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Beating Hayfever Naturally

  Hayfever is responsible for more misery during the summer months than anything else. Also known as allergic rhinitis, it is a common allergic condition occurring when high concentrations of grass and flower pollens are released into the atmosphere during late spring and summer. As the weather gets warmer, so the pollen concentration in the air we breathe increases. Hayfever causes hypersensitivity of the eyes, nose, throat and sometimes the skin. Symptoms tend to be at their worst first thing in the morning as the sun begins to warm the air, and then again in the evening as the warm air starts to descend again.  House dust and animal hair can produce similar reactions. These 'allergens' stimulate the body into producing an excess of histamine, and this manifests itself as catarrh and nasal congestion. Sufferers can experience any of the following symptoms: an itchy, running nose; red, streaming, irritated eyes; a blocked nose, tickly throat, sensitive palate or itchy skin. People who suffer from asthma or eczema are especially prone to hayfever.

Fortunately, there are lots of herbs available to provide relief from those unpleasant symptoms. It's never too early to prepare yourself for the hayfever season, and elderflowers (Sambucus nigra) are a particularly useful prophylactic or preventative remedy. You should drink an elderflower infusion daily, starting in February or March and continuing throughout the hayfever season. The fresh flowers are best and, as one of our most common hedgerow plants, are readily available in spring. Take care not to harvest blooms from roadsides or where agricultural chemicals may have been used. If you cannot obtain fresh elderflowers, or if it is too late in the season, you can use dried flowers, tincture or a good-quality and preferably organic elderflower cordial instead. The addition of plantain (Plantago spp.) to your infusion will tone the mucous membranes of the nasal passages, helping to desensitise them to allergens. A course of Echinacea will strengthen the immune system, again reducing your sensitivity to allergens. Garlic is another immune booster, so include it in your diet as much as possible.

As soon as any symptoms appear, reach for your herbal first aid kit. elderflowers and eyebright (Euphrasia officinalis) both contain substances called tannins whose astringent action will help both to dry up catarrh and runny eyes and to reduce any inflammation or irritation of the mucous membranes. Another excellent astringent herb is goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis); sadly this particular herb is now an endangered species due to its popularity and subsequent over-collection in the wild, so you should use it only if you do so sparingly, having first made sure that it has been sustainably harvested. Nettle (Urtica dioica) is a natural anti-histamine, reducing the body's production of inflammatory prostaglandins. Taken regularly, it will make you less sensitive to the effects of pollen. Red, streaming eyes can be bathed regularly with a cooled and strained infusion of chamomile (Chamomilla recutita) or distilled witch hazel, and sunglasses may help to reduce eye irritation when the sun is particularly bright. Taken internally, chamomile reduces the nervous excitability often associated with allergic conditions, particularly in children. An infusion of sage (Salvia officinalis) makes an excellent gargle for a tickly throat and palate.

Homeopathic remedies can also be of great benefit to hayfever sufferers. The most useful are Allium cepa, Arsenicum, Euphrasia and Sabadilla. It is important to select the remedy that is most applicable to your own particular symptoms, so you should first discuss your needs with a qualified homeopath. .

Diet can help too. Try to keep mucus-forming dairy products to a minimum and increase your intake of fresh, organic fruit and vegetables. Reduce your alcohol and caffeine consumption as these are both known to aggravate symptoms.

Limit your exposure to pollen by drying your bedding indoors and keeping your windows closed in the morning and evening when atmospheric pollen concentrations are at their highest. Anti allergy bedding can be of great benefit to those suffering from allergic rhinitis.

If your symptoms persist in spite of these measures, don't despair. A consultation with an experienced herbalist or homeopath will identify those remedies most suited to you as an individual. Qualified practitioners also have access to more potent remedies not generally available over-the-counter.


Elderflower cordial recipe

You'll need 25 heads of elderflowers (rinse them well first), 2kg sugar, 2 litres water and 2 large sliced lemons. Put the sugar, water and lemon in a pan and heat gently, stirring continuously, until the sugar has dissolved. Allow to cool then pour over the elderflowers. Leave to stand in a covered container for 2 days then strain and bottle (seal loosely in case of fermentation - bottles with corks are safest!). Store in a cool, dark place. To drink, dilute with three parts chilled mineral water to one part cordial. Use sparkling water if you prefer for elderflower 'champagne'.



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For your safety I am prohibited from giving specific medical advice to individuals over the internet or telephone so please do not waste your time or mine by emailing or calling me with detailed information about your health problems - I can only undertake face-to-face consultations for what should be obvious reasons. Diagnoses cannot be made remotely, and I am unable to offer any advice or treatment until I am completely satisfied that I know what I'm dealing with!  The herb profiles and treatment suggestions on this website will help enable you to choose which herbs might be appropriate for minor ailments. For more serious or chronic conditions you should seek professional advice. This is particularly important if you are taking medication from your doctor or pharmacist, as some herbs can interact adversely with other drugs. If you would like to have a consultation with a medical herbalist then you should click here  then scroll to 'Professional Organisations' at the bottom of the page to find a qualified practitioner in your area.

Christine Haughton, MA MNIMH MCPP FRSPH

Wold Farm, West Heslerton, Malton, North Yorkshire YO17 8RY, UK

Last updated 27th November 2014     ęPurple Sage Botanicals