What is Hay fever?
Hay fever, also referred to as Allergic Rhinitis is an inflammatory immune response caused by an allergic reaction to airborne pollen. It is a common condition affecting almost a quarter of the population in the UK. It affects the upper respiratory tract including the eyes, nose, sinus and throat. Once pollen is detected, the body’s immune system releases histamine which can trigger cold like symptoms such as sneezing, a blocked or runny nose, tiredness, coughing, an itchy throat and watery or itchy eyes. Allergies are a natural expression of the immune system to an outside antigen, however it is the severity of this reaction which causes the symptoms. As such, helping to support a healthy immune system can help with reducing these related symptoms.
What causes it?
Hay fever is caused by a variety of different pollens, including from different species of grass or hay. It can be also be exacerbated by high pollution levels. Hay fever can be at its worst during the summer months of June and July however symptoms can begin in the spring, as early as March or April. Hay fever can also be affected by lifestyle factors such as stress, diet and nutrition.
How to alleviate symptoms?
Herbal treatment can be very effective in treating hay fever, especially when used in the lead up to hay fever season, starting in March or April. Supporting the immune system, rather than suppressing its natural function is a crucial factor to consider, as suppression can cause further consequences for the body. Using a mixture of herbs with antihistamine and anti-inflammatory properties can help with hay fever, more information on the specific herbs below.
Alongside this, changes in diet can also help to minimise the symptoms associated with hay fever. This includes cutting out mucus forming foods such as dairy, as well as minimising the intake of sugar, alcohol, white flour, caffeine and fatty foods. Eating foods rich in flavonoids can help to reduce any inflammation due to their high antioxidant level. These include kale, berries, dark chocolate, broccoli and green tea. Quercetin, which is found in citrus fruit as well as in supplement form can also help to reduce the release of histamine. Vitamin C can moderate histamine release as well as support a healthy immune system.
Herbs to help
There are a number of valuable herbs which can help to treat symptoms of hay fever. Using herbs with an antihistamine action can help the body to reduce its natural allergic response to the pollen.
Ephedra: This is a very valuable herb often used to treat symptoms of hay fever due to its anti-allergic and anti-asthmatic properties. This herb is available by prescription only, call us to book a consultation with a medical herbalist.
Eyebright: This herb has a special affinity for the eyes, nose and sinuses. It has anti-inflammatory, anti-histamine and anti-catarrhal (mucous clearing) properties. It can help to treat eye infections and helps to sooth itchy, red eyes associated with hay fever. It increases circulation to the eyes and can help to reduce pain or inflammation in the eyes. It can also reduce irritation of the sinuses, nose and throat.
Nettle: Nettle is naturally anti-allergenic and antihistamine and is also rich in flavonoids so can help to soothe hay fever symptoms. It is also a tonic and rich in nutrients so helps to support the immune system whilst also reducing the histamine response.
Plantain: This herb has an affinity for the respiratory system, and can help to clear congestion in the nose, throat and sinuses as well as helping to clear mucous. It can also soothe irritation in the respiratory tract due to it mucilaginous properties.
Elderflower: This herb helps to line the mucous membranes of the nose and throat, helping to reduce catarrh associated with infections and allergies.
Hayfever Tea: A special blend of nettle, elderflower, eyebright and plantain to be used as tea to help alleviate symptoms of hay fever.
Plantain and Eyebright Compound: This compound is specially formulated to provide relief from chronic nasal catarrh and allergic rhinitis. It is a complex blend of a variety of herbs used to tone and reduce inflammation of the mucous membranes.The combination of astringent, anti-inflammatory and anti-allergenic herbs can help to reduce symptoms associated with hay fever.
- Urtica, stinging nettles and hay fever: http://medherb.com/Materia_Medica/Urtica_-_Stinging_nettles_and_hay_fever.htm
- Allergic Rhinitis: http://medherb.com/bi/Issue-144-Winter-2005.pdf
- Surviving sinusitis: https://www.herbcraft.org/sinusitis.html