Sneezing, irritated eyes and a runny nose? Thankfully, natural medicine provides effective help for hayfever.
Hayfever, or allergic rhinitis, is a sign that the immune system is overreacting to a normally harmless substance, such as pollen, along with dust, mould and pet dander (tiny flakes of dried saliva, skin and hair). These tips will minimise the effects of the microscopic menaces that send your immune system into overdrive.
1. Protect yourself
When you are outside, wear wraparound sunglasses to keep pollen away from your eyes. Wear a face mask when you know you might be exposed to pollen – for example, if you are gardening. Close the windows when travelling by car and choose the ‘recirculate’ option on the air-conditioning, to avoid introducing pollinated air to the car.
2. Go fish
Omega-3 fatty acids help to counter inflammatory responses in the body, including those triggered by hayfever. Oily fish, such as salmon, sardines and mackerel, are rich sources of these fats. Don’t like fish? Take a supplement that provides 1000 mg combined EPA/DHA (eicosapentaenoic and docosahexaenoic acids) a day. Flaxseed oil is another excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, and may be preferred by vegetarians and vegans.
3. Invest in a neti pot
A mild saline solution helps to clear excess mucus and keep your nasal passages moist. Dissolve half a teaspoon of salt in 250 ml of warm water and fill the neti pot. Lean over the sink and gently pour the solution in one nostril and out the other.
4. Add nutritional insurance
The chemical histamine triggers the allergic response. Vitamin C has a natural antihistamine effect in the body and there is some evidence that it can help control hayfever symptoms. Quercetin, the pigment (a bioflavonoid) that puts the green in green tea, is another useful natural agent for the treatment of hayfever, because it has the ability to reduce the release of histamine from mast cells. If you have hayfever, try taking this supplement – follow the label advice on dosage.
5. Pick a herb
Baical skullcap (Scutellaria baicalensis) is widely used in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) for respiratory infections, hayfever, and itchy skin conditions like hives. It is thought to have a cooling energetic nature, helping to reduce itching and inflammation. Korean ginseng (Panax ginseng) is a useful treatment for reducing the incidence of upper respiratory tract infections and allergic reactions; it also improves the body’s capacity to cope with stress. Bupleurum (Bupleurum chinense) is another TCM staple, and has been used since ancient times to treat respiratory problems and strengthen liver function.
Nettle (Urtica dioica), ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba), and German chamomile (Matricaria recutita) all have anti-allergenic, antihistamine and anti-inflammatory actions which help to reduce the underlying allergic tendency. Plantain (Plantago major) is often recommended by natural health practitioners to strengthen mucous membranes, relieve inflammation and help to ease the frequency of sneezing. Milk thistle (Silybum marianum) and dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) have been used in Western herbalism to improve detoxification, by stimulating liver function and waste elimination.