C. Leigh Broadhurst, PhD
Seasonal-type allergies bloom when the plants do, in spring to early autumn.
Seasonal-type allergies bloom when the plants do, in spring to early autumn. During breezy days, tiny pollen particles drift through the air - and straight up your nose! If you suffer from seasonal allergies, natural medicines can reduce the severity of your symptoms and prevent illnesses such as lingering respiratory infections.
Pollens that are lightweight, dry, and designed to be wind-dispersed are responsible for most seasonal allergies. The pollen of birch, oak, mugwort, ragweed, olive, and most grasses are wind borne.
Mold allergies are also seasonal. Mold, mildew, mushrooms, and yeast are all fungi, which reproduce with tiny, powdery spores that are airborne or carried about on clothing, pets, etcetera. Spore counts generally peak in warm, humid weather, but dry windy conditions can also blow fungal spores into the air. A damp home or basement is the primary source of allergenic fungal exposure.
In a study by Drs. Huang and Kimbrough of the University of Florida, children with persistent cold-like symptoms were treated with numerous courses of antibiotics, but failed to show improvement. A strong correlation between the severity of symptoms (runny nose, post-nasal drip, bloodshot eyes, headache, mouth breathing) and high mold counts in their homes was found. Surprisingly, mold counts in many homes were higher in winter than summer, due to closed windows and doors. Condensation on metal window frames was a significant cause of dampness and fungal growth near a child's bed. Mold counts were also very high in bedrooms where children were allowed to eat regularly.
Regardless of the allergen, seasonal allergies respond to relatively high doses of certain supplements and medicinal plants. The doses given here are for treating acute allergies during allergy season and should not necessarily be taken all year. Use half doses for children eight to 13 and one-third doses for children four to eight. I also recommend doubling your multivitamin and antioxidant doses during allergy season.
Vitamin C is the most critical supplement for allergies. Everybody with allergies can be helped by vitamin C, even if they ignore every other issue that could be affecting their condition. Vitamin C is the primary antioxidant in the lungs, and is a powerful antihistamine that does not cause side-effects.
Allergens provoke certain cells in the body to produce histamine, a biochemical that is responsible for the characteristic tearing, excess mucus, and runny nose of allergies. This response is the body's means of flushing out offenders, however the prolonged response due to seasonal allergens becomes uncomfortable. Vitamin C prevents the formation of histamine, as opposed to common antihistamine medications that work by interfering with the binding of histamine after it is already produced. Vitamin C also normalizes our immune responses, helping them work together instead of antagonistically. Recommended dosage: one gram three to five times per day or to bowel tolerance.
Pantothenic acid: Taking extra pantothenic acid, a B-vitamin, may reduce the severity of allergic reactions and relieve sinus congestion that occurs upon awakening (500 mg one to two times per day).
Magnesium: To relax the bronchial tubes and smooth muscle of the esophagus, take 400 mg magnesium per day.
Medicinal plants also offer relief for the following seasonal allergy symptoms.
Sneezing, Watery Eyes, Excess Mucus Drainage
Quercetin is one of the most effective antihistamine/antiallergic flavonoids. It's concentrated in onions, garlic, cayenne, apples, and tea and is nearly ubiquitous in medicinal plants. Both quercetin itself and preparations of plants rich in quercetin have been proven effective for allergies, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, bronchitis, sinusitis, cold, and flu. Recommended dosage: 1,000 mg two or three times per day.
Other antiallergic flavonoid-rich herbs are chamomile, feverfew, yarrow, baikal skullcap, lemon balm, perilla, grapes (leaf and fruit), pycnogenol, and most mints. Use six to eight, 300 to 500 mg capsules, or four cups of infusion per day.
Touching the fresh leaf of a stinging nettle is good way to get an allergic reaction, not stop one! But when cooked or dried, nettles have no sting and can in fact help allergic rhinitis. A 1990 study gave 69 allergic rhinitis patients 300 mg freeze-dried nettle twice per day or placebo. Fifty-eight per cent of the patients given nettle rated it effective in relieving their symptoms, as opposed to 37 percent receiving placebo.
Nettles have been used medicinally for thousands of years, but scientists still aren't sure why they work, only that they do. Recommended dosage: 300 to 400 mg two to four times per day.
Bromelain is a protein-digesting enzyme from the stem of the pineapple plant. It reduces swelling of the throat, sinuses, and nasal passages, and thins mucus. Take 500 mg three to four times per day.
Hot peppers open your sinuses but work only when eaten (i.e., no capsules), so you'd better enjoy spicy food! Warm cups of sage, yarrow, rosemary, lemon grass, ginger, peppermint, or spearmint infusions are milder decongestant options. Essential oils of camphor, eucalyptus, lemon grass, and tea tree are very effective decongestants, but are toxic in relatively small quantities if ingested, so add one-half teaspoon total oils to a vaporizer running where you sleep or work.
Coughing, Dry Sore Throat, Lingering Bronchitis
The Chinese herb fritillary is excellent for these conditions, alone or teamed with loquat and licorice in syrups/lozenges (take as directed on manufacturer's label).
Whenever allergy season strikes, sidestep the sneezes with a natural approach.
Bee Pollen - Effective But Misunderstood Remedy for Hay Fever
Bee pollen consists of blended pollen grains collected by honeybees from a wide variety of plants. It is rich in antiallergic, antinflammatory, and immune system normalizing phytochemicals - as are many medicinal plants.
Be wary of claims that state that small amounts of bee pollen over time works like a series of allergy shots to desensitize you to pollen allergies or "hay fever." or claims that state that only bee pollen from your local neighborhood should be consumed. It's important to know there is no scientific evidence for either of these.
While some degree of generalized pollen desensitization activity cannot be ruled out, it is likely that phytochemicals in bee pollen provide the relief.
Take the Bee Pollen Test
If you want to try bee pollen for seasonal allergy relief, make sure you use only fresh, moist pollen granules that have been deep-frozen until shipped out for sale. (Pressed or heat-treated pollen is inferior.) Take only a few granules at a time to make sure you're not allergic to it.
If you have no adverse reaction, increase your pollen intake slowly to up to a tablespoon at once. For both chronic and acute allergies, eat one to three tablespoons per day. If you can't learn to like the taste, take at least eight capsules or tablets per day. Chewable flavored tablets are also available.
Some people are highly allergic to bee pollen and other beehive products. Their allergic reactions only get worse with time, and a desensitizing process can't be expected to be successful - in fact it may be life threatening. And you don't just have to be allergic to bee stings to react: you can also be allergic to the pollen, to "bee dander," to proteins, or to mold spores in bee products.