Welcome to spring!
Finally, some decent weather has arrived and our almost daily submersion in this winter’s “polar vortex” is now a distant memory. Birds are chirping furiously, grass is pushing up through the mud and brilliant green buds are spreading across the canopy of trees. Relief? Yes, for the most part, but for some people spring is actually a season of misery. In fact, one out of six of us will suffer from spring allergies this year. For this group, spring heralds the onset of allergy symptoms so annoying and so debilitating that fervent whispered wishes for the return of that dreaded “polar vortex” are not that uncommon. Common symptoms of spring allergies include weeping eyes, frequent sneezing, throat clearing, coughing, a dripping nose and intense itching and irritation of the nose, throat, eyes and ears. Additional symptoms can include, headaches, itchy skin, asthma and incredible fatigue. So, what’s going on physically for these poor individuals that they are so tormented by these allergy symptoms?
Spring allergies are essentially respiratory allergies – hypersensitive reactions in the nose, throat and lungs to what are normally, harmless, airborne substances. Common triggers in the spring are moulds in the earth, pollens from the trees and flowers, dust from the sidewalks and streets and dander from animals as they shed their wooly winter warmth. When an individual is exposed to something to which he or she is ‘hypersensitive’ an allergic response is launched. The reaction begins when mast cells in the immune system army suddenly detect a ‘foreign’ invader or allergen and decide to release a flood of histamine in response to this allergen invasion. Histamine will then trigger a cascade of other immune responses which activate cells in the sinuses, nasal passages, airways, etc. causing an increase in fluid and other annoying allergy symptoms. Conventional drug therapy works to stop the action of histamine by blocking histamine receptor sites in the respiratory tract. Unfortunately, these antihistamines come with a price tag that goes way beyond the cost of the pills themselves. Drugs can certainly bring relief but they come with side effects such as poor focus, drowsiness, dizziness, restlessness, nervousness and upset stomach. Other side effects, which aren’t as common are dry mouth, dry nose, irritability, difficulty urinating and blurred vision. Additionally, many people habituate to their anti-histamine and find that it stops working for them after a period of a few weeks or months. So, are there any natural alternatives for spring allergies?
Natural Spring Allergy Solutions
In my homeopathic practice I see a lot of patients with spring allergies. Each person tends to suffer in a slightly different way, but I have found over the years that certain natural solutions can be very effective. Options available are homeopathic remedies, herbal remedies and nutritional supplements. I have listed these choices below and I encourage you to try them out if you find that you fall into the winter-loving-spring-hating category of allergy sufferers.
Allium Cepa – allium cepa covers more symptoms of allergies or hayfever than any other remedy. Discharges from the eyes may be bland, but nasal secretions are really burning and acrid. There can also be lots of sneezing.
Euphrasia – euphrasia is the opposite to allium cepa. The eyes are very runny and there is a lot of irritation around the eyes. The discharge from the nose is very bland.
Sabadilla – sabadilla is a helpful remedy for those who experience wheezing with their allergies. There can also be lots of sneezing and a lot of nasal discharge.
Chamomile – taken as a tincture in tea, juice or water, chamomile can help to reduce the intensity and duration of allergic reactions. CAUTION – hypersensitivity to chamomile is a possibility avoid if you are sensitive to plants from the daisy family
Ginger – taken as a tincture in tea, juice or water is a delicious way to reduce inflammation due to allergies
Skullcap – taken as a tincture in tea, juice or water, skullcap is a natural anti-histamine that can also help to reduce the likelihood of catching a cold or flu
Stinging Nettle Root – taken as a tincture in tea, juice or water, stinging nettle root can stop a runny nose in its tracks and provide a lot of relief for hay fever
Quercetin with bioflavonoids – take 150 mg three times daily (between meals) starting 6 to 8 weeks before allergy season begins
Vitamin C – take 1000 mg per day. Vitamin C is considered to be a natural anti-histamine, however, research into its role in helping to prevent spring allergies seems to be inconclusive
Probiotics – take 15 to 30 billion CFU’s of a good quality probiotic. Probiotics (or ‘friendly’ bacteria) help to support the immune system
Wash out your nasal passages at least three times per day. Use a commercial product such as HydraSense Saline Spray (sterilized sea water) or a netti pot. This action keeps the nose and sinuses free of irritating dust and pollens
Eat local honey, under medical supervision (since you might have a severe allergic reaction), try eating locally produced honey for several months prior to allergy season. Local honey contains local pollens. You can gradually build up a tolerance to these local pollens by introducing them in tiny doses. Start small and build up – 1/8 tsp to ¼ of a tsp up to 1 tsp per day. Try to get the honey unpasteurized (raw) – this means that it has not been heated to excessive temperatures.
Get Professional Help
If, after trying the above options on your own, you find that you’re still suffering from inhaled allergies, then seek the guidance of a qualified healthcare practitioner such as a homeopath or naturopath. It may be that you need additional help with respect to re-building your immune system or identifying food allergies which may be contributing to the intensity of your inhaled allergies. Your ultimate goal is to become a lover of spring again – happy to see the ice receding, hear the birds chirping away and witness the miraculous burst of colours and smells which herald our release from the deep freeze. Nature and its offerings of natural allergy remedies can help you to live comfortably with nature again.
I’ll look for you dancing ’round the Maypole – bright eyed, drip-free and drug-free.