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,
This is the time of year where most people are getting colds and flu. Whilst 1 or 2 colds a year might be normal, if you are getting sick more often than that or they last longer than about a week, there may be things that you are doing/not doing to weaken/support your immune system.
Now the human body is beautifully designed with a system that is able to protect itself from all diseases and is naturally pretty good at doing this, however, there are things in everyday modern life that weaken your body's defences, and lessens it's ability to fight disease.
This post will provide some tips on maintaining a strong immune system.
Diet and Lifestyle
I'm sure everyone is pretty tired of hearing how important your diet is to your health but it is one of the most important facts you'll ever hear. Here are some simple things you could implement to benefit your immune system.
In my last post I spoke about the importance of minimising stress and getting enough good quality sleep. When you are chronically stressed (including sleep deprivation), your immune system is negatively affected. Finding ways to unwind and relax, exercising and recuperating with good sleep is important in supporting you immune system.
Try implementing some of these things into your lifestyle and see the benefits they have on you and your family's health.
My next post will be focused on herbal remedies to aid in treating colds and flu once they come about.
To understand what adaptogens do and how they work, it might be necessary to first understand some basic biology.
You have two adrenal glands in your body, one sitting above each kidney. They secrete endocrine hormones such as adrenaline, aldosterone and cortisol. As these hormones play key roles in things like blood pressure regulation, glucose metabolism and the immune system, the adrenal glands are therefore very important in maintaining balance and stability in many of the bodily functions.
When you are under any type of stress, whether it be physical, psychological or emotional, your adrenal glands are prompted to release hormones like adrenaline and cortisol. These stimulate your nervous system and cause what you might know as the 'fight-or-flight' response. The outcomes of this include an increase in heart rate, a raise in blood pressure, and increased blood glucose levels. These effects may be helpful in the short-term but in the long term can have damaging effects on the body. This explains why major/chronic stresses can be so harmful to our health. Being stressed for long periods of time can also cause our adrenals to become 'tired' and begin to function sub-optimally.
Adrenal tonics are herbs that are able to support the adrenal glands improve their function. Some of these include:
Liquorice is able to sustain the half-life of cortisol in the body, thereby providing an anti-inflammatory action. It is also able to increase blood pressure and so can help in cases of hypotension.
Using the buds of blackcurrant, as a glycerine macerate, also provides an adreno-cortico stimulating action and supports the adrenal glands.
Adaptogens can increase the body's resistance to stress, whether it be physical, mental or emotional stress. They may have a normalising action, being able to help in under and over-functioning of mechanisms. They help to reduce the negative effects that the stress response can have on the body.
- Where stress can cause protein breakdown and weight loss, adaptogens can help to increase the synthesis of protein and cause necessary weight gain.
- Where stress has an effect on glucose metabolism and cause a level of insulin-resistance and high blood sugar, adaptogens helps to regulate this energy metabolism and has an insulin-like effect, stabilising blood sugar levels.
- Where major stresses can cause an over-production of adrenaline and noradrenaline, adaptogens help to limit that overproduction, hence limit their negative effects on the body.
Adaptogens are useful where there is a lack of energy, nervous exhaustion or a weak/over-reactive immune system.
The adaptogen/adaptogens that may be suitable for you would vary on your condition and symptoms. Some adaptogens and their properties are listed below:
Ashwagandha is great for people who are feeling 'wired-and-tired'. This describes the person feeling stressed/anxious but feeling very low in energy at the same time. Typically those who are so stressed that they cannot sleep at night. Ashwagandha is a nervine sedative so can have a relaxing effect on the nervous system but also help to increase energy levels. It can also be useful for cases of emaciation and hypothyroidism.
Rhodiola is great at enhancing mental performance, concentration and memory, particularly during stress (GREAT EXAM HERB!).
It may also be useful to improve low mood and anxiety disorders.
Astragalus is a great herb for increasing immune function. Adaptogens are generally not advised to take whilst you have an acute infection, however, they are great as preventatives, with astragalus being one of the best.
Schisandra is great at improving memory and concentration (another great one for studying and exams). It also has the added benefit of being a great antioxidant and helps in liver detoxification.
So I've got a new favourite smoothie recipe. The cacao butter gives it a slight chocolate taste and the lucuma and dates give it a caramel flavour!
The recipe also includes Ashwagandha which is one of my favourite herbs. It is classed as an adaptogen and helps in cases of nervous exhaustion and stress. See my next post for more information on this super herb.
It has molasses which is rich in nutrients such as iron, calcium, magnesium, potassium and B vitamins. This is definitely a great food to include in your diet (if you can stomach the taste!) - especially if you are vegetarian/vegan.
Try it and let me know what you think!
You won't be disappointed :)
1 Tbsp Ashwagandha powder
1 Tsp Cacao butter
1 Tbsp Lucuma powder
1 Tbsp Molasses
Blend all the ingredients together and enjoy! xo
This is my absolute favourite breakfast! It's high in protein, fibre, omega fatty acids and various other nutrients. This means health for you heart, brain, digestive system, bones and joints! Not to mention that it tastes great!
Contains Omega- 3, 6 and 9 fatty acids which are great for your heart and your brain. They offer you a complete protein source.
Also high in omega-3 fatty acids, magnesium and calcium. The mucilaginous fibre helps to maintain regular bowel movements.
High in omega-3 fatty acids and soluble fibre which supports healthy digestion.
- Grind the nuts and seeds into a fine powder and place into a bowl with the chia seeds
- Blend the apple with the milk, so you have apple-milk
- Heat the milk on the hob
- Once heated through, take it off and pour over the nut/seed mix, whilst mixing quickly.
- Stir in your choice of sweetener and spices
Some ground almond
Some coconut oil
1. Put all of your ingredients (except the coconut oil) in a blender/food processor and blend on high until all ingredients are mixed together.
2. Grease an oven dish with some coconut oil (using your hands so you have some of the oil on your hands).
3. Using your hands again, take chunks of the mixture and mould into small balls.
4. Put oven up to 325 degrees/Gas mark 3 and place them in the oven for about 15-20 mins or so (check on them after 15 mins).
5. Take out and let cool.
NB. Goes well with almond butter
Check out this delicious pesto made using wheatgrass!
It can mixed into pasta or simply spread onto bread or rice cakes. In the picture below, I mixed it with some courgette noodles, sweet peppers, avocado and sun-dried tomatoes.
It's rich, creamy and super simple to make! Check out the recipe and benefits of wheatgrass below.
- Soaked Cashews
- Wheatgrass powder
- Olive oil
- Garlic cloves
- Himalayan salt
- Nutritional yeast
After soaking your cashews for several hours, toss them in the blender/food processor, along with the other ingredients and blend until smooth.
If it is too thick, add some more olive oil and if you want it thicker, add more cashews.
BENEFITS OF WHEATGRASS:
Wheatgrass contains a range of vitamins such as Vitamin A, C, E and B vitamins. It is also a good source of iron, calcium and magnesium. The fresh plant is also a good source of chlorophyll. Try using it in juices and smoothies, or including it in recipes.
Scientific name: Thymus vulgaris
Parts used: Leaves, Flowers and Essential oil.
This herb is a Mediterranean native, but is cultivated worldwide. Many of you may know it for it's distinctive flavour and scent and make use of it in cooking. While it's culinary uses are doubtfully wonderful, the various properties of thyme mean it has a wide range of other uses, making this simple, little, easy-to-grow herb even more amazing. It is extensively used in cosmetics such as toothpaste, mouthwashes and deodorants as well as in cleaning products and pest deterrents. My favourite use of this herb, however is in herbal medicine!
That's right. Thyme is used by herbalist worldwide in the treatment and support of a variety of conditions.
Anti-spasmodic (reduces spasms of smooth muscle)
Anti-tussive (suppressing cough)
Conditions used for:
Respiratory and Gastrointestinal infections
The essential oil of thyme contains a constituent called thymol which provides the aromatic odour and taste of the herb. The strong antimicrobial action of this herb also owes to this compound. This makes it's useful in infections of the respiratory system (making it useful against colds) and infections/infestations of the gut.
Bronchitis, Asthma and Pertussis
Bronchitis is usually characterised by inflammation and spasm of the respiratory tract with an over secretion of mucus. These mechanisms are what cause the typical symptoms such as coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath and congestion and coughing up of mucus. Another action of thyme which is not mentioned above, makes it very useful in bronchitis and asthma. Thyme has Parasympatholytic properties - Yes I know that's a mouthful but it's quite interesting to know.
In basic terms, a part of your nervous system is called the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS). Activation of the PNS usually causes contraction of the smooth muscle, such as that found in your gut and causes an increase in secretions ie. digestive secretions. Though this aids in proper digestion, the muscle contraction and secretions are not confined to your digestive tract alone. The PNS will also cause contractions of your airway muscles and hyper secreation of mucus in you airways - not something you'd want if you have bronchitis or asthma!
Sometimes people may have unusual high PNS activity, which can contribute to asthmatic symptoms. So parasympatholytic herbs decrease the activity of the PNS, which aid in lessening contractions and mucus production.
Spasms of the gastrointestinal tract (gut)
For the same reasons as above, spasms of the gut such as in colic can be helped with thyme.
Thyme can be used as in several ways. The dried herb can be infused in boiling water to make a tea (must be kept covered whilst steeping to keep essential oil in). A tincture may be used internally and the essential oil may be used internally (under practitioner advice) and as a steam inhalation for respiratory infections and congestion.
Thyme also makes a good herbal cough syrup along with licorice. Click here for a link to the syrup recipe.
You will need: