
Elder flowers, Sambucus nigra, have strong decongesting properties and can be harvested from the stem and made into a tea. Add one large bunch of flowers per 1 liter tea.
The leafs, flowers and roots of plantain (Plantego lanceolata) are healing and anti-inflammatory to irritated mucous membranes and are proven to reduce swelling in the air ways. Pick 4 medium sized leaves and chop finely to add to a salad or tea. You can remove the fibrous strands within the leaves with a little extra patience. Ingest these leaves 2-3 times daily for a therapeutic dose.
Long Term Treatment
It is important to seek the advice of a trained Naturopath, Herbalist or Nutritionist for an accurate and safe long term treatment to aid in restoring the immune imbalance. The following remedies are some examples of what may be prescribed, yet the duration of treatment and dosages vary depending on age, constitution, severity of condition, family and general health history.
Several herbs like the Andrographis paniculata, Scutellaria baicalensis and Albizia lebbeck have active compounds that can restore the imbalance of the TH1/TH2 immune cells that occurs in individuals with allergies like hay fever, asthma and eczema³.
Numerous studies have verified the benefits individual strains of healthy gut bacteria on the immune system, helping to improve allergic reactions, digestive disorder, inflammatory conditions and even aiding in mental health disorders.
Supplementing with specific vitamins, mineral and essential fatty acids can also greatly aid in long term treatment of hay fever. For example, vitamin C is a known anti-histamine and numerous studies have shown that vitamin A and D, zinc and selenium, omega-3 and omega-6 all have immune modulating properties that can help restore balance.
Spring is a magical time of rebirth, growth and change. Get the hay fever under control and feel as fresh as spring!
- Too clean, or not too clean: the Hygiene Hypothesis and home hygiene. Bloomfield, SF. Clin Exp Allergy. 2006 Apr; 36(4): 402–425. URL: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1448690/
- Thomsen M., Gennat H. Phytotherapy – Desk Reference, 4th Ed. Global Natural Medicine, 2009, Australia.