Spring is approaching and in the next few weeks the sun will be making more frequent visits, things will warm up, flowers will start to appear and the hope of summer will bring smiles to many faces. The warmth of the sun and brighter days are what most people look forward to around this time of year, but unfortunately for a few people, it is the most dreadful time of the year.
Yes, it's hard to believe that anyone could hate summer, but for those who suffer with hay fever, warmer weather means pollen, and pollen means allergies!
What is Hay Fever?
Hay fever sufferers have an allergic reaction to pollen. Their immune system overreacts to the pollen and histamine and other inflammatory mediators are released. This causes the typical symptoms such as itchy, watering, swollen eyes, itchy runny/blocked nose and itchy irritated throat.
While for some people, these symptoms may just be mild and a little bit annoying, the unlucky few have severe reactions which can be debilitating and affect normal day-to-day activities.
If you're unfortunate enough to have hay fever, do not despair! There are some things that you can implement to help the problem.
Eyebright (Euphrasia officinalis)
Eyebright is anti-inflammatory, astringent and anti-catarrhal. It is great at helping to reduce the production and clear the mucus that builds up and blocks the airways.
Nettle (Urtica dioica)
Nettle has natural anti-histamine properties.
Plantain (Plant ago lanceolata/Major)
Plantain as well as being anti-allergic, adds great expectorant benefits, also helping the clear the excess mucus being produced and residing in the airways.
Albizia (Albizia lebbeck)
Albizzia stabalises mast cells (the cells that release histamine) and therefore is a natural anti-histamine.
Chamomile (Matricaria recutita)
Chamomile isn't just good for helping you sleep. It is also anti-inflammatory and helps the clearing of the mucus from the airways.
Elderflower (Sambucus nigra)
Elderflower also has great anti-cattarral actions.
Baikal Skullcap (Scutellaria baicalensis)
Skullcap had great anti-inflammatory and anti-allergic action but can also help to calm your nervous system down and reduce stress, which is quite important as you will read below.
These herbs can be used in the form of teas and/or tinctures.
It is known that stress, physical or psychological has the ability to increase the release of histamine (one of the main inflammatory mediators) in the body. This is why you might find that allergies are much worse in times of high stress. The sad thing is that bad allergies can too be a source of stress, making it a ongoing cycle.
Cortisol is your body's natural anti-inflammatory and can act to oppose histamine. It is also released in times of stress however many of us require some help in the regulation of cortisol release. This is where herbs that support you adrenal glands (liquorice and blackcurrant bud) and adaptogenic herbs will be of great benefit! (see previous posts).
This is a flavonoid which naturally occurs in many fruits, vegetables and grains. Quercetin is able to inhibit the manufacture and release of histamine and other inflammatory mediators which will lessen the allergic response. As well as eating the foods that are naturally rich in quercetin, it may also help to take a good quality supplement.
Pycnogenol is an extract from pine bark. It is naturally anti-inflammatory and acts as an anti-histamine. A good quality supplement is therefore useful in the treatment of hay fever and other allergies.
Practical things you can do:
It is best to start implementing these remedies way before your hay fever symptoms usually start, that means now. Look out for the next post that will go through how to improve your diet to help with hay fever!
Anti-inflammatory - Having the ability to reduce inflammation.
Anti-catarrhal - Ability to prevent the catarrh (excessive discharge or build-up of mucus in the nose or throat)
Astringent - Causing the contraction of skin or mucous membranes (usually helping to reduce the excessive discharge)
Expectorant - A medicine excessive discharge or build-up of mucus in the nose or throat,