It’s that time of year again where itchy eyes, running nose and sneezing can be your constant companions. Long before we had antihistamine pills and steroid shots, herbalists used nature’s pharmacopoeia to relieve the discomfort of seasonal allergies and even get to the root causes.
10 Herbal Remedies for Seasonal Allergies
Here are 10 tried and true remedies from herbalists for seasonal allergy relief:
1. Goldenrod. This bright yellow flowering herb is often mistaken for ragweed, the true cause of most hayfever-type allergies. Goldenrod tincture is the best-kept secret of folk herbalists to rescue you from ragweed allergy. For quick relief of congestion, a large dose of up to 100 drops of tincture can be taken, but doses of 25-50 drops twice daily are the standard during allergy season.
2. Nettles. The antihistamine properties of the stinging nettle leaf have long been used for allergy relief. Freeze-dried stinging nettle leaves in 500mg strength capsules can be taken up to 4 times daily during the allergy season. The “stinging” that this plant is famous for is neutralized when cooked or dried, so no need to worry about it burning or stinging when properly prepared.
3. Eyebright. This herb is often used in combination with nettles, for good reason. Eyebright gets its name from its astringent and antimicrobial effects on the eyes. If itchy, red or watery eyes are part of your allergy symptoms, don’t leave eyebright out. Eyebright also helps with mucus when taken as a capsule, but herbalists usually make an infusion from 1 ounce of the herb added to a pint of boiling water, then use in warm compresses to relieve allergic eye symptoms.
4. Fire Cider. Well-loved herbalist Rosemary Gladstar’s now famous formula is an excellent allergy reliever. Equal weights of whole ginger root, cayenne peppers, horseradish root, garlic and onion are ground up in a blender or food processor, raw apple cider vinegar is added to fill the jar to the top, and it’s left to ferment for up to 2 weeks. The liquid is then strained off, bottled and kept cool in the refrigerator. A teaspoon of this fiery “cider” is taken daily as needed for congestion relief and as an overall health tonic.
5. Local Raw Honey and Bee Pollen. Raw honey contains the pollens the bees have carefully gathered from your local flowers and weeds, and bee pollen is the more concentrated form. This remedy is based on desensitizing you to small amounts of the pollens triggering your allergies and is best started in the Spring and carried through late Fall. The source needs to be local or it won’t have the same pollens you are being exposed to. If allergies are severe, it’s best to start with honey, but if you’ve been using this for a few years or symptoms are more mild, bee pollen can be used. It’s best to start small with ¼ teaspoon and work up to a full teaspoon, and it should never be heated or the health benefits will be lost.
6. Quercetin. This polyphenol found in foods like apples, pears, onions and green tea has been known for thousands of years for its antihistamine and anti-inflammatory properties. If your allergy symptoms come with asthma, then quercetin is a powerful weapon in your arsenal because it also calms bronchial inflammation. It takes 3-6 weeks to experience the full benefits of this antioxidant. It is rarely found alone in supplements because it is better absorbed in foods or in combination with other herbs like stinging nettles.
7. Vitamin C. Quercetin enhances the antihistamine effects of Vitamin C when they are taken together. Vitamin C also thins mucus, making it easier to drain from the sinuses. Doses of 500-1000mg up to 4 times daily can help lessen inflammation and nasal drainage. Natural sources like whole lemons are especially helpful during summer allergy congestion because they contain both the Vitamin C and bioflavonoids, which help boost immune function and adrenal health as well.
8. Support Adrenal Health. Wise herbalists recognize the effects long-term stress has on our immune system and supplement with nourishing and adaptogenic herbs and foods. Restoring adrenal health through restful sleep, a nutrient-rich diet high in fresh vegetables and fruits, and managing stress protects our immune health. Stress and adrenal fatigue are a root cause of allergies. If you have a hectic lifestyle consider an adrenal supplement to help fight allergies and adrenal fatigue.
9. Restore Gut Health with Probiotics and Lactofermented Foods. Disordered digestion from poor diet, stress, and overgrowth of unwanted bacteria and fungus is another root cause of allergies herbalists recognize. Overuse of antibiotics and steroids lead to unhealthy bacteria and fungus overgrowing and crowding out the good guys who support our digestion and help us make and absorb nutrients. A diet high in processed foods and sugary drinks causes us to use more nutrients to do the work of digestion than we can absorb through these non-nutritious choices which leads to deficiencies. This puts stress on our adrenals and our immune system and makes us susceptible to allergies and infections. Avoiding grains including corn which are often contaminated with mold and mycotoxins, increasing consumption of live foods like unpasteurized sauerkraut, and supplementing with an anti-inflammatory probiotic to help restore the healthy bacteria population are great first steps to relieve allergies and inflammation and heal the gut.
10. Reconnect with Nature. This may sound counterintuitive, since we’re taught by allergists to wear big hats and cover up to avoid pollen landing on us, use sinus rinses to wash the pollen out of our nasal passages, and take showers after being outdoors to wash all the airborne allergens off; but herbalists believe reconnecting with nature is one of the best ways to avoid overreacting to it with allergies. Healthy sun exposure causes us to synthesize our own allergy-fighting Vitamin D; grounding and earthing restore electrons and energy to our stressed and depleted bodies; and exposure to sunrise, full sun and dusk help reset our circadian rhythms, healthy cortisol levels and sleep cycles. Being in nature has the ability to calm us and restore health in ways no pill or supplement can.