Suffer from hay fever? Try some nettles

Hello spring. Tulips and daffodils are blooming. Noses are runny and eyes are itchy. It’s allergy season. For many, spring is the best of times and the worse of times. What to do?

Hello spring.

Tulips and daffodils are blooming. Noses are runny and eyes are itchy. It’s allergy season. For many, spring is the best of times and the worse of times. What to do?

Nettles (Urtica dioica) are the No. 1 anti-histamine herb. Poking out the ground early, Nettles is welcome spring tonic. It is high in chlorophyll and minerals. Some herbalists consider it the most superior green drink on the market. But for those who suffer with hay fever, nettles are their herb.

When I suggest nettles, I am generally meant with raised eyebrows and questions about its stinging reputation. Once dried, the nettle plant looses it sting. Also after steaming fresh nettles they are no longer bite. Sprinkle on a little parmesan cheese and olive oil for the most delicious vegetable ever.

The current complementary health industry is a bit contradictory in their advice on how to use nettles. A lab tech a few years ago poached several capsules of fresh freeze dried nettle leaf to try for her self. Although the nettles were being tested for another healing venture, the lab tech found her hay fever disappeared. Many recommend freeze dried capsule of fresh nettle leaf. This can be challenge to find and make.

Nettle tea seems to the do the job, too, and it is easy to find. For relief, drink at least three strong cups of tea daily. Nettle tea is delicious by the way. However, because it is not for everybody’s taste buds, I frequently combine it with peppermint and chamomile. Both have anti-histamine properties.

Other plants that have an anti-histamine effect are plantain (Plantago spp.) and golden rod (Solidago canadensis). Although golden rod has a reputation as causing allergies, it is rarely a culprit. Both these plants are consider tonics for the sinuses and are used to heal damage to the sinus membrane due to chronic irritation. The soothing effect these herbs have on the sinus, contribute to their ability to relieve the symptoms of hay fever.

Thyme (Thymus vulgaris) is also anti-histamine. Thyme has a strong anti-bacterial action on the sinus.

Adding a little thyme leaf to the tea will prevent any infection from moving in when the sinus’ are challenged with the pollen.

To prevent acute episodes of hay fever, taking a few herbs about six weeks to a month before the season starts is recommended.

I personally am extremely allergic to horses. I love horses. About three weeks before I am going to visit with these mighty animals, I prepare the following tincture for myself.

Astragulus (Astragulus membraneous) comes to the western apothecary via the Chinese. It is a powerful immune modulator. It quiets down the over active IgE anti-bodies, which are the immune antibodies associated with hay fever. This allows them to discriminate between real and perceived threats. Astragulus as strengths the membranes lining the respiratory system. These membranes are the first line of defence the body has to air borne threats. If the membrane is strong, the allergens are simply washed away before getting a chance to trigger an allergic response.

Licorice (Glycchriza glabra) is an overall tonic for helping the body adapt to stressful situations. Anyone who has ever had a severe hay fever attack can attest to the fact that they are stressful. Many people find that their allergies get worse during times of stress. This maybe because stress puts the body on hyper-alter, much like the immune system during a hay fever attack. Licorice also has anti-inflammatory actions similar to corticosteroids. Corticosteriods are offered when allergies are severe in order to reduce symptoms.

Fennel (Foeniculum vulgaris) is added to the tincture. Fennel is high in quercetin. Quercetin is an anti-oxidant which is considered to be one of the strongest natural anti-histamines available.

Finally I add a small amount of capsicum. This clears out the sinus so there is no chance any horse dander can get caught in there causing an allergic response.

When I use this tincture, I can ride horses all day without tears streaming down my face and my nose running like a facet.

Imagine taking in the sweet scents of spring without the sneeze and itch of hay fever. That is relief.

Herbs for Life is written by Abrah Arneson, a local clinical herbalist. It is intended for information purposes only. Readers with a specific medical problem should consult a doctor. For more information, visit www.abraherbalist.ca. Arneson can be reached at abrah@shaw.ca.