Seasonal allergies are around the corner- and depending on who you are, Yay! Springtime! — or Boo! Hay fever!
Allergies are an immune response to foreign aspects of the environment. Dust, animals, pollen, and food can all trigger allergic reactions with varying intensities. Conventionally, allergy symptoms are treated with antihistamines e.g. Claritin (loratadine aka ‘non-drowsy’), or Benadryl (25mg diphenhydramine aka ‘droswy’ – 50mg diphenhydramine = over-the-counter sleeping pills). Naturopathic medicine also has some botanical remedies for anti-histamine effect. However I would still consider this a treatment of symptoms- not treating the root cause.
Last May, I went to a wonderful herbal medicine conference in the foothills of appalachia, outside Asheville, NC. David Winston, who is one of the most successful clinical herbalists in the country, shared some great clinical pearls in regards to treating allergies.
First the immune system needs to be properly balanced, about 8 weeks prior to the onset of allergy symptoms. Herbs that have an immuno-modulating effect would want to be used during this time. And this is involves mushroom extracts as well. Adaptogenic herbs also have a role here, to help normalize cortisol. Actually, this is also a principle in treating autoimmune disease.
Secondly, another class of botanical medicines would be used with a slightly different effect – immune-regulators. These are used during the onset of the allergy season. I would also consider nervine herbs to help nourish the nervous system at this time.
Lastly, symptoms may break-through, but hopefully to a much milder extent. Which these can be combated with the classic natural antihistamine treatments – nettle leaf, and flavonoid-rich foods such as onion (quercetin!), and extracts (or eating more) of amla, pomegranate, goji, blueberries.
There are other tried-and-true methods which make sense in naturopathic philosophy. Such as, cracking the windows in the early spring to get microdoses of pollens into your system prior to the big bloom. Also using local raw wildflower honey. But depending on your allergy severity, you need to discuss what is best for you with your physician.
Don’t wait until Spring, it is best to start treating spring allergies in late January- And make this the most enjoyable Spring!