Spring is one of the most beautiful times of the year; warm sunshine, gentle breezes, the smells of blossoms in the air… Ah, Ah Ah-choo! Excuse me! Oh, I forgot about the hay fever and allergies.
The name hay fever comes from back in the early British countryside when people developed sneezing and red itchy eyes after working around hay and other grasses.
In Australia about one in five people suffer from spring allergies, which can affect the whole body, or just the nose and eyes, creating, hay fever, asthma, and eczema. Many allergy problems are caused by exotic and imported grasses that have spread through Australia, the two most common being Ryegrass (Lolium perenne) and Couch or Bermuda grass (Cynodon dactylon). Of course, there are other sources and reasons for allergies; however, we will mostly focus on some tips for pollen-type allergies.
Why does spring tend to be worse for allergies and why do some people suffer more than others? By looking at the type of season we are moving into and the type of person we are, we can begin to see some correlation between the different types of diseases, that each of us can suffer at different times of the year.
In Ayurvedic medicine, spring is Kapha time—water and earth elements. Each of us will have varying amounts of accumulated toxins from diet or environmental intake, plus our immunity strength and reactivity will be a determining factor of how strongly we have an allergic reaction.
The body has two basic immune responses: T-helper 1 cells (Th1) for bacteria, viruses, fungi and tumours and T-helper 2 cells (Th2) for allergens, chemicals and parasites. Th2 excess and low Th1 will lead to conditions such as hay fever, rhinitis, sinusitis, asthma, eczema and urticaria. Th2 produces signalling compounds that stimulate the growth of cells that are involved in the allergic response such as the release of histamine. Histamine is one of the main inflammatory mediators and creates swelling and fluid leakage into the nose and sinuses.
Firstly, if we think about the seasons again, moving from winter to spring, this is our favourite time to recommend you to begin your once-a-year (at least) detox programme. Chinese medicine sees spring as liver time, a good time to cleanse the liver and bowel. The liver deactivates antigens (the allergy substances) and if it is overloaded, will not be able to neutralise the extra allergens that the pollens of spring may bring.
Begin by moving the diet from the heavier, warming, building-up foods to lighter foods. Start to increase salads and fresh juices in the diet again. Adding chlorophyll-rich foods such as spirulina, chlorella, wheat and barley grasses to your diet will help with clearing allergies; they are also anti-inflammatory and immune enhancing. Start the morning with a big glass of water with half a lemon to cleanse your liver and wake up your body systems. It is best to do a cleanse suited to your constitution, your time constraints, your age (children can do mild cleanses, too) and budget.
A way to cleanse the sinuses, when irritated by allergens, is with a special pot for the nose called a Netti pot. It has a long spout for putting into the nostrils and pouring warm salty water into to remove excess mucus and irritants. Nasya is an oil that can also be sniffed up the nostrils to clear mucus. We have many clients tell us they can now breathe again after doing Netti and Nasya.
Herbs and supplements can help as well: Sitopladi is a combination of herbs that can cleanse the nose and sinuses, drying up mucus. Trikatu is a combination of three herbs that stimulates digestion and cleanses Kapha or built up accumulation of undigested foods and mucus in the body. Triphala is another mix of herbs that stimulates digestion and cleanses all the body. Perrilla fruttesens, as a dried seed, is used in herbal medicine to help inhibit the release of histamine and other co-factors in an allergy reaction.
Quercertin is a bioflavonoid that is anti-inflammatory and can help inhibit allergy factors. I have seen this work well in skin allergy, as well as respiratory reactions. Vitamin C is also used to inhibit histamine release.
Liver herbs such as St Mary’s thistle, schisandra and dandelion root are always important to use in treating allergies. Andrographis is a great liver herb with immune support as well.
For acute attacks, herbs like biacal skullcap, elderflower, magnolia bud, albizzia and many more can be used to calm symptoms.
Enter the king of herbs—the reishi mushroom. This magnificent fungus, when taken over time, will build the Th1 immune (fighting bacteria) and help reduce the Th2 immune response (allergy reaction). It is anti-viral and relaxing.
In any treatment plan, exercise is very important, to stimulate the lymphatic system (the body’s filter system) and to increase circulation and blood supply. Yoga exercises incorporate breathing that can help clear nasal passages.
Homoeopathy can help with many of the symptoms of allergy—matching the symptoms you have to the indicated remedy. Homoeopathy also has nosode remedies that are made from the allergen itself and, when given in minute doses, can help to reduce and even stop reactions altogether.
Remember that natural therapies can give immediate relief, and yet to eliminate the symptoms, it takes staying with a treatment plan long enough for your body to cleanse and heal.
May this spring be a refreshing time of renewal for you and your family.
Published in Kindred, issue 23, September 07