Spring time! Sun shining…flowers blooming…tree leaves growing…bees buzzing…wind blowing…and feeling like zombies…welcome to the world of seasonal allergies.
Congestion, sneezing, itchy, watery eyes, and lots of clear, runny mucus. Anywhere from 10-30% of the population is dealing with allergic rhinitis (“hay fever”) each spring and looking for anything that can help ease being so stuffed up. Medications can sometimes help but can also leave some people too drowsy or too stimulated depending on which they take.
Seasonal allergy symptoms occur when the body’s immune system sees some harmless pollen protein as a foreign invader and decides to go to DEFCON 1. These are typically from tiny, airborne types of pollen and not from insect pollinated plants. Trees, grasses, and weeds are some of the common culprits. Immune cells in our bodies get primed for certain pollen and then trigger mast cells to release histamine, which leads to the inflammation and congestion.
If you don’t want to rely on medications in this case and are more inclined to look to the plant world for help, here are a few suggestions:
Yes, those same stinging nettles that will give you a wicked rash if your skin brushes against them, can also be used to alleviate hay fever. Once dried and made into a tea, nettles can safely be consumed. They have a long history of traditional use and modern research has validated their benefits for seasonal allergies too. It seems that nettles are able to block some of the inflammatory molecules our body releases so that whole cascade of symptoms doesn’t get rolling. Nettles are also somewhat astringent and toning on mucous membranes (like our mouth, throat, nose, and sinus cavities) which helps too.
If the floodgates have opened and you are dealing with a lot of congestion though, a class of herbs known as expectorants can help clear it out; these include herbs like thyme, cowslip, and elecampane.
Demulcents are herbs that help to soothe and heal inflamed or irritated tissue and can be helpful for seasonal allergies as well; these include ones like plantain and licorice.
There’s a certain irony that some of these plants in their natural state in the wild may be responsible for some allergies from their pollen or their sting. Also, by happy coincidence, there is a delicious, liquid formula from Flora that happens to include all of these herbs: Respir•Essence (USA/CA). Respir•Essence is a soothing combination of thyme, licorice root, plantain, nettle, cowslip, and elecampane, all of which have been used traditionally to support respiratory health. We promise, Respir•Essence won’t take your breath away…but it might just sweep you off your feet.